Debuting on Fox in 2003, The O.C. managed to win over skeptical viewers with its unique blend of shock-inducing drama and heartwarming comedy, making it one of the most talked about and beloved teen dramas of the early 2000s. Created and produced by Gossip Girl and Chuck creator Josh Schwartz, The O.C. was the perfect form of escapism that transported viewers into the homes of Orange County's wealthiest families, which is just one reason why the show has continued to stay relevant following its conclusion in 2007.
While many fans would argue that the series was at its best in the more lighthearted and "fun" episodes, which mostly focused on the friendships and romantic relationships between the younger characters, we can't forget the more emotional and heartbreaking moments that made The O.C. one of the most beloved teen dramas of all-time. Here's our ranking of the 10 most heartbreaking episodes of The O.C.
10 "The O.Sea"
Over the course of four seasons and 92 episodes, The O.C. gave fans more than a few characters to despise (remember Oliver?), but Kirsten's powerful and cruel father Caleb was undoubtedly the most irritating and hated among fans. Despite the fact that Caleb was mostly despised by the fanbase, his shocking death in "The O.Sea" and more specifically Kirsten's reaction to his passing make it one of the most heartbreaking and memorable episodes of the entire series.
9 "The Proposal"
While the episode takes place shortly after Marissa learns the shocking truth about Julie and Luke's secret relationship, "The Proposal" sets itself up to be a surprisingly lighthearted and fun episode, with Seth and Summer decorating Marissa's new bedroom. However, the episode quickly becomes one of the show's most emotional when Luke almost kills himself while driving drunk. In a desperate attempt to earn Marissa's forgiveness and speak to Julie on last time, Luke seriously injures himself, which leads to a surprisingly emotional interaction with Marissa.
8 "The Night Moves"
For a total of four seasons and 92-episodes, The O.C. made viewers and fans around the world wish they could spend Chrismukkah in the Cohen's stunning home, which is why it's heartbreaking to watch the family return following a massive earthquake, only to find that their home (including the poolhouse) and all of their extremely expensive belongings had been utterly destroyed. Of course, homes can be rebuilt, but the destruction of the Cohen house cemented "The Night Moves" as one of the more heartbreaking episodes.
7 "The Showdown"
While the younger characters were certainly the focus of the series, The O.C. found a way to make viewers fall in love with a few of the older characters as well, especially Seth's lovable parents Sandy and Kirsten. "The Showdown" is remembered by fans as one of the most emotional and utterly heartbreaking episodes, mostly due to the fact that it placed Kirsten in a horrific car crash, leaving fans to wonder if Seth's beloved mother had been left seriously injured or dead.
6 "The Goodbye Girl"
The first season of The O.C. did a fantastic job of making fans fall in love with the characters and the friendships that formed between them, which included Seth's nerdy first girlfriend Anna. It's never easy to say goodbye to a friend, and, while "The Goodbye Girl" didn't feature any game-changing moments or major character deaths, Seth saying farewell to his best friend (not including Ryan) made it one of the most memorable and heartbreaking episodes of the entire series. Also, who doesn't love a dramatic and emotional chase through the airport?
5 "The Ties That Bind"
The O.C. is well known for delivering heartbreaking and memorable finales, and the show gave fans a great one with the final episode of the very first season. "The Ties That Bind" made sure to hit an emotional nerve by sending Ryan back to Chino and forcing him to say farewell to the new life he found with the Cohen's, Marissa, and Seth. If that wasn't enough, Seth made things infinitely more emotional by sailing into the sunset, leaving his parents and his life in Orange County behind.
4 "The Cold Turkey"
Marissa may have been dead and buried, but the fourth and final season continued to use the character to deliver heartbreaking moments. While "The Cold Turkey" had plenty of uplifting and happy moments, including Volchok's arrest and a charitable Thanksgiving dinner, the episode also featured one of the show's most heartbreaking scenes. The closing moments of the episode gave us a heartbreaking conversation between Ryan and Julie, with Ryan beautifully describing the moment he saw Marissa for the first time.
3 "The Dearly Beloved"
Fans of The O.C. will undoubtedly remember "The Dearly Beloved" as one of the most shocking episodes of the entire series. While the episode is perhaps most remembered for the tragic showdown between Ryan and Trey, its most heartbreaking sequence is surprisingly centered around one of the older characters. Kirsten's alcoholism is finally confronted by Sandy, Seth, and Ryan with a heartbreaking intervention, which featured Kirsten's closest friends and family members begging her to enter rehab.
2 "The Graduates"
"The Graduates" lands second on our ranking for a number of reasons. The episode broke hearts with a beautiful graduation ceremony, which saw Ryan, Marissa, Seth and Summer say goodbye to high school and each other, and ultimately devastated fans by killing a beloved character. While teen dramas are known for pushing boundaries and exploring touchy subjects, not many shows have the courage to kill an important character, but The O.C. shocked viewers around the world by killing Marissa and having her die in what is easily one of the shows most memorable and heartbreaking episodes.
1 "The End's Not Near, It's Here"
When it comes to heartbreaking episodes of television, nothing can prepare us for the end. As the series finale, "The End's Not Near, It's Here" turned out to be heartbreaking for a wide variety of reasons. Not only does the episode wrap everything up beautifully with many of the characters going their separate ways, but we get a small look at what the future holds for these beloved characters before we're forced to say goodbye to them forever. As for the most heartbreaking moment in the finale, nothing quite compares to Ryan saying farewell to the Cohen home one last time.