Having entertained generations of viewers in the decades since it first arrived on the air, Friends is comfortably one of the most iconic TV shows ever made. With a stellar principle cast and witty one-liners aplenty, Friends has it all; hilarious and poignant in equal measures, the show had us all enthralled throughout its 10-year run.
Just as entertaining as the main Friends ensemble, though, were the countless celebrities who made cameo appearances on the show throughout the years.
Here, we’ve rounded up our top 20 celebrity cameos from the 90s sitcom. Who was your favourite Friends guest star?
20. George Clooney and Noah Wyle
George Clooney and Noah Wyle show up in Friends’ first season, specifically episodes 16 and 17, named The One with Two Parts.
Proving that two celebrity cameos are always better than one, Clooney and Wyle play handsome doctors who ask Rachel and Monica on a double date.
The appearance of Clooney and Wyle caused a huge stir, since both actors were famous for starring in ER, a hugely popular NBC drama at the time.
Given that Clooney and Wyle also played doctors in Friends, many fans of both series regarded the two-part episode as a legitimate crossover between the two shows.
Unfortunately, the use of the two actors was never intended as anything more than a funny reference, and couldn’t be a canonical crossover for a number of reasons.
One is the location, with Friends and ER taking place in separate cities, and another is that actor David Schwimmer, who plays Ross, eventually wound up with a bit-part in ER.
19. Reese Witherspoon
An ultra baby-faced Reese Witherspoon appeared in two episodes of Friends back in season six, playing Rachel’s younger sister Jill.
Jill is desperate to stop relying on her wealthy dad’s money and wants to become self-sufficient like Rachel… or at least that’s what she claims.
Across her two episodes, Ross and Pheobe repeatedly cover for Jill’s shopping misdeeds, and Ross even goes on a date with Jill.
This obviously enrages Rachel, who can’t believe that Ross would stoop so low as to date her little sister after all their shared history.
Jill Green was a hugely popular character on the show, but unfortunately never returned, primarily due to Reese Witherspoon’s nerves.
Witherspoon revealed in an interview that performing in front of a live audience terrified her, and that’s why she declined to return when she was offered more screen time.
18. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis appeared on Friends for a three-episode arc, playing Paul, the coolly intimidating father of Elizabeth, the student whom Ross met while working as a university lecturer and began to date.
Not only does Paul spend his time terrifying and belittling Ross, but he also dates Rachel, who appreciates his rugged energy.
What’s brilliant about Willis’ cameo was that it didn’t come about through his agent, or even because he had a great love of Friends.
Instead, it was the result of a bet that Willis made with Matthew Perry, aka Chandler, when the two of them starred together in The Whole Nine Yards.
Essentially, Perry wagered that when the movie was released it would top the box office, and Willis disagreed. The condition was that Willis would cameo in Friends if he lost, a forfeit that he gladly honoured.
Willis not only donated his entire fee for appearing on the show to charity, but he also won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his Friends work – not bad for a job that came out of a bet.
17. Anna Faris
Anna Faris appears in season ten of Friends as Erica, the young mother whose children are adopted by Monica and Chandler.
She appeared in four episodes across the show, including some fan favourites, showing up in The One with the Birth Mother, The One Where Joey Speaks French, The One with Rachel’s Going Away Party, and The Last One, Part 1.
By the time Faris was cast in Friends she was already a pretty established actress, with her career being linked to one franchise in particular.
Specifically, Faris had become a staple in the Scary Movie franchise, playing Cindy in all four Scary Movie films.
After Friends, Faris would go on to star in other fluffy comedies like The House Bunny, as well as appearing in more serious projects like Brokeback Mountain.
Faris did keep starring in Scary Movie-style comedies as well though, appearing in Movie 43 in 2013.
16. Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller appeared in just one episode of Friends, showing up in the season three episode The One with the Screamer.
In the episode, Stiller plays Tommy, a seemingly total normal guy who has just started dating Rachel.
Unfortunately for the whole gang, Tommy is actually a bully with an incredibly short temper, who flips out at anyone and anything for seemingly no reason.
Whenever Rachel is away, Tommy amuses himself by shouting at an elderly couple, bullying Ross, and terrorising staff at a restaurant.
Rachel staunchly refuses to believe that Tommy could be so cruel, instead believing that Ross is trying to split the two of them up.
However, she is forced to face facts when she witnesses Tommy unleashing a verbal tirade on the Chick and the Duck, simply because one accidentally urinated on his hand. Needless to say, that was the end of their relationship.
15. Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning is the youngest celebrity cameo on this list, but she was already a well-known name by the time she appeared on Friends.
By the time she played the character of Mackenzie in The One with Princess Consuela in 2004, Fanning had been working as a child star for over three years.
In that time, she had her breakthrough performance in 2001’s I Am Sam, and had also appeared in high-profile films such as Man on Fire, War of the Worlds and Charlotte’s Web.
In Friends, she plays Mackenzie, a little girl who lives in the house that Monica and Chandler are considering buying.
Mackenzie bonds with Joey, because Joey doesn’t want Chandler and Monica to move away, and Mackenzie doesn’t want to leave her home.
The two talk, and eventually Mackenzie convinces Joey that if he was really a good friend, he would be happy for Chandler and Monica for moving to the next step of their relationship.
14. Sean Penn
Sean Penn appeared in two episodes of Friends in 2001, playing Eric, the smitten fiance of Pheobe’s not-quite-evil twin sister Ursula.
When Phoebe and Eric meet, Phoebe is incredulous that someone so kind would be attracted to Ursula, until it is revealed that Ursula has lied to Eric about basically every facet of her personality.
Eric is one of the sweetest characters to ever appear on the show, and Penn’s performance made him an instant fan-favourite.
However, producers of Friends never thought Penn would agree to appear on the show, thanks to his disdain for most mainstream television.
In the end, Penn agreed provisionally to appear on Friends, just because his two kids at the time were huge fans.
Producers were nervous about pitching Penn anything they didn’t deem worthy of him but eventually settled on the loveable character of Eric, who Penn connected to.
13. Christine Applegate
Not long after Reese Witherspoon had introduced the world to Rachel’s younger sister Jill, Friends fans were allowed a further peek into the Green family.
Christine Applegate was cast as Amy, the middle sister of the Green clan, who asks to spend Thanksgiving with Rachel and her friends.
Rachel agrees, but the celebration is predictably awful, with Amy continually misremembering the name of Rachel’s daughter and being rude to Rachel’s friends.
Not only that, but Amy throws a full-on tantrum when it is revealed that she wouldn’t be next in line to care for Emma should something happen to Ross and Rachel.
Despite the character of Amy being so unlikeable, Applegate’s obnoxious performance was pitch perfect and praised by critics.
Applegate also played Courtney in The Sweetest Thing the same year, which required her to walk a similar line between funny and easy to hate.
12. Charlton Heston
Many celebrities have had cameos in Friends, but very few have had the honour of simply playing themselves.
One of the actors who was allowed to appear without playing a character was the legendary actor Charlton Heston.
Heston appeared in an early episode of Friends in 1998, specifically the episode The One with Joey’s Dirty Day.
In it, Joey is forced to show up on the set of a film without showering, after going on a three-day fishing trip with his dad.
He is forced to sneak into the trailer of star of the film and prestigious actor Charlton Heston, in order to try and take a shower.
Joey is discovered, of course, and Heston reacts with the mix of generosity, horror and gravitas that you would expect from a veteran actor.
11. Jennifer Saunders
By the time Jennifer Saunders appeared in Friends in 1998, she was already a giant name in the comedy world, at least in the UK.
It’s no surprise, then, that Saunders delivered a hilarious performance in the two Friends episodes she appeared in, both the season four finale The One with Ross’ Wedding, Part 2 and the season five opener The One After Ross Says Rachel.
In both episodes, Saunders plays the out of touch and downright rude mother of Emily, Ross’ English girlfriend and, eventually, wife.
Saunders spends her screentime arguing with Phoebe over the phone, while Phoebe tries desperately to get in touch with Rachel and save the wedding.
Saunders’ character Andrea Waltham also spends her time ignoring and insulting her husband in turn, and making sure everybody knows that she is richer and better than they are.
Saunders’ performance is so good that it is almost a shame that, spoiler alert, Ross and Emily didn’t actually work out, and so we don’t see any more of Emily or her mother.
10. Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito’s appearance as a downtrodden stripper in The One Where the Stripper Cries is often hailed as one of the most iconic cameos in Friends, and with good reason.
It all starts with Phoebe being upset that her bachelorette party is a rather tame affair, with no crazy drinking and no strippers.
Rachel and Monica scramble to find a stripper, and the one who arrives is, well, not exactly what they expected.
Phoebe is initially horrified by Danny DeVito’s character, Roy, and recoils from his dancing.
This leads to Roy crying and yelling in turn, before finally deciding to embark on a different career path, with the encouragement of Phoebe.
At Phoebe’s insistence though, Roy does get to perform one last dance, and he gets a much warmer reception the second time around.
9. Robin Williams
One of the most memorable cameos in Friends history features not just one, but two legendary comic actors.
Both Robin Williams and Billy Crystal appear in The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion, as a pair of friends called Tim and Tomas.
Monica is trying to tell an important story when Tomas, played by Robin Williams, confesses to his friend that he believes his wife is having an affair.
The gang quickly stop listening to Monica, and instead watch as Tim confesses that it is him who is sleeping with Tomas’ wife, leading to a dramatic screaming match followed by the pair storming out.
It’s pretty obvious from watching the scene that it was totally improvised, which makes sense, because neither actor was initially supposed to be involved with the episode.
However, both Crystal and Williams were shooting in the building across the street and came over to meet the Friends cast and do a quick improv session just for fun.
8. Winona Ryder
In The One with Rachel’s Big Kiss, iconic 90s actress Winona Ryder makes an appearance as Melissa, a friend of Rachel’s with whom she once shared a drunken kiss.
Unfortunately for Rachel, it appears the kiss wasn’t particularly memorable for Melissa, and she has no recollection of the event.
Melissa spends the whole episode denying that she remembers the night, which enrages Rachel and causes her friends to think that she’s lying about the kiss.
The pair lock lips for the second time so Rachel can prove to Phoebe that it did actually happen, which leads to the best late-episode twist in the history of Friends.
In a dramatic turn of events, Melissa admits that she does in fact remember the whole thing, and is actually in love with Rachel.
She confesses that she has remembered the kiss ever since it happened, and wishes it could happen again, which Rachel is utterly freaked out by. Talk about a backfire.
7. Brad Pitt
In one of the show’s best episodes, heartthrob Brad Pitt makes an appearance as Will, an old school friend of Ross, Monica and Rachel, and the alleged target of Rachel’s taunts in high school.
Despite the fact that more than a decade has passed, Will still bears a grudge about the fact that Rachel once made fun of his appearance, and he makes no secret of that fact while staying for dinner.
Across the Thanksgiving special The One with the Rumor, Will confesses that he was part of an I Hate Rachel Green club, of which the only other member was Ross.
Will also confesses to being the one to start a rumour that ruined Rachel’s life in high school, specifically a rumour that Rachel had both male and female genitalia. Yikes.
At the same time, Monica is just trying desperately to get through the Thanksgiving dinner without her fancy plates being broken.
As for why Pitt took the role, he was simply pressured into it by Jennifer Aniston, since the two were married at the time.
6. Gary Oldman
In season seven episode The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding, Oldman makes an appearance as famous British actor Richard Crosby, who’s found working alongside Joey in a movie about WWI.
Unfortunately for Joey, Crosby has a rather noticeable speech impediment, which Joey attempts to recreate in his own, very special way.
Crosby spends the whole day spitting on Joey while he talks in every single take, which distracts Joey and wrecks his performance.
When Joey finally confronts him, however, Crosby explains that the secret to being a successful actor is to spit as much as possible.
Things go much more smoothly from there, at least until Crosby gets incredibly drunk and refuses to leave the set.
Joey eventually has to sneak away from the set of the drama he is shooting, in order to officiate Monica and Chandler’s wedding.
5. Susan Sarandon
In season seven of Friends, Joey’s dream comes true when he is given the chance to reprise his old role in Days of Our Lives.
There’s just one problem: his character has been implanted with the brain of Jessica Lockhart (cue Susan Sarandon), whose character has been recently killed off.
The pair get off to a bad start after Joey accidentally lets slip that Jessica’s character is getting the boot, much to her chagrin.
In true Joey style, he manages to seduce the older woman, and the pair enjoy a romantic evening together.
Jessica gives Joey acting tips and the two develop a genuine bond and friendship, with Joey swearing to honour her character and give his performance as her his best shot.
In the end, Jessica confesses that she is moving away, and the two have a dramatic goodbye worthy of the two actors.
4. Jeff Goldblum
In the season nine episode The One with the Mugging, Jurassic Park star Jeff Goldblum makes a surprise appearance as legendary film director Leonard Hayes.
During his audition for Hayes, Joey is aided by his full bladder, which ensures his performance style is intense, to say the least.
Hayes adores Joey’s performance, specifically praising his awkward uncomfortable movements and urgent eye contact.
Joey is immediately invited to a call back which will decide whether or not he gets the role, and he makes sure to fill his bladder first.
Although Joey lands a callback, his weak bladder gets the better of him, and he ends up letting everything flow right in front of the director he is so desperate to impress.
Needless to say, he doesn’t get the job, but he does get a hilariously awkward interaction with Jeff Goldblum, which has to count for something.
3. Charlie Sheen
In The One with the Chicken Pox, Charlie Sheen guest stars as a former fling of Phoebe’s, a member of the US Navy who makes a surprise visit to rekindle his relationship with his old flame.
Things do not get off to a good start, however, after Phoebe comes down with chickenpox.
Sheen’s character Ryan is undeterred however and goes in for a kiss despite Phoebe being seriously contagious.
Sure enough, Ryan soon succumbs to the chickenpox as well, and the two find their fortnight of romantic plans ruined.
With that said, the two try their hardest to make the most of the time they have together, eating romantic meals and spending every moment at each other’s side.
Unfortunately, they also have to resist the urge to scratch their spots, which leads to a lot of innuendoes between the couple.
2. Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts makes a cameo in The One After The Superbowl: Part 2, in which she plays Susie, an old school friend of Chandler’s whom he used to relentlessly tease.
The pair arrange to go on a date, but the evening has dire consequences for Chandler, who ends up stranded in a toilet cubicle in nothing but Susie’s rather scant underwear.
In a hilarious twist, it is revealed that Susie is simply trying to get revenge on Chandler, for lifting up her skirt in grade school and calling her Susie Underpants.
Though she agrees to go to dinner with Chandler, the night is simply a ploy for Susie to get close enough to Chandler to humiliate him.
Though Chandler and Susie aren’t exactly a match made in heaven, the actors playing them were, at least for a short while.
Roberts was dating Matthew Perry at the time, which is how she wound up with the Friends cameo in the first place.
1. Isabella Rossellini
In another iconic episode, The One with Frank Jr, Isabella Rossellini guest stars as herself, making an appearance in Central Perk.
Unfortunately, her visit comes too late for Ross, who has just replaced her on his list of celebrities he’s allowed to sleep with.
With Rachel’s encouragement, Ross tries his luck anyway, but Rossellini is not impressed by the fact that the list is laminated.
Ross only digs himself into a deeper hole when he attempts to explain why she isn’t on his list anymore, and who he replaced her with.
Needless to say, Ross doesn’t get the happy ending he was planning for, and he never meets any of the other celebrities on his list.