10 True Crime Documentaries You Need To See

Image: IMDB

True crime documentaries really exploded as soon as everyone fell in love with Serial but they've been around for a lot longer than that. They interest us because they're frightening - and real - and, admit it, you like to terrify yourself just a little bit, but you also like to play the role of couch judge, couch jury and couch executioner.

Here are some of the best True Crime documentaries we've come across.

The Staircase

Synopsis: In 2001, author Michael Peterson was arraigned for the murder of his wife Kathleen, whose body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their home. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers, home and immediate family, de Lestrade's cameras capture the defense team as it considers its strategic options. "The staircase" is an engrossing look at contemporary American justice that features more twists than a legal bestseller.

Why Should You Watch It: It's about to be "re-released" to Netflix after originally airing in 2004. The new Netflix episodes (of which there are apparently three) will follow the trial even further. This is a true crime documentary that really puts the justice system under the microscope, details it failings and triumphs ideally.

Watch on: Netflix (soon!)


Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Synopsis: A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

Why Should You Watch It: One that came out a long time before the current wave of True Crime shows and podcasts really took off (thanks, Serial) and it has a slightly different approach to storytelling than the modern mid-2010s standard - but its still gripping and ultimately one of the more rewarding docos on this list.

Watch on: Avaliable on Foxtel Now's 'Crime + Investigation"


Cropsey

Synopsis: Realizing the urban legend of their youth has actually come true; two filmmakers delve into the mystery surrounding five missing children and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances.

Why Should You Watch It: A creepy film about child kidnappings that will stay with you for a while after you've finished it. A little mentally exhausting because of the subject matter, but one that comes to great conclusions.

Watch on: Avaliable on Foxtel Now's 'Crime + Investigation"


Amanda Knox

Image: IMDB

Synopsis: American exchange student Amanda Knox is convicted and eventually acquitted for the 2007 death of another student in Italy.

Why Should You Watch It: There's plenty of true crime documentaries out there - and plenty worth your time - but I like this one because of the straight-down-the-barrel interviews with Knox.

Watch on: Netflix


Evil Genius

Synopsis: The extraordinary story of the "pizza bomber heist" and the FBI's investigation into a bizarre collection of suspects.

Why Should You Watch It: A truly bizarre tale with more twists and turns than M Night Shyamalan's entire back catalogue of films put together. If that poster to the right of the paragraph isn't selling this to you - nothing will.

Watch on: Netflix


Making A Murderer

Synopsis: Filmed over a 10-year period, Steven Avery, a DNA exoneree who, while in the midst of exposing corruption in local law enforcement, finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly new crime.

Why Should You Watch It: Probably one of the most high-profile Netflix true crime docos out there and one that many would have already seen, it's compelling viewing from start to finish. Like the best True Crime docos it provides a certain viewpoint, but still leaves some lingering doubts - did he... or didn't he?

Watch on: Netflix!


Little Hope Was Arson

Synopsis: January 2010: In the buckle of the Bible Belt, 10 churches burn to the ground in just over a month igniting the largest criminal investigation in East Texas history. No stone is left unturned and even Satan himself is considered a suspect in this gripping investigation of a community terrorized from the inside-out. Families are torn apart and communities of faith struggle with forgiveness and justice in this incredible true story.

Why Should You Watch It: A slightly older title that I don't think got the credit it deserves, Arson takes a look at the people around the entire investigation and puts them under the microscope. I love the way that it fleshes out the characters in the story and the way the community reacts to the crime.

Watch on: Netflix!


The Jinx

Synopsis: Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki examines the complicated life of reclusive real estate icon Robert Durst, the key suspect in a series of unsolved crimes.

Why Should You Watch It: Another high profile mini-series that first aired on HBO - and one of the better ones for its real-world implications too. I won't spoil how it ends, but it's final few minutes are somehow more engrossing than the six episodes that come before it.

Watch on: Available on Foxtel Now's 'Showcase'


Paradise Lost

Synopsis: A horrific triple child murder leads to an indictment and trial of three nonconformist boys based on questionable evidence.

Why Should You Watch It: Actually where it all started with me with true crime documentaries, Paradise Lost was instantly recognisable from its Metallica soundtrack to Young Dr. Jack, but more than that it's an utterly compelling story told over 15 years. An eye opening take on the American justice system with a 'cast' of characters amazingly rendered by Berlinger and Sinofsky. Three separate films released in 1996, 2000 and 2011. Top shelf. (Also worth looking at West of Memphis, if you enjoy this)

Watch on: Available on Foxtel Now's 'Crime + Investigation'


Into The Abyss

Synopsis: Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people - and the state - kill.

Why Should You Watch It: Simply astonishing storytelling for mine. You've got Herzog, who knows just what stories to capture, when to talk, when to stay silent. Deeply disturbing and somehow, after all that you see in it, still hopeful. One of my personal favourites.

Watch on: Harder to track down.. you might have to catch this one on Google Play or the iTunes Store!


Let us know what you're watching in the comments - or what to watch


Comments

    That's a fantastic list, Jackson. People be forewarned - don't plan to do anything or see anyone for the rest of the day after watching 'Dear Zachary'.

    I'd also highly recommend 'The Fear of Thirteen', 'There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane' , 'Dream/Killer', 'Who Took Johnny', 'The Witness' and 'The Keepers'.

    Apparently Making a Murderer has a bit of a bias and excludes several bit of evidence (or simply doesn't have access to them) and paints the guy as someone honest being 'harassed for getting off'.

    'Little Hope Was Arson' doesn't appear to be on Australia's Netflix.

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