1. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)
As a result, Abducted in Plain Sight is the type of film that enrages and captivates viewers alike. Many people are baffled by the story of how the Broberg family, who appeared to be perfect on the outside, was nearly destroyed by a sociopathic neighbor named Bob “B” Berchtold, who was obsessed with Jan, their 12-year-old daughter in the mid-1970s. While that sums up the documentary, it falls short in describing one of the most bizarre crimes ever committed by a deranged con artist who managed to kidnap Jan twice. Despite the fact that Abducted in Plain Sight is one of the craziest true-crime films to come out in recent years, it is also another horrifying look at how one man’s manipulation can destroy many lives, and how adults and the justice system fail young people who are the victims of sexual crimes.
2. Amanda Knox (2016)
Amanda Knox was the primary suspect in the murder of her Italian roommate while studying abroad and was convicted and acquitted twice. With unprecedented access to key players and new archival footage, directors Rod Blackhurst (Here Alone) and Brian McGinn (Chef’s Table) revisit the tangled story of the embattled media sensation. However, Knox’s participation gives you an idea of the film’s leanings toward guilt or innocence, ultimately asking viewers to put themselves in Knox’s shoes and ask “Do you suspect her? or Do you believe her? Guys, it’s time to clean off your Crazy Walls.
3. American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)
A narrative previously told in tabloid headlines and chyrons on cable news can be reframed in various ways. Even though it’s a true-crime documentary about Chris Watts, the man accused of killing his pregnant wife Shanann, as well as the couple’s two young daughters (Bella and Celeste), it’s disturbing and depressing all at once. The filmmaker Jenny Popplewell creates a striking documentary that feels more like a found-footage film, with no new talking-head interviews, recreations, or voiceovers, by showing the suburban Watts family dynamics primarily through Shanann’s social media accounts and text messages and the investigation from police body cameras, interrogation room footage, and courtroom shots. American Murder’s no-frills approach may frighten some viewers, but it’s the kind of true-crime documentary that stays with you.
4. Athlete A (2020)
Athlete A, the Netflix documentary about the US gymnastics team scandal that rocked the sports world in 2017, is not to be confused with HBO’s At the Heart of Gold. For years, ex-team doctor and child abuser Larry Nassar preyed on young athletes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This documentary examines his heinous sexual crimes and those of investigative journalists at The Indianapolis Star who first reported on them. It’s harsh, but it gives these young women a chance to heal through a process known as catharsis.
5. Casting JonBenet (2017)
Casting JonBenet is a fascinating and difficult documentary to watch at the same time. The story is based on the unsolved 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, and amateur actors from the town where the tragedy occurred audition for roles in a dramatization of the story. Even though the end result is shocking, it’s fascinating to explore the mystery’s legacy and others like it. In true-crime movies, the facts almost always take precedence over the narrative. In this case, you should be talking about much more than just the cold case in question.
6. Cold Case Files: Classic (1999–2017)
Cold cases are especially heartbreaking because they are frequently left unsolved for decades, leaving the victims and their families with no justice or closure. It focuses on notorious unsolved cases, the reasons why they went cold, and how they were reopened today in Cold Case Files. Season 1 of this docuseries has only just been released on Netflix, but like its cousin Forensic Files, it has been running for years, but its format and ability to revisit old cases remain strong.
7. The Confession Tapes (2017– )
Is it possible that you’ll confess to a crime you didn’t commit after hours of torturous police questioning? As a result of how frequently this occurs, Netflix produced a documentary series to examine the phenomenon. Even in cases where those convicted maintain that the claims are completely false, the Confession Tapes investigates how people convicted of murder detail how they believe they were forced to confess when they were under pressure to confess. The Confession Tapes may appear to be just another true crime binge, with six stories told in seven episodes, but it focuses on a single phenomenon and the way the criminal justice system has become enmeshed in it.
8. The Confession Killer (2019)
Criminal Henry Lee Lucas admitted to the murders of over a hundred people. As it turns out, Texas law enforcement was duped into believing Lucas confessed to the murder of his mother along with 11 other people for their own personal gain. However, that’s not nearly as alarming as the fact that they fell into his trap of false confessions. To show how law enforcement was manipulated and neglected to seek justice for those whose cases went unsolved, this five-part Netflix series examines the failures of law enforcement. But this is one of the most gripping stories about criminal justice system flaws in recent memory.
9. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)
Shockingly Evil and Vile explores the life and psyche of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy as well as the frantic investigation into his numerous heinous crimes against women in this four-episode docu-series from the same director. Old news footage and new interviews with surviving victims and investigators tell the full, sordid story in a way that will satisfy even the most jaded true-crime fan, with never-before-heard audio from interviews conducted with Bundy while he was on death row.
10. Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021– )
This anthology from filmmaker Joe Berlinger, known for his work on Paradise Lost and The Ted Bundy Tapes, explores the history and lore surrounding various crime scenes. Season one of the show takes place at LA’s most terrifying hotel, the Cecil, which is beautiful on the inside but has seen its fair share of horrors. Documentary about Canadian traveler Elisa Lam’s death in 2013 after her body was found in hotel water tank is the focus of this film. After years of speculation based on viral surveillance footage of the case, the show attempts to make sense of the case by evaluating the many theories put forth by armchair detectives on the internet. There are enough oddities in this documentary to keep you from leaving early even if the story wanders.
11. Dirty Money (2018– )
Even when it’s committed in the private sector, crime is still crime. This docuseries, directed by Alex Gibney (Going Clear), looks into some of the world’s most powerful and corrupt corporations, including Donald Trump’s. The heist of maple syrup (the most Canadian crime ever committed), the predatory payday loan industry, and the Volkswagen emissions scandal are all other topics that were discussed. You’ll be shaking your fist at the global corporatocracy after watching these 12 episodes.
12. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2019)
If you’re a parent, don’t watch this docuseries. It’s a nightmare for parents. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann makes an attempt to explain one of the most publicized and perplexing disappearances in British history, despite the fact that it starts to drag after eight episodes. The doctor looks into the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann in Portugal while she was asleep in her hotel room and her parents were eating dinner less than 200 feet away. Even though the case remains unsolved, many questions remain: Are the parents hiding something, as the media has long suggested? Or, as the documentary suggests, should we feel sorry for them? It tries to deconstruct a tragedy through recreations and hints that this isn’t a closed case for good.
13. Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019)
The following is a word of warning: Don’t F**k With Cats. Docuseries is the best example of Netflix’s recent holy sh*t, how real are these subjects for documentaries, following the hunt of a group of internet detectives to catch someone who seems obsessed with gaining clout by torturing and killing cats on camera. As it tells its own twisted story, this series succeeds in questioning our own voyeurism and self-righteousness in an age where true crime obsession has skyrocketed.
14. Evil Genius (2018)
While true crime documentaries frequently focus on a single incident, the best ones unfold like an onion, revealing shocking revelations on a layer by layer basis. One such example is Netflix’s own Evil Genius, which in four 45-minute episodes tackles a bank heist, bombing, and merciless scavenger hunt full of surprises, all allegedly committed by a single woman. The show investigates Marjorie Diehl-heinous Armstrong’s robbery and murder scheme, trying to figure out why she would want to undermine the authorities in this way.
15. Forensic Files (1996–2011)
Forensic Files is one of those shows that is always on in the background. While staying in a hotel, do you find yourself flipping through the channels? It’s game on now. Is there a holiday weekend coming up? I suspect there’ll be a marathon going on at the same time. There’s a lot to see over the course of the series’ long run because DNA analysis has been used to solve some of the most heinous crimes. For OG true crime fans, this is a show to watch or at the very least one to throw on when you’re desperate to play detective. The show aired for years before true crime even became its own major genre.
16. The Innocent Man (2018)
Following two unsolved murders in 1980s Ada, Oklahoma, The Innocent Man is based on the sole nonfiction book of the same name by John Grisham. As well as the fate of two other convicts who maintain their innocence to this day while in prison, this riveting series chronicles the early conviction and exoneration of former suspects. This Netflix original follows in the footsteps of other popular true-crime series by slowly revealing details and presenting alternate theories.
17. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)
Jeffery Epstein, the predatory billionaire at the center of a global sex-trafficking ring, makes an intriguing subject for a documentary because of his wealth and position of power. As a result, it came as no surprise when Netflix decided to produce a four-part documentary series directed by Lisa Bryan and executive produced by Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost trilogy) and James Patterson, author of numerous bestselling novels and a non-fiction book on the subject. While Epstein died mysteriously in prison in 2019, those looking for conspiracy theories will find instead a well-sourced, self-consciously scrupulous attempt to untangle some of the mysteries in Epstein’s biography while also giving voice to the many young women he abused. Epstein: A Biography Filthy Rich is a frustrating film to watch because it does a poor job of revealing anything about the main character, but the survivor is heard and felt. Each of their tales sheds new light on a mystery that hasn’t been solved completely.
18. The Keepers (2017)
The Keepers raises the bar for the true-crime genre by delving into the story’s micro- and macro-layers, which include sexual abuse, murder, police corruption, and the Catholic Church. The film revolves around the strange disappearance and death in 1969 of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun who taught at a Catholic school. Her former students are still looking into the case, and the filmmakers follow their progress. Over the course of the seven-part series, numerous shocking twists are revealed as the eerie mystery transforms into a disturbing exposé and then circles around again.
19. Making a Murderer (2015–2018)
It took Netflix ten years to produce their true crime hit series True Detective, and it still didn’t resolve the case of Steven Avery, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Even if you believe Avery is innocent, the story is heartbreaking and exposes disturbing truths about crime, justice, and how the United States deals with both. The second season dug deeper into the disturbing truths as a new defense attorney took on Avery’s case as the case progressed.
20. Murder Among the Mormons (2021)
True-crime docuseries Murder among the Mormons, about a series of bombings in Utah in 1985, is a clever study of belief, entangling Mormons in a con man’ web of lies over the course of three twist-filled episodes on Netflix. One “beautiful day,” as described by the prosecutor interviewed for the series, saw two pipe bombs detonate in Salt Lake City, killing two people and injuring a third. The next day, a third bomb exploded in a car, injuring document dealer Mark Hofmann, who the police later learned had planted the first two bombs in an elaborate scheme involving a collection of potentially valuable church documents. There is a warmth and curiosity to Hofmann’s story that sets it apart from more traditionally grisly true-crime fare. The series sheds light on how a master of deception can move through the world with relative ease.
21. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021)
Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, terrorized Los Angeles in the 1980s by going on a killing spree and spreading fear using Satanic imagery during the height of the Satanic panic, targeting no particular demographic. His brutal killings are the subject of this four-part documentary, but they are presented as if they were a police investigation. Tiller Russell, the director, focuses on the difficulties faced by the detectives tasked with solving the case, as well as the media frenzy surrounding the incident and the harrowing testimonies of the victims. It’s a frustrating watch for true-crime enthusiasts who want to know everything about the case, but it’s an admirable effort that makes for an interesting series about how cases like this become political and cultural footballs.