As someone who actually can't remember what life was like before Friends, picking my favorite character was an easy choice: Rachel Green. Watching the show with my parents in elementary school (and understanding almost none of the jokes but laughing anyway), I remember wanting to grow up to be Rachel, even in her barista days. She was so unfailingly cool, she was beautiful, and obviously, she had great hair. Even today, I'm totally Team Rachel, and it's all because of Jennifer Aniston. I can't imagine anyone else playing that role, mostly because Aniston did it so flawlessly. In fact, it's kind of mind blowing to think that she hasn't received more professional praise for playing Rachel, because in so many scenes over the show's 10 seasons, Aniston used Friends to show off her undeniable acting chops in a lot of different ways.
It's hard to say whether Aniston's at her best when she's making us laugh or when she's making us cry, but becoming Rachel gave her so many unique opportunities to show off what she can do. Since Friends is obviously a cultural phenomenon, it's not surprising that Aniston scored a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing Rachel. But even so, I don't think Aniston has ever been given the credit she deserves for the talent she displayed on the show.
Don't believe me? Here's some proof.
"The One With The Morning After"
This might be the most heartbreaking moment in the history of Friends, but Aniston pulls it off so beautifully. After finding out that Ross slept with someone else while they were on a break (although that's debatable...), they end up in a fight that lasts all night, and Rachel eventually comes to the conclusion that since she can't trust Ross again, their relationship can't work. Aniston's acting in this scene alone should have earned her an Emmy instead of "The One Where Rachel Has A Baby." It's so raw that you can't help but mourn your own past relationships all over again while watching Rachel go through it.
"The One With Rachel's Going Away Party"
If Rachel saying goodbye to Ross before she moves to Paris doesn't get you right in the feels, you officially have no soul. Once again, Aniston brings out her secret Make People Cry powers for this one, and she kills it.
"The One After I Do"
Phoebe fakes Rachel out by telling her that her pregnancy test came back negative, and Aniston pulls out some of her best work to show Rachel's disappointment over not being pregnant with a baby she didn't realize she wanted. Of course, Rachel really is pregnant, but this scene blows me away every time.
"The One With The Prom Tape"
Aniston-as-Rachel finding out that Ross is, in fact, her lobster, is one of the most triumphant and wonderful scenes in the entire series. Is there any relationship in this world more perfect than Ross and Rachel's? Answer: No, there isn't, and that's in large part because of Aniston's talent.
"The One With The Breast Milk"
I think Aniston's talent is at its best when she's being Rachel at her most human: being upset that Monica would hang out with Julie, who happens to be dating Ross at the time. It sucks when the person you have feelings for is dating someone who's really hard to hate. It's even worse when your best friend hangs out with her, too.
"The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel"
Monica and Chandler are moving in together, which means Rachel has to move out... and even though she doesn't believe it's really happening at first, when the reality sinks in, Aniston's acting skills make me come to the dark realization that all my friendships are going to change when my friends start getting married, and it's the worst. But she's that good.