Since we don’t often associate sad episodes of television with cartoons, especially comedies (which most animated shows are anyway), the episodes that hit us in the feels are usually some of the most poignant. We all remember an episode or two from a cartoon that was touching. Some shows have become well-known for running extremely effective “special” episodes. We’ll address those as we go. So, what makes an episode sad? Well, that’s a tough question to answer up top. Basically, we’re looking for the moments that impacted the greatest number of people. Yes, we will miss some. Whether they are shows that we don’t watch or are not aware of, or whether they’ve been overtaken by newer and/or sadder episodes, some of your favorites might not be here. Don’t get upset. There may be a part two.
Having said that, we’ve got plenty of sad on here for all the people who wish to be reminded of all the times when they cried as children or as adults. Many of the best sad cartoon episodes have something for every age group. There are different lessons for different ages, and this allows the show to hit home on multiple levels. Although many episodes deal with death–and death, as we know, is very sad–there are episodes that deal with growing up, loneliness, and abandonment. Each of these concepts affect people differently depending on their personal experiences. So, buckle up and get those onions out. We’re about to bring up some sad memories. Here are 15 Cartoons That Made the World Cry.
15 “Mothers Day” – Rugrats
Rugrats is a show that could have had at least a couple of episodes to make it to this list, but we decided to limit it to only one per show. This episode is also one of those sad eppys that many are aware of. We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know already—the season four episode “Mother’s Day” is really powerful. It takes place on (you guessed it) Mother’s Day, and each of the Rugrats makes a present for their mothers. Chuckie doesn’t because he doesn’t have a mother, but he doesn’t know why. He’s obviously sad about it, so the kids then search for a mom for Chuckie, but with no luck. Eventually, Chuckie finds a photo of his mother. This leads to his dad, Chas, telling Chuckie the truth about his mom. She died of a terminal illness after Chuckie was born. Chas then shows Chuckie her diary and shares a poem with Chuckie that she wrote for him. Crazy sad.
14 “Life Of Brian” - Family Guy
We debated including this on the list because it is fairly controversial. “Life of Brian,” the episode in which Brian was killed off in Family Guy, has raised a lot of questions. Well, wait. First, let’s acknowledge that when Brian died on the show, having been struck by a car, it was shocking and it was sad. We waited for the punchline, but there was none. It appeared as if it was real. That’s why it made the list. Afterward, however, Brian’s resurrection made the entire thing look very suspicious. It made it all look like one big publicity stunt, which these types of things always are. It’s hard to blame Family Guy, but it does lessen the blow of the episode on a second viewing, something that can’t really be said about any of the other entries on this list.
13 “Orders” - Star Wars: Clone Wars
Star Wars: Clone Wars has had so many great moments throughout the series, but when it comes to tear-jerking scenes, there is no bigger culprit than the episode “Orders.” In this episode, we see Fives, one of the biggest fan favorites, shot and killed. His death is hard to deal with because it was too soon and unjustified, and he knew so much more than he was ever able to say. He essentially lays bare the entire plot against the Jedi, but he is not taken as seriously as he should have been. It wasn’t necessarily only a sad moment either. This was an epic point in the series, and the information he was passing on was massive and game-changing.
12 "Remembrance Of Courage Past" – Courage The Cowardly Dog
Courage the Cowardly Dog has many episodes that are worth discussing but only one made it to this list. “Remembrance of Courage Past” tells the story of Courage’s past and his parents. While many fans believed that Courage was abandoned by his parents, he wasn’t. This episode shows that Courage was brought to a vet by his parents. This evil vet tricked the parents and put them on a rocket ship, shooting them into space. Courage tried to save them but he was too small and unable to. Although he escaped by jumping into a garbage chute, Courage had to watch his parents blast off. He just waved and cried.
11 “Auto Erotic Assimilation” - Rick And Morty
“Auto Erotic Assimilation” is a great episode that ends on a really sad and depressing note. We are often made to feel for Rick, but he rarely (if ever) feels for himself. He masks it. But in “Auto Erotic Assimilation,” he doesn’t and it affects us. The episode reunites Rick with a former flame, a hive-mind named Unity. They rekindle their former love and spend the whole episode together. Near the end of the episode, Unity leaves Rick and says that they are too similar. She then criticizes his lifestyle and his relationships with his family. Rick, depressed and heartbroken, tries to commit suicide but falls asleep before he can. As the episode ends, nothing changes. It doesn’t get brighter or end on a happy note. It’s dour and depressing right ‘til the screen goes black.
10 “Have You Seen This Snail” – SpongeBob Squarepants
Even though the SpongeBob episode “Have You Seen This Snail” ends on a happy note, the episode is impactful. It deals with Gary, SpongeBob’s pet snail leaving because SpongeBob is preoccupied and forgets to feed him. When SpongeBob finds the note Gary left him, he is heartbroken and goes on a mission to find him. We also see that Gary has found a new home, which seems great, but the owner is actually planning to eat him. Yes, they reunite in the end, but anyone with a pet now or in the past will catch a few feels from watching this one.
9 “Kenny Dies” – South Park
An outsider might not think that South Park is a show that could ever touch your heart, but it can and it has. The episode “Kenny Dies” might seem funny and ironic because Kenny always dies, but this episode deals with Kenny dying from a terminal illness. Now, the end of the episode ends as crassly as ever, but throughout, it’s filled with really touching and sincere moments. The friends give heartfelt speeches and each show different coping mechanisms. When Kenny does die, the grief that is experienced by the boys is difficult to watch without feeling some emotion yourself. It’s easily the rawest and emotional episode the South Park team has ever done.
8 “Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls” - Gravity Falls
Even though Gravity Falls only had two seasons, it made its mark on fans. For those who haven’t watched it, you might want to skip over this entry since we’re dealing with the series finale. So the finale, “Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls,” is as weird as any other episode. But take away the weird, and the show has real heart at the core. It always had the sweet touch to it but it was just covered in craziness at times. The finale really creates a dilemma for the characters and the audience. In order to defeat the big bad, one of the characters (Stan) must wipe his memory. They go through this in order to save the day, but they lose Stan, and Stan loses all of them. In fact, Stan lost out on the memories and the attachments he had built over the last two seasons. It’s heartbreaking because, as one character asks, if they lose Stan in the end, then what was the point?
7 “Baby Doll” – Batman: The Animated Series
Although “Heart of Ice” with Mr. Freeze was a very close second, we decided to focus on the Batman: The Animated Series episode of “Baby Doll” because it’s been talked about less. Both of these episodes feature villains who are humanized in effective ways. In Baby Doll’s case, this is a woman who suffers from hypoplasia, a condition which keeps her looking like a five-year-old forever. As a former child star, she begrudges those co-stars who “made it,” while her career suffered greatly after her early brush with fame. In the end, Baby Doll is confronted by Batman, and their fight leads them into a hall of mirrors. The final struggle ends with Baby Doll shooting at all the mirrors. She then points a gun at her own reflection, which reveals that she is crying, and she fires wildly at it. The final scene is of Baby Doll holding onto Batman’s leg and crying.
6 “Cookie Chomper III” - Alvin And The Chipmunks
Cartoon episodes that deal with death, especially those that are made for children, often treat death as a very simple thing. The episode “Cookie Chomper III” from Alvin and the Chipmunks, departed a little bit from the standard message. After the chipmunks find a little sweet kitten, they adopt it and love the crap out of it. Sadly, this little guy is hit by a car and killed. Now, each of the chipmunks deal with the death differently. Theodore, the one who found the cat, is in denial. He searches the neighborhood trying to prove Dave wrong for declaring the cat dead. Alvin is angry. He removes all other life from the house, including the plants, so that he doesn’t have to deal with death again. Simon, the oldest, is just sad. He struggles the most to move on. Each one shows a different coping mechanism. In the end, they all move on and get a puppy, which is a little quick, but whatever. That’s another coping mechanism.
5 “I Remember You” - Adventure Time
Although Adventure Time might appear to be sporadic and random from the outside, there are many moments in the show that are touching. Perhaps no other episode is as sweet as “I Remember You.” The episode deals with the fact that the Ice King is losing his mind and his memory. That means that he is also losing Marceline and all their memories together. When the Ice King wants to write a song, he rips up his scrapbook. Inside, Marceline finds a note written to her. It details all the fears that the Ice King has and how losing Marceline is the worst thing of all. In classic Adventure Time style, they sing this note into a drum beat that doesn’t fit it at all, but it’s still insanely adorable. The episode then ends with a flashback to when the Ice King found Marceline as a little girl. Niagara Falls.
4 “The Tales Of Ba Sing Se” – Avatar: The Last Airbender
“The Tales of Ba Sing Se” is an episode which gives us little snippets of backstories and glimpses into the lives of the main characters. The one that gets us is the vignette about Iroh. His story is sweet and gentle, and it ends with this nice old man, laying out a picture of his dead son and celebrating his birthday. He then sings “Leaves from the Vine” and laments how he wishes he could have helped people like his son did. Since Iroh helps people in his own way, it is a nice reminder of how humble he is. This episode is especially heartwarming because it ends with a dedication to the actor who voiced Iroh, Mako Iwamatsu, who had passed away before this episode aired.
3 “Arnold’s Christmas” – Hey Arnold!
Like a few other shows on the list, Hey Arnold! could have had a couple more entries. Many people get choked up watching “Helga on the Couch,” but we are drawn more to “Arnold’s Christmas.” In this episode, we learn about Mr. Huynh’s past. He tells the story of how war forced him to make the horrible decision of giving his daughter away in order to keep her safe. In the end, there is a really happy reunion, which only makes the tears come out faster, but it’s really sad for most of it. The craziest part is that this cartoon really puts you into the shoes of Mr. Huynh. You feel the weight of his decision, and it’s not easy to bear it.
2 “Mona Leaves-a” – The Simpsons
Whenever a show as massive and well-received as The Simpsons does something meaningful and different, it hits especially hard. In episode “Mona Leaves-a,” Homer is reunited with his mother who begs for his forgiveness. At first, Homer refuses. Mona then passes away. In her will, Mona gives each member of the Simpson family something small and somewhat meaningless. Homer is asked to dump Mona’s ashes off the mountain at Springfield Monument Park. It turns out that Mona had planned for those ashes to disrupt a nuclear launch, an act that gets Homer arrested. Each of the Simpsons, aided by the things that Mona willed them, then team up to save Homer. In the end, it brings them closer together. We then see a montage of Homer’s memories with his mom and see that he forgives her. It’s painfully sweet.
1 “Jurassic Bark” – Futurama
Futurama had a few tear-inducing episodes. Actually, Futurama had many, but none could ever compare to “Jurassic Bark.” Yes, this episode has been talked about a lot. But how could we ignore it? The episode, if you are not aware, revolves around Fry finding the fossilized remains of his old dog, Seymour. After he secures the remains, Fry discovers that he can clone Seymour and bring him back. He decides against this when he learns that Seymour lived for 12 years after Fry last saw him in front of a pizza shop where he told Seymour to stay. Fry figures that the dog moved on and would have forgotten about him, so he doesn’t go through with the cloning. We’re then left with the soul-crushing flashback that shows what actually happened. Seymour waited for Fry outside the pizza shop, just like he was told to. He waited 12 years, and we watched him age and sink lower and lower until he finally closed his eyes. The end.
Sources: Wikipedia; IMDB; Youtube; Reddit; Rotten Tomatoes