It's hard to keep up with what's coming and going on Netflix each month, and despite its highly scientific algorithm, the streaming service's recommendations feature still has a way to go before it's as helpful as it could be. This is particularly an issue when you're looking to discover your next true crime binge and find yourself often wading through scripted shows based on true stories or docuseries that really have nothing to do with crime at all.
To that end, we've done the work for you, finding the best of the best true crime docuseries currently available on Netflix, from the buzzy new releases to the reliable standards and everything in between. Without further ado, here's what Murderinos should be adding to their queue right now.
Making a Murderer
You didn't think we'd make this list and skip over Making a Murderer, did you? The series that put Netflix on the map when it comes to true crime, Making a Murderer is not overhyped. If, for some reason, you still haven't seen the first season of the riveting series, it chronicles the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Two years after being released, Steven was arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted of the crime, but since the initial release of Making a Murderer the verdict has come under intense public scrutiny. Three years after the first season's premiere, a follow-up installment, which details the developments in Avery and Dassey's cases, including their appeals, has now hit the streaming service. Making a Murderer Part 2 takes viewers inside the postconviction process, exploring the emotional toll the ordeal has on all those involved.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Many true crime fans are solely interested in cases that revolve around murder, so the idea of a four-part series on a bank heist might not seem in line with their taste. However, the "pizza bomber heist" is about so much more than a botched bank robbery; in fact, it's truly one of the most bizarre cases of modern times.
In 2003, pizza delivery man Brian Wells died when a collar bomb that had been locked onto his neck detonated while he was in police custody for robbing a bank with a homemade cane shotgun. Based on the handwritten notes that were found in Wells' car, it appeared that the heist was part of a complicated scavenger hunt Wells was forced to go on in order to get the keys that would free him from the explosive. As if all that wasn't strange enough, the investigation soon spiraled into several unexpected directions that involved multiple other deaths and a convoluted conspiracy that Evil Genius aims to make sense of.
The Confession Tapes
While some of the excitement of watching shows like The Keepers or Making a Murderer is to come up with our own answers that create order out of the chaos of the cases, there isn't any of that satisfaction to be found here. Instead, this seven-part series tells the stories of six cases in which possible false confessions led to murder convictions. Watching The Confession Tapes is like taking a hard, unflinching look at our criminal justice system and the questionable and even horrifying ways authorities are empowered to get confessions from suspects. Some of the cases explored include Atif and Sebastian Burns, who were sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Atif's parents and sister despite evidence that a religious extremist group was behind the deaths; and the rape and murder of Catherine Fuller, in which 17 men stood trial simultaneously for the crimes.
Wild Wild Country
One of the biggest appeals of Wild Wild Country is the idea that a story this big could be so little known. Unless you lived through it or are a cults obsessive, you probably don't know too many details about the Rajneeshees, a group of followers of the religious leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who orchestrated the largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history. The mass poisoning was part of the Rajneeshee's plot to secure seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court and assert their authority over a small town in rural Oregon. But the bioterrorist attack is only scratching the surface of the bizarre and dark tale of how the Bhagwan went from running meditation retreats to being part of a sprawling criminal conspiracy. The extensive use of archival footage of the Rajneeshees at the peak of their power combined with interviews with some of the major players today provides the greatest appeal to this sensational story.
Having already given us The Thin Blue Line, one of the most influential true crime documentaries of all time, Errol Morris once again turns his attention to the genre for Wormwood. The six-part series is focused on Frank Olson, a CIA employee and biological warfare scientist who died under mysterious circumstances in 1953. The story is told through Olson's son, Eric, who is still searching for answers surrounding his father's death, which some suggest wasn't suicide but a murder that was covered up by the CIA and connected to MKUltra. In addition to interviews with Eric and the family attorney, David Rudovsky, the series also features reenactments by actors including Peter Sarsgaard, Jimmi Simpson and Molly Parker, providing a cinematic take on the typically cheesy staple.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Time is not what you watch when you want to play couch detective. The six-episode series, which originally aired on Spike, tells the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Riker's Island without ever having been convicted of a crime. In 2010, Browder, then 16, was accused of stealing a backpack (all charges were eventually dropped). When his family couldn't afford bail, he was forced to await the disposition of his case in prison where he was subjected to extensive physical and mental abuse by prisoners and corrupt guards. After three years, two of which were spent in solitary confinement, Browder was eventually released, but not unscathed. Time is harrowing at times and hard to watch, but those are exactly the reasons that stories like this need to be told.
If you're just looking for a quick hit rather than an in-depth binge, Forensic Files is here for you; in fact, it always has been here for you, and likely always will be. Originally broadcast on TLC, each episode of the expansive series focuses on a different criminal case in which forensic science played a key role in the investigation. Some of the cases are well known, but the majority of them are stories that never garnered national attention. Given that the show launched in the '90s, you shouldn't expect any high-end graphics or sleek storytelling. There's an element of cheesiness to Forensic Files, but that's part of the show's charm. Embrace it!
This seven-episode Netflix Original details the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a 26-year-old nun who taught at a Baltimore high school in the 1960s. Now, 50 years later, the docu-series explores the theory that a priest at the school, Father Joseph Maskell, may have played a role in her death in order to stop Sister Cathy from exposing him and others for sexually abusing students. (Maskell died in 2001 and denied all allegations against him.) While the series doesn't provide any concrete answers about what happened to Cathy, the interviews from Cathy's former students sharing their personal stories of abuse and institutional corruption tell a powerful story.
Partners in Crime
If you're tired of British and American crimes, Partners in Crime explores "Hong Kong's most bizarre murder cases." And these guys aren't joking. The first episode details a case in which a human skull was discovered inside a Hello Kitty doll. (You should be warned: prepare for a lot of decapitation and dismemberment in the first half of the first season.) Additionally, if you're someone who likes to watch true crime shows while multi-tasking, it's important to note that although the narration and most of the interviews are in English, there are some interviews that do require subtitles. But if you just plan your viewing schedule and activities accordingly, you won't regret this updated, international take on Forensic Files.
The Investigator: A British Crime Story
A series that is oddly enough created and produced by Simon Cowell, The Investigator's four-episode first season focuses on the disappearance and apparent murder of Carole Packman, a housewife and mother who vanished in 1985. Her husband Russell was convicted of Carole's murder and has served over 20 years in jail despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime or a body. Carole and Russell's daughter Sam is desperate for answers about what happened to her mother and takes center stage in this series, providing crucial (and often emotional) interviews to investigative journalist and former police officer, Mark Williams-Thomas.
Ok, so technically you can't stream The Staircase on Netflix right now but the latest installment in the ongoing doc-series is slated to premiere on the streaming service this summer. The Staircase, which originally aired in 2004, chronicles the case of Michael Peterson, a novelist who was accused of murdering his wife Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home. In a startling twist, it's revealed during the trial that a family friend of Michael and Kathleen had died in a shockingly similar manner 20 years prior. In both instances, Michael had been the last person to see the victim alive.
If you haven't already watched the original docu-series and follow-up films, we highly recommend taking the opportunity now to catch-up in advance of the Netflix debut. However, since the actual docu-series is hard to find online at the moment, your best bet is likely to watch the Forensic Files episode "A Novel Idea" (Episode 36 in Collection 2 on Netflix) to get the abridged version of the case. That should get you up to speed enough before the latest installment hits Netflix this summer, and no self-respecting Murderino is going to want to miss out on this final opportunity to weigh in The Owl Theory.