9 Great True-Crime Documentaries To Stream Now | SLMan
From Fear City last month to the second series of Dirty John (it’s out Friday), a glut of recent releases have shown the world’s appetite for real-life wrongdoing remains ravenous. You know about Making A Murderer, but what are the other classics of the genre you might have missed? Here they are – nine true-crime documentaries that tell wild stories while revealing hidden truths about wider society…

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Ten years ago, Aaron Hernandez was a superstar tight end for the New England Patriots. This three-part documentary tells the jaw-dropping story of his demise. Its starting point is his out-of-nowhere arrest in 2013 for the execution-style murder of his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend. Except, of course, the arrest wasn’t completely out of nowhere. Killer Inside reveals an abusive upbringing, a closeted sexuality and an undiagnosed brain injury that may all have contributed to a hidden history of violence.
Watch it on Netflix


Errol Morris has been making documentaries that change worldviews since the 70s. His 1988 film The Thin Blue Line created a template for forensic on-screen analysis of murder cases. In 2017 he turned his attention to the case of Frank Olson. The unknown chemist was recorded as a suicide in 1953 but a report in 1975 links his death to a top-secret experiment. In a six-parter that captures the trippy mood of the summer of love, Morris uses dramatic reconstructions to tell a story that requires him to dive into the murky waters of the deep state.
Watch it on Netflix

Nicole Rivelli

Paradise Lost

The OG true-crime doco is as important, powerful and gripping as it was when it was first released almost a quarter of a century ago. Subtitled ‘The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills’, it charts the story of three teenagers – the ‘West Memphis Three’ – accused of murder in a backwoods American town in 1993. There’s little physical evidence linking them to the crime, but listening to heavy metal metal and dressing in black appears to be enough to convict them in the eyes of many locals. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky tell a story that runs and runs – Paradise Lost 2 came out in 2000, then the Oscar-nominated Paradise Lost 3 in 2011. You’ll want them close at hand when you finish this first instalment.
Watch it on Now TV

White Boy

The true story of Richard Wershe Jr inspired the 2018 Hollywood film White Boy Rick. This feature-length documentary from 2017 brought to light new information about Rick, a teenager accused of being a drug lord in 80s Detroit. White Boy zooms in on Wershe’s history as an FBI informant, showing how the agency cultivated then abandoned him. Beyond the bizarre amusement of the urban legend of a baby-faced cocaine kingpin, there is the tragedy of a vulnerable 17-year-old who ended up becoming one of America’s longest-serving non-violent juvenile drug offenders. 
Watch it on Netflix

Long Shot

In 2003, Juan Catalan is wrongly accused of shooting a 16-year-old girl in the head on the doorstep of her home in LA. He spends six months in jail and is on death row when his lawyer finds out there is unused footage from Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm TV show that might support his alibi. This 40-minute film from 2017 tells the story of how he proved he was at a baseball game on the night of the murder.
Watch it on Netflix

Sour Grapes

No murders are committed in this documentary, making it the light-relief option on this list. In the early noughties, Rudy Kurniawan lit up the wine investment world by paying huge sums for rare bottles. Having created the legend, he started to cash in on it, selling his purchases for big profits. This wry, stylised film from 2016 raises an eyebrow as it tells Kurniawan’s remarkable story and shines a light on a rarely seen echelon of high society.
Watch it on Netflix

Roll Red Roll

This important film focuses on a 2012 sexual assault case in a small Ohio town that spoke to serious issues in wider society. Steubenville is a place that venerates its high-school sports stars and when two young American footballers are arrested after a 16-year-old girl wakes in an unfamiliar place with her phone and underwear missing, there’s a chance no serious action will be taken. A local crime blogger picks up the case and, as it’s amplified across the country, the Anonymous collective hackers gets involved and smalltown America has to face up to some very tough questions.
Watch it on Netflix

The Keepers

In 1969 a nun went missing from her apartment in Baltimore. Her body was found a year later and for decades that follow no one is sure what happened to Sister Cathy Cesnik. Then some of her former pupils – now in their 60s – set out to uncover the truth. Across seven compelling hour-long episodes, The Keepers unspools a narrative that starts with abuse in an educational establishment then runs into misplaced scepticism in the legal establishment. Along the way, the series never loses its focus on the impact of injustice on its victims.
Watch it on Netflix

Trial By Media

Across half a dozen standalone episodes, this George Clooney-produced Netflix series from earlier this year examines six of the most dramatic trials in American legal history and the ways in which media coverage might have affected their outcomes. From a man whose talk-show revelation led to his murder to a defendant who launched his own talk show, Trial By Media explores how TV sensationalism and the wider media’s need for top-line narratives can undermine an entire justice system.
Watch it on Netflix

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