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 (56)

  1. 1800 characters remaining Spoiler?
  • Mcrew05 Jan 8, 2014
    Do no get me started on 'A Millionaire’s First Love' tears are coming to my eyes just thinking about it.
  • elliwerepanther Nov 29, 2013
    One Liter of Tears left my eyes red and puffy for a day. I loved it.
    3 ❤
  • 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.
    1 ❤
  • 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!!!
    1 ❤
  • 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... :-)
    2 ❤
  • FatemehVIP Nov 16, 2013
    i guess i have cried a litre of tears watching dramas like that too
  • 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.
    1 ❤
  • nygirl220 Nov 15, 2013
    I still have not been able to watch 1 Litre of Tears because I know that Aya was a real person and I know that I will end up with the 'can't breathe past the painful lump in my throat, there isn't enough water in the world to cure' sobbing.

    Here is my list:

    Snow Queen
    A Millionaires First Love

    And while it was paralyzed due to an accident, and not really an illness, I have to throw in Taiwan's Love Contract with Mike He and Ariel Lin, simply because I was left with dumbfounded, WTF, did that really happen thoughts followed by your normal stages of grief.
  • nielyngrace Nov 15, 2013
    thanx to this i'm adding April Bride on my plan to watch list.
  • Saintrat Nov 15, 2013
    Where "A Thousand Days Promise" is??? It's one of the best romantic stories, though bit too realistic in describing the disease..
    1 ❤
  • kittyflumpin Nov 14, 2013
    "But I really don’t like it when a disease is used as a last-minute plot twist for a dramatic ending."

    Case in point: Single Dad in Love. I was loving it, reeeeeeeally loving it. In the beginning it's a pretty cute family/rom-com and then they add in the sick-child element, which is in itself enough to write a drama around; but then, well into the drama, suddenly the male lead ALSO gets a brain tumor and the last few eps are him coming to terms and trying to figure out a way to give custody of his son to his ex-wife and I was like WTF IS THIS, THIS IS NOT THE DRAMA I SIGNED UP FOR.

    Add to this THAT ENDING (which I still don't understand-- were they actually deceiving the son by implying his dad was just off training [he's a boxer]? Were they ever going to tell him his dad actually died?) and this drama just makes me throw my hands up AAAAARRRHGHGH.

  • NamiKaze Nov 14, 2013
    my rainy days is very good.. cute and sad at the same time :D
  • Kachiiing Nov 13, 2013
    I watched Koizara (the drama) and I was bawling by the 1st episode, even though nothing had happened yet!! For the risk of my sanity, I decided not to watch the remaining 2, incase I collapsed with grief.

    Again with 1 litre of tears...I absconded by the 8th episode. I also bailed at Scent of a woman, ep 11, when he finally finds out...gosh. What's wrong with me? I need to learn how to weather melodramas better!
  • PrettyCarEye Nov 13, 2013
    I'm one of those people who avoid dramas where disease is the main theme like the plague. And if I know disease as a plot twist is coming (when it affects the main character/s at least) I'll also probably avoid watching the drama. For me it doesn't really matter how life-affirming or inspiring the story is. All I'll be able to focus on is:

    1) a character I've more than likely grown to love is suffering and will meet a terrible end.

    2) my own mortality ... how, when, where will I die? Will I die young having never accomplished my dreams? Where will I go? Will I just simply cease to exist, never to behold the people I love ever again?

    Man, if I want to be bombarded with such depressing thoughts I turn on the news.
  • BB26 Nov 12, 2013
    Great and nice written but the drama version of Koizora is better than the movie. I just needed to point that out.
    1 ❤


Newest Articles