Top 10 True Crime Documentaries in Pop Culture You Can’t Miss

Unsolved mysteries, high-profile trials, psychopathic killers – the world of true crime is both shocking and alluring. For decades, audiences have been drawn to tales of crime, leading to an explosion of true crime content in the form of podcasts, books, and especially, documentaries.

True crime documentaries bring real-life crime stories to the screen, unraveling narratives filled with suspense, shocks, twists, and turns. They offer us a harrowing glimpse into the human psyche, crime investigations, and the justice system, allowing us to play detective from the comfort of our couch.

Here, we delve into some of the most engrossing representations of real-life crime stories brought to film. This list features ten of the most watch-worthy true crime documentaries that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

1. Making a Murderer (2015)

Review: 'Making a Murderer,' True Crime on Netflix - The New York Times

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Making a Murderer” is a captivating ten-part docuseries that first aired on Netflix in 2015. This riveting true crime exploration led to a worldwide obsession, inciting passionate debates about the American justice system and its flaws.

The documentary centers on the life of Steven Avery, a man from Wisconsin, who spent nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. After DNA evidence finally exonerated Avery, he was once again accused and convicted of a different shocking crime, the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

Directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos embarked on an intense ten-year journey to tell Avery’s twisted and perplexing story. The documentary examines the in-depth evidence of the case, police conduct, and Avery’s defense and prosecution, leaving viewers to question the exact nature of justice in the United States.

Even after its release, “Making a Murderer” has continued to evolve, with new elements of Avery’s case unfolding, resulting in an additional second season in 2018. Whether you believe in Avery’s innocence or guilt, there’s no denying the documentary’s intrigue and its ability to grip worldwide viewers with gritty crime realities.

2. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst | Official Website for the HBO Series |

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Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki explores the disturbing life and multiple suspected crimes of real estate mogul Robert Durst in this intense HBO docuseries, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” Durst, born into a wealthy New York family, has long been the prime suspect in a series of unsolved crimes, including the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in 1982.

What sets this series apart are the chilling face-to-face interviews with Durst himself. Jarecki uses these conversations to weave a fascinating narrative that strings together the various crimes and incidents linked to Durst. The final episode makes for a particularly shocking viewing, containing an unguarded moment with Durst that shed new light on the cases.

“The Jinx” not only plunged viewers into the unsettling depths of Durst’s life but also raised questions about wealth, privilege, and justice in America. This is a must-watch series that uniquely combines the elements of real estate, power, and unsolved crime.

3. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy tapes - RENEGADE7X

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Ted Bundy, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, is the subject of this nail-biting Netflix documentary series, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes“. More than 30 years after Bundy’s execution, this series takes a deep dive into his life and crimes, presenting a chilling portrait of this infamous figure.

What sets this series apart is an extensive collection of archival footage and audio recordings of Bundy on death row. Listening to Bundy analyze his life and his heinous crimes in his own words is both fascinating and deeply disturbing.

Director Joe Berlinger manages to paint a comprehensive picture of Ted Bundy through these audiotapes, combined with interviews from people involved with the case including detectives, journalists, and even Bundy’s surviving family. The documentary offers a chilling exploration of the mind of a killer, and it’s a jarring reminder of the evil that can hide behind a charming facade. It serves as a grim but important viewing experience for any true crime enthusiast.

4. The Keepers (2017)

The Keepers - Rotten Tomatoes

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The Keepers“, a Netflix seven-part docuseries, begins as a thoughtful exploration of the unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969. However, as the series progresses, it uncovers a horrifying web of abuse related to the local Catholic church and school that Cesnik taught at.

Beyond the gripping crime itself, director Ryan White draws attention to the devastating impact and lasting trauma of sexual abuse. The documentary also lauds the resilience of survivors, primarily focusing on the victims who, after decades, found the courage to speak out. An emotional journey, it’s a testament to the strength of those seeking justice and a critique of institutions that silenced victims for years.

5. Abducted In Plain Sight (2017)

What Netflix's 'Abducted in Plain Sight' Leaves Out - The Atlantic

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This offbeat yet distressing Netflix film follows the Broberg family who, in the 1970s, became dangerously entwined with a manipulative family friend who abducted their young daughter – not once, but twice. The shocking complacency and gullibility of the parents, and the clever, manipulative moves of the captor, make this story even more surreal. While it sounds almost too implausible, the in-depth interviews and revelations make it all too real. Structured like a thriller, it’s an eerie exploration of trust, manipulation, and the power of predatory behavior.

6. The Staircase (2004)

The Staircase (2004) - Sundance & Netflix Docuseries - Where To Watch

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The Staircase“, an epic docuseries spanning over a decade, explores the case of crime author Michael Peterson, convicted for the murder of his wife, Kathleen. When Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home, Peterson’s claim of it being a terrible accident was soon disputed, and a fascinating, complex legal battle ensued.

The documentary’s unique strength lies in its thorough, meticulous exploration of the justice system and the painstaking process of creating a legal defence. With intimate access to Peterson’s defense team, viewers are taken on an emotional roller coaster, questioning guilt, innocence, and ultimately, truth.

7. Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018)

Watch Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist | Netflix Official Site

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Evil Genius” unravels the enigmatic and chillingly calculated 2003 “pizza bomber heist.” The Netflix four-part series begins with a seemingly mundane bank robbery but soon reveals itself as an masterminded deadly game led by an eccentric, intelligent woman, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong.

Featuring a bizarre crime, intellectual battles, and plenty of unexpected twists, “Evil Genius” is a tense watch that throws viewers into the complicated investigation, offering insight into the minds of those who devise heinous plans.

8. Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019)

Don't F**K with Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer - Rotten Tomatoes

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In the age of social media, where does the line blur between virtual reality and crime? This gripping Netflix documentary series explores that question as it unravels the hunt for a sadistic killer who posted videos of his crimes online.

What begins as an online crusade by some dedicated sleuths quickly turns into a real-world nightmare when the criminal escalates from killing cats to murdering a young man. Perverse and deeply troubling, this series pushes the boundaries of true crime narratives by diving into the disturbing open spaces of the internet.

9. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2020)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (TV Mini Series 2020–2021) - IMDb

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Based on crime writer Michelle McNamara’s best-selling book of the same name, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is a dive into the terror inflicted by the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer. An HBO six-part series, it pays tribute to McNamara’s determined quest to unmask the criminal, a task she unfortunately didn’t live to see completed.

Featuring interviews with survivors, investigators, and McNamara’s own words, the documentary is both a chilling account of a monstrous criminal and a eulogy to a passionate writer dedicated to the pursuit of justice.

10. Tiger King (2020)

The Tiger King and I: Netflix aftershow undermines the show's credibility - Polygon

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Just when you think a true crime story can’t surprise you, “Tiger King” proves you wrong. While it may not fit the classic mold of true crime narratives, the Netflix seven-part series became an instant pop-culture phenomenon for its enthralling story of Joe Exotic, his exotic animal park, rivalry, and the attempt to hire a hitman.

On the surface, it might be about exotic cats, but, as the title suggests, there’s murder, mayhem, and madness. From cult-like communities to polygamy, both the flashy flamboyance and dark underbelly of the big cat world in America are exposed in a way you’ve never seen before.

Final Thoughts

Each of these ten true crime documentaries delivers a unique and compelling journey into various aspects of crime, justice, and human nature. Whether you’re interested in psychology, law, investigative journalism, or the pure thrill of the story, these series have something to cater to everyone’s curiosity and fascination.

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