Felicity might be most famous for Keri Russell's divisive Season 2 haircut, but the debates over her love life are just as popular — and almost as polarizing. Ben (Scott Speedman) or Noel (Scott Foley)? It's a question that has been plaguing fans of The WB drama since it first premiered in 1998.
We know Felicity (Russell) ultimately chose Ben, but was he really the best choice for her? At the end of Season 4, when the show explored an alternate reality in which Felicity had chosen Noel, it made the case she was right to choose Ben, but that doesn't necessarily mean Ben was actually the better romantic partner. Ben was charming, yes, but he was also a bit of a coward. On the other hand, Noel was always there for Felicity as a friend, but he wasn't always there for her as a romantic partner. So, who was the better boyfriend? We turned to our handy friend math to figure it out. Ben and Noel were both graded on a scale of 1 to 10 in a variety of crucial categories to prove once and for all who Felicity's best boyfriend really is.
Ben: Let's get this one out of the way right now: Ben did not always treat Felicity well. Sometimes he was selfish. Sometimes he was a dick. He definitely didn't always make the right choices when it came to their friendship and relationship. But he was also a college student dealing with his own tragic family history. What matters is that he (usually) came around to realizing what an idiot he'd been and made it up to her.
Noel: Generally speaking, Noel treated Felicity very well. With a few exceptions — like the times he acted somewhat entitled to her feelings because he was a nice guy who didn't let her down time and again — Noel was everything you wanted from a friend and/or boyfriend. Still, there was a little room for improvement.
Ben: Besides Javier (Ian Gomez), who was also his boss, Ben never really seemed interested in getting to know any of Felicity's friends — other than Julie (Amy Jo Johnson), of course, whom he briefly dated in Season 1 and carelessly used in order to get back at Felicity in the Season 4 alternate reality. He was also always down to rely on Elena's (Tangi Miller) know-how in order to better his grades, but that's really where Ben's relationships with Felicity's friends ended.
Noel: Honestly, Noel's relationships with Felicity's friends always seemed much more healthy than his relationship with Felicity. He and Elena were great together as roommates, he provided excellent support to Julie when she needed it, and he was always willing to help Javier out at Dean & DeLuca whenever he was called upon. Even if Noel wasn't always the perfect boyfriend, he was a great friend and really ingrained himself in Felicity's circle.
Ben: It took Ben a while to get there, but once he decided he wanted to become a doctor, he dedicated himself fully to this pursuit. He didn't even let his dad's liver failure or Lauren's pregnancy knock him off track, which really is quite impressive.
Noel: Noel always knew what he wanted to do and did everything he could in college to work toward that goal (see: NoelCrane.com). He got a little distracted after graduation, but he got himself back on track eventually and even launched his own business!
Ben: It might seem shallow to judge a man by his appearance, but have you seen Scott Speedman? It's easy to see why Felicity was drawn to Ben in high school, and his appearance only improved with each passing year. For instance, do you remember that sexy haircut he got? Of course you do. Now, maybe he wore that one brownish/greenish plaid shirt a bit too often, but he was in college, so we'll let it slide. At the end of the day, there was very little Ben needed to improve upon here.
Noel: On the other hand, Noel wasn't that hard to look at either. Honestly, if Ben and Noel were in a boy band together, Ben would have been the sexy heartthrob, while Noel would have been the dreamy cute one. His hair even had the right amount of bounce. Felicity was so lucky and she didn't even know it, let alone appreciate it.
Ben: Look, Ben isn't a Trevor or even a Richard, but he's definitely a bit of a dumb-dumb. That being said, Ben is an incredibly hard worker and makes up with what he lacks in smarts with a killer work ethic and an open mind that's humble enough to know when to ask questions.
Noel: No one on this show has great emotional intelligence or street smarts, but Noel has book smarts down. He never struggled in school and was always shown to be a talented graphic designer — that is, when he wasn't doing dumb things to get himself fired.
Ben: Ben and Felicity's biggest shared interest was Ben. And we guess Dean & DeLuca, Palo Alto and (eventually) medicine. But really, what did they ever have to talk about besides their own drama?
Noel: While Ben and Felicity were eventually able to bond over med school, Noel and Felicity were drawn together over their love of art. Noel was actually one of the people who really pushed Felicity to follow what was (at least temporarily) her passion before she ultimately changed her mind, which really seems like a metaphor for their entire relationship.
Ben: Ben may have whisper-talked and even mumbled a lot, but do you know what was sometimes beneath those whispers and mumbles? Jokes. That dude was far funnier than anyone ever gave him credit for. For instance, remember when Sean (Greg Grunberg) asked Ben and Noel if they'd ever felt an aching "down under" and Ben replied, "You mean like Australia?" Maybe it's mean to laugh because Sean did have cancer, but you can't say Ben didn't have a great sense of humor. It's just aa shame that it didn't really get to shine until the later seasons.
Noel: When you think of Noel, you probably don't think of him as being all that funny, but Noel's sense of humor often came out in his exasperated reactions to his situation or other people. He might not have cracked a lot of jokes, but he was definitely a funny guy.
Ben: Ben, Ben, Ben. What are we going to do with you? You make up a dead brother to get into college, you have an affair with a married woman, you get a woman pregnant and your first instinct is to cut and run? Not cool, dude. What are you going to tell that son you never really seem to see?
Noel: Yikes. Although Noel gets the rep of being the more stable of Felicity's love interests, must we remind you of Leon?! And specifically, Leon's highlights. But also, there was the time he stole Tyra Banks' emails, took smart powder, told Ben he slept with Felicity and thought he got not one, but two girls pregnant (does anyone use condoms on this show?!).
Ben: As everyone knows, the grand romantic gesture is a major part of every love story. Now, Felicity didn't offer much in the way of these gestures — everything happened on a much smaller scale — but there were a few stand-out moments. For instance, Ben gave Felicity a necklace to replace the one she'd lost. That was sweet! But Ben was also able to sweep a girl off her feet when he wanted to. The most obvious example of this was when he gave Felicity a time machine — OK, it was a film canister containing the movie they were meant to watch together in Bryant Park when he didn't show up, but but it was still romantic as hell.
Noel: It isn't to suggest that Noel was never romantic, but do you see any film canisters pretending to be time machines anywhere? We didn't think so.
Ben: Listen, a lot of what made Ben so appealing, both to Felicity and viewers alike, is what we've decided to call sexual magnetism. Sure, that sounds hilarious when said out loud, but it's true! Ben was sexy as hell, and he didn't even have to try. He just had it. Whatever it is. And this raw charisma — and insistence on intimate whisper-talking — made up for a lot of his lesser qualities. It also played a role in the intense chemistry that sparked between Felicity and Ben, and that's important in any relationship.
Noel: Don't feel bad for Noel because he doesn't rank as high in this category. He has a lot of other things going for him. Unfortunately, he just can't compete with Ben when it comes to raw sexual magnetism. And this is not at all a reflection on Scott Foley's appeal, just Noel's.
Ben: We can probably blame some of Ben's issues on his tragic home life. His alcoholic father really did a number on him growing up. But it still doesn't erase the fact that he broke Felicity's heart because he freaked out and wasn't ready for a relationship. And it doesn't excuse some of his more questionable choices throughout the show's run either. What really hurts Ben here is also his infidelity at the end of Season 4, but it's also hard to ignore that we know The WB ordered extra episodes and that's why we ended up with the entire time travel/alternate reality storyline in the first place. In the end, Ben committed to Felicity though, so that's what matters most.
Noel: When it comes to commitment, Noel honestly wasn't much better. He cheated on Hannah (Jennifer Garner) with Felicity and then wasn't sure who he wanted to date. And then when the alternate timeline came around, he again couldn't figure out if he wanted to be with Hannah or Felicity. In the end, since Noel eventually got married, it's clear he was eventually able to figure his sh-- out and commit, but it took him a while to get there. Guess not everyone can be Sean and Meghan.
So who is Felicity's best boyfriend? The winner is... Noel Crane!
With a total of 60.5 points, this notorious perennial second choice finally came out on top for once thanks to his easy-going demeanor, professional drive and under appreciated sense of humor (and in spite of all of those terrible, terrible decisions he made).
But while Noel may have taken the crown based our our highly scientific methods, it was an incredibly close race. Felicity's long-time obsession was nipping at Noel's heels with 60 points, only 0.5 shy of a tie. Because although Ben may have started off as a directionless slacker who took advantage of Felicity's affections, he really worked on himself throughout the series and those efforts paid off.
Felicity is available to stream on Hulu now.