10 of the Saddest TV Episodes Ever

Does anyone else love having a good cry when they’re watching TV? I think those episodes that make you emotional usually turn out to be the best ones. So I feel fortunate to say that I’ve seen plenty of them. And in all honesty, the sadder, the better. So here are some of my favorites.

How I Met Your Mother: “Last Words”

Robin (played by Cobie Smulders), Lily (played by Alyson Hannigan), Ted (played by Josh Radnor), and Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris) comforting Marshall (played by Jason Segel), who's holding his cell phone after listening to his late father's voicemail.

Every How I Met Your Mother fan knows and loves this episode. Present company included. This episode takes place after Marshall’s dad, Marvin, dies. So the whole gang flies out to Minnesota for his funeral. Plus, the rest of the gang try their best to be there for him for whatever he needs. Then, Marshall’s family decides that the funeral’s theme will be last words. Specifically, the eulogies will be all about what Marvin’s last words were to each person. But Marshall feels the last words Marvin said to him feel inconsequential. At least compared to what the rest of his family says. But then he realizes Marvin left him a voicemail and he then struggles with whether or not he should listen to it. The scene where he listens to it is heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. And it never fails to make me cry.

Grey’s Anatomy, “Sanctuary” and “Death and All His Friends”

Cristina (played by Sandra Oh), Jackson (played by Jesse Williams), and an unnamed doctor standing behind them in scrubs and a mask with their hands up as Gary (played by Michael O'Neill) points a gun at them as an open body cavity lays between Cristina and Jackson

I’m well aware that these are technically these two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy but they go hand-and-hand. In them, a shooter goes around Seattle Grace hospital looking for Derek. And eventually, he finds him. But not before slowly shooting his way through the hospital. He doesn’t shoot everyone he sees but anyone that gets in his way is fair game. Whether it’s the scene where April begs for her life or the one where Meredith thinks Derek died, it’s a guaranteed tearjerker.

Parenthood: “Hard Times Come Again No More”

Amber (played by Mae Whitman) with an arm cast and a bruised face standing with Zeek (played by Craig T. Nelson) standing in front of Amber's wrecked car

This one was a hard one to pick because there are so many Parenthood episodes to choose from. Almost every episode can make me emotional. But after some consideration, I ultimately picked this solely because of the scene between Amber and Zeek. Amber gets into a bad car accident and is fine. But doesn’t seem all that fazed by it. At least on the outside. So Zeek takes her to the junkyard to see the car she wrecked. Then, he makes this speech that will instantly make you sob. And knowing that that scene was mostly improvised only makes it that much more impressive.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad”

Zoey (played by Jane Levy) dancing with her dad (played by Peter Gallagher)

I hate to admit it, but I always knew they’d kill off Zoey’s dad eventually. I mean, he was sick the entire time on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. But when he finally does die, Zoey hears him one last time and they share a dance. And in the background, “True Colors” plays on the strings and we’re reminded of the first time she heard his heart song. Which is an equally emotional scene. Plus, everyone’s rendition of American Pie played on repeat for weeks after I watched the episode.

Smallville: “Reckoning”

Clark (played by Tom Welling) proposing to Lana (played by Kristin Kreuk) in the Fortress of Solitude

Smallville was such a huge part of my childhood that I still love it even today. But this episode still sticks in my brain. For Superman fans, this was the day everyone knew was coming someday. Clark’s father dying is an integral part of Superman’s story. At the time, however, I was pretty young so I had no idea. But the way it all plays out is brilliant and introduced time travel. But, of course, it comes with a price. So many things happen in this episode. Clark tells Lana the truth about himself. Then proposes after literally burning coal for a full-cut diamond. Then, she dies in a car accident and Clark begs Jor-El to go back. But time travel comes at a price. So while Lana lives, Jonathan dies instead.

How I Met Your Mother: “Legendaddy”

Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris) meeting his dad (played by John Lithgow) and his wife, Cheryl (played by Nancy Travis) at their house

How I Met Your Mother‘s one of my favorite shows, what can I say? In “Legendaddy”, Barney finally confronts his estranged father, Jerry, and his family. And Barney’s disappointed to discover that he’s nothing like him. Or nothing like what he expected. Especially since he has memories of him being quite the partier. Instead, he’s a boring suburban dad who’s married with two kids. Overall, there are plenty of comedic reliefs in this episode. But it finally hits you near the end when Barney tries to steal Jery’s basketball hoop. Barney’s not just disappointed, he’s upset. Because, as he puts it, if Jerry was just going to be some boring suburban dad, why couldn’t he have been that for him? Plus, the fact that Barney doesn’t know how to use a screwdriver just further proves his point.

Private Practice: “Gone, Baby, Gone”

Amelia (played by Caterina Scosone) holding her brainless baby

In Private Practice, there are plenty of great emotional storylines. One of which includes Amelia’s addiction relapse. Then, after she goes to rehab, she discovers she’s pregnant with her dead fiance’s baby. And it gets worse because we all find out that her baby has no brain. But instead of terminating the pregnancy, she goes through with it. Even though she, and everyone else, knows he won’t survive for long. So she decides to donate her baby’s organs.

It may be controversial, but I think she did the right thing. But it doesn’t mean the process wasn’t painful. Because it was. For her and the audience. Specifically, the scene when Amelia gives birth and when she holds her baby are especially hard to watch. And she calls him her unicorn baby. For most of the episode, we have no idea why. Until Addison fills Jake (and all of us) in and it’s the sweetest thing ever.

Grey’s Anatomy: “Flight” and “Going, Going, Gone”

Cristina (played by Sandra Oh), Meredith (played by Ellen Pompeo), and a passed out Derek (played by Patrick Dempsey), all injured and trying to keep warm with jackets, scarves and whatever fabric they could find after being stranded after their plane crashed

There are a handful of iconic Grey’s Anatomy episodes. “Flight” and “Going, Going, Gone” are prime examples. In short, Cristina, Meredith, Derek, Mark, Lexie, and Arizona take a flight to Boise to separate conjoined twins. And yes, I did have to look up why they took the flight in the first place. Because I forgot. Regardless, they never make it there anyway because their plane crashes. And they’re left stranded for what turns out to be four days.

Before that, they’re all pretty badly injured in some way or another. Some worse than others. And while six board the plane, only five come home. And even after that, only four survive in the end. Lexie’s death scene alone is enough to give me a good cry. Especially since Mark stays with her until her heart stops beating. Mark and Lexie finally admit they still love each other but by then, it’s too late. Then, Mark dies when they all get back to the hospital in the next episode. So that plane crash really hits us hard in the feels.

Lucifer: “A Good Day to Die”

Maze (played by Lesley-Ann Brandt) and Linda (played by Rachael Harris) dressed in dark blue scrubs looking shocked after Lucifer (played by Tom Ellis) kills himself with the paddles at the hospital

Even though Lucifer‘s over now, season two will probably always be my favorite. In this episode, a serial killer injects Chloe with some kind of designer poison. After trying to find the formula for the antidote, Lucifer and Chloe come up empty. When her symptoms finally become too much, Lucifer finally takes her to the hospital. But it’s no use without an antidote. But since the killer’s dead, Lucifer decides he needs to go to Hell to get the formula from him. The only way for him to do that now, however, is to die. So he does with specific instructions to revive him after 60 seconds.

However, when Linda and Maze try to revive him, it doesn’t work. Which can only mean one thing: he’s stuck in Hell. Despite being its former king, Lucifer gets stuck in his own Hell loop after getting the formula. So Charlotte (AKA Mom) goes down to get him. But it quickly becomes her Hell loop too. So Lucifer has to physically pull her away. And that scene gets me every single time. And the music just complements it perfectly.

One Day at a Time: “Quinces”

Lydia (played by Rita Moreno), Dr. Berkowitz (played by Stephen Tobolowsky), Alex (played by Marcel Ruiz), Schneider (played by Todd Grinnell), and Penelope (played by Justina Machado) around Elena (played by Isabella Gomez) dancing with her after her father doesn't show up for the father-daughter dance

I couldn’t make this list without including an episode of One Day at a Time. I probably cried for most of their episodes. But this one really hit me. For most of season one, Elena’s resistant to even have a Quinces because of what it stands for. Or more accurately, what the tradition originally stood for. But she finally agrees to do it for her family. However, before the actual Quinces, Elena comes out to her dad. And he doesn’t take it well. So much so that he doesn’t show up for their father-daughter dance.

After getting abandoned, Penelope stands up to dance with her, taking her dad’s place. And eventually, everyone else (i.e. the main cast) joins in the dance. And it’s the sweetest moment. But bittersweet at that because her father should’ve been there. And he doesn’t show up because he’s so adamantly against the fact that she’s gay. But at the very least, Elena has the rest of her family’s support. And that’s enough in that moment.

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