There’s true crime and then there’s true crime that will turn your stomach. While there are tons of great true crime documentaries, as well as fantastic series based on real crimes and investigations, like Mindhunter and The Act, a new trend is emerging with true crime docuseries.
These docuseries typically chronicle a particular crime or series of crimes from varying perspectives, often with insight from the investigators, family, friends, reporters, authors, or even the perpetrators themselves. They offer a deep dive into fascinating stories that draw you in, especially when they take a unique approach to a story that has already been told a thousand different ways.
These binge-worthy true-crime docuseries, while not for the faint of heart, are totally worth watching if you can stomach the disturbing content. For each docuseries, we’ve also included a recommendation for another project that explores similar themes.
On the “turn your stomach” meter, this one cranks it up to 11. It looks at the story of Canadian killer Luka Magnotta, who was charged with the murder of an exchange student in Montreal, Quebec. But the primary focus is on a pair of Internet sleuths who were onto Magnotta long before authorities were, hellbent on identifying him after they came across disturbing videos he posted online in which he abused cats. Their investigation became a virtual cat-and-mouse game, attracting people from around the world who wanted to help identify the man and bring him to justice. There are a lot of graphic scenes, including snippets of videos Magnotta posted online and gruesome details about the horrendous things he did to his victims (both animal and human).
If you like this docuseries, also check out the series YOU on Netflix.
You’ve probably watched a dozen documentaries and specials on Ted Bundy, but none like this one. It consists of four, 60-minute episodes with archival footage of the notorious serial killer along with audio from interviews with Bundy, who murdered at least 30 women. Unlike other documentaries, this series looks at Bundy from the eyes of, well, Bundy himself. It’s fascinating to hear him speak, particularly in the third person, while journalist Stephen Michaud cleverly coaxes pseudo-confessions out of him. Playing to his inflated ego, Michaud has Bundy present information as though he were simply providing expert advice on the mental state of a typical murderer, not his own personal account.
If you like this docuseries, check out the series Mindhunter on Netflix.
The Ted Bundy story has been told over and over again, but this docuseries takes a different approach by centering on his long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall and her daughter, Molly, who speak publicly for the first time about their family life with the killer. It features archival family photos and never-before-heard details from Kendall about the man she thought she knew. She discusses when her suspicions began to brew, how the murders happened right under her nose, why she stayed with him, his relationship with Molly, and what he told her after “confessing.” What really sets this docuseries apart is the shifting of the spotlight to the victims as we hear more about them from their families. Particularly cringe-worthy is the account from Bundy’s first victim, who recalls in graphic detail what he did to her and how she was lucky to make it out alive.
If you like this docuseries, check out the film Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile on Netflix.
In 1969, Sister Cathy Cesnik, who taught at a high school in Baltimore, disappeared and was later found murdered. The case remains unsolved and this seven-episode docuseries delves deep into a suspected cover-up. Cesnik reportedly discovered that a priest was sexually abusing students and was about to expose him. The terrifying nature of her death, the alarming alleged cover-up, and disturbing details about what allegedly went on in the school and how it affected the children, is thoroughly troubling. It’s no surprise this enthralling and eye-opening series, which features two of Cesnik’s friends who refuse to give up on the investigation, maintains a 97% approval rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
If you like this docuseries, check out the documentary-style series Forensic Files on Netflix.
This docuseries was released as an extension to a French TV miniseries of the same name that followed the trial of novelist Michael Peterson, who was convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen. Authorities were immediately skeptical of Peterson’s account that his wife was drunk and fell down the stairs in their home, leading to her death. The trial will keep you guessing and wondering as shocking new facts and evidence emerge at every turn. With episodes made in 2004, 2013, and 2018, you can stream all of them online as one docuseries.
If you like this docuseries, check out the documentary The Jinx on HBO.
Known as the “pizza bomber” case, this intriguing docuseries chronicles the death of Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man who got caught up with criminals who allegedly forced him to wear a bomb and rob a bank. The four-part series features interviews with locals who were living in Erie, Pennsylvania, at the time of the event, and talks with Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, the mentally ill woman who was convicted of setting the whole thing up.
If you like this docuseries, check out the true-crime drama The Act on Hulu.
If you haven’t already watched this docuseries, which includes two seasons of 20 episodes, it’s a must-see for any lover of the genre. The series chronicles the case of Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted of a sexual assault and attempted murder, released after 18 years, then charged again with the murder of a woman, Teresa Halbach. Was it all a setup by Manitowoc County, Wisconsin? Did he really kill her? And what did his nephew Brendan Dassey have to do with it?
If you like this docuseries, check out the docuseries It Was Him: The Many Murders of Ed Edwards on Paramount Networks.
Unlike the others on this list, this docuseries doesn’t involve murder, but rather alleged sexual abuse of several women and children over decades by popular R&B singer R. Kelly. Many alleged victims discuss in detail what they say happened with the singer, while others are interviewed as well, including victims’ family members, other musical artists and producers, and even Kelly’s own brothers. It looks at Kelly’s troubled upbringing, his rise to fame, and investigations to unearth the truth that continue to this day. Two seasons of 11 episodes have aired, with critics praising the series for “exposing the dangers of enabling predatory behavior” and for giving “necessary voice to its survivors.”
If you like this docuseries, check out Leaving Neverland on HBO.
In a case that rocked the nation, 8-months-pregnant Laci Peterson went missing in Modesto, California, in 2002, and was later found dead. Her husband Scott was the suspected killer, and as the investigation went on, explosive details were revealed, including a long-time affair, a boat that may or may not have been used in the murder, and a smug man who might very well have killed his own wife. What’s most stomach-turning about this incident is the fact that Scott often appeared unaffected by his wife’s death and the death of their unborn child.
If you like this docuseries, check out the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix.
While this docuseries isn’t as gruesome as some of the others, what’s most stomach-turning about it as how Hernandez, a once-respected football star, seemed to be living a double life. It takes a deep dive into Hernandez’s childhood and personal life, and his internal struggles are apparent, which almost makes you sympathize with him. On trial for two separate incidents of murder, Hernandez was convicted, only to commit suicide in prison — but the story doesn’t end there. The revelation of his post-humous diagnosis of the degenerative brain disease CTE makes the series a compelling watch as you try to reconcile the image of this amazing football player with the demons he was hiding.
If you like this docuseries, check out the docuseries I Am A Killer on Netflix.
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