It is strange to say this, but true crime TV shows provide for some of the most intriguing entertainment around, and with so many streaming services hosting their own exclusive drama series or multi-part documentaries on difficult cases, missing persons, and fanatical cults, there are just so many options. There is something about the true crime genre that makes the various shows that fall under it so captivating to watch, despite the subject matter. But, sometimes deciding which show to check out and possibly devote several hours to can feel like digging through old files from a long-unsolved case. Well, we have put together a list of the best options on Netflix, HBO Max, and more.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark
The 2020 HBO docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is one-part breakdown of the 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders committed by the Golden State Killer (also known as the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, and EARONS) and one-part exploration of the late true crime writer Michelle McNamara’s years-long crusade to identify they heinous criminal and finally bring him to justice for crimes he committed nearly 50 years ago.
Through interviews with survivors and families of victims of the Golden State Killer and excerpts from McNamara’s posthumously released book of the same name, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark ties together dozens of instances of burglary, rape, and murder committed by the man who would later be identified as Joseph James DeAngelo. A seventh episode was released in June 2021 detailing DeAngelo’s court proceedings, as well as the the Oak Park, Illinois murder that inspired McNamara to write about true crime in the first place.
JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened
There are few murder cases that rocked the nation more than the December 1996 murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, a case that shockingly remains unsolved 25 years later. The 2021 Discovery+ documentary JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened contains rare and never-before-heard recordings of Lou Smit, a detective who came out of retirement to assist the Boulder, Colorado District Attorney’s office with the case in the months following the mysterious murder of the six-year-old child.
The documentary explores the vast collection of tapes that show an accomplished homicide detective turning over every rock as he explores various theories regarding who was responsible for the murder of the young girl. There are dozens of documentaries and docuseries about this case (including multiple titles on Discovery+), but this one is at the top of the list.
Don’t Fuck With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer
The Netflix docuseries Don’t Fuck with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer starts off as a bizarre crusade by a group of online sleuths to uncover the identity of a man who posted a series of videos of himself killing cats, but quickly becomes a hunt to find a serial killer by the time everything is said and done. This three-part documentary took the world by storm upon its release in late 2019, and quickly became one of the most talked about titles on the streaming service before Tiger King arrived on the scene.
And, just like that Joe Exotic series that would follow a few months later, Don’t Fuck with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer is full of unique personalities all committed to finding and stopping the Canadian serial killer, Luka Magnotta, a man who almost seems to be toying with his pursuers one heinous act at a time.
American Crime Story Season 1 And 2
Since its debut in early 2016, Ryan Murphy’s FX true crime anthology series American Crime Story has made a strong case for itself being one of the best shows of its kind on television. The first season, titled The People vs. O.J. Simpson focuses on “The Trial of the Century” and goes into great detail about prosecutors, defense attorneys, and “The Juice” (Cuba Gooding Jr.) himself, painting an intricate picture of America in the final years of the 20th Century.
The second season, titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace shows the lead-up and aftermath of the shocking 1997 murder of the fashion icon at his Miami estate. This season also takes an in-depth look at the life of Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) and the killing spree that led him to Versace’s doorstep.
O.J.: Made In America
Ezra Edelman’s 2016 documentary O.J.: Made in America (released as a five-part series as well as a nearly 467-minute epic) is possibly the most thorough and interesting breakdown of the life, career, and legacy of O.J. Simpson who went from one on of the most beloved sports figures to public enemy number one when he was charged in the June 1994 double-murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
But, while this sprawling documentary is mostly about Simpson, his accomplishments on the field, and sudden fall from grace, O.J.: Made in America spends a great deal of time painting the landscape of America when Simpson first became a national sports icon as well as how decades of racial tensions and division in Los Angeles played into his trial and eventual acquittal.
The Night Stalker: Hunting For A Serial Killer
Netflix is home to some of the best true crime docuseries, and The Night Stalker: Hunting for a Serial Killer is at the very top of that list. This four-part series thoroughly breaks down the crimes of Richard Ramirez and the Los Angeles homicide detectives who put their own lives up on a shelf so that they could dedicate every hour of their day to tracking him down and bringing him to justice.
One thing that can be said about The Night Stalker: Hunting for a Serial Killer is the way in which it sets the tone very early on and creates this feeling of fear and dread as it presents information on the ways in which Richard Ramirez assaulted the more than 15 victims that he brutally attacked during his nearly 18-month reign of terror on the City of Angels.
The 2021 Peacock limited series Dr. Death serves as a dramatization of the story of Christopher Duntsch, a Texas-based neurosurgeon who was convicted in 2017 of purposely maiming a patient (though he was accused of injuring dozens more and killing two others) and sentenced to life in prison. The three-part true crime series follows surgeons Randall Kirby (Christian Slater) and Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) as they first investigate claims of injury and death at the hands of Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), before making it their mission to stop him from doing any more harm to patients through any means necessary.
Jonestown: Terror In The Jungle
The November 1978 mass suicide/murder of the 909 members of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, a.k.a. “Jonestown,” in Guyana will forever go down as one of the most traumatizing moments in modern history, but the story doesn’t start or stop with that tragic event. The 2018 Sundance TV two-part documentary Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle explores the formation of the Peoples Temple by its leader, Jim Jones, as the group went from a multi-racial collection of people from all walks of life coming together to make a better way for one another, to one of the most infamous cults in recorded history.
Through interviews of those who were able to escape being forced to drink Flavor-Aid spiked with a cocktail of poisons, the infamous “Death Tape,” and testimonials from victims’ families, the documentary paints a terrifying yet faithful picture of the Peoples Temple's final days.
The 2020 HBO docuseries The Vow follows former members of the the NXIVM cult as they come to terms with their roles in helping the organization go from a self-improvement group to an alleged sex cult, in which high-ranking members have been sentenced to prison. By combining interviews with former members who escaped and hours upon hours of footage of the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, and other high-ranking members like former actress Allison Mack, the series tells the frightening story of those who became consumed with power and greed and the lives they ruined along the way.
Atlanta’s Missing And Murdered: The Lost Children
The Atlanta Child Murders, which were the basis of Mindhunter Season 2, are explored in great detail in the 2020 HBO documentary series Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. Over the course of five painful and gut-wrenching episodes, the series tells the story of the disappearance and murder of at least 30 children in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area and the manhunt that eventually led to capture of Wayne Williams, who was convicted of two of the crimes in 1982
Despite this, many, including the families of those abducted and killed, aren’t fully convinced that the killer (or killers) has been stopped, which is something this documentary tackles upon the official re-opening of the case.
The true crime thriller Manhunt: Unabomber tells the story of the FBI’s hunt for the domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany), better known as the Unabomber, in the years leading to his 1996 capture and conviction for the murder of three victims and injuries inflicted to dozens more. Over the course of eight episodes, FBI agent and criminal profiler Jim Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) chases Kaczynski across the country all while the former mathematics professor sets off more hidden bombs and further terrorizes the country.
True crime and mystery fans rejoiced in 2020 when Netflix resurrected the long-dormant docuseries, Unsolved Mysteries, that felt like a continuation of the classic show while also giving it a modernization that put it up there with the best in the genre. Over the course of the first 12 episodes (with more on the way) the series touches on everything from missing persons and murders, to tales of ghost sightings and UFOs, making it one of the best shows to binge watch on Netflix.
This is just a small sampling of all the great true crime shows you can stream right now. If you want to know more about when you can expect to see new dramas and docuseries check out CinemaBlend’s 2021 Fall TV schedule for all the latest.
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.
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