TV Shows have an amazing way of allowing us to experience a plethora of different emotions. From spine-tingling shocks to crazy jump scares, all the way through to the most poignant, devastating scenes that leave us in floods of tears. In our ongoing series, celebrating the best the small screen has to offer, we dive into the saddest moments in TV show history.
For obvious reasons this article is riddled with spoilers. We’ve tried not to spoil anything in the title for each of these, although do be aware that some of the YouTube titles do spoil what happens in these scenes!
So get those tissues ready, prepare to cry one more time as we celebrate the 30 saddest moments in TV show history.
Oh, and just as an FYI, these are ranked in no particular order. Trying to do that proved to be an impossible task! However, do feel free to bookmark this page if you don’t fancy watching all these moments in one go. Alternatively, feel free to jump down the list using the links below:
The Sacrifice – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5
For many Buffy fans, this felt like a natural close to the series and where the show perhaps should have ended for good. Although there are some incredible moments in season 6, everything here felt geared toward THAT moment involving Buffy (shown above)
The Gift marked the end of season 5, as Buffy sacrificed herself for the greater good, saving the world one more time and protecting her friends.
It’s A Sin Finale
Ritchie was the lifeblood of It’s A Sin, the guy whom we followed from the very start of the first episode all the way through the end. The only sin with Russel T. Davies’ show, tackling the AIDs epidemic, is that it should have been long.
The end to the final episode marks an incredibly poignant moment and a devastating reminder of how crippling and awful this period of history was.
End of Season 2 – Doctor Who
The two videos above lend themselves beautifully to what is undoubtedly one of the saddest moments in all of Doctor Who history. In fact, this moment was voted #1 greatest moment in sci-fi, horror and fantasy by SFX magazine readers in their 250th issue. That speaks volumes for the power this scene conjures.
Romance had never really been done before in Doctor Who and it worked so well between Rose and the Doctor. Although this isn’t the end of “Bad Wolf”, season 2 marked a pivotal moment for the show as a whole, elevating it to brand new heights.
Church Scene – Band Of Brothers
There are some amazing moments in Band of Brothers, with several that stand out as tear-jerkers. Major Dick Winters telling us that he served in a company of heroes, or Buck finding his friends in Breaking Point are two such examples. However, the one that really stands out is the church scene at the end of the aforementioned episode, Breaking Point.
Away from the devastating bombs, seeing Lipton talk about the company and all the different loses they’ve faced is devastating – especially as it’s combined with each of these people fading out of view. I’s a truly heartbreaking moment.
“Would you like me to lie now?” – Angel Season 5
Serving as the spin-off to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel more than holds it own when it comes to emotional moments. The ending to season 5 brought with it several big deaths, the most notable coming from Wesley.
Watcher turned warrior, Wesley’s character development from Buffy season 3 to the end of Angel is nothing shy of amazing. He’s one of the best written characters in the show; a tragic player who never quite got what he wanted. Although he does get to say goodbye to his beloved by the end, it’s tinged with bittersweet regret too.
The Goodbyes – Hotel Del Luna
The final episode of Hotel Del Luna was just one big cryfest right the way through. The goodbyes at the end of the drama, as all our characters walk away, is an incredibly emotional moment and it’s typified by Man-Wol and Chan-Sung separating, promising to be reunited in a future life.
While the above clip is just a taster, all the goodbyes – one after another – compound into creating a really sad moment to close out the series.
“Good luck everyone” – Blackadder
What’s particularly striking about this scene is how, after so many years of sarcastic put downs and retorts, the final words uttered are those of genuine care and sincerity.
Seeing that field turn from grey to red with the poppies, remembering those brave souls who lost their lives that day, is something that hammers home the tragedy of WWI and remains one of the most devastating endings to any TV show to date.
Coach Kim’s change of heart – Sky Castle
This is the scene that broke many people while watching (myself included). For context, Sky Castle’s main antagonist is an evil and manipulative woman called Coach Kim. She’s a nasty piece of work and shows absolutely no remorse for her actions.
In this scene, way down the line at episode 19, she’s about to kill K with poisoned food. At the last second, she has a change of heart and decides not to. It’s a surprising moment but one that’s an absolute tear-jerker to watch, with an equal amount of tension as K happily exclaims “cake!” and hurries over to gobble up the poisoned food.
“Where do you think we are?” – Scrubs
Sitcoms have a great way of shifting the tone from humour across to sadness in the blink of an eye. Episode 14 of Scrubs Season 3 did this perfectly with Cox’s brother’s funeral.
The fact that JD asks Perry “where do you think we are?” speaks volumes, given we’ve seen across the show’s run just how much JD daydreams. And this moment seems to echo that he knows what’s going on with his superior. It’s a simple but effective moment that really helps elevate Scrubs.
Jurassic Bark – Futurama
Futurama is one of the best animated series, with some absolutely incredible episodes over the years. One of the saddest and darkest moments in Futurama’s history involves seeing Fry’s dog, Seymour, alone for many years waiting for his owner to return.
While I do appreciate another episode later down the line sees Fry go back and spend time with Seymour, without that knowledge this is one of the most gut-wrenching conclusions to an animated sitcom.
Mother Simpson – The Simpsons
Remember when The Simpsons used to be good? Way back during season 7, Homer meets his mother again after finding our she’s still alive but it’s a brief reunion at best.
From the subtle “doh!” to Homer just sitting contemplating his short time with her, every part of this scene is pitch perfect.
This short clip also encapsulates the brilliance of The Simpsons in a nutshell, managing to simultaneously be funny and emotional at the exact same time with both working in tandem with one another. It’s a really magical moment.
The border – Crash Landing On You
The K-drama that managed to achieve mainstream status here in the west, Crash Landing on You remains, to this day, one of the best dramas. There are several big moments in the show, including THAT scene involving Gu Seung-Jung and Se-Ri’s birthday but the border scene is the one that’s the real tearjerker.
After spending so much time together, it all comes down to this; saying goodbye at the border. With “peace” scrawled on the floor and a Romeo & Juliet-esque tragedy as our two leads, from different households (countries) forced to say goodbye, it’s hard to watch. Get the tissues ready, this one’s another tear-jerker!
Hold The Door – Game Of Thrones
Remember when Game of Thrones was TV phenomenon? Yeah, us too. Way back in season 5, Hodor’s devastating reveal ended up becoming one of the best moments in TV show history.
It’s a shocking and emotional moment, one that sees Hodor’s origin come into focus, with the past and present colliding together. Back when characters were killed off without hesitation, this scene was utterly heart-wrenching to watch.
Understanding that Hodor’s whole purpose was right in front of us this whole time makes for an incredible bit of writing, and a glint of brilliance from George R.R. Martin.
Jin and Sun’s goodbye – LOST
One of the best parts of LOST has always been its character development. Regardless of what you think of the ending (we’re not big fans of it over here), the characters were incredibly well written. Jin and Sun’s development from season 1 up to the end of season 6 is one of the best journeys seen on the small screen in quite some time.
From selfish to selfless; the pair decide to leave this world together after being divided for so long. Their final moments together, holding hands until the very end, is indicative of how far they’ve come.
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
As mentioned above, good sitcoms have a way of changing the mood drastically from hearty laughs to teary sobs. Nowhere else is that more evident than in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Seeing Will incredulously asking “how come he don’t want me, man?” is so simple yet so powerful. It’s one of the most iconic scenes from the entire show and the hug from Uncle Phil – solidifying himself as the father Will never had – will go down as a monumental moment in Will Smith’s career – and this excellent series.
Rooftop scene – Goblin
K-dramas have some absolutely amazing moments, perhaps more so than those in the west, and Goblin sure has its fair share of memorable segments.
One of the more famous examples comes in Goblin. Kim Go-Eun’s acting is absolutely incredible here, and as Kim Shin fades away, dissolving and fading from our realm, the true horror and crippling sadness that comes with this scene will undoubtedly bring floods of tears.
This one’s a real showstopper and easily up there with one of the saddest moments from any K-drama.
Marshall’s Bad News- HIMYM
What’s particularly poignant about this scene from How I Met Your Mother is just how realistic it is. You can be going about your day, optimistically looking forward to hanging with friends or playing videogames and then BAM, bad news strikes. In this case it comes from Marshall finding out that his father has passed away.
This scene not only strikes the right chord emotionally, it’s also amazing to learn about Jason Segel’s reaction. Before this scene, he had no idea what Lily (played by equally talented Allyson Hannigan) was going to be.
His reaction here is from the first take, breeding that iconic “I’m not ready for this” line which was improvised!
Superbowl Sunday – This Is Us
This Is Us has had some proper tear-jerking moments over its illustrious 6 season run but finding out what happened to Jack in season 2 is by far one of the best moments in the entire series. Sure, you could argue the penultimate episode of season 6 or season 4’s “The Cabin” are just as good but this is the episode where everything had been building up to.
Finding out what happened to Jack all those years ago is absolutely heartbreaking. The scene with Rebecca learning the truth in the waiting room is so natural and dread-inducing, especially as the realization of what’s happened hits home.
Buffy finds Joyce – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“Another Buffy clip? Blasphemy!” I hear some of you cry but given the power this scene has, it absolutely had to make this list. In a show full of fantasy demons, vampires and magic, this entire scene is so incredibly well written and one of the most powerful moments in all of TV history. How on earth Sarah Michelle Gellar didn’t win awards for this is baffling.
Too often in Hollywood these scenes are flamboyantly shown with massive bursts of emotion and loud sobbing but not so with this episode. From the camera just following Buffy around to the moments of silence after calling the paramedics, every part of this scene is TV gold.
Vincent Van Gogh – Doctor Who Season 5
Doctor Who is a show that constantly reinvents itself, sometimes for the better (the switch from Tennant to Matt Smith in season 5) and sometimes for the worst (Colin Baker’s run in Classic Who or anything Chris Chibnall has touched). When it comes to season 5 of Nu-Who, no other episode captures the beauty and poignancy of Doctor Who than this clip.
After a rather straightforward adventure, one that sees The Doctor and Amy transported back to fight an invisible monster stalking Vincent Van Gogh, the pair take the magnificent painter to the present day to show him what he becomes.
The Bridge Scene – Flower Of Evil
Flower of Evil is a special drama. It’s a show that manages to depict a complicated love story in the middle of a tale about psychopaths, killers and nail-biting tension. For context here, Ji-Won is a righteous detective and she’s married to Baek Hee-Sung. However, Hee-Sung may seem like a committed husband and father on the surface but he’s actually a psychopath… or is he?
I won’t spoil much more but if you ask anyone what the best part of this series was, they’ll bring up this heart wrenching bridge scene which is a stand-out moment from the show.
The hug & the ending – Twenty Five Twenty One
Twenty Five Twenty One may not have stuck its landing but out of all the K-drama released this year, episode 15 is the one that gave two incredibly poignant and tear-jerking moments.
The first comes in the form of Yurim and Hee-Do, who had been building up to their final fencing match in Spain to decide their futures. The hug at the end is such a beautifully written moment and one that’ll see you struggling to hold back tears.
The second half of this same chapter then changes tact and focuses on Hee-Do and Yi-Jin who find their fates very different after the 9/11 attacks.
The End – Six Feet Under
For some, Six Feet Under has one of the best endings to any TV show. Not only does it manage to capture the poignancy and sadness of saying goodbye, it also reinforces that all the people around us will be gone one day. It’s heartbreaking to think about and Six Feet Under manages to capture that so well through its final episode.
It’s worth noting that it’s incredibly difficult to find clips of this on YouTube, with the above video actually with French dubbing (sorry!) If you haven’t seen this show, it’s well worth checking out.
Colonel Blake – M.A.S.H.
War is hell. Good men die in battle all the time, as typified above in the Blackadder clip earlier in the article. Much like that, M.A.S.H. is another series that managed to show the horrors of war while simultaneously sticking within the confines of a comedy. The death of Colonel Blake is a shocking moment in the show’s illustrious run, and it’s a scene that was shrouded in secrecy too.
What’s particularly interesting here is that the producers and writers kept this twist from the actors until the entire episode was shot and done. Only a handful of actors actually knew what was going to happen before the cast were called back to run this final scene.
Goodbye Mr. Hopper – Sesame Street
Sesame Street has always been an amazing tool to help kids learn important lessons. Nowhere else is that more evident than in this beautifully written scene.
The actor who played Mr Hooper, Will Lee, died in real life. Instead of ignoring that, the producers of Sesame Street decided it would be a great idea to let the character itself die naturally, letting kids learn about death in the process.
What’s particularly great here is that there’s no patronizing or talking down to children. This show has always reinforced and encouraged kids’ natural curiosity and this scene is a great example of doing that in a constructive and educational way.
Mcdreamy’s death – Grey’s Anatomy
The moment many Grey’s Anatomy fans will agree is the saddest moment in the entire show’s run. Seeing Derek getting hit by that truck (which could have totally swerved out the way, let’s be honest!) is another touching moment that tugs on the heartstrings.
The show has had a fair few of them over the years, including that infamous plane crash episode and Percy’s death, but Derek’s death hits the hardest, bringing out the waterworks after all these years.
Wilson’s Heart – House M.D.
In a show all about death, medicine and trauma, Amber’s passing away before a helpless Wilson is a scene that many fans will agree is up there with the best in the whole show’s history.
Even House, who’s well-known for throwing in wise cracks and scathing put-downs at the most inappropriate times, is silenced as he respectfully allows his best friend to mourn the loss of his wife.
There’s a beautiful juxtaposition between how naturally Amber passes and the way House defies death and it’s one of the best parts of this entire episode – alongside Amber’s realization that she’s going to pass away.
The stairwell scene – It’s Okay Not To Be Okay
Armed with a beautiful blend of animation and heartbreaking drama, It’s Okay Not To Be Okay managed to deliver the feels with several scenes, but it’s this one that really stands out.
With Kang-Tae crying in the corner of the stairwell, as the realization that Sang-Tae knows about his confession in the past about wanting to “kill” him dawns, Moon-Young’s single tear only adds to the devastation.
This is one of those beautifully written scenes that really stands on its own and it’s testament to Oh Jung-Se and Kim Soo-Hyun’s acting that they pull it off so effortlessly.
Seok-Hyung’s patient – Hospital Playlist
Hospital Playlist is a well written slice of life drama, taking place deep in the heart of a Korean hospital. Throughout the episodes there have been a fair few moments that have tugged at the heartstrings but none quite like episode 12.
There’s not a clip for this online, unfortunately, but during the finale Seok-Hyung’s patient, who’s currently in the late stages of her pregnancy, finds out that she’s lost her baby. It’s a really poignant scene and one that’ll have you in floods of tears.
“I don’t want to go” – Doctor Who Season 4
Coming full circle again, this list concludes with another poignant moment from Doctor Who. It’s perhaps testament to the show that it manages to add so many tear-jerking moments but David Tennant’s regeneration, stretching on for a good 15 minutes or so, has so many moments that’ll have you in tears.
From saying goodbye to all those whom he journeyed with from seasons 1-4, the Doctor finally closes out his (and show-runner RTD’s) journey with the words “I don’t want to go.”
It’s a beautiful ending to this character and remains one of the saddest moments in TV history.
Thanks for reading!
So there we have it! Our list of the saddest moments from TV show history. There were casualties along the way but we’ve tried to add something for everyone in this collection.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve made it this far, drop us a comment below and let us know what the saddest moment you’ve watched on TV was!