It was almost impossible to grow up in the ’90s or early 2000s without coming across a few episodes of “Friends.” The New York City sitcom followed six friends in their late-twenties as they tried to navigate dating, working, and living in the big city (via The New York Times). While the show was all about the six besties — Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe — there were tons of other side characters that have since become legendary amongst “Friends” fans. You probably remember Ursula, Phoebe’s twin sister; Richard, Monica’s ex-boyfriend; and Carol, Ross’s lesbian ex-wife, to name just a few.
Looking back on the show, some of these characters were pretty epic, while others were not so great. We’ve decided it’s time we clarified once and for all: who were the best (and worst) characters on “Friends,” in a nutshell? So, here they are, ranked from worst to best.
Phoebe’s twin, Ursula, was actually horrible
Pretty much every “Friends” fan completely adored the eccentric Phoebe Buffay. However, her twin sister Ursula Buffay was a different story. Ursula was — well — the worst. Unlike Phoebe, she didn’t seem to have a conscience or any level of respect for her sister. She didn’t bother to tell her about their real mom and she even dated one of Phoebe’s best friends, Joey. She even used Phoebe’s name for her career in the adult entertainment industry. As we said — she was the absolute worst!
It turns out, Lisa Kudrow, who played both Phoebe and Ursula, also hated playing Ursula. Apparently, the character had actually originated on the show. “Mad About You.” Which Kudrow had starred in before “Friends.” However. When the character was brought into the “Friends” universe. she wasn’t too pleased. As producer Kevin S. Bright said at the Tribeca TV Festival, “She did not like acting with a double, and in a way she might have made it more difficult for herself because her double was her actual sister, [Helena]” (via Entertainment Weekly).
Chandler’s ex-girlfriend, Janice, couldn’t have been more annoying
Janice Hosenstein was one of those “Friends” characters that we all loved to hate. With her unforgettable high-pitched, nasal voice, her grating laugh, and, of course, her famous catchphrase of, “Oh. My. God!” Janice is one character that was both awful and wonderful.
As the actress who played Janice, Maggie Wheeler. Told News.com.au, she only got the part because she was fired from another show. “I was so shaken by it … I felt in a way liberated to do the work I wanted to do without fear or favor,” she explained. “On any other day I might have done the [“Friends”] audition differently, but it came hot on the heels of that and I felt free and decided to do what I wanted to do on that day and it worked in my favor.” Thank goodness she felt free enough to play Janice the way she did, as we can’t imagine it any other way!
In fact, the producers thought so, too. As Wheeler told Access. She was only meant to be on one episode, but she was so popular they kept bringing her back. Janice may have been the worst character, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Rachel’s sister, Amy, was a bad sister
Rachel Green had two sisters on “Friends,” and neither of them were that great. Jill Green, played by Reese Witherspoon, was self-centered and a little annoying; but Amy Green, played by Christina Applegate was actually pretty awful. From the first moment she appeared, she was completely self-absorbed. She marched into Rachel’s apartment. Demanded a hair straightener, forgot the sex of her sister’s baby (Emma), and forgot who Ross was. Later, she even pierced Emma’s ears, saying, “Doesn’t it make her nose look smaller?” and announced that she was going to be a “baby stylist.” Amy was objectively awful.
As Applegate told Today, the character was meant to be terrible. She described her, saying, “There are people who are really self-unaware, and they have absolutely no filter.” Even though Amy was completely horrible, Applegate’s portrayal made her hilarious. She even won an Emmy for her performance. When asked where Amy would be now, Applegate said, “Highly successful and childless.” We have to say — she might be right.
Monica’s mother, Judy, was awful to her daughter
If you were to think of the stereotypical, judgmental, controlling mother, she’d probably be a whole lot better than Judy Geller; Ross and Monica’s mother was on another level. Not only did Judy openly prefer Ross to Monica, she was also constantly criticizing and bullying her daughter. She and her husband even forgot to tell their kids that they sold their childhood home, and they spent Monica’s wedding savings on a holiday home. Ouch.
In an interview, actress Christina Pickles spoke about how similar she is to her controversial character. “I’m a very good mother but I’m also on the verge of being a dysfunctional mother as we all are,” she confessed. “And I sometimes would want to obsess about the wrong things about how my daughter was dressed rather than how she felt.” However, as herself, Pickles would never say the things Judy says on the show — even if she sometimes thought them. So, for Pickles, being an awful mother was actually pretty fun!
The Central Perk barista Gunther was a little creepy
Gunther was the barista at the six friends’ favorite coffee shop, Central Perk. He developed a huge crush on Rachel, and over the course of “Friends,” this became a running joke and the character’s defining characteristic. While Gunther ended up being a hilarious character with his dry one-liners, it’s easy to see why the friends weren’t especially keen to welcome him into their circle — after all, his obsession with Rachel was a little creepy.
As the actor, James Michael Taylor, later told Express, his character was pretty much legendary and it even threatened to pigeonhole him. “It was a detriment in some ways, the whole type casting thing,” he revealed. Taylor also explained that he was happy his character was finally wrapped up at the end of the show. “I’m grateful because they [the writers] gave Gunther closure,” he shared.
Of course, despite the typecasting, Taylor was happy to be on “Friends.” In fact, he was only cast as an extra in the beginning. “I was very lucky that they kept me,” he added.
Ross’s ex-wife, Carol, wasn’t actually that bad, but she could have been written as an LGBT icon
Carol Willick was Ross’s ex-wife on “Friends.” The character had left Ross before the first episode after falling in love with a woman named Susan. Still, Carol was actually a pretty cool character. She put up with Ross’s tantrums, often canceling date nights with Susan to help him out.
However, the way the character was written now comes across as a little dated, so Carol often leaves viewers feeling uncomfortable. For instance, one viewer explained in an article for Entertainment Weekly how the Carol storyline made it difficult for her to come to terms with being a lesbian herself. As she put it, “The only thing funnier than a lesbian is one who fits stereotypes.” As this viewer explained, Carol was portrayed as the butt of a joke, purely because she was a lesbian. This is one “Friends” character that probably should have been approached completely differently.
Ross was definitely the worst of the gang of six
Even though Ross Geller was one of the gang of six on “Friends,” he’s hardly a great character. Sure, he could be pretty funny and the show wouldn’t have been the same without him, but let’s all agree — Ross was sometimes an awful character.
For one thing, Ross was often sexist. When his son wanted to play with a doll, he practically had an existential crisis. Then when a brilliant male nanny applied to be the nanny for Emma, he once again freaked out. And when he saw Rachel walking around her own apartment naked, he assumed it was a show put on just for him. Let’s face it — if Ross had lived through the #MeToo movement, he would have had to face the fact that he was pretty much a textbook case of toxic masculinity.
Ross was also a terrible boyfriend to Rachel. He didn’t respect her job, he manipulated her, he even made a pros and cons list about her like he was deciding whether or not to buy a new sweater. Not cool, Ross.
Mike was a sweet guy, but a little bland
Mike Hannigan was introduced in Season 9 of “Friends” as a new love interest for Phoebe. His character was essentially created to give Phoebe a traditional, romantic happy ending. And Mike was undeniably a sweet character. He could keep up with Phoebe’s weirdness, like when he played the invisible piano, but he could also balance her out. Indeed, Mike was a great love interest for Phoebe, but, unfortunately, he was a little bland.
In an interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Paul Rudd, who played Mike, opened up about his lukewarm feelings about the character. As he explained, Mike wasn’t really meant to be a hugely interesting guy. “In something like ‘Friends,’ the show was about them, but it’s an interesting thing to be a part of,” he recalled. “I was only in it for just a blip. I felt, ‘I’m like a prop on this show. It’s not about Mike Hannigan.'” We have to agree that watching “Friends,” Mike was a nice, good guy, but hardly one of our favorites.
Monica was a great character, but she could be a bit problematic
Monica Geller was the neurotic, tightly-wound friend who owned the main apartment. While Monica was a great, well-loved character, it can be a little difficult to watch some of her scenes as a modern viewer. For one thing, Monica was fat in high school and the writers used this as a cheap joke. As one writer explained in Entertainment Weekly, “‘Problematicness’ is one thing, but it’s more accurate to say that Fat Monica is an intrinsic part of ‘Friends’ canon that it cannot seem to escape, even 25 years later.”
Not only was Monica’s fatness a low point for the show, she was also written as an obsessive cleaner. This in itself isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it kind of made us love her more — but it’s also a problematic aspect of the show. As Mindsum noted, “Monica is a prime example of OCD being portrayed as being only about cleanliness. … This is a very reductive representation of OCD as it reduces the disorder down to being a ‘neat freak.'” We get that “Friends” is a comedy, but we don’t love how the writers glossed over Monica’s potential mental illness as nothing more than a joke.
Joey was a loveable character, but he’d probably be written differently today
You’ve got to love Joey Tribbiani on “Friends.” The sandwich-eating soap opera star was goofy and seriously lovable. And while he is definitely one of our favorite “Friends” characters, there are a few things about his character that kind of rub us the wrong way. For one, Joey has a tendency to objectify women. While his catchphrase, “How you doin'” is definitely endearing, it does hint at his reputation as a womanizer.
Additionally, Joey is famous for dating lots of women and dumping them unceremoniously after one date. As Cosmopolitan put it, “Every woman is a conquest rather than a human being for Joey, and he’ll happily sleep with someone and never call her again, seek out a female roommate with the intention of having sex with her and generally is a bit of a sleazball.”
Of course, this side of his character is one downside that stems from the era in which “Friends” was written. Joey is also kind, reliable, funny, and endearing, so he’s up there with some of our favorite “Friends” characters.
Richard was actually pretty wonderful and very mature
The first time you watched “Friends,” you may not have realized just how great Richard Burke really is. Before Chandler and Monica got together, Monica’s most significant ex was the mustachioed Richard. Richard was her father’s best friend, so he was quite a lot older than Monica.
It turns out, Richard was actually pretty great. He was handsome, mature, understanding, and, most importantly, a real grown-up. Some fans even thought Richard was a better option for Monica than Chandler. As one viewer wrote for Bustle, Monica’s relationship with Richard was “complicated, difficult and full of obstacles, but ultimately, it was also full of true love and unbridled chemistry.”
It’s true — Richard and Monica had a great love story. Even when Monica chose Chandler in the end, Richard was passionate but ultimately respectful of her decision. In short, he was an all-round great guy.
Phoebe was charming, quirky, and always fun to watch
Of all of the six friends, Phoebe Buffay was by far the weirdest. The eccentric, quirky Phoebe was terrible at the guitar, believed in all sorts of new age nonsense, and had plenty of blonde moments of the show. But, nevertheless, she was completely lovable. HelloGiggles even thought Pheobe was the best overall character on “Friends.” After all, she wrote the iconic song “Smelly Cat,” she was always ultra confident, she was brutally honest, and she was selfless when it came to the people she loved. You have to love Phoebe!
While Phoebe is definitely one of the best characters on “Friends,” it’s hard to place her right at the top. After all, her oddness sometimes felt a little far fetched and she didn’t always come across as someone who could exist in real life. Even if the character was a little over-the-top, we will never get enough of watching her!
Rachel may have been self-centered, but she was the heroine we all loved
Rachel Green is introduced on “Friends” as a self-centered, naive, spoiled runaway bride. However, by the end of the show, she has grown into a confident, independent young mother — it’s quite the journey. Even though Rachel isn’t always the most likable character, it’s this complicated, nuanced journey that makes her the show’s heroine. And even with her flaws, it’s impossible not to relate to Rachel while watching “Friends.”
What we love about Rachel is that she’s not portrayed as a perfect, idealistic young woman. Instead, she’s like most young women of her generation: unsure, confused, and sometimes a little self-centered. It is these flaws that make us love watching Rachel’s journey over the course of “Friends” — and by the end, we really do feel like we’ve been right there with her every step of the way.
Plus, Rachel is a great friend, a focused career woman, and a loving mother — what’s not to love?
Chandler may have had his flaws, but his growth over the course of Friends made him great
While you would probably pick Rachel Green as the protagonist of “Friends” due to her momentous journey and character growth, Chandler Bing also grows a surprising amount over the course of the show’s 10 seasons. At the beginning of “Friends,” he’s terrified of commitment and he hides behind his biting one-liners. He’s “the funny one” and he knows it.
However, by the end of “Friends,” Chandler has become a mature, loving father and husband. He’s found a new job, too, one that he really cares about. Chandler also learned to take life a little more seriously without giving up his funny side. As Vanity Fair noted, his relationship with Monica became the backbone of “Friends” as it matured into a show about young people in New York finally accepting their grown-up responsibilities. It’s no wonder he is ranked as the number one favorite “Friends” character on Ranker.