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30 True Crime Documentaries That Will Make Your Jaw Drop

Get ready to get lost down a rabbit hole (or two) with these true crime stories.

Collage of true crime documentary series cover artRD.com, via Streaming Services (8)

Add these true crime documentaries to your must-watch list

If you’re a fan of true crime, you know how easy it is to get sucked into the stories. That’s why there are so many true crime movies and true crime podcasts out there—people want to know what happened in these cases, and why. True crime documentaries, in particular, share details of true crime cases that people may not have known before. If you’re looking to get lost down a rabbit hole (or two), here are 30 true crime documentaries guaranteed to make your jaw drop and head spin.

Man in shadows with slit of light highlighting eyevia Netflix.com

Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer

This is one of those true crime documentaries that will send chills down your spine. Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer takes us back to Los Angeles in 1985, as a brutal serial killer terrorizes the city. Two police detectives do everything they can to stop the killer—but can they catch someone who seems to attack at random? The detectives, along with others involved in the investigation, recall what happened in Los Angeles between April and August 1985, and the eventual capture of one of America’s most vile serial killers: Richard Ramirez.

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polygraph line that turns into housesvia Netflix.com

American Murder: The Family Next Door

American Murder: The Family Next Door tells the story of Shanann Watts and her children, who went missing in 2018 in Colorado. Shanann’s husband, Chris Watts, seemed like a concerned husband and father at the beginning of the investigation—but the horrible truth about Chris’ role in their disappearance unravels quickly. This documentary uses firsthand footage to examine the tragic story of what happened to Shanann, who was pregnant when she disappeared, and her two young daughters, Bella and Celeste.

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man sitting for interviewvia Amazon.com

Where Is Robert Fisher?

This documentary will have your head spinning. Robert Fisher is on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for allegedly killing his family and blowing up their home in Scottsdale, Arizona back in April 2001. He’s believed to have fled after these brutal events, and 20 years later, police are still looking for clues on his whereabouts. This documentary explores the disturbing story and asks the burning question: Where is Robert Fisher?

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black and white face of man with clown make up in color overlayvia Peacock.com

John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise

John Wayne Gacy is one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. Gacy was sentenced to death after murdering at least 33 boys and young men in the 1970s. This six-part docuseries chronicles the story of Gacy and his horrific crimes and features previously unreleased interviews from Gacy himself that’ll chill you to the bone.

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collage of little boy, a snowy background, and a playground next to the words "have you seen Andy?" via HBOMax.com

Have You Seen Andy?

This Emmy-Award winning true crime documentary leaves you with so many questions. Have You Seen Andy? tells the story of 10-year-old Andy Puglisi, who went missing in August 1976 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Despite massive search efforts, Andy was never found. The filmmaker, Melanie Perkins, was a friend of Andy’s at the time of his disappearance. Perkins chronicles the gut-wrenching story of Andy’s disappearance as she searches for answers in the case of her missing childhood friend.

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Little girl holding the hand of the slendermanVia Hulu.com

Beware the Slenderman

Urban legends are made-up stories meant to scare us. For some people, though, these fictitious stories seep into reality. An example of this is shown in the 2016 documentary Beware the Slenderman. The film examines the case of two 12-year-old girls who lured their friend into the Wisconsin woods and attempted to kill her to appease Slenderman, a fictional Internet boogeyman. It’s one of those true crime documentaries that will make you reflect on a number of topics, including the Internet’s influence on people, mental health, and how one terrible decision can change lives forever.

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face of boy double exposed with gun overlayvia Netflix.com

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez follows the story of Aaron Hernandez, who went from being a professional football player to a convicted killer. The docuseries tells the story of Hernandez’s life, his career in the NFL, and the events that led to his arrest and conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Through interviews with those close to Hernandez and various insiders, the docuseries explores a question many people still have: How did Hernandez get down this path?

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Double pan scale with city weighing down shadow of five individuals next to the text "The Central Park Five"via AppleTV.com

The Central Park Five

This film covers the Central Park Five case (also known as the Central Park jogger case), in which five Black and Latino teenagers were wrongly convicted of raping a White woman in New York City back in 1989. The documentary covers the details of the case and the events that followed, and it includes interviews with the men who served jail time for a crime they didn’t commit. You’ll hear their side of the story, get important background information surrounding the case, arrests, and convictions, and hear expert analysis on how this miscarriage of justice unfolded.

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Police cars with lights flashing in front of Cecil Hotelvia Netflix.com

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

This is one of those true crime documentaries that produces more questions than answers. Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel covers the case of Elisa Lam, who was a 21-year-old Canadian college student who went missing while staying at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in 2013. Nearly three weeks after she went missing, her body was found floating in the water tank on the hotel’s roof. This documentary covers the investigation into Lam’s death and the dark history of the Cecil Hotel. One of the most chilling parts is the surveillance footage of Lam in the hotel’s elevator, and the reason for her behavior in that footage is one of the biggest mysteries in the case.

RELATED: 19 of the Strangest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time

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Flatlay of tape player over photos of Ted Bundyvia Netflix.com

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Ted Bundy is a notorious serial killer who confessed to killing 30 young women and girls in the 1970s. In this documentary, you’ll hear Bundy reflect on his life, crimes, and motives through chilling audiotapes and commentary from others about the extremely heinous murders he committed.

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women face broken up in multiple panelsvia HBO.com

I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter

I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter covers the events that led up to the trial of Michelle Carter. Carter was charged and eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter after she, at 17 years old, sent startling text messages to her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, that seemed to encourage him to kill himself. Roy died by suicide in July 2014 at age 18. The case gained national attention and raised serious questions about topics like mental health, social media, and if one person could be held responsible for another person’s suicide. This documentary tackles those topics and features interviews from key people in the story, including investigators, journalists, Carter’s defense attorney, and Roy’s immediate family.

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little girl smiling in vintage photovia Netflix.com

Abducted in Plain Sight

This is one of those true crime documentaries that’s full of twists and turns you won’t see coming. It tells the story of the Broberg family, whose young daughter, Jan, was kidnapped by a neighbor and close family friend, Robert Berchtold, not once—but twice—in the 1970s. The documentary unpacks the events that led up to the kidnappings, the family’s relationship with Berchtold, and how far Berchtold would go to manipulate and deceive Jan and her family. Get ready—your jaw will drop so many times while watching this one.

Man's eyes overlayed on a landscape view of a cityVia Netflix.com

The Ripper

The Ripper is a documentary that discusses the Yorkshire Ripper murders, which took place in England in the late 1970s. Investigators and witnesses recall this frightening time, how the investigation unfolded, and how these brutal events sent shockwaves through England.

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young man staring into cameravia Amazon.com

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets is an award-winning documentary that covers the murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Davis and three of his friends pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida in November 2012. At the gas station, they got into a verbal altercation with 45-year-old Michael Dunn about how loud the rap music coming from their car was. The altercation led to Dunn opening fire on the teenagers’ car. Davis was hit by three bullets and died at the scene. This documentary covers the shooting and Dunn’s trial, along with examining Florida’s Stand Your Grounds laws.

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Little girl posing dressed up as a princessvia HBO.com

Mommy Dead and Dearest 

Mommy Dead and Dearest covers the case of Dee Dee Blanchard and Gypsy Rose. Blanchard was founded murdered in her home in June 2015, and her very ill daughter, Gypsy Rose, was nowhere to be found. Police used social media to get a lead in the case, but what they discovered through that lead rocked the tight-knit community that Blanchard and Rose were part of. This documentary touches on heavy topics, including child abuse, mental illness, and one of the most perplexing conditions: Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Get ready for a documentary filled with shock, deception, and murder.

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man in office being interviewedVia Amazon.com

Deep Web

This is one of those true cime documentaries you’ll never forget. Deep Web discusses the rise of a darknet market called Silk Road, which was was known to be a marketplace for illegal drugs. Authorities eventually arrested a man named Ross Ulbricht for allegedly creating and operating Silk Road. But, was he the right guy? Deep Web covers a number of topics, including the dangers and politics of the dark web and the complexity of technological freedom. It also raises the question: Was Ulbricht the true founder of Silk Road, or are there others pulling the cyberspace strings?

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women being interviewedvia Amazon.com

The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park 

This was a notorious case that rocked the public in August 1986. It was then that the body of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin was found in Central Park. The investigation into her murder eventually led police to a suspect—Robert Chambers, a good-looking, rich young man who Levin knew. The documentary discusses the details of the case, how it became so sensationalized in the media, and how both Levin and Cambers’ reputations were presented to the world—and how those presentations influenced the case.

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Black and white photo of officers investigating a holeVia Amazon.com

Cropsey

This a documentary that blends urban legend with true crime in a powerful and chilling way. The directors of Cropsey go back to their hometown on Staten Island to discuss the legend of Cropsey, a fictional man that came out at night to steal children off the street. They heard this urban legend as kids, but little did they know that an actual Cropsey was out there. The directors discuss the investigation into five missing children in the area and the man linked to their cases. Could he be the terrifying real-life Cropsey?

RELATED: The Most Notorious Criminals in Every State

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man getting interviewedvia Amazon.com

The Seven Five

The Seven Five discusses the story of Michael Dowd, a former NYPD officer who led a life of crime while patrolling the streets of Brooklyn in the 1980s. Dowd would pocket thousands of dollars per week due to corrupt agreements and be eventually arrested for his unbelievable crimes. His arrest shed light on widespread corruption that was in the NYPD during this time, as Dowd wasn’t the only corrupt cop on the block. The documentary features interviews with key players in the case, including Dowd himself, and explores the explosive details of one of the largest police corruption scandals New York City has seen.

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Young boy singing overlayed over news clippingvia Netflix.com

Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke was an iconic soul singer, but he was also an activist with views that were considered controversial by many at the time of his stardom. Cooke was murdered in December 1964, but many believe the circumstances around his death are questionable. Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke features interviews from Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, and others who discuss Cooke’s rise to fame, his views on civil rights, and the controversy surrounding his death. Is there more to Cooke’s murder than meets the eye?

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man standing next to investigation boardvia Netflix.com

Interview with a Serial Killer

It’s always eerie to hear serial killers talk about their crimes, but there’s something extra chilling about this one. Interview with a Serial Killer covers the horrific crimes of Arthur Shawcross, also known as the Genesee River Killer. Shawcross was convicted of killing 11 women in Rochester, New York back in the late 1980s. The true crime documentary features a jailhouse interview with Shawcross as he discusses his life and his crimes—and the interview will send chills down your spine.

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woman in office being interviewedVia Amazon.com

The Imposter

The Imposter chronicles the story of a truly baffling lie. It starts when 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay goes missing from Texas in 1994. Three years later, he’s believed to be found in Spain and is sent back to his family. There are key things that are different about Nicholas, though—including his eye color and his newly-developed European accent. Eventually, a bombshell drops on Nicholas’ family: the boy who claimed to be Nicholas isn’t actually their son. So, who is this imposter, and why did he con this grieving family? Those questions, and more, are discussed in this jaw-dropping documentary.

RELATED: 13 of the Most Bizarre True Stories That Became Documentaries

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Man in jumpsuit and handcuffs standing in front of stadiumvia Netflix.com

Long Shot

Long Shot sounds like the plot of a movie, but it’s the real-life story of what happened to Juan Catalan. Catalan was arrested for a murder he did not commit, but his only shot at proving his alibi lies within raw footage from a popular TV show that was filming at Dodger Stadium. Catalan’s lawyer goes on a wild goose chase for the footage—if he doesn’t find it, an innocent man goes to jail. This documentary shows how one simple decision—like deciding to go to a baseball game—can change your life forever.

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Photo of women staring into camera next to text "Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery"via AppleTV.com

Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery

This is a case that outraged the nation as it unfolded. Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery chronicles the death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony, who lived with her mother, Casey Anthony, and her maternal grandparents in Orlando, Florida. Caylee’s grandmother reported Caylee missing in July 2008, and from there, an investigation was launched. The investigation eventually turned towards Casey, who told investigators a web of lies surrounding Caylee’s disappearance—and eventually, Casey is put on trial for Caylee’s murder.  This three-part documentary recounts Caylee’s case, Casey Anthony’s highly-publicized trial, and its shocking verdict.

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woman sitting in office chair being interviewedvia Amazon.com

Who Took Johnny? 

This true crime documentary examines the cold case of Johnny Gosch, a paperboy in Iowa who went missing while delivering newspapers in September 1982. Gosch’s face was actually one of the first to be put on milk cartons—a tactic used to find missing children. The documentary features commentary from Gosch’s mother and covers the strange twists and turns in this cold case. Nearly 40 years after he disappeared, Gosch’s case is still cold—but remains open.

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Close up black and white photo of a boyvia Netflix.com

White Boy

White Boy examines the case of Richard Wershe, Jr., also known as “White Boy Rick.” He was an alleged drug lord in Detroit in the 1980s at just 17 years old. While many people may know that part of Wershe, Jr.’s history, they may not know about another role he held—as an FBI informant. This documentary exposes new facts about “White Boy Rick” and his ties to the FBI.

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cover art for "The Witness"Via Amazon.com

The Witness

This is another one of those true crime documentaries that will stay with you after the credits roll. The Witness recounts the case of Kitty Genovese, who was murdered in March 1964 in New York City. It was widely reported that 38 people saw or heard her murder, but did nothing to stop it. That report was the official story for decades. But, was it the truth? Genovese’s brother strives to answer this critical question about his sister’s murder in this powerful documentary.

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Photo of a woman with white scrap paper covering her eyes.Via Amazon.com

Missing Mom

This award-winning documentary chronicles the journey filmmaker Rob McCallum and his brother, Chris, take to discover the truth about their missing mother. The documentary features interviews from Rob and Chris’s family members, who speculate what happened to her. Rob and Chris learn new details about their mom and their own past as they try to solve a mystery that’s haunted them for years.

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View looking down on suburb at duskVia Amazon.com

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a six-part series based on the book of the same name by Michelle McNamara. It chronicles the case of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., also known as the Golden State Killer. The documentary recounts DeAngelo Jr.’s violent crimes and details how the investigation lasted for decades. The documentary also shows McNamara’s dedication to keeping the case alive and bringing the Golden State Killer to justice.

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Man wearing Sony headphones holding phoneVia HBOMax.com

Murder on Middle Beach

This four-part true crime documentary follows the journey of Madison Hamburg as he tries to piece together what happened to his mother. Barbara Hamburg was found murdered on the lawn of her Connecticut home in March 2010, and her case remains unsolved. Hamburg tries to find out what really happened to his mother—and uncovers alarming secrets while searching for the truth.

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Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest covering entertainment, trivia, and history. When she’s not writing you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music, and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout New England.

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