What better way to kill some time at home than with some chilling true crime stories? We’ve selected some of the best documentaries and shows on Netflix right now.
1: Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez
It was a case that shook America and its favorite sport like only one other famous one had done so far: the case of New England Patriot star Aaron Hernandez who was convicted of killing his friend Odin Lloyd but suspected of killing three more people. The 3-episode documentary not only extensively covers the case but also talks about Hernandez’s childhood and tries to find an explanation for the way he acted. It can (and probably will) be watched in one sitting, especially because of the compelling way it is constructed. It is also one of the first (and only) documentaries where at some point I felt some kind of sympathy for the person accused of the crime, mainly because the documentary was so focused on explaining what made him into what he turned out to be.
2: The Staircase
Probably one of the most-discussed cases and one you can get into arguments about with all your true crime nerd friends is The Staircase. In the early 2000s, author Michael Peterson frantically called 911 to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down the stairs and wasn’t breathing. Shortly after, Peterson was arrested, tried, and convicted of murder, but spent the coming years on appeals and maintaining his innocence. The documentary was filmed over the course of the first trial and then picked up again at the appeals and it is biased towards Peterson’s innocence. However, it is a well-made documentary and it doesn’t necessarily manage to convince the audience of Peterson’s innocence — as he was also never exonerated. It’s more like watching a crime series than a documentary, especially because of the twists and turns.
3: Abducted In Plain Sight
This is definitely one of the craziest stories ever: a man kidnaps a girl directly from her family’s house. Twice. And he somehow gets away with it for the most insane reasons. It tells the story of Jan Broberg, and her family friend and neighbor, Robert Berchtold, and his relationship to her parents that made it easy for him to access the child to earn her trust and then kidnap and abuse her. It is a story of grooming, brainwashing, and manipulation and brilliantly shows the way abusers gain the trust of their victims. And yes, there’s an alien theory.
4: Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Another story with many twists and turns is the one of Evil Genius. What starts out as footage of a bank robbery gone wrong turns into a multi-layered, twisted story of betrayal, manipulation, and murder. Essentially, the documentary covers the background of the murder of pizza deliveryman Brian Wells, who was allegedly forced to rob a bank and was killed by a self-destructing device strapped to his body. The police then found instructions to an elaborate scavenger hunt, showing the apparent “genius” of the people behind the heist. Then, the documentary uncovers the involvement of multiple other people and more murders, all bizarrely connected to that of Wells.
5: Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
A “classic” among true crime stories is that of one of the most notorious serial killers: Ted Bundy. While his story (and that of his victims) has been told many times, this documentary gives a new insight into Bundy by showing and playing footage of tapes recorded on death row, where Bundy talks about the murders (mostly in the third person) and what motivated him. Like every Ted Bundy documentary, this one covers the essentials of the case, the outrageous way the cases were handled and the case that finally got him on death row. However, it also adds more to the known story. I highly recommend checking out the new documentary on Amazon Prime (Ted Bundy: Falling For A Killer) after you’ve watched this one, as the Amazon one comes strictly from the perspective of the victims and manages to compliment the Netflix documentary in an interesting way.
6: Out of Thin Air
A British documentary of an Icelandic case, Out of Thin Air tells the story of how a group of young adults who confessed to two violent crimes, but later took back their confessions. It is an interesting insight into a peaceful society on an island that was shaken by the brutality of these crimes and their aftermath but also showed how criminal investigations can go wrong. It was confusing to watch at first but so compelling that I couldn’t stop. If you’re looking for something that is not American, this is definitely for you. I doubt a lot of people outside of Europe have heard of the case or seen this documentary, so make sure to put it on your list and get lost in the snowy, icy abyss of Iceland.