As host of the True Crime & Chill podcast and a self-professed fan of crime documentaries in general, people typically send a number of recommendations from that genre my way. Between the different television shows, documentaries and docuseries, I feel like all I do lately is watch true crime related programming (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I'm not sure just how many hours I've spent watching all of this content for sure, but I'd have to assume that it's easily over 100. If you listen to my show, you'll know that I love true crime topics and researching all of these different cases. Watching these documentaries has made me aware of several cases that I was previously unfamiliar with, a primary example being 2020's much beloved Tiger King. So, out of all the true crime content I've consumed over the years, I've compiled my ten favorite documentaries and series (in no particular order). Of course, it's important to note that this list is subject to change as I come across new shows.
1. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (Netflix)
Directed by Brian Knappenberger, this six-part Netflix original docuseries covers the horrifying details of Gabriel Fernandez’s murder, along with the sequence of events as his mother and her boyfriend are tried for their roles in his death. Before you watch this series, I must give you fair warning that the details of the case are very unsettling. However, the beauty of it is in the details; as disturbing as this case is, each episode takes you through the tribulations of Gabriel’s home life in great detail and shows you how horrific other family members and former teachers perceived it to be. I highly encourage everyone to watch this series, as you'll quickly understand how Gabriel’s death could have been prevented. Also, if you're interested, one of our previous True Crime & Chill episodes was spent covering Gabriel's case and others that were similar.
2. Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (Netflix)
Directed by Daniel H. Birman, this Netflix original documentary takes viewers through the trial and life of Cyntoia Brown, who was charged with killing Johnny Michael Allen in 2004. The main reason why I love this documentary is how much information it packs in, along with how it communicates just how unfair Cyntoia’s sentence was. Before watching this doc, I learned about Cyntoia’s case through Kim Kardashian (yes, that Kim Kardashian), who advocated for both Cyntoia’s sentence to be reexamined and for her to be granted clemency. If you don’t enjoy reading articles or just simply prefer documentaries, I believe that this one does a wonderful job explaining the finer details of the case in greater depth.
3. Team Foxcatcher (Netflix)
This is, by far, one of my favorite docs. Directed by Jon Greenhalgh, this Netflix original documentary takes you through the life of John du Pont and the 1996 murder of U.S. Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. I love this program and the case it covers for many reasons: it’s bizarre, carries psychological elements and has palpable emotion that you can feel while watching/reading about it. Personally, anytime I watch this documentary, I always feel uncomfortable witnessing John du Pont work with these Olympic wrestlers. John du Pont was an nonathletic millionaire who wanted to "help" local wrestlers train on his Foxcatcher team in hopes to earn Olympic gold for himself someday. Several members from team Foxcatcher and Dave Schultz’s family are interviewed about their experiences with du Pont's work with the team. If you watch this documentary and want to learn more about the case, I highly suggest watching both ESPN’s 30-for-30 The Prince of Pennsylvania and the 2014 Academy Award nominated film Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum.
4. Don’t F--k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (Netflix)
This 3-part Netflix original documentary series, directed by Mark Lewis, is truly outstanding. This doc takes you through the case of Luka Magnotta, as a small Facebook group tries to hunt down this vicious animal killer through social media. One of the reasons why I love this docuseries was the way it displays the level of detail and dedication this Facebook group takes to track down and prevent an animal killer from resorting to kill humans. To me, it’s incredible how they examine videos frame-by-frame to help discover new details to find Luka Magnotta. I also love the psychological elements presented, as the viewer is taught how someone who abuses animals is prone to later becoming a serial killer. Originally, I didn’t want to watch this docuseries, mainly because I thought it was all about cats. Don't get me wrong, I love cats, but I wasn't that interested in a crime doc about them. However, I learned my lesson to not judge a book by it’s cover and I'm glad I was wrong; this series is great!
5. Mommy Dead and Dearest (HBO)
Directed by Erin Lee Carr, this HBO documentary is pretty phenomenal, plain and simple. As crazy and mind-boggling as the Gyspy Rose Blachard case is, this program does a great job piecing it together for the viewers. I was interested in this case and enjoyed the documentary because it provides a great visual example of Munchausen syndrome by Proxy. Although Dee Dee Blanchard was never formally diagnosed, it's strongly believed that she had displayed the traits associated with Munchausen syndrome. If you're as interested in this crazy case as I am, I also strongly encourage you to watch Hulu’s original series The Act. I discussed the Gypse Rose/Dee Dee Blanchard case on episode one of True Crime & Chill.
6. Killer Women with Piers Morgan (Netflix)
This was an odd pick for me, as I'm not the biggest fan of Piers Morgan. However, I absolutely loved this documentary. Directed by Stuart Cabb, this Netflix original series takes its viewers through various interviews over the course of 2 seasons, as Piers meets with several women who were handed life prison sentences. There are some insanely fascinating cases covered, including one involving Amber Wright and the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Seath Jackson. I've already recommended this series to several people before writing this post, that’s how great I think it is. The episodes aren’t very long, but they definitely leave you wanting to know more.
7. There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (HBO)
Like some of the other docs included on this list, I stumbled across this one because I had nothing else to watch at the time. I’m truly glad to have found it, though, because this case is unbelievably compelling. Directed by Liz Garbus, this HBO documentary tells the story of Diane Schuler. It was a tragic case that saw Diane and 7 others die in a car accident, as she drove her van down the wrong side of the highway and collided with an SUV. I vaguely remember this case from back in 2009, but this doc does a great job explaining the case in greater detail. We also see the life and struggles of Diane Schuller and what may have caused this wrong-way car accident, which cost her and several others their lives. This documentary is informative and well-detailed and definitely deserving of your attention.
8. Beware the Slenderman (HBO)
Because I lived in nearby Illinois at the time of this case (it took place in Wisconsin), I took an immediate interest in it from the get-go. Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, this HBO documentary takes viewers through the story of the Slenderman stabbings by Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser. Like Don’t F--k With Cats, this doc contained a psychological element that I really took to, as it describes how Anissa and Morgan's parents coped with each of their diagnosed mental illness. This series also did a fantastic job describing the negative daily impact that social media can have, along with the cult phenomenon that is Slenderman. If you’re interested, I discussed this case on our Killer Teens episode of True Crime & Chill.
9. Wild, Wild, Country (Netflix)
This case is wildly (no pun intended) fascinating. Directed by Maclain and Chapman Way, this Netflix original docuseries takes you through the controversial Indian guru, Rajneesh, and his community of followers in Oregon. I loved this series and genuinely couldn’t take my eyes off of it. If you're interested in the well-documented story of Jim Jones and Jonestown, then I think you'll find this case to be quite similar and equally as thrilling.
10. Abducted in Plain Sight (Netflix)
If you want a true crime documentary that'll absolutely leave you speechless, this is it. Directed by Skye Borgman, this Netflix original documentary details the case of the repeated kidnappings of Jane Broberg Felt back in the 1970's. Throughout the entirety of this doc, I'm pretty sure that I lost count of how many times I said "what the F" to myself. Jane Broberg Felt wasn't kidnapped just once, but multiple times...by the same guy! The details of this case were both horrifying and confusing, but that just adds to the fascination of this documentary. I strongly encourage you to watch and see just how brutally this family fails their daughter.
Honorable Mention - Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
I'll warn you ahead of time: this documentary is pretty heart wrenching. Directed by Kurt Kuenne, this doc takes you through the murder of Kuenne's best friend by his ex-girlfriend. Following her arrest, this woman further complicated things by announcing she was pregnant with Andrew’s child, Zachary. I stumbled upon this documentary when I had nothing to watch; after finishing it, I needed to grab a tissue (it's because there was dust in my eye, I swear). Nonetheless, I loved this lesser known doc and highly recommend it. As of right now, this documentary is not on any streaming platform, but if you can find it, please watch it!