Some time ago we presented you a list of the best series about psychopaths. Today we have prepared a similar ranking – the best true crime series, i.e. documentaries about real crimes. Ready for a dose of strong emotions?
Among the best true crime series are documentaries focusing on the activities of the most famous serial killers (“Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer”, “The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness”, “Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes”), but also productions depicting the backstage of high-profile cases that inspired the scripts of popular series (“Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children”, “The Last Narc”). The limited number of slots meant that we were often faced with difficult choices (“Soupçons” or “Making a Murderer”? “The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness” or “Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer”?”Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” or “Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes”?). However, we’ve made sure that all of the series we’ve selected is available on VOD – you can find them on Netflix, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.
Do you watch true crime series? Which of the true-crime series we have chosen do you think is the best? Or do you think there should be other true crime series on the list? We look forward to your comments.
The best true crime series on Amazon Prime Video
The Last Narc
The story of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who infiltrated the structures of the Guadalajara cartel, became the subject of the Netflix broadcast series”Narcos: Mexico” starring Michael Peña and Diego Luna. If you are looking for a production that will allow you to look at the issue from a different perspective, we recommend the documentary series “The Last Narc” available on Amazon Prime Video. The creators of the production reached not only the wife of the murdered agent or his associates but also former members of the cartel. The series comprehensively describes the non-obvious links between the criminals and the organizations fighting against them.
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer
Ted Bundy is one of the most brutal serial killers in US history. He cynically exploited his intelligence and personal charm to avoid arrest or escape justice for years. Looking for an answer to the question: what was the source of his hatred towards women, the creators of the miniseries”Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer” put Bundy’ s story in the context of feminist movements. They give voice not only to Elizabeth Kloepfer (who also goes by the name Kendall), who was in a romantic relationship with Bundy for years, or her daughter, for whom Bundy was like a daddy, but also to female students and activists, relatives of the victims or women starting their careers in male-dominated professions at that time.
While this case may elicit laughter at first, it presents no less of an issue than the other series presented here.”Lorena” is the story of a woman who, after years of humiliation and violence from her husband, got her revenge by… by cutting off his penis. The series’ creators interview both the title character and her husband, who talk about the fateful night and its impact on their lives going forward. The docudrama, which has been stripped of its tabloid sensationalism, deals with events from the early 1990s, but also touches on issues still relevant today, such as domestic violence and women’s rights.
The best true crime series on HBO Max
Mind Over Murder
In 1985, the small town of Beatrice, Nebraska was shaken by a shocking crime: 68-year-old Helen Wilson was raped and murdered. The eponymous Nebraska Six are the people who were convicted of the crime and in 2009, after re-testing DNA material, were acquitted. The series examines the phenomenon of “recovered memories” that often cause suspects to make false, incriminating statements and introduces viewers to the unconventional methods used by police. Its creators attempt to reconstruct the mindset of the defendants, several of whom were emotionally and psychologically susceptible to psychological suggestion, while emphasizing that investigators and forensic experts made many mistakes during the investigation and securing of evidence, which reinforced the jury members’ belief that the defendants were guilty.
Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a series of mysterious disappearances and murders of black boys and teenagers in Atlanta. The case was the subject of the second season of”Mindhunter,” David Fincher’s acclaimed series that you can watch on Netflix. The five-episode HBO documentary “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children” sheds new light on the multifaceted investigation, which was reopened after 40 years. The filmmakers present the case from different points of view – police officers and FBI agents, prosecutors, but also activists or families of the victims. They set the case in the context of race and class, showing how these factors affected the investigation conducted years ago.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
“The Thin Blue Line” showed that true crime documentaries can not only tell the story of reality, but also shape it. Thanks to Errol Morris’ film, wrongly convicted Randall Adams was released from prison and exonerated.”The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” on the other hand, made it possible to find the culprit of a murder committed years ago. The series may look like a classic collection of talking heads, but it watches like the best thriller.
The best true crime series on Netflix
Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes
After the success of the documentary”Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” Joe Berlinger decided to make another part of the series. He chose John Wayne Gacy as the protagonist – a respected citizen and owner of a construction company, who willingly employed young people, giving them an opportunity to gain experience. The mysterious disappearance of one of them gives rise to an investigation that leads to a shocking discovery: the remains of more than 30 young men are found on his property. However, there could have been many more victims. The filmmakers present never-before-released footage from Gacy’s trial which sheds new light on the murderer’s narcissistic mindset and helps us understand why he went unpunished for so long. The case is also commented on by those involved in the investigation – police officers and forensic technicians, lawyers and prosecutors, as well as one of Gacy’s victims who managed to escape with his life.
Making a Murderer
The documentary”Making a Murderer” took as long as 10 years to make. It tells the story of a man who, in an attempt to expose corruption in local law enforcement, becomes the prime suspect in a gruesome murder. He is eventually exonerated by DNA evidence. Set in the northern United States, the series gives viewers a glimpse into a high-profile criminal case where reputations are at stake and nothing is what it seems.
The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness
True crime documentaries can be divided into two categories: productions that do not go beyond the reconstruction of a crime and the presentation of the behind-the-scenes investigation, and those that, in addition to answering the “who?” and “why?” questions, offer to set the depicted events in a broader socio-cultural context. The reconstruction of facts is a starting point for a completely new story, unknown to a wider audience. This is the strategy adopted by Joshua Zeman (“Cropsey”,”Murder Mountain”), the director of the series”The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness“. He puts freelance investigative journalist Marury Terry at the center of the story. Coming from the same town as the infamous Sons of Sam, the man makes it a point of honor to find out who is really behind the crimes. He quickly comes to the conclusion that the bloody series was not the work of one person, but of an organized group…
The Confession Killer
True crime series often tell the lives of serial killers. Against their backdrop,”The Confession Killer” stands out. The next documentary series on our list tells the story of Henry Lee Lucas, who “became famous” as one of the most active serial killers in U.S. history (over 200 crimes were attributed to him). Moving back to the 1980s, the filmmakers take on the uncomfortable subject of the techniques used by investigators at the time. The policemen dealing with Lucas acted according to the principle of a better fish than nothing – even if the evidence they gathered undermined the credibility of his testimony, they preferred to close the case rather than look for the real murderer. Meanwhile, the alleged psychopath turns out to be just an average man who, encouraged by the attention from the police and the media, confessed to successive murders.
If you don’t like true crime series, we encourage you to look for something else in our other rankings. You will find there the best space series, the best survival series and the top 10 positive movies – just in time for the ever-longer autumn evenings.