Friends: the best Christmas episodes

Every single Friends Christmas episode, ranked from worst to best

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Love Christmas? Love Friends? Then, yes, you absolutely need to read our ranking of every single Friends festive special…

Friends and Christmas go together like cheese and crackers. Why? Well, because they both serve to lift our spirits. Because they always, always, always make us smile until our faces ache. Because, above all else, they make us want to spend the day in our cosiest pair of PJs, eating delicious things, and spending time with our loved ones.

Thanks to Netflix, it’s never been easier to catch up on all the Christmas-themed episodes of Friends. But, with one festive special per season of the TV show’s 10-season run (barring the final one), it begs the question: which episodes are really worth rewatching on 25 December?

To help you out, here’s my definitive (read: entirely subjective) ranking of the best ever Christmas episodes of Friends. And, while I heartily encourage you to @ me if you think I’m wrong, it’s worth noting that all of my opinions on this iconic 90s series are 100% correct. Fact.

Happy viewing!

9) Friends Season 1, Episode 10: “The One with the Monkey”

Friends at Christmas: Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay in “The One with the Monkey”
Friends at Christmas: Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay in “The One with the Monkey”

Ross (David Schwimmer) is lonely, so he gets himself a monkey. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is dating a swarthy Italian man named Paulo – and ends up in a violent airport argument as a result.

Chandler (Matthew Perry), meanwhile, is desperate for a kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve, so he calls up his ex, Janine, in spite of the fact she makes him want to gnaw his own arm off. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) winds up meeting, dating, and parting from a sweet (albeit very nerdy) scientist named David, all in a single episode. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) takes a brief foray into the world of dating single parents.

And Monica (Courteney Cox)? Well, Monica’s date, Bobby, brings everyone down with his very sad, very sob-worthy stories.

Essentially, this one has all the makings of a very miserable Christmas. Sorry, folks!

Festive ranking: one very sorry jingle bell, ding-donging not so merrily in a dark, empty room.

8) Friends Season 9, Episode 10: “The One with Christmas in Tulsa”

Anyone who knows me well will tell you the same thing: I really, really, really hate flashback-driven TV specials. Not only are they lazy AF (c’mon, writing team – did you really have nothing new? At all?), but, in the golden age of streaming, I have zero need for a show to remind me of episodes gone by. I can literally go back and watch them all, whenever I want. 

This episode isn’t just a flashback-driven TV special, though: it’s also the episode that sees Chandler come dangerously close to cheating on Monica when a female coworker tries to make a pass at him. And, fine, he doesn’t pull an Alan Rickman in Love Actually, but, y’know, just the merest hint of infidelity when it comes to those two soulmate-status lovers is enough to set my teeth on edge. 

I’m calling it: all episodes set during Chandler’s brief stint working in Tulsa are the work of Satan, and should henceforth be struck from the Friends record. End of.

Festive ranking: two Christmas cards, none of which have been personalised (a scribbled signature under the pre-printed ‘Season’s Greetings’ does not a good holiday card make!).

7) Friends Season 4, Episode 10: “The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie”

This one isn’t bad, it’s just not all that memorable compared to the other greats on this list. All you need to know is this: Monica dances around in marinara sauce, Joey unleashes his inner ‘Dragon’, Ross can’t hack a long-distance relationship (because Ross), Chandler and Rachel spend some quality time together, and Phoebe makes up a brilliantly terrible Christmas song about all her friends.

Check it out (from 1:42) below:

All together now? “Rachel and Chandler, ha ah ha ah handler!”

Festive ranking: three Spotify Christmas playlist, all of which are composed entirely of acoustic covers.

6) Friends Season 8, Episode 11: “The One with the Creepy Holiday Card”

Yeah, there’s a lot going on in this one, and hardly any of it makes me feel festive. Chandler pretends he’s broken up with Monica in order to suck up to his awful boss (the one who drunkenly urinated on the ice sculpture at their engagement party, yes). 

Elsewhere, Rachel is struggling with pregnancy hormones, so mush so that she ends up lusting after both Joey and Ross.

The sizzling leaf of holly on top of this burning Christmas pudding of an episode, though? Ross gets wound up when his girlfriend, Mona, decides to turn a cute photo of them both into a Christmas card. Cue him ‘accidentally’ giving her the key to his apartment and ‘accidentally’ telling her he loves her. How bloody romantic.

Festive ranking: four sad little Kevin MacAllisters wishing for their family back, as seen in the OG Home Alone movie.

5) Friends Season 3, Episode 10: “The One Where Rachel Quits”

The best bit of this episode is, somewhat surprisingly, its subplot. Forget Rachel’s big career dilemma, I’m 100% here for Phoebe’s horror when she finds out what really happens to the older, uglier Christmas trees each year.

Scroll to 1.39 if you’re emotionally ready to learn the truth, too:

Festive ranking: five turtle doves cooing noisily from their position atop a Christmas tree.

4) Friends Season 5, Episode 10: “The One with the Inappropriate Sister”

This is the one where Rachel starts dating Danny, the hot yeti from her apartment building, only to find out that he has a… well, he has a very strange relationship with his sister, Krista. The kind of relationship that sees them lick food from one another’s fingers and take steamy bubble baths together. Ew.

It’s also the one which sees Phoebe dress up as Santa’s elf and do her very best to raise money for charity, only to wind up losing her shit when people mistreat both her and her beloved bucket.

And let’s not forget that Joey writes his very own porno, with a little guidance from Ross (and a lot of distraction from Chandler), too – much to the horror of Monica and Rachel. Oh yes.

Festive ranking: six sprigs of freshly-picked holly. So Christmassy, so aesthetically-pleasing, so prone to pricking your finger if you grab at it too quickly…

3) Friends Season 2, Episode 9: “The One with Phoebe’s Dad”

Monica’s underrated Christmas cookies, Treeger being classic Treeger, a sweltering hot purple apartment, and Ross and Rachel together? Big ticks all round. 

It’s Phoebe’s storyline, though, that takes the biscuit once again: she wants to go up and knock on the front door of her estranged dad, but she’s worried that he might shut her off – and she’s just not prepared to lose him like that.

Thankfully, she has Chandler and Joey there for support, even if it does mean they don’t have time to finish off their Christmas shopping. So, yeah, they swing by at a gas station to see what they can find in the way of presents, resulting in one of the best gift exchange scenes of all time.

“They’re ribbed, for your pleasure!”

Festive ranking: SEVEN GOLD RINGS, DAMN IT!!!

2) Friends Season 7, Episode 10: “The One with the Holiday Armadillo”

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that Ross’ stint as the Holiday Armadillo is one of the best Friends skits ever. Just… just the way he scuttles from room to room, trying desperately to teach Ben about Hanukkah in a fun, armadillo-friendly way! It’s so, so, so good. 

Then, of course, Father ‘Chandler’ Christmas shows up and ruins it all, much to Monica’s delight. And, when things finally, finally get back on track, Superman swings by the iconic purple apartment, too.

To paraphrase Rachel, it really does look like the Easter Bunny’s funeral. On steroids. But, while this episode almost came out on top, it was beaten to first place by just one other Friends Christmas episode…

Festive ranking: eight delicious turkey sandwiches, each boasting Ross’ gravy-soaked ‘moist-maker’ in the middle…

1) Friends Season 6, Episode 10: “The One with the Routine”

Oh yes. And don’t come at me with your “buts” and “whys” and “how could yous”, because I know for a fact that you’ve sunk hours of your life into learning Monica and Ross’ routine for yourself.

“5, 6, 7, 8!”

Sure, Ross and Monica may not steal the show at the taping of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, but they 100% have stolen the show when it comes to Friends Christmas episodes. 

After all, this is why Loreta’s The Trouble With Boys, despite having all the makings of an otherwise highly forgettable pop song, is burned into our brains with an all-consuming intensity. Just a whiff of that “nothing but trouble” is enough to send us rocketing back in time, desperately trying to get some airtime on that platform with the Gellers.

Friends at Christmas: David Schwimmer and Courteney Cox as Ross and Monica Geller.
Friends at Christmas: David Schwimmer and Courteney Cox as Ross and Monica Geller.

The rest of the episode is pretty great, too: Joey is putting the moves on Janine (and splashing water on the crotch of any man who gets in his way) and, back at home, Phoebe, Chandler, and Rachel launch a frantic, adrenaline-fuelled search for Monica’s Christmas presents.

Will they find them? Well, if they do there’ll be (sorry not sorry) nothing but trouble…

Festive ranking: every single one of the high notes in Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas. Obviously.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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