WARNING The following content may contain spoilers!

There are a number of reasons why we choose to watch sad TV shows, or why we cry when our favourite characters break up or die in our favourite film or TV series.

Interested to find out which of our favourite Netflix shows produced the most tears, OnBuy's TV Cinematic Department collated data using a number of different factors and created the Netflix and Feels Index.

To determine the top 10 tearjerkers from the Netflix archives, we surveyed 2,936 Netflix users on what shows made them cry the most, we then accumulated different factors to be scored on.

To then find out exactly how many tears were shed, we counted up the number of sad scenes per show, multiplied this figure by the time the average woman and man cried for, and the volume of tears shed. We then multiplied this figure by the show's reported viewership. To then settle just how upsetting a show was, we calculated how many swimming pools these tears could fill.

The 10 Netflix shows that made us cry the most

The 10 Netflix shows that made us cry the most
Breaking Bad

1. Breaking Bad

In first place and the show that made us the most upset is the popular neo-western crime drama, Breaking Bad, scoring 130 points in our Netflix and Feels Index. Despite being a slow starter among fans, the series increased in popularity when it was picked up by Netflix and has racked up an outstanding IMDb score of 9.5 out of 10 and had a reported viewership of 10 million.

With a whopping 74,200 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit, a whopping 271 character deaths, with 8 of them being main/recurring characters, and having the highest number of 'sad' scenes in a series at 62, it's no wonder the tears for this series could fill 10 swimming pools.

Riddled with themes of morality, pride and dignity, many iconic scenes and deaths were in the running to be crowned the saddest, but fans across the globe collectively agreed the heartbreaking death of Hank in season 5, episode 14 to be the most emotional.

Stranger Things

2. Stranger Things

Fan favourite Stranger Things swooped in at second place, scoring 88 points. With 78,590 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit, the show saw 5 main characters die and had 27 'sad' scenes which contributed to 11 swimming pools being filled with tears.

With only 3 series and 25 episodes, this fantasy series scored the second highest rating with an impressive IMDb score of 8.8 out of 10, showing us these kids know how it's done.

The moment that caused the reported 26.4 million viewers reaching for the tissues was in season 3, episode 8 that saw one sweet teen, Billy, stand up to the mighty Mind Flayer's monster - actions which result in his brutal wounding and death. Meanwhile, Billy's younger sister is left mourning as she watches over his body, leaving many inconsolable.

Orange is the New Black

3. Orange is the New Black

In third place with the highest recorded viewership of a whopping 105 million is Orange is the New Black (also known as OITNB) scoring 80 points. The American comedy-drama, set in an American prison, has an IMDb rating of 8.1 out of 10 - it's no surprise it's one of the most binged watched Netflix series!

With 20,010 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit threads, 4 main character deaths and 59 'sad' scenes, this series generated enough tears to fill an staggering 96 standard swimming pools (or just over 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools*).

According to fans of the show, of all 91 episodes, the scene that caused the most upset was in season 4, episode 12. The episode saw Poussey's sudden death, with her last words being "I can't breathe" and "Get off me" - it's no wonder this scene is deemed the most upsetting of all!

13 Reasons Why

4. 13 Reasons Why

The series that caused a huge online conversation on teen-bullying when it first premiered in 2017 was 13 Reasons Why, placing fourth in our index with 65 points. Discussing the contentious but tragic topics of suicide, self-harm and mental health, the show has a strong 7.7 out of 10 rating on IMDb.

The controversial series accumulated a total of 7,579 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit, 4 main character deaths and 46 'sad' scenes, one of which had to be re-edited by the creators after receiving an overwhelming amount of complaints. Among US viewers alone, this series could fill just over 4 swimming pools with tears.

Despite the series being crafted from many devastating scenes, the scene that fans voted as the distressing and most uncomfortable to watch was season 2, episode 13, when Tyler was sexually attacked in the bathroom. The graphic scenes portrayed in this scene left many viewers deeply unsettled.

Dead to Me

5. Dead to Me

The popular dark American comedy show Dead to Me is the fifth most upsetting Netflix show, according to our index, scoring 41 points. The series, which first aired on the streaming site in 2019, and has a high rating of 8 out of 10 on IMDb.

With 77,120 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit, one main character death, and 9 'sad' scenes, this series would have just enough tears to fill 4 swimming pools.

The scene that fans voted the most emotional was season 2, episode 9 when Jen and Judy fight, with around 30 million viewers tuning in. Eventually Jen admits that she struck and killed Steve because he "insulted her".

Umbrella Academy

6. Umbrella Academy

American superhero TV series, Umbrella Academy, based on the comic book series written by Gerard Way takes the spot for sixth place in our Netflix and Feels Index, scoring 33 points overall.

With an impressive 45 million viewers watching the season, 14,090 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit threads and 23 'sad' scenes, we calculated that the tears from this series would fill 16 swimming pools.

The Netflix series, which aired in 2019, had 20 episodes in its first season, with fans of the show voting season 1, episode 5 as the scene that upset them the most. This episode was a particular tearjerker, as the show's main character, Klaus, returns from his time travel adventure where he fought in the Vietnam War, where he lost somewhere close to him and was traumatised.


7. Unbelievable

Placing as the seventh most emotional series on the list and scoring 30 points is Unbelievable, a 8-part dramatisation of real life events. This gripping short series, released in 2019, is based upon a 2015 news article about a series of rapes in the American states of Washington and Colorado, which took place between 2008 and 2011. The miniseries focuses on the story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped.

Our Netflix and Tears Index can reveal that although no main characters died, this series had 41 'sad' scenes and would have generated enough tears to fill 20 swimming pools - the second highest on the list!

Episode 8 - the last in the miniseries - had 32 million viewers at the edge of their seat, watching on tenterhooks to find out Marie's fate as it was revealed whether she was truly lying, or not. The episode ended with Luke McCarthy, Marie's rapist, being sentenced to 327 and a half years imprisonment.

Sex Education

8. Sex Education

In eight place is the popular British comedy-drama, Sex Education, scoring 25 points. Released in 2019, the BAFTA nominated TV show has bagged an impressive 8.3 out of 10, and reportedly garnered over 40 million views in total.

This series had fans using 41,750 'sad' words used by fans to describe the show on Reddit threads and 18 'sad' scenes, meaning it would have had enough tears to fill just over 11 swimming pools.

The scene that got fans sobbing into their pillow the most was in season 1, episode 5. In the episode, the main character, Otis, missed a trip to the cinema with Eric to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a yearly tradition for Eric's birthday. After Otis failed to arrive, Eric was attacked by two homophobes who stole his wallet and phone.

Schitt's Creek

9. Schitt's Creek

The comedic genius that is Schitt's Creek came in ninth place with 22 points. This Netflix series has produced 80 episodes all-in-all and earned itself a high IMDb rating of 8.4 out of 10 in the process.

With the show's viewership of 3.3 million, this series had 38 sad scenes that could have filled 2 swimming pools with the tears shed.

Fans voted the wedding scene which united David and Patrick in season 6, episode 14 as the most upsetting yet heartwarming episode of all 80 episodes. With a wedding and three-person departure, this episode was certainly emotional.

When They See Us

10. When They See Us

Rounding off the top 10 is the 4-part drama series, When They See Us, based on true events scoring 19 points in our Netflix and Feels Index. The show was reportedly viewed by 23 million Netflix users and earned a high IMDb rating of 8.9 out of 10!

Of all four episodes, there were 14 'sad' scenes, but perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of all was the fact the viewers knew this scene was inspired by true events. Therefore it's unsuprising that this 4-part series would have had enough tears to fill 5 swimming pools.

Although the drama was crammed with tear-jerking scenes, the most upsetting scene portrayed the harrowing moment five African American teens were taunted, starved and coerced during a 42-hour interrogation, having been accused of a sexual assault crime they had not committed.


The following is the methodology we used to discover the 10 top saddest scenes on Netflix and how we calculated the total volume of tears they have caused around the world.

  1. The first step was to identify which of our favourite Netflix shows made the top 10 saddest. To achieve this, we surveyed 2,936 Netflix users on what shows made them cry the most.
  2. We then created an index that collated data from each show using different factors to be scored on accordingly**.
    To work out the 'Fan Sadness Score', we searched each show alongside 3 keywords ("sad", "cried" and "heartbreaking") on Reddit to find out how many fans had written/posted about each show's sad nature. We based the score on these results.
  3. To find out how many tears were shed for each series, we collated the information from the survey together with the number of sad scenes per show, and multiplied the figure by the average crying time for men and women.
    The average crying time for a woman is six minutes and 3 minutes for a man, so we used the average which is 4 minutes, 30 seconds.
  4. We then multiplied that figure by 62 microliters (10 tears) which is the estimated average volume of tears produced in that amount of time.
  5. A standard sized swimming pool can be filled with 18,000 gallons of water, which is how we worked out how many were filled and scored accordingly. (*An Olympic sized swimming pool is filled with 660,420 gallons of water).
  6. All data was gathered from 02/09/2020 to 07/09/2020.

Point System**
Each category scored points accordingly:

Category Points
Fan Sadness Score 3 points for every 10,000 sad words
Saddest Scenes per Series 3 points for every 10 sad scenes
Deceased Main Characters 10 points per deceased character
Swimming Pools Filled With Tears 1 point for every 10 swimming pools filled