25+ Most Dramatic TV Show Cliffhangers Of All Time

Dallas – A House Divided

The season three finale of Dallas pioneered the cliffhanger ending, kicking things off with a bang, literally. During the episode’s final moments, oil tycoon and all round bad egg, JR Ewing, was shot.

The mystery of ‘Who shot JR’ went global; fans spent months trying to figure out who did it, which ensured millions tuned in to the season four opening to find out the truth.

Angel – Not Fade Away

The last ever episode of Angel gave loyal fans a terrible cliffhanger for its final moment. Angel, Spike, and the rest of the gang are pinned down, about to do battle.

Angel stares down the masses and says ‘let’s go to work’ before cruelly ending, leaving the audience on an unresolved open-ended conclusion.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Born to Run

After two years of filler episodes, The Sarah Connor Chronicles finally got exciting, but was then immediately cancelled.

The final episode sees John Connor thrust into the future war, but no one knows who he is, his reputation as human resistance savior being no longer valid in this new timeline.

Lost – Deus Ex Machina

Whilst television sensation Lost had almost weekly cliffhangers, the first great one came towards the end of season one.

Early in the show, John Locke uncovered a strange hatch in the middle of the island and became obsessed with it. During the nineteenth episode, Deus Ex Machina, showrunners J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof upped the intensity as a light went on inside the hatch.

ER – All in the Family

The fourteenth episode of the sixth season of medical drama ER is devastating. After being brushed off by Dr. Carter, med student Lucy Knight treated a schizophrenic patient alone, who whilst in a delusional state, stabs her.

Later, Carter is also stabbed, the episode ending with an incapacitated Carter staring at Lucy’s bloody body, both lives hanging in the balance.

The Society – How it Happens

Part Lost, part Lord of the Flies, The Society followed students from a school trip who returned to find themselves the only residents of their small town.

The Society ended with the reveal that the teen’s parents were very much still alive. Answers to the overwhelming questions this twist presented will cruelly never be answered as the second season was cancelled at the last moment.

Sons of Anarchy – Na Trioblóidí

Sons of Anarchy was a show built around creating shock and awe, but the finale of the second season took things to a whole new level.

Jax Teller’s infant son Abel is kidnapped, and although Jax eventually locates his son, it is a moment too late…as Abel sailed away on a boat, Jax and the audience wondered if they’d ever see the child again.

Game of Thrones – Baelor

For the bulk of the first season of Game of Thrones, viewers followed Sean Bean’s Ned Stark. The stoic Northerner had been positioned as the hero but then, in the penultimate episode of the debut series, Ned was beheaded.

It wasn’t until the season finale that his head was seen, leaving viewers with a teeny shred of hope that Ned might still be alive.

Twin Peaks – The Last Evening

Nothing was ever as it seemed in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but during the first season viewers became accustomed to Dale Cooper being almost untouchable.

This all came crashing down during the final moments of the episode The Last Evening, when Cooper opened his motel room door, only to be shot by an unidentifiable assailant.

The OC – The Dearly Beloved

The OC was full of explosive revelations, but it was the closing moments of the second season that got fan’s tongues wagging. After finally learning the truth about Trey’s attempted assault of Marissa, Ryan confronted his brother.

A fight broke out, and as Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek played on the soundtrack, Trey was shot. His fate was kept secret until the third season premiere.

Dexter – The Getaway

The season four ending of Dexter was heart-breaking. After killing the Trinity Killer, Dexter decided to choose family over murder, but his foe had left him one final gift.

Dexter returned home to find Rita dead in the tub, their infant son coated in the blood. It was a horrible way to end a season, but one that ensured viewers would return.

Breaking Bad – Gliding All Over

Cooking meth when there’s a detective in the family is risky business, but Walter White managed to evade the suspicion of brother-in-law Hank for five whole seasons.

His luck ran out during the eighth episode as Hank finally slotted all the pieces together, working out that Walt was Heisenberg, whilst on the toilet of all places.

Supernatural – All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2

During its fifteen year reign, Supernatural became a master of the end-season cliffhanger. In season three, Dean was sent to Hell and Angels fell at the climax of season eight, but the rather simplistic ending of the show’s second season was a favorite.

The episode concludes with Sam and Dean having defeated Azazel, but also opening the gates of Hell, unleashing countless demons.

Yellowjackets – Saints

Whilst the 1996 timeline of Yellowjackets was instantly mysterious, it wasn’t until the sixth episode that the present timeline got interesting.

Taissa’s son Sammy is afraid of ‘the woman in the tree’, but his concerns are brushed off as childish fantasy. Then, the episode ends with Taissa herself sitting within the tree, her hands covered in blood.

True Blood – Plaisir d’Amour

The first season of True Blood stuck closely to the blueprint set out in Charlaine Harris’ source novel, Dead Until Dark, and so each episode had its own mini cliffhanger.

The best of these occurs during episode nine when Sookie allows the dog, Dean, onto her bed. She awakens to find her boss Sam curled up completely naked in Dean’s place.

Game of Throne – The Rains of Castamere

Better known as The Red Wedding, The Rains of Castamere is one of the greatest episodes of television ever.

The penultimate episode of Games of Thrones’ third season saw several key members of the Stark clan slain in brutal and bloody fashion. With one more episode in the season left to go, viewers were left aghast and devastated.

The Vampire Diaries – Founder’s Day

After a rather middling first season, The Vampire Diaries finally found its teeth during the closing moments of its season finale.

The long-thought dead Katherine, doppelganger of show heroine Elena, arrived, murdering Elena’s biological father whilst posing as her. At the same time, Elena arrives home and goes to investigate a noise in the kitchen. The episode ends before the doppelgangers can meet.

The Walking Dead – Last Day on Earth

After an amazing first season, The Walking Dead went off of the boil. It wasn’t until the arrival of villain Negan that it picked up again, and he made a very dramatic entrance.

In the season six finale, Negan lined up several fan favorites for potential execution. As Negan selected his target, the credits rolled, leaving fans to months of speculation of the victim’s identity.

The Simpsons – Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One

The Simpsons has made a career out of homaging and parodying iconic pop culture moments, and in the season six finale they recreated that infamous Dallas episode as billionaire Mr. Burns was shot.

Audiences had to wait four months for the resolution, which was even wilder than anyone could have imagined.

The X-Files – Requiem

After seven long years hunting for evidence of extra-terrestrials, Fox Mulder finally found his proof as he himself was abducted.

With Mulder taken, the future of The X-Files looked uncertain, and the show kept viewers guessing about the FBI agent’s whereabouts long into the show’s eighth year.

Santa Clarita Diet – The Cult of Sheila

Most shows utilize a cliffhanger in its season’s closing moments in order to encourage the viewer to return next time.

Sometimes though, that next time never comes and loyal fans are left with nothing but a frustrating headache – case in point, Santa Clarita Diet. The finale ended with Joel bitten and seemingly about to turn into a zombie alongside Sheila.

24 – Day 5 06:00 a.m. – 0700 a.m.

Watching any episode of 24 was like strapping yourself to a ticking time bomb, something was always going to happen that was shocking, but the suspense in the finale of Jack Bauer’s fifth day was something else.

Having outed President Logan as a crook more crooked than Nixon, the audience thought that Jack’s ordeal was over. Then, the CTU agent is bundled off to China…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Gift

After five years protecting Sunnydale, vampire slayer Buffy Summers sacrificed herself to save both her sister Dawn, and the world.

The slayer had already died once during the first season finale, and fans expected Buffy would once again cheat death – but there was no happy ending this time. The episode ended with a shot of Buffy’s headstone which alluded to a more permanent death.

The 100 – Praimfaya

In a bid to keep its younger audience engaged, The 100 reinvented itself each and every season, meaning it had some great WTF moments.

The most dramatic came at the end of season four. Protagonist Clarke is left alone on the Earth’s surface, her friends either in space or safely underground. An end tease six years later sees a prison ship land, spelling big trouble.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

Trekkies across the universe had to wait three long months to find out the fate of their beloved Captain Picard after the season three finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Borg had turned Picard into one of them. The reveal was shocking enough, but then Riker had no choice but to open fire on the enemy ship, with the newly-changed Picard still onboard.

The Secret Circle – Family

Despite being a big ratings winner, The Secret Circle was not renewed for a second season. Sadly, the show had been hoping for continuation and so the season finale sets up several new directions that were never explored.

The most interesting being the foreboding message that Jake receives from his Grandpa, warning the fight is far from over, and four strangers are seen entering town.

Mayans M.C – When the Breakdown Hit

Like its parent show, Sons of Anarchy, Mayans M.C loved to throw the viewer a curveball. Its crowning moment came during the climax of the fourth season.

Likeable protagonist EZ Reyes surprised everyone by staging a coup to become club President. As he took his place of power, something shifted behind his eyes, leaving the audience conflicted and confused.

Friends – The One with Ross’s Wedding Part Two

Friends is viewed by sitcom fans as one of the greatest in history, and in addition to managing to be funny, the show knew how to pull off a cliffhanger.

Episode The One with Ross’s Wedding ended season four with a tantalizing tease as Ross uttered Rachel’s name during his vows, and not the name of his bride Emily.

Mr. Robot – eps1.7_wh1tr0se.m4v

Mr. Robot’s seventh episode was the first to pull the rug from under the viewer. It was a trick the series would replicate time and time again, but the initial double-whammy reveal of Darlene being Elliott’s sister, and Mr. Robot being Elliot’s deceased father, had viewers rebooting their brains.

Ending just after the revelation, audiences had a weeklong wait for an explanation.

The Outer Banks – Trapped

Essentially The Goonies with teenage models, The Outer Banks has audiences gripped with its mix of treasure hunting and teenage angst.

Along the hunt for gold, John B and his friends have faced countless perils, but nothing can top the penultimate episode of the second season when Sarah was drugged and kidnapped by her own family and the villainous Ward was revealed to be alive.

Eastenders – October 2001

British soap opera Eastenders has a reputation for ending episodes on some big reveals. None though are greater than the 2001 episode in which Kat Slater was revealed to be the mother of her ‘sister’ Zoe.

Irritated at Kat’s meddling, Zoe yells ‘You ain’t my mother!’, to which Kat screams, ‘Yes I am!’ Cue titles, and open mouths across the country.

Game of Thrones – Mother’s Mercy

Game of Thrones generated a reputation for the penultimate episode of each season presenting the biggest shocks. Season five subverted this, saving the surprise and anguish till the closing moments.

The season ends with beloved Night Watch Lord Commander Jon Snow being horrifically stabbed. As he lay in a pool of his blood, staring vacantly upwards, the end credits played and viewers lost their minds.

The Good Place – Michael’s Gambit

The finale of The Good Place’s first season saw Eleanor realise the truth: this wasn’t the ‘good place,’ but the ‘bad place’. Before either she, or the viewer, could fully process the news, the villainous Michael resets the world.

With the status quo returned to its default position, viewers spent months wondering whether Eleanor would remember anything.

Westworld – The Bicameral Mind

Every season of Westworld built up to an epic cliffhanger, but it was the one at the climax of the first season that got viewers the most excited.

Android Dolores and more hosts began to break their coding, turning on the guests that had used and abused them for years. Its violent anarchy teased that an exciting journey was to follow.

Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall

The final episode of the second series of Sherlock appeared to kill off its titular character. After sparring with Moriarty, Sherlock jumps off of a building, seemingly to his death.

However, as Watson mourns his gravesite, Sherlock is glimpsed watching on from a distance, leaving viewers questioning why the super sleuth had faked his demise.

Lost – Through the Looking Glass Part 2

By the season three finale, Lost viewers were used to the flashback structure, but no one anticipated a flashforward. The reveal that the Jack on screen was a future version was shocking.

Jack’s desperate “we have to go back” hooked viewers as it confirmed the characters would make it off of the island, with the added intrigue of why would they return?

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – Fall

Gilmore Girls fans around the world were elated when the show was resurrected for a mini-series continuation.

Their joy quickly turned to despair though as the final moments of the last episode dropped a huge bomb – Rory was pregnant! Sadly, further visits to Stars Hollow seem unlikely, making the conclusion extremely frustrating.

Neighbours: A New Chapter – Pilot

This powerhouse Aussie soap has seen the likes of Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, and Russell Crow grace its screens, but was sadly cancelled in 2022 before being almost immediately renewed.

The new series opened with an almighty bang as Terese Willis married Jarrod Rebecchi. Lifelong fans’ heads imploded seeing the extremely odd pairing.

You – Candace

Based on the novels by Caroline Kepnes, Netflix series You follows the obsessive Joe and he takes his attraction to certain women to extreme lengths.

In the penultimate episode of season one, Joe’s primary crush, Beck, discovered his creepy shrine to her just as Joe returned home. Beck quickly found herself in Joe’s book vault with the chances of her survival looking slim.

Grey’s Anatomy – Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Hearts around the world were broken during the closing episode of Grey’s Anatomy’s first season.

Viewers had spent the series hoping for Meredith Grey and Derek Shephard to get together, but then out of nowhere, Meredith found herself face-to-face with Shephard’s previously unmentioned wife, Addison.