The Ten Best Hollywood Guest Stars "Friends" Ever Gave Us

One of the most successful situation comedies of all time, Friends celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the broadcast of its inaugural episode this year. Whilst the six former stars are seemingly doing very little to celebrate this - and in the UK, current home of the coffee-house-frequenting sextet Comedy Central has marked the occasion by doing what Channel 4 and E4 did for years before them by showing all ten seasons in order - I've decided to focus on one of the most consistent elements of the series: the Hollywood guest stars.

Whether you love, loathe or feel complete indifference towards Friends, it's hard to deny that the series far more often than not got its celebrity cameos right, even when the quality of the episodes themselves got a bit iffy. Proof enough of this is that, having initially aimed to mark out my favourite five, I've ended up expanding my list down to a top ten. I've not included any Hollywood names who appeared in recurring roles (otherwise Elliot Gould and Tom Selleck would be in there), nor have I taken into account any actors who guested on Friends and then became much bigger in film later on in their career (such as Giovanni Ribisi). A few guilty pleasures just missed out (sorry, Charlie Sheen), but this feels like a pretty comprehensive collection of the very best the series had to offer.

10. Winona Ryder (Season 7, Episode 20)
Ryder plays Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston) former sorority sister Melissa, with whom Rachel insists she once shared a drunken dalliance whilst at college. Melissa initially denies all knowledge, until Rachel decides to prove her mettle by laying a smacker on Melissa whilst saying goodbye. It's a guest appearance which initially feels somewhat ordinary, but Melissa's sudden transformation - and infatuation - after Rachel kisses her is priceless, showcasing Ryder's oft unseen knack for comedy.

9. Danny DeVito (Season 10, Episode 11)
One of the few true highlights of the poor-to-average final season, DeVito plays a past-it stripper hired at the last minute for Phoebe's (Lisa Kudrow) belated hen party. It should be an embarrassing car wreck, but DeVito's complete investment in his performance and years of comedy experience make it a masterclass in visual humour.

8. Hugh Laurie (Season 4, Episode 24)
Years before he was well-known as Dr. House across the pond, Laurie provided one of the few palatable British guest appearances of the London-based two-parter which closed the fourth season. Whilst Tom Conti and Jennifer Saunders hammed it up, and Richard Branson and Sarah Ferguson embarrassed themselves and their nation for no real reason (let's face it, neither needed the money), Laurie featured as "guy on the plane", an acerbic passenger sitting next to Rachel on her flight to England. The character's verbal onslaught of Rachel is the highlight of both episodes, in particular his cutting closing remark giving his take on Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel being "on a break".

7. Kathleen Turner (Season 7, Episodes 22-24)
Whoever had the idea of having Chandler's (Matthew Perry) estranged cross-dressing father played by a woman deserves some credit, but whoever cast Turner in the role has the real brains here. An Oscar-nominated big name of the 1980s, Turner completely invests in the role of Charles Bing, believable as a man in drag but also playing off the fact that she really is a woman to wonderful comedic effect. There's also a nice scene between Turner and Perry when father and son are reunited for the first time in years amongst the audience of Charles' Las Vegas drag act.

6. Charlton Heston (Season 4, Episode 14)
The only actor on the list who appears as themself, Heston gives Joey (Matt LeBlanc) some sage advice after he sneaks into the Hollywood veteran's dressing room to take a shower. It's a wonderful sequence with Heston gamely playing off his standing as a cinematic heavyweight from the Golden Age of Hollywood, whilst also delivering such memorable lines as "Put some pants on, kid, so I can kick your butt!"

5. Brad Pitt (Season 8, Episode 9)
Pitt's appearance as Monica's (Courteney Cox) old school friend Will came just as the actor was becoming known for more comedy-based roles in films such as Ocean's Eleven and Snatch, and his performance here regularly draws from the same rich comedic well. Pitt's turn is perhaps the most memorable example of a guest actor appearing in only one episode and completely out-acting all six regular cast members. Will's animosity towards Rachel throughout the episode is also made all the funnier by the fact that Pitt and Aniston were Hollywood's hottest couple at the time.

4. Christina Applegate (Season 9, Episode 8 / Season 10, Episode 5)
Applegate is one of the most underrated comedy actresses in the business today (look no further than her performances in the Anchorman films for proof), and it's a shame that her appearances in Friends come during the series' final two seasons when the show was a shell of its former self. As Rachel's sister Amy, Applegate's performance is perhaps the most finely crafted cameo role seen throughout all ten seasons, playing off Aniston's character well and genuinely feeling like a reflection of what Rachel could have been had she followed a somewhat different path through life. It's a subtlety Reece Witherspoon - who played Rachel's other sister Jill during Season 6 - sadly couldn't manage.

3 & 2. Billy Crystal & Robin Williams (Season 3, Episode 24)
A joint appearance that very nearly took the number one spot, Crystal and the late Williams' cameo during a pre-credits sequence at Central Perk is notable for several reasons. Firstly, it only came about at the last minute because the two actors happened to be working in a nearby studio; secondly, it was completely ad-libbed, showcasing the talents of two genuinely outstanding natural comedians; and thirdly, it remains one of the most surreally brilliant moments of any episode. If you've never seen it - even if you've never seen an episode of Friends - watch it. Seriously, watch it now.

1. Bruce Willis (Season 6, Episodes 21-23)
Willis makes a guest appearance in three episodes of Friends' sixth season, clearly at home going back to his television acting roots, whilst also playing off his Hollywood action man image superbly. Willis plays Paul, the father of a student Ross is dating who himself ends up dating Rachel, and is a delight every moment he is on screen. The actor successfully pulls off a range of comedy styles - beginning pleasingly understated before shifting to much more exaggerated slapstick during his final episode - and even manages to form something of a classic double act with David Schwimmer. Willis' crowning moment, however, undoubtedly comes towards the end of his second episode and involves a mirror and a rendition of The Miracles' "I'm Just A Love Machine". It's arguably one of the funniest scenes in any Friends episode.

The concept of guest stars has noticeably shifted since Friends finished a decade ago, with actors and celebrities now much more likely to play themselves in a sitcom rather than take on a character role. It's somewhat comforting to know that in amongst Friends' 236 episodes can still be found some of the most successful genuine guest star roles to be found within the sitcom genre (oh, and Jean Claude Van Damme proving just how terrible an actor he is. But we'll ignore that one).

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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