The Dramatic Disease

The Dramatic Disease

When you’re a drama character, there is a 90% chance that in your youth you’ll get either:

a)      Cancer (or a brain tumor)
b)      A degenerative disease with a complicated name
c)       A rare disease only present in 0,001% of the population
d)      Blindness (sometimes accompanied by another condition)

But there’s always an upside: usually a really attractive person will fall in love with you, fight to save your life and do incredibly romantic gestures. You won’t be alone!
Hold me, oppa!

Have I caught your attention, my fellow drama fans?

There’s really nothing sadder than falling in love with a character and seeing them possibly having a tragic death. Sometimes we’re already expecting it because the disease is the whole theme of the story; other times we’re caught by surprise because it’s a plot twist.

The Dramatic Disease is a well-loved plot element of most dramas and it can be used in several ways with several results. Usually Korean and Taiwanese dramas prefer to use the disease as a plot twist, while Japanese dramas prefer to use the disease as the main theme in many of its dramas.

I know that some drama fans avoid these dramas like the plague, while others eat up the delicious melodrama. Not all dramas with life-threatening diseases result in death and a sad ending… only most of them.

Now you've been warned: not all the dramas listed below have a sad ending. 

I decided to list some dramas and movies where a life-threatening disease/condition plays a huge role in the drama. It may or may not result in a main character’s death. I’m trying to keep it spoiler-free.


One Liter of Tears

It remains one of the best dramas about any disease. It’s touching, well acted, well written, and even though you really do cry more than the title suggests it somehow leaves you with a smile at the end. Aya faces her situation bravely and inspires everyone around her to cherish the life they have.
Crying Out love, at the Center of the World

Ayase Haruka and Yamada Takayuki really shine in this drama. You better stock up on Kleenex, because you’ll really need it for the last few episodes. But in return you’ll get to see an amazing drama.
Scent of a Woman

Even though there may be hundreds of Korean Dramas with diseases as plot elements, you’ll rarely find dramas where the disease is actually the main theme. Scent of a Woman is one of those rare exceptions and here our heroine chooses to focus on the time she has left instead of the inevitable ending. There’s no better wake up call than a cancer diagnosis.
Autumn’s Concerto

One of the most popular Taiwanese dramas among fans. Who could remain dry-eyed while watching this beautiful love story? This is one well-written drama and the actors give the best performances of their careers.
Other TWdramas: Silence and Lavender.
First Time

A surprisingly good movie with a surprising love story. Sweet and touching until the very end.
Closer to Heaven

Kim Myung Min (our beloved King of Dramas) really worked hard for this role. As they shot the movie he starved himself and lost a total of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) to match his character’s gradual decline. Now that’s dedication!
A Millionaire’s First Love

This is one of the most effective tearjerkers. Hyun Bin steals the viewer’s attention and hearts.
Other Korean movies: Neverending StorySad Movie.
April Bride


You will rarely see Eita as a leading man in a romantic story, but this is one of those rare chances. The leads are great together and the story is heartbreaking.
My Rainy Days / Tenshi no Koi


A really touching movie about a second chance at life. You will fall in love with the heroine as she fights to be a better person and win the love of a certain person. Even though death is looming, the movie manages to be mostly sweet and uplifting.
Other Japanese movies: KoizoraInochiI Give My First Love to YouClassmates.

Personally I actually like this kind of stories when they’re done right. But I really don’t like it when a disease is used as a last-minute plot twist for a dramatic ending.

When it comes to diseases in dramas/movies you can really divide it into several categories and take your pick: deadly or incapacitating disease, curable or incurable, happy or sad ending, uplifting or depressing.
I know there are several titles missing from this list, but YOU can add any other titles you know in the comments. Have you watched any of the titles listed above?

Comments (64)

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  • Reply
    Paige Jan 27, 2015 - edited

    There's one I've watched recently, very well done. It's call Boku no ita jikan. If you guys like this genre, feel free to check that out! :)

    • Reply
      algelic Jan 29, 2015

      Oh yes. "Boku no Ita Jikan" was like a remake of "One Litre of Tears" with a guy as the main character. I wrote this article before that drama aired, I think.

  • Reply
    icecrusher Jan 17, 2015

    I highly recommend Yuuki which starred Kamenashi Kazuya. That was my very first melodrama jap flim. Cried till my eyes were swollen n shaking my head at the same time. Lol.

  • Reply
    Asuna Nov 10, 2014

    1st picture is from ''Niini no koto wasurenaide ''

  • Reply
    Kathryn Nov 4, 2014 - edited

    what drama is the 1st picture from????

    • Reply
      LydiaR Oct 26, 2016

      Niini no koto wasurenaide

  • Reply
    Mari Jul 6, 2014

    1 Litre of Tears IS truly fantastic. To be honest, most other dramas that deal with diseases simply fail to meet up to the standards that I set for myself after watching it.

  • Reply
    rainruma Jul 1, 2014 - edited

    In the early days of my Drama addiction, I saw: "A Millionaire's First Love" , "More than Blue" , "A Moment to remember" , "Koizora" , "Sad Love Song" , "The Snow Queen" , "Autumn in my Heart" , "Padam, Padam" etc...etc...etc....

    By the time I recently got to "Scent of a Woman", I was desperately trying to avoid it .... ..... .... But I was into Lee Dong-Wook so I gave it a try ....
    I didn't cry, or maybe once,.... ..... b/c I have become so sick and tired of these "dying-young-of-a-mysterious-disease" themes .... I could hardly feel sad; just jaded... .... ...

    I still haven't seen "1 Liter of Tears" or Miura Haruma's new drama .....
    b/c I am repulsed by that theme .... maybe in a year or so, after a long break, I'll be able to see them.

  • Reply
    LittleBozSheep Jan 8, 2014

    Do no get me started on 'A Millionaire’s First Love' tears are coming to my eyes just thinking about it.

  • Reply
    elliwerepanther Nov 29, 2013

    One Liter of Tears left my eyes red and puffy for a day. I loved it.

  • Reply
    louloudi Nov 24, 2013

    i can not remember how much I cried but I remember I could not put my contact lenses on for a couple days after watching:
    "Sorry ,I love you" and
    "The Snow queen".
    I kinda guessed the ending from the first episodes but still I failed to be prepared for the last episode.In conclusion both dramas ended to be in my top 5.

  • Reply
    jollibee Nov 23, 2013

    i don't like crying but i've always been drawn to these kind of stories...

    i've watched most of the series/movies here but i've added some to my list...
    love it!!!

  • Reply
    Diana96 Nov 16, 2013

    I really love melodramas though not too long ago I hated everything about them. Usually I don't like sad endind because it watching them takes an emotional toll but after watching The Melodrama I started obsessing over sad endings(now I cry like a baby whenever I have time to watch a movie)
    . so here is my list of movies that I think are missing:
    1.Sadder than blue(aka the melodrama) really loved that one its my favorite so far it's the one movie that I actually forced all my none" korean movie fans" friends to watch. I strongly recommend it.
    2.Windstruck -the most megickal tragedy. This one I keep rewatching.
    3.A moment to remember -another great tragedy
    Well that's all I could remember so far.Unbelivebly good movies you shoul watch them... :-)

  • Reply
    Ellie Nov 16, 2013

    i guess i have cried a litre of tears watching dramas like that too

  • Reply
    Shepard Nov 15, 2013

    For some reason I've always liked the movie version of 1 Litre of Tears more than the Drama version. Mostly because it's true to the original story and it points the reality that if you are young and have disability. There is a very good chance of you being single because a pretty good percentage of people don't want to deal with your problems.

  • Reply
    nygirl220 Nov 15, 2013
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    nielyngrace Nov 15, 2013

    thanx to this i'm adding April Bride on my plan to watch list.

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