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!
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 than 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.
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, because Alice is lesbian or asexual, 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 control 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 or may not be aware of, but she will never return his feelings. 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.
- Official Couple: Just friends ships in works with the pair as two of a small cast of three or four characters will often have the only meaningful Ship Tease and relationship development, as writers are reluctant to involve what is often their only male or female character into a Love Triangle or make them look like a jerk for playing more than one of the other cast members against each other.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Rarely used by a just friends couple. When done it's often part of a Power Trio where the third character is the calming influence, or the third party is involved in their own more typical just friends relationship with the 'shared' partner of a Love Triangle. Harry Potter and iCarly are the best examples of this kind of Love Triangle, as the trios on both are obviously extremely close, but there is still a distinct difference between the relationships of Harry/Hermione and Carly/Freddie, compared to Ron/Hermione and Sam/Freddie.
- Incompatible Orientation: Maybe Bob likes Alice, but Alice likes girls. Maybe Alice likes Bob, but Bob likes boys. Maybe Bob likes boys and Alice doesn't like girls or boys. Whatever the reason, one or both of them aren't compatible and stay friends.
- Better as Friends or I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Used to sink one of these ships, or used as the starting state of the romantic pairing before they develop romantic feelings.
- Like Brother and Sister: The characters literally think of each other as siblings despite lacking a blood relationship.
- Mistaken for Romance: The characters are thought to be romantically interested in each other but neither are remotely interested.
- Friends with Benefits: How some writers deal with their UST or sexual frustration, whilst not dealing with the relationship's emotional core (read: enabling them to continue drawing it out).
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other, Will They or Won't They?, Single Woman Seeks Good Man, She Is Not My Girlfriend, Everyone Can See It, Last-Minute Hookup and Green-Eyed Monster: All potential aspects of the relationship as it is ongoing, but are not limited to the just friends type of romance.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Which is often given this type of relationship in slash Fan Fiction.
- Platonic Life-Partners: When a man and a woman are the equivalent of Heterosexual Life-Partners. They tend to be the closest relationship either of them has with anyone, but there is no sexual or romantic component to their relationship. In short, they really are just friends.
- Platonic Co-Parenting: They might be raising a child (or children) together, but they aren't a couple and have little to no interest in becoming one.
- Stupid Sexy Friend: Even when they agree they should just be friends, one (or each) can't get rid of his/her sexual thoughts about the other.
- Last Het Romance: In the event Alice or Bob discover they're gay once they start dating, they usually end up just friends... usually with a hefty heaping of "It's Not You, It's Me."
- Let's Just Be Friends: A standard line used to end a relationship.
- Strictly Professional Relationship: When it's a work relationship.
It is also the title of a 2005 comedy film based pretty much entirely on the trope. It is now located at Just Friends.
- 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.
- Blue Flag has this as a major discussion point for Mami, as her desire to retain male friends without this trope coming to play is unfulfilled aside from her longtime friend Shingo. She hates that whenever she tries to make honest contact with boys, people (either the boys themselves or outsiders) always assume that it's really just a stepping stone to romance. This sentiment doesn't go away when the boys are dating someone else, either—then their girlfriends assume that she's a threat merely because she's a close female friend.
- Case Closed:
- Heiji and Kazuha believe they are just friends, even though Everyone Can See It.
- Ran and Shinichi often say they're just friends. Yeah, right. Though Shinichi is a bit more open to admitting that he has feelings for her, it took over 1000 chapters for Ran (and about 250 chapters after Shinichi's confession) to be open with her feelings.
- 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.
- In the manga it's worse since he actually manages to approach her and she directly turns him down. Despite this, she wants to stay friends, and leans on him while pursuing her own romance; even when he refuses later to stay friends, she can't understand the pain she'd cause him. Not until her own crush suggests a purely platonic relationship.
- Dragon Ball: Goku and Bulma have been friends for years and whether or not she saw him romantically is up for debate.
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: This is how Makoto sees Chiaki and Kousuke until she realizes her feelings for Chiaki.
- In The Hating Girl, Asumi and Ryouji refer to themselves as this whenever someone asks about their relationship. Ryouji would definitely like to pursue things further, and Asumi slowly comes around to the same.
- 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.
- Hakuya from Kokuhaku Game harshly claims to be this with Kimidori in chapter 2. Ayako and Akame start doubting it in the very next chapter.
- Kore wa Koi no Hanashi has Haruka want to remain this with Sugita, who tries to be just friends with her despite his feelings for her, but he's obviously unhappy with the arrangement and throws his glove in for Haruka's heart.
- Akko and Andrew's relationship in Little Witch Academia (2017) is ultimately confirmed to be this via Word of God, with Yoh Yoshinari calling it a "playful guy-guy relationship".
- Madlax: Madlax and Vanessa (not really). Vanessa and Elenore in earlier episodes.
- 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.
- Medaka Box's main characters Medaka and Zenkichi have known each other since they were two years old, yet they're seemingly no different than friends (with Zenkichi getting massively embarrassed when Medaka changes clothes in front of him). However, both of them have deeper feelings but never act on them for various reasons: Zenkichi feels like she doesn't understand normal humans and doesn't think he can keep up with her. Meanwhile, Medaka thinks her feelings are one-sided because the first time she met, she proposed to him and he said no; again, Zenkichi was two years old at the time and doesn't even remember the meeting, but she seems to think he hasn't changed his mind. When Zenkichi proves himself by defeating Medaka in the student council elections, he also encourages her to find her own purpose in life note , which leads to Medaka giving him The Big Damn Kiss in front of the entire school. They're more open with their feelings from then on, but it still couldn't be called a Relationship Upgrade because too much crazy stuff is going on to allow them to go on dates and such. It isn't until the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue ten years later that they decide to get married.
- In the manga Momokuri, Yuzuki and Shouta are in this relationship. For much of the series Yuzuki and Shouta are incredibly close, so much so that many people think they're dating, though their closest friend says they're Like Brother and Sister. The truth, though, is that the relationship between the two, and their close friend Rihito, is much more complicated: Shouta has always been in love with Yuzuki, who is crushing on Rihito, and Rihito secretly returns this crush. But while Yuzuki is infatuated or possibly in love with Rihito, ultimately she's always thinking about Shouta and treasures him at least as deeply if not more so; she just never even imagined that he might leave her and thus never considered their relationship being anything more either. This combination of her pining for one boy while treasuring another above anything else has left both boys out of luck.
- A downplayed example in My Hero Academia, between Izuku Midoriya and his first friend at U.A., Ochaco Uraraka. As the series progresses, her feelings for him grow. She is rather unsubtle about it, with the result that several classmates, including Mina, Tsuyu, Kaminari, Aoyama, and Mineta can see it. (For Izuku's part, his feelings are more ambiguous and go mostly unmentioned, though the two do tend to blush around each other frequently). Uraraka considers her feelings as distracting and decides to shelve them for the time being, choosing to just enjoy their friendship.
- Played with in My Monster Secret. The story starts with Asahi Kuromine going to confess his feelings to his mysterious and beautiful classmate Youko Shiragami, only to discover that she's a vampire and promised her father that she'd leave school if anyone found out. Not wanting to miss his chance, Asahi pleads with her to stay so they can be friends and promises to be her Secret-Keeper. Nobody believes him at first because he Can Not Tell A Lie and thus his crush on her was a case of Everyone Can See It, and in the meantime, he's trying to work up the nerve to confess. It's played straight for Youko; she starts the story Oblivious to Love and later on when the thought finally crosses her mind, she dismisses it since she (wrongly) thinks she causes Asahi too much trouble and he's just too nice to say anything about it. Eventually she does realize her own feelings for him, and they end up getting together.
- For Asahi, the trope is more justified. As his friends note, he tends to admire women who possess traits that he lacks (such as being more "together") and often mistakes that admiration for love; by being friends first and getting to know the real Youko, he gets to form a deeper and more honest connection with her. Also, though he's initially mad at himself for unintentionally friend-zoning himself, later on he muses that it's probably better things went this way since if he'd confessed to her after learning her secret, it would have felt like he was blackmailing her.
- Naruto and Sakura's relationship. Naruto had a one-sided shallow crush on Sakura while Sakura is in love with Sasuke. Regardless they still managed to form a friendship over the course of the series with Character Development and became True Companions by mid-series. Yet three people In-Universe commented on their relationship possibly being romantic or at least taking it as romantic: Konohamaru and Gamakichi in Part I, and Naruto's dead father Minato in Part II. Subverted because in the end, they were legitimately just friends; Naruto truly fell in love with and married Hinata, and Sakura married her only love Sasuke after the latter's definitive Heel–Face Turn. The Last: Naruto the Movie even has Sakura being a Cool Big Sis to both Naruto and Hinata, actively trying to bring the two together. Masashi Kishimoto even stated in this interview that Naruto and Sakura were always going to be just friends and teammates; although he deliberately planted Red Herrings in the manga to mess with the shippers, he explicitly stated that nothing was set in his mind at all about making them a couple and he later reiterated that he never thought about making them a couple, because it was all about Naruto and Hinata getting married from the early stages of the manga.
- Nagato and Konan are just friends since childhood, mostly because Konan was apparently in love with the late Yahiko, and Nagato never had romantic feelings for her and supported Konan and Yahiko's relationship.
- In Nisekoi, after saving Chitoge, Raku (at this point, hasn't fully realized his own feelings) straight up says to her face "Because you're my best friend". Understandably, she doesn't take it well and kicks him into the air.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ouran High School Host Club:
- In Episode 21, Souga Kazukiyo the class rep has feelings for Kurakano, and they have been good friends for most of their life. Souga doesn't want to cause problems or change things, and also has something of an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy moment when relating Kurakano's feelings for Haruhi.
- Bossanova or Vossanova or Kossonova or Casanova or whatever his name is, has unrequited feelings towards Haruhi who's one of the first people at school to not be scared of him. Thanks to being a girl that's pretending to be a boy at school, Haruhi complicates things by causing them to project an image that brings flocks of yaoi fangirls to them. Haruhi being utterly, completely oblivious to his crush, doesn't help either and makes it explicit that she considers themselves friends, disappointing him and all the fangirls.
- Pokémon: The Series: All of Ash's companions are this to him and he is oblivious to the majority of them whom have feelings for him.
- Random Walk:
- Between Yuka and Hiro in the past. The two were classmates who got along really well and decided to try dating each other, but both were too immature to handle a romantic relationship, so they broke up not long afterwards. They were moved to different classes the next year, and both start dating someone else. By the time they are classmates again, they are comfortable enough to return to being friends.
- Later, it is also revealed that Touko has a crush on Hiro, but she dates other guys because he's unavailable. When Hiro breaks up with his girlfriend, Touko offers herself to Hiro, only for him to laugh it off, saying that he's fine without a girlfriend. Touko realizes that he only sees her as a friend, and decides to commit herself to her current on-and-off boyfriend, Tsukasa.
- Ranma ˝:
- For most of the manga, Ryoga Hibiki greatly desires Akane Tendo to know of and reciprocate his romantic feelings toward 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.
- For most of the manga, Ryoga Hibiki greatly desires Akane Tendo to know of and reciprocate his romantic feelings toward 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.
- Sarazanmai has a guy/guy variation: Enta's got a crush on his best friend Kazuki, but doesn't tell him out of fear he'll break it off. While it takes a connection to finally get it in the open, and their relationship does strain (for other reasons), they ultimately end the series subverting it by becoming True Companions with Toi.
- Sing "Yesterday" for Me: Near the beginning, Rikuo confesses to his longtime friend Shinako, but she tells him she's not ready for a relationship, and the two stay friends while Rikuo tries to pursue her. Eventually, the two get together, though it doesn't last. After their breakup, the two vow to remain friends.
- Sugar Sugar Rune: Chocolat and her male school friend, Mimura.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ms. Marvel: Kamala and Bruno tend to fall back on claiming that they're only good friends and nothing more on the numerous occasions where they don't want to analyze their feelings in particular depth. In Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit, this is parodied during the Bollywood song sequence, where Bruno sings a romantic serenade about how he and Kamala are just friends.
Every time you open the door my heart flutters as you walk in the store — but I swear we're only friiiiiieeeeends and nothing mooooooooooooore!
- 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 were like this for years, but began developing romantic feelings for one another.
- In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Supergirl informs Batgirl that she and Lex Luthor are just friends, and the rumors claiming otherwise are only that: rumors.
Barbara: My secrets may be the key to saving your boyfriend.
Supergirl: Don't be trite — we're just friends.
- 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.
- However, Frieda became somewhat jealous once Virgil began dating a girl named Madison. Even Virgil's ex-girlfriend Daisy made mention that Frieda was never that way when Virgil was with her. Frieda's response? She didn't view Daisy as an actual romantic rival.
- 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."
- Spider-Man: After a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship, Spider-Man and the Black Cat settled into this. It lasted from the '90s to the mid-2000s before Brand New Day reset them back to sexual partners with Felicia not knowing Peter's identity and then had her become an antagonist as a result of the events of Superior Spider Man. The Amazing Spider-Man (2018) has seen them reconcile as friends.
- Meow Kitty: You have nothing to prove... You're a nice guy.Seven: Oh damn, friendzone.
- Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Italy initially wanted to be this to Germany and Japan and pretended to not notice their feelings for him because he thought he wasn't good enough for them.
- 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 Elements of Friendship: During Book I, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy get Strangled by the Red String and become engaged. By the time of Book IS (1.5), they realize that they jumped into things out of fear over NightMare Moon's conquest of Equestria, and that they're actually better off as friends, so they call off the wedding.
- Twi and Me discusses this in the narration:
- Child of the Storm has Carol and Harry, who insist that they're this while most everyone, from characters - including characters, even outright villains, who've only seen them together for a couple of moments - to fans, is either shipping them or completely disbelieves the 'Just Friends' claims of either. The truth turns out to be a bit more complicated. By chapter 35 of the sequel, Harry wouldn't be averse to a Relationship Upgrade, but emphasises that he's her friend first and foremost because she's had a number of bad experiences with guys befriending her just to try to get into her pants - something made all the more distressing since she's only 14/15 at the start of the story - and just wants a friend. He also points out that psychologically, he's not exactly in the best place to be starting any kind of relationship. By around the same time, Carol, who'd admitted that she was a) attracted to him, b) loved him in a more-than-platonic sense, notes that she's interested in the idea, but she's got issues of her own (some mentioned, others not). In chapter 46 of the sequel, after they've both grown up a bit and got over enough of their respective issues, they choose a Relationship Upgrade. And it is adorable.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has Harry and Hermione deny with insistence being anything more than friends, contrary to what literally everyone, both in- and out-of-universe, thinks. Harry and the author said that "maybe they'll get together later, maybe they won't, but for the time being they're just eleven and it's reductive to think that Hermione, because she's a girl, could only be a love interest and not a friend".
- The Child of Love: At the beginning of the story Asuka insists she and Shinji are just friends, even if she describes Shinji as “one of my dearest friends” in chapter 2. Nobody believes her, though.
- Doing It Right This Time: Asuka insists that Rei is her friend and just a friend. She definitely has not a crush on Rei, not matter how cute she is.
- 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.
- What Neo in the crossover Supernatural and The Matrix Hunting Series fears himself and Dean will be in part four, a prequel - The First Hunt. In between The First Hunt and part one - Hunting Dean and Neo become a couple.
- In Slice of Souls! Solaire and Lady Maria claim to be this, despite always being around each other, being openly affectionate in public, living in the same apartment, and even having previously kissed. Naturally, there's loads of Ship Tease between them.
- Children of an Elder God: When Toji and Kensuke tease Shinji about Rei, he insists that they're only friends.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, when Asuka insinuates that he and Rei are dating, Shinji replies that they're just friends. Shinji thinks to himself that it might be not entirely true, since whatever relationship he and Rei have is more complex and complicated than that, but he reasons that it is about as close to a coherent explanation as he can get (seeing how there is so much about Rei he is nowhere close to understanding himself) and believes that, as such, it suffices as a description.
- Once More with Feeling: During a school dance, a girl asks Asuka if Shinji and she are together. Asuka replies that they're just friends. However, when the girl hints that she wants to get him all for herself, Asuka warns her away rather... pointedly.
- In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic Gap Year adventures, one of the spurs behind Mariella Smith-Rhodes wanting to leave Ankh-Morpork and go off adventuring is the realisation that fellow graduate Timothy Bellamy is hopelessly in love with her. Mariella only sees this as a Just friend thing and she's stuck for a way to let him down gently. So she does what any rational girl would do - which is to run away. But while touring Klatch and Howondaland, she meets another fellow student. Who she has seen for the previous seven years as brash, loud, abrasive, and stupid and a reminder of why she left home in the first place. He's in love with her too. Mariella is reluctantly shifted from seeing him as an Abhorrent Admirer to a position of Just Friends and at the end of the story is wavering on giving him a try.note If only to keep her family happy.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In the sequel Picking Up the Pieces, Violet Lulamoon insists (truthfully) that she and her lieutenant Lunar Light are this. Her fellow captain Sweet Surprise isn't convinced.
- In The Berserkers Bride, Fishlegs has always had a crush on Hiccup, Hiccup having always seen him as her best friend while on Berk.
- The RWBY fic Learning To Bloom changes Pyrrha and Jaune's relationship so that Pyrrha is strictly on platonic terms with her teammate and friend Jaune, while Jaune is the one who is hopelessly in love. Pyrrha gives in to Jaune's advances and dates him for a few weeks, but it hurts her and she recognizes that she's just leading him on. They break up and Pyrrha ends up with the person she actually likes: Weiss.
- In Futures Freak Me Out, Asuka several times insists that she and Shinji should remain just friends because she is afraid that she will lose one of her only friends in the event that they break up after getting together. After a jealousy-induced nervous breakdown, though, she admits to herself that she will not be happy with merely being friends, and she hooks up with Shinji.
- This is the relationship status of Olive and Oscar at the start of Full Circle — they are Amicable Exes and remain friends even after breaking up at the end of Ships Ahoy!. However, the entire premise of Full Circle revolves around everyone else playing matchmaker and trying to get them back together as a couple. Olive and Oscar don't wish to have a major Relationship Upgrade, though, and by the end of the story, they end up settling on just being reserved for each other without being in a serious boyfriend-and-girlfriend relationship.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: There's indications of this with Jack and Sally before their Relationship Upgrade. Sally seems more into him from the beginning; Jack is too depressed at first and then too invested in his schemes to notice her in a different light than as a compassionate friend.
- Strange Magic: Sunny is in love with Dawn but helps her with her romances because they're childhood friends.
- 13 Going on 30: Matt appears to be like this towards Jenna at the start of the movie when they are both 13.
- (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."
- Calamity Jane: The titular character and Bill Hickcock 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. Hickock 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 Hickock's about the best friend I ever had.
- Clerks II has Dante trying to tell himself that Becky and him and this. So not.
- Filibus: When Leo Sandy declares his love for Leonora, she totally friend-zones him.
- In Friends with Benefits, Dylan and Jamie veer between this and Friends with Benefits.
- In The F Word, this is the central conflict of the film, whether Wallace and Chantry can stay friends when they harbor such a great attraction towards each other.
- Juan Herrera occupies the Friend Zone in The Furies. He clearly carries a torch for heroine Vance Jeffords, but she has a thing for bad boys like Rip Darrow, so he can only listen and give advice.
- Harry Potter has this sort of relationship with Hermione, outright stating that he thinks of her like a sister. However, unlike in the books, the movies did a poor job of portraying the characters' relationships up until that point, so many movie-only fans thought the Trio was a love triangle and had a hard time accepting that the Harry/Hermione ship had sunk.
- Just Friends: Ryan Reynolds is 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.
- There's another film titled Just Friends, this one released in 2018 in the Netherlands, that's about two teenage boys who consider themselves "just friends" until they come to terms with their sexuality.
- Kal Ho Naa Ho: Rohit and Naina, until the Relationship Upgrade.
- 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.
- Isabel told Morton that she wants to be this in Mozart and the Whale. Soon after 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.
- Nerve: The main character Vee's best friend Tommy is so obviously in love with her, while she doesn't return his affection. It's so obvious their friend group remarks on the situation multiple times, and a late-arriving main character susses out Tommy's feelings almost instantly upon meeting the two of them. It ultimately doesn't impact the plot beyond popping up to create further antagonism between Vee, Tommy, and Sydney, who is Vee's female best friend.
- 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."
- 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."
- Parodied in Scary Movie 2 when Buddy takes Cindy's friend-zoning of him to its logical extreme by playing rough with her like he would to a male friend.
- 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 fulfill 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 about their past history but quickly gets over it.
- The Unknown: Alonzo winds up in Nanon's friend zone, and doesn't care for it one little bit.
- Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Zack and Miri start the movie as Platonic Life-Partners. And then the titular porno comes along.
- In Starship Troopers this happens to Johnny Rico after his girlfriend Carmen decides to go career as a federation pilot. However, they still remain friends. Ace lampshades it immediately after the video message ends.
Ace: Funny how they still wanna be friends right after they rip your guts out.
- Aubrey-Maturin: Padeen seems to be stuck in one of these in regards to Clarissa.
- In the later books, Stephen and Christine Wood.
- Harry Potter Harry and Hermione were confirmed both within the text and via Word of God ("I dropped anvil-sized hints!") to be Platonic Life-Partners. The relationship was never intended to be seen romantically, and in the books, Harry never saw Hermione as anything other than a sister. However, people who saw the films first saw Emma Watson blossoming much earlier and more fully than Hermione's ugly duckling did in the book, and many couldn't imagine that Harry could not be interested in her. Those who read the books with that bias wound up bemoaning the sinking of the Harry/Hermione ship and vilifying Rowling for carrying on relationships that had been well-established in the books.
- 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 Cold Days: Harry returns to Chicago alive and the two finally share The 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 someday 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".
- Skin Game ends with a pretty direct statement that they're going to try some sort of romantic relationship.
- Another, more unfortunate subversion of this is in the teacher/student relationship between Harry and Molly. Harry met her when she was still a kid and cares about her a lot, but really wants to maintain a purely platonic relationship and seems to think that's the case. After several years, 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.
- The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. When Tatiana decides to end her Love Triangle with her sister's boyfriend Alexander, he acts surprised as they're just friends and all he's doing is walking her home from work every day. Tatiana points out that while they have the pretense of not being up to much, that doesn't explain why they split up three blocks before Tatiana reaches her apartment so her sister won't find out about it.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss and Gale.
- The Kharkanas Trilogy: Cohort commanders Kagamandra Tulas and Sharenas Ankhadu — who only ever get to talk because at first Sharenas entertains intentions to seduce Tulas' betrothed out of boredom — develop a strong friendship during the course of the first volume, Forge of Darkness, which eventually turns into mutual romantic feelings. They have a moment of barely reigned in flirting, but as Tulas is betrothed, he decrees that they shall never talk about it again. Sharenas' agreement amounts to "Sure, buddy".
- In Little Women, Laurie experiences the non-mutual form of this trope with Amy's older sister Jo. He loved Jo since they met as teenagers, but she only ever saw him as a brother/friend. When he finally has to say it straight out for her to accept it (with Jo ignoring all his advances and moving away to avoid the inevitable), she immediately shoots him down and he freaks. He gets better later, enough for him to fall for the now grown-up Amy.
- In Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note, despite how some viewers think about Aya's romantic life, she sees her relationships with Detective Team KZ as this, to the point of thinking they're not the people she's going to give Chocolate of Romance over Valentine's. In fact any relationship in this series is cast in friendship terms despite some of them being dangerously close to romantic, something that can be justified by the fact that the cast are just seventh graders.
- In Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure, Lori finds a gold and garnet bracelet in the attic of her cottage and goes to the blue journal to ask Dimity about it. Dimity eventually reveals it was a gift from a young man who befriended her just after World War II, and that he gave it to her and declared his love for her after she had given him a stuffed badger. Dimity was taken by surprise (thinking they were only this trope), plus she was mourning her fiancé and couldn't return his feelings; she says, "I could do nothing but gape at him like an addled goldfish." He left the café abruptly, and though she searched for him in an attempt to explain, she lived out her life without finding him and asks Lori to do so.
- Les Misérables. As far as Marius is concerned, Eponine is reigning queen of the friend zone.
- In The Mark and the Void, Claude and Ish are good friends at work. Ish clearly has feelings for him, but Claude never returns them and pursues other romantic relationships.
- In The Story of Valentine and His Brother, Val and Violet insist that there is no romantic feeling between them and that they love each other Like Brother and Sister, up until they kiss.
- In The Evolution of Emily, Miles asks Emily to the homecoming dance and she says no, saying she hasn't adjusted to public school yet. Later August asks her and she says yes. She tells Miles that the real reason she rejected him is that she wants them to stay friends. Miles doesn't talk to her for weeks.
- Katarina in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! obliviously manages to attract two members of royalty, the prime minister's son, her stepbrother, and three girls only to firmly label them in her head under the 'friend' category except her stepbrother, who is off limits because he's her brother instead. Every time they bicker for her attention she fails to notice they're fighting over her and just assumes that they're all besties too.
- In the original shorts for The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Ellen would occasionally introduce herself as Big Pete's girlfriend, to which he would immediately correct her, saying, "You're a girl, and you're a friend, but you're not a girlfriend!"
- A.N.T. Farm: Chyna and Fletcher. The former however seems to be acknowledging the latter's behavior but has returned the feelings too late in the second to last episode. They did go on a date in "SignificANT Other", however.
- Same show, different pairing: Paisley and Fletcher. Paisley likes him in an "Adorable kid" way. Neither is returning the feelings.
- Arrow does this with one of DC comics top couples, Oliver Queen and Laurel Lance. They did date prior to the series, but then he cheated on her with her sister and was missing for five years. The first season has them as friends with a great deal of UST between them, which actually derails all of their other relationships. They eventually hook up again towards the end of the season, but it doesn't last (and a later Retcon has him dump her with a "Dear John" Letter). They remain as friends (but not always very good ones) right up until her death. Interestingly, it's made clear that they actually are still in love with each other, just nothing ever comes of it largely due to Oliver believing he doesn't deserve her.
- 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. The last few episodes of season 3 (Starting with "Last Dances and Last Chances") brought them back together permanently and stays that way for the whole season 4, all the way to having a family in the future!
- The Big Bang Theory: Leonard and Penny. They eventually got a Relationship Upgrade that lasted almost a full season before they broke up. They do go back on the Will They or Won't They? path for several seasons afterwards, but the final few seasons confirm that they stay together for good.
- 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.
- And it got a lot more complicated with the end of season 6 and Brennan becoming pregnant with Booth's baby.
- 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 toward her, just as Xander is in turn unaware of Willow's affections toward 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.
- 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.
- Buffy says that she and Principal Wood are just friends. "Or mortal enemies, depending on what day of the week it is."
- 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.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine gives us Detectives Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago, who appear to be nursing mild-to-heavy crushes on the other that they sublimate into competitive bets, frequent teasing, temporary short-lived relationships with other people and varying degrees of immaturity.
- 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.
- Corner Gas sets this up early with Brent and Lacey. In the season one finale, I Love Lacey, they have an Almost Kiss. They resolve this in the first episode of season two, The Brent Effect. It gets a reference here and there throughout the series before being revealed as a thing at the end of Corner Gas: The Movie. The animated series has its own continuity, with some nods. The episode Spy Me to the Moon rekindles this trope.
- 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).
- 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.
- The Punisher (2017). A variation when Beth tells her son that she and Frank are "just friends" after they've had sex, but that's because her son asked if they were planning on getting married.
- Degrassi: Fiona and Imogen are a Les Yay example with Fiona being Imogen's Closet Key.
- Doctor Who:
- "Blink": Near the end, Sally says that this is all there is between her and Larry. This lasts for all of one scene.
- A DVD exclusive scene set after "Flesh and 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":
- "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.
- Clara attempts to indicate this with regards to her relationship with the Twelfth Doctor in "Mummy on the Orient Express", but the woman she mentions it to doesn't buy it. And neither, ultimately, does Clara as the episode ends with the formal establishment of a Love Triangle scenario.
- In "Hell Bent", the Twelfth Doctor nearly utters the trope by name when claiming to Ashildr that Clara is "just a friend". This after he spent 4.5 billion years punching a wall 400 times stronger than diamond with his bare fists, and executed a Batman Gambit to prevent Clara's death — an act that threatens all of time and space because of the paradox. And ran away with Clara to the very last minutes of the universe. Needless to say, Ashildr's "yeah right" response is the personification of a Deadpan Snarker.
- In "World Enough and Time", Missy wants to know what the Doctor calls his companions: exposition, comic relief, pets, snacks? When Bill says they're friends, Missy responds, "Ew, Doctor! But think of the age gap!" The irony is that Bill is a lesbian and her relationship with the Doctor is indeed platonic.
- Downton Abbey:
- Carson and Mrs Hughes, due to the many years they had spent working together, until Season 5 Christmas Special when Carson proposed to her. However, it is hinted even in Season 1 that Carson had a crush on her which became overt in Season 3.
- Eureka: In the later seasons, Jack and Allison have 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 Flash (2014): Barry Allen and Iris West. Barry has been in love with Iris for years, and it's been confirmed that Iris has been in love with him for just as long. Unfortunately, Iris was also completely oblivious to not only Barry's feelings but her own. Not helping the situation is that the two are best friends that are so close that many can tell how they really feel about each other, and/or assume they're already a couple. Eventually, after finally confessing to Iris, Barry decides to no longer wait for her and tries to move on with Linda Park and (more successfully) Patty Spivot, while Iris continues to deny her feelings for Barry even though the only person she was really fooling was herself. It isn't until late Season 2 that they finally decide to do something about the massive amounts of Unresolved Sexual Tension between them.
- Forever Knight. Don Schanke scoffs at the idea that his partner Nick Knight is "just friends" with the coroner Dr Natalie Lambert, but the situation is more complicated than he thinks, as Nick is a vampire and so can't consummate any romantic affection he might have for Natalie; not without killing her.
- Monica and Chandler, who in early seasons really are just friends. (It's hinted Chandler has a mild crush, but nothing serious). They start a Friends with Benefits relationship which quickly develops into love and later marriage.
- 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. 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 it's instantly denied.
- Glee: After a nasty breakup, Kurt and Blaine try to fix things between them by becoming friends again since they were best friends before they dated. Of course the next time they're in the same city they basically go on a date (it even ends with them having sex), but the whole time Kurt keeps repeating over and over that they are just friends and none of it means anything. No one really buys it.
- 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!
- 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 Seasons 2 and 3, into a mature and sensitive young man, and it appears Carly is beginning to realize her 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 show's finale episode "iGoodbye", they finally get their Relationship Upgrade. Carly comes up to Freddie in the studio and gives him a Last Minute Kiss. He returns the kiss then celebrates.
- iCarly (2021), the reboot refloats the ship, with Freddie having got out of his second marriage recently and Carly being plain unlucky in love. They have a few moments of Ship Tease like nodding back to their slow dance from the original and early in Season 2 they have the slightest hint of an Almost Kiss as well as a Fake Relationship in one episode that goes fine until Freddie "cheats" on Carly with another woman in order to resolve the episode's plotline.
- 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.
- Just Good Friends: Almost the Trope Namer, this documents, in comedic terms, the relationship between Vince and Penny when Vince comes back into Penny's life five years after he jilted her at the altar. At first they try to play the trope straight, but Vince starts to develop feelings for Penny again. Penny rebuffs his advances but accepts they have too much history to make a clean break. Finally, Penny leaves to take a job in Paris, and it looks like even the friendship is over. But after an abortive marriage with Penny, and Vince now being in an unhappy marriage (he married the Alpha Bitch), they meet up in Paris and it starts all over again. Finally, Penny accepts that Vince really does love her, and Vince has to go through a lot of hoops to get out of his unhappy marriage.
- 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.
- After Stabler leaves the series, Benson gets this with ADA Barba. Unlike with Stabler, this is very mutual, and the two are Ship Teased to kingdom come.
- Played straighter in the more traditional Will They or Won't They? couple of Rollins and Carisi. Carisi is initially The Friend Nobody Likes, but he develops a friendship with Amanda and eventually steps in as Parental Substitute when she finds coping as a single mother difficult. While the show initially played this much the same as Benson and Stabler, it Jumped the Shark by having Carisi nearly confess his feelings while they are out of town on a case. Rollins' feelings were always played more ambiguously, with her Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places and insisting to others (including her therapist, since she's discussed Carisi in sessions) that they are this trope. Her feelings aren't 100% clear until their Relationship Upgrade, though considering this was preceded by a hard Love Epiphany, it's implied this is more Unknowingly in Love than Oblivious to Love. However, in season 23, Carisi reveals he's been in love with Amanda since before the birth of her six-year-old, giving this trope a bittersweet edge to it.
- Lewis has a certain frisson between the title character and the pathologist Dr Laura Hobson. The two have known each other since their Inspector Morse days, but during that series, Lewis was married to someone else and Laura didn't seem to have any particular feelings for him beyond friendship. During this series, though, their intimacy gradually develops; it's hinted that by the time they get together, Laura has harbored feelings for him for quite some time, but Lewis needed to work through the grief of losing his wife before they got their Relationship Upgrade.
- 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 that is devoted entirely to playing straight, subverting, deconstructing, and generally having fun with the trope.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- And now Mulan and Aurora have a version of this after the reveal that Mulan is now harboring feelings for her instead.
- Parks and Recreation: Ben and Leslie is an Office Romance version of the trope.
- Pretty Little Liars:
- Hanna and Lucas. Lucas the nerd, Hanna the homecoming queen. That was before his Face–Heel Turn in season 3, so they don't remain as friends in the end.
- Aria and Holden, a relationship that seemed to be shaping into Childhood Friend Romance but both decide to end up as simply Childhood Friends (not to mention Holden's a Shipper on Deck for Ezra/Aria).
- Ready or Not: Busy has a crush on her friend Jamie, but he likes someone else—her best friend, Amanda. The episode is aptly titled "Just Friends."
- 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.
- 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...
- 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 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 tells 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 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 Universe: Eli and Chloe. Poor Eli...
- Kinda sucks for him considering the guy on the 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 "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.
- Kinda sucks for him considering the guy on the 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.
- 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...)
- Subverted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. After dancing around each other for most of a season, Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax talk it out and agree to just be friends. As a result, they stop trying so hard and relax around each other... which turns out to be exactly what they need to make a relationship happen.
Bashir: You know, I was thinking. If it hadn't been for our little talk the other day, we'd probably be just standing here staring at our shoes.
Ezri: Not a chance. I'd have turned and walked the other way as soon as I saw you.
Bashir: I'm glad we've put it all behind us.
Ezri: Me too. (both get into a turbolift)
Cut to turbolift arriving in ops, with Julian and Ezri now engaged in a Big Damn Kiss.
- The Vampire Diaries:
- Stefan and Caroline is the primary example of the series. They started out as a straightforward example of platonic best friends the first 3 seasons but began to get teased romantically by S4 and S5. Still, they remained "just friends". Then S6 came along and they developed feelings for each other, finally getting a Relationship Upgrade in early Season 7.
- Damon and Bonnie, who became very close friends throughout Season 6. In Season 7 they're continually described as "just best friends", though there is an obvious attraction. By mid to late Season 7 they start getting teased hardcore, but remain "friends".
- Stefan and Lexi, though it's made abundantly clear from the writers and the characters themselves nothing romantic was ever between them.
- Victorious has random strangers discuss the relationship between Tori and Beck at a pet surgery.
- The Wild House: Arthur and his friend Emily, who remain platonic despite Arthur's mother and several others assuming they are in a relationship. They did kiss in the final episode but decided they didn't like it.
- 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.
- An early example in music: "Can't We Be Friends?" by Frank Sinatra (off 1955's In the Wee Small Hours, an early Concept Album musing on lost love and love that could never be). The lyrics say it all:
I thought I'd found the girl of my dreams
Now it seems
This is how the story ends
She's gonna turn me down and say
"Can't we be friends?"
- Green Day had a lot of early tracks focused on this subject such as "Paper Lanterns" and "Only Of You".
- "Just Be Friends" by Luka Megurine.
- "Just Friends" by the Jonas Brothers. well...
- "Roll to Me" by Del Amitri.
- "Just a Friend to You" by Meghan Trainor.
- "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 Bublé.
- "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.
- "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 further 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 to 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 realize 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.
- "Heartbeat" 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 of 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.
- "The Other Side" by Tonight Alive chronicles a friendship in which the singer was clearly in love with her friend, but he/she (it's never specified) did not reciprocate. It's implied the friendship was eventually destroyed by distance and time, ending on the lines: "and if you're wondering/I'm great/I'm stronger now but still/the same/my love for you it will remain/my friend."
- "Peach Scone" by Hobo Johnson describes being in love with someone who's in a relationship while continuing to be a supportive friend to her and restraining yourself from making a move.
- "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morissette
- Maddie & Tae's "Friends Don't," about all the things two "friends" do that really blur the line between friendship and romance.
Friends don't call you in the middle of the night
Couldn't even tell you why
They just felt like saying hi
Friends don't stand around, playing with their keys
Finding reasons not to leave
Trying to hide their chemistry
Drive a little too slow (slow), take the long way home (home)
Get a little too close (close)
We do, but friends don't
- "Just a Friend" is a poem about a couple trying to explain to a couple's therapist the issue they came in about: that the boyfriend feels threatened by his girlfriend's relationship with her "best friend". The two of them were friends before they got together — he knows it's not an impenetrable barrier. It's succinctly summed up in these lines:
Boyfriend: You're beautiful in ever sense and he's noticed—we know this.
Do you really think he'd turn you down if you stuck it on him for real?
If he tried a thing, I know you'd say no,
But you two are only "friends" as long as you say so.
- 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.
- 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
- The old radio series Our Miss Brooks often played with Connie Brooks' unrequited love for the clueless Mr. Boynton.
- 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. It was established later that this was also the case between Male Shepard and Kaidan; Kaidan's love confession in that scenario is about how he wanted something deeper with someone he was already friends with.
- In ME 2, there is a turian male and a quarian female 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 that "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?!
- Resident Evil: Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield have 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 the obscure sequel establishes that they do.
- Rena also explicitly says this about childhood friend Dias, and says that she actually thinks of him as her big brother. But it's still possible for them to end up together in the ending, although subsequent games confirm that she ended up with Claude while Dias ended up with Chisato.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Tifa says this to Aerith about her and Cloud. After Aerith's murder at the hands of Sephiroth, and depending on Relationship Values, Cloud and Tifa can potentially get a Relationship Upgrade during their "moment" under the Highwind. Of course, all subsequent supplemental materials never really confirm either way if such an "upgrade" ever happened.
- 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.
- Compare with Riki and Kyousuke: Riki is often distracted by his appearance and is very eager to please him, and multiple characters joke that they probably have crushes on each other. In one scene, Riki even admits that he does have feelings for him, but doesn't want to ruin their friendship, at which point Kyousuke suddenly starts giving off some very mixed messages about whether or not he feels the same. But because this is a bishoujo game, Kyousuke doesn't even merit so much as a mini-route, and though their relationship is central to the true route in Refrain, their romantic tension never explicitly goes anywhere.
- 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. However, this is not the case in Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns, where Alisa is marriageable with Guide Dang It! requirements, which includes having to wish for the Harvest Goddess to tell Alisa that's she okay with her getting married.
- The [DLC] marriage candidates Stephanie and Woofio can be this if you choose not to propose to them in their final love event, which bars the player from marrying them anymore for the file.
- In Life Is Strange, Warren is firmly in Max's friend zone. When we first meet him, he goes in for the hug, only for Max to hand him his flash drive back. Later, Chloe comments "That guy is so fucking in love with you", to which Max replies "I know" while face-palming herself.
- On the other side to this, Brooke is in Warren's friend zone; even when Max changes the past and ends up in an alternate timeline, Warren hooks up with Stella.
- 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.
- A possible ending in One Night Stand involves you and Robin agreeing to be friends... but nothing more than that.
- In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, Melia had a crush on protagonist Shulk that unfortunately is doomed the moment his love interest Fiora, who's death began the story, is revealed to still be alive. While she struggles with her feelings and even expresses some resentment over how things pan out, she ultimately lets him go without him ever knowing. By the time of Future Connected the two are much more comfortable together as she no longer expects something from Shulk he can't provide and instead readily accepting the friendship he always gladly provided.
- The protagonist and Jade... that is, if there’s any chance of a good ending with Melody. They both liked each other (and Jade still likes the protagonist), but they can never be in a relationship.
- Of course, the protagonist can steer clear from the romantic path of any girl in the story.
- In Majikoi! Love Me Seriously!, Miyako is madly in love with Yamato, and while Yamato is attracted to her, he repeatedly turns her down because he finds her obsession with him off-putting and is concerned that hooking up with her will make her even more reliant on him for her own stability. He also feels too guilty about how Miyako's crush on him developed after he brought her into the Kazama family to save her from a miserable school life, when part of the reason her situation had gotten so hopeless is that he'd been so worried about his reputation that he'd refused to intervene in the bullying or so much as speak with Miyako at school even after becoming friends with her. They keep this dynamic in every route except Miyako's.
- One Baalbuddy comic has two childhood friends end up as the hero and demon lord of a generic isekai world. When they realize their true identities, the demon lord (well, lady) is about to finally confess what she wanted to tell him since childhood... just as he invites her to his wedding as his best friend. The resulting diappointment is visible from orbit.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl… Oh dear, BCB! They've jumped from point 1 to 3 recently, and that's only the central pairing.
- Homestuck has a lot of examples, especially among the Alpha kids, but probably the best example is Dirk and Jake. They have been best friends for years and are very close, to the point where Jake used to joke that if Dirk were a girl he'd totally go out with him. Later, it becomes obvious that Dirk does have romantic feelings for Jake. And Jake? He isn't really sure what he feels, but he can't deny that it makes sense.
- Hypergamouse: Stoke and Kira are tennis partners, nothing more. The clarification leaves Jami's jealousy undiminished.
- Keychain of Creation: Misho and Marena are pretty much stuck as this trope, though neither wants to be. Marena wants to be Friends with Benefits. Misho balks at that; he wants more than that. Marena won't entertain the notion of a more serious relationship until she's satisfied that Misho sees her as she is now, not as she was when she knew him in her past life, where they also stayed friends.
- Ménage ŕ 3:
- The normally sexually omnivorous Zii seems to have stuck Gary firmly into the friend zone from very early on, basically because he's such a hopeless geek. Her attitude towards him is mostly sisterly at best, patronising at worst; she finds the idea of sleeping with him ridiculous. Gary accepts this; while both his confidence with women and his awareness of Zii's attractiveness grow through the course of the plot, he identifies her as a cool friend who is prepared to help him (and as unattainable, if only because she has made that clear). However, there have been very broad hints of a growing mutual attraction between them (and Zii is certainly intellectually curious about Gary's peculiar sexual talents); the problem is whether this can overcome their shared established assumptions.
- Even when she thinks she may be bisexual, DiDi sees Zii as too good a friend to risk a sexual relationship with her (except when she gets very drunk and desperate). Zii's opinion on the matter is different.
- Matt and Kiley hit the trope at a very odd angle. They quickly enter a strong Friends with Benefits relationship, which they both refer to as a process of mutual therapy. Kiley wants to think of herself as a cool, objective therapist, and Matt doesn't see himself as a one-woman man. However, it then becomes clear to readers that they are becoming a couple, with strong hints of real mutual affection. Matt and Kiley, however, develop a bad case of shared Selective Obliviousness.
Matt: Don't worry, Kiley. We are just in mutual therapy, like you said. We're not a couple.
Matt: By the way, we're low on bread and milk.
Kiley: And bottles of laundry detergent. Let's stop by the market to pick up a couple.
- Questionable Content: Faye and Marten danced around this for exactly 499 strips.
- Marigold and Angus. They get drunk. She puts his hands on her boobs. He shoots her down.
- Elliot towards Padma.
- During the IN SPACE! arc Marten's relationship with Hannelore is seen this way by Hannelore's father and Lt Potter. Marten responds to Potter's remark about them being together with the exact words We're just friends.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has an innovative attempt by a man named Steve to convince Carol that a peer-reviewed study suggest that she should take him out of the friend zone and put him into the lover zone.
- This appears to be at the heart of Jack and Sam's relationship in The Space Between.
- Discussed in Sandra and Woo when Theo and Benjamin point out that Landon helping Larisa study for a test will cause her to see him as a friend rather than a romantic option... and then promptly averted in the next strip where she repays his act of kindness by frenching him and becoming his girlfriend.
- In Ice Gift Elie friendzones Rikter. That doesn't end well.
- Echo Chamber: The Shipping on the show is mostly this, with only The Ace storyline diverging from it. It hasn't been done as a trope video though.
- Zack was put into the I don't even like you as a Friend Zone by Dana.
- Zack puts Gaelyn in the Friend Zone as part of a recurring season 2 storyline, but they get together in the end.
- Tom's feelings for Dana appear to be developing into a typical Cannot Spit It Out for Tom and Oblivious to Love for Dana. Dana's feelings for Tom are ambiguous but the possibility exists that their relationship will develop down the mutual feelings path of the trope.
- In Greek Ninja, there are at least two relationships like this.
- The Onion have their own take on this trope: But If We Started Dating It Would Ruin Our Friendship Where I Ask You To Do Things And You Do Them.
- CollegeHumor: Hilariously, Adam finds himself sent to the friendzone by Eve, despite them being the only people in Paradise. When she tells him that she just got out of a bad relationship, it turns out to be the snake.
- Action Bunnies' sixth episode parodies the Friend Zone by portraying it as the Phantom Zone.
- Adventure Time: Finn and Flame Princess following their breakup in Fire & Ice. Partly due to the fact she now has to rule a kingdom that 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 (in his eyes, at least; Word of God states things between Flame Princess and Cinnamon Bun are strictly platonic, continuing to play this trope straight, and indeed, the Finn/FP ship was refloated a smidge recently following a period where Finn cut off all contact with her, opening the door for future developments in their relationship).
- Arthur: In the episode "Bitzi's Break-Up", Buster learns that his mother Bitzi is breaking up with her boyfriend Harry. Not wanting to lose Harry's friendship, he tries to get them back together and although it doesn't work, Bitzi and Harry reassure him that they can still be friends, much to Buster's relief.
- In 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?!
- Code Lyoko: Yumi and Ulrich. From the first episode of season 3, "We're friends, that's all..." comes close to being their catchphrase.
- Danny Phantom: Danny and Sam. Everyone Can See It from roughly episode 11, but nothing becomes concrete until the final episode.
- Zig-zagged for a laugh: On an episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney are assisting a mysterious lady on some mission. When she asks if they're married, Barney quips, "No, we're just good friends." Fred double-takes to the camera.
- Futurama with Fry and Leela. The series itself had a lot of Ship Tease between them, and the post-movie re-launch series had them in a very ambiguous romantic relationship, the strength of which is dictated by Rule of Funny. They do end up together for good in the end, though.
- Harley Quinn (2019): Harley and Ivy have been best friends for years, but it's not until after they share a passionate kiss during their escape from Bane's pit that they realize their feelings for each other are romantic. This only makes things awkward between them because Ivy refuses to acknowledge she's in love with Harley and Harley is forced to suppress her feelings for Ivy to not get in the way of Ivy's engagement to Kite Man. After they wind up having sex following a rager in "Bachelorette", Harley finally confesses to Ivy, only for Ivy to turn her down in favor of going through with marrying Kite Man, believing her and Harley are incapable of having a lasting romantic relationship. However, in "The Runaway Bridesmaid", Kite Man realizes that Ivy truly has stronger feelings for Harley than she has for him and breaks off their engagement, leading Ivy to allow herself to reciprocate Harley's feelings.
- 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.
Zatanna: No, you and I are "just good friends". There's something more between you and Diana.
- 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, and only in the expansion comics do we find out what happened to her. In short, there was some more to do with the Justice Lords universe, and in the end, she stayed behind because she and Lord!Batman had found each other.
- 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.
- 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 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 so they work much better as friends. 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, and later it's confirmed when Bolin starts dating Opal.
- Of course, at almost literally the last minute, a new pairing is introduced that grew out of this trope. Korra and Asami. There is a bit of wiggle room for those who would prefer not to see it, but it is a very, very heavily implied. Moreover, the Word of God confirms that they are a canon couple, even though all they physically do as a couple on screen is hold hands.
- The Loud House: Early on in Season 3, Lincoln becomes smitten with a new girl, Stella, and tries to impress her. When she officially shows up in "Be Stella My Heart", Clyde, Zach, Rusty, and Liam also fall for her, and they compete to see who gets her. In the end, Stella reveals she doesn't have romantic feelings for any of them; she only just wanted to be friends.
- Miraculous Ladybug: Marinette is in love with Adrien, but he, oblivious, always insists they are "Just Friends." On the flip side, his alter ego Cat Noir is in love with his teammate Ladybug, who he doesn't realize is actually Marinette. However, when questioned Ladybug just takes the He Is Not My Boyfriend route, because she also has no idea that Cat Noir is actually Adrien.
- Molly of Denali: In "Molly and the Great One," Mac and Andie don't give much indication that they're a couple, though they do tease each other as if they were. And Andie clearly cares deeply for Mac. In the end, they're still shown to have a platonic relationship.
- In The Raccoons episode "Spring Fever!", Bert develops a crush on Lisa, and she notices, which prompts her to write a letter saying that she'd prefer for them to just be friends.
- 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 at 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.
- In an episode of 6teen, Wyatt and a girl named Marlowe eventually break up after spending too much time together. When Wyatt wonders if they would be just friends, Marlowe instead said they could be the "best of Exes".
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil has one of Star and Marco's favorite songs by Love Sentence actually be called "Just Friends", which naturally has the lyrics match the Unresolved Sexual Tension-filled dynamic that the main characters have developed by that point. Later episodes would have the duo attempt to retain their "best friend" relationship, as Star developed a crush on Marco while he was dating Jackie-Lynn Thomas, and Marco realizes his crush on Star after she gets back with her ex-boyfriend Tom. Late in the final season, after Star and Tom have broken up again, Star and Marco confess that they love each other and realize there's no reason they can't be "best friends" and a romantic couple.
I didn't mean to hurt youYou didn't have a clueSo you went out and got busyAnd found somebody new, new, new
- Despite being one of the more popular ships due to their belligerent but supportive nature, this was ultimately the case for Beast-Boy and Raven in Teen Titans with even the creators admitting that they always saw them as having a "Sibling" relationship. Ironically, the series greatly popularized the ship which led to it gaining a relationship upgrade in both the comics and Teen Titans Go.
- After hooking up in Total Drama Island, LeShawna basically cancels her relationship with Harold after the season, deciding they should just be friends and feeling that she was too hasty in her decision. Harold still pines for her though, and while LeShawna is touched by his attempts to impress her, she remains adamant about being friends (though it's occasionally implied she has mutual feelings for him).