In the current reality of social distancing, there’s no better time than now to binge watch all those shows clogging your Netflix queue and podcasts waiting in your playlist.
I love a wide variety of genres — horror, action, romcom, female-driven comedies — but my guiltiest pleasures are true crime and British procedurals.
In no particular order, here are 7 true crime documentaries on Netflix that you should be watching …
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Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
The most recently released title on this list, Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness went live on Netflix on March 20. And to be honest, I haven’t completely finished it yet … but I’m hooked.
The story of the Tiger King isn’t your typical murder mystery; this series is completely different from anything else out there. Filmmaker Eric Goode takes us into a rarely-seen world of exotic animals and the people who care for them, breed them and monetize them. Rivalries run hot between exotic animal park owners and activists — from internet attacks, disparaging comments in interviews with the media and letter-writing campaigns to a mailbox filled with snakes and alleged murder-for-hire.
Even the characters themselves can be described as exotic.
Joe Exotic (aka Joseph Schreibvogel) has a mullet, multiple piercings, bangs and a Fu Manchu. He prides himself on his country music albums. In the doc-series’ first episode, he brags about the extensive product lines sold in his gift shop: animal print undies, face cream, “sex gel” and more.
And Carole. Well, Carole only wears cat prints. And her house is completely decorated in cat prints. Oh, and she’s allergic to cats, so yeah, there’s that.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
This 2019 documentary takes a detailed look at the the 2007 disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann, who vanished from her bed at the seaside resort of Praia de Luz in Portugal, while on vacation with her family.
The McCann family (parents Kate and Gerry, daughter Madeleine and two-year-old twin siblings) was on holiday from the UK with a group of friends and their children. Madeleine disappeared from her bed sometime during a 1.5 hour window while the McCann parents and their friends dined in a restaurant only 180ft away; the parents had been checking on the children throughout the evening, until Kate discovered her daughter was missing.
Authorities considered two main theories: (1) Madeleine died in an accident in the resort apartment and her parents had covered it up or (2) Madeleine was taken during a planned abduction or burglary gone wrong. Watch The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann to learn the truth behind this toddler’s tragic disappearance.
Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer
I watched Don’t F**ck with Cats after getting a text from a friend saying it was a must-see; I didn’t know what I was getting into when I clicked play on that first episode.
This three-part docu-series tells the story of one of Canada’s most infamous crimes, the murder of Lin Jun, a 33-year-old computer engineering student from China, and the international manhunt for his killer.
“Ok, but where are the cats?”, you ask. Oh they’re there, and in the worst way.
I’m keeping hush on this one because I don’t want to ruin it for you. I highly suggest watching this blind like I did, with as few research and details as possible, because the twists and turns are non-stop and it’s so horrifyingly “fun” to watch the story unfold.
Get ready for a terrible, almost unbelievable ride filled with internet sleuthing, animal abuse, international intrigue, body dismemberment, cannibalism and WTF who-done-it twists that’ll keep you guessing until the end.
Abducted in Plain Sight
This 2017 documentary explores the kidnappings of Jan Broberg, an Idaho teenager who was abducted by neighbor and close family friend Robert “B” Berchtold on two separate occasions in the 1970s.
Yes, you read that correctly. Twice. Jan Broberg was abducted by Berchtold twice — first in 1974 when she was 12-years-old and again two years later at the age of 14.
The first time, he told her parents he was taking her horseback riding; instead, he drugged her and took her to his mobile home in Mexico where things took a really a weird turn. Berchtold convinced the 12-year-old girl that aliens had kidnapped both of them and they had to have a child in order to save the planet. A month later, the two were located and Berchtold arrested.
Watch Abducted in Plain Sight to see how Berchtold convinces Broberg’s parents to drop the charges and how he manages to infiltrate the family and kidnap her a second time.
If you’re a Murderino, aka a listener of the My Favorite Murder podcast, you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Staircase and it’s infamous/heated “owl theory” debate. But if you haven’t, this one is definitely worth a watch.
In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson called 911 to report he’d found his wife, Kathleen, dead at the bottom of a staircase in their North Carolina home. Authorities investigating the scene were suspicious of Peterson’s story that Kathleen had drunkenly fallen down the stairs; instead they concluded he’d bludgeoned her to death and charged him with first degree murder. The Staircase details the case + trial from the perspective of Peterson and his defense team.
Alternate theories are introduced by the defense and damning evidence presented by the prosecutors — but what does the jury think happened that night? And more importantly, what do you think happened that night?
This 13-episode series has it all: questionable sexual relationships, prior suspicious deaths … and an owl??
The Confession Killer
Henry Lee Lucas was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon in June 1983; while in his cell, he began confessing to hundreds of murders. In total, he ended up claiming to have committed more than 600 murders in the 1960s and 70s. This made him the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history and gave closure to hundreds of families across the country.
Except those confessions were based on lies. Lucas credited his false confessions to a “steady diet of tranquilizers, steaks, hamburgers and milkshakes” provided by eager police investigators.
Decades later, with the invention of DNA testing, at least 20 of those confessions were proven false and doubt was cast on the veracity of hundreds more. Currently, only 3 murders can be evidentiarilly linked to Lucas – that of his mother, his young girlfriend Becky Powell and his 82-year-old landlord Katharine Rich.
Ultimately, Lucas was convicted of 11 murders and sentenced to death, however his sentence was later commuted to life in prison by Texas Governor George W. Bush. While serving his life sentence, Lucas died in 2001 from heart failure at the age of 64.
The Confession Killer shows the traumatic impact false confessions, stalled detective work and a scapegoat, closure-rate-focused mentality can have on families and the justice system.
This seven-episode docu-series examines the disappearance of Sister Cathy Cesnik, an English and drama teacher at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School, on November 7, 1969. Her body was found nearly two months later, but the circumstances surrounding her death remain a mystery.
Cesnik’s case returned to the public eye in the 1990s after a former Archbishop Keough High School student accused the high school’s chaplain of sexual abuse and claimed she was taken to Cesnik’s then undiscovered body and threatened.
Director Ryan White set out to explore the still unsolved case of Cesnik’s disappearance and murder, but ended up discovering something far more sinister than he could’ve predicted. The Keepers uncovers a decade-long history of child abuse within institutions across Baltimore, including the Catholic church and police force, and the collusion committed to silence victims and cover crimes.
Cesnik’s murder remains unsolved to this day.
Already seen all seven of the docs above? Here are a few more worth checking out next time you’re in the mood for a great crime story:
Docs I’ve Seen
- Out of Thin Air
- Confessions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
- I Am a Killer
- Making a Murderer
On My To-Watch List
- Evil Genius
- Tell Me Who I Am
- Team Foxcatcher
- Audrie and Daisy
- Amanda Knox
- Wild Wild Country
- Long Shot
- Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
- The Investigator: A British Crime Story
- Strong Island
- The Innocent Man
- Casting JonBenét
- The Confession Tapes
Have I left off your favorite true crime documentary? Comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!
All show/stock images above are the property of Netflix