Top 20 Heartbreaking Moments on Teen Dramas

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Top 20 Heartbreaking Moments on Teen Dramas

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
We'll never get over the most heartbreaking moments on teen dramas. Our countdown includes "The 100," "The O.C.," “Dawson's Creek,” and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Heartbreaking Moments on Teen Dramas


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Heartbreaking Moments on Teen Dramas.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the absolute saddest moments from teen drama TV shows.

Did we miss any heartbreaking moments from your favorite shows? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Lexa's Death
“The 100” (2014-20)


This show is filled with violence and tragic moments, but one that fans will never forget is Lexa’s death. The commander of the Grounder clans was killed by Titus accidentally when a shot that was meant for Clarke struck her. The hardest thing to watch is that Lexa does not die right away, but realizes that her moments are numbered and gives Clarke a message of strength before taking her final breaths. The tragedy of Lexa and Clarke’s relationship sadly fits into a greater narrative of tropes surrounding LGBTQ+ couples.

#19: Quentin’s Death
“One Tree Hill” (2003-12)


Every season of “One Tree Hill” features a number of heartbreaking moments, and this one won’t be the last to appear on our list. Quentin’s character was only introduced later in the show’s run, but he still managed to make a big impact in a relatively short time. So when he was shot in a moment of seemingly senseless violence, it was both shocking and extremely upsetting. While the moment of his death was incomprehensible, it was his funeral that has us grabbing for tissues—especially when it became clear how Jamie was impacted.

#18: Stefan’s Death
“The Vampire Diaries” (2009-17)


In the series finale of “The Vampire Diaries”, Stefan sacrifices his own life to save Mystic Falls when Katherine tries to destroy it with hellfire. Considering how much heartbreak the characters experience on this show, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the ending was not a simple or happy one. Stefan wanted Damon to be able to live happily with Elena, and therefore he cut his own life short in order to facilitate it. In the end, only one of the Salvatore brothers could survive, and while there was no right choice, at least this option allowed Damon and Elena’s love story to continue.

#17: Ezra’s Betrayal
“Pretty Little Liars” (2010-17)


Aria and Ezra’s relationship, though seriously problematic based on the fact that he’s a teacher and she’s his student, was a fan favorite on “Pretty Little Liars”. So when Aria finds out in season four that Ezra has been lying to her for their entire relationship, it’s crushing, for both her and the show’s viewers. Spencer tries to convince Aria and the other Liars that Ezra was “A”, but in fact he was researching a book about Alison, and knew who Aria was all along. This means that he took advantage of her when he first met her and exploited her for information. We’re still surprised they managed to overcome this one...

#16: Ruby Gets Shot
“On My Block” (2018-)


Olivia's quinceañera goes from festive to violent in a flash in the first season finale of “On My Block”. Ruby and Olivia are dancing when Latrelle shows up on the dance floor with a gun and Ruby is the only one who sees what’s about to happen. He spins Olivia around in an effort to protect her, and calls out to Cesar, who he knows is the target of Latrelle’s attack. The episode ends on a cliffhanger without the audience knowing Ruby’s fate, in a shocking and traumatic end to the season.

#15: Jimmy Gets Shot
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” (2001-15)


Here’s a seriously heartbreaking moment from a show that lives to break viewers' hearts on a regular basis. Before Aubrey Graham was singing Hotline Bling under his stage name Drake, he played Jimmy Brooks, one of the coolest guys at Degrassi Community School. But with popularity comes the pressure to "be cool" and that includes making fun of those less popular – like Rick, who one day has enough of the bullying and brings a gun to school. He shoots Jimmy in the back as he runs away. Luckily, poor Jimmy survives, but is confined to a wheelchair, and his basketball days are over.

#14: Piper Mourns Prue
“Charmed” (1998-2006)


On “Charmed”, Prue actually dies a total of three times, but it’s her third and final death that hits the hardest for those around her. While, of course, the moment she was killed by Shax in the season three finale was devastating, this moment from the following season is the one that brings major tears to our eyes. As Piper mourns her sister, her feelings present as rage more than the traditional sadness. She breaks down and lets all her feelings out, directing them towards her recently deceased sister in this scene that is nearly impossible to watch without getting emotional.

#13: Omar’s Relationship With His Father
“Elite” (2018-)


When Ander’s mother finds out she’s gay, she’s supportive and loving, but unfortunately Omar does not receive the same level of support from his strictly religious father. Yusef wants to arrange a traditional marriage for his son, and refuses to accept him for who he is. Yusef’s shame is evident, leading Omar to distance himself as much as possible from his family. It’s a tragic story arc that is sadly representative of the relationships so many members of the LGBTQ+ community have with their families.

#12: Aimee's Trauma Over Her Assault
“Sex Education” (2019-)


“Sex Education” manages to strike an incredibly difficult balance between comedy and drama, covering all aspects of the adolescent experience. In the show’s second season, Aimee, who had previously presented a tough persona, experiences a sexual assault while riding on the bus to school. Though at first she brushes it off, she gradually realizes how much the incident actually traumatized her, as the season goes on. While this arc is filled with heartbreaking moments as Aimee admits to herself how affected she was, the conclusion of the storyline fills us with joy.

#11: J.T.’s Death
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” (2001-15)


Back to Degrassi again. The characters on “Degrassi: The Next Generation” experience just about every awful thing that could possibly happen to a teenager throughout the show’s 14 seasons. One of the most emotionally affective, however, is J.T.’s sudden and unexpected death. J.T. intended to tell Liberty that he loved her and wanted them to be together on her birthday, but that night is instead stabbed in a brutal drunken murder by Drake Lempkey. The fact that Liberty finds J.T. just makes the entire thing so much more difficult to watch.

#10: Allison's Death
“Teen Wolf” (2011-17)


In the third season of “Teen Wolf”, Kira’s mother, Noshiko, summons spirits known as the Oni in an attempt to defeat Nogitsune. But the Nogitsune manages to possess the Oni and uses them against our heroes, causing the gang to fight them. Allison kills one of them, but is mortally wounded by another who attacks her. While she manages to save the others, she does not survive the attack. Watching her die in Scott’s arms after telling him she loves him is just simply too much to bear.

#9: Freddie’s Death
“Skins” (2007-13)


In a show as heavy as “Skins,” there are endless tragic moments, like when Tony doesn’t remember where he lives– but Freddie’s death was one of the standout heartbreaking moments of this show. He and his best friend, Cook, are both into the same girl, Effy Stonem. When it hurts their friendship, Effy can't forgive herself and starts to see a counselor after attempting suicide. However, her counselor is crazier than his own patients and secretly wants her to himself, so he traps Freddie in a stairwell and beats him to death with a bat. The fact that no one knew what happened to him for so long made fans angry, but Cook figuring it out and avenging his friend's death made the loss of such a good character a bit easier to accept.

#8: Marissa’s Death
“The O.C.” (2003-07)


Love her or hate her, you couldn't help but be sad when the rebellious girl-next-door died in a fiery car crash. Until then, the saddest moment had been season one's finale (xref) when Ryan went back to Chino and Seth sailed away for the summer. Throughout her time on the show, Marissa dealt with substance abuse and depression, and acted out by dating bad boys, all to make her snobby mother mad. At the end of season 3, Marissa seemed to be getting her life together by going back to her off-and-on boyfriend Ryan. But on the way to the airport, her drunk ex-boyfriend ran them off the road, and that was it for Marissa Cooper.

#7: The School Shooting
“One Tree Hill” (2003-12)


Jimmy Edwards bringing a gun to school was dramatic enough. Let alone the fact that Lucas and a bleeding Peyton were stuck in the library while Nathan, Haley, and Mouth were stuck in the tutor center with the shooter himself. But the real heartbreaking moment from this episode goes down as one of the biggest plot twists in teen drama history: the death of Keith Scott. Everyone knew that Dan and Keith were far from the perfect brothers, but when Dan picked up that gun from next to Jimmy's lifeless body and put a bullet through his own brother, audiences everywhere felt shocked and betrayed.

#6: Jeremy’s Death & Elena’s Reaction
“The Vampire Diaries” (2009-17)


As noted, there are many upsetting deaths on “The Vampire Diaries,” but Jeremy’s manages to hit closest to home. While his death itself was, of course, traumatic, it was Elena’s reaction that makes this one of the saddest moments in the show’s run. Nina Dobrev’s performance as Elena shines in these scenes where she expresses her shock and horror over losing her last surviving family member. We see her go through many of the traditional phases of grief as she processes her brother’s passing, and it’s hard to decide which one is the most difficult to watch.

#5: Justin’s Death
“13 Reasons Why” (2017-20)


There are a lot of tragic moments to choose from in this teen drama, but Justin’s sudden AIDS diagnosis and subsequent death top the list. Because of his experience with homelessness and subsequent struggles with risky behaviour, Justin contracted HIV, and at the end of the fourth season is told that the doctors had diagnosed him too late for him to receive life-saving treatment. He soon develops pneumonia and meningitis, which abruptly end his life before the school’s graduation ceremony. So, so sad.

#4: Jen's Video to Her Daughter
“Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003)


In the two-part series finale set five years in the future, viewers learn that one of the main characters, Jen Lindley, is suffering from a fatal heart condition. During the show's final season, Jen dealt with her grandmother being diagnosed with breast cancer. It's only fitting – and absolutely heartbreaking – that Jen's Grams would be by her side as she dies of her own illness. And if that doesn’t get to you, the video she makes to her then one-year-old daughter will; where she lists all the things she hopes for her daughter’s life. While the drama was named for the titular character Dawson Leery, Jen was often the heart of the show, and fans were sad to see her get such a bleak ending.

#3: Buffy Kills Angel
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)


The only thing harder than being in love with a vampire is being a vampire hunter whose sole purpose is to kill people like him. This... minor setback weighs heavily on Buffy and Angel’s relationship throughout earlier seasons, but reaches a whole new level when Angel becomes his evil alter ego, Angelus. In the season two finale, Buffy and Angelus are locked in battle as he attempts to raise a demon. Angel's soul is restored, but in order to save the world, Buffy is forced to put a sword through his body to stop the demon as he creates a vortex– pushing Angel into it as a result. Angel fortunately doesn't actually die, but Buffy would have to endure her mother’s devastating death later down the line.

#2: Luke Perry Tribute
“Riverdale” (2017-)


When an actor dies suddenly before their time, many shows struggle to hastily put together an appropriate tribute to their life on the show. In dealing with an incredibly difficult situation, “Riverdale” managed to send off Luke Perry’s character, Fred Andrews, in the season four premiere, which aired the year following the actor’s death. Fred dies in a simple act of heroism, saving a woman’s life but sacrificing his own in a hit-and-run incident. Because this entire episode is tinged with the reality of what happened to Perry, it’s all the more devastating.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Fred Is Infected by a Demon
“Angel” (1999-2004)

Stiles Saves Scott
“Teen Wolf” (2011-)

Maya's Death
“Pretty Little Liars” (2010-17)

Sheriff Elizabeth Forbes' Death, “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-)
One of the Last Parents on the Show Succumbs to Cancer

The Breakup, “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000)
Brenda Unexpectedly Breaks Up With Dylan

#1: The New Directions Sing About Finn's Death
“Glee” (2009-15)


The only thing more heartbreaking than a main character dying on a show is the actual actor passing away. Cory Monteith, who played Finn on “Glee,” died of a drug overdose before season 5, and so his character had to be written off as well. This episode, titled "The Quarterback," served as a tribute to the actor and character that had been on the show since episode 1. Besides the opening number in which the whole cast sang a song in his honor, other characters paid tribute to his death with music–most notably Lea Michele, who was not only his on-screen love interest but his real life girlfriend as well. So when Rachel sang "Make You Feel My Love," wow... we all felt it.
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