Remember when the scariest things on streaming services were horror movies and true crime anything? We don’t either. With being stuck at home, drinking whatever we can get our hands on, and wondering when we’ll be able to throw a rager again, it seems like that time was too long ago. One other thing we’re all doing is bingeing shows and — because the world is falling apart — now might be a great time to dive right back into true crime.
The public’s obsession with the worst of humanity is ever-present, and myriad options for true crime are on Netflix (and elsewhere). And while the genre is everywhere these days — there are books, podcasts, and countless other mediums out there — those don’t really allow for cuddling up with a loved one (or your dog) and bingeing, so that’s why we lean toward the true crime documentaries.
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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 right 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 of 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.
Total Episodes: 3
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez seemingly had it all — money, fame, you name it. That all came crashing down, though, when he was arrested for murdering a friend of his. This docu-series explores Hernandez’s rise and fall as well as the secret life that may or may not have contributed in ways to what he ended up doing.
Total Episodes: 3
Don’t F**k with Cats is a docuseries that looks at the crimes and eventual capture of Canadian serial killer and all-around trash person Luka Magnotta, who first became known to the internet for posting a video of himself killing cats. His crimes escalate, and the video itself sets off a firestorm on the internet as people around the world set out to try and find him and bring him to justice (thankfully, they do).
Total Episodes: 20
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.
Total Episodes: 6
Not all people convicted of crimes actually commit them. In fact, between 3% and 5% of capital crime prosecutions 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.
Total Length: 90 minutes
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?”
Total Episodes: 4
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 a notorious criminal.
Total Episodes: 7
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 appeared 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.
Total Episodes: 6
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 almost feels like a sci-fi movie on Netflix.
Total Episodes: 4
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 to which some people go to try and get away with murder.
Total Episodes: 6
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.
Total Length: 92 minutes
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.
Total Length: 87 minutes
Are you loving your Florida Man horoscopes these days and want more Florida Man hi-jinks? 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.
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