Matthew Perry, who died Saturday at 54, was one of the biggest TV stars of the past three decades thanks to his role on “Friends,” the blockbuster NBC sitcom that continues to be enormously popular in the streaming era.
The show looms so large and Perry’s performance as Chandler Bing was so indelible that it can be difficult to think of him in any other context. But Perry had a long and varied career that included films, many other series and the occasional play. Here are some of his most memorable performances and how to watch them.
Born and raised in Canada, Perry moved to Los Angeles as a teen to become an actor. He found early success, appearing in some of the 1980s’ most popular sitcoms (“Charles in Charge,” “Silver Spoons,” “Growing Pains”) and dramas (“Highway to Heaven,” “Beverly Hills, 90210”). But his life changed forever when he was cast, at 24, as one-sixth of what would soon be TV’s most famous group of attractive young Manhattanites.
As Chandler, Perry was the sharpest, funniest Friend. His instantly memorable quips and cadences were endlessly imitated by fans and sometimes co-stars. (Each of the Friends had a “Could I be any more …” punchline at some point.) Perry’s well-known struggles with addiction are unavoidably linked to his time on the show — for instance, he said he went to rehab right after filming Monica and Chandler’s wedding. But his performance remains mostly hilarious.
Stream it on Max.
‘Fools Rush In’
The “Friends” stars all tried to make the jump to the big screen, with mixed results. Perry’s first big movie role was as the lead of “Fools Rush In,” a romantic comedy in which he plays a New York developer forced into a shotgun wedding with a photographer played by Salma Hayek. The New York Times called it a “lackluster comedy” but other critics, including Roger Ebert, saw some sweetness beneath the one-liners.
Stream it on Amazon; YouTube; and Tubi.
‘The Whole Nine Yards’
Perry leans into his nebbishy side in “The Whole Nine Yards,” a crime caper in which he plays a put-upon dentist who becomes entangled with an ex-gangster. The tough guy is played by Bruce Willis, part of a deep cast that also includes Amanda Peet, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kevin Pollak.
Reviews were middling when it was released — The Times called it “underwhelming, amusing only in fits and starts” — but the cast keeps things light and entertaining and the film’s reputation has improved over time. (You can give the sequel, “The Whole Ten Yards,” of course, a pass though.)
Rent it on Amazon; Google Play; and YouTube.
During and after “Friends,” Perry guest-starred in acclaimed series including “The West Wing,” “Scrubs,” “The Good Wife” and “Cougar Town.” His post-“Friends” starring vehicles were more of a mixed bag, including the Aaron Sorkin misfire “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “Mr. Sunshine,” which Perry also created.
The best was “Go On,” an NBC sitcom starring Perry as a freshly widowed sports-talk host who goes to group grief therapy. Created by the former “Friends” writer and producer Scott Silveri, it’s funnier than it sounds.
Buy it on Amazon.
‘The Odd Couple’
Perry teamed with Thomas Lennon for a remake of one of the most famous sitcoms in history, which seems like a bad idea until you consider that the original was itself an adaptation of the 1968 film (which was based on the 1965 Neil Simon play).
As the rumpled, irritable Oscar Madison, Perry plays yet another sports-talk host, with Lennon as the finicky Felix Unger. A slightly naughtier update of the old formula, it worked well enough to last for three seasons on CBS, making it one of Perry’s longest TV runs after “Friends.”
Stream it on Paramount+.