30. Scott, “Beverly Hills, 90210”
Why it was heartbreaking: David Silver’s first and truest friend died by self-inflicted gunshot while David was in the room. At the time, David was transitioning from nerd to hanging out with the popular kid he was already feeling guilty about ditching Scott and his death haunted him for at least another season.
Tear Factor: One tear and no more because Scott really shouldn’t have been spinning that gun around his fingers like that, anyway.
29. Maude Flanders, “The Simpsons”
Why it was heartbreaking: Maude was knocked off of a grandstand at the Springfield Speedway by a t-shirt spewing cannon after Homer ducked out of the way. It left Todd, Rod, and Ned Flanders completely devastated and questioning their rock-solid faith.
Tear Factor: Sad feelings that may or may not have brought a tear to the eye (depending on illicit influences, mood swings, and certain times of the month).
28. Michael Scofield, “Prison Break”
Why it was heartbreaking: Michael made the ultimate sacrifice (himself) to break Sara out of prison by electrocuting himself. Later it was revealed in a video that his brain tumor was back and that he wouldn’t have much time anyway.
Tear Factor: Bro-tears, because we kind of suspected this might happen from the beginning.
27. Adriana, “The Sopranos”
Why it was heartbreaking: You could tell by the look on her face that Adriana knew what was about to happen. Still, the horror of seeing her on her knees, begging for life and then getting whacked seemed unjust.
Tear Factor: Constant shaking of the head and a slight mist in the eye.
26. Ben Sullivan, “Scrubs”
Why it was heartbreaking: Dr. Cox was so daunting and cruel in the first few seasons of the show that when we met Ben Sullivan, his best friend, we saw a whole new Dr. Cox. When he returned to town two years later for young Jack’s birthday and discovered that his leukemia had returned, he passed away shortly there-after.
Tear Factor: Annoyed, “Why is Scrubs making me so sad” tears.
25. Coach, “Cheers”
Why it was heartbreaking: Because the man who portrayed Coach for three seasons, Nicholas Colasanto, died of a heart attack in real life.
Tear Factor: Misty eyes that began to glisten as soon as we met Woody.
24. Robert, “Brothers And Sisters”
Why it was heartbreaking: After Senator Robert McCallister stepped down from his position to battle stage 3 lymphoma, he and Kitty renewed their marriage vows before her bone marrow transplant. We thought everything was fine but then Robert e was struck by a truck in his car.
Tear Factor: Mild tears, because we all kind of knew Rob Lowe wanted off of the show.
23. Prue, “Charmed”
Why it was heartbreaking: Though she’d technically died twice before, Prue finally met her end when Shax murdered her. We all knew that Shannen Doherty had a reputation for being a pain on-set, but the way Prue’s death destroyed her sisters (Piper especially) destroyed us, too.
Tear Factor: Really misty witch tears.
22. Marshall’s Dad, “How I Met Your Mother”
Why it was heartbreaking: After finding out some good news about his fertitily at the end of a stressful day, Marshall tries to call his father with the good news and is shocked to discover he had died of a heart attack.
Tear Factor: Sad, “I wish this “Dad Father” arc didn’t last for so many depressing episodes” tears.
21. Eddard Stark, “Game Of Thrones”
Why it was heartbreaking: Ned admits to treason to save his family and is beheaded in return. To see the narrator of a series killed in such a way — in front of his two daughters — was a sad shock.
Tear Factor: Sad tears turn to disgusted tears when Ned’s head is put on a spike and carried around.
20. Jack, “Alias”
Why it was heartbreaking: Sloan shoots Jack and critically wounds him. Unable to move, he insists that his daughter, Sydney, go to Hong Kong to finish the job and she obliges, through tears and goodbyes.
Tear Factor: Super-secretive, sad spy tears.
19. Delores Landingham, “The West Wing”
Why it was heartbreaking: After purchasing her very first new car, she was killed by a drunk driver on her way home from the dealership. At her funeral, President Bartlett delivers a powerful speech in her honor.
Tear Factor: Shocked, blubbery tears.
18. Edith Bunker, “Archie Bunker’s Place”
Why it was heartbreaking: All In The Family’s Edith died of a stroke in the second season premiere of Archie Bunker’s Place. Titled “Archie Alone,” the episode dealt with Archie’s worst nightmare: losing his wife.
Tear Factor: Pretty teary: we knew Jean Stapleton wanted to be written off the show, but Archie was SO DAMN SAD.
17. Mike Delfino, “Desperate Housewives”
Why it was heartbreaking: Mike had just told Susan about why he’s so closed off emotionally, how his father used to beat his mother, and how much he loved her. Minutes later, a black car pulls up and Mike is fatally shot, leaving Susan holding on to his dead body, screaming his name.
Tear Factor: Lots and lots of desperate tears.
16. Jen, “Dawson’s Creek”
Why it was heartbreaking: It doesn’t matter that Jen died peacefully in a hospital next to Grams. When she finally succumbed to heart disease she left her one-year-old daughter Amy behind.
Tear Factor: Pretty damn teary, given it happened during the show’s season finale. Dawson Teary, if you will.
15. Henry, M*A*S*H
Why it was heartbreaking: Colonel Blake was discharged and on his way home to the USA when his plane was shot down. At the time, most characters were not killed off of their shows — especially this unexpectedly.
Tear Factor: Shocked tears.
14. J.T., “Degrassi”
Why it was heartbreaking: On his way to tell Liberty that he loved her, J.T. was stabbed in the aorta by two Lakehurst punks. He died in the hospital, never having told Liberty that he wanted to get back together.
Tear Factor: Sobs, the shakes.
13. Rita, “Dexter”
Why it was heartbreaking: Dexter returns home to find his baby son crying, in a pool of his mother’s blood. Above him is Rita, his wife, dead in a bathtub — the third apparent murder of the Trinity Killer.
Tear Factor: “How did I not see this coming?” tears.
12. Omar Little, “The Wire”
Why it was heartbreaking: Omar, the most beloved character on the show! Killed by a child! So sad.
Tear Factor: Tough-guy, I’m-not-crying tears.
11. Dr. Mark Greene, “E.R.”
Why it was heartbreaking: Dr. Greene was the heart and soul of the Emergency Room and to see him die was just terrible.
Tear Factor: Sad tears with a side of the shoulder-shakes.
10. Jin and Sun, “Lost”
Why it was heartbreaking: Sun and Jin’s relationship blossomed on the island and to see them agree to drown together, holding each other, combined with the fact their child would soon be parent-less was too much to bear.
Tear Factor: Big, blubbery body-shaking sobs.
9. Mr. Hooper, “Sesame Street”
Why it was heartbreaking: When Will Lee, the actor who portrayed Mr. Hooper, died Sesame Street decided to use it as a tool to help death children about death. In the episode “Farewell, Mr. Hooper” the adults tell Big Bird that Mr. Hooper had died and is not coming back. According to the actors, the tears they shed while telling Big Bird that his friend had died were real.
Tear Factor: Real, terribly sad tears while contemplating what death on Sesame Street really means.
8. Connor, “Rescue Me”
Why it was heartbreaking: Just as Janet and Tommy were about to get remarried, their son was hit and killed by a car at the end of season two.
Tear Factor: The “use up an entire box of tissues” kind of tears.
7. Denny, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Why it was heartbreaking: When Izzie fell in love with her cardiothoracic patient Denny Duquette, we knew from the start that it would not end pretty. Still, we watched as Izzie did everything she could to get him a new heart, accepted his marriage proposal, and laid beside him in his hospital bed as he died of a stroke.
Tear Factor: Blistering, stinging tears that were echoed from every dorm room in your quad the night this episode aired.
6. Nate Fisher, “Six Feet Under”
Why it was heartbreaking: It’s never easy to see the main character of a television show meet his end, and even in a show all about death, Nate’s death was hard. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma, but when he came out of it the doctors assured him a quick and speedy recovery — which is why, when he died in his sleep as his brother David slept next to him, the audience was not expecting it.
Tear Factor: Begrudging, “I don’t know why I didn’t expect this” tears.
5. Lane, “Mad Men”
Why it was heartbreaking: Though the entire season of Mad Men was deeply foreshadowing a suicide or death from a main character, I wasn’t fully prepared to say goodbye to Lane Pryce. When he failed to kill himself in his car, he decided to hang himself in his office. His co-workers reacted to his death in the same horror the viewers did — and when we saw the body hanging so hauntingly, it was over.
Tear Factor: Watery eyes, a haunting feeling in your bones for the next 24 hours.
4. Marissa Cooper, “The O.C.”
Why it was heartbreaking: We all knew Marissa was kiiind of a spoiled-brat/waste of space, but there was something about her dying in Ryan’s arms that just killed me.
Tear Factor: Blubbery, “I swear I’m only crying because I’m so drunk on white wine” tears.
3. Buffy’s Mom, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”
Why it was heartbreaking: Joyce Summers died of a brain aneurysm and Buffy walked into her house to find her mother’s lifeless body. In a show that’s all about killing demons and other terrible otherwordly creatures, Buffy and her friends are in shock after this sad, yet natural, death. Additionally, the episode featured no background music, adding to the somberness of the episode.
Tear Factor: Real vampire tears, grief for days.
2. Charlie, “Lost”
Why it was heartbreaking: Charlie made the ultimate sacrifice to help get the other castaways off the island. At the time, it was devastating (and probably the most I’ve ever cried at a TV show).
Tear Factor: Big, ugly tears combined with sporadic shouts of “No, Chah-lie, you can’t die! Claire and the bay-bay need you!!!!!”
1. Fry’s Dog, “Futurama”
Why it was heartbreaking: Saying goodbye to man’s best friend is never easy. In the episode “Jurassic Bark,” it is revealed that Fry’s dog Seymor waited for him outside of the same pizza joint for years until his death. The episode is quite profoun — something that viewers may not had been expecting from a cartoon. Even worse, it turns out to be based on a true story.
Tear Factor: Fears forever and ever. And ever.
Honorable Mention: The Tenth Doctor, “Doctor Who”
Why it was heartbreaking: Okay, so technically David Tennant’s character on Doctor Who regenerated into the Eleventh Doctor and didn’t straight-up die. Regardless, it still felt like a TV death because it was terribly sad, as marked by his words, “I don’t want to go.”
Tear Factor: Infinite TARDIS tears.
Apologies to anyone who is bummed out after reading this.
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