The credits song. God, the credits song. The overwhelming feeling of nostalgia combined with what the show is nowadays, if you're on the "new seasons are bad" boat, it will make you misty-eyed.
Some moments when SpongeBob gets very sad.
"Squidward's School For Grownups" has two:
The first is when Squidward decides that he must separate Spongebob and Patrick because Spongebob is much less mature than Patrick.
The other example is Spongebob's opera not much later... Thankfully, a CMOH follows when Spongebob and Patrick hug at the end, as well as a CMOF when Squidward is pelted with fruit for bashing Spongebob's performance and Spongebob and Patrick yell "Food fight!"
"Patrick Smartpants" has Patrick going from his usual dumb self to a genius ( because his head was accidentally replaced with brain coral), which eventually alienates Spongebob so much they can't be friends. Then, there's the scene where they look at their old photo albums of each other.
In the episode where Spongebob, Patrick, Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy go back in time (they were in their cave and were looking at their Locker of Memories), in the Bad Future where Man Ray has taken over the entire town - we see Spongebob and Patrick go to the 'Krusty Krab' and he sees supposedly the Old Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy with their spirits broken...We get this tear-jerker reminder:
Spongebob: But what about the Younger Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy? Surely they refused to go without a fight?
Mermaidman: Don't you get it! We ARE the younger ones! The older ones, bless their souls, have been immortalized in this very restaurant [pan right to grave-site].
Spongebob: I am at a total loss...for yourselves.
The fact that in "Back to the Past", Man Ray had killed the original Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy and buried them under the Krusty Krab as a reminder of how MM & BB's younger versions failed..
Even worse is that older MM's actor died later on.
So there was finally a SpongeBob SquarePants episode that can reduce someone to helpless tears instead of helpless laughter: "Have You Seen This Snail?" Like Snoopy Come Home, it touches emotional buttons of pet owners at the heartbreak of them running away and how much they'd miss them. And there just had to be a montage of SpongeBob looking for Gary and how much he missed him.
The song, simply called "Gary's Song", doesn't help the matter either.
The episode Grandma's Kisses. SpongeBob's hysterical rant about how he doesn't want to grow up hits a very tender nerve. More specifically, he spends the entire episode trying to act more grown up around his Grandmother, but then finally snaps and goes into a fit of tears, yelling how he wants to do everything he wanted to do as a kid again, and wants some of the moments back.
ESPECIALLY if you grew up with the show and happen upon the episode again once you're older.
Plus where SpongeBob is made fun of for the kissy mark on his forehead.
"I have been publically humiliated for the last time! *Runs off crying*"
And of course, there's SpongeBob and Patrick's Disney Death in The Movie. Near the end, as they're slowly drying out under the heat lamp, and SpongeBob has kind of a lengthy monologue about how they let everyone down, and how they failed (how broken he sounds at this point doesn't help either), and then they both realise that they at least got to Shell City, and they turn to one another, express their gratitude for having each other as friends, and with the last of their strength start singing the "Goofy Goober Song" together before they die, ending with their tears merging to form a heart shape. Even the pirates in the theater were bawling. Bonus points on making such a cheesy song so heartbreaking.
SpongeBob: Pat...we did make it.
Patrick: Yeah...I guess we did.
SpongeBob: We did alright for a...couple of goofballs. (both of them shed a tear)
The scene of Spongebob in the bar crying was both depressing and hilarious.
There was also "Welcome to the Chum Bucket", where Plankton wins SpongeBob's contract from Krabs. The song SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs sing while missing each other was just so sad, especially the part where they stare out the window at each other.
Him going berserk and viciously chasing Spongebob, especially when he admits defeat, is just heartbreaking.
Spongebob realizes the error of living with the jellyfish and walks back to Bikini Bottom. He looks at the Krusty Krab, then at Sandy's tree dome, and then walks back to his house.
SpongeBob: What have I done? I had a great life and friends and I gave all of that up.
Dying For Pie. "You had to kill 'im. The boy cries you a sweater of tears, and you kill 'im."
When SpongeBob and Squidward are watching the sunset:
SpongeBob: You know, if I were to die right now in some fiery explosion due to the carelessness of a friend, well, that would just be okay. (cut to Squidward quietly sobbing)
And then, near the end, there's Squidward bawling over how he killed SpongeBob, saying how he at least made his last day meaningful. It turns out that he never actually ate the pie-bomb in the first place, but still.
It's a small one, yet still heartbreaking:
Patrick: Hey, SpongeBob, wanna go jellyfishing?
SpongeBob: Sorry, Patrick, I can't. I have school today!
Patrick: Well, what am I supposed to do all day while you're at school?
SpongeBob: I don't know. What do you normally do while I'm gone?
Patrick: *starts to cry* Wait for you to get back!
In the episode "A Pal For Gary", a guy with a pet worm walks in and SpongeBob says pets aren't allowed and they walk away slowly, but Mr. Krabs says he can stay. It's sad until Mr. Krabs allows him to have a pet.
The episode where Patrick learned the perfect karate move has a part where he thinks he murdered his own best friend. No, not the table sponge one, the one where he found him unconscious and thought he died. He then got vengeful at his own hand and ripped it off.
In the episode "Patrick SmartPants" when SpongeBob (after Patrick decides that they should go their separate ways, after becoming smart), looks through his memory book filled with pictures of him and Patrick.
It's also a point to mention that at the same time, Patrick (after it becomes apparent that his being smart is alienating him from his friends) does the same thing in his rock... and ends up being the one we see cry.
Also the episode where Gary becomes friends with Patrick and begins to play with him instead of SpongeBob. Throughout the episode, SpongeBob tries to get Gary to come back to him with toys and his favorite snacks. It ultimately ends up with SpongeBob trying one last time to get Gary to come back by offering things to Gary he wasn't allowed to do before. Gary goes back to SpongeBob, only because he wanted Patrick for the cookie in his pocket.
SpongeBob crying in the Christmas Episode, mainly because of the very sad face he makes while Squidward continues to torment him over Santa Claus not appearing, which is why SB's crying in the first place. He even manages to make Squidward feel sorry for him and dress up as Santa to make him happy after it's revealed that SpongeBob made Squidward a present so he wouldn't feel left out when Santa came..
Squidward: What's this?
SpongeBob: A present. I made it for you so you wouldn't be left out...WHEN SANTA CAME!!!
The absolutely heartbreaking way he says "Santa Claus" after Squidward takes out a camera for a picture.
And then there's the beginning of the lost episode, in which Patchy The Pirate is distraught over what he thought was the lost episode, and proceeds to rip apart every single merchandise that he ever owned. An experience some people may have felt after they felt "betrayed" by a work they've invested so much time for.
I could handle the con artist in Chocolate With Nuts for a while, but I have not been able to watch the part where he pretends to be badly and shockingly injured (the way he describes it to SpongeBob and Patrick is enough of a Tear Jerker in itself) without tearing up. Jerkass. And a very clever one.
How about the episode where Mr. Krabs gives SpongeBob the boots? And then he later steals them back, leaving SpongeBob sobbing and telling Mr Krabs that he let him down for "losing" them. It's always the characters crying over minor things that make me the saddest.
SpongeBob even tries out the "magic oven mitts" on his feet, but, "They're Not The Same!"
The band episode. Sure, it's hilarious, particularly the total lack of good things to say about Squidward, but his utter despair as the band starts...and then the look on his face as it's actually good.
The episode "Texas", where Sandy becomes very homesick and even sings a song expressing her homesickness (everybody who hears it ends up crying). She then decides to actually return home. Thankfully, Spongebob and Patrick manage to convince her otherwise (through hilarious means, however).
Oddly enough, the episode "Arrgh!". When SpongeBob and Patrick complain about going on a wild goose chase of a treasure hunt led by Mr. Krabs, he mourns that without a loyal crew, a captain's nothing. This in itself is just a ploy on Krabs' part to get them to stick around, but it works; the tearful way Patrick says "Don't cry, Captain Krabs," just nails me.
What got me was the part where he puts the sword like a cross.
From "Home Sweet Pineapple", Spongebob quotes: "I can no longer hold onto you little pebble. (Buries the pebble and begins to shed a tear) You hold too many memories. (Cries as tear falls onto the pebble)"
There's also Patrick sobbing hysterically when Spongebob's parents arrive. Also just seeing him cry while grabbing his parents' boat is heartwrenching.
Spongebob decides that he must move back with his parents, pictured with them smiling on a picture, but when Patrick replies that he doesn't have to, they are pictured with a sad look on their face. It makes sense considering how in life parents love to be around their children and spending time with them.
Plankton's Regular as a whole. Just to give Plankton one tiny victory and then have Krabs smash it in his face... It's not funny, just sad.
Also, the fact that Plankton can't even have so much as one customer without Krabs trying to ruin him. ONE.
What this troper thinks is the tearjerking part is that the animators made that Played for Laughs. Keep in mind, this troper denies the show ever Jumped the Shark. Thankfully, the animators have dropped the Idiot Ball.
"No more nice warm beds. No more Krabby Patties. No more getting mail. No more Gary. No more movies. No more Squidward. No more Sandy or Pearl or Mr. Krabs, NO MORE ANYTHING!"
From Opposite Day:
Spongebob: Go away! I never wanna see you again!
Patrick: (cries) Spongebob doesn't like me anymore!
It turns out that it was Opposite Day and Spongebob was just playing along with it but imagine going to your best friend's house (one that you've known since you were a baby) and instantly being rejected for no good reason.
The episode Model Sponge, where Spongebob thinks he's been fired from his job. You don't have to be a long-time fan to know how much Spongebob loves his job, so his reaction is pretty sad. Then, later when he goes to beg Mr. Krabs for his job back, he is in tears and crawling on his knees, promising he'll do better and he doesn't want to go. Of course, Krabs has no idea what he's talking about (remember, Spongebob misinterpreted something Krabs had said earlier), but that makes it no less sad.
Don't forget "Whatever Happened To Spongebob", where Spongebob's friends drive him away from Bikini by calling him "idiot boy" in a cruel way. And to top it off, Mr. Krabs was the one to tell Spongebob to never come back. But then Mr. Krabs, Patrick, and Sandy feel bad for Spongebob and cry that it's their fault he ran off.
A little one. From "Patty Hype." Mr. Krabs and Squidward make Spongebob cry by mocking his idea of "Pretty Patties-" vibrantly colored Krabby Patties- along with other ideas Spongebob has of drawing customers and making things interesting. Eventually, Spongebob actually gets angry- something we don't see him do a lot- and says, in an uncharacteristically determined way, "I KNOW this is a good idea! YOU'LL SEE!" He runs out of the restaurant to embark on a solo entrepreneurship. A little later, he starts crying again, having lost confidence. "Maybe Mr. Krabs was right...maybe my idea IS dumb! *sob!*"
My Pretty Seahorse, the episode where Spongebob becomes attached to a wild seahorse. At the end of the episode, Mr. Krabs tells Spongebob how it's wrong to keep a wild animal from their natural habitat and lifestyle. Spongebob understands and, with a heavy heart, releases the seahorse (which he named Mystery). The episode can hit harder for kids, considering that Spongebob has a child-like mental state and many children tend to get attached to animals (toys and live, alike) fairly quickly.
When SpongeBob releases Mystery back into the wilds, he starts a sad diatribe trying to drive her away, "Just get out of here, you (sobbing) stupid, dumb animal..." It doesn't help that Mystery already ran off.
Mr. Krabs backstory in this episode is tear inducing as well. He tells the story that he, as a kid, had received a dollar. They were both the bested of friends, they did all the things together- but on a hot summer day, while at the beach, he was so thirsty that he gave his dollar away for a drink. The way Krabs is telling the story to SB is working, too.
The goddamn April Fools special, "Fools in April." It's pretty funny, up until the scene where Squidward viciously pranks Spongebob, to everyone else's disgust. It goes straight into tear jerker territory as Squidward laughs during the prank, while Spongebob is yelling in fear the whole time. It gets worse as Spongebob runs away in tears, and everyone calls out Squidward for his jerkassery. "April Fools, jerk!" Later, he gives a disheveled, depressed Spongebob an insincere apology to ease his own conscience. After that, he flashes back to everyone else's reaction to the prank. "It must have been pretty good to make him CRY like that," Patrick says. Eventually, a hallucination of Squidward's own MOTHER appears to scold Squidward for being such a bastard. That leads to the kicker - Squidward collapses before Spongebob's door and breaks down, apologizing for the prank, and says how much he actually LIKES Spongebob despite how annoying he is, and how he appreciates everything about him. Happy tears ensue for the audience when Spongebob opens the door, and is completely back to his old self, cheerfully smiling, haven completely forgiven Squidward.
And then the whole thing turns out to be an April Fool's joke on Spongebob's end...
A small example, but in the episode Growth Spout, when Mrs. Puff was sleeping, she mutters out that she must protect her garden, and that it's the only thing worth living for. This comes into effect when you remember that most of her life would be boat driving with SpongeBob and nearly getting killed by him.
A meta-example: the death of Ernest Borgnine, the voice of Mermaid Man, a character who has been around since season 1.
They then, without any advertisement, put on a small two hour marathon containing the numbered Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episodes, Back to the Past, The Bad Guy Club For Villains, and Mermaid Man Begins.
Not from the show itself, but shortly after Borgnine passed, there was an illustration◊ circulating Facebook simply showing a teary Barnacle Boy at the grave of Mermaid Man. If you find it, I DARE you not to get choked up.
Also, Pat Morita, the voice of Udon, died when his only appearance came out. Charles Nelson Riley, the voice of the Dirty Bubble, is also deceased.
Spongebob talking to Patrick on the phone and begging him for help in The Bully; by the end of it, he's actually crying. Anyone who's ever been bullied as a child or has ever comforted a bullied child would have a hard time not tearing up with the poor guy.
Spongebob: Please Patrick! I'm so scared it feels like I'm going to throw up!
The following moment from the Season 1 episode "Karate Choppers". The setup is that after Spongebob acts so paranoid over Sandy jumping him that he attacks customers, Mr. Krabs tells Spongebob to never perform Karate again, or else he'll be fired. Keep in mind Spongebob's passion for his job and for the Krusty Krab.
SpongeBob: No more Karate? How am I gonna tell Sandy?
SpongeBob is jumped by Sandy
SpongeBob: Sandy wait, I can't! Mr. Krabs said I have to give up karate!
Sandy: Uh-huh, sure SpongeBob!
SpongeBob: No, really Sandy, stop!
Sandy: I'm not falling for it, SpongeBob!
SpongeBob: No really! Please stop!
Mr. Krabs walks out to the window, and sees Sandy attacking SpongeBob.
Mr. Krabs: What the?! SpongeBob!
SpongeBob: AAAAAAAHHH!! Mr. Krabs!
Mr. Krabs: What did I just get through telling ye, lad?
SpongeBob: But, I, she-!
Mr. Krabs: SpongeBob! You're FIRED!!
SpongeBob: *tiny voice* Fired? *face disappears like water in a drain*
SpongeBob bursts into tears and runs away screaming
The end of the Season 1 episode "Pizza Delivery" goes off as this until Squidward takes matters into his own hands. After spending all day (and night, presumably) lost in the wilderness, SpongeBob doggedly keeps the pizza through tornadoes and starvation so that the customer can get the order he wants. But when they get there, the customer believes he ordered a drink, and rejects his entire order in anger. The actual stinger comes when the guy who ordered it says
Recipient: *shoves the pizza in SpongeBob's face* Didn't you ever once think of the customer?!
"Giant Squidward". The bit where he goes to sleep on a mountain, finds the troublesome duo, Spongebob and Patrick, in his bellybutton, angrily throws him out and has a breakdown.
This screenshot from "Enchanted Tiki Dreams" defines Seasons 4 to 6 perfectly; it's Squidward curled up under a chair in a pool of tears. It's a strong image.
If you're wondering why Squidward is crying, it's from getting annoyed by SpongeBob and Patrick both at home and work. At the moment of the screenshot, he asks the world why he can't have one day of relaxation... and Patrick pokes him with a stick. It makes you realize that Jerkass as he is, Squidward's neighbors have put him through so much torture that he can't ever escape for even a little while. Counts as in-universe Tear Jerker, because SpongeBob and Patrick feel so terrible seeing Squidward like this that they decide to do something nice for him.
The part where Squidward sees his Tiki Dreamland and thinks it's a mirage counts too. Even if happiness is right in front of him, he can't bring himself to believe it. But he soon finds himself relaxing and the episode even has a satisfying ending for him.
In "Pickles" where SpongeBob is so shook up from getting a Krabby Patty order wrong that his mind becomes completely dysfunctional. The poor guy can't even form sentences in the proper order and is nailing food the wall when Mr. Krabs finds him. Did anyone else just want to hug him?
Spongebob's reaction to getting fired in "Spongebob, You're Fired!" is actually portrayed very realistically. It's very sad.
Not just from the Krusty Krab, but from his temporary jobs. He made food between two buns because that was how he had done it for many years. Upon seeing it, all his bosses (save for the Taco Man) fire Spongebob on the spot without seeing if his food was any good. Then, when he pleaded to keep his job, he impulsively acts as if he was fired from the Krusty Krab...
Seeing poor Squidward bawl like a broken man in "Can You Spare A Dime?", the poor bastard having just lost his home, job, paintings, everything. The way he sobs is absolutely heart-wrenching.
I can imagine how cathartic it must have been to the unpopular guys or to people who are stuck with the idea of friend-zone to watch Ripped Pants. So, Spongebob loses Sandy's attention (someone that it was hinted that he had feelings for, by the way) to Larry, who is a physically fit and nice guy, overall. Many teenagers could identify themselves with Spongebob by the time it was aired. The song by the end was just the nail in the coffin.
Gary choosing Patrick over SpongeBob in "Dumped". The rest of the episode is SpongeBob trying to replace Gary but ends up failing and begs Gary to come back home. It's played reminiscently to how someone would beg their lover to come back to them after being dumped in favor of someone else. Thankfully, it turns out that Gary wanted the cookie in Patrick's pocket and never really left SpongeBob.