Best True Crime Documentaries
True crime documentaries are having their best year ever, thanks to the availability of streaming services. The realms of novels and podcasts have also been flooded with information about crimes and well-known people. Since December 2020, Netflix has produced a new real crime documentary film or miniseries every month. True crime has grown in popularity from a small niche interest to a popular pastime for many individuals.
Top-rated True Crime Documentaries
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami
Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon are the subjects of “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami,” a six-part Netflix documentary series. One of Florida’s most well-known cocaine enterprises is still attributed to the duo. The series chronicles their rise to power as Miami’s drug lords, as well as their final demise. This carefully edited real narrative is most definitely for you if you like “Narcos” or “Breaking Bad.”
Worst Roommate Ever
This docuseries tells the experiences of people who have had the worst roommates, with topics ranging from murder to fraud to squatting and intimidation. Whether you’re captivated by severe fraud or just want to learn more about renters’ rights, it’s absolutely worth watching.
The Tinder Swindler
Simon Leviev rose to international prominence for all the wrong reasons thanks to Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler. If you’ve managed to avoid the glossy documentary, The Tinder Swindler follows a sophisticated con artist who has a thing for online dating. The Tinder Swindler features interviews with his victims, many of whom lost tens of thousands of dollars, and is intended to serve as a warning to anybody considering of sending their online bae a large sum of money.
We can reasonably presume that most individuals who watched “Amanda Knox” yelled at the TV for a large amount of the movie. Amanda Knox, who was studying in Italy at the time, would be implicated in the death of her roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox’s arrest was widely covered and depicted in the Italian media with minimal subtlety. She was portrayed as a terrifying creature. The film chronicles her four-year detention in an Italian jail before the Supreme Court of Cassation exonerated her. It’s not just a stunning real story about a sad murder, but it’s also a cautionary tale about the dangers of the court of public opinion.
The Girl from Plainville
Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 after prodding her lover Conrad Roy III to commit suicide while they were both 17 and 18, largely through text messages. This new series, starring Elle Fanning of The Great as Carter, is based on the events leading up to Roy’s death and the trial that followed, portraying how the real-life events impacted everyone involved.
Abducted in Plain Sight
“Adducted in Plain Sight,” directed by Skye Borgman and first released in 2017, is a film about Jan Broberg Felt’s brutal kidnappings. During the 1970s, Jan was kidnapped twice by her next-door neighbor, Robert Berchtold. The documentary’s revelations, which are based on Jan’s memoir “Stolen Innocence,” vary from perplexing to downright horrifying. It’s a narrative of a complete family being influenced by unhealthy obsessions, manipulation, and ugly deeds. Many viewers and critics can’t believe how gullible the Brobergs were, but, like with most true crime, it’s true – and we wish it wasn’t.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, is a literary first, delving into cold cases with ruthless clarity while simultaneously bringing readers into the author’s own life. McNamara died tragically before her book was published, but the non-fiction book and HBO series that followed it are testaments to one woman’s commitment to the truth, due to the help of her close friends.
The Family Next Door
The most horrible atrocities may sometimes take place right in front of our eyes, leaving us completely unaware until it’s too late. The tale of the Watts family killings is told through preserved family film, text messages, and law enforcement recordings. Because of the documentary’s dramatic pace, the truth about Chris Watts — the father — committing the killings is not revealed until the second half of the film. It’s a chilling look at how families may disintegrate and the most horrible atrocities can take place amid seemingly calm suburbia.
Audrie & Daisy
The tragic story of Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman is told in “Audrie & Daisy.” Following their sexual assaults, the girls were subjected to widespread internet bullying and harassment, as well as the police investigations that followed. “Audrie & Daisy” stands out as important viewing in an age when stories of cyberbullying, internet abuse, and doxxing are becoming more and more prevalent in real life. The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, however it was released on Netflix later that year.
Tiger King is a program that doesn’t need an introduction, and with the release of Season 2, Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin’s drama is captivating the public’s attention once more. Cage Fight on Discovery+, starring Carole Baskin, is also worth watching for a glimpse of the much-maligned lady cast as Exotic’s foe.
The Confession Killer
Almost every true-crime series is around solving crimes; this one unravels many. The case of Henry Lee Lucas is one of the most dismal in criminal justice history since it not only provided false justice to hundreds of people, but it also likely allowed killers to continue murdering people because they got away with it. Henry Lee Lucas, the inspiration for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, falsely confessed to hundreds of crimes, according to the short version. He was formerly linked to the deaths of nearly 600 individuals, many of whom he committed alongside his pal Otis Toole. Overzealous cops anxious to shift the blame on Lucas hastily closed cases around the country. No one cared to check if he was telling the truth.
Dan Schneider, a pharmacist in New Orleans, was devastated when his son was shot and killed in 1999. He discovered that his son was fueling an addiction while investigating the matter on his own, and he even assisted in the prosecution of his killer. But that’s only the beginning of the narrative. Schneider realized he wanted to do more, so he began tracking down and examining a doctor who was essentially creating addicts by prescribing OxyContin. Schneider’s narrative is one of redemption, with the pharmacist turning his son’s death into a struggle to ensure that fewer boys perish under his watch. He’s an affectingly candid interview subject, the type of person you can’t help but admire and pull for as he seeks closure and justice.
Surviving R. Kelly
R. Kelly’s alleged sexual assault is the subject of a Lifetime documentary that includes interviews with singers such as Chance the Rapper and John Legend. Kelly was found guilty of sex trafficking and sexual assault in 2021, and Lifetime’s series aims to offer his victims a voice while also exposing the news story to a global audience.
Hoopla and Kanopy
Ken Burns is undoubtedly the most well-known name in the documentary filmmaking field, and with good reason. From intricate battles to key historical personalities to notable sportsmen, the guy seemed to have covered everything. The documentary, which he co-directed with his daughter Sarah and was released in 2012, examines the characters and events surrounding the 1989 Central Park Jogger case. It greatly benefits from Burns’ distinctive use of archive film and images to thoroughly immerse viewers in the action. It’s just as relevant a narrative now as it was then, and this documentary does an excellent job of presenting it.
A Wilderness of Error
This five-part documentary series centres around Jeffrey MacDonald and is based on the same-named book. MacDonald, a Green Beret Army physician, is sentenced to death for the murders of his two young kids and pregnant wife. The documentary uses reenactments based on trial transcripts, audio, and press coverage to show what may have transpired. Even if the material given is public knowledge, a successful true-crime documentary should be able to keep the audience guessing. It’s an intriguing and stylistic look at a decades-old case in which many are still questioning Jeffrey MacDonald’s innocence.
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer
With a title like “Don’t F**k with Cats,” it should come as no surprise that the series has some very nefarious events involving cats. Luka Magnotta’s heinous deeds generated a massive internet manhunt, which was aided by a group of committed internet users. This three-part series depicts Luka’s actions and the lengths to which others went to apprehend him. The series demonstrates not just how twisted and wicked people can be, but also the perseverance of amateur sleuths, through dynamic cutting and sleek pace.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Filmmaker Nick Broomfield investigates the tale of the Grim Sleeper, who terrorized South Central Los Angeles for 23 years. Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was convicted guilty of the deaths of ten women in 2016, but the cases went unresolved until DNA and ballistics tied him to the killings in the 2000s. Tales of the Grim Sleeper also delves into the racial stereotypes that influenced the killings of several African-American women, resulting in their deaths going unresolved for decades.
The Central Park Five
The Central Park jogger case, which witnessed the arrest, coercion, and conviction of five Black and Latino young people for the alleged rape and assault of a lady in Manhattan in 1989, is the subject of Ken Burns’ documentary. Those who were convicted maintained their innocence while in jail, and their convictions were subsequently overturned after another inmate confessed to the crime. A $41 million settlement was achieved in 2014.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
This is the most frank documentary on the list, a study of pure horrific inhumanity perpetrated on a kid, so proceed with caution. Gabriel Fernandez was beaten so terribly by his mother and boyfriend that they murdered him. Brian Knappenberger investigates the case and the trial against these monsters in minute detail, even going so far as to blame the system for allowing this to happen. Four social workers were even charged with a felony by Los Angeles prosecutors, and Knappenberger’s video shows how the safety nets in place to preserve people like Gabriel are ripped and frayed. It’s full with facts and even images that you’ll never forget, but it’s also a compelling approach to ask people what they can do to ensure that what happened to Gabriel doesn’t happen again.
This six-part series, directed by the legendary Errol Morris, is heavy on reenactments (featuring Peter Sarsgaard and other notable faces), but it also counts as a non-fiction exploration of actual crime. It’s the story of Frank Olson, a man who died in unusual circumstances in 1953, and his son’s subsequent investigation into whether or not the government was involved. Olson may have been a part of Project MKUltra, a clandestine government project that may have given him LSD soon before his death. Morris takes a multi-faceted approach to the subject, weaving a historical thriller with a human drama of a son’s quest for the truth. It’s fantastic, as is practically anything, Morris.