Friends is one of the most popular shows in television history, and its arrival on Netflix only brought with it a whole new wave of commentary and analysis. However, maybe the most controversial question that the show has forced fans to debate is which character is the worst, and whether or not it’s definitely Ross.
This list should convince you once and for all that the geeky palaeontologist is definitely not worth your sympathy.
20. He’s a total hypocrite
One of the biggest twists in Friends is the reveal that Joey has been harbouring serious feelings for Rachel, but is reluctant to do anything about it out of respect for Ross. In a classic coffee shop confessional, Ross tells Joey that nothing should stand in the way of him pursuing true love, but changes his tune when he finds out who Joey is crushing on. Seasons later, Joey splits up with his girlfriend Charlie and Rachel tries to make a move, but Joey refuses to do anything until he’s spoken to Ross.
What does Ross do? He immediately makes out with Charlie himself, after voicing the fact that he should probably talk to Joey first and then just… not doing that. Even worse, when Ross finally finds out about Rachel and Joey, he still has the nerve to make things as uncomfortable as possible, even though Ross and Rachel hadn’t dated for six years. He only starts acting like a reasonable person after a meltdown and historic hangover force him to.
19. He’s got serious hang-ups around masculinity
Friends feels like a fairly recent show in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is it began airing several decades ago, something that is sometimes reflected in the show’s values. Every character makes a few off-colour jokes across its many seasons, which are mostly just examples of the scripts being a product of their time, but only Ross has entire story arcs dedicated to his prejudice.
The most infuriating is when Ross and Rachel are interviewing potential babysitters for Emma, and find someone who could not be more qualified. Ross is super enthusiastic about hiring them – that is until they meet, and Ross discovers that he is a man. Immediately, Ross throws insult after insult at poor Sandy, played by Freddie Prinze Jr, and even accuses him of being gay, despite the fact that this is essentially a job interview and he should be acting professionally.
18. He takes those hang-ups out on his son
In the episode with the infamous male nanny, Ross eventually has his defences broken down. He confesses to Sandy that he’s suspicious of the babysitter because he’s not afraid to cry – something Ross doesn’t feel like he can do. Ross essentially has a therapy session with Sandy where he unpacks his fear of weakness and femininity, coming to the conclusion that his father made him feel ashamed for loving science instead of sports.
It’s a sympathetic moment for Ross, but his actions show that he has no desire to stop himself from making the same mistakes his father did, and alienating his kids in the same way. For example, Ross throws a total temper tantrum when he finds out Ben has been playing with Barbie dolls instead of G.I Joes, and spends a whole episode trying to force action figures on the poor toddler, who definitely isn’t old enough to know the difference.
17. He lies to the people he loves…
The foundation of any relationship is trust, which might explain why Ross and Rachel make such a disastrous couple for the majority of the show. With that said, though both of them are guilty of lying, Rachel normally hides her own feelings to protect Ross, while Ross lies to protect himself and his chances with Rachel. Maybe the worst example of this is when Rachel believes Ross doesn’t have feelings for her, so she has no reason not to get back into the dating game after Emma is born.
Rachel dips her toe back into having a social life by going to a party with Phoebe, and accepts the number of a guy she’s been talking to. It’s all very platonic and hardly even flirty, and Rachel even talks to Phoebe about her mixed feelings about dating. Ross is less mature, hiding the guy’s number from Rachel and then even bringing it up during an argument to imply that she has no loyalty and couldn’t wait to start dating strangers.
16. …Even in situations where that’s a serious violation
Lying about a guy’s number is a pretty mean thing to do, but it’s nowhere near the worst thing that Ross has ever done to the supposed love of his life. The most famous lie Ross has ever told is also the worst, because it would have had serious legal repercussions if it had been allowed to play out. We are, of course, talking about the time that Ross lied about getting an annulment.
Ross is convinced that being married won’t change anything for Rachel, while getting divorced again is something he doesn’t deserve to be put through. Therefore, Ross decides lying about his friend’s legal relationship staus is a totally fine thing to do. That’s messed up enough, but the whole affair is made even worse by the fact that Ross treats the lie like a fun prank, while all his friends react with shock and horror when told. Ross even tries to bribe Rachel into accepting the marriage by offering to register for gifts, which is infantilising as well as shallow.
15. He’s hugely manipulative
Huge romantic gestures are a big part of all great fictional romances, whether that be on TV or on the big screen. That’s why the last scene of Friends, wherein Ross goes to the airport to convince Rachel to stay, is one of the most iconic moments in the whole show. With that said, as heart-warming and romantic as that last scene is, the rest of the episode up to that moment is nowhere near as sweet. Rachel makes her mind up to go to Paris right at the start of the previous episode and doesn’t at any point change her mind.
She’s sad to leave her friends, but excited to see what a life in France could bring her, and knows that her job in New York is only holding her back. Ross has other plans for Rachel, though – and he spends a full episode trying to get her old company to rehire her and tempt her back without her knowing, mostly through bribery. Ross never tells Rachel that he’s done this, even when she does decide to stay.
14. He’s ungrateful
Understatement time: Ross is not the most generous character in Friends. He fails to understand that his other friends don’t have the same money and privileges he does, and he does far fewer favours for the rest of the gang than the others – even when characters like Phoebe have a lot less to give. So it’s actually surprising that when Ross finds himself between apartments thanks to Emily, Chandler and Joey immediately offer to let him stay with them.
The two guys hardly have room for another person, let alone a person and all their belongings, but they do their best to make Ross feel welcome. They even make the best of a bad situation, by making a fort out of all the boxes that Ross doesn’t even attempt to put in storage or send to his parents’ house. What does Ross do to say thank you? Nothing. Instead, Ross constantly tells his new roommates to keep the noise down in the most patronising way possible, invades their personal space, and forces them to play foosball in their rooms just so they can get some peace.
13. He takes pranks way too far
Pranks are all well and good, and there’s no denying that they’re a huge part of what makes Friends so funny and relatable. However, there’s a huge difference between Joey putting his head inside the Thanksgiving turkey, and Ross posting on his college alumni website that Chandler is gay, complete with photoshopped pornographic pictures. You might think that the gag is justified because Chandler first posted that Ross was in love with dinosaurs, but while that’s more obviously a joke, Ross’ comeback is believable.
Ross being upset and retaliating with the “Chandler is gay” rumour already shows his tendency to take things too far, but later in the same episode, things get even worse. After Chandler does the admittedly immature thing of posting that Ross has died, Ross has the truly awful idea to fake his own death and throw a wake, just so he can satisfy his ego and see how many people show up weeping at his door.
12. He’s inappropriate
It’s a running joke in Friends that Ross’ dating history is awful, and he always picks the worst women for him. Sometimes that just means marrying too early or falling in love with someone with whom it could never work out, but sometimes it literally means getting into relationships that flaunt what is legal. Ross’ relationship with student Elizabeth is seriously weird, not just because of the 15-year age gap between them, but because of the codes that forbid it from ever happening.
Though Ross claims not to know that dating a student is against the rules of his university, his sneaking around implies that he definitely knows he’s in the wrong. To make matters worse, Ross resents it when his young girlfriend actually acts her age, and is constantly trying to repress her personality and stop her from having fun. To make his dating pattern worse, Ross is actually gross enough to think that his cousin is trying to seduce him, just because she’s attractive and tries to watch a movie with him. Ew.
11. He’s ultra jealous – despite having it all
Despite having the most secure job of all his friends, two beautiful children and a good relationship with his parents, Ross never stops being jealous of everyone in his life. He constantly expresses resentment that Joey is better with women than he is, and obsesses over the love life of many of his own girlfriends – most notably Rachel. Even in the last few episodes of Friends, Ross goes from chatting to a kind man while helping Rachel move out of her office, to realising that the man once dated her and immediately switching to a hate-filled rant.
This is supposed to be at the point in the show where Ross and Rachel are ready to be together forever, and Ross still can’t help but comment on how Rachel’s former friend and co-worker was definitely trying to seduce her, because of a totally innocuous conversation wherein he offers her a job. Yikes. Not only that, but Ross and Rachel’s infamous break was partly caused by his jealousy of the same guy the first time around, proving that he hasn’t really changed at all.
10. He’s super needy
Even Ross’ many defenders tend to realise that he’s the most needy of all the friends, which is saying something since Joey literally can’t sleep without his stuffed toy penguin and throws a tantrum if anyone goes near his food. Ross’ neediness is mostly centred around women – in every relationship he’s in, he needs to feel wanted and in control. That’s an unattractive habit, but it’s not a deal-breaker all by itself. The problem is it goes along with another horrible habit of Ross’: he moves way too fast.
It’s nice to have aspirations about where a relationship might go, but after just a few weeks of dating the first time, Ross tells Rachel exactly how many kids they’re going to have, where they’re going to live, and even what kind of house they’re going to have. Rachel is rightly freaked out by this, but Ross acts like it’s totally normal to have planned every detail of someone else’s life that quickly, and is upset when Rachel says she might have other plans about her life.
9. He always thinks he’s right, even though he isn’t
The sofa that won’t pivot and the iconic practice of unagi make for two of the funniest and most famous moments in all of Friends. Both moments, however, show off one of Ross’ more serious faults – which is that he has to be right at all costs, even when it affects his friends. When Ross first becomes convinced of his superiority in awareness and safety, not only does he prove it by getting the name of the martial arts concept wrong, but he also becomes obsessed with scaring his friends.
Ross’ display of “unagi” does nothing but stress his pals out needlessly, since Phoebe is one of the most street-smart and competent characters out there, and Rachel is not the naive rich kid she used to be. As for the sofa, Rachel pleads with Ross to let them get it delivered, but Ross refuses to pay and is convinced he’s right about being able to move it into the apartment himself. As it turns out, he’s completely wrong, and everyone predicted it except him.
8. He makes everything about him
The main six friends all have their moments of self-absorption, but none have them so frequently or with as much drama as Ross. Almost every episode, Ross complains about some horrible situation that’s befallen him, even when it actually has nothing to do with him at all. Maybe the most audacious example here is that several times throughout the show, Ross blames himself for the fact that his wife became a lesbian, or makes himself out to be a victim who was brutally tricked by Carol.
The reality is, his wife realising she was attracted to women definitely didn’t happen because of Ross, and he’s not the victim for having to divorce her. In fact, it’s actually way worse for Carol, since she was constantly guilt-tripped by Ross for having the bravery to come out, and had to comfort and convince him that it wasn’t his fault.
7. He’s super childish
Ross is a smart academic with a high powered job, who is asked to teach college classes, speak at conferences and submit papers to prestigious journals. In other words, Ross seems like a grown-up. The problem is, for every way in which he’s an upstanding adult, there are two more ways in which he’s actually a total child. Not only does he wear dinosaur ties and use a fossil-themed chequebook, but he constantly yells, pulls faces and makes sarcastic preschool comebacks when confronted by others.
Most egregiously, Ross keeps an actual count of how many times he’s slept with Rachel, and pictures her naked on purpose in front of her, just to make her uncomfortable. This isn’t the kind of behaviour you would expect from someone with a mature bone in their body, and Rachel – the more mature Friend – reacts appropriately to both.
6. He’s cruel
Mostly when Ross makes a mistake in the show, the audience is encouraged to be sympathetic to him. Yes, he can be mean, immature, self-centred or underhanded, but it all stems from his own insecurity and kindness deep down. However, there is one particular event where his behaviour is truly unjustifiable. Early in the show, when Ross and Rachel are falling for each other for the first time, Ross makes a list of Rachel’s good points and flaws, in order to choose between her and his current girlfriend.
The ‘flaws’ Ross lists are pretty brutal, with Rachel being described as spoiled, ditzy and too into her looks. He even, in the harshest moment in the whole show, says she is “just a waitress”. Even though he also makes a list for his girlfriend, which includes the con “she’s not Rachel”, nothing can justify Ross’ behaviour here or the speed with which he expects her to get over it and forgive him.
5. He has a superiority complex
Ross gets a lot of flack from his friends for working with fossils and dinosaurs, but he clearly never internalises any of it, since he maintains that his career as a lecturer and palaeontologist is more important than anybody else’s. This is most evident when Rachel wants to go to a fashion lecture with her male coworker, and Ross throws a tantrum and insists on going instead.
Ross then proceeds to sleep through almost the entirety of the 40-minute talk, constantly whispers and distracts her, and even flirts with her while she’s trying to take notes. When Rachel rightly gets annoyed by this, Ross tells her that fashion is boring, and that no one would ever make a movie like Jurassic Park about clothes. Ignoring the fact that Ross is wrong, and that The Devil Wears Prada is obviously the fashion Jurassic Park, Ross totally disregards that Rachel has sat through four-hour science lectures for him before without complaint.
4. He doesn’t seem to understand – or sometimes even like – Rachel
The main throughline of Friends is the will-they-won’t-they of Ross and Rachel, with audiences watching to the end as they both struggle towards the happy ending they seem to desperately want. With that said, despite the fact that they are supposed to be deeply in love, there are many times when Ross and Rachel hardly seem to even like each other. For example, when Rachel is asked to accompany Ross to a big academic event, she is understandably nervous and wants to look good.
Instead of appreciating that she’s trying to make a good impression, Ross yells at Rachel for taking too long to get ready and being more concerned about whether her nose looks fat than whether they make it to the event on time. Being late to an event is stressful, but it’s telling that Ross jumps straight to calling Rachel shallow and vanity-obsessed, which are the very accusations he levelled at her in the infamous list.
3. He’s a martyr
We’ve already covered Ross’ tendency to make everything about himself, whether it’s Joey’s dating prowess, his ex-wife’s sexuality, or even Monica’s choice of boyfriends. With that said, worst of all is Ross’ tendency to always understand himself as the victim, even if it’s flat out not true. For example, Ross freaks out at the idea of Rachel dating while pregnant, then pushes her to live with him so he doesn’t miss any important milestones, despite the fact that he’s already in a serious relationship.
When his girlfriend is rightly mad and confused, Ross lies and pretends Rachel is just needy and clingy, and then is furious at Rachel when she reveals the truth. He whines about how hard it is to maintain a relationship in this kind of situation, which is even more ironic when you remember he literally hits on the woman serving him in the baby store, while Rachel is pushing the pram next to them.
2. He’s not a great parent
Speaking of Ross and his relationship with fatherhood, it’s pretty fair to say that he’s not the most devoted of parents. There are several episodes dedicated to other members of the Friends clan looking after Ben and Emma, and Ben spends so much time with his mum that Ross’ dad literally forgets he exists. There’s also the little problem of Ben not being present at Ross’ wedding to Emily, despite the fact that Emily would be becoming his stepmother.
Not only that, but Ross has no idea how to discipline his kid, as shown by the fact that he can’t stop Ben from constantly using the pranks that Rachel taught him. Ross’ only solution is to yell and get agitated, and Rachel – who is not Ben’s parent – ends up being the one to try and smooth it all over. When Emma is born, we constantly see Ross handing the baby over to Rachel, while complaining that he’s bearing the brunt of parenting all by himself. Which, of course, he’s not.
1. He’s controlling
Ross has a lot of strong opinions, which isn’t actually a problem all by itself. The problem is that he expects everybody else to have those same opinions, too, and is disappointed when they don’t. This becomes even more of a problem when he is in a relationship, and expects whatever girlfriend he has at the time to have exactly the same worldview as him.
This seriously impacts Rachel in particular, who is too afraid to get a tattoo even though she really wants one, just because she knows that Ross doesn’t approve. It takes a serious pep talk from Phoebe for Rachel to agree that she’s allowed to get inked if she wants to, even though it’s her body, and the conflict is only resolved because Ross happens to like the cute heart tattoo she gets.