Ranking Every Thanksgiving 'Friends' Episode

The holiday of Thanksgiving is about celebrating what we are thankful for, blatantly disregarding the genocide of Native Americans, and joining with friends and family to watch TV and eat some form of turkey and potatoes. For ten years, Americans had another tradition: watching the Friends Thanksgiving special. Now that the show is over, there are ten episodes to watch, but perhaps not enough time to watch them all. Therefore, here is a definitive ranking so you can know which episodes are a must-watch, and which you can pass.

#10: “The One with the List” - Season Two, Episode Eight

This one is barely a Thanksgiving episode, but it is what viewers got for season two. Monica attempts to use pseudo-food product “Mockolate” to make Thanksgiving desserts, while Ross tries to decide between his current girlfriend, Julie, and the girl he just kissed last night, Rachel. Based on Chandler’s brilliant idea, he makes a pros and cons lists, which Rachel finds. And it is heartbreaking for Rachel.

Not only does this episode stink as a Thanksgiving episode, but it stinks as a Friends episode. It is another example of Ross being a terrible person, and thankfully in this particular episode, Rachel does not forgive him. The Mockolate plot line was definitely a subplot to vaguely tie in Thanksgiving, so as the episode on this list with the least turkey, it ranks at the bottom.

#9: “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister” - Season Nine, Episode Nine  

Friends has had a lot of obnoxious characters throughout the show’s time, (Janice, for starters), but they usually have some kind of redeeming qualities - or at least quality. Amy has absolutely none, which just makes her frustrating to watch. Her blatant insulting of Ross and Monica, refusing to learn Emma’s name, and her complete vanity all make her extremely unlikeable, and I could not wait to get her off my screen.

That being said, the subplots in this episode are pretty funny. Joey’s insistence in using raccoons in his lies, as well as forgetting to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Monica’s insanity over using her wedding china, balance Amy out to make this episode more watchable than “The One with the List,” but that’s about all it has going for it.

#8: “The One Where Ross Got High” - Season Six, Episode Nine

 This episode is very “meh” to me, up until the very end. Monica invites Jack and Judy Gellar (her parents) to Thanksgiving dinner, but tells Chandler not to tell them about their relationship, because they do not like him. It is later revealed that they do not like him because Ross lied and said that their room smelled like weed because Chandler had smoked it, not Ross.

This lie unravels quickly with a back and forth of Monica and Ross revealing years of secrets between the two to their parents to shocked faces and many gasps. But… at least Thanksgiving dinner was over? Seeing, or hearing about, bits of Chandler and Ross in college is always fun, but Joey’s sublot was meh, Rachel’s was gross, and it just does not stand out as a Friends Thanksgiving episode.

#7: “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs - Season Seven, Episode Eight

What this episode has going for it is “Chandler’s Dumb States Game” which starts in the cold open and continues through the last scene. The friends are tasked with naming all 50 states (a task that I do not think would be a challenge now, considering most public schools have kids learn a song that sings them all in alphabetical order) in just ten minutes. Rachel gets 48, Phoebe decides to name celery, and Joey, genius that he is, gets 56. Ross then brags he could do it easily, but only names 46, and spends the rest of the episode trying to guess the remaining four. Watching Joey be so confident and watching Ross fail miserably adds to the hilarity of this episode and makes that plot one of the best of the show.

Rachel and her assistant/hopefully soon boyfriend Tag have some awkward encounters (including getting his car stolen?) but the star of the episode is the realization by the group that Chandler is afraid of dogs - even sweet little Clunkers. There isn’t much resolution to this other than Chandler being worried about Clunkers potentially being missing, so at least he ends up liking this dog, and the continuity on this character point is a little, well, clunky. But it adds to the Thanksgiving shenanigans and any time a puppy is on my screen, I’m happy.

#6: “The One Where Underdog Gets Away - Season One, Episode Nine

The one that started them all. This was the first Thanksgiving episode Friends ever did and it was a pretty solid one. Monica decides to host Thanksgiving for the first time, Rachel makes plans to go to Vail, and everything is going well until they go up to the roof to see the Underdog balloon sailing over Manhattan… and lock themselves out of the apartment. Rachel misses her flight and the turkey is burnt, but Chandler does not mind because of his aversion to all things Thanksgiving.

It’s a solid episode that brings the six together, and it delivers one of my favorite lines in the entire show in the subplot. Ross goes over to see Carol and talks to Susan, Carol’s new girlfriend. He walks around anxiously and points to her bookshelf and says, “You guys sure have a lot of books about being a lesbian!” To which Susan dryly responds, “Well, you have to take a course. Otherwise they won’t let you do it.” Carol and Susan are not perfect LGBTQ representation (especially because Susan is written to be Ross’s antagonist when really Ross should just grow up) but especially for 1993 it was a great step in the right direction.

#5: “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” - Season Ten, Episode Eight

Much like a lot of season ten of Friends, this Thanksgiving episode felt like they were just trying to push one more out. That being said, it is still a pretty solid episode - after the gang convinces Monica to host Thanksgiving dinner, Joey and Ross go to a Rangers game and Rachel and Phoebe enter Emma in a beauty pageant, meaning everyone shows up almost an hour late. Chandler and Monica lock them out of the apartment to punish them, and this leads to one of the funniest shots of the show, seen above. Once they finally get into the apartment, the fighting continues until Monica gets a call - the adoption agency has found them a baby. Everyone celebrates, and by the end, Joey eats almost an entire turkey.

This Thanksgiving episode wraps up the tradition well - it’s funny, it’s sweet, and it moves along the adoption storyline which ends up being so, so sweet. It plays on the neverending “Joey never stops eating” trope, but in a clever, holiday way. It is a solid Thanksgiving episode, and definitely one to watch for the feels at the end.

#4: “The One with Chandler in a Box” - Season Four, Episode Eight

Poor Chandler. All he did was chase love, but that love was dating someone else. For that, he decided to make it up to Joey by being silent in a box while everyone else celebrates Thanksgiving. This episode really shows Joey and Chandler’s friendship, as Chandler is willing to do this to get Joey back, but by the end Joey lets Chandler out so he can go after Kathy.

While this is going on, Monica is running around in the kitchen to get the meal ready and gets ice in her eye, forcing her to see the eye doctor. Unfortunately, the eye doctor turns out to be Tim Burke, Richard Burke’s son. You remember Richard - Monica dated him for what seemed like years. She invites Tim over for Thanksgiving and the two even kiss, but Monica feels it’s too weird, and yeah, Mon, it kinda is.

While this episode is not so much one of the six friends coming together, it is one where each of them grows and their friendships strengthen, making it not just a fun Thanksgiving episode, but a great episode in general.

#3: “The One with the Football” - Season Three, Episode Nine

Ross vs. Monica. Joey vs. Chandler. Boys vs. Girls. It all comes out on the “football field” as the six decide to play three-on-three touch football. Not surprisingly, the six are not star athletes and this leads to many hilarious moments, from the revelation of “The Gellar Cup” to Rachel “going long” to get a pretzel.

It all comes down to boys vs. girls at the last play, and after not using Rachel all night (due to her complete lack of coordination), Monica throws her the ball. It seems like a touchdown, but it is quickly discovered she did not pass the touchdown line, causing both Monica and Ross to dive at the ball. The episode ends with them still refusing to yield to each other as the other four eat Thanksgiving dinner and snow falls.

From the one-liners to the character dynamics to the physical comedy, you may not think you need Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow playing football in your life, but I can guarantee you - you do.

#2: “The One with the Rumor: - Season Eight, Episode Nine

Brad. Pitt. Need I say more? Aniston’s (at the time) real life husband came on to play Will Colbert, a high school friend of Ross who Rachel can’t seem to remember, but Will sure still remembers her. In fact, Will still hates her. As Rachel tries to be pleasant but Will lashes out at her all night, the truth comes out that Will and Ross were co-founders and members of the “I hate Rachel Green club,” and that they had somewhat ruined her high school career by starting a rumor that she was intersex, or had both male and female reproductive organs.

Let me begin by addressing that this kind of comedy, even in 2001, is not very funny. It’s highly transphobic and every time I watch it, I cringe. Not cool, Friends. Couldn't the rumor have been that she died her hair or something? That being said, Pitt’s performance in the episode is absolutely hysterical, especially when he finds out that Ross got Rachel pregnant. Friends has had many celebrity guest stars over the years, but by far this was one of the best.

#1: “The One with all the Thanksgivings” Season Five, Episode Eight

Perhaps no episode is more quintessential friends than this one. It has Joey antics, it has weird Phoebe past-life flashbacks, and most of all it has Rachel/Ross/Monica/Chandler flashbacks. From the noses to the haircuts to the Don Johnson jackets, the looks are something and the comedy is another. Also - Chandler is missing a toe! That’s one of this episode’s revelations.

Though the episode spends most of its time showing the audience why Monica and Chandler have cause to hate each other, it ends on a big moment - Chandler saying I love you for the first time to Monica. Except… Monica has a giant turkey with a fez and glasses on her head. It’s silly, but it also shows how their relationship is strong and can go through anything, and that is true for the rest of the show. This episode is truly a Thanksgiving episode - from past to present - and both gives background to the character’s motivations while setting the stage for their futures. It is everything you could ask for from 23 minutes of Friends.


What is your favorite Friends special? Leave your answer in the comments down below, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!