The 11 Most Heartbreaking 'O.C.' Moments Ever — And Yes, More Than A Few Involve Marissa

by Tatiana Tenreyro
Warner Bros. TV

The O.C. had plenty of hilarious moments, but what fans really remember are the scenes that brought drama into the show. Throughout its four seasons, The O.C. had many heartbreaking moments, with each character facing turmoil as they grappled with issues such as addiction, sexual assault, heartache, death, and more.

One of the most devastating moments of all was, of course, Marissa’s death. Even for fans who were anti-Marissa, it was still so painful to see how Ryan and the rest struggled to overcome the tragedy and deal with their grief. There was also Marissa’s horrifying experience with Trey attempting to sexually assault her, causing her to be expelled from school for shooting him later on when Ryan confronted his brother about his actions.

But besides all the Marissa-focused storylines, there were plenty of other harrowing instances on the show. Kirsten’s alcoholism remains one of the most painful storylines to watch, since it’s difficult to see such a loving, admirable mother figure spiral while her family struggled to help her. It’s also devastating to see Ryan facing the risk of losing the most positive family dynamic he’d ever been a part of to alcohol, which was the primary cause for his biological parents’ inability to take care of him.

If you want to take a trip down memory lane, here are 11 of the most heartbreaking moments of The O.C. — but make sure you have some tissues nearby.


Kirsten Dealing With Her Alcoholism

Kirsten was one of the most responsible parental figures on the show, so this storyline involving her alcoholism came as a painful surprise. Her addiction strained her relationship with Sandy, her sons, and her dad Caleb. It got to the point where viewers and characters alike couldn't even recognize Kirsten. Luckily, once her family intervened, she was able to go back to being the mom we all loved.


Trey Attempting To Rape Marissa

Marissa went through a lot. Just when it seemed like things were finally getting a bit better for her, Trey took advantage of her trust and attempted to sexually assault her. Marissa was able to escape, but when Ryan found out about Trey's actions, it became a heartbreaking moment for him as well since it meant having to cut yet another family member out of his life.


Sandy And Kirsten Struggling With Their Marriage

Sandy and Kirsten are absolute marriage goals, so it was so sad to see them struggle with their marriage and cheat on each other. Luckily, they were able to work things out.


Marissa Passing Out In Tijuana

This was the first time that fans got to see the extent of Marissa's emotional struggles. She mixed painkillers with alcohol after seeing Luke with Holly and ended up passing out in an alleyway.


Ryan Going Back To Chino

Ryan always tried to do the right thing, so when he found out Theresa was pregnant, he decided to sacrifice his happiness and his new, healthy family dynamic to go back to Chino. It's devastating to see how much it affected the Cohens, particularly Kirsten.


Heather Almost Being Sexually Assaulted

It was so upsetting when Heather was dragged into a van by Volchok's friends and almost raped. Marissa came to her rescue despite how much Heather had mistreated her, showing how strongly she felt about protecting women from experiencing what she did with Trey.


Summer Giving A Gift To Julie On Her Wedding Day

When Julie was set to marry Bullit, Summer gave her a touching gift: a locket with Marissa's picture. Julie had deeply regretted not being a better mom to Marissa before her death, so this moment was truly special.


Ryan's Biological Parents' Visiting The Cohens

Throughout the show, Ryan often tried to be inclusive of his biological family, even though he considered the Cohens to be his real family. When his mom, Dawn, visited early on, she got drunk and showed how little she had changed. Then, by the end of the show, Ryan's dad Frank came to town and falsely claimed to have cancer. It was devastating to see how their actions affected Ryan.


Summer Dealing With Seth's Surprise Breakup

Even though Summer and Seth had plenty of great moments, there were times when Seth was insensitive and selfish in a misguided attempt to do the right thing. One of those instances was when he broke things off with Summer instead of telling her the truth about not being accepted into Brown. Seeing Summer feel so hurt and confused while we know the truth behind Seth's actions was crushing.


Ryan Dealing With Marissa's Death

Right before Marissa's death, Ryan had plans of going to college and was excited about the future. But at the beginning of the fourth season, audiences saw how much Marissa's death affected him and stalled him from following his dreams.


Marissa Dying

And then, of course, there was this. Marissa's death is hands down the saddest moment of The O.C. Even though she was a polarizing character, this was an incredibly painful ending. Not only did she die at the hands of Volchok, but Ryan carrying her body and trying to save her to no avail was devastating.

These heartbreaking moments in The O.C. are hard to watch, but the moving way the show handled drama and grief were major reasons that fans came back season after season.