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Just Friends
aka: Friendzone

Carly: I thought we talked about this. We can be buds, but you gotta get over this crush thing.
Freddie: I am over it! Seriously! I'm in love with you, you just want to be friends, and I'm totally cool living with that constant pain!
iCarly, "iPilot"

Teasing at a romantic relationship between two platonic friends. The force with which the two deny any feelings is always inversely proportional to the truth. Just Friends is in essence, a relationship, a potential relationship or teased relationship between people who are simply Just Friends, in a normal, and regular manner. When a character uses the line "We're Just Friends" but no-one seems to believe them, this is likely to be the trope involved.

It is used in such diverse ways as being the central driving force of the actual series, a subtext undercurrent to a main plot or even pulled out of nowhere simply to create drama and tension. It is a safe trope to use for a writer, as it can develop in multiple directions, those directions can flip back and forth, and it can be done in a way that avoids overpowering the real 'genre' of a show until the writer decides to develop the relationship further. It can be delayed indefinitely, quietly abandoned or dealt with in any direction extremely quickly without making characters look bad. Viewers can easily relate to the trope as the experience of liking or loving someone who only sees you as a friend is common in real life.

All this trope really needs is two characters who happen to be friends for the possibility to exist and because of that this trope can crop up anywhere, in any medium, at any time.

There are genres where it is more common that others. It is used in SitComs or dramas with single characters as principals. It is very popular in teen-centric series where the most intense a relationship can get is kissing and networks want to avoid the Moral Guardians by avoiding one night stand style hookups that turn into relationships. Can also pop up in a Cop Show or a Buddy Cop Show. Given enough seasons even the least likely shows can go through with a relationship that would be considered to be a Just Friends one.

It is an umbrella trope as the overall theme of a Just Friends relationship requires involving multiple other tropes to build up tension, develop viewer interest, develop the storyline and determine an ending to the relationship story arc.

Alice's characterisations often include: All Girls Want Bad Boys, First Girl Wins, Single Woman Seeks Good Man. Often suffers from Oblivious to Love.

Bob's characterisations often include: Unlucky Childhood Friend, Ridiculously Average Guy, Dogged Nice Guy, a Celibate Hero, a Knight in Shining Armor for his friend-girl.

The Relationship Upgrade is used as a major plot point for a season Cliff Hanger or series finale. An easy way to generate tension.

This can take several forms:
  • Alice and Bob are friends, but start to develop mutual feelings for each other over the course of the series. They may worry that acting on these feelings will end up ruining their friendship.
  • Bob has developed unrequited feelings towards Alice, but has declined to tell her. Bob refuses due to a fear of rejection, fear he isn't good enough, or simply because Alice is involved with Charlie. See I Want My Beloved to Be Happy for more information.
  • Alice has developed unrequited feelings towards Bob, has told Bob of them, and been rejected. The driving force is often Bob's development of feelings towards Alice whilst Alice tries to maintain her feelings for Bob or works to overcome them. Can often become an Unrequited Love Switcheroo situation.
  • Bob develops unrequited feelings towards Alice, that she may be aware of, but nothing he does can get him out of the "friend zone". If he tries to push the issue, this often leads to a crushing Downer Ending and Ship Sinking moment for Bob, often to the point where they never show up again, especially if they are a recurring character who isn't essential to the series.

See also:

It is also the title of a 2005 comedy film based pretty much entirely on the trope. It is now located at Just Friends.

This is a Love Trope and entries may spoil the endings of relationships and works as a whole. You have been warned.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first episode of D.N.Angel, Daisuke is looking forward to finally confessing his feelings to his longtime crush Risa. Only for just right before he can say anything, she thanks Daisuke for being such a good friend to her, heavily emphasizing the word friend. The look on Daisuke's face made it look like it would have hurt less if he was just kicked between the legs.
  • Helios Eclipse: Helios and Mineko.
  • Kämpfer: Natsuru (in male form) and his childhood friend Kaede Sakura. He doesn't want to outright ask her out and potentially get shot down so he decides to stay friends with her. However, when he changes into a girl, Natsuru quickly gets a Relationship Upgrade with her even though she doesn't seem to realize that the two Natsurus are the same person.
  • Maid-Sama!: Poor Hinata. He tries so hard to be more than Just Friends with Misaki, but she's already deep in the throes of Belligerent Sexual Tension with Usui before Hinata even makes the scene.
  • Sugar Sugar Rune: Chocolat and her male school friend, Mimura.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Yuusuke actively denies that his relationship with Keiko is nothing more than friendship. However, it's assumed by everyone that the two are dating (including the mentioned pair, themselves — Yuusuke asks Keiko not to dump him at one point). He stops protesting after he comes back to life the first time but it's a pretty strictly fighting manga, so they never discuss their relationship. It was established early on that neither has to even stop and think about dying for the other.
    • On the other hand, he and Botan are really just friends.
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: This is how Makoto sees Chiaki and Kousuke until she realizes her feelings for Chiaki.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: In Episode 21, Souga Kazukiyo the class rep has feelings for Kurakano, who have been good friends for most of their life. Souga doesn't want to cause problems or change things, and also has something of a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy moment when relating Kurakano's feelings for Haruhi.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Kazuki Takahashi claims that this is what Joey/Jonouchi and Mai are. Yeah, sure.
  • Ranma ½:
    • For most of the manga, Ryoga Hibiki greatly desires for Akane Tendo to know of and reciprocate his romantic feelings towards her. Unfortunately for him, she is completely oblivious. Not only that, but she sees him as nothing more than her friend and treats him as such.
      Akane: Are you worried about what I said? You're the one who forced me to say it! You made me say I hated you.
      Ryoga: Please don't try to comfort me!
      Akane: But, Ryoga, it wasn't right! Because I actually... I like you, Ryoga!
      Ryoga: You do? Really?
      Akane: I really do, Ryoga. You're a good friend. Let's be friends forever!
    • In the manga, Akane says this when Ranma's mirror clone tells Akane that Ranma likes her.
      Akane: Wha- No way! Ranma and I are just friends.
  • Naruto: Definitely Naruto and Sakura's relationship. They're best friends primarily, but their friendship is often teased as being "more than just friends." Naruto has romantic feelings for Sakura while Sakura's feelings are more ambiguous. A number of people commented on their relationship possibly being romantic or at least taking it as romantic: Konohamaru, Gamakichi, & Naruto's dead father's first impression was Sakura was his girlfriend. Yamato also appeared to imply this as well by saying Sakura cared deeply for him and finishing with "The truth is, you ..."
    • Nagato and Konan are just friends since childhood, mostly because Konan was apparently in love with the late Yahiko, and Nagato had never romantic feelings for her and supported Konan and Yahiko's relationship.
  • 5 Centimeters per Second: Takaki and Akari start as friends at a younger age, share their First Kiss at age 13, and go back to Just Friends because of distance. At least, Akari does. Takaki stays in love with Akari for another 15 years.
    • The 2nd part has Kanae end up with this by default, due to Cannot Spit It Out by her to Takaki as well as Takaki's ongoing feelings for Akari closing his heart to anyone but Akari.
  • Detective Conan: Heiji and Kazuha believe they are Just Friends, even though Everyone Can See It.
  • In Nodame Cantabile, Stresemann and the Academy's director decided to stay this, after the director received an illness that stopped her from playing the piano again when she was younger, though they had the potential to become lovers if the illness hadn't struck, as noted by Stresemann's assistant.
  • Madlax: Madlax and Vanessa. Vanessa and Elenore in earlier episodes.
  • Whisper of the Heart: Sugimura confesses his feelings for Shizuku, but she tells him that she only likes him as a friend for two reasons. One: her best friend, Yuko, had a crush on him and was hurt that he didn't realize it and two: Shizuku and Sugimura have known each other for years and she had felt nothing romantic towards him. That and she dates Seiji in the end.
  • In One Piece, Boa Hancock falls in love with Monkey D. Luffy. Before the Time Skip Luffy was Oblivious to Love, but after the Time Skip he catches on to Hancock's feelings, but considers them just good friends.

    Artworks 
  • Roy Lichtenstein's work ''I Know... Brad" is inspired by, and is, an example of this trope. The full text of the comic that inspired the work is "I know how you must feel, Brad... because I've been in love with you as long as I can remember." The work itself dispenses with the words after "I know how you must feel, Brad" but still conveys her feelings through her emotional expression.

    Comics 
  • X-Force: Cable and Domino have a long history, during which they've been everything from genuinely just friends to teammates to Friends with Benefits to lovers.
  • Yoko Tsuno: Yoko and Vic, after being Just Friends for years, began developing romantic feelings for one another.
  • The Static series has the title character, Virgil Hawkins, and Frieda having this type of relationship throughout the run. Although admittedly, Virgil was initially attracted to Frieda, but she wanted to keep their relationship at this level.
  • An issue of the Gargoyles comics produced by SLG had Lexington ask a pair of gargoyles named Coco and Staghart if they're a mated pair. They both laughingly deny it, but assure him they're very good friends. This has been taken as a hint that Staghart might be "like a nine bob note" as they say in London. Many fans speculate that if the comic had shown more of Lexington's adventures in London, Staghart would've at least been his Closet Key, perhaps someday a permanent mate.
  • Played as a Running Gag in Quantum and Woody, as Woody regularly informs everyone within earshot that he and Quantum are "not a couple."

    Fan Fiction 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic.
    • Twi and Me discusses this in the narration:
      Narrator: As we walked through those flowery meadows (...) my heart became filled with increasing panic. I was in love with Twilight Sparkle! And she probably saw me as nothing much more than another interesting sample from an alternate universe, or even worse—A friend!
    • Main character in This is the Life: A Tale of a Human in Equestria, another My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic. He's actually telling the truth though (probably); He's just frustrated from being teased about it after sharing a bed with Lyra.
      Big Macintosh: What about Lyra Heartstrings? I heard you and her were close.
      Self Insert: We're friends.
    • The relationship between Nav and Celestia remains this for much of Diaries Of A Madman (for a strange definition of friendship), despite her repeated attempts at going for a Relationship Upgrade. While Nav hasn't definitively said no, so far he's put her offers on hold.
  • The RWBY fic Beacon University has this dynamic between no less than three couples. It's lampshaded in chapter 11, when a jealous Yang convinces Pyrrha, Nora, and Blake to spy on the male characters' 'boys' night out'.
    "Not stalking. Recon," Yang clarified, "girls, these are our boys. Not any other girl's. They're ours, right?" The three hesitantly and unenthusiastically nodded, making Yang sigh. "So you'd all be okay if other girls decided to claim them as theirs?" She looked over to Nora, "If Ren got a new best friend?" then to Blake, "Adam a new girlfriend?" and finally Pyrrha, "and Jaune a new training partner?" The three shook their heads frantically, the thought of being replaced not too appealing to them.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: There's indications of this with Jack and Sally before their Relationship Upgrade. Sally seemed more into him from the beginning and Jack was too depressed at first and then too invested in his schemes to notice her in a different light than as a compassionate friend.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Not Another Teen Movie: The trope as a whole is mercilessly lampshaded. Ricky is madly in love with Janey, who completely ignores every word he says. She falls for Jake, the Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Ricky ends up having a Race for Your Love, but he gets hit by cars. Whilst the drivers call out things like "You'll never be more than a friend", "She's not attracted to you" and "She'll never love you."
  • Just Friends: Ryan Reynolds as the fat, nerdy teenager in love with his best friend, Amy Smart, who loves him "as a brother". He runs away and 10 years later is rich, cool, and good-looking. He comes back into town where she immediately is struck by his new appearance.
  • Kal Ho Naa Ho: Rohit and Naina, until the Relationship Upgrade.
  • 13 Going on 30: Matt appeared to be like this towards Jenna at the start of the movie when they are both 13.
  • Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Zack and Miri start the movie as Platonic Life Partners. And then the titular porno comes along...
  • (500) Days of Summer has Tom falling for Summer, as she starts a Friends with Benefits relationship but continues to lead him on with the potential of them becoming more. It culminates in Summer calling him 'her best friend' as he walks away when she breaks their relationship, and his heart.
  • Very narrowly averted in Are We There Yet? when Ice Cube's character is about to get stuck permanently in the "Friends Zone". he can practically hear the warning:
    "This is a Friends Zone only. I repeat, this is a Friends Zone only. Please dump your friend and move on with your life."
  • Clerks II has Dante trying to tell himself that Becky and him and this. So not.
  • In On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Tad Pringle (played by Jack Nicholson) is utterly in love with Daisy Gamble (played by Barbra Streisand) and even declares outright that he'd be better for her than any of the men she's been seeing; unfortunately for him, she considers him her best friend, and only her best friend. The fact that he's technically also her step-brother (their parents married after both Tad and Daisy were adults) doesn't help his case much, despite his pointing out that "We're only related through marriage."
  • Isabel told Donald Morton that she wants to be this in Mozart and the Whale. Soon after Donald in his social clumsiness does something that provokes such trauma in Isabel that she attempts suicide. He asks her to marry him. When she has recovered from this she actually does marry Donald.
  • In Friends with Benefits, Dylan and Jamie veer between this and Friends with Benefits.
  • In the Finnish film Lights in the Dusk (Laitakaupungin Valot), the only person Koistinen can depend on is the local hot-dog stand owner Aila ("Grillija"), who clearly wants them to be more than just friends. Koistinen blows her off the first chance he can get a lady, but persists in returning to poor heartsick Grillija whenever he needs help.
  • Calamity Jane: The titular character and Bill Hitcock fit this, as they're Vitriolic Best Buds for most of the movie. This overlaps with their Belligerent Sexual Tension until they get a Relationship Upgrade.
    Katie: Do you dislike Mr. Hitcock as much as you pretend to?
    Calamity: Dislike Bill? Why, me and Bill are thicker than flies in a Pawnee camp. We're like the seven-year itch to each other... but it's a lotta fun scratchin'. Yup. That Bill Hitcock's about the best friend I ever had.
  • Thor: The titular character and Sif, along with the Warriors Three, are all very close friends, as the five of them have been adventuring and fighting together for at least a thousand years. While the first film hinted that Sif might feel something more than friendship for Thor, it's been revealed since then that Sif does indeed have romantic feelings for him and there will be a Love Triangle in the sequel. Whether Thor has unrealized feelings in return or nothing more than purely platonic affection remains to be seen. Ultimately, Thor and Jane get together while Sif doesn't make much of a move for Thor; the only time she and Jane interact, she only gives Jane a passing glare (which may have had more to do with her being the reason for the Dark Elves attack).
  • The To Do List: Cameron plays a typical nerdy best friend in love with Brandy. Brandy is Oblivious to Love and thus complicates their friendship by ignoring his feelings, while simultaneously using him to fulfil several parts of the titular "To Do List". While he doesn't win her over in the climax of the movie, the coda shows them hooking up.
  • Theodore and Amy in Her are just friends, swapping stories of their relationship woes over ice cream in Amy's apartment. Amy's husband shows no sign of jealousy and Samantha, Theodore's OS and girlfriend, displays fleeting curiosity of their past history but quickly gets over it.

    Literature 
  • Aubrey-Maturin: Padeen seems to be stuck in one of these in regards to Clarissa.
    • In the later books, Stephen and Christine Wood.
  • Everlost: Nick and Allie.
  • Harry Potter - Harry and Hermione were confirmed by Word of God to be Platonic Life Partners. The relationship was never intended to be seen romantically. Nevertheless, this ship is a cruise liner, with several of the film adaptation leaders at the helm.
  • Girl, Fifteen, Charming But Insane: Jess and Fred.
  • One book in The Baby-Sitters Club series was based around Kristy's relationship with Bart and whether or not they would become an Official Couple. Kristy finally decides they should remain "just friends" when it becomes clear that Bart expects more from the relationship than she wants.
  • 3001, the final book in the The Space Odyssey Series has Frank Poole introduced to the future by Indra, one of the few historical experts in time he came from. After forming an extremely close friendship, they begin a relationship when he returns from a mission to Jupiter.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry and Murphy fluctuate between this and something more. Both characters clearly care about each other a great deal, to the point where they discuss the potential of a relationship more than once, but so far nothing has come of it, mostly because Murphy is afraid of changing the nature of their friendship and what will happen if it fails. However, Thomas at least has a serious case of Shipper on Deck.
    • At the end of Changes, the possibility at becoming more is hinted at rather strongly until Harry's apparent death.
    • And then in Cold Days Harry returns to Chicago alive and the two finally share a Big Damn Kiss during a heated battle. And while they still aren't together by the end of the book, as Murphy feels that the Winter Knight's mantle has changed Harry too much, she does acknowledge that they've been past the point of truly being Just Friends for a long time, and that some day they might both be ready for an actual relationship. More than that, she makes it clear that whether or not they ever become lovers, she will always be at his side, no matter what. By this point, they seem to be less of "Just Friends" and more "Just Two People Who Love Each Other Platonically, and Hope To Become More Some Day, However Unlikely".
    • Another, more unfortunate subversion of this is in the teacher/student relationship between Harry and Molly. Harry wants them to be Just Friends, and thinks that they are for several years, until a number of people finally point out to him that she is obviously still carrying a huge torch for him. He isn't happy about it.
    • And Cold Days throws a huge wrench in this as well with Molly now the Winter Lady
  • My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger plays with this. The protagonist, TC, spends most of the book in a mutually flirtatious not-quite-relationship with his classmate Alé. At one point, he tries suggesting that they just remain friends... as a gambit to trigger a Relationship Upgrade. It doesn't work.
  • In the early books of the Anne of Green Gables series, Anne is constantly telling people that she and her childhood-enemy-turned-friend Gilbert Blythe, are just friends. She's not in love with him, does not harbor any type of feelings for him other than friendship, etc. etc. etc. Anne really does have feelings for him, she is just unaware of them. This question is never posed to Gilbert, since the entire town already knows he's madly in love with Anne.
  • Tre and Allie of Stuck. The two of them are best friends, yes, but they both agree that they're better off that way.
  • Lampshaded and averted in The War Against the Chtorr when the protagonist Jim McCarthy and his Colonel Badass girlfriend Liz Tirelli have a very loud breakup. When things quiet down, Liz half-heartedly suggests that maybe they could just be...whereupon Jim interrupts saying — forget it, they can definitely not be Just Friends. They end up getting married instead.
  • Subverted in Youth in Sexual Ecstasy, the Lady Killer In Love protagonist is outright told by his love interest that she prefers to be his friend first before getting into a relationship with him; the protagonist at first thinks that he is being friendzoned and is about to protest, but then he reconsiders and thinks "True Love knows how to wait", needless to say he does end up with the girl.

    Live Action TV 
  • As written in the intro, this type of pairing often 'loses' to Belligerent Sexual Tension pairings. Nickelodeon Analysis discusses why this is so especially in Kid Com shows.
  • In Smallville, Clark, Lana, Chloe, Lois, Pete, Lex, Oliver, and pretty much all of the young characters have all claimed they are Just Friends with various other characters for more times than you could remember.
  • Will and Sydney do this in the initial seasons of Alias, complete with an ambiguous (drunken) kiss whose meaning neither of them can quite figure out...
  • A.N.T. Farm: Chyna and Fletcher. The former however seems to be acknowledging the latter's behavior, but has to yet return the feelings. They did go on a date in "SignificANT Other", however.
    • Same show, different pairing: Paisley and Fletcher. Paisley likes him in a "Adorable kid" way. Neither is returning the feelings.
  • Austin & Ally: The Austin/Ally ship is anchored in episode three via I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship.
    • In the middle of season 2, there is a 4 part story arc revolving around a Love Triangle between Austin, Ally and Kira, who is the daughter of the owner of the record label that Austin is signed onto.
    • It is resolved when Austin and Ally realize they like each other. The next episode smashed the Reset Button and re-anchored the ship, angering all the viewers who expected their actual relationship to be treated with the same level of care that the writers took with the arc itself. Thankfully the show staff said that they will be together again by season 3.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Leonard and Penny. They eventually got a Relationship Upgrade that lasted almost a full season before they broke up.
    • But are back on the will they won't they path again.
  • Bones: Booth and Bones often claim that this is the case, at least until the 100th episode, at which point, Bones may consider this a reason not to start a relationship.
    • And it got a lot more complicated with the end of season 6 and Brennan becoming pregnant with Booth's baby.
      • And they're together.
  • In 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'':
    • Xander and Willow flirt with this, starting the show as Platonic Life Partners; however Willow is very much the Unlucky Childhood Friend who was secretly in love with Xander. Then they start developing feelings for each other while they're involved with other people, before they finally decide they work Better as Friends. Then Willow realized she's gay , which slams the door on the question of her relationship with Xander for good.
    • Xander and Buffy have the unrequited form of this (Xander towards Buffy). For the first season, Buffy is blissfully unaware of Xander's affections towards her, just as Xander is in turn unaware of Willow's affections towards him. This becomes more complicated in the second season, with Buffy toying with Xander to piss off Angel at least once (getting her called out by Cordelia, of all people). Their friendship eventually norms out over time, though as late as the 6th season, it's still clear that he's got feelings towards her, but has accepted that it will never work between them.
    • Also, Buffy pulls this with Angel (and later Spike) after their respective breakups. Nobody buys it.
    • Spike sums up this trope most famously in "Lover's Walk", when referring to the Bangel relationship.
      Spike: "You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends."
  • Boston Legal: Jerry and Katie became friends when they shared an office/cases together. Jerry develops feelings for Katie, which ends in a Last Minute Hookup in the last 5 minutes of the last ever episode.
  • Caroline In The City: Richard had been hiding his feelings for Caroline through the run of the show.
  • The Colbert Report simultaneously parodied the trope and played it straight when discussing a report into this trope as it plays out in reality. He played it straight by playing the role of a male with unrequited feelings for a female friend checking off sub-trope after sub-trope like wanting to stay up all night, dreaming about the woman, being sad but supportive of a new guy for the woman. The parody is that he was playing it to the entire female audience in the Colbert Nation.
  • Coupling: Sally and Patrick are friends, but develop feelings for each other.
  • Chuck: Chuck and Sarah have feelings that they're hiding from each other (because of their professional involvement), while simultaneously faking a relationship for the outside world (as part of their professional involvement).
    • Not anymore.
  • Community: Although Britta and Jeff primarily had this happening for them in the first season, the case can be quite convincingly made that practically all of the study group members have had this with most-if-not-all of the other members at some point or other. The primary examples are Britta/Jeff, Jeff/Annie and Britta/Troy, as those pairings have more than just self-referential Crack Ship style Ship Tease.
  • Dawson's Creek: Joey and Dawson.
  • Degrassi: Fiona and Imogen are a recent Les Yay example with Fiona being Imogen's Closet Key.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Let's Kill Hitler" shows that Rory and Amy had known each other since primary school, and that Amy was the only girl Rory had ever shown an interest for the entire 10 years they knew each other. Amy has an extreme case of Oblivious to Love because she thought he was gay due to the fact he hadn't shown any interest in girls the entire time they'd known each other.
    • A DVD exclusive scene set after "Flesh & Stone" has the Doctor describing his previous companions this way. Unfortunately Amy tricks him into making the TARDIS computer display their images, and notes how many are young sexually-attractive females.
      Amy: Is that a leather bikini?
    • And in "The Impossible Astronaut"
      Doctor: Shout if you get in trouble.
      River: Don't worry, I'm quite the screamer. Now there's a spoiler for you.
      Canton: OK what's going on here?
      Doctor: Errr nothing...she's just a friend.
      [awkward pause]
      Rory: I think he's talking about the possible alien incursion.
  • Eureka: In the later seasons, Jack and Allison's has had their friendship as the core of their romantic interaction. After being sent to and back from 1947, they get in a Love Triangle, that is eventually resolved when they discuss being Just Friends, and both hesitantly decide not to risk it. Carter then turns back and kisses Allison, who kisses him back and they get together.
  • The aptly named Friends has Monica and Chandler who in early seasons really are just friends. (Its hinted Chandler has a mild crush, but nothing serious). They start a Friends with Benefits relationship which quickly develops into love and later marriage.
    • Also Joey and Phoebe, who have a more obvious Ship Tease but never get together. Averted with Ross and Rachel: Ross had a crush on Rachel before they get close, and doesn't want 'friendship', constantly trying for a Relationship Upgrade.
  • Gilmore Girls: Marty towards Rory in the later college seasons. These seasons were characterised by a heap of Relationship Writing Fumble, the pairing got sunk, he got written out in exchange for the rich, bad boy Logan, and he came back a season later as a huge jerkass.
    • Before that Rory and Jess also qualified, with a bucketful of Belligerent Sexual Tension and denial.
    • Not to mention Luke and Lorelai who are incredibly close, knew each other for years before the series started and hang out together, on average, three times a day. Anyone brings it up and its instantly denied.
  • Gossip Girl: Vanessa and Dan. A strange version where they both apparently had some feelings for each other when they were younger, but it became Platonic Life Partners until they had a drunken threesome with Dan's current girlfriend. That threesome revealed previously hidden (even to the audience) feelings for Dan towards Vanessa. They got together shortly afterward, but being a drama/soapy show, it hasn't been straightforward.
  • Hannah Montana: Lily and Oliver. Quite a weird example as they'd been friends since pre-school, but their friendship had evolved into a Platonic Life Partners type deal, then something of a bickering Slap-Slap-Kiss thing, until it had a very sudden, off-screen Relationship Upgrade and turned into a Masochism Tango.
  • The Hour: Freddie and Bel. It is implied that Freddie had feelings for Bel when they first met, but she did not reciprocate and now they're just friends with UST.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Barney and Robin's slow-building romantic relationship starts as this during season 3.
    Blah Blah: So Robin, how did you and Barney meet?
    Robin: Oh no! No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! No! Barney and I are not together.
    Barney: Really? Sixteen 'no's?
  • Inspector Lynley and his partner Sergeant Havers are this. Really. Even though they've both called each other their reason to get up in the morning. And even though he turned up at her flat at midnight to tell her that he wasn't sure he had ever really loved his wife, something he'd never talked to anyone about before. Swear to God, they're just friends!
  • iCarly: Freddie has had a crush on Carly for his entire adolescent life, being in Love at First Sight. Carly initially wants to stay as Just Friends. Freddie grows up physically and emotionally in Season 2 and 3, into an mature and sensitive young man, and it appears Carly is beginning to realize feelings for him. Also an example of an Official Couple (Albeit temporarily).
    • In Season 4 this ship gets frozen, not given any closure and the focus of the romance on the show shifts to the Slap-Slap-Kiss styled Sam/Freddie pairing. But since that arc's over, this has yet to return.
      • In the shows finale episode "iGoodbye" They Do. Carly comes up to Freddie in the studio and gives him a Last Minute Kiss. He returns the kiss then celebrates.
  • JAG: Harm and Mac, are forced into UST through Just Friends under the excuse of avoiding fraternization rules. workplace fraternization amongst peers is generally discouraged as a rule. It didn't help early on that Mac was a dead ringer for Harm's murdered ex girlfriend.
  • Lizzie McGuire: Gordo developing feelings for Lizzie, as Lizzie remains oblivious. Eventually, the Alpha Bitch points out that Gordo isn't trying to show off because he thinks he's better than Lizzie, but that he's trying to impress Lizzie because he likes her.
  • Life With Derek: This trope is the actual title of an episode which is devoted entirely to playing straight, subverting, deconstructing, and generally having fun with the trope.
  • Noah And Saskia have this going on big time. Saskia decides she's in love with Max (aka Noah), but Noah's getting hassled at school about his internet girlfriend, so to prove to himself he's not that much of a geek, he has a chat with Indy (aka Saskia) about how he's just figured out the point of the comic-in-progress, that is, that guys and girls can just be friends. Like they are. You know, 'buddies'. As the tie-in novel puts it: "what's about to happen is that two people who are friends are going to decide they're friends and that's kind of going to ruin their friendship".
  • NUMB3RS: Charlie and Amita had to remain Just Friends whilst Amita was still a student (or a student teacher, one or the other) at CalSci. After she became a professor, their relationship blossomed.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Ned and Moze. Complete with Last Minute Hookup.
  • New Girl: Nick and Jess.
    • Nick in his freshman year of college with Amelia.
  • Mysterious Ways has a Just Friends triangle-type thing going on. Declan can be shipped with either his brilliant grad student Miranda or his psychiatrist friend Peggy as both spend plenty of time with him on cases. It is implied that both Peggy and Miranda have feelings for Declan, but there is never any evidence that he is interested in either of them.
    • In one episode, the idea of "not being able to shake" your soul mate is posited. After Peggy and Miranda have called Declan's girlfriend's cell phone for the umpteenth time trying to reach him, said girlfriend says "Seems like you can't shake either one of them." That's about the strongest ship tease you get, though.
  • Mulan in Once Upon a Time claims that she and Prince Phillip are this, while Phillip's Love Interest Aurora doesn't quite buy it and statements from the writers seem to confirm her suspicions.
  • The Mighty Boosh: According to Word of God (as if it wasn't already clear enough) this is what's going on with Howard and Vince. There's an obvious attraction between the two that's sometimes lampshaded, but they still aren't together
  • My Name Is Earl: Randy towards Catalina. Randy loved her, but she considered them Just Friends. They end up getting married for a green card. For some reason, they went through with the wedding night sex except that Catalina made herself completely undesirable. Randy got over her because of her actions. This led to a Unrequited Love Switcheroo that was never really followed up on.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ben and Leslie is an Office Romance version of the trope.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Hanna and Lucas. Lucas the nerd (and not a Hollywood Nerd either), Hanna the homecoming queen.
  • Reaper: Andi wants to remain just friends with Sam, even when he wants more. Until she decides to be his girlfriend.
  • Scrubs: J.D. and Elliot went down this road for 7 seasons. They covered pretty much every variation of these tropes, the Will They or Won't They? getting lampshaded on multiple occasions, becoming Friends with Benefits, Everyone Can See It, Near Kiss, Better as Friends. It was torture. In the final season, the writers finally decided not to play games with the pairing anymore, hooked them up, and gave them only minor drama.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Benson and Stabler are portrayed as Platonic Life Partners, but that subtlety is often lost, by the writers as much as by the fans. In the early and late seasons, when Elliot is married, it is upheld but there are some fairly Ship Tease moments in the middle, and it's understandable - they are, after all, very close. It doesn't help that Olivia often acts as if she were hopelessly in love with Elliot, which is obviously problematic and only adds to her Iron Woobie status, or that she has no family but him. On the whole, the fandom are split between thinking that they are an intense barrel of UST waiting to explode, or that they really are just friends, but of such an unusual sort that it is often mistaken for sexual tension.
  • Sonny With A Chance: Sonny and Chad unconvincingly denied being in love with each other almost Once an Episode before eventually getting together (and then breaking up).
  • Spaced: Tim and Daisy became Just Friends after pretending to be a fake couple to move into a flat, but Word of God is that they had a post-finale relationship upgrade. This is confirmed in a DVD extra showing the pair together with a newborn son.
  • Stargate Atlantis did this with both John/Elizabeth and Sheppard/Teyla, neither of which ever went anywhere, but both ships were definitely teased.
    Caldwell: You two (John and Elizabeth) are pretty close.
    Elizabeth:' [icily] We've been through a lot together. Yes. [walks out]''
  • Stargate SG-1 had this with Carter and O'Neill, going so far as to have the characters admit that they do have feelings for each other, but never letting them get together (well...)
    • Also used in the season 7 premiere when Daniel returns from being Ascended with no memory. Sam goes to talk to him and tell him how important he is and how much they miss him. Daniel asks if they were ever in a relationship; Sam replies that they're "just very good friends."
  • Stargate Universe: Eli and Chloe. Poor Eli...
    • Kinda sucks for him considering the guy on other side of the triangle is pretty much his best friend on the ship (they have something of a Shep and McKay vibe at times). And the three of them got marooned together after missing the ship.
      Eli: Talk about your third wheel.
    • As of the season finale Incursion, it's made perfectly clear that she isn't Oblivious to Love at all. She also drops some major friend zone bombs on Eli, and in a way tells him off for acting like her friendship is "second prize".
      • And poor Volker. It's like the scientists on the ship can't catch a break, with all the hot soldiers taking the chicks.
      • Varro and TJ after the time travel to 2,000 years in the past.
  • Victorious has random strangers discuss the relationship between Tori and Beck at a pet surgery.
  • The X-Files: Mulder and Scully are constantly trying to explain to people that they're just partners and that they have a Strictly Professional Relationship. Including two ghosts in a haunted house. And the series Big Bad. And random people off the street. It never works.
  • Zoey 101: Zoey and Chase.
    Lola: Ginny, could you come here a minute?
    Ginny: What's up?
    Lola: 'Blank' is in love with Zoey. Fill in the blank.
    Ginny: [as though it were the most obvious answer in the world] Chase.
    Lola: Thanks for playing.

    Music 
  • Just Be Friends by Luka Megurine.
  • Roll to Me by Del Amitri.
  • You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift.
  • Why Don't You Kiss Her? by Jesse McCartney.
  • Seven Days in Sunny June by Jamiroquai.
  • You Don't Know Me, which is a country song that was written by Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold. Covered many times but the two most recognisable ones are by Ray Charles and Michael Buble.
  • Friend Is a Four Letter Word by Cake.
  • Just a Friend by Mario.
  • Deep Waters by Incognito.
  • My Best Friend's Hot by The Dollyrots.
  • Don't Let Go by En Vogue.
  • The song Friendly Duet by Flanders and Swann parodies this trope.
  • Why Do All Girls Think They're Fat by Reel Big Fish is about a character who develops feelings for his friend but she refuses to let him go farther than being this trope.
  • Love To Love You by The Corrs is just one of several songs that reference these type of relationships. The Corrs Wild Mass Guessing page shows that several of their songs put together portray a Just Friends relationship with a happy ending. At the start, the woman's feelings for her ex block any romance with the man. Despite both knowing he has feelings for her, he helps her through her pain. However the man decides that he wants his beloved to be happy and stops trying to make her fall for him. There is the woman's Love Epiphany, an Unrequited Love Switcheroo, until both finally realising their feelings are now reciprocal. Next comes the moment they first make love, the honeymoon period, falling deeper for each other, until they are well and truly in love with each and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.
  • Friend Zone by Your Favorite Martian, obviously.
  • Dilemma by Nelly, with the Just Friends role being forced by Nelly as he doesn't want to do anything to break up the relationship for the object of his affections and decides to play it cool.
  • Hearbeat by Childish Gambino. A dark version, with him and his girl who is involved with another man, in their own not quite a relationship where Gambino can't break it off, but isn't able to make it more than what they are already.
    Gambino: Are we dating? Are we fucking? Are we best friends? Are we something in between that?
  • You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing.
  • We're Just Friends by Wilco
  • Slow Down by The Beatles.
  • I'll Be Around by The Spinners.
  • "Someone I Used To Know" by Patty Loveless is a variation on this. The narrator carries a photograph of herself with a man. Whenever someone asks about him, she says he's just an old friend because it's too painful to talk about how much they loved each other and how heartbroken she's been since the relationship ended.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Triple H, Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon name dropped the trope several times after Triple H became jealous of the attention Kurt and Stephanie were paying each other as Kurt kept saving Stephanie from various attacks. Being Professional Wrestling of course, it resulted in a triple threat match with The Rock for the WWF Championship, at Summerslam in 2000. The storyline collapsed eventually when Triple H played his real-life creative control card and nixed the planned ending where Steph would leave H for Angle.

    Radio 
  • I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again once made a pantomime special edition called Black Cinderella 2 Goes East, which subverted this trope with Cinderella and Buttons. At first, it seemed like Cinderella didn't know that Buttons was in love with her, but thought they were just friends...and then it turns out she knows, but just doesn't like him. It could have stopped there, fairly graciously, but then she gets a song about it.
    Oh I never could marry you, Buttons
    I'm sorry, but that's how it goes
    Partly because I'm in love with another
    But mainly because you get right up my nose

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: The romances between Male Shepard and Tali, and the romance between a Female Shepard and Garrus are much like this, as they were not romance options in the first game. Tali herself says she wants to be "more than just friends", whilst the romance arc with Garrus is about overcoming his initial doubts, and hoping to make their strong friendship into something more.
    • In ME 2, there is a turian male that the fandom has nicknamed the "Friend-Zoned Turian". A quarian female (herself called "Quarian Valley Girl") and the turian male are talking to one another at a bar. If you listen in to their conversations, the quarian is complaining about breaking up with her human boyfriend. It becomes clear over the series of conversations that the turian is clearly infatuated with her. At one point, he asks if she wants to watch a movie which "won awards for portraying turian and quarian relationships". The quarian is completely oblivious to his advances.
    • In Mass Effect 3 a female Shepard can hit on Joker, who declines, saying he never really thought of it. He then declines because of the 'chain of command', his crush on EDI, and possibly due to the chance that between Shepard's cybernetic enhancements and his brittle bone disease, Shepard could accidentally kill him.
  • Averted by Crusader Kings. The game assumes that any two characters of the opposite sex who are friends are actually lovers.
    • The sequel changes this as part of its general overhaul of personal relationships in general; "Lovers" is now a separate relationship modifier, meaning that two people of the opposite sex can have a platonic friendship.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution subtly hints at Faridah having feelings for Adam. His responses differ based on what the player chooses.
  • This apparently cheeses off a Mad Scientist in the intro to Sam & Max Hit the Road:
    Scientist: Friends? Friends?! We've only gone out together three times, and already you're telling me you just want to be friends?!
  • Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield has never shown any overt romantic interest in each other, but are always together on missions.
  • In the backstory of Xenogears, Sophia only ever saw Krelian as a friend. Krelian accepted this state of affairs and managed to be friendly with her true love Lacan despite his hidden jealousy.
  • In Star Ocean: The Second Story Rena actually invokes this trope regarding her relationship with Claude a number of times, despite Claude's interest. Later in the game she stops being so vocal about it. It's possible for them to end up together, and in fact they appear to be the closest that this game has to an Official Couple if the anime cutscenes in the remake are any indication.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Tifa says this to Aerith about her and Cloud. Of course, this was before Cloud and Tifa's "moment" under the Highwind.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, after Zidane and Dagger/Garnet get "married" at Conde Petie, Zidane comments to Eiko "Anything for my lovely wife," and Dagger says that they're actually "just friends." Zidane comments that that's better than nothing. Later, Eiko asks if they're really "just friends" because it seems to her like they're something more. Zidane says that they are more than friends: they're a team.
  • Naturally, Rin and Riki in Little Busters!, who have been childhood friends since they were little. Unusually, though, even though multiple characters either think they're together or assume they will get together eventually, they actually don't seem to get any real romantic feelings for each other until after they start going out in Rin's route (Rin asked him out apparently just because she thought it seemed like a good idea and Riki agreed for the same) - in all other routes they're Platonic Life Partners right alongside the other Little Busters.
  • In Harvest Moon Sunshine Islands, Harvest Goddess devotee Alisa has heart events just like the other normal marriage candidates even though her heart color is invisible, making it seem like she is a secret marriage candidate like the Witch Princess. But when you propose to her after all prerequisites have been met, you get a proposal scene similarly titled with that of the other candidates'... that ends with you two agreeing to remain friends after her declaring with Brutal Honesty that she ultimately cannot abandon her faith to the Goddess, even though the thought of marrying you did cross her mind.
  • In The King of Fighters, Kensou is Athena's Dogged Nice Guy and very openly in love with her (and some of his fellow fighters seem to encourage him). Athena cares for him greatly but said feelings are all but romantic, and views their relationship as this since she has other priorities. Also, Kensou's awkward advances on her are...awkward.
  • In the X-Universe backstory and novels, Majors Kyle Brennannote  and Elena Kho had this relationship, verging on Platonic Life Partners except there actually was some sexual attraction there. Their coworkers in the United Space Command jokingly nicknamed them "the lovebirds." They did end up sleeping together once (they were trapped in a disabled starship on a desolate moon for nine weeks, so why not?), but didn't want to complicate their relationship. They did, however, get some amusement out of trolling the shippers.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Code Lyoko: Yumi and Ulrich. From the first episode of season 3, "We're friends, that's all..." comes close to be their Catch Phrase.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny and Sam. Everyone Can See It from roughly episode 11, but nothing becomes concrete until the final episode.
  • Kim Possible: Kim and Ron. Quite an unusual example, as their relationship is only really explored in Season 3, although they are hints and Ship Tease taking place in earlier seasons. They get a Last Minute Hookup. The results of the Relationship Upgrade are then explored, as the show was brought back for a 4th season.
    • Relationship Upgrade as a Grand Finale is ridiculed by Kim Possible and her platonic pal Ron in the show's third season, in a bit of Lampshade Hanging that foreshadows the end to the then series-capping TV movie. The two watch a weepy teen drama called Agony County:
      Ron: Oh, please! Are they still teasing that Charity and Danny are gonna get together?
      Kim: Like that's ever gonna happen! It would end the series.
  • In Justice League, Batman insists that he and Wonder Woman are just friends. No one really buys it, including Wonder Woman herself, since she wants a Relationship Upgrade.
    • Whilst the feelings might be there nothing ever comes of it. Bruce grows old alone. Nothing is seen or heard of Wonder Woman in the Batman Beyond series.
  • Speaking of Batman Beyond, Howard has the nerve to say this to a super-strong gynoid girlfriend he bought when said gynoid has been actively trying to kill people for most of the episode. Terry, as Batman, actually Face Palms shortly before lampshading it.
    Howie: [as Cynthia starts to malfunction in rage] Wrong thing to say?
    Batman: Is it EVER the right thing?!
  • After kissing in Total Drama Island, LeShawna basically cancels her relationship with Harold, saying their just friends. Harold still pines for her though, The feelings are mutual.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Towards the end of "Lisa's Date with Density", after finding out that he lied to her, Lisa and Nelson eventually broke up and simply became friends. The friendship is sustained later in the end of "Loan-a-Lisa" in which Lisa and Nelson skate with each other.
    • Milhouse towards Lisa. The somewhat screwy future continuity suggests that Milhouse eventually got somewhere with Lisa, even though she doesn't really count it.
  • This is how Henry and June appear, however June has some pretty obvious feelings toward Henry, his are more subtle.
  • In an episode of Six Teen, Wyatt and a girl named Marlowe eventually break up after spending too much time together. When Wyatt wonder if they would be just friends, Marlowe instead said they could be the "best of Exes".
  • Futurama with Fry and Leela. It's implied they will eventually end up together. The post-movie re-launch series have them in a very ambiguous romantic relationship; the strength of which is dictated by Rule of Funny.
    • They Do end up together in the very final finale of the show.
  • In the The Legend of Korra episode "The Spirit of Competition," the Sibling Triangle of Bolin, Mako and Korra articulate their feelings towards each other in various ways. After resulting interpersonal tensions nearly cost them their place in the finals, the three settle back into a mutually friendly dynamic, with the larger underlying Love Dodecahedron unresolved.
    • The season ends with Mako realizing he is in love with Korra, and Korra reciprocating his feelings. Bolin, by his own admission, has gotten over his crush on Korra and apparently holds no ill will towards his brother's new relationship. It's also implied that Asami, who had been dating Mako, settles into something like this after he apologizes for kissing Korra behind her back and trying to cover it up.
    • Then the second season ends with Korra and Mako choosing to be this. After many hardships throughout the season, the both of them came to realize that they had such different goals in life that a romantic relationship would simply not work out between them. Even so, they still have strong feelings for one another, they just decided to not act on them anymore. This is also the case for Bolin and Eska, as the latter has to go back to the Northern Water Tribe and so cannot stay by his side anymore.
  • Adventure Time: Finn and Flame Princess following their breakup in Fire & Ice. Partly due to the fact she now has to rule a kingdom which she acquired following a coup on her father. Though mostly because she still has some issues to work through. Finn doesn't take the hint after they break up, resulted in a Downer Ending where he gets a Ship Sinking as she hooks up with Cinnamon Bun.


It Meant Something To MeThis Index Is Not My GirlfriendLike An Old Married Couple
I Want My Beloved to Be HappyUnrequited Love TropesThe Lost Lenore
Intergenerational FriendshipDuo TropesLady and Knight
She Is All Grown UpRomance ArcAttractiveness Isolation
Jumping the Gender BarrierLove TropesKissed Keepsake
Not Another Teen MovieImageSource/Live-Action FilmsMagical Negro
It's Not You, It's My EnemiesThe Singles IndexLike Brother and Sister
Joins to Fit InFriendship TropesLeave Behind a Pistol

alternative title(s): Friend Zone; Just A Friend
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