There is evil in this world. The kind of evil that you can’t even imagine. To get a glimpse into these stark realities, you can watch true crime documentaries on Netflix. It’s an addictive genre, and these best of the best examples of the genre could kickstart a binge-watching habit.
This list is about the shows available on Netflix U.S. However, some will be available in other regions too. If not, you could always try one of the VPNs that work with Netflix to watch them.
1. Making a Murderer (2015)
- How long is it? 14 episodes, one hour each.
- In one line: Don’t always trust the cops.
Netflix’s biggest hit in the true crime genre, Making a Murder is the story of Steven Avery, and it gripped viewers upon its release on Netflix. Having been proved innocent for one crime, the same cops charge him with murder. Is he guilty or 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.
Netflix’s newest true crime documentary has (at the time of writing) achieved a rare 100% rating on movie reviews site, Rotten Tomatoes. 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. The Imposter (2012) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour 39 minutes.
- In one line: The greatest con artist tale ever.
A child goes missing in Texas. Three years later, the 16-year-old man calls his family from Spain and tells them he wants to come home. A joyous reunion follows. But the family slowly discovers something is off. Finally, they realize this isn’t their child, it’s an imposter. And he is ready to disclose all of his tricks in this chilling documentary.
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 U.S. And it’s remarkable how as the investigators find more clues, the stories of witnesses start changing. This one is a must-watch for Twin Peaks fans.
5. Casting JonBennet (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 documentary. 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. The documentary traces the whole saga and shows how the media and social networking affected this trial. It’s one of the best Netflix documentaries of 2016.
7. The Thin Blue Line (1988) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour 43 minutes.
- In one line: The first major true crime documentary whose evidence overturned the verdict.
If you enjoy shows like Making a Murderer, you should also watch The Thin Blue Line. Throughout his documentary, famed filmmaker Errol Morris argues the case for Randall Adams. Adams was accused of shooting a police officer, and sentenced to death row. But Morris uncovers layer after layer of evidence that doesn’t match up to the supposed story. So convincing was the film that in 1989, authorities revisited the case and found Adams innocent. How often can you watch a film that saves an innocent man’s life?
8. Tower (2016) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour 36 minutes.
- In one line: An incredible re-creation of the infamous incident when a gunman opened fire on the public from a clock tower in Texas.
There is something chilling about an ordinary man opening fire on the public. Back in 1966, one such man climbed a clock tower and started shooting. It’s a day that is brought up time and again, and nothing tells the story better than Tower. Director Keith Maitland uses eyewitness testimony to draw an animated reenactment of the incident. It’s a strange way to make a documentary, but Maitland is both tasteful and respectful about getting it right.
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. This is one of those ideal Netflix shows to download for your commute to work.
10. Who Took Johnny? (2014) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour, 21 minutes.
- In one line: The story of the first missing child to appear on a milk carton.
The disappearance of Johnny Gosch is one the unsolved mysteries that the internet loves. Gosch was 12 years old when, in 1982, he disappeared, feared to be kidnapped. The effort to find him was the first time a missing child’s photo appeared on milk cartons. Gosch still remains missing. His mother claims that he escaped his kidnappers and visited her; a claim the father doesn’t support. Watch the documentary to try and figure out who took Johnny on that fateful day.
11. The Karma Killings (2016) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour 23 minutes.
- In one line: The case of India’s most gruesome serial killings, and whether one of the accused is innocent.
In 2006, India’s capital city of Delhi was rocked with the country’s most gruesome serial killings. The bones of missing children were discovered in the house of a prominent businessman. He and his domestic help were accused of rape and prostitution, child pornography, kidnapping, and cannibalism. The case became a topic about the media, society, and more. But the main accused’s son claims his father is innocent, and is putting everything on the line to prove it. Watch every side of the story through this comprehensive documentary.
12. A Murder In The Park (2014)
- How long is it? 1 hour 31 minutes.
- In one line: Nothing is what it looks like in this topsy-turvy mystery.
Two days before his execution, journalism students set free a wrongly-accused prisoner. A new criminal confesses to the original crime of murder. It’s a triumphant day for justice, but is it really? As these filmmakers discover, those students and their professors cut some corners and might have freed the wrong man. Every time you hear of the police getting it wrong, think about A Murder In The Park.
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 story-telling 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 crime story you’ll ever hear.
14. My Friend Rockefeller (2015) [No Longer Available]
- How long is it? 1 hour, 26 minutes.
- In one line: A conman, a murderer, and an imposter, meet the real-life Gatsby.
My Friend Rockefeller is the fascinating case of Christian Gerhartsreiter AKA Clark Rockefeller. This German man duped hundreds of people by claiming to be a Rockefeller heir. But in reality, he was a conman and possibly even a murderer, as it eventually turned out. If you enjoyed the films Catch Me If You Can, The Great Gatsby, or The Talented Mr. Ripley, you need to watch this.
15. The Witness (2015) [Broken Link Removed]
- How long is it? 1 hour 29 minutes.
- In one line: The shocking murder that led to the creation of the 9-1-1 emergency line.
In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York as 38 neighbours watched or heard her screams. But no one came to help Kitty. The apathy caught the nation’s attention, and became the stuff of legend. It even led to the setting up of America’s 9-1-1 emergency line. 50 years later, Genovese’s brother wants to find out what really happened that night.
What’s Your Favorite True Crime Documentary?
In case you missed it, there’s a Netflix show called American Vandal [No Longer Available] that parodies this new genre of true crime documentaries. It’s a must-watch. But there are plenty of other excellent streaming services with their own great catalogs of true crime shows.
In my opinion, the best true crime documentary, whether on Netflix or not, is The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. It’s an HBO mini-series available on HBO Now, and it makes for extremely compelling viewing.
What’s your favorite true crime documentary of all time? Is it available to stream? If so, on what service? Have you watched any of the true crime documentaries on Netflix that made our list? Are there others that deserve a mention? Please let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: Syda_Productions/Depositphotos