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The Best True Crime Documentaries On Netflix Right Now

Frank Salerno on Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer
(Image credit: Netflix)

There are a few things every streaming service needs to have in order to be a success: great movies, binge-worthy shows, and lots and lots of the best true crime documentaries. It just so happens that Netflix checks off all three of those boxes with its massive library of original content. In the past we’ve talked about the best movies on Netflix as well as the platform’s best shows, but today we have something for all those true crime aficionados and armchair sleuths.

That’s right, we’re about dive head-first into the murky waters in order to seek out the best true crime documentaries on Netflix. Below you will find gripping documentary films about serial killers and massive criminal conspiracies, as well as multi-part stories about some of the most notorious crimes of the past 50 years.

Jan Broberg Felt in Abducted in Plain Sight

(Image credit: Netflix)

Abducted In Plain Sight (2017)

In 1974, 12-year-old Jan Broberg was abducted from her family’s home in Idaho, but not by some drifter driving through town or a group of satanists. No, she was kidnapped by Robert Berchtold, a close family friend. As it is disclosed in the Netflix documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight, the kidnapping (and her abductor’s claims that they had to have sex in order to save a race of aliens) wasn’t even the craziest part of Broberg’s story.

This terrifying and maddening documentary tells a complicated and unsettling story about a man who used his power and influence to harm a young girl, as well as convince her parents he did nothing wrong. 

Stream Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix.

Chris Watts in American Murder: The Family Next Door

(Image credit: Netflix)

American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)

Chris Watts had everything a man could want: a beautiful wife, two daughters (with a son on the way),  a spacious home, and a great reputation in his local Colorado community. Still, something drove the seemingly normal man to commit one of the most heinous crimes in the state’s history.

The 2020 Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door explores the shocking 2018 quadruple-murder, and in the process tells a story of Shanann, Bella, and Celeste Watts that makes them more than just the victims of a crime committed by an incredibly disturbed and broken man.

Stream American Murder: The Family Next Door on Netflix.

Brian Wells in Evil Genius

(Image credit: Netflix)

Evil Genius (2018)

In August 2003, Brian Wells, a pizza delivery driver in Eerie, Pennsylvania, walked into a bank with a collar-bomb around his neck and demanded the cashier hand over money. By the end of the afternoon, Wells would be dead on the side of the road after the bomb exploded, and became an international news sensation in the immediate aftermath.

The four-part 2018 Netflix documentary Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist not only provides information on the fateful day of August 28, 2003, but also the story of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, the mastermind behind the whole ordeal. In terms of profiling a criminal mastermind with a nasty vendetta, there are few docs that compare to Evil Genius.

Stream Evil Genius on Netflix.

Juan Catalan in Long Shot

(Image credit: Netflix)

Long Shot (2017)

In May 2003, Juan Catalan was accused of murdering a 16-year-old girl in Sun Valley, California, a crime he has always claimed he never committed because he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game with his daughter that night. And, if one thing can back up his claims it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The 2017 documentary, Long Shot, details the fight by Juan Catalan and his legal team to show that the longtime Dodgers fan wasn’t behind the gun that claimed the life of a teenager by scouring through an iconic episode of the HBO comedy series that just happened to be filmed at Dodgers Stadium that fateful night.

Stream Long Shot on Netflix.

Deanna Thompson in Don't Fuck with Cats

(Image credit: Netflix)

Don’t F**K With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer (2019)

After a group of amateur sleuths stumble upon a series of videos of a man torturing and killing cats, they team up in an attempt to track him down and make him pay for his crimes. But, this only emboldens the demented cat-killer who quickly turns his attention to human victims.

The 2019 documentary Don’t F**K with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer is one of the most fascinating and disturbing multi-part documentaries you will watch on Netflix. Equal parts exhilarating and unsettling, the series gives you a peek into the mind of one of Canada’s most notorious killers of the 21st Century.

Stream Don’t F**K With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer on Netflix.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel

(Image credit: Netflix)

Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel (2021)

In February 2013, the naked body of Elisa Lam was found in the water tank on the roof of the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. What followed was the release of one of the most disturbing videos on YouTube at the time and countless detectives (both professional and amateur) attempting to find out what happened to the mild-mannered college student.

One of the craziest things about the four-part Netflix documentary Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is the fact that the death of Elisa Lam is just one chapter of the hotel’s dark history. Stories of some of the most notorious serial killers taking up residence at the hotel help supplement the strange story of how Lam ended up stuck in an enclosed water tank.

Stream Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix.

Maggie Nichols in Athlete A

(Image credit: Netflix)

Athlete A (2020)

The USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal rocked the sports world after multiple athletes came forward with stories of abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar that had been covered up by top-ranking officials for years before allegations surfaced.

The 2020 Netflix documentary Athlete A follows the team at the Indianapolis Star newspaper as they first broke the story that would later become one of the darkest moments in the history of amateur sports. Though hard to watch at times, the documentary does paint a near-complete picture of the entire saga and how it has affected all involved.

Stream Athlete A on Netflix.

Aaron Hernandez in Killer Inside

(Image credit: Netflix)

Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez (2020)

Aaron Hernandez played for one of the most dominant college football teams, the Florida Gators, and later the most successful professional football team of the 21st Century, the New England Patriots, but he ended up being convicted in the murder of a longtime friend before killing himself in his prison cell at the age of 27 years old.

Through extensive interviews with family, friends, and former teammates, the 2020 three-part documentary, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez explores the former All-American tight end’s life and how he ended up becoming involved in one of the most heartbreaking sports stories in recent memory. This exhaustive series finds a balance between true crime and sports to create a well-rounded and informative experience.

Stream Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez on Netflix.

Belinda Lane in Why Did You Kill Me?

(Image credit: Netflix)

Why Did You Kill Me? (2021)

In February 2006, Crystal Lane-Theobald was shot and killed by a Southern Californian gang as she and her family were making a run to the grocery story. Her mother, Belinda Lane, not one to sit and wait while local police investigated the murder, embarked upon a lengthy campaign to nab the suspected killer and get justice of her own.

The 2021 documentary, Why Did You Kill Me?, follows the Lane-Theobald family as they create a fake MySpace account using Crystal’s picture in hopes of luring the man they believe to be responsible for taking the 24-year-old’s life. If strong personalities, recreations using models, and mid-2000s nostalgia is your thing, this is the film for you.

Stream Why Did You Kill Me? on Netflix.

Gil Carrillo in The Night Stalker

(Image credit: Netflix)

Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer (2021)

Richard Ramirez will forever go down as one of California’s most infamous serial killers because of the 16-month reign of terror he brought to the area in the mid-1980s, which saw the Night Stalker claim the lives of at least 13 people and forever changed thousands of others.

The four-part 2021 documentary, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer focuses mostly on detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno, who nabbed Richard Ramirez and prevented him from adding more victims to his list. Unlike a lot of serial killer documentaries, this series takes a more artistic approach to the saga, creating a unique atmosphere. But, don’t be fooled, because Night Stalker will keep you up at night.

Stream Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer on Netflix.

David Berkowitz in The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness (2021)

In the mid-to-late 1970s, David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the Son of Sam, treated New York City as his own demented playground where he killed six people and wounded several others, effectively forcing the city and its five boroughs to live in a perpetual state of fear. But, after his arrest and later conviction, some weren’t convinced he acted alone.

The 2021 four-part documentary The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness tells not only the story of David Berkowitz and his reign of terror, but also the life’s work of the late Maury Terry (voiced by Paul Giamatti) that argued a case for there being more than one person responsible for the crimes. One of the more thorough Netflix documentaries, The Sons of Sam does a great job of giving you a lot of details while also not bogging you down.

Stream The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness on Netflix.

Shannon Flynn in Murder Among the Mormons

(Image credit: Netflix)

Murder Among The Mormons (2021)

For years, Mark Hoffman was one of the most accomplished forgers the United States has ever seen and made a small fortune by making counterfeits passed off as genuine documents related to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. When Hoffman’s scheme began to fall apart, he took a new, and deadlier, direction.

This three-part documentary, titled Murder Among the Mormons, doesn’t focus on a crime that a lot of the general population knows about, but that’s kind of what makes it work as well as it does. Not only do you get to see one man’s downward spiral, you also get to look into the shadier sides of the Latter Day Saints movement.

Stream Murder Among The Mormons on Netflix.

This is just a very small portion of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix as there literally dozens upon dozens of riveting stories from all over the world. If you want even more to watch on the platform, check out our schedule of all the 2022 Netflix movie releases coming down the road.

Philip Sledge
Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.