Is there any entertainment force more seemingly unstoppable than true crime? Humanity’s most dastardly deeds have fascinated audiences for centuries. And in the modern age, the streaming wars and social media are feeding, accelerating, and encouraging that fixation at an unprecedented scale and rate. The result is an unending cycle of notorious crimes revisited via documentary that’s punctuated by real-time internet clips showing everything from minor fights in grocery stores to homicides carried out by police.
As the world gets darker, many TV and movie lovers have turned their attention to this increasingly macabre subject matter to simultaneously distract themselves from the news and lean into the fraught reality of narratives considering real crimes. From podcasts and documentaries to prestige dramas and sitcoms lampooning the genre, true crime is everywhere. Learning about its most frequented subject areas — corrupt police, biased justice systems, unreliable evidence, and the like — is a worthwhile endeavor that can help you better navigate our changing society. But sometimes, the genre seems so saturated that it’s hard to know where to start.
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To help you wade through the muck of the true-crime landscape, IndieWire writers are showing you the best of the best. Looking through the various true crime movies and shows you can access now via Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix, we’ve chosen some of the best true crime offerings currently streaming (with plans to come back and give you more to explore at a later date). All of these shows or straight-to-streaming documentaries captivated audiences’ attention when they debuted; asked serious questions about the nature of crime investigation; and, more importantly, how those investigations are shown to audiences.
Our list includes a combination of documentaries and scripted shows based on true stories, ranging from the legendary “Unsolved Mysteries” and “The First 58” to newer dramatizations like “The Girl from Plainville” and “The Staircase.” There’s something for everyone, with an emphasis on storytelling first and crime second. The following list is organized alphabetically.
With editorial contributions by Kristen Lopez, Christian Zilko, and Latifah Muhammad. [Editor’s note: This list was first published in May 2021 and has been updated multiple times since.]
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