TV Tearjerkers: Episodes That Make Us Cry

By Staff

Nov 02, 2010

You settle into your couch, stuff your face with snackage, and prepare for some quality mind-wasting time—and all of a sudden you find yourself crying like a little kid who skinned his knee. These are the TV moments that catch us off guard, but also make us come back for more. Television has the power to make us laugh, cower, and beam with happiness, but it's the moments when we're reaching for tissue that stick with us the most.

We asked the writers at to recall some of the episodes that always make them cry and gathered up some clips to make your eyes wet as well. Don't forget to share your own weepy moments in the comments; we'll be your shoulder to cry on.

The West Wing

"Two Cathedrals"
The West Wing's brilliant second season built to a singular moment in the finale. President Bartlet and his wife had been covering up the President's advancing multiple sclerosis, and it was finally time to reveal the deception to the American public (having only revealed it to the rest of the staff, like, two days prior). Bartlet was weak from disease and from verbal beat-downs of all stripes, consultants, and Congressmen telling him this was career suicide. But in the 11.5th hour, Bartlet realizes that not only does he want to run for a second term, he absolutely must. Regardless of how hard it will be. He's so sure, in fact, that he plows through crowds of people from the Oval Office to the press room, refuses a jacket in the pouring rain, ignores press secretary CJ's advice to call on a reporter with a softball question first, and goes right to someone with the big guns: "Are you going to run again?" Bartlet stands there, supremely confident. While tears stream down my face at home. —Steve Heisler


"Out of Gas"
Talk about a roller coaster of emotions! "Out of Gas" alternates between the present day, where the Serenity is experiencing some catastrophic, possibly fatal mechanical problems, and the stories of how each person on the ship came to be there. We watch Mal at a shipyard years earlier, being told that if he buys this ship, she'll be with him for the rest of his life. As he and Zoe recruit their crew, Mal gets ribbed about the "new" ship's rundown condition. Back in the present day, things just get worse and worse, but Mal manages to repair the ship on his own after sending everyone away in escape pods. At the end of the episode we cut back to the shipyard scene, and realize that the salesman had been talking about another ship—a sleek, modern one. Mal isn't listening to the pitch. Something else has caught his attention, and he smiles. It’s the Serenity. On top of being a genuinely touching look at how this misfit crew became a family, you see the sacrifices they've made for each other, and how much they adore their ship. Just when you think it can’t get any sweeter, you realize that the Serenity is just as much of a misfit as everyone it carries. One-way ticket to Niagara Falls, please. —Emily Gordon


"Through the Looking Glass"
Chaaaaarrrrrrrlie! Noooooooooooo! You knew it was coming for several episodes, but it didn't matter. Damn you and your strings, Giacchino! —Tim Surette

The O.C.

"The Dearly Beloved"
The O.C. was about privileged, sheltered teenagers living in an idyllic bubble—and yet their trivial life problems made me tear up at least once an episode. I cried when Seth sailed away on the Summer Breeze in the first-season finale, and I broke down with Marissa as she tried to compose her college application essays during Season 3. But "The Dearly Beloved" turned me into a sobbing wretch. Season 2 ended with Caleb's stunning funeral procession, Kirsten's public breakdown, and Marissa shooting Trey—all to the tune of Imogen Heap's haunting "Hide and Seek." Watch it and weep. —Stefanie Lee

Six Feet Under

"Everyone's Waiting"   The last six minutes of Six Feet Under are the most brutal I've ever seen on television.  Set to Sia's "Breathe Me," we follow Claire as begins her long drive to New York to start a new life, alone. As she sobs with fear for her own future, time starts speeding up, and we see the Fisher's future. We watch Keith and David marry, we watch Claire marry, and we are forced to watch every single main character of the show meet their own demises. As was customary in the show, Ruth, Claire, and David each see their dead family members just before they pass.  Some deaths are dramatic, some are just the eventual end to long and rich lives, but all are heart breaking. This episode is a sobfest no matter who you are, but the finale also aired the week before I moved away from my family in North Carolina to start a life of my own in Chicago. My sister and mother and I were all huge fans of the show, and the coincidence was not lost on us. My sister actually made me a CD for the road with that song. I still can’t listen to it. —Emily Gordon

What TV moments turn on your eye faucets?

NEXT: More episodes that made us cry >>


"Into That Good Night, Part 2"
The final season of Roseanne got its fair share of flak, and I can't say I don't understand why: It took the struggling lower-class family we'd come to love and gave them lots and lots of money. But I enjoyed the wacky rich-people hijinks that ensued, and the lottery storyline paid off in the end. The series finale concludes with Roseanne admitting that the last season was a figment of her writerly imagination—a story she made up to cope with Dan's death. I start to well up when she admits, "I lost Dan last year when he had his heart attack," and the tears continue through to the end, as Roseanne sits on her less-than-glamorous couch, alone. —Louis Peitzman

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"The Body"
In a show about vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness, it figures that the most shocking and upsetting death would be a natural one. Buffy's mom Joyce passes away from a brain aneurysm, and "The Body" deals with the aftermath. The episode offers a somber reflection on mortality—no music, no supernatural elements (save for a vampire at the end), no snark. The scene that always gets me is Anya's speech, in which the 1,000-year-old former vengeance demon tries to come to terms with the impermanence of human life: "I knew her, and then she's—there's just a body. And I don't understand why she just can't get back in it, and not be dead anymore." —Louis Peitzman

The Sopranos

"Long Term Parking"
After watching a couple seasons of The Sopranos, I realized that David Chase was not, in fact, killing off characters just to toy with my delicate emotions—he was actually advancing the plot. (Imagine that!) At once, I began to brace myself for the potentially brutal, spontaneous deaths of my favorite characters, and it helped lessen the blows of those whacks. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of “Long Term Parking.” Silvio, Tony's hands-off consigliere who hadn’t so much as taken a mistress for five whole seasons, drove Adriana out to a forest and shot her. I still can't believe it. —Stefanie Lee

My So-Called Life

"So-Called Angels"
I tear up whenever I hear the My So-Called Life THEME SONG, but for a show in which basically every episode is Very Special, the 1994 Christmas episode, "So-Called Angels," is on a whole other level of tear jerkage. When gay character Rickie gets kicked out of his house (literally?), Angela and her clueless upper-middle-class family torment themselves over what to do about it. There's a devastating moment where typically aloof and apathetic Jordan Catalano reaches out to Rickie, having been abused himself. But the episode saves its most audacious and earnest scene for last: a local homeless teen girl (Juliana Hatfield), having successfully united Rickie with Angela's family, reveals herself as Rickie's guardian angel (literally!) and ascends to Heaven. Hi, I'm running for Mayor of Crytown. —Price Peterson


"Jurassic Bark"
Sure, "Luck of the Fryrish" is also an instant eye-moistener, but nothing makes me lose it like cartoon tales about the loss of a pet. When Fry discovers the fossilized remains of his dog, Seymour, he decides to clone the pooch to bring back his BFF. But just as he's about to extract some doggy DNA, he learns that pup dog lived another dozen years after he fast-forwarded a millennium into the future. Fry then comes to the conclusion that Seymour must have found a new owner and forgot about him, so he cancels the cloning and accepts that Seymour moved on in his absence. A flashback proves otherwise, and many manly tears are shed. —Tim Surette

Friday Night Lights

"A Sort Of Homecoming"
When I get upset or stressed out, I find myself with an unhealthy fixation on one tiny, insignificant thing. The singular focus is the quickest path to avoiding the pain at hand—a total stop-gap solution. On a related note, nothing is more emotionally powerful than recognizing this behavior in others. Such was the case when, on the eve of his father's funeral, Matt Saracen arrived unexpectedly at the Taylor's house for dinner, only to criticize their choice to serve carrots, a vegetable Saracen doesn't like and HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY NOT KNOW THAT? In a moment that should have singlehandedly clinched Zach Gilford the Emmy, Saracen twirls those carrots on his plate, muttering to himself and devolving into a sloppy, teary mess. Me too. —Steve Heisler

What TV moments turn on your eye faucets?

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  • AnoukvdZee Jun 27, 2014

    You said it: The Body is the most gut-wrenching thing I've ever seen, and I continue to feel that way no matter how many times I've seen it. That episode - literally - keeps me up at night, still.

  • brag0031 Apr 08, 2013

    Agree with The West Wing - "Two Cathedrals" and the series finale of Roseanne, but the other one that always gets to me the most (besides MASH - "Abyssinia, Henry") is the Season 3 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street - "Crosetti." The final scence of Det. Pembleton (Andre Braugher) in his dress uniform saluting is one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen on TV.

  • codakatz Apr 07, 2013

    Henry Blake's death on MASH. Several Buffy episodes -- "The Body", Tara's death, "The Gift". Fred's death on "Angel". Criminal Mind's "100". The three 9/11 episodes of "Third Watch" and the death of Bobby Cannavale's character on "Third Watch" (I still can't listen to "Only Time" without tearing up). Mark Greene's death on "ER". The deaths of Denny, George, Lexie and Mark on "Grey's Anatomy". The death of David Tennant as the Doctor on "Dr. Who". Magnum's listening to the recording of Michelle's death on "Magnum, P.I." I have a feeling that the firefighters' tribute to the little boy on "A Coffin So Small" on "Chicago Fire" will be right up there, too.

  • CynthiaBell1 Apr 07, 2013

    Buffy the vampire slayer "the gift". Is the only show that I can remember crying my eyes out, when she dies.
    There are a few other shows that have made me tear up however, the episode of Buffy when she has to kill Angel at the end of season 2. Yes, I agree with the Roseanne season finale episode. Most recently JR Ewing funeral on Dallas. When Sue Ellen spoke over his grave saying that she would have dinner with him....I was real close to turning on the water works.

  • CiaraGlynn Apr 06, 2013

    It's possible that, as well as issues with pacing and fractured storyline, the third place on this list contributed to me stopping's possible...that's all I'm saying...*EMOTIONS*

  • Lady_Jay Apr 06, 2013

    Oh my that would be a very long list...
    But recently I cried when I saw the episode of ER and Mark Greene died.
    Man I couldn't help it

  • AshleeReign Apr 05, 2013

    There are four episodes of MASH that do it to me every time:
    1. Henry Dies
    2. Radar leaves
    3. Margaret lets the other nurses know that she's lonely and feels alienated
    4. Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (the whole two hours)

  • brag0031 Apr 06, 2013

    "I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel... Henry Blake's plane... was shot down... over the Sea of Japan. It spun in ... there were no survivors."[

    Gets to me every time as well.

  • AshleeReign Apr 05, 2013

    Also the episode of Friends where Monica proposes.

  • Placebo_obecalP Apr 05, 2013

    Six Feet Under last episode, watched that on a bus commuting to work in Prague and I really struggled to hide my tears!

  • KimLundstrm Apr 05, 2013

    Mark Greene

  • BrokedownDog Mar 13, 2011

    I have to agree with the "Angel" episodes that dealt with Fred's death, Mark Greene dying on ER, Tara dying on "Buffy", but, the episode that left me bawlin' was "Criminal Minds" Riding the Lightning (where the husband/wife serial killer team, murdered 14 blonde girls). The wife had murdered no one except, supposedly, her own son (who her husband had told her to kill, when he was 2, because he slowed them down). Come to find out, he was placed with a good family, and was still alive ... but, would the female confess her innocence, could they save her if she did (doubtful, it was 2 days to execution), and would she tell Gideon who her son was, so he could bring her son to see her before she was put to death? Gut-wrenching and sad!

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