I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's been over 20 years since the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired! Where does the time go? Well, if anyone out there is a major BTVS fan, it’s spent marathoning the series over and over again so our favorite characters have a chance to live again! Because Joss Whedon seems to enjoy our pain, more than a few major characters faced untimely demises that left us ugly-crying. One would think that for a show that is crawling with vampires, demons, and other versions of the undead, we’d be prepared for the assault on our emotions that happened throughout seven series of this incredible show. But, as is often the case, just when we were at our most comfortable or least expected it, we were given the kind of emotional whammy that had us bawling our eyes out!
There are plenty of moments that ripped out our hearts and left a gory mess on the floor, but these 15 are certainly the kind that still have the power to give us the feels years later.
15 When Buffy Confessed That She Was In Heaven
After the gang resurrected Buffy, they were all convinced that she had been spending time in hell, and that they had given her a great gift in bringing her back to life and to Sunnydale. They assumed all this without even checking with her, because if they had, they might have learned earlier that Buffy wasn’t in hell – she was in heaven, finally given a chance to experience some form of peace after years of fighting bad guys and saving the world. Before Buffy tells everyone in the musical episode, “Once More With Feeling,” she tells Spike the truth in “After Life,” and it’s not even the reveal that she was happy before that’s soul-crushing, it’s Buffy’s admission that she can never tell her friends the truth. Which is yet another burden that Buffy is forced to bear.
14 When Buffy Was Crowned Class Protector
After three seasons of Buffy saving the world – specifically her classmates at Sunnydale High – she finally gets the recognition she deserves in the form of a bedazzled umbrella and the title of “Class Protector.” This moment has the rare distinction of being a time where we can cry happy tears, because after rescuing everyone from vampires, hyena-people, fish demons, invisible girls—the list goes on and on—her big secret gets a thanks from her entire class. (It also has the distinction of being Sarah Michelle Gellar’s favorite episode.) There aren’t a lot of moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where we can breathe a happy sigh through our tears, but this is definitely one of them. We’ll never look at an umbrella the same way again.
13 When Everyone Left To Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye to You”
"Tabula Rasa” is a great episode because it’s one of the episodes from the show that is almost entirely comedic. After Willow casts a spell to make Tara and Buffy forget their troubles (for Tara, that Willow is dabbling in magic again, and for Buffy, that Giles is leaving), things go wrong, and everyone forgets who they are. It makes for great hijinks, until the very end when the spell is broken. Once everyone remembers who they are, Tara packs up her things to leave Willow (who’s in tears in the bathroom), Giles heads to England to give Buffy the courage to fight on her own, and Buffy ignores Spike at The Bronze - all of it set to Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye To You,” which is guaranteed to make anyone weep.
12 When Buffy And Angel Reenacted Dead Lovers
Oh, my heart! After Angel transformed into Angelus—full of evil and undiluted hatred for Buffy—we get one of the saddest moments between the couple when Buffy and Angel are bewitched to reenact the story of a dead student and teacher from Sunnydale in “I Only Have Eyes for You.” In a twist on the reenactment, Buffy takes the role of James, the student, while Angelus becomes Grace, the teacher, who is desperate to end their relationship. Which Buffy/James won’t let happen. This moment allows Buffy and Angelus to break the spell as they kiss since Angelus can’t die. And it’s the reminder of this kiss that is so unlike the kisses when Angel was good that really gives us the goose bumps and sad feels.
11 When Xander Left Anya At The Alter
How could he do this to Anya?! To get this far only to throw it all away because he has some crappy family members? Look, his decision is understandable to a point. We get why he doesn’t want to end up like the alcoholic abusive relatives he’s been surrounded by his entire life, and that he doesn’t want to hurt Anya, but the hurt he inflicts on her (and us) in that moment is just as great. Plus, those visions that he saw were fake! Even though they played on his vulnerabilities, they weren’t real! And he knew this! And yet, he still breaks our collective hearts by choosing to “save” Anya from something that wasn’t even destined to be. After we bawled our eyes out in this episode, we understood why Anya returned to a life of vengeance.
10 When Buffy Sacrificed Angel
I’ll be honest: I was more team Spike than team Angel for the same reason I’m more team Jess than team Dean. I think Spike saw Buffy’s ugliness and brokenness and loved her anyway. And although I do agree that Angel was good for a first love, he was not the kind of person to grow old with (not that either can actually age). That being said, the scene where Buffy had to sacrifice Angel, after he had transformed from Angelus, RUINED me! Sure, it was to save the world, but Angel didn’t even remember all the terrible things he had done for the past year, so it was like Buffy was killing an innocent. The only reason this moment isn’t closer to the top is because, fortunately, we all know that Angel comes back and gets his own series!
9 When Oz Left Willow
Look, Tara was the one who was meant for Willow (STFU, Kennedy fans), but Oz really did love Willow for Willow from the very beginning. So it really sucked when Oz finally had to leave her after he realized her couldn’t control the wolf inside of him, and that he could end up hurting her. I don’t know what it is, but anytime Alyson Hannigan/Willow cries, I start bawling. Her face kind of collapses in on itself, and her lip tremble is unparalleled. So we feel like we have less of a soul than Angelus if we don’t shed a few tears alongside her. Oz was her first love, the first person who showed her that she was more than a sidekick or the “smart friend,” and him leaving was devastating for Willow (and us), at least until Tara showed up (and even then we can’t have nice things).
8 When Anya Couldn’t Understand Death
As a vengeance demon who has been around for basically forever, it made sense that Anya didn’t understand the whole deal with death. Even though she had certainly seen people and demons dies throughout her lifetime, she hadn’t seen the grief it inspired until everyone was a weeping mess following Joyce’s death. Since Anya is usually the comic relief in most episodes, it was especially heart-wrenching to see her slowly dissolve into tears while expressing her inability to understand how Joyce will no longer have fruit punch, or eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair. It’s remarkably childlike and innocent, which is probably why it hurts so much to watch, because how do we ever really begin to explain death in a way that minimizes the devastation its left behind?
7 When Anya died
Anya was a great character, and one we got to see a lot of. Through her ups and downs, her love of Xander and the Scooby Gang, her hatred of Xander, her glee at managing the Magic Box, and so on. We got to see so many sides of her, which is why it absolutely destroyed us to see her cut down in the final battle of Sunnydale in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. She was able to stay out of the violence for so long, it feels cruel to have her die so quickly. Add to that the fact that Xander doesn’t even see her, doesn’t even have a moment to save her, we just get a glimpse of her body under the rubble, and we can feel our heart breaking. Thanks a lot for this one, Joss Whedon!
6 When Giles Found Ms. Calendar
Giles was so often holed up in the library with his books, and as an older character, there’s a tendency to make them asexual - to allow the younger actors to have more of the fun. Instead, Whedon gave Giles Jenny Calendar, who really loved Giles, in all his fuddy-duddiness. And then he took her away! While Angelus is on his evil spree, he kills Jenny, but that’s not even the worst part: he arranges her body and home to look like a romantic invitation for Giles, rubbing acid in the wound rather than salt. If anyone wants another detail that’ll help ruin this episode, Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles, provided his own vocals for the scene at Jenny’s grave. Okay, brb, going to go cry in a corner now.
5 When Buffy Sacrificed Herself For Dawn
This scene has the kind of line that still manages to give us shivers years after watching (and re-watching) the episode. A line that combines Buffy’s conflicted view of the world, while offering a sliver of hope to her sister, Dawn: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.” It’s the ultimate big sister move, to give herself so that Dawn can continue, and seeing the outcome afterwards, when her lifeless body is lying on the pile of bricks, is just brutal. Watching Spike fall to his knees and cry, and everyone hold each other while Buffy, the Slayer, the un-killable girl, is actually dead, is just heart-breaking. Even though we know that Buffy comes back, it’s still a really rough scene to watch.
4 When Buffy Told Spike She Loved Him
I’ve already said that I preferred Spike to Angel, which is why this moment is so difficult for me. Finally, after so long spent as the villain, or as the guy who wanted to be a villain but couldn’t be, Spike got to be the hero. In the series finale, “Chosen,” Spike’s amulet uses his soul and sunlight to dust all the demons that are crawling through Sunnydale High and destroying the school in the process. After Spike refuses to flee, Buffy finally tells him that she loves him, to which Spike replies, “No you don’t. But thanks for saying it.” Contrary to what Spike believes, I think she really did love him, and in that moment, seeing him in all his goodness and self-sacrificing, she was finally able to admit it, to him and to herself.
3 When Tara Got Shot
Remember how I said we can’t have nice things thanks to Joss Whedon? Yeah, that’s one of those moments. After Willow has Oz leave her and finds love again with Tara, we have the ultimate Sunnydale d-bag, Warren, shoot Tara! After Willow got involved in dark magic and Tara left her, this episode showed them having just gotten back together and going about their lives as normal... Until blood appears on the two of them and Tara collapses. Unlike Buffy’s death, Tara’s is so permanent, and it adds insult to injury that she wasn’t even the intended target. Willow’s move to the dark side immediately after this is so relatable, too. Because she’s had to deal with the death of so many, but now to have the love of her life stolen from her? Heart-wrenching.
2 When Xander Reminded Willow Of Their Lifelong Friendship
Like I said, when Willow cries, we all cry. And there’s no Willow moment when we cry harder than when Xander is able to talk her down from her move to becoming totally Dark Willow. Dark Willow became so unlike normal Willow in her grief and her pain, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Xander is able to talk her down and show her that she is still loved by telling her the story of when they were in kindergarten and she broke a yellow crayon and was afraid to tell anyone. Even though his life is on the line, Xander tells her, “I love you. I love crayon-breaky Willow and I love scary-veiny Willow. So if I’m going out, it’s here.” Their friendship is arguably the strongest in the series, and this moment is definitely a major tear-jerker.
1 When Buffy Found Joyce’s body
This moment is clearly the top contender for the moments that’ll make everyone bawl their eyes out – and it started as a cliffhanger! In the second half of “I Was Made to Love You,” Buffy finds her mom and whispers - in the most pitiful way possible - “Mom? Mom? Mommy?” Then, we pick right back up where we left off in “The Body,” where the first three minutes are filmed in real-time with no music. Buffy’s display of grief is so visceral, so real, from the vomiting on the carpet to exclaiming with tears in her eyes, “We’re not supposed to move the body!” Joyce had always been Buffy’s primary connection to normalcy, the person who takes care of the Slayer who takes care of everyone else. It’s not the work of a big bad or a demon or something Buffy could have prevented, and that is just soul-crushing.