Now, maybe you’re dizzy. Maybe you need some satisfaction. Some closure? Well, I won’t promise you that all of these offerings will give you brain-soothing resolution. But they will deliver twisted tales of crime, miscarriages of justice, and fuel for more googling and lost hours.
Season one of this record-breaking podcast electrified audiences with the little known murder case of Hae Min Lee, a high school student killed in 1999. Over the course of twelve episodes, investigative reporter Sarah Koenig explored the alibi, allegations, rumors and conviction of Lee’s ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. Serial sparked heated debates about the case and the podcast’s ethics, all the while inspiring listening parties, amateur sleuth threads, and countless listeners to question our justice system. Listen to it here.
The Thin Blue Line
One horrible night in Dallas 1976, a police officer on the graveyard shift, Robert W. Wood, was gunned down. You better believe the authorities were eager to find the person responsible. But in their rush did they convict the wrong man? Errol Morris’s seminal 1988 documentary dug 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. Watch it on Netflix.
This HBO mini-series gave shocking access and strange insight into the mind of Robert Durst, a reclusive millionaire who’s repeatedly beat murder wraps, each with details more lurid than the last. Director Andrew Jarecki became an unexpected acquaintance of Durst after making the thinly veiled biopic All Good Things, and employed this connection to ask questions this mysterious man had long avoided, culminating in some of the most eerie final moments any documentarian has ever uncovered. Watch it on HBO.
Warning: This movie was made for weeping. When his dear friend Andrew Bagby was murdered by an enraged ex-girlfriend, the doc’s director Kevin Kuenne dedicated himself to creating this tragedy-laced passion project as a means to tell Bagby’s young son about the remarkable man his father was. This film digs into the heinous crimes of murderer Shirley Jane Turner, but more crucially, it keeps the focus on Bagby with spirited interviews from his friends and family. A lovingly constructed saga, it’s as heartbreaking as it is unforgettable. Watch it on Netflix.
Where do urban legends come from? Investigating the origins of their local bogeyman, Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman uncovered a sick secret in Staten Island. It turned out the vicious kidnapper said to lurk in the woods tied to a real man, a real series of abductions, and a asylum where the stuff of nightmares called home. Be warned: this one is deeply disturbing, and not for the faint of heart. Watch it on Netflix.
Sea World’s killer whale Tilikum has repeatedly attacked his handlers and even killed three. But his crimes are not the true focus of this disturbing documentary. It’s Sea World and its animal cruelty and captivity of Tilikum and his kind that comes under fire. After you’ve seen this, you’ll never look at a family day at that amusement park the same way again. Watch it on Netflix.
This is the true and truly unnerving love story of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach. She was young, gorgeous and fun-loving. He was wealthy, lusty and besotted. At first, they seemed a match made in heaven. And then hell. They broke up, and he threatened her, stalked her, and hired someone to hurl lye in her face. What happened next is even more shocking. Watch it on Netflix.
Art of the Steal
This suspenseful doc makes the twisting of a will into thrilling theater. See, Albert C. Barnes was a self-made man who loved post-Impressionist art and despised the snobbery of the Philadelphia art scene. When his death left behind a collection worth $25 billion, it would be that very scene of snobs that would do everything in their power to steal his treasures for their own ends, though they’d claim it was for the public good. This might sound dry, but director Don Argott plots this wild tale of conspiracy like a heist flick. You’ll be as riveted as you will be infuriated. Watch it on Amazon.
The Central Park Five
In the 1980s, the streets of New York were rife with crime, violence, and racial strife. Into this stumbled five boys accused of beating and raping a female jogger in Central Park. It was a crime so salacious it electrified the city. But in this doc, it’s not these teens who are shown as criminal, but the mob mentality that threw fuel on the fire, painted the Central Park Five as a wolf pack of predators, and wrongfully threw them in jail for years. Its most alarming aspect is how relevant its story still is. Watch it on Netflix.
This story belongs in the stranger than fiction realm, exploring the incredible case of identity theft that led a French man to masquerade as a long-missing Texas teen, fooling the FBI and the boys’ own family. You might well wonder: Why would someone do such a thing? What kind of family could fall for such a ruse? Well, Bart Layton’s stylish and slick doc explores both with a taut tension and scandalous charisma that makes it one of the most chilling and exhilarating crime docs this reviewer has ever seen. Watch it on Netflix.
Kristy Puchko lives in perpetual fear that ice cream will become self-aware New York City.