Skip to main content

16 best true crime documentaries on Netflix to stream right now

best true crime documentaries on Netflix - The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall
The best best true crime documentaries on Netflix has to include The Girl in the Picture. (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

Here's our pick of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix to stream right now

With a vast variety of content available on the streaming service, trying to find what to watch can prove tricky. Consistently one of the best genres on the platform, however, are true crime documentaries, offering harrowing, shocking, and sometimes downright bizarre insight into some fascinating real-life cases.

Curling up with a good murder documentary might not be everyone’s favorite way to relax, but not only do they make for a gripping watch, but they frequently generate a great deal of social media buzz and get people talking — truly the mark of an impactful and binge-worthy show.

Whether you’re looking for a longer-form docu-series or a feature-length documentary film, these are some of the best true crime offerings on Netflix that you have to see.

Best true crime documentaries on Netflix

Girl in the Picture

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

A sad and harrowing true crime documentary, Girl in the Picture tells the story of a girl found dying on the side of the road and the investigation into the cause of her death. As mysteries around the victim's true identity arise, the case quickly unravels to reveal stories of deception, kidnap, and murder. 

At the heart of this documentary, however, is a young woman whose life was tragically taken away from her, and the determination to not just resolve the case but to discover who she really is. Girl in the Picture shies away from some of the more sensualized docs on the streaming platform and instead tells a captivating and gut-wrenching story. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 1

Average episode length: 1hr 40 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 95 %

Worst Roommate Ever

Worst Roommate Ever

(Image credit: Netflix)

You might never complain about a roommate leaving dishes in the sink or forgetting to take the trash out again once you have seen this documentary. This anthology series tells four housemate true horror stories across five episodes, ranging from the seemingly sweet old lady with a dark secret and a serial squatter who made life a living hell for his roommates when he refused to leave.

Produced by Blumhouse — the company responsible for horror films such as Get Out and The Purge, Worst Roommate Ever taps into our very real-world fear of our own homes not being a safe space and utilizes this for the bizarre stories covered in this documentary.

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 5

Average episode length: 39 - 62 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 56 %

The Staircase

The Staircase

(Image credit: Netflix)

Setting the blueprint for all the true crime docuseries that would follow, The Staircase chronicles the case of Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen. Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade — whose crew were granted unprecedented access to family, legal teams, and the courtroom — The Staircase is a thoroughly engrossing miniseries that plays out like some of the very best courtroom drama movies. 

The memorable twists and turns and subject matter of this case proved to be ripe material for a dramatic adaptation as well, with the documentary given a retelling in the HBO Max drama of the same name.

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 13

Average episode length: 44 - 55 minutes

Rotten tomatoes rating: 94 %

American Murder: The Family Next Door

American Murder: The Family Next Door

(Image credit: Netflix)

Told predominantly through police body cameras, CCTV, and home videos, this heartbreaking documentary focus on the disappearance of 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two children in Colorado. On the surface, the Watts family lived a picture-perfect life, so when the horrifying details of what happened to them emerge, it creates shockwaves in their quiet neighborhood.

With a deeply personal and affecting approach American Murder: The Family Next Door is one of those documentaries where you might be able to guess the outcome early on, but it doesn’t make it any less shocking when the truth is finally revealed. 

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 1

Average episode length: 1hr 23 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 86 %

Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer 

Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer

(Image credit: Netflix)

With an attention-grabbing title, Don’t F**k With Cats is an instantly gripping limited series that seems to get more and more bizarre with every minute that passes. When a shocking video emerges online of a young man committing despicable acts of animal abuse, a group of would-be investigators take to Facebook to try and track him down. 

Not only does this documentary make for compulsive watching, but it provides a fascinating insight into the warped and twisted mind of a serial killer, and the chilling warning that our fascination with these individuals is perhaps part of the problem. It’s a meta approach for a true crime documentary but this must-watch series is also unlike anything you will have seen before. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 3

Average episode length: 57 - 65 minutes

Rotten tomatoes rating: 69 %

Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer

(Image credit: Netflix)

Opening the floodgates for Netflix’s wave of true crime documentaries, Making a Murderer took the world by storm, racking up 19.3 million viewers in just over a month, largely generated by positive word-of-mouth conversations. At the center of the story is Steven Avery, who served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. 

Making a Murderer marked a water-cooler moment, sparking online theories and discussions that seeped into the second series which partially explored the effect that the first series had had on the case. As the case is still ongoing, there is also the frustration of not knowing how it all ends… but that is exactly what keeps us coming back for more!

Useful info

Number of seasons: 2

Approximate episodes per season: 10

Average episode length: 47 - 77 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80 %

The Confession Killer

The Confession Killer

(Image credit: Netflix)

Focusing on the enigmatic figure of Henry Lee Lucas, this documentary has duplicity to it, much like the man himself. Convicted of murdering two people in 1983, Lucas quickly starts confessing to a number of unsolved murder cases, and the numbers skyrocket into the hundreds. While seemingly able to recall details of each case with vivid clarity, something about Lucas’ confessions doesn’t add up and their validity is called into question. 

Unraveling into a curious case of corruption and coercion that makes it difficult to know what to believe, The Confession Killer is a documentary that sticks with you long afterward, as you question the truth of the accounts given.

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 5

Average episode length: 45 - 50 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100 %

The Innocent Man

The Innocent Man

(Image credit: Netflix)

Based on the John Grisham book of the same name, The Innocent Man follows two murder cases in the early ‘80s in the small southern town of Ada, Oklahoma. Better known for his fiction books, this marked Grisham’s first foray into nonfiction, yet there are many qualities about this case that you could easily believe were made up.

While it doesn’t necessarily break any new ground in the true crime genre, aficionados will still find it absolutely fascinating — particularly when it comes to wrongful convictions, police corruption, and the complete ineptitude of the criminal justice system in this case. It nails the perfect binge-able formula with each episode ending on a cliffhanger or new piece of evidence that will have you instantly wanting to watch the next one.

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 6

Average episode length: 42 - 52 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 74 %

The Keepers

The Keepers

(Image credit: Netflix)

While the murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, is the catalyst for this documentary, it also provides the key to unlocking some deep, dark secrets and the possible reason for her murder. Idolized by the students at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland, Sister Cathy’s death has a ripple effect that sees the sinister acts of the priests in charge at the school being brought into the light.

The Keepers is easily one of the best true crime documentaries on Netflix, with a considered and sensitive approach to the upsetting subject matter and the revelations of the brave people who come forward to speak out. It isn’t always easy to watch, but each episode ends with a sting that makes it impossible to stop watching. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 7

Average episode length: 56 - 66 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97 %

Abducted in Plain Sight

Abducted in Plain Sight

(Image credit: Netflix)

With a series of bizarre twists that you’ll never see coming, Abducted in Plain Sight covers the kidnapping and grooming of Jan Broberg by neighbor and family friend, Robert ‘B’ Berchtold in the 1970s. When the Berchtold family moves in next to the Brobergs, they quickly become friends. However, they fail to recognize any red flags in Robert’s unusual fascination with the 12-year-old, Jan.

With the now adult Jan speaking about her own experiences, the reassurance that she makes it through her ordeal doesn’t provide much comfort when the sordid and surprising details begin to emerge. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 1

Average episode length: 1hr 30 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 75 %

Murder Among the Mormons

Murder Among the Mormons

(Image credit: Netflix )

Told with a little more restraint than some of the other Netflix docs, Murder Among the Mormons is an exceptionally well-paced and well-told story that pieces together an intriguing tale of rare document collectors — particularly their work with reported Mormon artifacts — and the deadly turn their trade took in the 1980s. 

What begins as a murder investigation spirals into fraud, forgery, and cover-up. With a host of shocking twists and turns — as with many of these documentaries — it is best to go in knowing as little as possible about the real case. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 3

Average episode length: 45 - 58 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89 %

Why Did You Kill Me?

Why Did You Kill Me?

(Image credit: Netflix)

Similar to Don’t F**k With Cats, this documentary largely focuses on the part social media can play in bringing people to justice. When the family of murdered Crystal Theobold takes it upon themselves to track down her killers, they head to MySpace using fake identities to infiltrate the gang they believe to be responsible. 

While there aren’t too many surprises or shocks in this documentary, the power is in the heartfelt testimonies of the family. In the emotional accounts of Crystal’s younger cousin and the fiery determination of her mother — who demonstrates the fine line that exists between wanting justice and revenge — it is clear to see how a senseless killing can tear a family apart, and the fascinating lengths they’d go to for the truth. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 1

Average episode length: 1hr 23 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 70 %

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

(Image credit: Netflix)

Beginning with the death of a pizza delivery guy after a bank heist goes wrong, Evil Genius is one of Netflix’s most bizarre true crime offerings, with a chaotic series of events that only seem to get weirder and weirder as things progress. 

The titular mastermind, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, is an utterly compelling focal point, and her bizarre, expletive-laden interviews give this documentary a provocative and entertaining edge. This is one of those documentaries that needs to be seen to be believed, and even then you might still have doubts.

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 4

Average episode length: 45 - 53 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80 %

I Am a Killer

I Am a Killer

(Image credit: Netflix)

Most of the documentaries on this list take an in-depth look at one particular case or individual, however, I Am a Killer is a little different — each episode focuses on one death row prisoner. Giving candid firsthand accounts of the crimes they’ve committed, there is also great variety — from those who endured horrific abuse before committing their crimes, to those who don’t even remember the crimes they’ve been sentenced for.

In its exploration of the motives of killers, this series is undoubtedly chilling, however, it is also incredibly thought-provoking, giving a rare insight that other documentaries don’t necessarily have. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 2

Approximate episodes per season: 10

Average episode length: 46 - 52 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 84 %

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

(Image credit: Netflix)

Sometimes it needs a strong stomach to watch true crime documentaries, particularly when it comes to hearing the vivid details of the crimes committed. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is one such example, giving the tragic account of the eight-year-old boy from California who endured horrific abuse, torture, and eventual murder at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

Told with harrowing and graphic detail, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez certainly isn’t an easy watch, but it is nonetheless an important one — particularly in the way it relates how the system failed to spot the red flags that could’ve saved his life. 

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 6

Average episode length: 47 - 63 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83 %

Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes

Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes

(Image credit: Netflix)

The scariest true crime documentaries are often the ones where you hear the killer talking about the crimes in their own words — even more so when the man in question is notorious serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Prolific in London during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nilsen killed at least 12 men on his deadly spree. 

Perhaps what is most chilling about Nilsen’s voice is how normal he seems — he is well-spoken, theatrical, and witty, evocative of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. While this documentary doesn’t uncover much new information, it is a disturbing insight into the infamous mass murderer — recently played with frightening accuracy by David Tennant in the drama series, Des

Useful info

Number of seasons: 1

Approximate episodes per season: 1

Average episode length: 1hr 25 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 43 %

We hope you found our best true crime documentaries on Netflix piece interesting. We also have a best Netflix series guide covering all different genres.

Sarah is a freelance writer who has been writing and podcasting about film for more than 7 years. Sarah studied English and Media Studies at college in Surrey, and after starting her own film review blog in 2015, she has gone on to write for a number of publications including Looper, Cineworld, and JumpCut Online. In addition, she co-hosts the podcast Let's Jaws for a Minute, going minute by minute through the 1975 classic, as well as exploring the broader influence of the film. She is passionate about animation in all its forms, and her favorite TV programs include Stranger Things, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and RuPaul's Drag Race, and she is partial to an engrossing docuseries as well.