Featured Image: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix
We’re truly living in a Golden Age of True Crime TV. But how do you know what’s really worth your time? We’ve got you.
The Best True Crime on Netflix
“Don’t F*** With Cats”
It started with a YouTube video and ended with an international manhunt. This devastating three part series is a difficult watch that follows the identification and search for an international criminal by a group of amateur online sleuths. With dozens of twists and turns, this film challenges viewers to explore their own fascination with people who commit horrific crimes.
“When They See Us”
Director Ava DuVernay’s tremendous miniseries shows the absolute travesty of injustice visited upon the Central Park Five—five African American boys wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park.
Based on the actual case of a serial rapist whose first victim was ignored, this gut-wrenching scripted series features incredible performances by Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever, and Toni Collette.
- “Making a Murderer”
- “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz”
- “Surviving R. Kelly”
The Best True Crime on Hulu
The case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was convicted of murdering her mother Dee Dee, is as twisty as it is sad. Joey King and Patricia Arquette (who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Dee Dee) bring Gypsy and Dee Dee to tragic life in this scripted version of the events. An HBO documentary covering the real-life story is also worth a watch.
The absolute disaster that was Fyre Festival inspired two documentaries—one for Hulu, and one for Netflix. The Hulu one may have less spin, considering it’s not produced by the company that did the marketing for Fyre Festival (ahem, “Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”).
- “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”
- “The Murder of Laci Peterson”
- “Tales of the Grim Sleeper”
The Best True Crime on Amazon
The Lorena Bobbitt case became a punchline in the 1990s. This four-part documentary gives the real details of the case—the domestic violence and rape Bobbitt suffered, the protection afforded to her former Marine husband—showing us exactly how the media got this story wrong.
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”
Almost nobody connected with the 2008 financial crisis went to jail—nobody, that is, except the family that owned a small bank in New York’s Chinatown.
- “Ken Burns: The Central Park Five”
- “Dear Zachary”
- “Paradise Lost”
The Best True Crime on HBO
“I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter”
For the first time in a US court, a woman (17-year-old Michelle Carter) was tried for the involuntary manslaughter of her boyfriend, who committed suicide. As with most true crime documentaries worth watching, there’s a lot more beneath the surface of this tragedy.
“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley”
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of blood testing tech company Theranos, will go down in history as one of the great grifters of this quarter-century. This doc gives all the crazy details of how she bilked investors for billions while creating a blood testing device that never actually worked.
- “The Jinx”
- “Leaving Neverland”
- “Mommy Dead and Dearest”
- Check out our list of essential HBO true crime documentaries.
The Best True Crime on Showtime
“Murder in the Bayou”
Eight women were found murdered in strange places surrounding one small town in Louisiana. This wasn’t the work of a serial killer, but a consequence of drugs, police misconduct, and politics.
Laquan McDonald was just 17 years old when he was shot 16 times by Chicago police. This doc takes us through the appalling cover-up of the crime.
- “XY Chelsea”
- “Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!”
- “American Dream / American Knightmare”
The Best True Crime on Starz
Filmmaker Joe Berlinger and a team of experts re-examine death row cases in this gripping docuseries. One of the three men featured in Season 1, Curtis Flowers, recently had his conviction struck down by the Supreme Court.
Steven Soderbergh produced this five-part doc about a now-former Army Lieutenant convicted of killing two local men while deployed in Afghanistan.
- “Stranger Fruit”