7 True Crime Documentaries On Netflix Worth Catching Up On If You Missed Them
Few things are quite as tailor-made for a Sunday afternoon of streaming as true crime documentaries. The genre has proliferated in recent years, but the breakneck speed at which Netflix releases content means you're bound to have fallen behind on some of its biggest titles. These seven true crime documentaries on Netflix took over the timeline when they first came out, but you may have lost track of them in your queue. They're definitely worth going back and watching, especially if Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes left you craving for more gripping documentary storytelling.
From Making a Murderer, a project ten years in the making that arguably started it all for Netflix, to last month's unbelievable investigation into what exactly happened at the Fyre Festival and who empowered founder Billy McFarland to fail in such spectacular fashion, Netflix has consistently been putting out captivating true crime docs. Several of these titles were snatched up from the world's buzziest film festivals and locked into distribution deals with the streaming service, which is proving to be a pretty lucrative strategy. So the next time you're hunting around for something to scratch your true crime itch, try starting here. At the very least, they'll help you understand all those memes you didn't quite get last year.
Making A Murderer
Filmed over a period of ten years, Marking a Murderer: Part One took the internet by storm when it dropped around the winter holidays in 2015. It was a mesmerizing escape for people looking to take a break from the festivities and theorize about what really happened to Teresa Halbach, the alleged victim of Steven Avery and Brenden Dassey, sprang up everywhere. A less-talked-about followup season came in 2018, offering a deep dive into Avery and Dassey's post-conviction process with brand new legal teams.
Actually, two Fyre Festival documentaries came out in the same same week — one from Hulu and one from Netflix. And while the internet ate up the ~drama,~ the two films are actually pretty complementary. Hulu's Fyre Fraud broke down the anatomy of the crime, from the history of music festivals to how influencer culture contributed to one of the greatest scams in music. Netflix's Fyre, meanwhile, offered a rundown of the festival's most bonkers anecdotes to drive home how truly wild the whole thing was. (I, personally, will never think of Evian water the same way again.)
Wild, Wild Country
One of the surest signs of a true crime doc's cultural impact is how well-represented it is come Halloween, and last year, it felt like every costume party had a group of orange-clad Rajneeshes repping Wild, Wild Country. The six-episode series took a fascinating look into a massive communal living "utopia" organized around the teachings of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. As the community set up camp in a rural part of Oregon, local ranchers objected to the seemingly strange outsiders taking over their land, and a tense battle for control unfolded. Were the Rajneesh a cult in the vein of Jonestown or was a local white community's xenophobia to blame for an escalation that eventually led to the first act of bioterrorism on U.S. soil? Wild, Wild Country shows just how complicated the answer to that question was.
This 92-minute-long documentary is a brief but compelling look at the trial, conviction, and acquittal of Amanda Knox, an American student studying abroad in Italy whose roommate was murdered shortly after her arrival. The doc was released in 2016, and effectively highlighted just how everything seemed to go wrong for Knox at every possible turn — from the salacious media coverage to the local police's serious errors in judgment.
There have been a ton of JonBenét Ramsey retrospectives in recent years commemorating the 20th anniversary of the little girl's murder, but Casting JonBenét breaks through as an off-beat and unique documentary film. Instead of breaking down the details of the case, director Kitty Green crafted a narrative documenting the casting process of a fictional JonBenét film. Dressed in character as various figures in the story, people are filmed speculating about the case, from the point of view of an actor trying to get inside the mind of their subject. It's a kooky premise but it actually does a brilliant job of documenting the case's pop cultural impact, rather than offering yet another painstaking dissection of the evidence.
2017's The Keepers provides a harrowing look at one Baltimore Catholic community ravaged by abuse. The eight-episode docuseries looks at the unsolved murder of beloved Baltimore Catholic school teacher Cathy Cesnik, the former students still trying to solve the case, and the dark sexual abuse scandal that underpins it all.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Executive produced by Jay-Z, The Kalief Browder Story takes a look at the life and death of a Bronx high school student who spent two years in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, plus a third year imprisoned, without ever being convicted of a crime. Two years after his release, Browder died by suicide, which those close to him say was a result of the mental turmoil he suffered at Rikers. Browder's death, while unspeakably tragic, may have ultimately galvanized a movement toward criminal justice reform; President Obama signed an executive order banning the solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prison and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio pledged to close Rikers Island for good.