You can’t go wrong with any of these true-crime offerings, but remember this list is subjective. Feel free to add your own picks in the comments.
“The Keepers” (2017)
This gripping Netflix docuseries explores the murder of Catherine Cesnik, a beloved teacher and nun who was found dead eight weeks after she mysteriously disappeared from a Baltimore suburb in 1969. “The Keepers” puts forward a haunting theory — related to the Catholic high school where Sister Cathy taught English — as it lays out the details of the still-unsolved case. But unlike many true-crime efforts, the series keeps its victim (and those who loved her) at the center of its story.
“Wild Wild Country” (2018)
This addictive six-part Netflix series recalls the tension between the Rajneeshpuram, a religious movement founded by controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and government officials in 1980s Oregon. It’s a wild ride that involves sex, guns, a mass poisoning attack and figures charismatic enough to attract seemingly ordinary people to a cult.
“The Staircase” (2018)
French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade won a Peabody award in 2005 for his pioneering true-crime documentary “The Staircase,” which recalled the suspicious death of Kathleen Peterson and the ensuing high-profile trial that sent her husband, Michael, to prison for life. But Peterson’s conviction, nearly two years after Kathleen died in what he said was an accidental fall down the stairs, was just the beginning of a long legal battle. Lestrade brought an expanded, 13-episode version of his chilling documentary — with updates on Peterson and his family — to Netflix in 2018.
“Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” (2019)
In this HBO documentary, Liz Garbus (“There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane”) examines the 2011 murder of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips, who was found strangled in his Potsdam, N.Y., home. The film unpacks the deep racial division that led to the arrest and trial of Nick Hillary — a former boyfriend of Phillips’s mother and one of the town’s few black residents — despite questionable evidence (and Hillary’s self-proclaimed innocence.)
This Amazon Prime docuseries, co-produced by Jordan Peele, revisits the infamous Lorena Bobbitt case with an emphasis on what was largely obscured by cruel late-night humor in the ’90s: the sexual and physical abuse Bobbitt (now known as Lorena Gallo) allegedly suffered at the hands of her then-husband, John.
“The Most Dangerous Animal of All” (2020)
This FX docuseries (available to binge on Hulu) follows Gary L. Stewart’s all-consuming quest — already the subject of a best-selling book — to uncover the identity of his biological father, who he comes to believe is the infamous Zodiac killer.
“O.J.: Made in America” (2016)
Ezra Edelman’s Oscar-winning ESPN documentary goes beyond the heinous crime for which O.J. Simpson was tried in 1994, taking an exacting look at how race played into Simpson’s unique brand of celebrity and why his murder case divided the nation. It’s worth a watch (on ESPN Plus) even if you can remember the sensational murder trial: Post TV critic Hank Stuever called the five-part series “nothing short of a towering achievement.”
“The Pharmacist” (2020)
After his son was killed in a botched drug deal, pharmacist Dan Schneider embarked on an exhaustive (and risky) search for his son’s murderer. This Netflix docuseries, based on a 2017 Times-Picayune article, follows Schneider as he turns his efforts to another drug-related issue plaguing his hometown of New Orleans: the opioid crisis.
“Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer” (2019)
It would appear that Netflix + cats of any size = documentary gold. Before “Tiger King,” there was this cult-favorite docuseries about amateur Internet sleuths hunting for a brazen animal abuser.
“Tiger King” (2020)
Just in case you haven’t seen the series everyone is talking about, let us catch you up. Everyone is a character in this irreverent Netflix docuseries, which follows the murder-for-hire case that resulted from an escalating feud between private zoo owner Joe Exotic (also known as Joe Maldonado-Passage) and animal rights activist Carole Baskin. In some ways, the series epitomizes the ethically murky territory that taints true crime as entertainment as it explores the unsettling world of exotic animal trade.
This Netflix drama was inspired by a 2015 collaboration between ProPublica and the Marshall Project that recalled the harrowing ordeal of Marie, a woman who was accused of filing a false police report after she reported being raped. The series, led by Kaitlyn Dever, makes heroes out of the female detectives (played by Merritt Wever and Toni Collette) who ultimately helped convict Marie’s rapist, while calling attention to the systemic flaws that make it difficult for sexual assault survivors to find justice.
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (2016)
Yes, another O.J. series. When Ryan Murphy debuted the 10-episode show about the O.J. Simpson and his murder trial, many wondered what a series starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as the “Juice” could add to such a widely covered moment in American history. But the series wowed viewers with fresh perspectives on various aspects of Simpson’s trial, including beleaguered prosecutor Marcia Clark — essentially redeemed by Murphy and co. — and the trial’s conspicuous use of the n-word.
“The Act” (2019)
Hulu’s eight-episode drama offers a disturbing window into the lives of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy, who was treated for a host of medical issues throughout her childhood despite not actually being sick. The years-long deception, depicted in horrific detail, prompted Gypsy to have her mother killed (she was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder). Though some critics dinged the series for its pacing issues, it’s a worthy entry here for the performances alone, which led to major award show accolades for leads Joey King and Patricia Arquette.