The 10 Best Crime Documentaries Available for Streaming

10. Mommy Dead and Dearest

When Dee Dee Blancharde was found dead, apparently killed by her daughter, Gypsy Rose, it seemed unfathomable. Gypsy Rose was apparently plagued with various chronic conditions, diseases, and psychological disabilities. But when it was revealed that Dee Dee suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and Gypsy Rose had never actually been ill, the case took on a new and terrifying meaning. The documentary investigates the physical and psychological abuse suffered, and how such a crime could occur.

Available on: HBOGo

 

9. Dear Zachary

Arguably the most emotional documentary on this list, Dear Zachary began as a sort of love letter to a friend’s son after the child’s father was killed. The various interviews with family and friends are already hard-hitting enough, but when the events depicted take a turn for the worse, it becomes all the more heartbreaking. Warning: if you’re like me and have a tendency to Google information about what you’re watching, don’t. I made the mistake of doing so, and truly wish I hadn’t.

Available on: Netflix

 

8. The Witness

Kitty Genovese’s name is well known in the world of psychology, as her murder is often referenced when analyzing the bystander effect. In fact, learning about her in my AP Psychology class is what led me to research the case more. In 2016, her brother revisited her case and uncovered the truths, the myths, and the impact her death continues to have after over 40 years.

Available on: Netflix

 

7. OJ: Made in America

The OJ Simpson story has been recounted time and time again, with notable adaptations such as American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson. The miniseries is a brick, but focuses heavily on America’s fascination with celebrity and how race relations affected the perception and outcome of the case, drawing on real footage to aid its narrative. In order to understand fully how this case was decided, it’s important to look at the context surrounding it. The documentary was widely acclaimed upon release, and for very good reason.

Available on: Hulu

 

6. Amanda Knox

The Amanda Knox case was the first example I ever got of a truly sensationalized crime story (even if I did learn about it from a Lifetime movie.) In fact, it’s probably the root of my morbid obsession with true crime. It’s one of those cases that depicts a process so convoluted it’s hard to believe, but this documentary stands out for an important reason: it actually features Amanda Knox herself. While the case still baffles me in some respects, this particular documentary does a great job at juxtaposing both the objective facts and the more subjective interviews.

Available on: Netflix

5. The Keepers

I was drawn to this series by its murder mystery, but I stayed for its investigation of the much darker themes surrounding a Maryland nun’s disappearance and subsequent death. If a true crime documentary could have it all, this one would: murder, family secrets, institutionalized abuse, and conspiracy. Its candid look at the sexual abuses by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore is never exploitative – a very important factor considering it features real victims – but sheds light on an incredibly important topic. (And if you’re looking for more on religious abuse, I highly suggest Spotlight.)

Available on: Netflix

 

4. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

The first installment of what later became a trilogy of documentaries, this series investigates the “West Memphis Three,” teenagers accused of murdering three young boys in a Satanic ritual in Arkansas. It depicts their arrests, trials, and subsequent convictions, even discovering some new (inconclusive) evidence along the way. Its dedication to telling this story in full, no matter how long it takes, makes the series a standout.

Available on: HBOGo

 

3. The Confession Tapes

Though more recent, as soon as this show popped up on my Netflix recommended list, I knew I had to watch it. And it did not disappoint, skyrocketing to the top of my list in no time. Seven episodes investigate six different cases where false confessions led to convictions. Each episode is unique, highlighting different aspects of criminal proceedings, miscarriages of justice, and how such an obviously false or coerced confession can stand in trial, and even be the sole reason for one’s conviction. It delves into the psychology of confessions as well, featuring interviews with experts and real players in the cases. Highly. Recommend.

Available on: Netflix

 

2. Who Took Johnny

On a Sunday morning in 1982, 12-year-old Johnny Gosch disappeared from an affluent neighborhood in West Des Moines, Iowa, while delivering newspapers. He would go on to become one of the original “milk carton kids,” and his disappearance remains a mystery. In this documentary, you see his mother fiercely take on his cause, doing what the police never wanted to do in the first place. The case takes a turn which truly shocked me, and delved into the world of human trafficking and abuse. For a case of such notoriety, it’s a must-see investigation into a horrific unsolved kidnapping.

Available on: Netflix

1. Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer is, hands down, my favorite true crime documentary. Even after all these years (and all the times I’ve re-watched it), thinking on the injustice presented in the series enrages me. It follows the case of Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted on sexual assault charges later dropped when new DNA evidence emerged. Just two years after being released from prison, he was convicted of murder. Netflix came in hot on the true crime scene with this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I cannot fathom why. It reveals a gross miscarriage of justice, and even though I’m definitely biased about Avery’s guilt or innocence, so were the cops in this case. Evidence was severely mishandled, the prosecution made unbelievable mistakes that had seemingly no bearing on the proceedings, and witness coercion was rampant. When you take a good hard look at this case, it’s hard to believe Steven Avery could have ever committed the murder he was convicted of.

Available on: Netflix

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2