The 29 Best True Crime Documentaries You Need To Watch After Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’
It’s no secret that true crime is having a moment RN. Seriously, it seems like there’s always a new true crime documentary, TV show, podcast, or book (remember those?) to get completely lost in. And by “completely lost,” I’m talking about going down hours-long rabbit holes into articles, Reddit threads, and any other details you can find wedged into the random corners of the internet.
The newest additions to the genre run the gamut from Netflix’s Tiger King, a *literally* wild murder-for-hire story, to HBO’s McMillions, a scammer tale with layers upon layers to unpeel.
The best part? When you’re done all that “sophisticated” research from the comfort of your couch, you can trade theories with all your friends. And since you’re likely be spending a lot of time at home these days, there’s plenty of time to catch up on all the docs out there.
So, put on your detective hat and grab your magnifying glass, because, when it comes to true crime docs, nothing is ever what it seems — and you always gotta keep one eye open. From stories that tap into secret lives and bizarre circumstances to tales of mistaken identity and puzzling whodunits, these are the 29 best true crime documentaries to watch right now.
Netflix’s new true crime docuseries is something else. It follows Joe Schreibvogel, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, who calls himself the “Tiger King.” The mullet-headed man was obsessed with wild cats and owned thousands of them, which he housed at his private Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (also referred to as the G.W. Zoo) in Oklahoma. Joe ended up going to jail after reportedly putting a hit on a rival, and, believe it or not, things get even more intense from there. (Worth noting: This doc is brought to you by the creators of Fyre.)
Trials Of Gabriel Fernandez
This Netflix docuseries tells the true story of the torture and murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. His mother Pearl Sinthia Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre were later charged and sentenced for the crime. The film explores the case, while trying to investigate the overall system that failed to protect Gabriel and other vulnerable children like him.
This HBO documentary series tells the bizarre story of how former police officer Jerry Jacobson wound up stealing millions through McDonald’s Monopoly game. Jerry was in charge of security for the agency that ran McDonald’s promotion and used a wide network of co-conspirators to rig the game for more than a decade. This series features interviews with the FBI agents who took him down, McDonald’s executives, lawyers, and more.
Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Fernandez
Sports fans and true crime fans alike have been buzzing about Killer Inside, which delves into former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez’s life and death. He was sent to jail for the murder of his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend and later died by suicide in prison. The docuseries explores what went wrong in Aaron’s life, through interviews with friends, players, and others close to him.
Abducted in Plain Sight
Buckle up, folks: This is one of those stories that becomes more mind-boggling by the second. In the 1970s, a young girl, Jan, was kidnapped by her trusted and charming neighbour — twice — right under her parents’ noses. Um, how could that even happen?
Well, interviews with Jan (now all grown up) and her family show how the kidnapper groomed her to trust him — so much so that she was vocally adamant about wanting to be with him. He also manipulated her parents to insane heights. And that’s not all: an alien abduction is involved, too. Because why not…?
Mommy Dead and Dearest
Honestly, Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s story is next level. Her mom, Dee Dee, convinced her she suffered from illnesses like leukaemia and muscular dystrophy when, in reality, she was fine. Why? Dee Dee likely had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, so she led everyone to believe that her daughter was gravely ill. Well, Gypsy Rose was over it — and took some extreme measures.
Nobody really knows who killed 6-year-old pageant girl JonBenet Ramsey (well, except for the person who actually did it), but everyone has their own theory. Local actors shared their personal connections to the Ramseys — as well as some hot takes — while they “auditioned” for a dramatisation of the crime. This isn’t what you typically expect from a documentary, which is what makes it so don’t-even-blink intriguing.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
After three young boys were found brutally murdered in Arkansas, the police pinned it on three teenage boys — despite a total lack of evidence. Police literally thought their motive was tied to a satanic ritual because the teens listened to metal (does not compute). The film and its two sequels detail new evidence, explaining how this case might’ve been botched. Yikes on yikes.
Out Of Thin Air
Imagination is a powerful thing, but can you actually imagine a murder? Two men went missing in a small Icelandic town, but neither their bodies nor real evidence were found. Still, six people were convicted of their murders. The twist: None of them remembered the crime — because they didn’t do it. Apparently months of solitary confinement, twisted interrogations, and mystery drugs seriously mess with your head.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Kalief Browder had no idea walking home from a party one night would change his life forever. At 16, he was questioned about a stolen backpack. He wasn’t convicted, but he wasn’t let go, either. Browder spent three (!!) years in the rough and tough Rikers Island, two of which were in brutal solitary confinement. Eventually, he got out, but his mind was forever transformed.
Turns out, Miami had its own Wild West moment in the 1970s and 80s. The city totally transformed as cocaine smugglers brought drugs into the U.S. by the literal boatload. Law enforcers, former drug smugglers, gang members, and the like give a first-hand look at the Miami Drug War and economic growth that turned Miami into more than just a retirement town.
Wild Wild Country
**Cue swirl of red and orange everything** When cult leader and Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (you can call him Osho) and his personal assistant planted new roots in a small Oregon town, the new neighbours were less than happy. As tensions rose between the Rajneeshees and townies, the cult goes from utopia to total chaos.
Who killed Sister Cathy? The case still isn’t all-the-way cracked, but the search for the nun’s murderer upturned years of shocking clergy abuse and a massive cover-up from both the church and local authorities. Hearing what harm was done to young girls in a supposed safe space will make your stomach turn. The doc centres on two women acting as amateur detectives, in an effort to keep Sister Cathy’s story and compassion alive.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Quick true-crime history lesson: In 1982, the wife of New York real estate heir Robert Durst disappeared. In 2000, his friend was killed. A year later, so was his neighbour. It might just be me, but I see one common denominator here. Durst agreed to be interviewed for the documentary, but he’s probably kicking himself in the butt for it. Get ready to obsess over whether he’s innocent or guilty.
Humboldt County, CA did (and still does) a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to the country’s marijuana production. Only they did things a bit differently. It was basically a lawless land ruled by illegal growers. (Police who?) Perhaps unsurprisingly, people kept vanishing, like Garret Rodriguez, who moved to the area to grow and, soon after, was reported missing in April 2013. So, yeah… these growers are definitely not your chill neighbour growing a little weed in his backyard.
The Thin Blue Line
Randall Dale Adams was sent off to death row for murdering a police officer. But wait, **injustice alert**: He didn’t do it. Thin Blue Line is a prolific documentary that actually inspired real change. A year after the film came out — 12 years into Adams’ sentence — he was released from prison, thanks in part to its convincing footage.
When a wife dies, the husband is usually the first person people suspect. Just ask Michael Peterson. He said his wife suffered a fatal — yet accidental — fall down the stairs, but a lengthy legal battle full of head-scratching details and secret lives suggested otherwise. Oh, and some food for thought: Peterson was a crime novelist. Funny, huh?
Juan Catalan had a tough break, but was saved by a stroke of luck. He was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. His alibi? A Dodgers game. The hard part? Proving he was actually there. It’s wild, but it turned out the only thing standing between his freedom and a potential death sentence was Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David (a.k.a. the most Larry David thing to happen to Larry David).
Making A Murderer
True crime buffs know all about Stephen Avery. But ICYMI, a brief refresh: Avery was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder, but served 18 years in prison before he was released. Then, four years later, he was convicted of another murder. Like the first time, he said he was innocent and was framed by police. But can lightning really strike twice?
First And Last
A glimpse into the beginning and end of someone’s time in prison, this documentary focuses on the first and last days of inmates’ sentences at a Georgia jail. From sentencing to family life on the outside, you’ll get to know people of different circumstances with one major thing in common.
Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
Hopefully listening to a serial killer’s real voice doesn’t totally skeeve you out, because Ted Bundy’s is all over this four-part series. Get ready to hear excerpts from over 100 hours of interviews with Bundy from behind bars. Outlining his childhood, grisly murders of over 30 women, prison breaks, and televised trial, you’ll see how a serial killer could be so monstrous and still have the media wrapped around his deadly finger.
Make room in your watch list for a scammer story, no murders involved. A man named Rudy Kurniawanhad owned the best stash of rare wines you’ve ever seen, and he made bank at auction with them. One small catch: He was just relabeling normal wine bottles. Oof. Who would’ve thought the story of a wine fraudster would be so juicy? It’s best viewed with a glass of red wine — only the finest stuff, of course.
Beware the Slenderman
The internet has its scary corners, and the Slenderman myth lurks in one of them. In 2014, two 12-year-old girls lured their friend into the woods and tried to kill her as an offering to Slenderman. Thankfully, she survived. The documentary weaves together interviews with those close to the case and homemade Slenderman footage to show how the viral tale caught fire online. Warning: The visuals aren’t for the faint of heart.
The Central Park Five
In 1989, a female jogger in Central Park was sexually assaulted and left for dead. The police accused five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem, even though there wasn’t evidence they were connected to the crime and their confessions were coerced. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but nevertheless, the teens spent years behind bars before the real culprit owned up to it. If you want more of this story, add Ava DuVernay’s new drama miniseries When They See Us to your list.
There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane
Diane Schuler was driving a familiar route home from vacation, when she crashed into an oncoming car, killing herself and seven others (including her daughter and three nieces). People saw her as the perfect mother who wouldn’t endanger a soul, but she had something to hide. At the time of the accident, her blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit and she had a high level of THC in her blood. And that’s only the beginning of the mystery…
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
One day, a man walked into a bank with a bomb locked around his neck, demanding money. It sounds like a twisted twist on the “A man walked into a bar…” joke, but with a not-so-funny ending. Spoiler alert: It, uh, didn’t end well for him. And that was all before two more bodies mysteriously turned up. Even the police were like, “WTF.” Who’s the “evil genius” behind this dark game? You’ll just have to watch to find out.
Tales Of The Grim Sleeper
Honestly, it took too long for police to find Lonnie Franklin Jr., a serial killer responsible for the deaths of 10 women of colour in a poor South Los Angeles community. You can probably figure out why, but just in case, here’s a (pretty big) hint: He gave police 14 years in between murders to find him, for goodness sake! The documentary isn’t so much about his crimes, but more about how a killer could be on the loose for two decades — right under people’s noses.
College students fantasize about the adventures in store for them on a semester abroad (especially in Italy!). But for Amanda Knox, that international dream trip turned into a real-life nightmare when she was charged — twice — with murdering her roommate. Amanda was acquitted in both instances, but it didn’t quite make up for the whirlwind of fake tabloid stories and mess of convictions and appeals she endured.
I Am A Killer
Ever wondered what goes on inside the mind of a murderer? Nope, me neither (just kidding, here I am). If you’re a fan of Mindhunter, then you won’t be able to resist this docuseries. Each episode follows an inmate sentenced to death for capital murder, and, sometimes, the killers go into some gnarly detail about their crime or prison life. It’s about as close to death row as you want to get.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com