Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Cartoon Moments



Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Cartoon Moments

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Whitney Wilson
We're still not over the most heartbreaking cartoon moments. Our countdown includes "The Simpsons," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," "Adventure Time," and more!

Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Cartoon Moments

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Cartoon Moments.

For this list, we’ll be looking at moments from our favorite cartoons that made us ugly cry. We’ll be excluding anime, and animated feature films, which both deserve their own lists. Some of these moments have major impacts on not only our hearts but on storylines, so please consider this your spoiler warning.

What’s the saddest moment from your favorite cartoon? Be sure to share it with us in the comments below.

#10: Brian Dies
“Family Guy” (1999-2003; 2005-)

Considering the sometimes crude nature of “Family Guy,” this emotional moment came as a huge shock to viewers. As Stewie and Brian are setting up for a game of hockey, Brian is unexpectedly hit by a car while Stewie watches helplessly. The Griffins rush Brian to the vet, but his injuries are too serious. As Brian lies dying on the table, he thanks the family for a wonderful life and tells them he loves them before passing away. Thankfully, the show revived Brian two episodes later, but his death really brought on the tears with its surprising poignancy.

#9: SpongeBob Loses Gary
“SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-)

This show has definitely dealt some emotional blows before, from SpongeBob almost dying due to pie ... to Sandy’s heartbreaking homesickness. However, its saddest moment is when SpongeBob loses his beloved snail Gary. After SpongeBob forgets to feed him, Gary runs away from home. A devastated SpongeBob searches all over Bikini Bottom, fearing his beloved snail is gone forever. As he puts up posters and apologizes publicly, the song “Gary Come Home” plays in the background, reflecting SpongeBob’s sorrow and tugging at the audience’s heartstrings. The episode has a happy ending when SpongeBob and Gary are reunited, but SpongeBob’s panicked search is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever lost a pet.

#8: Rick Almost Takes His Own Life
“Rick and Morty” (2013-)

“Rick and Morty” definitely doesn’t shy away from darker themes, but this moment really highlights the troubled nature of its titular mad scientist. After Rick is dumped via letter, he returns home and retreats to his lab. Unfreezing a deformed creature, he comforts it, then puts it out of its misery with a death ray. Rick then intends to use the death ray on himself but thankfully passes out before it powers up. This scene is a real gut-punch for the audience and serves as a grim reminder that Rick’s mind, while brilliant, is a very dark place.

#7: Pops' Sacrifice
“Regular Show” (2010-17)

“Regular Show” is known for its relatable characters and 80s references, but it’s also known for having one of the most bittersweet series finales in cartoon history. Rigby, Mordecai and their friends are caught in an epic space battle with Anti-Pops, the powerful, evil brother of the jolly, kind-hearted Pops. Realizing it’s the only way to save his friends and the universe, Pops sacrifices himself. After the battle, the gang returns to Earth, and they raise a statue in honor of Pops while David Bowie’s “Heroes” plays in the background. It broke our hearts to lose such a beloved character, but at least he went out as he wished: protecting those he loved.

#6: Homer & His Mother Are Separated Again
“The Simpsons” (1989-)

After believing his mother has been dead for over two decades, Homer discovers she’s alive. As it turns out, his mother Mona was identified while attempting to destroy Mr. Burns’ germ warfare laboratory, and had to go into hiding to keep her family safe. Mona and Homer are reunited, but their happiness is sadly cut short when Mr. Burns tips off the FBI to Mona’s whereabouts and she has to go back into hiding. After they’re separated once again, he sits on the hood of his car to quietly watch the stars as the credits roll.

#5: Janice's Illness
“Why, Charlie Brown, Why?” (1990)

We often turn to cartoons to escape reality, but sometimes they touch on the most tragic aspects of real life. In the “Peanuts” special “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?” we meet Charlie and Linus’ new classmate and friend Janice. Janice starts to feel sick and is hospitalized, where she’s diagnosed with leukemia. Due to her aggressive chemotherapy treatments, the young Janice loses her hair and is bullied over it. Linus steps in to stop the bullying in an incredibly emotional scene sure to shatter even the hardest of hearts. The special ends on a happy note, but this all-too-realistic story is an emotional suckerpunch from start to finish.

#4: I Remember You
“Adventure Time” (2010-18)

The Ice King started out as “Adventure Time”’s main antagonist, but this episode reveals his tragic backstory during a duet with Marceline. Years before the series, the Ice King, then simply known as Simon Petrikov, rescued a scared young Marceline in the catastrophic fallout of the Mushroom War and kept her safe. Unfortunately, their life together could not last as the crown that grants the Ice King his powers and immortality also strips him of his memory and sanity. His curse is viewed as a metaphor for bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Anyone who has loved a person who struggles with mental illness can relate to the emotions Marceline expresses as she sings with him.

#3: Chuckie Remembers His Mom
“Rugrats” (1991-2004)

We didn’t expect to learn quite so much about love and loss from a show about toddlers. In this episode, the babies prepare for Mother’s Day. Chuckie doesn't understand why he doesn't have a mom to give a gift to, but he recalls having a mom in his dreams. After realizing his dad is the “bestest mom ever,” Chuckie finds a picture of the woman from his dreams and gives the picture to his dad Chas as a Mother’s Day present. A mournful Chas explains to Chuckie that his mom passed away when he was very young and takes him out to the garden to show him the beautiful flowers she planted. Chuckie realizes he didn’t simply dream up his mom – he’s remembered her all along.

#2: Leaves From the Vine
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)

Given that “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is considered one of the greatest cartoons of all time, it’s no surprise that the writers knew how to make us tearbend. The vignette “The Tale of Iroh” follows the kind, wise Iroh as he helps strangers around Ba Sing Se. He then journeys to the top of a hill and sets up a birthday memorial to his son Lu Ten, who tragically died during the failed siege of the city where Iroh now resides. Iroh honors his son by tearfully singing as the sun sets in the distance. This moment is made even more poignant by the fact that Iroh’s longtime voice actor Mako passed away before the episode aired, and the episode is dedicated in his honor.

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

In Arkham, Mr. Freeze Begs a Figurine of His Wife Nora For Forgiveness
“Batman: The Animated Series" (1992-95)

Mr. Hyunh Sends His Daughter Mai to Safety & Is Separated From Her for Decades
“Hey Arnold” (1996-2004)

The Biologically Unstable Bunny Returns to Save Her Sisters & Explodes as a Result
“The Powerpuff Girls” (1998-2005)

Kenny Dies Before Stan Gets to the Hospital
“South Park” (1997-)

Steven & a Heartbroken Pearl Discuss Rose Quartz
“Steven Universe” (2013-19)

#1: Seymour Waits For Fry
“Futurama” (1999-2003 ; 2008-13)

This episode starts with Fry finding artifacts from his old workplace, including his perfectly preserved dog Seymour. Through a series of flashbacks, we see Fry find a homeless Seymour and feed him, creating a powerful bond between them. In the process of cloning and restoring Seymour, Fry finds out that the dog lived for twelve years after Fry was cryogenically frozen. Fry assumes Seymour lived a happy life after he disappeared and stops the cloning process. Tragically, the audience learns that Seymour actually waited for Fry to show up to work every single day for twelve years before he died of old age. Seymour’s unwavering loyalty and Fry’s lack of understanding create the perfect storm to give us the most heartbreaking cartoon moment of all time.
This is heartfelt
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