Top 10 Best True Crime Shows of the 21st Century

Top 10 Best True Crime Shows of the 21st Century

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Cassondra Feltus
These 21st century true crime shows are so addicting it should be illegal. For this list, we'll be looking at the most addictive crime dramas from the start of the 2000s to 2022 that are based on real events. Our countdown includes "The Dropout," "The Act," "Chernobyl," and more!

Top 10 Best True Crime Shows of the 21st Century

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 21st Century Drama Shows Based on True Crime.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most addictive crime dramas from the start of the 2000s to 2022 that are based on real events.

Do you have a favorite true crime show from the 21st century? Let us know in the comment section below.

#10: “Dirty John” (2018-)

Based on the Wondery podcast of the same name, “Dirty John” tells the story of con man John Meehan and the women he preyed upon and manipulated. In 2014, John met successful interior designer Debra Newell on a dating site for people aged 50+. While her adult children were suspicious of this “charming” stranger in their mom’s life, Debra was too caught up in a whirlwind romance with her dream guy. After about two months of dating, the couple married in Las Vegas. It wasn’t until later that Debra was finally convinced that John wasn’t who he seemed. The second season of the anthology series revisits the case of Betty Broderick, who killed her cheating ex-husband and his new wife in 1989.

#9: “The People v. O.J Simpson: American Crime Story” (2016)

In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in front of her home in Brentwood, California. Nicole’s ex-husband, former football star O.J. Simpson, was tried and shockingly acquitted of the murders in what was dubbed the “Trial of the Century.” The televised trial became a media sensation, captivating audiences around the country. Naturally, a crime drama about the case would be equally fascinating, and the perfect first installment in the “American Crime Story” anthology series. Subsequent seasons followed other highly publicized crimes of the 1990s, including the murder of fashion mogul Gianni Versace, and the President Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.

#8: “The Girl From Plainville” (2022)

In 2015, teenager Michelle Carter was accused of convincing her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy III to take his own life. Both teens struggled with mental illness, and their relationship was toxic. Living in different areas of Massachusetts, Michelle and Conrad’s relationship existed almost exclusively over text messages. The two dated for roughly two years until his death in July 2014. Detectives found alarming texts on Conrad’s phone from Michelle encouraging him to end his life, which led to her arrest and conviction of involuntary manslaughter. The unprecedented case gained national notoriety for its unusual circumstances. Hulu’s limited series explores the lives of those involved in this tragedy and examines how texting and social media can affect the mental health of teenagers.

#7: “Inventing Anna” (2022)

2022 became the year of the scammers and kicking off the trend was Netflix’s “Inventing Anna.” Based on Jessica Pressler’s 2018 New York Magazine exposé, the series follows Anna Delvey - real name Anna Sorokin - the enigmatic twenty-something with an ambiguous accent who swindled her way into New York’s elite. Anna claimed to have a trust fund in her home country of Germany, but really, everyone thought she was rich because she acted rich. She racked up thousands in unpaid bills at high-end hotels and restaurants, along with taking money from wealthy investors in her plan for an exclusive club. Several bounced checks later, Anna found herself behind bars. In the Netflix miniseries, her story catches the attention of reporter Vivian Kent, who sets out to uncover the real story of this fake heiress.

#6: “The Dropout” (2022)

This 8-part Hulu series explores the rise and fall of Stanford dropout turned biotech billionaire Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos. Holmes, played by Amanda Seyfried, wanted to revolutionize blood testing by creating a process that only involves a finger prick rather than a vial of blood. Despite one university staff member telling her that the technology was simply impossible, Holmes found another who believed in her enough to invest in the company and give up his position at Stanford to work in the Theranos lab. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur attracted more investors and assembled a board of highly respected people. What she didn’t have was a working product.

#5: “The Act” (2019)

Based on the real-life murder of Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard, this Hulu miniseries is as disturbing as it is tragic. Dee Dee told everyone that her daughter Gypsy Rose had a wide range of chronic health issues including leukemia and brain damage. For years, she was confined to a wheelchair and ate through a feeding tube. Doctors suspected Dee Dee might have Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a parent or caregiver creates and/or maintains the illusion that their child or patient is ill, sometimes done to gain attention for themselves. After a lifetime of lies and unnecessary medical treatment, Gypsy Rose allegedly planned her mother’s murder with the help of her secret online boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn.

#4: “Narcos” (2015–17)

The first two seasons of this Netflix series depict the life and crimes of the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the inner workings of his cocaine empire. Two American DEA agents in Colombia, Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, head the task force working with Colombian authorities to take down Escobar and the Medellín Cartel. Consulting the real Murphy and Peña, as well as filming partially on location in the South American country, brought a gritty realism to the show, making it a standout in the true crime genre. In season 3, we follow a solo Javier Peña in pursuit of the growing Cali Cartel.

#3: “When They See Us” (2019)

Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed miniseries “When They See Us” tells the heartbreaking story of the “Central Park Five.” Five African American and Latino teenagers were wrongfully convicted of assaulting a female jogger in Central Park in 1989. Though they were innocent of the crime, NYPD detectives manipulated and coerced the five young men into giving false confessions. All were found guilty, and it wasn’t until 2002 that they were exonerated. In the series, DuVernay explores issues still present today — police violence, racial profiling, and the injustice within the American criminal justice system. Jharrel Jerome scored an Emmy for his powerful performance as Korey Wise. The young actor honored the now “Exonerated Five” in his acceptance speech.

#2: “Chernobyl” (2019)

HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries “Chernobyl” recounts the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster and the lethal effects of radiation exposure. But showrunner Craig Mazin goes beyond the devastating event itself, depicting the cleanup efforts by coal miners, first responders, and volunteers. The series also tells the tragic story of Lyudmilla Ignatenko and her husband Vasily, one of the Pripyat firefighters and first responders who died of radiation poisoning. The couple’s harrowing experience is included in Svetlana Alexievich’s book “Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.” This was one of many sources Mazin consulted for historical accuracy. Some operational staff were held responsible for the nuclear accident, including deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, who served time in prison for failing to follow safety protocols.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Thing About Pam” (2022)
A Controversial Take on Pamela Hupp’s Bizarre String of Crimes

“I Am the Night” (2019)
Fauna Hodel Disocovers Her Birth Mother Has a Link to the Infamous Black Dahlia Murder

“Waco” (2018)
The 1993 Texas Siege Against David Koresh & His Followers, the Branch Davidians

“Unbelievable” (2019)
Two Female Detectives Investigate a Series of Assaults in the West

“Dr. Death” (2021)
The Terrifying True Story of a Narcissistic Neurosurgeon’s Horrific Malpractice

#1: “Mindhunter” (2017-19)

In his book, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” former FBI agent John E. Douglas (along with co-author Mark Olshaker) details his years in the Behavioral Science Unit. Netflix turned his fascinating story into a gripping crime thriller, basing the character of Holden Ford on Douglas, and Bill Tench on fellow FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler. Along with psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr, who is inspired by nurse researcher Ann Wolbert Burgess, Ford and Ressler develop criminal profiling. Using the psychology of convicted murderers, the trio prove that this information can aid in ongoing and future crimes. The series follows the agents as they interview some of the most notorious serial killers of the 1970s and ‘80s, including Charles Manson and Edmund Kemper.