Ranking the Friends Thanksgiving Episodes
Written by: Lauren Koleszar
A comprehensive guide to your “Friends”-giving marathon
Among the binge-watching, nineties-obsessed generation, marathoning "Friends" episodes has become its own holiday ritual, perfect for Thanksgiving get-togethers with friends and family.
Some of the most memorable moments of “Friends” come from the Thanksgiving episodes that premiered every year around the beginning of the holiday season. Among the binge-watching, nineties-obsessed generation, marathoning the episodes has become its own holiday ritual, perfect for Thanksgiving get-togethers with friends and family. Here, I’ve put together a comprehensive list, ranking the episodes using criteria of nostalgia, holiday spirit and laughs and included suggestions for the perfect time during your Thanksgiving celebration to watch each episode.
10. “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister” (Season 9, Episode 8)
The title is clever (a play on the previous “The One With Rachel’s Sister”), but that’s about where the praise for this episode stops. Rachel’s sister, Amy, is somehow supposed to make us laugh when she shows up and crashes the gang’s Thanksgiving dinner at Monica’s apartment. The humor takes on a weird tone as Amy asks who will have custody of Ross and Rachel’s baby if the both of them were to die, until Chandler accidentally drops Monica’s prized wedding dishes and remarks, “Well what do you know, I guess I’ll be the one who dies first.” Weird tone, weird tensions, overall weird episode.
Watch When: Everybody is just about to fall into their post-dinner naps so you can sleep through it.
9. “The One With the List” (Season 2, Episode 8)
The only “Thanksgiving” episode not centered around the holiday, this one pales in comparison to the others. Our subplot here is Monica’s “Mockolates,” which gets some laughs as she desperately tries to make the chocolate alternative, but my major issue with this episode is its titular story: the pros and cons list that Ross makes about Rachel, yet another wildly toxic Ross quirk put on display only two seasons into the show. It’s a little too heartbreaking for me.
Watch When: You feel like having a friendly argument with that one friend of yours who thinks that they were on a break.
8. “The One With the Late Thanksgiving” (Season 10, Episode 8)
No matter how hard they try, the later seasons just can’t compare to the first few seasons of “Friends,” but knowing that this is the gang’s last Thanksgiving together gets some major nostalgia points. When everyone ends up late to Monica and Chandler’s Thanksgiving dinner, the couple locks everyone out of the apartment (a possible homage to the first Thanksgiving episode, where Rachel and Monica lock themselves out of their apartment). This episode would be a bit low on laughs if it wasn’t for the bit where Joey gets his head stuck in the door.
Watch When: You’re in between better episodes and can play it in the background while your cousins play a board game and people are chit-chatting.
7. “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs” (Season 7, Episode 8)
Chandler reveals that he’s afraid of dogs, Monica sneaks one into the apartment, and Rachel agonizes over when to make a move on her newly single assistant, Tag, who she has invited over for Thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, Ross refuses to eat any of the dinner until he finishes listing all of the fifty states for Chandler’s fifty-states game, Joey proudly announces he’s listed fifty-six states, and Phoebe starts listing types of celery instead. There are some good laughs here, though the episode remains a bit forgettable.
Watch When: You’re sitting around with your family after dinner. For extra fun, get everybody to play the fifty-states game —winner gets first dibs on dessert.
6. “The One With All the Thanksgivings” (Season 5, Episode 8)
The first thing you’ll see when you search for “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes is a picture of Monica dancing with a turkey on her head, all thanks to this episode. Then there’s the flashback portions of the episode, where everyone shares stories about their worst Thanksgiving memories. This one isn’t the funniest on the list, but it gets major points for holiday spirit and nostalgia.
Watch When: Everybody’s in the room so no one misses Monica with a turkey on her head.
5. “The One With the Football” (Season 3, Episode 9)
This is one of the most memorable “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes for the iconic football game, ranking high in nostalgia. It also features some of the cutest tomboyish outfits worn by the girls — Phoebe’s classic “That Girl” shirt and Rachel’s adorable braids and baseball cap. A lot of rankings list this in their top three, but I think it’s just a little uneventful compared to the ones we’ll get to in a second.
Watch When: Dinner is almost ready, and you can vicariously burn off some calories with a nice game of football with the gang before stuffing your face.
4. “The One With Chandler in a Box” (Season 4, Episode 8)
This one's a classic. Chandler melts our hearts when he falls for Joey’s girlfriend, and laughs abound when Joey makes him stay in a box for six hours as punishment. Monica also runs into Richard’s son and invites him to her Thanksgiving dinner, so there are lots of laughs about confusing relationships here. It’s heartfelt, it’s absurd, and it features one of my favorite lines from the show when Rachel says, “He’s Richard’s son, Monica. It’s like inviting a Greek tragedy over for dinner.”
Watch When: You need some laughs to break the ice with your friends or family.
3. “The One Where Underdog Got Away” (Season 1, Episode 9)
Seeing the friends together for their first Thanksgiving earns major nostalgia points. This is a classic everything-goes-wrong story: Rachel misses her flight, Ross and Monica’s parents makes plans without them, Joey’s parents think he has VD, Phoebe’s just along for the ride, and Chandler leads the group outside to watch the Underdog balloon fly away — and ultimately gets everyone locked out of Monica’s apartment. There are lots of laughs here, from Chandler’s story about his parents announcing their divorce on Thanksgiving to Monica and Rachel fighting over the inflection of who had “the keys.”
Watch When: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has just finished. You know, when you’re all sitting around in the living room realizing you have nothing to do until dinner.
2. “The One With the Rumor” (Season 8, Episode 9)
More like: The One With Brad Pitt. The turn-of-the-century heartthrob guest stars this Thanksgiving, playing an old high school friend of Monica’s, who turns out to be a total a-hole. We learn of his hatred for Rachel, one of his two “greatest enemies” (the other being “complex carbohydrates”) and Pitt reveals that he and Ross founded the “I Hate Rachel Green” club in high school. Meanwhile, Ross admits there is truth to a high school rumor that he had a love affair with a 50 year-old librarian, and Joey considers wearing Phoebe’s maternity clothes when he tries eating an entire turkey on his own. Bonus points for revealing stories about the gang without making it into another flashback episode; docked points for a few too many fat jokes.
Watch When: You’re about to stuff your face (or after, to spite Pitt’s character).
1. “The One Where Ross Got High” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Sibling rivalry is a staple in the Thanksgiving episodes, and this time we find Monica and Ross both picking at each other as each tries to hide something from their parents: Monica is living with Chandler, and Ross smoked weed in college. As the story spins into a game of dramatic irony, Rachel tries her best to make a Thanksgiving dessert — accidentally following a recipe for shepherd's pie, earning even more laughs as she adds jam, custard, and beef sauteed with onions and peas.
Watch When: The inevitable arguments are coming out between dinner and dessert, and you need to ease some tension. Like when your uncle asks for the fourth time in an hour, So what are you planning to do after you graduate? Followed by your aunt requesting a relationship status update because she pretended not to hear you the first time when you said you’re keeping your options open.