There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: the true crime genre has pretty much taken over all forms of media. You can’t spend four minutes online without seeing a friend or loved one posting about books or televisions shows or documentaries (both serialized and not) or podcasts or made-for-Netflix movies starring a former High School Musical star portraying a serial killer. What we’re saying is the genre is everywhere.
It seems that every time you blink, there’s something new coming out about a murder or an unsolved crime of some sort. Not only that, but thanks to how fast technology and communication are advancing, there will surely be no shortage of crimes to talk about any time soon as professionals work to solve cold cases and the general public becomes more aware of still other cases (just take a stroll through Reddit someday for proof).
For whatever reasons — a macabre obsession, escapism, boredom, or something else — these documentaries are here and they’re here to stay. The thing about these docs is that many of them are broken into parts, making them beyond binge-able. It could be because you simply can’t believe what is happening before your eyes or because you need to see the despicable human being guilty of crimes finally captured. Either way, true crime documentaries offer a multi-hour experience, unlike many other genres.
Below, you can find the best crime documentaries on Netflix right now. As you’ll notice, Netflix has done a good job finding and producing high-quality crime docs and docu-series, taking the reins of the bandwagon and driving it full-speed into the future. And while Netflix isn’t the only place to binge (HBO’s The Jinx is a wonderful example of a doc not available on the platform), it is one of the best places to start.
Arguably, this is one of the most influential true crime documentaries when it comes to the nation’s current obsession with the genre. This doc looks at the imprisonment, exoneration, re-arrest, and subsequent trial of Steven Avery, who was charged with (and convicted of) the murder of Teresa Halbach. Since the first season’s premiere, countless articles have been written about the documentary and the case as a whole, but if you’re new to true crime documentaries, this is as good a place to start as any. Which is why we’re not linking to any of the articles — check out the show for yourself first.
Not all people convicted of crimes actually commit them. In fact, between 3 percent and 5 percent of capital crimes end with a wrongful conviction. The Innocent Man is an adaptation of John Grisham’s only nonfiction book, which looks at the 1998 wrongful conviction of Ronald Keith Williamson for the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter. The series also looks at another pending wrongful conviction in the same small town of Ada, Oklahoma (population: 17,000), and the effects that these types of cases have not only on those directly involved, but the town as a whole.
If you’re a parent, then this doc is probably going to be a nightmare for you. If you’re not a parent, then this will still be one of the most frustrating documentaries you’ve most likely ever seen. Abducted in Plain Sight chronicles the abduction of 12-year-old Jan Broberg by her neighbor Robert Berchtold — twice. The documentary looks at how Berchtold embedded himself in the Broberg family and how he was able to abduct Jan both times. Littered throughout the documentary are also aliens, Mormonism, and a whole heap of “how the f*ck can you let someone do that to your daughter twice, you ignorant fools?”
Perhaps one of the most infamous serial killers in American history, Ted Bundy went on a rampage that spanned multiple states, years, and victims. This documentary brings recordings of him to the front and center, allowing audiences a look at just how psychotic and terrible he was. While some have argued this glorifies serial killers, thereby expressing everything that is wrong with the country’s obsession with crimes, it is an interesting look at the mind of one of those criminals.
The unsolved murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, leads to former students of Cesnik’s investigating a coverup involving a priest at Cesnik’s school, Anthony Joseph Maskell, and multiple counts of sexual abuse against students. The Keepers looks at the lengths the Catholic church appears to go to in order to cover up crimes by one of their own. If you thought the government was terrible for covering things up, you should see how the Catholic church does it.
Just as serial killers are viewed with an unsettling amount of interest in our country right now, so are cults. Wild, Wild Country documents one of those cults: the Rajneeshpuram community, led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela. The Rajneeshis were responsible for the first bioterror attack in the U.S., and for corrupting countless people with their ideology (all while tucked away in middle-of-nowhere Oregon). This documentary has won awards for a reason — not only will you want to binge it, but you’ll also want to yell and scream at the screen while you do.
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, as footage of what would become a murder is played two minutes into the first episode. Evil Genius looks at the murder of Brian Wells, which was part of what might be one of the most insane bank heist stories ever told. If we told you the plot, you wouldn’t believe us because it is that crazy. While there have been other true crime shows made about this case, Evil Genius dives in deep, weaving an intriguing narrative that shows the lengths some people go to try and get away with murder.
The marijuana industry in California is a big deal and, in Northern California’s Humboldt County, that industry encompasses both legal and illegal enterprises. The mixing of these different sects has led to disappearances, murders, and cover-ups as locals prefer to take an outlaw view on doling out justice. Murder Mountain focuses specifically on the case of Garrett Rodriguez, who was found murdered in 2013.
After being twice convicted for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher while living in Italy, Amanda Knox spent four years in an Italian jail before being acquitted. Amanda Knox features interviews with a variety of people involved in the case, from her boyfriend at the time to journalists to law enforcement to Knox herself, to document everything that went on the case. This doc is as much about the case as it is about what can happen when tabloid journalism runs away with a story.
Are you loving your Florida Man horoscopes these days and want more Florida Man hijinks? Then The Legend of Cocaine Island is for you. The newest Netflix true crime documentary tells the story of a down-and-out Florida businessman who learns about a stash of cocaine on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra and decides to dig it up and resell it, thereby pulling his family out of the financial crisis they are in. If you know anything about literally any Florida Man story, then you can guess how this one ends.