With so much available on Netflix these days, some of the most captivating TVs come from true crime shows. If you haven’t seen all of the shows on this list, you’re missing out on great TV. Before we get started, here are a few shows that didn’t quite make the list; honorable mentions for manhunt, real detective, The Innocence files, Cocaine coast and The stairs.
Black money is not your typical crime documentary series. In its two seasons on Netflix, it covers a wide range of corporate corruption, from the Volkswagen emissions scandal to Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. It also covers what Point Comfort, TX went through in its battle with toxic chemicals and brought us to Malaysia to discuss their 6th Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who left the country in debt due to his huge loans and big parties.
Black moneygoes so far as to discuss the most valuable heist in Canadian history. What was stolen you say? The answer… maple syrup. Yes, you heard that right. From 2011-2012, $18.7 million worth of maple syrup was stolen from a storage facility in Quebec. What follows is a race to track down the ringleaders and the stolen syrup that travels in unmarked barrels.
If it still doesn’t sound right to you, I encourage you to check out the episodes titled Drug Short as well as Guardians, Inc. to watch. Drug Short is the third episode of Season 1, revealing the disgusting inflation of life-saving drugs made by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Revealed by short-sellers on Wall Street, this episode will have you shaking your head. On a more heartbreaking note, Guardians, Inc (Season 2 Episode 5), will leave you deeply saddened to see all the laws that are meant to protect the elderly community being abused, leaving many poor and vulnerable behind. There is currently no third season in the works, but we can still hope.
the custodiansis a 7-part docuseries, directed by Ryan White, that came out in 2017. The series is about the unsolved 1969 murder of Catherine Cesnik, a nun who taught English and drama at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore. On November 7, 1969, sister Cathy was reported missing after a day of shopping. Her body was found nearly two months later by some hunters near a landfill on January 3, 1970. An autopsy revealed she died of a brain hemorrhage caused by a blunt object that fractured her skull.
In the five decades following the murder, a history of sexual abuse and trafficking involving many members of the Church and school is revealed. With many survivors coming forward with their stories, it comes to light that Sister Cathy may have been the only one at the school who genuinely tried to help the abused girls. Was she silenced for what she discovered? Was the killer another member of the school? Who killed sister Cathy?
If you haven’t already, binge this show ASAP. It’s gripping, heartbreaking and definitely well researched. Give this a watch if you like pure true crime docuseries.
Pablo Escobar, El Patron del Mal
Drugs, murders and soap. If you’re a fan of two of those three genres, you’re in for a treat. This 2012 Colombian telenovela produced by Caracol TV and later added to Netflix with English subtitles follows the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar like you’ve never seen him before. From being scolded by his mother as a teenager to his untimely death at age 44, this show will cover every inch of Escobar’s life. Narcos didn’t.
Still not sold? Okay, do you like the show? Narcos? Have you ever thought, what wouldNarcosare like the craziness factor was increased to 10? Wonder no more because this is the show for you. With only one season under its belt consisting of 74 episodes (Yes! 74!), you will be sucked into the life of Pablo Escobar and you will be quoting “Plata o Plomo” for the next few weeks.
Andrés Parra is as fantastic as you can imagine as a soap opera version of Pablo Escobar. He takes Escobar’s focus on being a good husband, a good citizen of Colombia and his struggle to combine politics and give back to the poor, while remaining rich himself. Pablo Escobar the “bandido” is the ultimate true anti-hero and the fact that his story still fascinates people almost 30 years later shows the impact of his crimes and tricks over the years. Watching Escobar build his empire from the ground up only to lose it all has never been so satisfying to watch them in those 74 episodes on Netflix (Yes! 74!).
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
Another classic pure crime documentary series, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandezinvestigates the tragic death of an 8-year-old who was the victim of horrific abuse at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend. This show not only covers this trial from 2013, but also delves into how Gabriel’s system failed when he needed it to protect him. This is a very difficult show to watch, but one that is nevertheless very important.
Brian Knappenberger delves into this story that begins in 2012 when Pearl Fernandez (Gabriel’s biological mother) was given custody of Gabriel over the concerns of her own family who were caring for him at the time. She was reportedly very negligent and along with her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, she supposedly only did it for the welfare checks. What followed was a cycle of beatings and torture, ranging from eating his own vomit to broken bones or being forced to sleep in a small closet. This lasted for about 6 months and ended on May 22, 2013 when Pearl Fernandez called 9-1-1 because her son Gabriel was not breathing. Gabriel was found beaten and later pronounced brain dead. He died two days later at the age of eight and the autopsy revealed that he died of blunt force trauma along with malnutrition.
This show does a great job of addressing subsequent media and government responses in addressing the utter failure of the social services system in handling Gabriel Fernandez’s case. This may not be as binge-worthy as other shows on this list due to its very heavy subject matter, but it’s a must-watch nonetheless. You might want to sneak in a few episodes of the officeor friendsin between viewings if you want to balance the tone.
Wild Wild Land
️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️Wild Wild Landis a 6-part docuseries by the brothers Mark Duplass (The morning show, the competition) and Jay Duplass (Transparent) which came out in March 2018. The show delves into the life of controversial Indian guru Osho, his assistant Sheela and their community of followers who created their Utopia town in central Oregon, USA.
Osho’s movement begins in India in 1968. At the time, Osho would fill stadiums with 30,000 followers to speak of spirituality, sexuality and socialism. In 1981, as he grows exponentially, he begins to encounter some political resistance in India, so he decides to buy 80,000 acres of land in a small town called Antelope in Oregon. It wasn’t long before the movement came to blows with local residents and the government.
This may not sound like it belongs on this list, but it won’t be long before this story gets ugly. What started with simple legal battles over the construction of the community’s ashram quickly developed into serious crimes such as a massive food poisoning attack and an assassination plot against US Attorney Charles H. Turner. This show just leaves you guessing and wanting more.
unbelievable,, which appeared on Netflix in September 2019, is a true crime miniseries consisting of 8 episodes. With Toni Collette (Hereditary, Little Miss Sunshine), Merritt Weaver (Sister Jackie, Wicked) & Kaitlyn Dever (booksmart), this four-time Emmy-nominated series features the 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” The story follows a woman named “Marie” (played by Kaitlyn Dever) from Lynnwood, Washington, who reports to the police that she has been raped. After a series of lengthy interrogations by two detectives who lack empathy, Marie finally says her report was false, leading to her being charged with a gross felony for making a false report.
Meanwhile, two Colorado detectives (Collette & Weaver) investigate a serial rapist known to have raped four women, as well as a fifth attempted rape. The show interweaves both the two detectives’ search for the rapist and the traumatic aftermath of Marie’s rape while not being believed by anyone around her. Despite all the similarities between Marie’s story and the survivors of Colorado, she still faces a lot of criticism from the police, her friends and her previous foster family.
This show is a must see and the incredible acting of all three lead actresses makes it one of the best shows of 2019. unbelievableis a compelling story that shows the harsh reality that survivors of sexual assault must endure to fight for themselves when the system doesn’t believe them. It adds empathy to a story that it sadly lacked when it mattered most.
Intended as the fourth season of Narcos, Narcos: Mexicopremiered on Netflix November 2018. Following its success, a second season was released in February 2020 and a third season is now in the works. With Michael Pena (Ant-Man, Crash), Diego Luna (Rogue One) and the underrated Scoot McNairy (real detective, wicked), this show covers the growth of the illegal drug trade in Mexico.
It all starts in the 1980s at a time when marijuana was being traded by small independent and disorganized growers, which gave Miguel Gallardo (Luna) an opportunity. This led to the rise of the Guadalajara cartel that specialized in shipping cocaine and marijuana to the United States. For much of the 1980s, they controlled the drug trade in the corridors between the Mexico-United States border through extortion, torture and political corruption. The show also follows DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Peña) and Walt Breslin (McNairy) as they attempt to overthrow Gallardo.
Narcos: Mexicofollows the quality of its predecessor and offers great renditions of all the protagonists. While this show feels a little slow at times, it always picks it up for the final episodes of the seasons. If you are a fan of the original NarcosYou will be instantly hooked on this series as it maintains the same style and class as it shifts its focus from Colombia to Mexico.
Don’t Fuck With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️
This Netflix true crime documentary was directed by Mark Lewis (Surviving a disaster) and released in December 2019. The series follows a group of internet sleuths who dive into an amateur investigation after animal cruelty videos are posted online. Following a video of two cats being suffocated in a vacuum bag, the internet sleuths start a Facebook group and examine every frame of the video to locate the culprit. Their search eventually led them to the province of Ontario in Canada and to one Luka Magnotta. What followed was a cat-and-mouse game as more videos appeared online.
It was very easy to see how entertaining this was for Luka as he reportedly had over 70 different Facebook profiles and may have infiltrated the group investigating him. Unfortunately, the amateur detectives couldn’t get the attention of the police before it was too late. In May 2012, internet sleuths woke up to a new video on the internet. This time the video was not of cats, but of a young man being murdered and dismembered.
The remainder of this three-episode docuseries will take viewers from Toronto to Montreal to Berlin as the hunt for Magnotta intensifies. Did the internet sleuths fuel Magnotta’s narcissistic personality or could he have gone so far? You do not want to miss this.
November 13: Attack on Paris
November 13: Attack on Parisis another 3-episode docu-series that premiered on Netflix in June 2018. Directed by the brothers Gédéon and Jules Naudet, this French show depicts the terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 that left 130 dead and hundreds injured. This 3-hour show is packed with interviews and testimonials from survivors, first responders, the mayor of Paris and the French president at the time of the attacks.
It all started on Friday, November 13 in Paris when three suicide bombers went off outside the Stade de France after being denied entry during an international football match. After this, another group then fired at busy cafes and restaurants, leading to more confusion for first responders as calls came in from all over the city. Finally, the terrorists carried out another mass shooting at a rock concert attended by 1,500 people, holding hostages during a confrontation with police. The terrorists killed 130 people, 90 of them at the rock concert, and injured 416 (100 in critical condition).
This show tragically depicts the events of that night as real 9-1-1 calls and first responders’ responses to arriving at the scene of the crimes are mixed. It also includes testimonials from survivors of each attack, but in the last two episodes focuses mainly on the events at the Bataclan Theater where the rock concert was held. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to begin to understand what all these people went through and had to endure mentally to survive. Add this to your list right away.
Make a killer
Created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, Make a killercame out in December 2015 and won 4 Primetime Emmys. After the stunning success that arguably paved the way for true crime docuseries on Netflix, a second season was ordered and came out in October 2018. This show chronicles the story of Steven Avery, who served 18 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen. After he was released and sued the province of Manitowoc for wrongful incarceration, he was charged again and convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach.
This absolutely compelling story begins in 1985, as Season 1 takes a closer look at his arrest and conviction, followed by his eventual release in 2003. Following his civil trial and a new conviction in 2007, the first season digs into the arrest of Avery’s cousin , Brendan Dassey, because he is being charged with coercion. Netflix kept viewers on their toes for 3 years and finally released season 2, which delves into the wake of both Avery’s and Dassey’s beliefs. It investigates their families and the findings of Avery’s attorney proving his innocence and that he was charged with Halbach’s murder. Meanwhile, Dassey allege his first confession was forced by prosecutors and his rights were violated.
Years later still hotly debated, Make a killershows that sometimes some of the best true crime stories aren’t the ones that make national headlines. Whether you believe Avery’s innocence or not, this show excels at showing the flaws of the justice system and the danger of violations by authority figures. You’re not a real crime junkie if you haven’t seen this.
when they see us
Creator Ava DuVernay (Selma) Netflix brings this four-part miniseries about Central Park 5 from 1989. Winner of 2 Primetime Emmys, this series has a great cast, complemented by the likes of John Leguizamo (Waco, Bloodline) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) in supporting roles. when they see usdoes an amazing job portraying the lives of the five black male suspects falsely accused and accused of raping and assaulting a white woman in Central Park.
Using racial prejudice, discrimination, false evidence and violence, the New York Police Force forced these 5 youths to confess to the rape. While four of the youths served 6-7 years, Korey Wise, who was 16 at the time, was tried as an adult and served 13 years. It’s truly devastating to see them interrogated for hours without parents or lawyers, only to be forced to admit a crime they didn’t commit and then go through the struggle of rehabilitation after being released in their twenties.
Although only four episodes, when they see usis a very difficult show to watch because it is so heartbreaking, moving and doesn’t back down when it faces the truth. Every actor, old or young, is at the top of their game, especially Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome who portrays Wise as a 16-year-old right up to his release in his twenties. Get the tissues ready while you put these on, a must see show.
If you’ve come this far (thank you!), you’ve already read about Pablo Escobar and the Narcosspin-off set in Mexico, so I’ll keep it short. Wagner Moura (Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) does a fantastic job portraying Pablo Escobar while Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian) and Boyd Holbrook (Logan, the predator) round out the amazing cast as DEA agents Javier Peña and Steve Murphy. While Escobar is fairly well documented at this point, watching his rise and fall has never been more captivating than in Narcos.
What sets this show above the rest is that it still maintains the quality in season 3 even after the fall of Pablo Escobar. It is arguably one of the least documented parts of his life, the legacy he left behind. After his death, business continues to thrive for the Cali cartel, but they struggle as they fight in their path from within to legitimize their activities.
Being filmed on location in Colombia adds to the show’s authenticity, but what sets this apart is the incredible writing and acting. Self-contained and full of tension Narcoswill keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch everything happen before your very eyes. This story is so crazy it’s hard to believe it’s all real.
Topics: Netflix, True Crime