Television

The Best True Crime Shows to Binge-Watch on Netflix

If you’re looking for the best true crime shows to watch right now, no streaming service is better at it than Netflix. With hit series after hit series, it feels like Netflix adds a must-see true crime show to its roster every couple of weeks as there’s no shortage of weird characters and heinous acts in Netflix’s true crime library. As long as people keep committing crimes, Netflix will keep pumping out true crime shows. And, we admit with just a touch of guilt, that we’ll continue to watch them.

To that end, we’ve put together a list of the best true crime docuseries currently available on Netflix, including buzzy new releases, reliable standards, and everything in between. Below, you’ll find over a dozen shows that come highly recommended by Netflix true crime aficionados, from Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich to Forensic Files.

Looking for more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! And if you’re looking for hand-picked recommendations based on shows you love, we have those too.

American Murder: The Family Next Door
Not a true crime show, but the documentary film American Murder: The Family Next Door is as interesting of a true crime adventure on Netflix as there is. It follows the 2018 disappearance and murder of Shanann Watts and her two daughters, and the ensuing investigation into Shanann’s husband Christopher. What sets it apart is that it’s told through Shanann’s social media posts, home video, and police body-cam footage, painting a picture of a family whose reality was much different from what Shanann portrayed on Facebook. 

I AM A KILLER: Released 
This three-part spin-off of the I AM A KILLER true crime series follows a convict named Dale Wayne Sigler who is paroled 30 years after being sentenced to death for murdering a worker at a Subway. As he tries to adjust to life outside of prison, his loved ones want to believe he’s a changed man, but they can’t be sure, and the victim’s family doesn’t want him out. Then he makes a stunning confession that could change everything about his case. We won’t give any more away than that, but we will say that this is Netflix’s latest must-watch true crime series. 

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
Unlike most true crime series, there is no murder in this four-part documentary, except for Jeffrey Epstein himself, ALLEGEDLY. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich tracks the life and crimes of the billionaire financier and sex criminal, from his mysterious origins, to the horrendous sexual abuse he allegedly inflicted on hundreds of underage girls, to his social connections to some of the world’s most powerful people (people like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, and Chris Tucker), to his grossly unjust sweetheart plea deal in Florida in 2008, to his mysterious death in 2019 while awaiting trial for new sex trafficking charges in New York. Filthy Rich doesn’t reveal anything followers of the case don’t already know, and is rendered a little bit suspect by the involvement of executive producer James Patterson, a business associate of former President Bill Clinton, who has closer ties to Epstein than he admits, but it’s a solid overview of the infuriating facts of Epstein’s story and lets Epstein’s victims tell their harrowing, horrifying stories of abuse, which takes it out of the realm of abstracted conspiracy theory and makes it devastatingly real.  

Unsolved Mysteries
The original Unsolved Mysteries set the bar for true crime series when it first aired in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Every true crime show that is currently airing today is because of the wild success of the original show, which was famous for its reenactments and chilly, sometimes downright scary, atmosphere. I legitimately could not watch it before bed because it would give me nightmares. The genre has changed and evolved in the decade since the show went off the air—there are entire networks devoted to this stuff now!—but everything old is new again, and so Netflix has rebooted the iconic series, which now features higher production values and places a heavier emphasis on character as folks attempt to figure out what happened to their loved ones. It’s less spooky than the original, though, but perhaps that is for the best. –Kaitlin Thomas

Murder Mountain
This series flew under the radar of most when it was released in late 2018, but that doesn’t mean it won’t chill you to your bones. Murder Mountain is a six-part true crime series that isn’t latched on to a single crime, instead looking at the many mysteries of the Emerald Triangle, a mountainous region in California’s Humboldt County where illegal marijuana grows have led to increased theft, kidnapping, and — you guess it — murder. The show traces the beginnings of the hippie community that established the area to the current rednecks who enact vigilante justice while riding ATVs and carrying guns, and with interviews with people on both sides of the law, it’s an inside look at a county where people go and never get out. –Tim Surette

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness
Oftentimes, documentaries are only as good as their subjects are interesting, and by that argument, Tiger King is FANTASTIC. The seven-episode miniseries gives tiger handler Joe Exotic the spotlight, which he’s more than happy to dance in. Joe runs a big cat nature park in Oklahoma, he loves guns, he uses magic in his shows, he’s gay, he’s a polygamist, he has a mullet, and he has two country music albums each with several songs about tigers. He’s also accused of hiring a contract killer to murder an animal rights activist and nature preserve owner who wanted to shut him down. Even without that last fact, Tiger King is enthralling as a way to see how the fringe subculture of big cat people lives. – Tim Surette

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
This six-part docuseries is a really tough one. It tells the story of Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old boy from Los Angeles who was systematically tortured and beaten by his mother and her boyfriend for eight months until he died. The district attorney’s office made the unprecedented decision to charge not only the perpetrators, but also the four social workers assigned to Gabriel’s case who didn’t take the abuse he was suffering seriously. It’s a devastating but essential docuseries that exposes major shortcomings in the child welfare system.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
The Aaron Hernandez story is a bizarre and tragic one. The New England Patriots tight end had all the physical gifts for a successful football career, but his brain betrayed him, exacerbated by drug use, possible CTE from football, and bad people in his inner circle. When his future brother-in-law Odin Lloyd tried to blackmail Hernandez by threatening to reveal that Hernandez was bisexual, Hernandez murdered him. Hernandez was convicted of that crime, and he was acquitted in another double murder. He committed suicide in his cell in 2017, just a few days after that acquittal. This riveting three-part docuseries tries to make sense of the man and why he did what he did.

The Devil Next Door
This five-parter has more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It tells the story of John Demjanjuk, a Cleveland auto plant worker who was accused of being a Nazi concentration camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.” He was extradited to Israel and tried for crimes against humanity. Dozens of Holocaust survivors positively identified him. But then…well, let’s just say there are complications. The docuseries also introduces viewers to Demjanjuk’s attorney Yoram Sheftel, a colorful character who wears a Star of David necklace while defending the accused Nazi.

Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
In 2010, some sickening videos of animal cruelty began circulating around social media. Some people who saw them decided to do more than just report them, and took stopping the man responsible for them into their own hands. As they tried to track him down using context clues in his videos, he became aware they were onto him, which led to a twisted sort of call-and-response between the hunted and the hunters, with escalating crimes culminating in a horrific murder videotaped and posted online. This three-part docuseries talks to the people involved in figuring out the identity of killer.

The Confession Killer
Henry Lee Lucas was once considered the most prolific serial killer in America, with over 600 murders attributed to him. The thing was, it wasn’t true. He would confess to any murder he was accused of, which led to police departments across the country pinning murders on Lucas just to get them off their books. It’s a harrowing tale of legal malpractice.

The Innocent Man
This six-part docuseries is based on the only nonfiction book mega-selling novelist John Grisham has written. It looks at two gruesome and baffling murders in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma, for which four men went to prison. The life sentencing of those men, and the subsequent fallout that hit their families and town. The men were convicted using bunk “dream evidence,” and they were left to rot until the Innocence Project got involved in trying to set them free. We must warn you, it doesn’t have a happy ending, but it’s important viewing for people who are passionate about criminal justice reform.

Making a Murderer
You didn’t think we’d make this list and skip over Making a Murderer, did you? The series that put Netflix on the map when it comes to true crime, Making a Murderer is not overhyped. If, for some reason, you still haven’t seen the riveting series, it chronicles the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Two years after being released, Steven was arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted of the crime, but since the initial release of Making a Murderer the verdict has come under intense public scrutiny. Three years after the first season’s premiere, a follow-up installment, which details the developments in Avery and Dassey’s cases, including their appeals, hit the streaming service. Making a Murderer Part 2 takes viewers inside the post-conviction process, exploring the emotional toll the ordeal has on all those involved.

Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Many true crime fans are solely interested in cases that revolve around murder, so the idea of a four-part series on a bank heist might not seem in line with their taste. However, the “pizza bomber heist” is about so much more than a botched bank robbery; in fact, it’s truly one of the most bizarre cases of modern times.

In 2003, pizza delivery man Brian Wells died when a collar bomb that had been locked onto his neck detonated while he was in police custody for robbing a bank with a homemade cane shotgun. Based on the handwritten notes that were found in Wells’ car, it appeared that the heist was part of a complicated scavenger hunt Wells was forced to go on in order to get the keys that would free him from the explosive. As if all that wasn’t strange enough, the investigation soon spiraled into several unexpected directions that involved multiple other deaths and a convoluted conspiracy that Evil Genius aims to make sense of.

The Confession Tapes
While some of the excitement of watching shows like The Keepers or Making a Murderer is to come up with our own answers that create order out of the chaos of the cases, there isn’t any of that satisfaction to be found here. Instead, this seven-part series tells the stories of six cases in which possible false confessions led to murder convictions. Watching The Confession Tapes is like taking a hard, unflinching look at our criminal justice system and the questionable and even horrifying ways authorities are empowered to get confessions from suspects. Some of the cases explored include Atif and Sebastian Burns, who were sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Atif’s parents and sister despite evidence that a religious extremist group was behind the deaths; and the rape and murder of Catherine Fuller, in which 17 men stood trial simultaneously for the crimes.

Wild Wild Country
One of the biggest appeals of Wild Wild Country is the idea that a story this big could be so little known. Unless you lived through it or are a cults obsessive, you probably don’t know too many details about the Rajneeshees, a group of followers of the religious leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who orchestrated the largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history. The mass poisoning was part of the Rajneeshee’s plot to secure seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court and assert their authority over a small town in rural Oregon. But the bioterrorist attack is only scratching the surface of the bizarre and dark tale of how the Bhagwan went from running meditation retreats to being part of a sprawling criminal conspiracy. The extensive use of archival footage of the Rajneeshees at the peak of their power combined with interviews with some of the major players today provides the greatest appeal to this sensational story.

Wormwood
Having already given us The Thin Blue Line, one of the most influential true crime documentaries of all time, Errol Morris once again turns his attention to the genre for Wormwood. The six-part series is focused on Frank Olson, a CIA employee and biological warfare scientist who died under mysterious circumstances in 1953. The story is told through Olson’s son, Eric, who is still searching for answers surrounding his father’s death, which some suggest wasn’t suicide but a murder that was covered up by the CIA and connected to MKUltra. In addition to interviews with Eric and the family attorney, David Rudovsky, the series also features reenactments by actors including Peter Sarsgaard, Jimmi Simpson and Molly Parker, providing a cinematic take on the typically cheesy staple.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story
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Time is not what you watch when you want to play couch detective. The six-episode series, which originally aired on Spike, tells the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Riker’s Island without ever having been convicted of a crime. In 2010, Browder, then 16, was accused of stealing a backpack (all charges were eventually dropped). When his family couldn’t afford bail, he was forced to await the disposition of his case in prison where he was subjected to extensive physical and mental abuse by prisoners and corrupt guards. After three years, two of which were spent in solitary confinement, Browder was eventually released, but not unscathed. Time is harrowing at times and hard to watch, but those are exactly the reasons that stories like this need to be told.

Forensic Files
If you’re just looking for a quick hit rather than an in-depth binge, Forensic Files is here for you; in fact, it always has been here for you, and likely always will be. Originally broadcast on TLC, each episode of the expansive series focuses on a different criminal case in which forensic science played a key role in the investigation. Some of the cases are well known, but the majority of them are stories that never garnered national attention. Given that the show launched in the ’90s, you shouldn’t expect any high-end graphics or sleek storytelling. There’s an element of cheesiness to Forensic Files, but that’s part of the show’s charm. Embrace it!

The Keepers
This seven-episode Netflix Original details the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a 26-year-old nun who taught at a Baltimore high school in the 1960s. Now, 50 years later, the docu-series explores the theory that a priest at the school, Father Joseph Maskell, may have played a role in her death in order to stop Sister Cathy from exposing him and others for sexually abusing students. (Maskell died in 2001 and denied all allegations against him.) While the series doesn’t provide any concrete answers about what happened to Cathy, the interviews from Cathy’s former students sharing their personal stories of abuse and institutional corruption tell a powerful story.

The Investigator: A British Crime Story
A series that is oddly enough created and produced by Simon Cowell, The Investigator‘s four-episode first season focuses on the disappearance and apparent murder of Carole Packman, a housewife and mother who vanished in 1985. Her husband Russell was convicted of Carole’s murder and has served over 20 years in jail despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime or a body. Carole and Russell’s daughter Sam is desperate for answers about what happened to her mother and takes center stage in this series, providing crucial (and often emotional) interviews to investigative journalist and former police officer, Mark Williams-Thomas.

The Staircase
The Staircase, which originally aired in 2004, chronicles the case of Michael Peterson, a novelist who was accused of murdering his wife Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home. In a startling twist, it’s revealed during the trial that a family friend of Michael and Kathleen had died in a shockingly similar manner 20 years prior. In both instances, Michael had been the last person to see the victim alive. Netflix revived the series in 2018 with new chapters, since the story kept unfolding and getting weirder and weirder.

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