17 True Crime Documentaries For Netflix Detectives

I’m quite a fan of the True Crime genre. Himself is a little bit paranoid about my obsession, as if it’s research. I’ve always found the psychology behind the cases and the investigations into them fascinating. In another life, I might have gone into law enforcement, but as it stands I wouldn’t pass the medical! So, instead, like any good armchair detective, I look into the cases that have already been sorted out (or have a story behind them). I’ve written before about the true crime podcasts that I’ve been listening to, and it seemed to really appeal to readers, so now I’m sharing the documentary list. Or rather, the 17 True Crime Documentaries that I’ve loved over on Netflix.

Netflix actually has a really good selection of true crime (and fictional) programming, ranging from TV show episodes to actual full length films. Here’s some of the best I’ve come across, that you need to check out.

Making a Murderer

If you’ve not heard of Making a Murderer, or the case of Steven Avery, there’s a very good chance you’ve spent much of the last few years in a coma. Welcome back to the real world. If you’ve not already watched the ten part series, produced for Netflix, you’re in for a treat. Steven Avery was incarcerated for 18 years for a sex crime he didn’t commit. Once DNA cleared him and he was released, it all looked like life was turning around for him – until a few months later, he’s back in a cell again, this time for the murder of a photographer, Teresa Halbach. The case is fascinating, and definitely leaves you questioning whether this man is indeed guilty, or whether a huge frame job is in hand.

 

Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer

Takes viewers inside the minds of some of the most brutal, indiscriminate, international killers to date.  The factual crime series uncovers and analyzes signs of psychopathic behavior and uses chilling real life footage to dissect the mind of the killer. Its ten episodes feature notorious criminals such as Anders Breivik, Eddie Leonski better known as the ‘Singing Strangler’ and Joanna Dennehy. The ten part series is made up of 42 minute episodes, which are easy to fit in.

 

Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of A Serial Killer

In this documentary, filmmaker Nick Broomfield follows the saga of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who has been accused of committing a brutal series of murders. Broomfield conducts interviews with Wuornos herself, and his crew films her trial as well as her interactions with religious fanatic Arlene Pralle, who gives Wuornos dubious advice and legally adopts her. The cameras also roll as the accused’s attorney ignores the case at hand to negotiate a deal to sell his client’s story. It’s fascinating – I’d seen little bits of the case in articles before watching, but it’s easy to see why the media (and Hollywood, Charlize Theron won a LOT of awards for her portrayal of Aileen in the 2003 film Monster) were captivated by her. 

The Krays

If you’re into gangster movies, this one may be for you. The hour long documentary details the life and times of Ronnie and Reggie Kray. These brothers were violent gangsters and ran London’s East End in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Witness

Kitty Genovese became synonymous with apathy after news that she was stabbed to death on a New York City street while 38 witnesses did nothing.

Forty years later, her brother decides to find the truth. He uncovers a lie that transformed his life, condemned a city and defined an era.

Matt Shepherd was a Friend of Mine

Tissues at the ready, this one is an emotional rollercoaster. This film explores the life and tragic death of Matthew Shepard, the gay student murdered in Laramie, Wyoming through a truly personal lens.

Tower

On Aug. 1, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand what had happened. Archival footage is combined with rotoscopic animation in a dynamic, never-before-seen way to illustrate the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors. In a society where school shootings unfortunately don’t shock like they used to, it’s interesting to watch the very first. 

Who Took Johnny

An investigation of a cold case tries to determine what became of Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch, who disappeared 30 years earlier. It premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2014, and details a mother’s fight to find out what happened to her son, who was just 12 when he went missing and became the first missing child to appear on a milk carton. The film focuses on the heartbreaking story of Johnny’s mother, Noreen Gosch, and her relentless quest to find the truth about what happened that tragic September morning in Des Moines when Johnny never returned from his paper route. Along the way there have been mysterious sightings, strange clues, bizarre revelations, and a confrontation with a person who claims to have helped abduct Johnny.

The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 American documentary film by Errol Morris, depicting the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit.

Amanda Knox

The documentary didn’t disappoint. It tells the story of Amanda Knox, a young American student accused of the murder of her housemate while in Italy as a transfer student. The case was highly publicised, in particular the sexually explicit motives which the prosecution claims led to Meredith Kercher’s death. Twice convicted and acquitted of murder, Amanda tells her story in this documentary, along with insights from family, members of the prosecution and the media. Prepare for your skin to crawl when the journalist from the Daily Mail is on screen. If you’ve any interest at all in the justice system, True Crime, or even a passing interest in the case, I’d recommend this one. Not a light watch – some of the documentary is in Italian, so you’ll need to focus on subtitles, but worth it.

The Keepers

My true-crime loving self has gotten stuck into the new series Netflix released mid month, The Keepers. It’s the story of the murder of a young nun, Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik, in November 1969 in Baltimore, Maryland. Simple murder mystery this one is not, I’m feeling ALL of the emotions. I’m finding it a bit tough to watch all in one go, so I’m coming and going from it.

Josef Fritzl: Story of a Monster

Pointed interviews and rare footage reveal the horrific case of Josef Fritzl, who for decades brutalized and sexually assaulted his own daughter. I didn’t know many details of the case before watching this documentary of what can only be described as a horrific case.

 

3 1/2 minutes, 10 bullets

In a time of a growing Black Lives Matter campaign, and increased racial tension, it was interesting to see as it is one of the first cases I recall hearing about from recent years.

On November 23, 2012, Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, and three friends drove into a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. Davis and his friends got into a verbal altercation with white 45-year-old Michael Dunn, over the volume of the rap music they were playing.When Davis refused to turn down the music, Dunn opened fire on the car of unarmed teenagers. He fired 10 bullets, three of which hit Davis, who died at the scene. Dunn fled, but was taken into custody the next day. He claimed that he shot in self-defense. Filmed over a period of 18 months, 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, intercuts intimate scenes with Davis family and friends with footage from Michael Dunn’s trial and police interrogation, news reports, and prison phone recordings between Dunn and his fiancée. Drawing on 200 hours of footage, the documentary aims to reconstruct the night of the murder, delving into the intricate web of racial prejudice in 21st century America and how such prejudices can result in tragedy.

While feeling a bit depressed about the state of the world we live in after watching, I did find it to be an important watch. Probably not one for a day when you need cheering from the weather though.

West of Memphis

Filmmaker Amy Berg tells the story of the fight to stop the state of Arkansas from executing an innocent man. Beginning with an examination into the police investigation into the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, Berg brings to light new evidence surrounding the arrest and conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. All three were teens at the time and lost 18 years of their lives after being wrongly convicted and imprisoned. There are echoes of Making a Murderer in this one. 

India’s Daughter

India’s Daughter is a documentary film directed by Leslee Udwin and is part of the BBC’s ongoing Storyville series. The film is based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh who was a physiotherapy student.

The film was scheduled to be aired on TV channels round the world on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. However, when excerpts of the film, which included an interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the four men convicted of the rape and murder, were broadcast, a court stay order prohibiting the broadcast was obtained by the Indian police. The film is still banned in India. It makes for compelling watching, but I found myself getting very angry at the views about the place of women and how they are treated.

The Hunting Ground

This was a tough watch, but I felt an important one – my blood pressure rose by several levels throughout. The documentary looks at the treatment of sexual assault in American universities, the attitude of the governing bodies to both the victims and the perpetrators. I’m not surprised in the content of the documentary, which makes me quite sad. It painted the picture of exactly what I thought I knew, from seeing news reports and “Ripped from the headlines” episodes of Law and Order SVU on the same topic over the last few years. It did however let the victims share their stories. Of being told it was their fault, questioned on what their behaviour was to prompt him to do it, of being shown that their college, where they studied and paid fees, cared more about the reputation of the abuser than the welfare of the victim. Sexual assault is so underreported as a crime, because it is the only crime that the victim has to prove they didn’t want – and the conviction late is so, so low. The Brock Turner case, the man who sexually assaulted a fellow student and was released from prison after serving only three months of his exceedingly short six month sentence, was a reminder in recent months of the attitude towards victims in modern America. This should be mandatory viewing for all secondary school students, and anyone who jumps on the #NotAllMen wagon. Definitely do keep in mind a trigger warning for anyone who may be affected by themes of sexual assault or abuse.

Audrie & Daisy

My heart is honestly broken after watching this documentary. Not unlike The Hunting Ground, it deals with rape culture in the American young adult population and how it affects the wider community. This time it’s just individual stories; two underage young women find that sexual crimes against them have been caught on camera. From acclaimed filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island PresidentThe Rape of Europa), Audrie & Daisy – which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival – takes a hard look at America’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control.  Having read Louise O Neill’s Asking For It, which was inspired in part by the cases discussed in this documentary, it shocked me just how shocked I was to see what happened – you think you know the extent of the problem until you really look into it. While an important topic, this one definitely carries a trigger warning and while it has an important message for young people, should probably not be watched around children.

So, did I leave anything out? That should keep your appetite for true crime documentaries sorted out for a while – it certainly has with me! Let me know if there are any others I should keep an eye out for, I’d love to hear of more!

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and received a Netflix subscription and an iPad Mini in return for posting Netflix updates and reviews, however, all opinions are my own, and I already had a personal subscription before joining the Stream Team. 

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for this list! We love a true crime documentary and are always looking for new ones to watch. Absolutely loved West of Memphis even though the story was obviously hideous and was really gripped by The Keepers.

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