As a big fan of true crime documentaries, It’s no secret that Netflix has always been the best treasure island where you can find tons of high-quality documentaries and docuseries. Netflix has played a major role in the true-crime genre with huge investment in original production and licenses. There’s a long list of good docs on Netflix, but I’ll present to you the 10 best true crime documentaries on Netflix for those who just started and lost their way.
1. <Mormon: Murder Among the Mormons> (2021)
On October 15, 1985, in Salt Lake City, a document collector Steve Christensen and the wife of Christensens’s former employer Kathy Sheets were killed by two homemade bombs delivered in packages. On the following day, another document collector Mark Hofmann was almost killed by bombs installed in his car. Three cases had one thing in common that they were all related to document collection about Mormonism. While prosecutors and police investigated suspects, the public brought involvement of the Mormon community in a conspiracy since the document found by Mark provoked arguments against the veracity of official Mormon history. During the investigation, however, police discovered the real murderer no one had expected.
is a well-presented, insightful true-docuseries. It’s composed of three episodes and each episode is dealing with the historical background of the Mormon church, the development of the case, and the confession of the murderer. Across the series, it shows how simply we can be manipulated by someone.
2. <American Murder: The Family Next Door> (2020)
On August 13, 2018, in Colorado, United States, Shanann Rzucek and her two daughters were reported missing. Shanann was fifteen weeks pregnant with a son at the time of her disappearance. Her husband, Christopher Watts, gave interviews to several broadcasting stations pleading for the return of his wife and two daughters. On August 15, however, he was arrested and confessed to murdering Shanann. During the investigation, the ugly truth he meant to bury is revealed and people are outraged.
is composed of Shanann’s social media accounts and text messages with her friend, interrogation room footage, and courtroom shots. Director Jenny Popplewell intentionally shows the pure truth without any recreations, assumptions, or opinions. So, you will be able to take an objective view of this case without prejudice. This is showing us how True Crime Documentaries should be.
3. <Tell Me Who I Am> (2019)
In 1982, Alex Lewis woke up from a three-month coma after a motorcycle crash without remembering anything. Alex didn’t know who his mother was, where he lived, where he was born. The only person he recognized was Marcus, his twin brother. After leaving the hospital, he began to learn everything from scratch entirely relying on his brother. Thanks to Marcus’s help, Alex quickly reintegrated his life again and lived as a normal son who grew up in a happy and wealthy family.
However, after their parents both died, a dark family secret was revealed that Marcus never mentioned. Huge stashes of cash, sex toys, and creepy photo of naked Alex and Marcus with the heads cut off. Alex can’t understand why these things are found in his mother’s room. Alex asks Marcus whether their mother had sexually abused them, and Marcus simply nods without saying more. In 2019, at the age of 54, Marcus finally began to talk about the secret and the reason why he couldn’t tell the truth back then.
<Tell Me Who I Am> is a 2019 true crime documentaries film directed and produced by the British filmmaker Ed Perkins. The director says he spent about three years just getting to know them before beginning filming and it’s been so helpful to creating an environment where they felt they could have conversations that they haven’t talked to anyone. This documentary would leave you to wonder what would you have done if you had been Marcus. The best way to watch it is just to see it without reading anything about it, including any reviews.
4. <Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer> (2021)
In 1985 Los Angeles, a series of seemingly disconnected murders and sexual assaults occurred. A passionate young detective Gil Carrillo and legendary homicide investigator Frank Salerno take the case. They hunt him down night and day. This series focuses on the two detectives’ journey to bring the killer, Richard Ramirez to justice. At the same time, it shows the true story of victims and their families across the episodes. It’s truly the best part of this docuseries.
It’s carving out enough time to describe how the victims are remembered by the family left behind. We know well about the killers, like how ruthless they are, or their miserable childhood. On the contrary, we do not know about the victims. Like what kind of person they were and how much beloved by their family and friends were. The whole series features vivid cinematography with tense music. So it won’t be easy to take your eyes off it until the last episode.
5. <Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime> (2021)
On May 19, 2012, Elize Matsunaga shot her millionaire husband Marcos Matsunaga in the head. Then she dismembered his body, packed all parts into garbage bags, and threw it away on a gravel road 30km away from São Paulo. As soon as his bodies were found, Elize Matsunaga was arrested by the police as the only suspect. Soon, she confessed to his murder. After spending 4 years in prison, her trial was held in May 2016. At trial, her lawyer insisted that she killed Marcos in self-defense, and arguments occurred due to his infidelity that eventually brought murder. During the trial, a secret about Elize and Marcos was revealed, and their friends and family got shocked by it.
is quite controversial because Elize Matsunaga herself gave an interview across the series. Many people criticize that the show is providing excuses over the entire time of why the murderer killed and mutilated her husband’s body, and let her show herself as a victim. Unlike other true crime documentaries, it doesn’t deal with the sadness and anguish of the victim’s family. However, that uncomfortable feeling derived from suspicion about Elize makes you keep thinking and concentrating on the series the whole time.
6. <Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel> (2021)
On February 19, 2013, a body was discovered in a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Police identified the body as Elisa Lam, who disappeared 5 days ago. She’s a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and had been staying at the hotel during her travel to L.A. Her disappearance had been widely reported since LAPD released the elevator CCTV video that caught the last time she was known to have been seen on the day of her disappearance. In the footage, Lam is acting weirdly. She kept talking and gesturing by herself and hiding as if there’s someone outside the elevator. As the video went viral, groundless rumors and conspiracy theories struck the media.
Despite the explanation about her death, it has been argued pointing out the mysterious factors that are still unanswered. interviewed various people who are related to this case including guests, investigators, YouTubers, hotel manager, and a hotel employee who found the body. This is quite a long episode but will catch your attention until the end.
7. <The Staircase> (2018)
In the early morning hours of December 9, 2001, Michael Peterson found his wife, Kathleen, fallen at the bottom of a staircase. He said she must have fallen down the stairs after taking alcohol and tranquilizer, and she was still breathing when he first found her. Unlike his explanation, however, the autopsy revealed the blunt injury was found on her head that couldn’t be resulted from falling down the stairs. According to her blood coagulations, she had died from blood loss ninety minutes to two hours after sustaining the injuries. Not long after, He became the prime suspect and was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and imprisoned.
After spending 8 years in prison, his conviction was overturned because of improprieties at the State Bureau of Investigation. Peterson later submitted an Alford plea for the sake of freedom but is still maintaining his innocence. This docuseries deals with Michael Peterson’s interview, and at the same time, several doubtful points behind him telling that the final judge always depends on the audience. It was released in 2018 but is still one of the best True Crime Documentaries on Netflix.
8. <Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist> (2018)
On August 28, 2003, a pizza delivery man, Brian Wells, walked into a PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. He passed the teller a note that said, “Gather employees with access codes to the vault and work fast to fill the bag with $250,000 in 15 minutes. Or the bomb on my body will be exploded” Then he lifted his shirt to reveal the homemade bomb that was mentioned on the note. With the bag filled with money, he hopped into his car and left the bank. After 15 minutes, however, he got arrested by the state troopers.
Wells told them he is being taken hostage, and the bomb will go off soon. Troopers called the bomb squad and TV broadcasters filmed Wells sitting on the pavement. All of sudden, the device around his neck began to make a beeping noise. In a few seconds, the bomb had exploded and Wells died on the pavement. It was 3 minutes before the bomb squad’s arrival. While investigating, cops recognized that someone was pulling Wells’ wires from behind. Meanwhile, cops got the call from the guy who confessed to the crime of body dump. He pointed out his friend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong as a criminal. From that moment, the deeper story surrounding the death of Wells began to be revealed.
This docuseries is composed of 4 episodes and each episode has its own powerful story filled with twists and turns. At the center of all connections, a woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong emerges as a central figure in numerous deaths and murders. What possibly could be the motive of this diabolical crime? With a story full of plots, you’ll take a step forward to the ugly truth of the evilness of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and the other conspirators.
9. <Abducted in Plain Sight> (2017)
Bob Berchtold, otherwise known as, “B” was a kind and charming neighbor of the Broberg family until he revealed his pedophilic obsession with Jan Broberg, one of the Broberg family’s three daughters. Berchtold insinuated himself into the Broberg family to make Jann his own. To achieve the goal, he baited a trap one by one. You will be surprised how cleverly he manipulated the naive parents and little girl. His attempt to possess Jann never stopped until she grew up and realized that everything Berchtold had done to her was, in fact, sexual abuse. It could be pretty hard to keep watching how the harmonious family life was so easily ruined by the despicable liar. However, there is no doubt that this is definitely a well-made true crime documentary.
10. <Don’t f**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer> (2019)
What do you think are the chances of coming across a murderer while watching cat videos? Yes, this is what happened in 2010. The story started from one video in which a man suffocated two kittens using a vacuum pack, which eventually became a series of three disturbing videos. This short clip was cruel enough to make people outraged. Some people on an online community on Facebook began to find out the man in the clip by analyzing every frame of the video. This docuseries chronicles how their journey led to the cat killer’s bare face.
Personally, I was so surprised how many crumbs we left every time we used the internet. Just like web sleuths on the documentary, if someone set their mind to it, anyone can find your place, your job, your preferences, literally anything. This is why this series calls into question our own voyeurism and self-righteousness in the end. Are we really complicit by clicking and watching those videos? We require much thought about it.
Read more articles!
- Celebrating 2021 Pride Month: 10 Best LGBT Movies you must watch
- Top 7 Netflix Sitcoms You Should NEVER Miss