True crime scares the shit out of me, and yet there’s a messed-up part of my brain that can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.
If I stumble onto a case or story that interests me, it will consume my attention completely. I will absorb every single piece of information I can find that even remotely relates to the subject. And I won’t rest until I’ve scoured every single media form that may offer more detail. (It’s strange, but it’s a thing.)
If you, like me, are a little bit obsessed with unsolved crimes or muddy convictions, this list is for you.
With the help of some equally crime-consumed colleagues, I’ve pulled together a collection of shows, podcasts and books that will feed your unhealthy obsession with darkness (and mine). Some of these titles you may have heard of, and others may be new to you – but all of them are worth your attention. So let’s dig in, shall we?
All synopses from our list of best true crime media are sourced from distribution services.
The best true crime shows and documentaries to add to your list
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey
Examines the rise of Warren Jeffs in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and his shocking criminal case.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is the latest true crime series obsession for folks on Netflix. It looks at the life of Warren Jeffs, his many wives and how he “controlled every aspect of members’ lives – until someone dared to break away”. Chilling.
The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst
Filmmakers spend nearly a decade investigating Robert Durst and his alleged crimes, speaking to more than 100 participants in an attempt to get the truth.
This six-part documentary blew my mind. The Jinx follows the life of real estate heir Robert Durst and explores the disappearance of his wife, as well as the deaths of his family friend Susan Berman and neighbour Morris Black. The series was directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling.
Check it out on Binge.
Wild Wild Country
When a controversial cult leader builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal.
This is one of those stories you hear about and think to yourself – how in the hell did this happen? From bioterror attacks to illegal wiretapping, this violent conflict in Oregon is so extreme it’s hard to believe.
Check it out on Netflix
When Juan Catalan is arrested for a murder he insists he didn’t commit, he builds his case for innocence around raw footage from a popular TV show, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Check it out on Netflix
A documentary centred on a young man in Spain who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.
Gives you Orphan vibes, no?
Check it out on Stan
Documentary about the fine and rare wine auction market centring around a counterfeiter who befriended the rich and powerful and sold millions of dollars of fraudulent wine through the top auction houses.
Check it out on Prime Video
This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist
In 1990, two men dressed as cops con their way into a Boston museum and steal a fortune in art. Take a deep dive into this daring and notorious crime.
I still can’t accept that this crime isn’t solved. Like, where are they?!
Check it out on Netflix
The best true crime books to add to your shelf
Hitler’s Horses: The Incredible True Story of the Detective who Infiltrated the Nazi Underworld – Arthur Brand
How the Indiana Jones of the art world took on neo-Nazis and the criminal underworld to solve the mystery of Hitler’s favourite statue.
The true story of a detective, two bronze horses and the dictator who set the world on fire.
Buy it from $14.99 on Amazon
A Burglar’s Guide to the City – Geoff Manaugh
Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and tunnel jobs, break-ins and escapes, A Burglar’s Guide to the City offers an unexpected blueprint to the criminal possibilities in the world all around us. You’ll never see the city the same way again.
Buy it from $8.64 on Amazon
Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud – Elizabeth Greenwood
Is it still possible to fake your own death in the twenty-first century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood was tempted to find out. So off she sets on a darkly comic foray into the world of death fraud, where for $30,000 a consultant can make you disappear—but your suspicious insurance company might hire a private detective to dig up your coffin…only to find it filled with rocks.
Buy it from $12.99 on Amazon
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The most famous true crime novel of all time and one of the first non-fiction novels ever written; In Cold Blood is the bestseller that haunted its author long after he finished writing it.
This is a classic example of true crime literature and if you haven’t yet read it, you must.
Buy it from $7.99 on Amazon
Stalin’s Wine Cellar – John Baker
The adventure of a lifetime to buy Stalin’s secret multimillion-dollar wine cellar located in Georgia; it is the Raiders of the Lost Ark of wine.
Buy it from $14.99 on Amazon
The best audiobooks and podcasts to get in your ears
The Stan series starring Joshua Jackson brought a whole lot of renewed interest into the podcast behind the show Dr. Death.
We’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital. We trust the system.
Christopher Duntsch was a neurosurgeon who radiated confidence. He claimed he was the best in Dallas. If you had back pain, and had tried everything else, Dr. Duntsch could give you the spine surgery that would take your pain away.
But soon his patients started to experience complications, and the system failed to protect them. Which begs the question: who – or what – is that system meant to protect?
From Wondery, the network behind the hit podcast Dirty John, DR. DEATH is a story about a charming surgeon, 33 patients and a spineless system. Reported and hosted by Laura Beil.
This much we do know: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered days before Christmas in 1996, her broken body discovered at the edge of her property near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The rest remains a mystery.
Serial Podcast, Season One
It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon.
You can then continue unpacking the case of Hae Min Lee’s murder (and others) with the Undisclosed podcast here.
Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times.
Dirty John was later turned into a Netflix true crime series, which is also a solid watch, but the podcast is the better of the two.
Crimetown Presents: The Ballad of Billy Balls
It’s 1982, and a man bursts into an East Village storefront apartment and shoots punk musician Billy Balls. Author and activist iO Tillett Wright and Crimetown Producer Austin Mitchell unravel a mystery of love and loss, the tender binds of family, and the stories we tell ourselves just to survive.
This true crime podcast series got me through hotel quarantine back in 2020. It’s that entertaining.
Got more suggestions for this (non-exhaustive) true crime list? I’m sure you do. Pop them in the comments below.
This article on the best true crime media and documentaries has been updated since its original publish date.