The 20 best true crime documentaries on Netflix to stream

 Michael from The Girl in the Picture .
The Girl in the Picture. | Credit: Netflix

Over the last few years, the true crime genre has simply exploded, and the true crime documentaries on Netflix have made for some of the most captivating, yet baffling, streaming experiences.

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Many of the films and shows have gone on to become massive talking points among friend groups and on social media, as viewers couldn’t believe the stories they watched. Who can forget Tiger King and its takeover of pop culture?

Now because there are so many true crime projects to choose from on Netflix, novice and veteran true crime watchers alike may find it difficult to narrow down which documentaries are worth watching.

We wanted to help out with this predicament, so we came up with a list of arguably the 20 best true crime documentaries to stream on the platform. So without further delay, let’s jump right into it.

American Nightmare

American Nightmare is a three-episode series that follows the 2015 kidnapping of Denise Huskins from the home she shared with her boyfriend Aaron Quinn in Vallejo, Cali. Although law enforcement originally believed the kidnapping was a hoax staged by the couple, it's later determined that it was not a hoax and was tied to a home invasion in Dublin, Cali. In the end, a disbarred attorney is at the center of the chaos. See why Netflix subscribers were left in a state of shock after watching the documentary.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke follows the life of R&B crooner Sam Cooke and the circumstances that may have led to his unfortunate murder at the age of 33. The film is just over an hour at an hour and 14 minutes.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

By now, many people have heard of Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced businessman who victimized numerous young girls in secret while amassing a fortune in public, networking with well-known politicians and public figures along the way. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich hears from some of his survivors as they recount several of his crimes across four episodes.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal not only follows the high-profile arrest and conviction of Alex Murdaugh for the murder of his wife and son, but it also dives into some of the scandalous mysteries surrounding this South Carolina family. The docuseries has six episodes spread across two seasons.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping

The three-episode docuseries follows director Katherine Kubler and her classmates as they recap the alleged abuse they faced as students at the Academy at Ivy Ridge, a behavior modification facility. The series also dives into the lasting trauma.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

The Tinder Swindler

At almost two hours, the film sheds light on the fascinating tale of how one man allegedly used the dating app Tinder to connect with numerous women and manipulate them into financially providing for him. People reports he was able to swindle roughly $10 million from people across the globe.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%    

Tiger King

When the world was shut down during the pandemic, many of them were watching Tiger King. The docuseries follows the uncanny feud between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin over actual tigers and big cats. Their rivalry ends in an alleged murder-for-hire plot landing Exotic in prison. By the way, there is also a mysterious missing person’s case wrapped in all of this. The documentary is technically two seasons, but season 1 is the main draw.

Rotten Tomatoes score for season 1: 84%

American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders

The four-episode series follows director Zachary Treitz and journalist Christian Hansen as they investigate the 1991 death of writer Danny Casolaro. Prior to his death, Casolaro was looking into a supposed international cabal coined as "The Octopus." While some believe Casolaro died of a suicide, Treitz and Hansen question if something more sinister occurred.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83% 

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey documents the rise and criminal fall of Warren Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The twists and turns of his leadership led to him being convicted and imprisoned.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

Sins of Our Mother

Sins of the Mother showcases the story of Lori Vallow and her missing children. As the investigation unfolds, the authorities would come to focus their attention on Lori and her secrets, including those pertaining to her husband’s first wife. The docuseries has three episodes.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%  

Who Killed Malcolm X?

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is a historian who spent more than 30 years investigating the murder of famed civil rights leader, Malcolm X. Due to Muhammad’s research and the attention he helped bring back to the case, two men formerly convicted of Malcolm X’s assassination were later exonerated. The series consists of six episodes.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

The Keepers

The seven-episode docuseries shows the investigation into the 1970s unsolved mystery of Cathy Cesnik, a beloved Baltimore Catholic high school teacher and nun. The case of her murder went cold until a separate sexual abuse case into a high school chaplain again shined a light on what happened to Cathy.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

I Just Killed My Dad

I Just Killed My Dad follows the story of Anthony Templet, who at 17 called the police to report he had murdered his father. Although the authorities were initially skeptical of Templet’s claims of self-defense, his attornies set on a quest to prove their client was telling the truth.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing

In 2013, on the day of the annual Boston Marathon, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two bombs along the race route that killed three people and injured hundreds. The three episodes of American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing showcase the story to capture them.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

The disastrous Fyre Festival is one of the biggest scams in recent history. What was promoted to be a luxurious music festival, turned out to be a miserable experience for the attendees who didn’t see any musical acts or luxury accommodations. Over the course of an hour and 37 minutes, the documentary follows how organizer Billy McFarland put the scheme together, and the fraudulent practices that led him to be arrested and convicted.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street

Bernie Madoff orchestrated one of the largest Ponzi schemes in the history of Wall Street. The three episodes of MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street follow Madoff’s rise and subsequent fall.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

The Staircase

The Staircase follows the story of American novelist Michael Peterson, whose second wife Kathleen mysteriously wound up dead. Somehow The Staircase feels different from other true crime series, mainly because the tragic death is still shrouded in so much mystery. There’s a lot to unpack in this 13-episode series...

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

American Murder: The Family Next Door

The nearly hour-and-a-half-long film documents the investigation into the 2018 Watts Family in Frederick, Colorado. As authorities unravel the mysteries of the case that left a pregnant mother and her two children dead, police are led to a surprising suspect.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Girl in the Picture

Girl in the Picture is centered around a young girl known as Sharon Marshall who was abducted by Franklin Delano Floyd and held captive for almost two decades. The nearly two-hour film unpacks all the efforts put in to identify who this young girl really was.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Abducted in Plain Sight

Consider this one of the most baffling true crime stories you’ll ever watch, as it unpacks the story of Jan Broberg who was abducted by the same man twice. The hour-and-a-half-long film shows how Robert Berchtold managed to use manipulation, blackmail and his power of persuasion to torment the Broberg family for years.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%