25 Documentaries True Crime Lovers Will Want to Stream on Netflix

Bethany Quinn | Feb 12, 2019 Trending
25 Documentaries True Crime Lovers Will Want to Stream on Netflix
Image: Netflix

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020)
Netflix

True crime is definitely having a moment. From books to podcasts to TV series and films, audiences have been obsessed with this scary genre for the last few years. We simply cannot get enough of the gruesome, horrific, and downright terrifying true life stories of crime, murder, wrongful incarceration, and life behind bars. Documentaries that explore the dark side of our world have become the topic of conversation almost anywhere we go. From our workplaces to schools, we are inundated with these stories that include unsolved mysteries, criminal confessions, and shocking turns of criminal events. Perhaps, what's most intriguing, is that they are all real stories.

But where to watch?

Well, Netflix has pretty much cornered the market when it comes to true crime documentaries and docuseries and has tons to choose from. There are stories of newer crimes that have shaken small towns, and older ones that've shocked the world -- and still plague us decades later. For those looking for their next true crime binge (or 25), we've got ya covered. These 25 shows can all be streamed on Netflix right now, and they will terrify and shock the socks off viewers.

Whether someone is a true-crime connoisseur or simply looking for a place to start indulging in documentaries, these Netflix offerings will not disappoint. Some are even Oscar nominated, critically acclaimed projects that will leave us thinking about the people in them long after they're over. It's easy to get wrapped up in the real-life events of these movies and series, so it's no wonder so many people are addicted to this genre.

Take a look at these 25 true crime documentaries to stream on Netflix right now.

  • 'The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez'

    1

    The murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez by his parents in 2013 was one of the most heart-wrenching cases to come along in a long time. The trials associated with the case made it even more horrifying, as it became obvious that despite a long history of what can only be called torture by his parents, social workers and guardians did nothing to stop it. This devastating documentary interviews many of the people involved in all sides to lay bare the failure of a system that is  supposed to protect kids like Gabriel.

  • 'The Confession Killer'

    2

    Henry Lee Lucas confessed to hundreds of murders, sometimes providing details that were apparently on point. He became a celebrity whom police often treated like a movie star rather than a suspect. Police ended up clearing the cases, but the victims' families and journalists began to question whether he'd really done the crimes when the convictions came without evidence. This documentary pieces together how Lucas and police worked together in what could be seen as either the greatest confession ever or a complete hoax.

  • 'Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator'

    3

    Among the more salacious documentaries to come out in the past five years, this one tracks the demise of former hot yoga god Bikram Choudhury. Catering to high-end clients who came to his classes and made him rich enough to drive around in expensive sports cars, Choudhury became a celebrity and was highly regarded until students started to come forward to accuse him of rape, sexual assault, and harassment. 

  • 'Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez'

    4

    He was an elite football star who played with the New England Patriots and seemed to be destined for the Hall of Fame. But then, Aaron Hernandez was accused of murdering his future brother-in-law, and all of that came tumbling down. This three-part documentary tries to unpack everything that came out during his trial (and much more) in hopes of getting to why he killed his friend, and ultimately, himself: his history of violence, including an abusive father, alleged closeted homosexuality, drug use, and suspected brain injury.

  • 'The Innocent Man'

    5

    Rated: TV-MA

    The murders of Debbie Carter and Denice Haraway in Ada, Oklahoma, in the 1980s rocked the small town. Police mishandled the case -- which honestly, is one of the scariest things about some of these crimes -- and innocent people went to jail. Years later, the case was revisited, and two men were released from jail after proven innocent. This series is based on John Grisham's book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

  • 'Abducted In Plain Sight'

    6

    No one is murdered in this unflinching documentary, but it is disturbing in many other ways. Abducted in Plain Sight tells the story of Jan Broberg, who was kidnapped as a teenager by family friend and neighbor Robert Berchtold, who so successfully wormed his way into the family, that he actually convinced them to drop the most serious kidnapping charges against him -- only to kidnap Jan again. There are so many sordid details in this one -- including the kidnapper's sexual encounters with both of Jan's parents -- that the filmmaker is hoping to make a sequel.

  • 'The Staircase'

    7

    Rated: TV-MA

    In 2001, novelist Michael Peterson claimed his wife's death was accidental: She'd simply fallen down the stairs of their New York home while drunk and bled out. Years later, however, it was determined that Kathleen Peterson was beaten to death with a fireplace poker. This riveting series is broken down into three parts and was filmed in 2005, 2017, and 2018, following Peterson until his eventual conviction.

  • 'Survivors Guide to Prison'

    8

    Rated: TV-MA

    Susan Sarandon narrates this crowdfunded film, which is structured as a guide to prison. It features eye-opening, raw interviews with prisoners and law enforcement officials as they talk about incarceration and all the challenges that go along with it, such as solitary confinement, and life after prison. It also tells the story of two wrongly convicted men, Reggie Cole and Bruce Lisker.

  • 'I Am a Killer'

    9

    Rated: TV-MA

    This is one to take in when we feel the need to celebrate our precious freedom, and even more precious lives. In this series, which has spanned two seasons and counting, 20 convicted killers on death row tell their stories from their point of view (one per episode). Their takes range from the ice-cold and horrifying, to the unexpectedly heart-wrenching. It will make anyone watching look over their shoulders and never again so much as jaywalk. 

  • 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes'

    10

    Rated: TV-MA

    This documentary has recently gone viral for some very disturbing reasons (Google it) -- so it's actually a great time to watch it as Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is the talk of every office and gathering. Bundy's specialty was using his looks, charm, and intelligence to make his victims trust him enough to get in his car, and that's chillingly obvious in this film. After watching this, he'll be in our heads for weeks.

  • 'The Keepers'

    11

    Rated: TV-MA

    No one is safe from murder, not even a woman of the cloth. In 1969, Cathy Cesnik, a Catholic high school teacher and nun, disappeared. The case was closed but reopened in the '90s when one of Cesnik's former students came forward with new information about her murder, including the allegation that she'd been killed after finding out about a priest who was a sexual predator. This seven-episode doc series delves into the case, and the devoted amateur sleuths who seek to solve the murder of the beloved teacher. 

  • 'First and Last'

    12

    Rated: TV-MA

    This docuseries follows prisoners on their first or last day of prison. If anyone has been longing to get some insight into the criminal justice system with all its shortcomings and challenges, this is a great pick. Incoming convicts talk about their fears, expectations, and strategies for surviving jail, while those about to be released talk about their emotions, plans for picking up the pieces of their former lives, and their expectations.  

  • 'Out of Thin Air'

    13

    Rated: TV-MA

    Two men, Guomundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson, disappeared separately in Iceland in 1974. Six people were convicted for their possible murders, but those native to Iceland believe all six were wrongfully charged, since there were no bodies and no witnesses, but plenty of apparent police corruption. Those convicted signed iffy confessions after being interrogated for hours at a time.

  • 'Babies Behind Bars'

    14

    Being pregnant is challenging enough in regular life. We can't imagine what it's like deal with pregnancy and all of its discomforts and challenges -- ya know, morning sickness, swollen legs, constant hunger, frequent pee runs -- all while locked up in prison. But this film follows pregnant inmates who have to deal with all that, as they prepare for the arrival of a baby while incarcerated.

    Babies Behind Bars originally aired on TLC back in 2011.

  • 'Time: The Kalief Browder Story'

    15

    This heartbreaking film is so hard to watch, but at the same time, so important, because it illuminates the gross injustices that happen every day in the legal system. It follows 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who spent three years -- with a good portion of his time in solitary confinement -- in Rikers Island prison for allegedly stealing a backpack. Three years. During which no charges were ever filed, and sadly, Browder died by suicide after his release.

  • 'Strong Island'

    16

    Rated: MA

    Grief and rage at injustice can have all kinds of effects on relatives of a loved one. In the case of Strong Island, it led the brother of a murder victim to make a film that went on to win awards and be nominated for an Oscar. In 1992, a black man, William Ford, Jr. was murdered in Long Island, New York, by a while chop shop owner. An all-white jury declined to indict him, leaving Ford's family devastated. Over 25 years later, the victim's brother, Yance Ford, created this searing film to shed some light on his family's tragedy.

  • 'The Fear of 13'

    17

    In this unusual documentary structured like a one-man show, Nick Yarris narrates the film about his wrongful 21-year incarceration for murder and eventual release after DNA proved his innocence. Yarris talks about his troubled childhood and upbringing, path into petty crime to support his drug addiction, and the truly bizarre circumstances that led to his conviction for the rape and murder of a woman. 

  • 'Casting JonBenet'

    18

    Rated: TV-14

    More than 20 years later, the world is still obsessed with the shocking murder of JonBenet Ramsey. This film is set up like as a casting for a fictional film about the 6-year-old pageant queen, who was found in the basement of her family's Boulder, Colorado home on Christmas Day 1996. The actors "auditioning" for parts offer their thoughts on what actually happened in this unsolved murder.

  • 'Evil Genius'

    19

    Rated: TV-MA

    This four-part series aims to solve the mystery behind the famous "pizza bomber" crime in . Brian Wells was forced to rob a bank with a bomb locked around his neck. The twists and turns that happen during a police standoff and the aftermath, as more and more suspects emerge and the truth unfolds, will leave viewers scratching their heads in amazement. It's a crime and a film unlike any other.

  • 'Murder Mountain'

    20

    About 60% of the marijuana grown in the US is produced in Humboldt County, California, by legal and illegal operations. It's become an extremely dangerous place, and many people have gone missing there. This fascinating six-part docuseries attempts to get to the bottom of that, as well as trace the difficulties involved when an illegal weed grower wants to legitimize the business.

  • 'Making a Murderer'

    21

    Rated: TV-14

    This remarkable, now famous two-season series was filmed over decade and it was definitely worth the dedication that filmmakers showed in seeing it through. It follows Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who were accused of two heinous murders, their incarceration and the steady stream of corruption and lawyer incompetence that spun out of control around them. One of Netflix's biggest successes, it was watched by millions and won an Emmy.

  • 'I Called Him Morgan'

    22

    In 1972, Helen Morgan was convicted for killing her common-law husband, jazz musician Lee Morgan. This documentary follows Helen as she looks back at her actions. But it's so much more than that. This film is mesmerizing in the masterful way it uses music and visuals to recreate the complicated relationship and life of the two, building the documentary around recordings that Helen made a month before she died. 

  • 'I Am Jane Doe'

    23

    Get ready for some serious inspiration. This film highlights the fight that several mothers are waging against Backpage.com, a website used for trafficking underage girls. After rescuing their middle-school age girls, the moms took the fight to court and the Senate, and continue to fight. Actress Jessica Chastain narrates, and the real-life legal drama will leave viewers on the edge of their seats.

  • 'Inside the Real Narcos'

    24
    Fans of the excellent Netflix show Narcos, or anyone interested in the drug war, will be totally absorbed by the true stories behind the billion-dollar cartels in Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. In this three-part docuseries, a former member of the British special forces fearlessly interviews members of the drug operations to learn how they live, work, and evade the law. It's the definition of must-see TV.
  • 'Amanda Knox'

    25

    Rated: TV-MA

    In 2007, American student Amanda Knox was arrested and convicted of killing her roommate in Italy in a bizarre, sex-riddled crime that involved several people. She was jailed but later acquitted and returned home to try and start a new life despite having one of the most famous faces in the world. This documentary sheds new light on the case that made worldwide headlines, and features interviews with Amanda herself.

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