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We are living in the golden age of the docuseries, and Sons of Sam on Netflix is the latest example of that. With more avenues and streaming services, there are more remarkable and riveting multi-part documentaries than ever before. But while there are plenty of informative and entertaining documentary series out there, sometimes they can be harder to find than a serial killer in 1970s New York City.
If you have watched, or plan on watching Sons of Sam: A Descent into Madness and want similar true crime docuseries or at least those that touch on similar topics, you have come to the right place. Below are 11 of the best true crime docuseries (and one documentary) streaming that deal with serial killers, satanic panic, and the history of crime in and around the New York City area.
Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer (2021)
Between April 1984 and August 1985, Richard Ramirez, better known as The Night Stalker, treated the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area as his personal playground, claiming the lives of 13 victims while terrorizing millions of Southern California residents in the process. The 2021 Netflix docuseries Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer chronicles the infamous serial killer and the elite task force put together to bring him to justice. This four-parter is perfect for anyone who are fascinated by Sons of Sam’s approach to tackling the mind one of history’s most notorious killers.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark (2020)
Perhaps the best true crime docuseries to come out in 2020, HBO’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark serves as both a chronicling of Joseph DeAngelo’s reign of terror over multiple communities in California in the 1970s and 1980s as well as in-depth look at Michelle McNamara, the late true crime writer who coined the Golden State Killer name and helped break the case. There are numerous similarities shared by Sons of Sam and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, with the most notable being the way they both touch on the way in which writers and investigators dedicate years of their lives to get to the bottom of the case.
The Killing Season (2016)
Executive produced by one of the greatest living documentarians, Alex Gibney, the 2016 A&E docuseries The Killing Season follows a group of documentary filmmakers as they look into the Long Island serial killer, the Eastbound Strangler, and other unsolved cases in and around New York City. If the mystery surrounding the Son of Sam murders and crime in New York City as a whole have you intrigued after watching the new Netflix series, The Killing Season is a perfect followup piece.
Paradise Lost (1996 - 2012)
The groundbreaking HBO documentary trilogy Paradise Lost is split up into three chapters released in 1996, 2000, and 2012, takes a comprehensive look into the case of the West Memphis Three, a group of Arkansas teenagers falsely accused and convicted of murdering three young boys in 1993. Although Paradise Lost doesn’t really deal with serial killers, it does touch on the satanic panic in that the teenagers were believed to have killed their victims as part of a ritual, something that also comes up in Sons of Sam.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel (2021)
The 2021 four-part Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel largely deals with the circumstances preceding and following the 2013 disappearance and mysterious death of Elisa Lam at the infamous Los Angeles hotel, but the engaging series also spends a portion of its runtime discussing the history and wild cast of characters who have called the historical landmark home over the years. Names like Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger come up from time to time as a way to chronicle the establishment’s reputation.
The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst (2015)
One of the more unique true crime docuseries, HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst follows the crazy, and at times hard to believe, story of the eccentric New York real estate heir suspected of killing three people over the course of several decades. What makes this series even stranger, besides the fact Robert Durst conducted hours of interviews, is Durst’s arrest in connection with one of the murders the day before the 2015 finale. And while The Jinx and Sons of Sam may not appear to have much in common, both dedicate a substantial amount of time detailing the eccentric behavior of their respective subjects.
John Wayne Gacy: Devil In Disguise (2021)
One of the best true crime shows on Peacock, John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise spends six episodes telling the chilling and frightening story of one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. Throughout the 1970s, John Wayne Gacy, an unassuming civil servant and birthday clown drugged and murdered 33 young men, burying their bodies in his backyard and beneath his floorboards, and all of the grim and gory details are on full display here. Though Gacy had different M.O. and motive for his crimes than David Berkowitz, both are two of the biggest names in the realm of serial killers.
Evil Genius (2018)
The 2018 Netflix documentary series Evil Genius details one of the most bizarre and complicated cases ever to take place in state of Pennsylvania. On August 28, 2003, Brian Wells, a pizza delivery driver, walked into an Erie, Pennsylvania bank with a bomb strapped to his neck and demanded the teller to hand over cash. A few minutes later, Wells would be dead after the collar bomb exploded in the middle of a standoff with police. What follows in the case, and in the documentary series, is an intricate web of lies, deceit, and greed as investigators attempt to find those responsible for the crime and how much Wells knew about the plot before the bomb was locked to his neck. Like Sons of Sam, this elaborate story proves that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer (2019)
The incredibly popular Netflix docuseries Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer is truly one of the best ways to spend three hours. What starts out as the story of a group of internet sleuths seeking out the person responsible for a series of cat killings quickly turns into something much more sinister as they uncover one of the most heinous murders in Canada’s history. Much like David Berkowitz and his letters to the NYPD and press during his reign of terror, the perp featured in this series likes to toy with those trying to find him.
The Most Dangerous Animal Of All (2020)
Documentaries and docuseries about the Zodiac killer are a dime a dozen, but few, if any, come off as personal as the FX series The Most Dangerous Animal of All. Based on the New York Times best-seller of the same name, the four-part docuseries follows Gary L. Stewart as he initially sets out to discover the identity of his father before discovering the man who abandoned him could very well be the notorious serial killer who preyed on the San Francisco Bay area throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. If you like deep-dives into notorious serial killers that also carry a lot of emotional weight, then this docuseries is perfect.
The Seventies (2015)
Between 2014 and 2018, CNN released a string of docuseries covering the major events that happened in each decade from the 1960s to the 2000s, with each offering a detailed look at everything from television and movies to major cultural events. The second volume, The Seventies, even dedicates an entire episode to notorious serial killers like John Wayne Gacy, the Zodiac Killler, and Son of Sam. And while The Seventies doesn’t go in depth into the Son of Sam case as much as Sons of Sam, it does offer a lot of context for one of the deadliest periods of time in modern history.
The Central Park Five (2012)
The 2012 documentary The Central Park Five details the Central Park jogger case and all the controversy surrounding the arrests and coerced confessions of five young black and latino men New York police and prosecutors falsely accused of brutally beating and raping a woman in 1989. Even though the documentary, which was made in part by Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah, doesn’t touch on murder (and is a single documentary), it showcases one of the most notorious crimes in 1980s New York, much like Sons of Sam’s representation of the Big Apple in the final years of the 1970s.
All of these true crime docuseries will make for a perfect followup to Sons of Sam: A Descent into Madness in one way or another. And while not all deal with serial killers who may or may not have taken their orders from a possessed dog, each is just as chilling and fascinating. If you’re looking for a little more variety after going through all these grim details, check out our list of the best shows to binge watch on Netflix.
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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 barking 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.