17 True Crime Documentaries On Netflix That'll Really Make You Think

You won’t be able to get these stories off your mind.

by Danielle Jackson and Martha Sorren
Originally Published: 
True crime documentary on Netflix: Surviving R. Kelly

Netflix's documentary section really can't be beat — especially when it comes to its true crime offerings. If you’re a true crime buff, you've probably already marathoned Making a Murderer and Wild Wild Country and are in need of some new recommendations to add to your queue. If that’s the cast, this list of true crime documentaries on Netflix should keep you occupied for quite a while.

Everyone loves streaming a good rom-com or comedy series, but every now and again it’s time to switch things up and take a tumble down the rabbit hole of true crime documentaries. (Or maybe they’re all you really watch because they’re just that fascinating.) The best films will not only spark your interest but also educate you and challenge your ways of thinking. From petty theft to unusual crimes that sound like they came straight out of American Horror Story (not even joking), Netflix has a huge selection of documentaries that will leave you scratching your head and scrolling through Wikipedia for the real-life details.

Whether you want to dive into an unsolved murder case investigation or examine the flawed criminal justice system, these films should leave you with something to watch for months to come — and a lot to think about even after you make your way through.


'The Confession Tapes'

The Confession Tapes looks at 10 cases in which those accused of a serious crime claim that their confessions have been coerced or falsified. The notion of a false confession may be tough for people to understand at first, but shortly into watching this series, you begin to understand the types of police interview tactics that could lead to someone admitting guilt for something they may not have actually done.

Watch on Netflix


'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson'

This documentary explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of transgender icon and LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson's body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992 and, though it was originally ruled a suicide, many of her close friends and family members interviewed in the film believe she was murdered.

The documentary itself also has some controversy surrounding it, after trans filmmaker Reina Gossett accused the film's director, David France, of profiting off Gossett's own archival research. France denied the claims when approached by Bustle. Netflix declined to comment.

Watch on Netflix


'Audrie & Daisy'

Equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating, Audrie & Daisy tells the story of two teenagers — Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott — who were sexually assaulted and the vicious backlash that followed their stories going public. Shortly after her assault, Pott died by suicide in 2012. Coleman died by suicide in 2020. This documentary, though tough to watch, opens an important conversation about what sexual assault survivors go through long after the inciting incident.

Watch on Netflix


'The Keepers'

The seven-episode Emmy-nominated documentary series explores the unsolved murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, who taught at Baltimore's Archbishop Keough High School. But the show is about so much more than just one murder. Through the words of survivors, it also delves into the complicated network of sexual assault allegations against several members of the Catholic clergy who worked at the school.

Watch on Netflix


‘Unsolved Mysteries’

As the title suggests, this reboot of the ‘80s-born show explores puzzling cases that haven’t yet been solved. It's frustrating not to have a conclusion, but if you love playing armchair detective, this is the show for you. Viewers of the original Unsolved Mysteries series helped solve 260 cases thanks to their tips, and tons of tips about the 12 new cases have already flooded in as well.

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‘Trial By Media’

This fascinating series explores how TV news and tabloid attention may have impacted how certain cases were solved and tried. The series delves into six little-known cases, including coverage of an NYPD team shooting an unarmed Black man, a rape survivor's identity being revealed on live TV, and a disgraced politician landing a spot on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice while awaiting trial.

Watch on Netflix


‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’

If you’ve ever wanted to peer inside the brain of a serial killer, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes might be as close as you can get. The series features over 100 hours of interviews and archival footage of Bundy, as well as interviews with his family, friends, surviving victims, and the investigators who worked on his case.

Watch on Netflix


‘I Am a Killer’

If "in their own words" series are your thing, you can also check out I Am a Killer, which features compelling interviews with people on death row for murder. The two seasons profile 20 cases, from those who claim they've changed their ways to those who say they can't even remember carrying out the crime. Plus, there's a dramatic interview with one convict whose death sentence got commuted just hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

Watch on Netflix


‘Surviving R. Kelly’

This impactful series unpacks the sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly, including interviews with the women who’ve accused him as well as musicians like Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Chance the Rapper, who’ve worked with him in the past and are now speaking out against him. Kelly has been indicted on several counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and has pled not guilty.

Watch on Netflix


‘The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann’

Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished in Portugal in 2007 and hasn't been found to this day. As it revisits her case, this documentary series will make you question everything you know — or think you know — about the case.

McCann's parents disapproved of the series, saying in a statement: "The production company told us that they were making the documentary and asked us to participate. We did not see and still do not see how this programme will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, could potentially hinder it."

Watch on Netflix


‘The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness’

David Berkowitz is serving six life sentences for a string of murders in the '70s. He initially claimed that he carried out the crimes because his neighbor Sam's dog was possessed and drove Berkowitz to kill. But if that claim wasn't wild enough, this four-episode documentary series explores the controversial theory that Berkowitz may not have acted on the murders alone.

Watch on Netflix


‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’

The late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was, as this title suggests, filthy rich. And that money and power aided him in his ability to break the law in egregious ways for himself and potentially — as likely would have been explored in his trial — his powerful friends. This four-part series explores his schemes while featuring interviews with key witnesses and survivors to his crimes.

Watch on Netflix


‘ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke’

There's a lot of controversy around the murder of soul artist Sam Cooke, who was shot to death in 1964. His murder was ruled a "justifiable homicide," as the perpetrator claimed she shot in self-defense. Directed by the award-winning Kelly Duane de la Vega, this Netflix documentary features interviews with Cooke's family and friends as it takes a look at whether Cooke's outspoken activist views played a role in his tragic death.

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‘Why Did You Kill Me?’

After 24-year-old Crystal Theobald was murdered in 2006, her cousin and mother took the law into their own hands. They set up a fictitious Myspace page pretending to be that of Theobald's. The goal was to try to track down information on Theobald's killer. The resulting documentary is a fascinating look at how far a family was willing to go for justice — or revenge.

Watch on Netflix


‘Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez’

New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez shocked the world when he killed his friend Odin Lloyd in 2013. Upon Hernandez's own death by suicide in 2017, he was posthumously diagnosed with the brain disorder CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), prompting many to question whether that was what led him to commit such an uncharacteristic act as the murder of a friend.

Watch on Netflix


‘Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal’

Here's a non-murder true crime case for you to explore. The documentary delves into the 2019 college admissions scandal that found dozens of wealthy parents guilty of paying Rick Singer to bribe schools or fake test results to get their children into top colleges. Among the celebrity parents convicted were Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Singer is awaiting sentencing, but he pleaded guilty to fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

Watch on Netflix


‘Strong Island’

In this extremely personal documentary, filmmaker Yance Ford tells a heartbreaking story of his own journey exploring the death of his young brother. According to the New Yorker, William Ford, Jr., a Black man, was shot and killed in 1992 at the age of 24 by a white man — auto-body-shop employee Mark Reilly. As the New Yorker reported, Reilly was found not guilty of manslaughter per the district attorney's findings that Reilly had allegedly shot out of self-defense. The documentary explores how and why justice for Ford, Jr. was never served.

Watch on Netflix

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