Friends Season 3 Episodes, Ranked (Part 1)

Friends The One with Frank Jr.

Friends season three is a strange creature, opening at one of the show’s creative apexes before delivering an iconic, world-redefining second act twist… and then devolving into an absolute mess for most of its final act. Now that we’ve made our way through them all, of course I had to rank, from worst to first – enjoy!

Friends The One with the Screamer

25. Episode 22 – “The One with the Screamer”

Whoo boy… the less we talk about “The One with the Screamer”, the better Friends‘s third season is for it. The only highlight of the episode, which features a particularly off-putting Ben Stiller, is Phoebe sitting on hold with customer service… that’s not a good sign, especially for an episode closing off Joey’s longest romantic arc to date. Yikes.

Friends The One at the Beach

24. Episode 25 – “The One at the Beach”

Friends really dives into a tailspin after its strong second act; season three’s final episode, “The One at the Beach” is the wheezing last gasp of season three, a half hour that transports the gang to Montauk and somehow teases two of the show’s most exciting arcs – unfortunately, they’re buried under a pair of crappy plot twists, and a viciously vindictive version of Rachel I’d soon rather forget. Hey – at least there’s Phoebe, whose emotional journey to discover her family takes another big turn, and sets her up for an emotional season to come.

Friends The One with Ross's Thing

23. Episode 23 – “The One with Ross’s Thing”

This episode prominently features a story about a growth on Ross’s ass – if that wasn’t enough, an incredibly short-sighted Monica story is there to really push this episode down the ranking. Phoebe’s runner, about her attempts to balance dating two very different men, is endearing in its 90’s-ness, but the rest of “The One with Ross’s Thing” is incredibly forgettable.

Friends The One with the Jam

22. Episode 3 – “The One with the Jam”

After starting off season three with a couple of strong episodes, “The One with the Jam” stalls that momentum, a dud of an episode contending with Monica’s post-Richard depression… and, of course, one of the show’s most unfathomably bad subplots, where Phoebe seriously considers dating the man (David Arquette) who has been stalking her twin sister. A real “what the hell were they thinking” moment.

Friends The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion

21. Episode 24 – “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion”

Memorable mostly for the Billy Crystal and Robin Williams-featuring cold open, “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion” is the episode that finally puts the Pete/Monica romance to bed – which is the primary reason why it ranks higher than the episodes surrounding it in season three’s disappointing final act; it’s not a good episode, relying on some classic awkward Chandler (dealing with his boss slapping his ass constantly) and a strange change of heart from Rachel to carry the water of Pete and Monica’s lifeless courtship.

Friends The One with the Tiny T-Shirt

20. Episode 19 – “The One with the Tiny T-Shirt”

An episode with some particularly strange costuming for its leads, “The One with the Tiny T-Shirt” is really only memorable for the titular clothing item, a point of contention between the recently-split Ross and Rachel. While Friends was clearly still fumbling to find its identity – all three subplots involve romantic pairings with only one interested party – post-“The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break”, at least “Tiny T-Shirt” offers up a promising final image to cap off an underwhelming episode.

Friends The One with the Football

19. Episode 9 – “The One with the Football”

“The One with the Football” is an impressive production for Friends, a Thanksgiving episode set entirely outside and featuring the gang in perhaps the show’s most physically active story. Alas, “The One with the Football” is nothing but a technical spectacle, an otherwise empty episode notable only for bringing the often-disturbing Ross/Monica sibling dynamic a bit further into the light.

Friends The One Without the Ski Trip

18. Episode 17 – “The One with the Ski Trip”

“The One with the Ski Trip” finds itself in a particularly unfortunate position, as the episode following the two most consequential half hours of the season (and perhaps the entire series). As a result, “Ski Trip” counters the heavy nature of its preceding episodes by going all-out on the humor, trapping the group on a cold, snowy road with Phoebe’s broken-down taxi and forcing Rachel and Ross to find some semblance of temporary peace. It is the episode that introduces Chandler’s reignited smoking habit, however, which brings a bit of levity to everything around it.

Friends The One with the Dollhouse

17. Episode 20 – “The One with the Dollhouse”

“The One with the Dollhouse” feels like an episode of Friends that would’ve worked in any other season than season three; instead, it’s trapped by season three’s third act cynicism, undercooking romantic subplots for Joey and Chandler while lighting Phoebe’s childhood dreams on fire in front of her eyes. Thankfully, this episode is much funnier than much of what surrounds it – it’s not much, but it’s something.

Friends The One with the Hypnosis Tape

16. Episode 18 – “The One with the Hypnosis Tape”

Frank Jr.’s appearance always lends a different, more manic energy to Friends – “The One with the Hypnosis Tape” is no exception, an episode where Phoebe’s brother gets engaged to his former teacher, Chandler unconsciously gets in touch with his feminine side, and we are unfortunately introduced to the awkward, off-putting Pete Becker (kicking off one of Monica’s most disappointing arcs of the series). Easily the weirdest entry of the season, “Hypnosis Tape” might only be funny for its stereotypical gay jokes – but when those are being delivered by Matthew Perry, it’s hard not to enjoy them.

Friends The One Where Rachel Quits

15. Episode 10 – “The One Where Rachel Quits”

Friends‘s holiday-themed episodes are always weird; “The One Where Rachel Quits’ is no exception, prominently featuring a plot where Ross briefly joins the Girl Scouts to help out a child he’s accidentally injured. However, the titular plot, where Rachel finally leaves Central Perk determined to find her professional path, is a strong one, a precursor to one of the show’s strongest developmental arcs for its main character. Before “Rachel Quits”, Rachel’s work ethic was treated as that of a ditzy Gen X’er; once her career in fashion begins, Rachel undeniably becomes a more interesting, dimensional character – this might only be a preview of that, but it’s an exciting moment for the series.

Friends The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel

14. Episode 4 – “The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel”

Friends takes on gender dynamics” is not a prompt that endears a lot of good memories; despite its iconic status as a reflection of Generation X’s views on sex and relationships, Friends often ran itself into awkward places when it embedded some of these ideas into its text. “The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel” is the pinnacle of these episodes in season three, where Ross can’t handle his son Ben playing with a Barbie, and nobody can believe how ‘feminine’ Chandler’s emotions for Janice have become. As one would expect, it’s a mixed bag; and with a rather underwhelming Joey/Phoebe story running underneath it, “Metaphorical Tunnel” ends up being largely forgettable.

Friends The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister

13. Episode 11 – “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister”

Ross’s asshole arc takes full hold in “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister”, an episode where Chandler drunkenly hooks up with one of Joey’s sisters – and somehow isn’t the most reprehensible character of the episode. In the face of Rachel forming an identity and finding a career, Ross proceeds down a dark path – and though it can be traced back to earlier episodes of the season, its prominence here is a watershed moment for the show’s understanding of the character, ugly and honest in ways that are not pleasant to watch, but resonate with the character the show built over its first 50+ episodes.

Up next: Our Second Look at season three officially concludes with a countdown of the Best Episodes of Season 3.

Want to share your thoughts? Join the conversation below!