32 Best True Crime Documentary Movies And Shows On Netflix
True crime movies and documentary shows are still largely popular: Everywhere you turn these days, whether on Netflix, HBO, Amazon or on iPhone, it seems like there’s a new—and wildly successful— true crime book, podcast, or show on top of the charts.
Nobody knows exactly why. Maybe because evil truly fascinates us or because it gives us an adrenaline rush. In any case, if you want some top picks on Netflix in this category, the following list provides a great starting point.
In 2001 novelist Michael Peterson’s wife died, and he claimed she perished after falling down stairs at their home. The medical examiner, however, determined that she had been beaten with a weapon, which led to Peterson becoming a suspect in what would become a murder investigation.
This series, which began with eight episodes in 2005 before being updated in 2013 and 2018, follows the investigation as it proceeds from Peterson’s arrest to a verdict being reached in the ensuing trial. The real-life courtroom thriller offers a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial and an examination of contemporary American justice.
31. The Keepers
Netflix’s latest docuseries tackles the unsolved murder of Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore. After disappearing on Nov. 7, 1969, Cesnik’s body was found nearly two months later — but to this day, the killer remains unnamed.
In the ’90s, the case returned to the spotlight after one of Cesnik’s former students accused the high school’s chaplain of sexual abuse, and claims that she was taken to Cesnik’s then undiscovered corpse and threatened.
Director Ryan White pieces together the story through conversations with friends, relatives, journalists, government officials and Baltimore citizens, hoping to uncover the truth.
30. Inside The Criminal Mind
Inside the Criminal Mind- a gripping exploration exposing the psychological machinations and immoral behavior that define the most nefarious criminal types. Every episode of the series delves into the ardent backgrounds of infamous criminal’s and with commentary from world leading experts, a cognitive profile is created allowing the audience to not just understand but recognize the psychology that creates the most fearsome types of criminals.
29. Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox is a 2016 American documentary film about Amanda Knox, twice convicted and later acquitted of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016 and on Netflix on September 30, 2016.
28. Evil Genius
In August 2003, an attempted bank robbery in Erie, Pa., made news headlines across America when the robbery-gone-wrong turned into a public murder. The attempted robber was a pizza delivery driver who had a bomb locked around his neck. Known as the “pizza bomber” case, a manhunt ensued to find out who was responsible for the crime.
Authorities eventually arrested Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong for the delivery man’s death. She was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but this four-part Netflix original documentary series sets out to prove that there’s more to the conspiracy and murder than what was previously thought.
27. The Confession Tapes
When is a confession not a confession? When it’s involuntary, coerced or downright false. Those are the claims made by the subjects featured in this true-crime series. Each episode goes inside a case in which a murder suspect made a confession but later backtracked.
Episodes include interviews with investigators, lawyers, wrongful conviction experts and people close to those involved in the cases. Audio and video recordings of the suspects’ interactions with members of law enforcement are also presented to help determine the legality of the confessions.
26. Killer Kids
What can possibly motivate children and teenagers to kill someone? This documentary series provides some answers — and, because of the subject’s nature, leaves many questions unanswered — by crafting in-depth profiles of the lives of kids who commit murder.
Using information taken from actual police files, each episode deals with a specific type of murder case — from gang initiations and murders of family members to school killings and occult ceremonies — exposes various motives, and compares the judicial response to these crimes in Canada, the U.S., England and France.
25. Cold Justice
The series, produced by Dick Wolf, follows former Harris County,Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and a team of investigators as they re-open unsolved murder cases with the consent and assistance of local law enforcement.
Crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary, a veteran of the Las Vegas Metro police, also appeared on the series; McClary had earlier been the inspiration for Catherine Willows, the character portrayed by Marg Helgenberger on the series CSI.
24. Wild Wild Country
When a controversial guru builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, it causes a massive conflict with local ranchers. This docuseries chronicles the conflict, which leads to the first bioterror attack in the United States and a massive case of illegal wiretapping.
It is a pivotal, but largely forgotten, time in American cultural history that tested the country’s tolerance for the separation of church and state. Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass serve as executive producers on the series.
23. The Investigator: A British Crime Story
Mark Williams-Thomas has 11 years of police experience, specialising in child protection. Over the last two decades he has been investigating major crime, including the unveiling of Jimmy Savile as a sexual abuser.
22. Making a Murderer
Exonerated after spending nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, Steven Avery filed suit against Manitowoc County, Wis., and several individuals involved with his arrest. Shortly after, however, Avery found himself behind bars again, this time accused of the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.
She was last seen on Avery’s property, where she was to photograph a vehicle. Avery and nephew Brendan Dassey were tried and (spoiler alert) convicted of the crime. But that’s not the end of the story. When Columbia graduate students Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos read about Avery, they felt his story would make an interesting documentary.
Neither PBS nor HBO were interested, but Netflix took on their concept to produce the docuseries, which generated plenty of publicity and prompted petitions to have Avery’s case reviewed, though officials in Wisconsin insist all the evidence is not presented in the program.
21. The Most Hated Woman in America
The rise and untimely demise of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (Melissa Leo), crank, swindler, iconoclast, and America’s most outspoken atheist.
20. Strong Island
When filmmaker Yance Ford investigates the 1992 murder of a young black man, it becomes an achingly personal journey since the victim, 24-year-old William Ford Jr., was the filmmaker’s brother.
19. Kardashian: The Man Who Saved OJ Simpson
Robert Kardashian, father of the clan that became a multi-million dollar showbiz dynasty, was also the man who saved OJ Simpson from a murder conviction. This special documents the moments OJ’s best friend picked up the Louis Vuitton garment bag (contents unknown) that he brought back from his overnight trip to Chicago, and made it disappear forever.
18. Countdown to Death: Pablo Escobar
Through rare interviews, images and wiretap audio, this documentary reconstructs the last nine years of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s life.
17. Long Shot
When Dodgers fan Juan Catalan is wrongly accused of killing a young woman, he turns to an unlikely source to help prove he was at a baseball game with his daughter at the time of the murder: footage from the HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose crew was filming an episode at Dodger Stadium that day. Features appearances by Larry David. Directed by Jacob LaMendola.
16. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
A unique look inside the mind of an infamous serial killer with this cinematic self-portrait crafted from statements made by Ted Bundy, including present-day interviews, archival footage and audio recordings from death row.
15. Terrorism Close Calls
The war on terror is everywhere and anywhere. In this series, we learn about the deadly terrorist attacks that almost happened or were not as deadly as planned. Each episodes explores a recently declassified terrorist scheme intended to cause mass casualties.
14. Forensic Files
Forensic Files is an American documentary-style television program that reveals how forensic science is used to solve violent crimes, mysterious accidents, and outbreaks of illness.
The show was originally broadcast on TLC, narrated by Peter Thomas, and produced by Medstar Television, distributed by FilmRise, in association with truTV Original Productions. It broadcast 406 episodes from its debut on TLC in 1996 as Medical Detectives until 2011.
13. Murderous Affairs
Murderous Affairs investigates love affairs gone wrong and spouses driven to kill – stories that give a whole new meaning to the vow, “till death do us part.
12. Click For Murder
Click for Murder is a crime documentary series with a twist, examining very modern crimes that could not have taken place without the internet. It provides insight on how the internet has created a new landscape for predators and prey, where people become vulnerable without even realizing they’re at risk.
11. The Innocent Man
Two murders that shook the small town of Ada, Okla., in the 1980s gained national attention and even led to renowned author John Grisham writing a nonfiction book about the crimes. Now Grisham serves as an executive producer for this six-part docuseries — which shares its name with his 2006 book — that takes a closer look at the notorious deaths.
“The Innocent Man” includes interviews with the victims’ friends and family members, Ada residents, attorneys, journalists and others involved in the case — including Grisham himself. The series, directed by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), blends new footage with compelling archival video and photos.
10. Examination of Conscience
Allegations of child sexual abuse in Spain’s Catholic institutions are examined in interviews with survivors, clergy, journalists and other experts.
9. Encounters with Evil
The series explores the minds of the perpetrators of notorious crimes, using expert analysis and interviews with those closest to the case.
8. Murder Files
The series takes an in-depth look at some of Britain’s most high-profile murders in recent memory and examines just how police nabbed the culprits through interviews with the victim’s family members and police detectives.
7. I Am A Killer
Profiling prisoners convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Recounting the events that led up to their crime, the killers reveal their motivations and how they now view their actions, after time spent on death row.
6. I Am Innocent
This docuseries delves into the stories of the wrongfully convicted in New Zealand and reveals the cracks in the justice system.
5. ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium
Known as Chile’s Bob Dylan, Victor Jara was a fearless political singer who led the historic Nueva Cancion folk movement in Chili during the CIA-backed Pinochet dictatorship. Pinochet’s regime eventually would torture and kill Jara – along with 3000 others – in the National Stadium, for writing a song about the covert killings.
The Chilean army official who was convicted of pulling the trigger and ending Jara’s life is living in hiding in Florida. He is convinced he can prove his innocence…and that’s where this story begins.
4. The 4th Company
In a violent prison in 1970s Mexico, a young inmate lands a spot on a football team that doubles as an enforcer squad for a corrupt administration. The film was named on the shortlist for Mexico’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but it was not selected. The 4th Company won the Ariel Award for Best Picture at the 59th Ariel Awards.
3. Hard Tide
This is a 2015 British crime drama written and directed by Robert Osman and Nathanael Wiseman. It stars Wiseman as a small-time drug dealer who takes care of an orphaned girl, played by Alexandra Newick, after her father dies in an accident. It premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in September 2015 and was released in April 2016.
2. Casting JonBenet
After two decades of media speculation and public fascination, filmmakers explore the macabre legacy of the world’s most famous child-murder case. We have previously reviewed a book about this case titled Perfect Murder, Perfect Townhere.
1. The Hunting Ground
The Hunting Ground is a 2015 documentary film about the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States and what its creators say is a failure of college administrations to deal with it adequately.
Written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, it premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The film was released on February 27, 2015, and it was released on Netflix in March 2016. Lady Gaga recorded an original song, “Til It Happens to You,” for the film, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.