Everyone has that one friend they can turn to when they’re in need of a true-crime rec, and, hi, that friend is me. I don’t know what it is about true-crime documentaries that makes me so obsessed. Maybe it’s settling into my couch with a big ol’ glass of red, the adrenaline of trying to figure out who’s responsible before the episode wraps up, and learning about all the f*cked-up things that happen on this Earth (eek!)—whatever it is, it’s hard to stop watching. And sure, I may have some trouble falling asleep for a week after a true-crime binge sesh, but entertainment comes at a cost! I will not be judged.
If you’re here, I’m assuming you’ve already listened to a few true-crime podcasts and read a handful of true-crime books, and you’re well on your way to becoming a bona fide true-crime junkie. Me too!! So put on your cute lil detective hat and check out this list of the best true-crime documentaries and docuseries on Netflix, including deep dives into well-known (and totally horrifying) cases like Ted Bundy. Happy nightmares!
As stressful as it is addicting, each episode of this docuseries recounts the story of a different person (or persons) who confessed to a crime—yeah, usually a murder—that they didn’t actually commit. Why would someone do such a thing, you ask? Well, um, a lil thing call police intimidation. It’s rough.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Back in 2007, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann was taken from her bed at a resort in Portugal while her parents dined with their friends at a restaurant fewer than 200 feet away. The documentary dives into the still-ongoing investigation and the seemingly endless number of theories for what happened to the little girl, which range from holding her parents responsible to concluding that a sex-trafficking gang was involved. You’ll just have to watch for yourself to decide what to believe.
The Devil Next Door
Ever wondered what it’d be like to find out that your elderly suburban neighbor was actually a brutally evil Nazi extermination camp guard? This series follows the allegations and numerous trials that attempt to prove that Cleveland resident John Demjanjuk was actually the infamous Ivan the Terrible from a camp in Poland. Buckle up, because you’re in for a long ride to WTF-ville.
If church conspiracies and whodunnit docuseries are your thang, then The Keepers is so damn for you. It follows the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun and teacher at a Baltimore high school where she suspected that the school’s priest was sexually abusing students. It’s a truly wild story of murder, police cover-ups, and abuse as told in the students’ own words.
The Confession Killer
Henry Lee Lucas, one of the world’s most infamous serial killers, confessed to murdering hundreds of people over a 20-year span. But here’s the thing: The victims, the criminal methods, and the weapons used were all over the freakin’ place. Oh, and there also isn’t that much evidence that actually ties him to the murders. The Confession Killer isn’t so much of a whodunnit as it is a “Seriously, he did that one too???”
Who Killed Little Gregory?
Four-year-old Grégory Villemin was found dead in the Vologne River in France with rope tied around his hands and feet. Authorities have been looking into this case for *decades*, but it remains unsolved. The story is filled tons with mystery (did the people sending Gregory’s father threatening messages do it?!), plenty of sexism (sure, cops, his mom is toootally guilty because she got a boob job!?), and...a second murder.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
This docuseries tries to answer the question “How do you go from NFL star to convicted murderer?” In case you missed this as it was playing out in real time, Aaron Hernandez was a star tight end on the New England Patriots, then he was accused of a double murder but allowed to play more football before he was accused (and convicted) of murdering his future brother-in-law. It’s a lot.
Abducted in Plain Sight
Even for the most seasoned of true-crime enthusiasts, this story will mess you up. It follows the abuse and double kidnappings (yeah, it happened *twice*) of teenager Jan Broberg Felt by her neighbor Robert Berchtold in the ’70s. PSA: If someone tries to kidnap your kid, don’t let them anywhere near your child again. Also, call the cops.
The Innocent Man
In 1982, a young woman was found murdered in Ada, Oklahoma. Just two years later, another woman went missing under similar circumstances. The series, based on John Grisham’s book, looks into the potentially false confessions of four different people in relation to the crimes.
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
If there’s one thing the internet will not tolerate, it’s hurting cats. After a man posted a video of himself killing two cats to the World Wide Web, a team of internet sleuths started searching for the man responsible. As it turns out, he just so happens to be Luke Magnotta, one of Canada’s most infamous killers.
Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
You probably know Ted Bundy as the charismatic serial killer from the 1970s. These previously unreleased recordings from his time on death row will show the notoriously “charming” murderer in a whole new, extremely creepy light.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Evil Genius is a docuseries that dives into the “pizza bomber” case of 2003. It’s an insane story about a bank robbery that ends in a public murder broadcasted on live television. Heads up though: Even once your heart rate has settled down, a few scenes from this docuseries will pop up in your nightmares for...ever.
Amanda Knox was convicted and acquitted twice for the 2007 murder of her study-abroad roommate Meredith Kercher. This documentary investigates the murder, trials, and tabloid coverage of the case and gives a look at Amanda’s life after it all.
Wild Wild Country
Do you like cults? (Like…as in…do you like learning about them?) If so, you’ll love this documentary about a cult leader who creates a utopia in a desert in Oregon.
Making a Murderer
Steven Avery spent 18 years in jail for a crime he did not commit before he was exonerated. Two years later, he was convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Now, he’s claiming that he’s innocent and looking for a way out. Time to smash that “Yes, I’m still watching” button.
When Michael Peterson’s wife died in 2001, he told everyone she fell down the stairs. When a medical examiner investigated, it was revealed that she was killed with a weapon. The Staircase gives us a look at this super-complicated, high-profile murder case.
ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay?
Jam Master Jay, the Run-D.M.C. DJ, was gunned down in 2002, and although there were witnesses, his murder is still unsolved. Who Killed Jam Master Jay examines his life, tragic death, and the conspiracy theories that still have the world wondering what TF actually happened.
Love true crime but hate murder? Fortunately (but mostly unfortunately), corporations commit heinous crimes literally all of the time! Dirty Money exposes some of the most horrible, corrupt crimes that companies all over the world commit.
Audrie & Daisy
Audrie & Daisy tells the stories of Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, two teenage sexual assault survivors from California and Missouri, respectively. The documentary details the disturbing ways both girls’ lives were changed as the crime committed against them.
This recently released Netflix original documentary takes yet another important look at the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by John du Pont. The New York Times describes the doc as “straightforward” and “good” for “those who haven’t already spent enough time with this strange, unsettling story.”
Related: The “30 for 30” take on the subject in 2015, The Prince of Pennsylvania, is also streaming on Netflix.
It’s like CSI but real life. There are two collections currently streaming on Netflix and both have 40 episodes, so do take your time.
When They See Us
Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah directed this 2012 documentary about the high-profile case of five black and Latinx teens who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in the ’80s and subsequently spent between 6 to 15 years in prison. The group would later sue New York State for racial discrimination, among other things.
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