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The Best True Crime Documentaries On Netflix

By Kristy Puchko | Film | January 13, 2018 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | January 13, 2018 |


If you can’t get enough of true crime, Netflix has got you covered, offering disturbing deep dives on wrongful convictions, twisted stories of conspiracy and cover-up, and mind-bending explorations of heinous murders. Here’s the best of true crime titles found on the streaming platform right now.

13th (Watch here.) As theatrical follow-up to her heralded Selma, director Ava DuVernay has gathered historians, politicians, authors, and advocates to trace America’s current epidemic of mass incarceration and institutional prejudice within the judicial system back to the days following the Civil War. A complicated history is broken down with care, and will leave you informed and furious.

Amanda Knox (Watch here.) In 2007, British exchange student Meredith Kercher was gruesomely murdered in Umbria, Italy. Her American roommate Amanda Knox would be wrongfully convicted of the crime, forced to spend years fighting for justice and exoneration. In this shocking doc, Knox’s side of the story is definitively laid down, and its true villains laid bare. Most damning are the interviews with the Italian police and tabloid journalists who made Knox notorious.

Blackfish (Watch here.) Sea World’s killer whale Tilikum has repeatedly attacked his handlers and even killed three. But his crimes are not the focus of this disturbing documentary. Instead, Sea World’s animal cruelty and captivity of Tilikum and his kind comes under fire, suggesting they put the killer in this whale.

Casting JonBenet (Watch here.) Killed over Christmas in 1996, six-year-old beauty pageant darling JonBenét Ramsey posthumously became a media sensation, and her death the source of nationwide speculation. 20 years later, director Kitty Green goes beyond rehashing the case. Instead of experts or witnesses, she interviews aspiring actors auditioning for the roles of its key players. Through this, she explores not only this unsettling unsolved murder case, but also how the speculation of it became an All-American pastime.

H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer (Watch here.) Short yet deeply disturbing, this 64-minute doc gives a crash course on Chicago’s notorious H.H. Holmes, who built a sprawling hotel in the heart of the city, perfect for torture, murder, and hiding his crimes. With the World’s Fair of 1893, this evil destination became a place of doom for untold transients and tourists, who’d never return home.

The Imposter (Watch here.) Bart Layton’s stylish and slick doc explores the stranger-than-fiction tale of a French man who successfully convinced the FBI and a Texas family that he was the latter’s long-missing teen son. You might well wonder: Why would someone do such a thing? What kind of family could fall for such a ruse? The answers are haunting.

The Keepers (Watch here.) This seven-part series sets out to solve the mystery of who murdered Sister Catherine Cesnik in 1969 Baltimore. The nun who taught in a Catholic school was never forgotten by her adoring students. Decades later, they turn amateur detectives and uncover a sprawling conspiracy of sexual abuse, intimidation, and cover-ups within the Catholic Church.

Making a Murderer (Watch here.) Dustin has called it “the most addictive, infuriating, engrossing and maddening true crime story since the first season of Serial.” Over the course of ten years, documentarians Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi followed the complex story of Steven Avery who, after being exonerated of a wrongful conviction of sexual assault, came under suspicion of the brutal murder. Over ten episodes, this controversial mini-series explores the case, its suspects, investigators and prosecutor, all while questioning the state of American justice.

The Thin Blue Line (Watch here.) One horrible night in Dallas 1976, Robert W. Wood, a police officer on the graveyard shift, was gunned down. You better believe the authorities were eager to find the person responsible. But in their haste, did they collar the wrong man? Errol Morris’s seminal 1988 documentary digs into the wrongful conviction of Randall Dale Adams. Not only did it win wild praise and influence untold filmmakers, it helped lead to Adams’ release a year after the film’s.

Voyeur (Watch here.) In the 1980s, motel-owner Gerald Foos wrote to envelope-pushing journalist Gay Talese to share with him his astonishing story. A deeply dedicated Peeping Tom, Foos bought and renovated a motel to make the perfect perch for spying on his guests in their most intimate moments. Decades later, Foos and Talese shares his seedy exploits with the wider world. But with notoriety comes pressures and problems this self-proclaimed “voyeur” never anticipated.

Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

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