Currently one of the most popular television genres, these days it seems there are far more beloved teen drama shows on the air than at any other time in the past. Often able to find large audiences due to the fact that they star gorgeous young actors that real-life youths like to look at, teen dramas also feature addictive storytelling that really draws its audience in.
One of the biggest difference makers in terms of whether or not a teen drama succeeds, when their audience emotionally invests in the series they tend to stick around. For that reason, over the years, a lot of these series have featured moments that emotionally devastated their audiences so much that they seem to become engraved in their fan’s memories. With that in mind, it is time to look at this list of 20 heartbreaking scenes from teen dramas we still don’t forgive.
In order for a TV moment to be considered for possible inclusion on this list, it first and foremost needs to have taken place on a teen drama. On top of that, there has to be something about the scene in question that devastated viewers in ways they will never forget. For the purposes of this list, we considered moments from any series that is supposed to be about teens and has dramatic elements. It should also be noted that we were open to older teen drama scenes as well, although more recent scenes were given preference.
20 Emily, You May Go First – "Gilmore Girls"
An example of the strength of Gilmore Girl’s supporting cast, during the season 1 episode “Forgiveness & Stuff,” Lorelai’s father Richard Gilmore ends up in the hospital after a serious health scare. Wanting to make sure his loved ones are taken care of if he takes a turn for the worse, Richard attempts to tell his wife Emily important information she would need to know if he were gone. Completely incapable of even contemplating the idea of losing her husband, however, Emily forces Richard to agree that she can “go first.” Already a sad moment when this scene first aired, it is even more heartbreaking now since the actor that played Richard passed away so during the show’s revival it was revealed Emily outlived Richard.
19 Eclipse Gives Up His Child – "The Gifted"
Connected to the X-Men film franchise, The Gifted focuses on two groups of young mutants on opposite sides of a battle. Formerly a couple and still in love with one another, unfortunately, Polaris and Eclipse have chosen different sides in this fight. More than that, their situation is further complicated because Polaris recently gave birth to Eclipse’s child and in an attempt to keep their daughter safe, has decided to send her away. Opting to inform Eclipse of her decision and convince him it is the right way to go, he agreed to the plan and then had a fleeting moment to say goodbye to a daughter he barely knew. As anyone that knows the pain of family leaving your life knows, it doesn’t get much more heartbreaking than that.
18 Convincing Shawn He Has Family – "Boy Meets World"
One of those shows that are hard to get a clear grasp on, from one episode of Boy Meets World to another the tone of the series could be very different. For instance, Eric Matthews eventually became a slapstick character for the most part but he also could get quite serious from time to time. One of the most remarkable examples of Boy Meets World embracing its darker side, during a memorable season 4 episode, Shawn Hunter actually joined a cult. A storyline that leads to an extremely emotional moment, seeing the Matthews family patriarch barely be able to contain his rage at the cult leader showed how deeply he loved Shawn.
17 Jamie Calling Dan His Best Friend – "One Tree Hill"
Fantastic evidence of how effective One Tree Hill’s storytelling could be at times, the evolving ways viewers viewed Dan Scott’s character is pretty amazing. An abhorrent man that does many awful things, including one especially awful thing we will touch on later, during the show’s early seasons he was downright awful. However, after making an especially horrific choice, his misdeeds haunted him and he lost everything of note he cared about. Despite the fact that he suffered that fate at his own hand, over time, many fans grew to hope that he could find some happiness. That is why it was so touching when Dan finally found something good in his life, due to the love of his grandson who described the two of them as best friends.
16 Ryan Protects Taylor – "The O.C."
One of the most popular shows on television at its height, picturing The O.C.’s Ryan with anyone but Marissa early on seemed strange but his relationship with Taylor was simply lovely. An odd couple at first, Taylor’s type-A personality was the polar opposite of Ryan’s, but before long, it became clear that she had the unique ability to bring out the best in him. Never sure of how much Ryan cared for her, however, Taylor’s elation when he proclaimed his love the first time was sweet. However, it became even more meaningful when an earthquake hit immediately after and Ryan protected her and kept the fact that he’d been horribly injured a secret until they were safe.
15 Jimmy Gets Hurt – "Degrassi: The Next Generation"
Known in some quarters of the Internet as that show that Drake used to be on, Degrassi: The Next Generation has a very loyal fan base. Among the people that helped make the show what it was, Drake was cast as Jimmy, a lovable character with the heart to overcome a devastating injury that changed his life forever. Wheelchair-bound after a character named Rick went rogue at school, only a show as deftly written as Degrassi: The Next Generation could do a storyline like this justice. An added bonus for this list, Jimmy’s partial paralysis also led to another heartbreaking moment in which he described what it is like to wake up and remember his situation that really stuck with viewers.
14 Revealing Jack’s Fate – "The Wonder Years"
Focused on a family of 5 making their way through the tumultuous times of the late '60s and early '70s, The Wonder Years showed a time of great upheaval through a youngster’s eyes. The prototypical somewhat angry television father, it always was abundantly clear that Jack Arnold adored his three children, but he had a hard time understanding them. More relatable as his kids grew up and began to understand him better, during the show’s final sequence, Jack let his son know he loved him while still leaving a lot unsaid. A moment later, voice over provided the sad update that 2 years after the show ended, Jack passed away and somehow not seeing it on the show made it more heartbreaking.
13 Ryan Moves Back To Chino – "The O.C."
A young man whose life was on a downhill trajectory at the time, when Ryan moved to an affluent neighborhood it obviously was a huge opportunity for him. However, when he first moved into the Cohen’s pool house it was unclear how his presence would affect the lives of everyone else around him. Thankfully for everyone involved, Ryan quickly became a beloved member of the Cohen family and he also went on to fall for a young woman and gain several close friends. Sadly, that all looked like it was going to end when Ryan made the decision to move back to Chino because he thought it was the right thing. Obviously devastating to virtually everyone, his departure, though short lived, was really hard to watch.
12 The Matthews Offer To Adopt Shawn – "Boy Meets World"
As we touched on earlier on this list, despite not being an actual member of the Matthews family, Shawn Hunter’s ties to his best friend’s clan were extremely tight. The best example of how deeply the Matthews loved Shawn, during the 7th season, they offered to have him join their ranks. Watching as Shawn grappled with feeling alone after his biological father who he barely knew passed away, Alan offered to legally adopt Shawn. Clearly supportive of the idea, things became even more emotional when Amy Matthews told Shawn she would be a good mother to him. While Shawn ultimately chose to lovingly turn down the offer, that in no way took away from how touching this sequence was or the love he felt for the Matthews.
11 Joyce And Buffy – "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
Chocked full of supernatural dangers at every turn, whenever fans watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer they knew they likely would see something meet its end. Despite that, when it came to the show’s many beloved main characters, it always was surprising to see one of them be taken out. Considering all of the show’s action, however, if someone important did pass away you would have thought it would take place at the end of a lengthy battle. For that reason, when Buffy returned home to find her once-vibrant and loving mother lying lifeless on the family couch, it was heartbreaking. A figurative punch in the gut that shocked in its mundanity, her character was so lovely that her passing rocked all of the show’s characters and the viewers to their core.
10 Alicia Doesn’t Get To Prove She’s Changed – "Smallville"
Only featured in a handful of Smallville episodes, Alicia Baker is still one of the show’s most fascinating characters. A deeply flawed person with superpowers of her own, after feeling alone for a long time she latched onto Clark after finding out about his abilities. Soon revealed to be unstable, she began to stalk Clark and did far worse to him as well. Thankfully, she received treatment and upon her return to the show, she wanted nothing more than to prove to Clark that she had become a healthier person. Easy to relate to, despite the things she’d done, when her life was taken before she could prove her growth it was sad to see her hard work on herself go to waste.
9 Bailey’s Struggles – "Party Of Five"
Focused on 5 children dealing with the loss of the parents after their car was hit by an inebriated driver, to say things could be difficult Party of Five’s Salinger family is a huge understatement. No matter how bad things were at first, however, it took most viewers off guard when Bailey Salinger developed a serious problem of his own. Eventually so far gone that his family and friends staged an intervention, the episode as a whole was emotionally exhausting. However, when his youngest sister Claudia told Bailey in front of their siblings that she loved him most and he still refused treatment it felt like a stab directly to viewer’s hearts.
8 Sam’s Dad Is Exposed – "Freaks And Geeks"
One of Freaks and Geeks’ main characters, Sam Weir is an outcast that has spent his life being picked on but at home, he thinks he has it made. That is until he discovers another home’s garage door opener in his dad’s car and comes to suspect the person he admires and loves most in the world may be betraying his mom. Desperate to believe the best in his father but unable to forget what he’s seen, Sam spends hours riding his bike around town hoping the garage-door opener won’t work anywhere. Continuing into the dark of night, Sam’s worldview gets destroyed when he finds a garage the opener works with and worse yet, his dad’s car is parked there.
7 Dustin Gets Rejected – "Stranger Things"
A truly lovable character, Dustin from Stranger Things has a pure heart and he cares so deeply for his friends that he would risk his life for them. Unfortunately, being a good person doesn't protect you from bullies, especially if there is something different about you. As a result, it was delightful to see Dustin develop a true friendship with a popular student like Steve during the show’s second season. Even luckily enough to be coached in confidence by his new pal before entering a school dance, it really seemed like he was set up for success. Of course, if you’ve seen the show you know Dustin proceeded to get crushed by several girls in a row and how agonizing it was to see the pain of it on his face.
6 Jen’s Video For Her Daughter – "Dawson’s Creek"
Far and away Dawson’s Creek’s three most prominent characters, Dawson, Joey, and Pacey were great but Jen and Jack always deserved to get more love. Especially ridiculous since we think that the show most heart-wrenching moment revolved around Jen when she passed away due to a heart condition. It was hard to watch. However, that moment paled in comparison to when she chose to record a video that could be played for her very young daughter once Jen was gone. Knowing full well how difficult it is for any parent to realize they won’t be able to watch their child grow up, this sequence only becomes sadder as time goes on.
5 Chuck’s Inability To Say I Love You – "Gossip Girl"
One of the most unique modern TV couples, Blair and Chuck from Gossip Girl were far from a healthy pair during a large percentage of the show’s run. Heck, at one point, he admitted to setting her up with someone else for his own monetary gain. Despite how toxic they could be together, however, it always seemed clear that neither of them wanted to be with anyone else. One moment that epitomized what made them both an awful and great couple, during a passionate discussion Blair pleaded with Chuck to say out loud that he loved her. Completely willing to forgive everything that had come before if he uttered those “three words” or “eight letters,” Blair’s anguish when Chuck refused was palpable.
4 Mr. Feeny Says Goodbye – "Boy Meets World"
Arguably the most tangentially involved leading Boy Meets World character, as the series progressed it struggled to explain why Mr. Feeny was still a major part of the kid's lives. After all, even though he lived next door to the Matthews, most people don’t have a tight relationship with the teachers from their youth once they grow up. All of that said, considering how lovable Feeny was and how touching the speech he gave when his beloved students graduated high school, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Addressing Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric together and then talking to them one at a time, the moment ended with Feeny telling the room his favorite students had just left how much he loves them.
3 Keith And Dan– "One Tree Hill"
Arguably One Tree Hill’s heart and soul early on, Keith Scott was always there for the people in his life, including his nephew Lucas and his mother and even his brother Dan from time to time. Despite the fact that Keith and Dan shared parents, however, each of them saw the other as a thorn in their side. Evidently no longer willing to put up with being needled by his brother any longer, Dan took advantage of a horrific situation to take his brother Keith’s life and place the blame on someone else. A heart-wrenching moment that nobody saw calling, seeing the look of shock and betrayal on the face of a good man like Keith in his last moment will always stick with you.
2 Spencer Breaks Up With A-Team Toby – "Pretty Little Liars"
In a lot of ways a show that could get downright absurd, over Pretty Little Liars’ 7 season run it seemed like virtually every twist and turn that could be dreamt up took place. Still, no matter how many betrayals the show had already featured at the time, when Toby was revealed to be a part of the so-called A-team it was hard to take. Seemingly madly in love with Spencer, who had been tortured by the A-team for years, when Toby’s deception was revealed it left viewers wondering if he ever cared for her at all. Ultimately revealed to be working with the A-team in order to protect Spencer, seeing how sorrowful she felt at the time is still difficult to take.
1 Bob Gets Caught – "Stranger Things"
One of the best ways to give a show new life, introducing new characters can open up loads of storytelling opportunities. An example of a character addition that was done right, at first Stranger Things’ Bob Newby seemed like he wasn’t going to be overly impactful. However, it didn’t take long for it to be clear that Bob had a heart of gold and even though he seemed like an average Joe, there was some truth in it when he referred to himself as a superhero. Opting to spend the last minutes of his life putting himself at risk so the woman he loved, her sons, and their friends could escape, our hearts sank when he paid the ultimate price.