Similar to turkey and apple pie, the Friends Thanksgiving episodes have become somewhat of an American tradition since they first aired more than 20 years ago. The series had a Thanksgiving-centric episode during every one of their 10 seasons, and marathoning them during the holiday is still one of my favorite things to do. Not al of these episodes are created equal, however. Some of them are classics, and among the best episodes of the entire series, while others are, well, less than special. In order to determine which ones rock and which ones rock less, I’ve ranked all ten of them, from worst to best.
What makes for a great Thanksgiving episode of Friends? It’s one where the gang is all together. One where there’s some tension, of course, but no one hates each other. The better ones all have some kind of nice resolution by the end of the episode. It’s great to watch these characters interact, as the heart of the show was their relationships with each other. Although we became became more invested in their relationships over the years, the show really hit its groove in the middle of the series, and those episodes remain some of the best. And with that, let’s rank the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, starting with my least favorite and ending with the very best.
10. “The One With Chandler In The Box”
The title of this Season 4 episode tells you most of what you need to know. Chandler kisses Joey’s girlfriend, Kathy, and Joey makes him spend Thanksgiving in a giant box to prove how sorry he is. Oh, and Monica makes out with her ex-boyfriend Richard’s son, which is only a little weird, right? As much as I love Chandler and Joey’s friendship, making Chandler stay in a box the whole episode just wasn’t a very funny, clever, or compelling gag.
9. “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”
This Season 7 Thanksgiving episode had very little Thanksgiving. Chandler tells everyone that he’s allergic to dogs, but the truth is that he just doesn’t like them. Everyone finds out that he’s lying because, unbeknownst to Chandler, there’s already a dog in the apartment. As an added bore, Rachel and her hot assistant Tag make out, which is a relationship that I’m not sure anyone was actually invested in.
8. “The One With The List”
Season 2's episode ranks as low as it does for me because I was vicariously horrified for Ross through the entire episode, from the point that he made the list, to the moment he decided to print it out, to when Rachel finds and reads it. I spent most of the episode with a level of heightened anxiety and horror, which isn’t really how I like to watch Friends.
7. “The One With The Late Thanksgiving”
This was the final Thanksgiving episode of the series, and another one that gave me a bit of anxiety. Basically, everyone is late for Monica’s Thanksgiving dinner. And, even though it’s such a Rachel thing to do, it always bothered me that she entered Emma in a beauty pageant.
6. “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”
As great as Christina Applegate is as Rachel’s sister, Amy, I’ve just never been all that invested in Rachel’s relationships with her siblings, which made Season 9's episode a little boring to watch.
5. “The One With The Rumor”
When this episode first aired, it was an immediate classic. Brad Pitt guest stars as Rachel’s high school classmate, Will, who holds a serious grudge against the former Miss Popular. At the time it was filmed, Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married, so the on-screen tension was totally cute. Now the episode feels a bit like a relic, after the whole Brangelina thing. But even still, I love this episode simply for the fact that there was an “I Hate Rachel Green Fan Club,” and Joey — proving he’s smarter than people give him credit for — shows up to dinner wearing maternity pants (totally genius move.)
4. “The One Where Underdog Gets Away”
In the Thanksgiving episode that started them all, the friends all end up spending Thanksgiving with each other after their other plans fall through, one by one. When everyone runs up to the roof to watch the giant Underdog balloon, which has escaped from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they lock themselves out of the apartment and dinner burns to a crisp. It’s the worst Thanksgiving ever, but the one that solidified this group of friends as a family.
3. “The One Where Ross Got High”
The main plot of the Seaosn 6 episode revolves around Chandler trying to win over Monica’s parents, who hate him because Ross blamed Chandler for his weed in high school. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of wanting your partner’s parents to like you. I once dated a guy whose mother called me a slut at a family wedding, so I really feel for Chandler in this one. But the thing that make this episode a classic, for me, is Rachel’s disastrous dish, in which she accidentally makes half a shepherd’s pie and half an English trifle. Thank goodness for Joey, who love the dish, and for the rest of the friends, who at least pretend to.
2. “The One With The Football”
Season 3's Thanksgiving episode is one my favorites of the series, period. We get to see the super intensely competitive relationship between Monica and Ross play out in a hillarious way. Not to mention it’s one of those episodes where all six of the friends are with each other throughout ,and we get to see the amazing chemistry that the cast has built up at this point in the show. Plus, the girls beat the boys so.
1. “The One With All The Thanksgivings”
The Season 5 episode has it all. Flashbacks, which are always fun, and context to Monica and Chandler’s relationship that we didn’t have before we knew that she cut off his toe (and he fat-shamed her). But, really, Monica dancing around with a turkey carcass on her head while Chandler finally tells her he loves her remains one of the best moments of the show.