Best true crime documentaries available to stream

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Brendan Dassey, a teenager whose story was documented in the 2015 Netflix series "Making a Murderer." (Dan Powers/The Post-Crescent, Pool, File)

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Ever since hit documentary series Making A Murderer took hold on Netflix, streaming services have become the spiritual home of true crime. In recent years, some of the most outlandish and absorbing tales have been based in the world of truth rather than fiction.

Here are some of the best examples to hit the small screen.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Now TV)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Credit: HBO)

The benchmark by which all true crime documentaries should be measured, director Andrew Jarecki's six-part series is best watched cold to the facts, if at all possible. The revelation that comes in the final episode is utterly mind-blowing (one critic called it one of 'the most jaw-dropping moments in television history'), all the more so if you know nothing about the strange case of New York real estate heir Robert Durst. Masterfully crafted, The Jinx is a future classic of the genre.

The Case Against Adnan Syed (Now TV)

The Case Against Adnan Syed (Credit: HBO)

Following the same murder investigation as the pivotal podcast series Serial for US strand This American Life, this Emmy-winning extension of the case for HBO is essential viewing for anyone captivated by the intricate details of the murder of Hae Min Lee.

Read more: Hidden gems on Now TV

Lee was found dead in park land four weeks after going missing in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was quickly charged and jailed for first degree murder, with this four-part series covering both the case and Syed's later appeal against his conviction.

The Witness (Amazon Prime)

The Witness (Credit: Filmrise)

In an audacious debut, director James D. Solomon presents the case of the murder of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in the neighbourhood of Kew Gardens in Queens, New York, in 1964. It was made all the more shocking by the fact that 38 witnesses were said to have seen or heard the attack, but did nothing to help. Solomon's film is afforded immeasurable gravitas by the participation of Bill Genovese, Kitty's brother, who is seeking to uncover the myths and discover the truth surrounding her murder.

No Stone Unturned (Amazon Prime)

No Stone Unturned (Credit: Fine Point Films)

Not celebrated documentarian Alex Gibney's best known work, though there's an argument that it should be. Gibney turns his focus to the unsolved murder of six people in Loughinisland, Northern Ireland, as they watched a World Cup match in their local in 1994. A masked gunman entered the pub and opened fire, and though the getaway car, the weapon and other evidence was found, the culprit was never brought to justice, with accusations of collusion between those involved and the authorities following in the aftermath.

Evil Genius (Netflix)

Evil Genius (Credit: Netflix)

Netflix has rather cornered the market in stranger-than-fiction true crime tales in recent years, and Evil Genius is nothing if not that. Produced by the Duplass brothers, it pivots on the 2003 case of the 'pizza bomber', the murder of pizza delivery man Brian Wells in a plot which would be deemed almost too implausible even for Hollywood. Involving an explosive device in a lockable collar, a bank robbery and a scavenger hunt, it was described as 'one of the most complicated and bizarre crimes in the annals of the FBI'.

Don't F**k with Cats (Netflix)

Don't F**k with Cats (Credit: Netflix)

Topping even Evil Genius's jaw-dropping twists and turns, Don't F**k With Cats centres on the internet sleuths who began investigating Luke Magnotta, a man from Ontario who posted video footage of himself appearing to be suffocating two kittens in 2010. What emerged about Magnotta was more disturbing even than that, involving the grisly and brutal murder of a Chinese student, resulting in an Interpol manhunt which came to its conclusion in Berlin.

The Staircase (Netflix)

Considered by many to be the series that kickstarted the recent true crime doc boom, this four-part French television miniseries by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade documents the trial of American novelist Michael Peterson, convicted in 2003 of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. With revelations every episode, it’s a gripping watch that constantly keeps you on your toes.

Lestrade returned to the case and the family in 2012-13 for a two-hour sequel, and then again in 2018 for another sequel on Netflix. All 13 episodes are now streaming on Netflix, and are required watching for fans of the genre.

The Pharmacist (Netflix)

The Pharmacist (Credit: Netflix)

A devastating look at the opioid problem in the US seen through the eyes of the singular Dan Schneider, a pharmacist from the small town of Poydras, Louisiana, who is desperate to find out who was responsible for his son's Danny's death. Disillusioned by the ambivalence of the local police, Schneider takes on the case himself, but stumbles into the story of a epidemic which is destroying families across America. Told over four parts, this is powerful, breathless and important work.

Car Crash: Who's Lying? (BBC iPlayer)

Car Crash: Who's Lying? (Credit: BBC)

This brilliant hidden gem is a compelling look at the aftermath of a car crash in the countryside outside Portsmouth involving a group of young friends, and the tragic personal wreckage that was left behind. When police arrived at an overturned car to find a dazed young man sitting cross-legged on top, and two others with devastating injuries inside, they're tasked with piecing together the story of what happened using CCTV, phone records and conflicting interviews.

Unsolved: The Boy Who Disappeared (BBC iPlayer)

The Boy Who Disappeared (Credit: BBC)

16-year-old Damien Nettles went missing on the night of 2 November, 1996. He was never found. Former Panorama journalists Bronagh Munro and Alys Harte spent three months on the Isle of Wight investigating the case, from Damien's last sighting at a chip shop in Cowes to his family's frustration with the handling of his disappearance by local police, frustration that eventually led to an official complaint. Told over eight parts, Unsolved is testament to Munro and Harte's dedication to old fashioned investigative journalism.