Movie deaths are often dramatic, emotional, and memorable, from Rue in The Hunger Games to Jenny in Forrest Gump to Jack in Titanic. But deaths on the small screen can be just as tragic and painful. Below are 24 TV character deaths that will have you sobbing on your couch.
1. Marshall's Dad From How I Met Your Mother
It’s incredible how emotional Marvin Eriksen’s death was, especially considering he is barely a character in the show and only shows up a handful of times. The reaction from Marshall and the rest of the gang is what made Marvin’s passing so powerful and tragic.
2. Glenn From The Walking Dead
Glenn was my favorite character from the very beginning of the show when he found Rick in the center of the city and saved him from certain death. While Glenn almost died a million times, nothing could prepare fans for his supremely tragic passing that seemed surreal. The show also died along with him.
3. Joyce From Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joyce frustrated me to no end at times, trying to apply standard parenting tactics to a teenage vampire slayer. However, she always meant well and loved Buffy, so when she passed, it was painful to watch. Kudos to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s outstanding performance in this episode.
4. Ben Sullivan From Scrubs
Ben Sullivan was barely a character in Scrubs, but his death was unforgettable. He was Dr. Cox’s brother-in-law, played by Brendan Fraser, and he died of something Cox had told him was nothing to worry about. The way they reveal his death makes it all the more tragic and shocking.
5. Dani From The Haunting of Bly Manor
While Dani was clearly struggling after the ghostly and demonic events at the manor, I never expected the show would end with her death. The show seemed to have such a happily-ever-after ending until Jamie wakes up to an empty bed and finds Dani at the bottom of the Bly lake.
6. Fry's Dog From Futurama
Seymour was Fry’s beloved companion before he was frozen. The episode that shows how the dog waited in the rain, snow, cold, and heat for his owner to return and died there waiting will forever haunt me. They really ripped fans’ hearts out with this one.
7. Rita From Dexter
I died when Rita died. She was the only thing in Dexter’s life that convinced him that being good and honest was worth it, and she was truly turning him into a better person. Her death also seemed to mark the end of the high-quality storyline in the show, so maybe they should’ve let her live.
8. Kate From NCIS
This is one of the TV deaths that you genuinely don’t see coming. Not many main characters pass away in NCIS, so this caught me off guard. Kate’s death is particularly brutal because she’s shot directly in the forehead, giving viewers no hope of her surviving.
9. L From Death Note
This TV death might be a deep cut, but most anime fans will know this one. L was easily the coolest and most compelling character in Death Note, so his passing was brutal for fans who adored his clever and nonchalant ways.
10. Opie From Sons of Anarchy
Opie’s death in Sons of Anarchy is sad for many reasons, but in the end, he only died for the sake of the club, which hurts my heart. He was such a loyal and loving character despite his gruff appearance and demeanor, and he showed this in his final moments.
11. Charlie From Lost
I don’t even want to talk about this one. Many, many character deaths in Lost are tragic and heartbreaking, but I cry every time I see Charlie drift away in the water with “Not Penny’s Boat” written on his hand in Sharpie. He was such a hero in his last moments.
12. Sarah Lynn From BoJack Horseman
Sarah Lynn is the perfect example of a young girl tainted and warped by fame. Her entire story is tragic, but dying beside BoJack was next-level depressing. And his horrendous actions leading up to and following her death make it so much worse.
13. Finn From Glee
While we don’t actually see Finn die on screen, his death is still painful, especially because Cory Monteith passed in real life. When watching the episode about his death, you can tell that all the emotions and pain from the other characters are real.
14. Derek Shepherd From Grey's Anatomy
Derek Shepherd is one of the most compelling and lovable characters in Grey’s Anatomy, so when he died, it was horrifically sad. The death came so suddenly, and most fans did not see it coming, which is sadly very realistic.
15. Chidi From The Good Place
Yes, all the characters are technically dead from the start, but Chidi’s final death and goodbye are so painful to watch. Poor Eleanor pleads with him to stay because she doesn’t know how to be without him, and it positively obliterates my heart every time.
16. Poussey From Orange Is the New Black
Poussey was a wonderfully feisty character who made the show exponentially better with every scene. She died fighting for all the people around her whom she loved and sparked the riots in the prison, so her death was not for nothing.
17. Ruth From Ozark
Ruth, played by Julia Garner, is a phenomenal villain in Ozark, but she meets a tragic fate. In the end, all the violence and revenge she executed came back to bite her, as the mother of one of her victims shot her down. She was a bad guy, but her death was still emotional for viewers.
18. Brian From Family Guy
Brian is one of the only characters on Family Guy that I actually like, and they killed him off! Well, only for an episode or two, but his death is still emotional. He’s struck and killed by a drunk driver, making his death frustrating and tragic.
19. Zoe Barnes From House of Cards
Zoe wasn’t the most lovable character on the show. To be honest, none of the characters were particularly lovable. But many viewers felt she was one of the more redeemable characters, so her death was heartbreaking.
20. Joss Carter From Person of Interest
Joss Carter was a feisty lady who was easily my favorite character on Person of Interest. If it wasn’t sad enough that she died, her death scene is brutal and heartbreaking. I find solace in knowing Taraji P. Henson wanted to leave the show.
21. Nate Fisher From Six Feet Under
Nate Fisher was a complicated character who had good and bad moments, but that didn’t make his death any less heartwrenching. He died of a brain hemorrhage very suddenly and watching his brother plan his funeral just hours after will put a pit in your stomach.
22. Logan From Veronica Mars
Logan and Veronica were a beautiful couple, and he was a complex and layered character. It was heartbreaking seeing him die in the bomb explosion that concluded the season. It seemed like he was finally getting his life on track with Veronica, and the timing was gutwrenching.
23. Deep Throat From X-Files
I didn’t love or even like this character on X-Files because he was so shifty and seemed to taunt Mulder with information. However, I found myself deeply upset when he died. It happened so suddenly, as he was gunned down, and I truly didn’t see it coming.
24. Kenny From South Park
We all know Kenny will come back to life in every episode, but that often doesn’t make his brutal and cavalier deaths any less sad. The situation becomes even more heartbreaking when we find out he feels and remembers every single death and has to live this way.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.