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Here are the best Netflix true crime documentaries
True crime programming is everywhere in the streaming world, including Netflix. Many Netflix true crime documentary TV shows and movies have become extremely popular, and one even became a pop culture phenomenon. We found what we think are the best examples of this subgenre on Netflix. You might be surprised at the subject matter of these shows. You can sign up for Netflix at the link below:
Best Netflix true crime documentaries
Editor’s note: We will update this list with more true crime documentaries as more are released on Netflix.
When this series launched on Netflix at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, it became a massive hit with viewers that were stuck at home. Who wouldn’t want to watch a show about feuding wild tiger owners? However, while Netflix marketed this series as a wacky reality show, it really is one of the best Netflix true crime documentary TV series. The story of “Joe Exotic” and his extreme lifestyle with large animals ends with him going to jail, accused of hiring two men to kill a rival big cat owner, Carol Baskin. As it turns out, Baskin might have some secrets of her own. You can watch both seasons of the show now, along with a spin-off, The Doc Antle Story, which goes over the life of another big cat owner that’s been accused of other crimes.
Making A Murderer
Steven Avery was arrested and convicted of the sexual assault and attempted murder of a woman and spent 18 years in prison. As this Netflix true crime documentary series shows, he was later freed in 2003 after it was determined he was wrongfully accused of those crimes. However, in 2005, he was arrested and later convicted in 2007 of the murder of another woman. This highly acclaimed and Emmy award-winning series shows all sides of these crimes, from the prosecutors who believe Avery is guilty of this murder to Avery and his attorneys who believe he was set up to take a fall. You can watch both seasons now.
This acclaimed mini-series is about Michael Peterson, who in 2001 claimed that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a flight of stairs in their home in North Carolina and died of her injuries. However, police later charged Michael with the murder of Kathleen. The mini-series goes over a decade of this story, from the trial to his conviction. It also shows why the murder verdict was later overturned and how Michael was finally freed from prison. This series will make you debate whether or not he really did this crime.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez was a star tight-end football player for the New England Patriots in the 2010s. He seemed to have it all: athletic talent, money, and a job with one of the best NFL teams. However, he also had a lot of demons inside, and that apparently led him to murder. He was charged with the death of a semi-pro player in 2013. This Netflix true crime documentary series goes over his life and what happened to turn this star player into a murderer, who eventually died in prison in 2017.
When the term “The Ripper” comes up, many folks think of Jack The Ripper, the serial killer who murdered several women in London in the late 19th century. However, this Netflix mini-series tells the story of the hunt for another killer, the Yorkshire Ripper. This one was accused of killing 13 women in West Yorkshire and Manchester, England, in the 1970s and early 1980s. Police finally arrested Peter Sutcliffe for these crimes, and this series goes into the details of the Yorkshire Ripper’s horrible string of murders.
The Devil Next Door
What if you found out that someone in your neighborhood was, in fact, a Nazi war criminal? That’s the subject of this series, as it tells the tale of John Demjanjuk, who lived for decades in Cleveland before being arrested for being a guard at Nazi extermination camps in World War II. The documentary shows the rather complicated story of Demjanjuk, who was first identified as one guard that was nicknamed Ivan The Terrible, but later was discovered to be a different Nazi camp guard.
The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness
One of the most famous serial killers of all time is the subject of this Netflix true crime documentary series. David Berkowitz was convicted of 13 murders in the New York City area, using the name “Son of Sam” in the mid-1970s. However, an investigative journalist believed that there was, in fact, a second person who killed some of the people whose murders Berkowitz was later charged with.
Sins Of Our Mother
Lori Vallow seemed to be a regular wife and mother, but this series shows that underneath that wholesome exterior was a woman who believed in horrible things. This documentary shows how she left her first husband for another man and got caught up in a doomsday cult. It ended with her killing two of her children, claiming that her own kids were demons in disguise.
In 1969, Catherine Cesnik, a Catholic nun, was killed. Cesnik was a teacher at an all-girls Catholic school in Baltimore. This seven-part Netflix true crime documentary looks into this case, specifically that she might have been killed by a priest at the high school, whom she suspected of sexually abusing some of the students.
I Am A Killer
Worst Roommate Ever
The title might suggest this will be a funny reality show. It isn’t. This five-part series focuses on several people who have either been the victims of bad roommates or, in one case, a woman named Dorothea Puente who took in senior citizens in her boarding house and later killed them to claim their Social Security checks.
Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story
For decades, Jimmy Savile was one of the biggest celebrities in the UK. He hosted primarily children’s and music shows for the BBC. He passed away in 2011 as a hero of the nation. However, months later, hundreds of people around the UK came forward to say that Savile had sexually abused them while he was working on his shows. The Netflix true crime documentary shows how he was able to keep all of these crimes a secret while he was alive and how he is now considered to be one of the worst criminals ever in the UK.
Sally McNeil met her husband Ray in the 1980s. Both were obsessed with bodybuilding, so they quickly became romantic and then almost as quickly got married. In 1995, Sally killed David with a shotgun. The three-part Netflix documentary talks about what happened between Sally and David, including David’s near-constant abuse of Sally, which ultimately caused her to kill her husband.
D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?
“D.B. Cooper” became a kind of folk hero in the 1970s. A man using that name jumped out of a passenger plane he highjacked in 1972, with a case that had $200,000 that he received from the airline as part of the hijacking. The four-part series talks about how the legend of D.B. Cooper only grew in the following decades (it even showed up in an episode of Disney Plus’ Loki series in 2021). It also shows how private citizens have for years tried to find the real person behind the hijacking.
Unabomber: In His Own Words
Ted Kaczynski became one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. The man, better known as the Unabomber, lived as a recluse out in the Montana woods but sent people bombs in the mail for nearly two decades. He ended up killing three people and injuring numerous others before his hideout was discovered, and he was arrested in 1998. The four-part documentary series includes parts of an interview with Kaczynski, who believed that modern technology was destroying the Earth, and targeted people who he felt were part of this “problem.” The series also interviews Kaczynski’s family members, along with victims of his bombs and the law enforcement authorities that finally tracked him down.
American Murder: The Family Next Door
This Netflix true crime documentary is about the horrible multiple murders that happened in Frederick, Colorado, in 2018. While the documentary keeps the murderer a bit of a secret for much of the film, it does finally reveal that Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife and both of his young children. The film offered several explanations about why Watts would commit such terrible crimes, but in the end, his true motives for the murders remain largely unknown.
Girl In The Picture
Sharon Marshall (real name Suzanne Sevakis) was kidnapped at a very young age by a man named Franklin Delano Floyd in 1975. This documentary, based on two true crime books by author Matt Birkbeck, reveals how Floyd raised “Sharon” as his daughter for nearly two decades. Both lived their lives using several different aliases while constantly moving around. Floyd eventually married Sharon and got her pregnant, but in 1990 she died in a hit-and-run incident. The documentary offers lots of info on this strange and awful relationship.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel
The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was first built in 1924, and ever since then, the building has been the site of many murders, suicides, and other violent and criminal activities. It was also the home base for the “Night Stalker” serial killer Richard Ramirez in the 1980s. This documentary tells the history of the building and its rather dark reputation, including the belief by some people that it’s haunted.
Why Did You Kill Me?
Social media platforms have been blamed for many crimes and issues, but in this Netflix true crime documentary, they were actually used to find a killer. In 2006, a young woman, Crystal Theobald, was gunned down in Riverside, California, after a gang member drove up to the car she was in and fired several shots from a gun. The documentary shows how her mother got involved by creating a fake MySpace profile, Posing online as a teenager, and even using her daughter’s photo, the mother tries to find out which gang member might have killed her daughter.
Capturing The Killer Nurse
The recent Netflix movie The Good Nurse is a drama about the real-life serial killer Charles Cullen, who allegedly murdered people in hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while he was a nurse. This Netflix documentary goes into more detail about the investigations into Cullen and how he was finally arrested. He eventually confessed to 40 murders, although the real number might be in the hundreds.
Netflix true crime documentaries: Honorable mentions
There are lots of other true crime docs on Netflix to check out. Here are a few more that didn’t make our main list:
- Unsolved Mysteries — The revival of the classic TV show has many more true crime stories to tell.
- Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer — This series is all about the killer who lived at the Cecil Hotel and killed 13 people in Los Angeles in 1985.
- Our Father — A fertility doctor in Indiana secretly inseminated dozens of women over the decades, and this documentary shows how this was finally discovered.
- Catching Killers — This series is all about how the investigators who were in charge of finding serial killers caught them with their detective and forensic skills.
- Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer — Amateur sleuths go after a man who killed two cats and posted a video of the act online, but their investigations uncover even darker crimes.