As the true crime genre becomes more and more popular, we all become more addicted to the lurid details of murders and the dark psychology of those who commit them. The stories are haunting and tragic, but at the same time they’re stories worth drawing attention to, especially in order to raise awareness about things like mental illnesses and injustices in our judicial system. The fascination has always been around. Whether you’ve watched Forensic Files since you were just a kid or are just getting started, here are some of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix you should queue up for a freaky Friday night before they’re gone.
1. Making a Murderer
If you’re just getting into true crime on Netflix, this is where you should start. This is the classic, and the first of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix that people really stopped everything to binge. More accurately, it’s a docu-series. It tells the story of Steven Avery and his suspect conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach with tons of twists and turns. The documentary brought tons of people forward to defend Avery’s innocence, but the case still remains fuzzy and he remains in jail. Season 2 is already in the works.
2. The Witness
We all know about Kitty Genovese from our college Psych 101 courses, or do we? In this documentary, Kitty’s brother Bill goes back through the story, questioning the supposed fact that 38 people heard or saw Kitty that night and did nothing. In his sister’s story, he looks to discover what’s the myth and what’s the truth.
The Thin Blue Line has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes so that’s probably reason alone to watch it. It tells the story of Randall Dale Adams, who was arrested as a cop killer and put on death row. But the story turned controversial with this documentary questioning whether or not Adams was guilty. It’s revolutionary for many a reason and worth a watch.
4. Evil Genius
Evil Genius is Netflix’s latest true crime craze. It covers the extraordinarily strange story of the pizza bomber. In 2003, a pizza deliveryman showed up at a bank in Pennsylvania with a shotgun and a bomb attached to a collar around his neck. He told police it would go off, and then suddenly it did, killing him on the spot. In this docu-series, the story only gets crazier from there.
5. Strong Island
This doc is jam-packed with tension as it covers not just murder, but the racism that very well could have allowed a white man to get off free. It focuses on the Ford family, as Yance Ford tells of his brother’s murder and his family’s tragedy. Like any of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix, it analyzes the crime in addition to the following trial, as Yance continues to search for answers.
6. Interview with a Serial Killer
Compared to the other documentaries in this list, Interview with a Serial Killer is just a little blip of true crime, at 44 minutes. You can watch it for a midday break or before bed if you want some creepy dreams. The makers of this short film interviewed the Genesee River Killer for chilling details of his life as a murderer in typical creepy serial killer ambivalence.
7. Who Took Johnny
At 12 years old, Johnny Gosch disappeared without any explanation while on his paper route. This documentary tells what’s known of his story, including his mother’s claims that Johnny never even died. A body was never found, so could she be right? Whatever you believe, this documentary compiles all the facts and possibilities in one place.
Tower tells the story of the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas when a madman gunned down almost 40 victims, killing 16, all from the campus tower. The documentary uses an artful and haunting combination of witness testimony and animation to recount the horror. You’ve never expected cartoons to be such a sad and powerful addition to one of the most haunting and best true crime documentaries on Netflix.
If you want an especially crazy story you’ll have to hunt for the truth in, check out Tabloid. It’s the story of Joyce McKinney, who claims love, while others claim kidnap. She, as well as others involved, make up the documentary with personal interviews telling the story. Watch Tabloid to see the former beauty queen behind the case of the “manacled Mormon” and hear her side of the story.
10. The Keepers
The Keepers is a docu-series about the cover up of a nun’s murder and the conspiracy hidden beneath it. When Netflix released this new program, true crime fans went crazy eating it up. Sexual abuse was rampant in the school where Sister Cathy taught and the tales of it unfold as the series progresses, pulling you further and further into each episode.
11. Natascha Kampusch: The Whole Story
Natascha Kampusch has one of the scariest stories we often imagine: being kidnapped for eight years. At ten years old in Austria, she was taken captive and help in a cellar underground until she escaped at 18. In this documentary, Natascha tells her story of survival, and a finally happy ending celebrating strong women we so rarely see in this genre.
12. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
The Galapagos Affair is a story of a few self-proclaimed settlers who claimed an island in the Galapagos as their new paradise. On the remote island Floreana, a few separate couples came to live and try to survive in the natural world. However, the paradise soon turned dark when a couple of the community members disappeared. It’s unclear what ever happened to them, but the strange personalities on the island bring to mind suspicious activity.
13. Amanda Knox
The case of Amanda Knox is one of our greatest unsolved true crime mysteries, and one of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix that doesn’t wrap up cleanly. If you’re not familiar with her story, this doc could be a good place to start as it gives you the whole saga, albeit with a fair amount of bias having Knox plead her own case throughout. One second you’ll be sure she killed her roommate, the next not so much. Either way, the murder of one girl studying abroad and the potentially false imprisonment of another hits a little too close to home.
14. Wild, Wild Country
Wild, Wild Country is a different taste of the true crime spectrum. Instead of murder, it focuses on a cult, which often has just as dark details as serial killers, (if not worse) as a whole group of people become entrenched in strange activities. This documentary focuses on followers of the spiritual leader Rajneesh in the 1980s and their supposedly utopian community, Rajneeshpuram. In it, many looked for peace, but one extreme official sought out destruction. To get a fuller picture of the situation, you can also read what members of Rajnesshpuram had to say for themselves after watching the documentary here.
15. Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Female serial killers tend to be less common and less talked about. Typically there are widows who killed their husbands and nurses who killed their patients. But Aileen Wuornos is as close as we get to a female serial killer with the same patterns and ticks as her male counterparts. The documentary gives you a taste of the full story with scenes from the trial and close up interviews with Aileen herself, as she waits on death row in a solitary confinement cell years later. For an extra taste, watch creator Nick Broomfield’s original take in the 1992 doc he made about Aileen, Aileen: The Selling of a Serial Killer.