If you love true crime, stream these shows and docs
Real-life law and order
Few things bring viewers together like trying to solve a mystery, and even fewer things can say the truth is stranger than fiction. Serial killers, CIA operatives, cultists, and the wrongly convicted all reside at the intersection of true crime and cinema. For all the cyber sleuths, news junkies, and drama queens (aren’t we all?), check out EW’s recommendations for the best in true crime on streaming.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, 2003
Many are familiar with the case of Aileen Wuornos thanks to Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning turn in Monster. But the true story behind the drama reveals a troubled woman, a discarded life, and a thankless struggle that ended in the shooting deaths of six men. —Dan Heching
Available on Amazon Prime Video.
While most entries on this list explore true crimes committed out in the free world, Ava DuVernay's challenging and thought-provoking documentary 13th looks at the other end of the justice process, where another serious crime is being committed: the large-scale criminalization of African-American men within the country's incarceration system. —Dan Heching
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets, 2015
This documentary captures an all-too-familiar story of late — an unarmed Black teen dying by gunfire at the hands of a white man. In 2012, the death of Jordan Davis and the ensuing trial of his killer made headlines that have been echoed many times since. 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets explores the case and the ramifications it continues to have on the country as a whole. —Dan Heching
Amanda Knox, 2016
"Either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing, or I am you." This and many other quotes are at the center of this powerful Netflix documentary, which gives voice to one of the most famous — and ostracized – suspected killers of the new century. Relive the fateful night in Italy when Knox's roommate was killed and examine the media hurricane and two lawsuits that ensued, ending with Knox being twice acquitted. Is the film biased for giving voice to Knox herself? You be the judge. —Dan Heching
Related: Amanda Knox — EW review
American Murder: The Family Next Door, 2020
Why did Christopher Watts murder his wife Shannan and their two young daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, in 2018? American Murder: The Family Next Door revisits the crime unraveling the clues leading to Christopher’s eventual confession, including insight into the extramarital affair that is believed to have been the motive for the triple killings. Viewers get an inside look at the family during their happier days, text messages, and social media posts from Shannen, and a look into Christopher’s interrogations.
Being Poirot, 2013
Not all "true crime" fare has to explore the dark side. Hercule Poirot, the iconic crime solver from the mind of Agatha Christie, has been portrayed by several esteemed actors, but David Suchet, the British actor who has brought Poirot to life in a long-running series, is considered to be the finest. This documentary explores the actor's process, and what the brilliant role means to him. —Dan Heching
The Central Park Five, 2012
The Central Park jogger case rattled New York City in 1989, the events of which many won't soon forget: a grisly rape, a woman on the brink of death, and the five (Black and Latino) men found responsible for her unspeakable trauma. But is the case that cut and dry? Far from it, as this searing documentary displays, in one of the largest and most racially charged miscarriages of justice in American history. Written and directed by noted filmmaker Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon. —Dan Heching
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, 2021
What really happened to Elisa Lam, a Vancouver student who traveled to Los Angeles and was found dead in a water tank at the infamous Cecil Hotel? Filmmaker Joe Berlinger revisits the mysterious circumstances around the case while presenting the facts, though that isn’t quite enough for many cyber sleuths who believe the case remains unsolved. Did Lam’s mental health play a role in her demise or is there something more sinister at play? Berlinger also dives into how the hotel’s location, Los Angeles’ Skid Row, has played a role in attracting serial killers, death, and trouble and why the city has a responsibility to do better. —Rosy Cordero
Evil Genius: The True Crime of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist, 2018
Addictive and twisty, Evil Genius recounts the story of the 2003 Pizza Bomber Heist in which a pizza delivery driver tried to rob a PNC bank in Erie, Pa., with a bomb strapped to his neck. Alas, the bomb ended up exploding. Over the course of the four episodes, the docuseries tries to figure out who else was responsible for the robbery and the bomb. In her B-grade review, EW’s Piya Sinha-Roy wrote, “It makes for an easy and engrossing binge of an ultimately tragic story.” —Chancellor Agard
Frame 313: The JFK Assassination Theories, 2008
Unpacking what is arguably the most famous true crime of the 20th century, this exhaustive documentary examines the most credible theories (some conspiracy, some not) surrounding John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination, and looks at those who may have gotten away with this history-making murder. —Dan Heching
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, 2020
After convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death by suicide in 2019, a lot of questions remain unanswered about the extent of his crimes and the degree of culpability of his powerful friends and associates. The four-part documentary features interviews with multiple women who accuse Epstein and some of his known cohorts of sexually abusing them or playing a role in the abuse, and those who say he paid them to procure young women for him at local high schools. There are also witnesses who claim to have seen Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and others associating with Epstein under varied circumstances. And what role did Ghislaine Matthew play in Epstein’s life? —Rosy Cordero
The Jinx, 2015
Ever present in the headlines, real estate mogul Robert Durst has been suspected of three separate murders — of his first wife, a longtime friend, and a neighbor. With a murder trial set to begin in April 2021, watch the HBO miniseries that has actually become part of the testimony against him. —Dan Heching
The Keepers, 2017
One of true crime docuseries to cause a stir is Netflix's The Keepers, a creepy, largely unresolved account of a nun's long-ago murder and the foul play nearly 20 years later that might be connected. Gather the facts along with the director from friends, relatives, journalists, and officials who may know the truth, and judge for yourself. —Dan Heching
The Lady and the Dale, 2021
One of the most captivating subjects to be featured in a true-crime docuseries is Liz Carmichael, a transgender woman who will have you questioning why you’re cheering on a con artist who excelled at separating people from their money after years of hustling schemes. She bit off more than she could chew in 1970 when she created the Dale, a three-wheel car meant to use less fuel during a time when the U.S. was running low. She was taking in buckets of money, but not one car made it off the production line and into the streets. It will make you wonder how such an innovative person could have made much more of themselves had they chosen to use their powers for good.
The Last Narc, 2020
The kidnapping, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985 has been covered extensively in media, well beyond Narcos: Mexico. But none have gone so far as to share the points-of-view of witnesses who allege to have seen and/or participated in the crimes against Camarena by drug traffickers in Mexico. The doc isn’t shy when revealing the names of people being accused of having played a role in this case, including a C.I.A. agent and other government officials on both sides of the border.
Making a Murderer, 2015-2018
Making a Murderer follows the stranger-than-fiction trial of Steven Avery, who was wrongfully committed of one murder, only to be later embroiled in another murder case two decades later. This award-winning series' second season further documents this polarizing, complicated and ongoing case. —Dan Heching
Related: Making a Murderer — EW review
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, 2021
The summer of 1985 was sweltering in Los Angeles, leaving residents no choice but to leave their doors and windows open to stay cool. But little did they know there was a serial killer on the prowl, one who didn’t need an open invitation to enter homes nor discriminated when selecting victims. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer tells the story of detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo, the duo whose investigation led to the capture of Richard Ramirez, a proud satanist known as the Night Stalker, in August of 1985. But that’s not where the story ends. Ramirez’s trial to a circus as fans and women romantically interested in connecting with the person accused (and later convicted) of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries.
Private Violence, 2014
According to statistics, the most dangerous place a woman can be is in her own home, where four women are murdered every day at the hands of abusive partners. This unflinching look at domestic violence puts a face to the numbers and a story behind the figures, following one survivor in her pursuit of justice and the advocate who stands at her side. —Dan Heching
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, 2016
This GLAAD-award winning documentary follows the upsetting persecution of four Latina lesbian women who were wrongfully accused of aggravated sexual assault and indecency against two young girls in their conservative Texas community in 1994. Almost 20 years after being convicted and sent to prison, one accuser recanted and certain evidence was proved to be incorrect, and the women were set free — but that was not the end of their travails. Watch this arresting account of their quest for full exoneration, a series which later became instrumental in clearing their names. —Dan Heching
The Staircase, 2004-2018
Originally released in 2004, this docuseries from French director-writer Jean-Xavier de Lestrade predated our current true-crime boom and documents the trial of Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife Kathleen in 2001. It was critically acclaimed when it was first released 14 years ago, but the interest in the case hasn’t abated. De Lestrade released a sequel in 2013 and then released another three new episodes on Netflix in June 2018, which documented Peterson’s final trial. What’s truly fascinating about this all — apart from the owl theory about Kathleen’s death — is that Lestrade still isn’t sure whether or not he believes Peterson is guilty. “Michael Peterson himself is a very strange, very complex character,” de Lestrade told Time. "Of course, the man I spent many days, weeks, months, and years with — the man I know, it’s like it’s not possible that he’s capable of killing someone in that way. But human beings are so strange and you never know.” —Chancellor Agard
Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story, 2014
While some crimes may not necessarily be violent, their weight and reach can still be felt around the world, as was the case with Lance Armstrong. The world-renowned athlete admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in cycling competitions after years of lying and denial, and this doc explores what led up to that momentous decision, as well as the shocking fallout. —Dan Heching
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, 2020
What makes Falling for a Killer different from all the other Ted Bundy documentaries is that it’s the only one told from the point of view of his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. Who was Bundy when he wasn’t out manipulating, raping, and killing innocent women? He was a family man who became a surrogate father to Elizabeth’s young daughter, Molly, who shares what life was like having Bundy as a stepfather. Luckily for the pair, the relationship fell apart and Bundy was caught for his crimes, which included 30 murders he confessed to committing. —Rosy Cordero
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, 2020
Tiger King hardly needs an introduction, but for those who sat this one out the first go around, it’s a true-crime documentary exposing wildcat owners, their rivalries, and their treatment and mistreatment of said animals often under the guise of conservation. At the center is self-proclaimed Tiger King, Joe Exotic, who is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for crimes against his animals and a murder-for-hire plot to kill his nemesis, Carole Baskin. The tale is wild and the road bumpy, but it does an excellent job uncovering the inadequate laws in place to protect innocent animals from people who are only concerned with exploitation for dollars.
Wild Wild Country, 2018
Produced by the Duplass brothers, this Emmy-winning series chronicles the surreal story of what happened when the Rajneesh cult settled in a small Oregon town in the late '80s and essentially tried to take it over. What ensues is nothing short of unbelievable and includes mass poisoning, attempted murder, and so much more. If that doesn't entice you, Wild Wild Country also stands out because it’s not just about a murder mystery. —Chancellor Agard
Errol Morris — one of the main figures in the true-crime genre — directed this fascinating six-part docudrama series that explores how the suspicious death of an Army scientist in 1953 was possibly connected to the CIA’s mind-control program MKUltra. The series offers a compelling blend of interviews, archival footage, and recreations that include performances from Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Jimmi Simpson, and more. —Chancellor Agard