10. “Son of Stimpy” from The Ren & Stimpy Show
Wherein Stimpy loses his fart (“Stinky”) and searches for him high and low, before finally reuniting on Christmas.
9. “The Mountains of Beyond” from David the Gnome
The final episode saw David and his wife, Lisa, travel to the mountains to die on their 400th birthday. Their loyal fox, Swift, is told he can’t climb the mountains with them, and must instead watch as his gnome friends die and turn into trees, in Nick Jr.’s apparent take on a David Lynch movie.
8. “Mother’s Day” from Rugrats
Wherein Chuckie learns about his dead mother on Mother’s Day.
7. “I Remember You” from Adventure Time
The story is hard to explain if you’ve never seen the show, but relatable for anyone who’s ever loved someone with dementia or mental illness.
6. “Baby Doll” from Batman: The Animated Series
The best episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series” featured tragic, empathetic villains (e.g. the Emmy Award-winning “Heart of Ice”). In this episode, a bitter, lonely former child star who is unable to transition into adulthood — thanks to an endocrine disorder that prevents her from growing old — kidnaps her former TV co-stars, and it’s up to Batman to save the day. “I didn’t mean to…”
5. “Dumped” from SpongeBob SquarePants
Wherein SpongeBob worries his pet snail, Gary, no longer loves him.
4. “Mother Simpson” from The Simpsons
MARGE: I just don’t think you should get too excited about the woman who abandoned you for 25 years. You could get hurt again.
HOMER: First, it wasn’t 25 years — it was 27 years. And second, she had a very good reason.
MARGE: Which was…?
HOMER: [pause] I dunno. I guess I was just a horrible son and no mother would want me.
MARGE: Oh, Homey, come on. You’re a sweet, kind, loving man. I’m sure you were a wonderful son!
HOMER: [unhappy] Then why did she leave me?
3. “Feed the Kitty” from The Bugs Bunny Show
Wherein a bulldog worries his kitten friend has been baked into a cookie. Directed by Chuck Jones, this “Merrie Melodies” cartoon was voted #36 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field in 1994.
2. “Lisa’s Substitute” from The Simpsons
Wherein Lisa’s substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman, but credited as Sam Etic), teaches her life is worth living, before leaving her for another teaching job. The Simpsons gave us so many tear-jerking moments that this list needs at least two (“And Maggie Makes Three,” “HOMR,” and “Lisa’s First Word” get honorable mentions).