Top 10 Best True Crime Docs on Netflix
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
If you're looking for an addicting binge, we have some Netflix true crime documentaries you need to watch. We're looking at the best docuseries and documentary films about true crime on Netflix. We won't be looking at series that cover different case files in every episode, however. WatchMojo ranks the most shocking Netflix true crime documentaries. Who's your Netflix true crime doc? Let us know in the comments!
True crime fans, get ready to write these down. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Netflix True Crime Documentaries.
For this list, we’re looking at the best docuseries and documentary films about true crime on Netflix. We won’t be looking at series that cover different case files in every episode.
#10: “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann” (2019)
This documentary series from Chris Smith, the director of “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” tackles the famous case of Madeleine McCann, the three year old British girl who went missing while on vacation with her parents in Portugal in 2007. It quickly became one of the highest profile missing child cases the world had ever seen. This 8-part series takes a deep dive into the case, looking at it from many different angles, focusing on the intense media coverage, the scrutiny which was eventually put on Madeleine's parents, and the similar crimes taking place at the time.
#9: "The Innocent Man” (2018)
Author John Grisham may be primarily known for his fiction, but in 2006 he published a nonfiction true crime book called “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town”. The book, and this series, focus on Ronald 'Ron' Keith Williamson, who was convicted of murders in the 1980s that took place in Ada, Oklahoma. He was eventually exonerated because of DNA evidence. Netflix explores all of the false confessions that occured, and includes many interviews with key players in the real-life drama. Suzi Feay of the Financial Times said, “The story is ingeniously played out, each episode ending on a cliffhanger that makes binge-watching virtually unavoidable.”
#8: “The Keepers” (2017)
When it was released in 2017, people couldn’t stop talking about this docu-series. “The Keepers” tells the story of the murder of a nun in Baltimore, high school teacher Sister Cathy Cesnik, which has gone unsolved since it took place in 1969. This is about much more than a simple murder case, delving into issues with the Catholic church that have persisted for decades and a cover-up suspected by many. Writing for Vice, Pilot Viruet said, "It's harrowing and upsetting, and it will haunt you for a long time, which is part of what makes it necessary viewing."
#7: “Amanda Knox” (2016)
The story of Amanda Knox was fodder for sensationalist news outlets worldwide in 2007. A young woman, Meredith Kercher, was murdered in Perugia, Italy and her roommate, Knox, was subsequently convicted for the crime. After several years in Italian prison, Knox was acquitted and released, after evidence was found implicating someone else entirely in the crime. She appears in the documentary to assert her innocence and tell her side of the salacious story. The film was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
#6: “Casting JonBenet” (2017)
While this film does focus on a true crime story, it strays far from the traditional format of the genre. “Casting JonBenet” doesn’t try to solve the infamous 1996 murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, but takes a unique approach to examine public perceptions about the case. By creating a fake casting call for a film that didn’t actually exist about the case, the documentary makers interviewed the potential actors, asking them about their opinions on the case. Jake Coyle for the Associated Press wrote, “It uses the Ramsey story as a prism for documenting our rabid rumor-mongering and far-away judgments of personalities hoisted onto a media stage.”
#5: "Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist" (2018)
The story of the murder of pizza deliveryman Brian Douglas Wells with a neck-bomb has been called "one of the most complicated and bizarre crimes in the annals of the FBI", so it was perfectly suited to get the Netflix docu-series treatment. The case is indeed a strange and complex one, and in “Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist”, Trey Borzillieri interviews one of the people who was implicated in and incarcerated for the crime, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. While there may not be a lot of legal conclusions in this case, the documentary adds an extra layer of context to what actually happened.
#4: “Abducted in Plain Sight” (2017)
If you want to hear a story is that is just totally bonkers, you can’t miss “Abducted In Plain Sight”, which was made in 2017 but picked up by Netflix and aired in early 2019. The tale of what happened to the Broberg family in the 1970s is so unbelievable that it will leave you screaming at your TV with every new twist and turn. While there is a lot of disturbing content in this documentary, it’s not about a murder, so if you have a tough time with grisly details, this could be a good compromise.
#3: “Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” (2019)
Most of you are probably familiar with Ted Bundy, because he’s one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, infamous especially because of his all-American good looks and charm. But even if you’ve heard of the basics of his terrible story, “Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” will still manage to surprise you because every detail revealed seems more shocking and unbelievable than the last. Prepare yourself to get absolutely horrified.
#2: “The Staircase” (2018)
In late 2001, writer Michael Peterson allegedly found his wife dead at the bottom of their staircase, but he was subsequently charged with her murder. This story is a riveting one that is full of twists and turns, including the fact that one of Peterson’s friends died in a similar way decades earlier. This is a documentary series that was gradually added to since it was first released as a French miniseries from director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade in 2004, with Netflix picking up Lestrade’s new content for the story over a decade later and airing the entire series run in 2018. Ok, now seriously, what do you think of the owl theory?
#1: “Making a Murderer” (2015-)
This Emmy Award-winning series from creators Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi became a streaming sensation when it was first released in 2015, telling the story of Wisconsin’s Steven Avery, a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned for a 1980s sexual assault and attempted murder, and was then convicted of a separate murder almost two decades later, along with his nephew and alleged accomplice Brendan Dassey. Your blood pressure could get very high as you watch this deep dive into a legal and moral quagmire. The follow up second season updated followers of the case on what had taken place since season one wrapped.