Batman: Is it ever the right thing?
A standard breakup line, commonly used in Real Life. One member of a couple suggests to the other that their romantic attachment end and they stay Better as Friends. The listener usually takes this badly (Unlucky Childhood Friend Romance, Entitled to Have You, "friend zone", etc.). The speaker may or may not actually wish to be friends, or indeed ever have contact with their ex again, but wants to spare the other's feelings in any case.
- Robin Series: Callie Evans and Sebastian Ives went on several dates through the first few years of High School, including a few double dates with Tim and Steph, but while they weren't seeing other people they weren't actually "dating". When Ives tried asking Callie to be his girlfriend properly she said she'd rather remain friends and that was the end of their romantic entanglements.
- Starship Troopers. "Ain't it great how they want to be your friend right after they rip your guts out?"
- Subverted in The Social Network:
Erica: I think we should just be friends.
Mark: I don't want friends.
Erica: I was just being polite. I have no intention of being friends with you.
- In Plan B, Pablo sort of does this with Bruno after he decides that he can't go through with having sex with him, telling him that he's not as open-minded about his sexuality as he pretends he is but that "in the future, we can be friends". Subsequent scenes make it quite clear, however, that he really meant it as a polite way of completely severing their relationship after Bruno broke his heart.
- Older Than Print: This actually occurs in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (Criseyde's Dear John letter, after she has dumped him for Diomede).
- In Anne of Green Gables, This is basically the line Anne Shirley hands her childhood friend Gilbert Blythe when he asks her to marry him. Twice. She comes around eventually.
- In one of the The Baby-Sitters Club books, this line was finally used to end the Kristy/Bart romance when it becomes clear to Kristy that Bart wants much more from the relationship than she does.
- Gideon says this to Gwyneth in The Ruby Red Trilogy. She thought he was going to apologize for being a jerk and doesn't take it very well.
- Defied 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 War Against the Chtorr. After a huge domestic squabble between the protagonist Jim McCarthy and his Colonel Badass girlfriend, she starts to suggest this trope, only for Jim to cut her off, pointing out that whatever their relationship is, they can never "just be friends". So they get married instead.
- In Warrior Cats, Squirrelflight tells this to Ashfur to end his romantic relationship with him. While she honestly wants to remain his friend, he still doesn't take that too well.
- In Smallville, "Vortex", Chloe breaks up with Clark like this because she knows he is still crazy over Lana.
- One Seinfeld episode begins with Elaine telling Jerry how she broke up with this guy using this line- and he was actually OK with it. He wants to be friends with her until the end of the episode, and acts nice accordingly. She's puzzled by this attitude, even though as Jerry notes, their friendship started the exact same way.
- Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is devastated when Drusilla dumps him for a demon and says they can "still be friends". As he sobs to Willow, "How could she be so cruel? She didn't even set me on fire!"
- Naomi tries this very line with Emily in Skins (not because she doesn't want their relationship, but because she's terrified of it); Emily's response is "We say that, don't we?". It lasts all of about twenty seconds before Emily breaks her defences down with the armor-piercing "I'll miss you."
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Rough Patch," when Barney and Robin realize that they are not good as a couple, Robin says what really sucks is that they can't be friends anymore. Barney says to think of it not as a couple splitting up, but two friends who managed to find each other again.
- Happens twice in Living Single to give closure to a couple failed relationships, once between Regine and her then-boyfriend Keith when he says that he hopes they can "still be friends", Regine quips that they can still be friends ... just not with each other. The second time it was between Overton and his ex-would-be-fiance Melody when she moves to New York to try and win him back, after being dismissed she expresses hope that they can still be friends, to which Overton replies "I believe it was Lord Byron who said, 'The best way will be to avoid each other without appearing to do so.' Letter of April 25, 1814. Goodbye, girlie."
- The L Word. Played for Laughs when Jenny takes home another girl after her first lesbian crush, only to find that their awkward fumblings lack chemistry. Eventually the two girls blurt out this trope simultaneously.
- In Joking Apart, comedy-writer protagonist Mark, reflecting on the breakdown of his marriage, asks if there is any witty reply to "Can we still be friends?". After much pondering, his wife does indeed ask this question. The wittiest reply Mark can think of is "Fuck off!".
- Kevin tries to do this with his first girlfriend Becky Slater in The Wonder Years when he comes clean about the fact that he still likes Winnie. To say she didn't take it well would be a gross understatement.
Becky: (punches Kevin in the stomach) Oh yeah, "friends"?! (punches Kevin in the stomach again) I'll give you "friends"! (punches Kevin in the jaw and knocks him out)
- "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?"
- Also, Dixie Flatline's infamous Break Up Song "Just Be Friends". Considering the Sequel Song "Answer" following up on the heroine years later, it seems she's taken it well at least.
- Lou Reed, in Goodnight Ladies on Transformer:
You said we could be friends, but that's not what I want (It's a lonely Saturday night)
- "Just Be Friends" sung by Luka Megurine has this line as its main chorus line, and supplemental art shows the red string being broken.
- In Dilbert, a woman says this line to the title character. Disappointed that he simply agrees, with no emotional reaction, she progressively ups the ante, first to "friends with other people. You and I would just be acquaintances," then to acquaintances that couldn't actually become friends, like "my ex-butler whom I fired for stealing stuff." When this still fails to get a reaction beyond "Okay," the woman wonders to herself what's going on, while Dilbert thinks, "Good, it seems the window of opportunity is still slightly open."
- In the intro movie of Sam & Max Hit the Road, the titular cop duo save a Mad Scientist's date from being zapped after she tells him she wants to just be friends.
- In Mass Effect 2 this is the gist of FemShep's conversation with Jacob Taylor if she breaks up with him. It includes words to the effect that they wouldn't work because they're too much alike. Though if they didn't break up before Mass Effect 3, he shows a way that they're different that makes them quite incompatible.
- X-Universe: The trope is used, minus the Stock Phrase, in the backstory of X: Beyond the Frontier (see the novelization X: Farnham's Legend and the X-Encyclopedia). At one point a few years prior to the start of the game Kyle Brennan and his close friend Elena Kho became trapped in a disabled patrol ship in the outer solar system and ended up sleeping together. After their rescue they decided not to pursue the Relationship Upgrade, though they wondered for many years after if it'd been the right call.
- In Tomodachi Life, if two Miis that are dating or are married are having a strained relationship, one of them can tell their partner that they want to go back to being just friends. This will break up the Miis and both of them will go into depression.
- Sluggy Freelance has Torg and Zoe's attempt at dating end with Zoe deciding they should just stick to being friends (a deranged, trained assassin Stalker with a Crush showing up to kidnap Torg had a lot to do with that, though).
- In Misfile, Emily goes on a date with someone in Cape Cod. He gives her the "let's just be friends" speech at the end, saying that he noticed that she wasn't really interested in him. But then he reveals that he thinks he's gay, or at least he's fallen for his male friend. Emily tells him that she thinks she's fallen for her (currently female) friend Ash, too.
- In Homestuck (or more accurately Hivebent), Feferi to Eridan after he finally spits it out upon their entrance to the Medium.
CC: It will be t)(e best for bot)( of us. We can just sort of be...CC: Regular friends instead.CA: noCA: please dont
- And then Jake to Jane after she denies having feelings for him and he says that he really needs a friend right now. Unfortunately, Jane was lying.
- In Sinfest, Fuschia anticipates it.
- In Blaster Nation, Matt falls into this.
- Takes the form of a visual gag in Ozy and Millie when Stephanie turns down Stephan: A heavy weight labeled "Let's be friends" falls on him.
- In El Goonish Shive, Sarah turns this line into a verb when she tells Nanase of her intention to break up with Elliot.
- Unusually for this trope, it actually works, to Sarah's slight surprise.
- In DAR!, Erika's first love Marni gives her this line after they break up. Erika does not take this well at all; in her depiction of this scene, Marni literally rips her heart out from her chest and eats it with a satisfied "BURP!" before saying nonchalantly, "We can still be friends, right?"
- From Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv):
Takada: Light, I've moved on. I have a boyfriend now and so do you.
- In the Scamalot episode "Princess," when James breaks up with Mina, he assures her that she'll always have a frined in him.
- The idols of hololive regularly get marriage requests from their fans. Shirakami Fubuki is noted for giving this response, saying "Not waifu, just friends!"
- In 6teen, Wyatt and bandmate Marlowe eventually break up after dating for a handful of episodes. When he assumes that they'll just be friends, she puts it another way: they would be "the best of exes".
- In The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Lady Tottington asks Wallace if they can "part as friends" after Wallace fails to catch the Were-Rabbit. He's actually turning into the Were-Rabbit at that exact moment and tries to shut the door in her face. She doesn't take it very well.
- In the Batman Beyond episode "Terry's Friend Dates a Robot", one of Terry's nerdy friends named Howard gets a robot girlfriend that's too devoted to him. When Howard uses this line on her, it does not go well. Terry even facepalms when Howard says it.
- In the Kim Possible episode "Emotion Sickness", despite Kim for all intents and purposes seeming to be totally in love with Ron, and Ron even admitting that he has thought about having a romantic relationship with Kim, he ultimately doesn't want to ruin his lifelong friendship with her note and gives her one of these speeches. Unfortunately, it's at that moment that the Moodulator switches from "serious" to "sad" and Kim takes Ron's rejection very hard.
- In the Big Mouth episode Requiem for a Wet Dream, Miss G does this to Coach Steve. He doesn't mind, as this is the closest he has gotten to being in a relationship.
- American Dad!: Parodied in "Iced, Iced Babies", when Steve "breaks up" with his mother.
Steve: We'll see each other around the house, and we'll still be friends.Francine: Oh, sure, friends! I don't need anymore FRIENDS, Steven! (runs off crying)
- In The Simpsons episode, "I Love Lisa", after Lisa ends up breaking Ralph Wiggum's heart when he falls in love with her, she gives him a card with a drawing of a bee on it saying "Let's bee friends!" Luckily, Ralph was amused enough by the pun to accept it.
- In Buzzlightyear Of Star Command Buzz says this when rejecting the advances of Gravitina who naturally doesnt take this well.
- In some added irony in another episode it turns out he himself was victim to this from his ex wife.