The 15 Best True Crime Documentaries on Netflix
There is evil in this world. The kind of evil that you can’t even imagine. To get a glimpse into these stark realities, watch the best true crime documentaries on Netflix. True crime is an addictive genre, and these are the best examples of the genre to binge-watch.
This list of true crime documentaries is available on Netflix USA and most other regions. And if something is not available in your area, you could always try one of the VPNs that work with Netflix in order to watch them.
1. Making a Murderer (2015)
- How long is it? 20 episodes, one hour each.
- In one line: Don’t always trust the cops.
This is Netflix’s biggest hit in the true crime documentaries genre. Making a Murderer tells the story of Steven Avery, and it gripped viewers across two seasons. Having been proved innocent for one crime, the same cops charge him with murder. Is he guilty or is he being framed? This eye-opening documentary is one of the best shows to binge-watch on Netflix .
2. Strong Island (2017)
- How long is it? 1 hour 47 minutes.
- In one line: A rare insider’s look at a family’s struggle to deal with injustice.
If you get the rare 100% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you’re definitely among the best true crime documentaries on Netflix. Strong Island is a filmmaker’s internal search for answers. It’s the story of a murdered brother, a killer that goes free, and a family that struggles with grief and injustice. This deeply personal film is like nothing you’ve seen before.
3. Wild Wild Country (2018)
- How long is it? 6 episodes, 64-71 minutes each.
- In one line: A religious cult takes over a country, plans mass poisoning and bomb blasts.
Controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Rajneesh Osho and his follower Ma Anand Sheela bought a large piece of land in Oregon. The idea was to set up a commune for their followers. But the local townspeople weren’t happy with how Osho, Sheela, and their followers conducted themselves. It quickly devolved and escalated into a violent battle.
This true crime documentary gets plenty of interview footage with Sheela from 2018, who makes no denials about what she did, making this a riveting watch.
4. The Keepers (2017)
- How long is it? 7 episodes, 1 hour each.
- In one line: Can you solve a murder mystery 50 years after it happened?.
What starts off as a murder investigation of a case from the 1960s turns into something far more sinister in The Keepers. This mini-series uncovers the corruption of officials and exploitation of children in a school in the US And it’s remarkable how as the investigators find more clues, the stories of witnesses start changing.
This one is a must-watch for fans of Twin Peaks .
5. Casting JonBenet (2017)
- How long is it? 1 hour 20 minutes.
- In one line: Revisit an infamous murder mystery from the 1990s in a whole new way.
Another one for Twin Peaks fans, Casting JonBenet is a different kind of true crime documentary film. It’s about the unsolved death of six-year-old child beauty pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey in 1996. Now, filmmakers try to cast people from the local community in a re-enactment of the murder mystery. And in the process, they uncover startling tales from all participants.
6. Amanda Knox (2016)
- How long is it? 1 hour 32 minutes.
- In one line: An international miscarriage of justice in the new media world.
Amanda Knox is a name you probably already know. In 2007, as an exchange student in Italy, Knox was jailed for murdering another student. It was an international media sensation, as she spent four years in prison. Eventually, she appealed her ruling and the Supreme Court of Italy freed her in 2015.
This documentary traces the whole saga and shows how the media and social networks affected this trial. It’s one of the best Netflix documentaries of 2016 .
7. Evil Genius (2018)
- How long is it? 4 episodes, around 50 minutes each.
- In one line: One of the most bizarre crimes in US history has an even stranger backstory.
Pizza delivery man Brian Wells shot to fame as the “pizza bomber.” In 2003, Wells was in a live televised standoff with the police, where he had a bomb around his neck, which eventually went off. If that sounds bizarre, wait till you see the backstory about the people who forced him into that situation.
The tapes and interviews of purported mastermind Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong will send chills down your spine. In our opinion, after Making a Murderer, this is the best true crime documentary currently on Netflix.
8. The Confession Killer (2019)
- How long is it? 6 episodes, around 45 minutes each.
- In one line: Henry Lee Lucas confessed to over 100 murders, but did he really do it?
Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing over 100 people, and was convicted of killing 11 of them. It was a sensational case in the 1980s, earning him the notorious title of America’s most prolific murderer. But once this Netflix documentary shines a harsh light on the facts, things start to unravel.
Was Lucas not mentally sound? Did the police lead him to confess crimes he didn’t commit so that they could shut cases? The fallout of the investigation is as interesting as the case itself.
9. The Confession Tapes (2017)
- How long is it? 7 episodes, 50 minutes each.
- In one line: A signed confession doesn’t mean it’s the truth.
Once the suspect gives a full confession, that’s the end of the case, right? It has to be the truth, our brain says. Watch The Confession Tapes to see why this couldn’t be farther from it.
The seven-episode series is a shocking look at police tactics to make a suspect confess to something he or she didn’t do. These are cases where the confession was overturned, so the victims get to talk about how they were duped by the people meant to protect us.
- How long is it? 3 episodes, around one hour each.
- In one line: Internet sleuths try to figure out the identity of a cat murderer before things escalate.
The internet loves cats. But one day, a grisly video went viral about a boy suffocating two cats to death. The killer was careful to leave no clues, but internet sleuths banded together to figure out who he was. It was only a matter of time before he escalated his crimes. And as they started getting closer, an even ghastlier video surfaced.
Don’t F*** With Cats isn’t earning points for its narration or editing, but it’s a must-watch true crime documentary for the internet age.
11. The Staircase (2018)
- How long is it? 13 episodes, 45 minutes each.
- In one line: A high-profile murder trial under the media glare, and often touted as one of the best true crime documentaries.
Several critics hail The Staircase as one of the best true crime documentaries of all time.
In 2001, Author Michael Peterson’s wife Kathleen fell down the stairs and died. But investigators were quick to point out that the injuries were not consistent, and suspected the husband of murder. And slowly it emerged that a friend of Peterson’s died 18 years ago at the bottom of a staircase with injuries to her head.
The media and the documentary closely follow Peterson’s trial over 18 years to make for a riveting binge watch. Originally a 10-part series, Netflix produced three new episodes on updates to the case, and you can now stream all 13 episodes.
- How long is it? 4 episodes, one hour each.
- In one line: Extensive interviews with one of the most famous serial killers of all time.
After Ted Bundy’s imprisonment, journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth interviewed him extensively, with over 100 hours of conversation. Conversations With a Killer exposes these tapes, mixed with interviews of Bundy’s family and friends, law enforcement officers, and survivors of his attacks. It’s a unique look into the mind of one of the most famous serial killers of all time.
13. The Fear of 13 (2015)
- How long is it? 1 hour 36 minutes.
- In one line: The greatest “standup crime” act you’ll ever see.
Nick Yarris is a death row inmate who petitions the state for the only thing he can ask for: an execution. And to plead his case, he stars in this tell-all documentary.
Like the best stand-up comedians , Yarris has a gift of verbal storytelling that will give you goosebumps. He makes you live ever single moment with him. No recreations, no silly effects. It’s just a man talking into the camera. And it’s the greatest true crime story you’ll ever hear.
14. The Innocence Files (2020) and Exhibit A (2019)
- How long is it? 8 episodes, around one hour each.
- In one line: Attempts to set free those inmates who were wrongfully convicted
Both Exhibit A and The Innocence Files have a similar theme: wrongful convictions. Exhibit A focuses on how prosecutors can misinterpret and manipulate forensic evidence. The Innocence Files follows eight cases by The Innocent Project, which seeks to exonerate inmates who don’t deserve to be behind bars.
Neither series necessarily has a happy ending, so keep that in mind while you watch. It’s more about facing the realities of a harsh legal system. While separate, these are some of the best true crime documentaries to watch.
15. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)
- How long is it? 90 minutes.
- In one line: One of the strangest crimes where a girl is kidnapped by the same man twice, while the family knows about it…
It’s almost impossible to believe what’s happening on the screen while watching Abducted in Plain Sight. A teenage girl in suburban America goes missing. And it turns out that a neighbor and family friend abducted her, drugged her, and molested here.
However it then gets even stranger, with extramarital affairs involving the kidnapper, alien conspiracy theories, and a second kidnapping and abuse of the same girl by the same man. Abducted in Plain Sight is a shocking revelation of how criminals use grooming and manipulation.
Go Beyond Documentaries for More Crime Viewing
In case you missed it, there’s a must-watch Netflix show called American Vandal that parodies this new genre of true crime documentaries. Plus there are plenty of true crime shows that aren’t documentaries but faithful recreations. You should check out Wormwood, American Crime Story, and The Legend of Cocaine Island.
While true crime documentaries are currently in vogue on Netflix, don’t miss out on crime shows either. Many of them use true crime for inspiration. In fact, if you like them gritty, shows from the UK tend to be better than American series. Try the best British crime dramas on Netflix to get a taste of high quality television.
Image Credit: Syda_Productions/Depositphotos
Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.