With so much available on Netflix these days, some of the most captivating TV comes from true crime shows. If you haven’t watched all the shows on this list you’re missing on some great TV. Before we get started, here are a few shows that didn’t quite make the list; honorable mentions to Manhunt, Real Detective, The Innocence Files, Cocaine Coast and The Staircase.
Dirty Money isn’t your typical crime docuseries. 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 tackles what Point Comfort, TX went through in its fight with toxic chemicals as well as taking us to Malaysia in order to discuss their 6th Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who left the country in debt due to his massive loans and big parties.
Dirty Money even goes as 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 dollars worth of maple syrup was stolen from a storage facility in Quebec. What ensues is a race to track down the ringleaders and the stolen syrup traveling in unmarked barrels.
If it doesn’t sound right for you yet, I encourage you to check out the episodes titled Drug Short and also Guardians, Inc. Drug Short is season 1’s third episode and uncovers the disgusting inflation of life-saving drugs made by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Exposed by Wall Street short-sellers, this episode will leave you shaking your head. On a more heartbreaking note, Guardians, Inc (Season 2 Episode 5), will leave you deeply sadden when shown all the laws being abused that are meant to protect the elderly community leaving many poor and vulnerable. There are no third season currently in the works, but we can still hope.
The Keepers is a 7 part docuseries directed by Ryan White which came out in 2017. The series surrounds the unsolved 1969 murder of Catherine Cesnik who was a nun teaching English and drama classes at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore. On November 7 1969, sister Cathy was reported missing after a day of running errands. Her body was found nearly two months later by a pair of hunters near a landfill on January 3 1970. An autopsy revealed that she passed away from brain bleed caused by a blunt object fracturing her skull.
In the five decades following the murder, a history of sexual abuse and sex trafficking is exposed involving many members of the church and school. With many survivors coming forward with their stories, it comes to light that Sister Cathy might have been the only one at the school who genuinely tried to help the abused girls. Was she silenced for what she found out? Was the murderer another member of the school? Who killed sister Cathy?
If you haven’t yet, binge this show as soon as you can. It is gripping, heartbreaking and absolutely well researched. Give this a watch if you love pure true crime docuseries.
Pablo Escobar, el patrón del mal
Drugs, murders & soap opera. 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 on Netflix with English subtitles, follows notorious 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 that Narcos did not.
Still not sold? Alright, do you like the show Narcos? Have you ever thought, what would Narcos be like if the craziness factor was turned up 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 Pablo Escobar’s life and will be quoting “Plata o Plomo” for weeks to come.
Andrés Parra is as fantastic as you can imagine as a soap opera version of Pablo Escobar. He tackles Escobar focus on being a good husband, a good citizen of Colombia and his struggle to mix politics and giving back to the poor while himself remaining wealthy. Pablo Escobar the “bandido” is the ultimate real life anti-hero and the fact that his story still fascinates people almost 30 years later goes to show the impact of his crimes and ploys through the years. Watching Escobar building his empire from the ground up to then lose everything so suddenly has never been more satisfying to watch them in those 74 episodes on Netflix (Yes! 74!).
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
Another classic pure true crime docuseries, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandezexplores the tragic death of an 8 year old who was victim of horrific abuse by the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend. This show tackles not only this 2013 trial but also dives into how the system failed Gabriel when he needed it to protect him. This is a very difficult show to watch but one that is nonetheless very important to.
Brian Knappenberger dives into this story which starts in 2012 when Pearl Fernandez (biological mother of Gabriel) was given custody of Gabriel against the concerns voiced from her own family whom were taking care of him at the time. She was reportedly very negligent and along with her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were supposedly doing it only for the welfare checks. What followed was a cycle of abuse and torture ranging from eating his own vomit to broken bones or forced to sleep in a small cupboard. This lasted for about 6 months and came to an end on May 22nd 2013 when Pearl Fernandez called 9-1-1 due to her son Gabriel not breathing. Gabriel was found beaten and later declared brain dead. He died two days later at eight years old and the autopsy revealed he died of blunt force trauma along with malnutrition.
This show does a great job tackling the subsequent responses from the media and government in handling the complete failure of the social service system in dealing with the case of Gabriel Fernandez. This may not be as binge worthy as other shows on this list due to its very heavy subject but nonetheless it is a must watch. You may want to sneak in a few episodes of The Office or Friendsin between viewings if you need to balance out the tone.
Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country is a 6 part docuseries from brothers Mark Duplass (The Morning Show, The League) and Jay Duplass (Transparent) which came out in March of 2018. The show delves into the life of controversial Indian Guru Osho, his assistant Sheela and their community of followers who created their Utopia city in the middle of Oregon, US.
Osho’s movement starts in India in 1968. At the time Osho would fill up stadiums with 30 thousand followers to speak of spirituality, sexuality and socialism. In 1981 as he grows exponentially, he starts to find some political resistance within India so he decides to buy 80,000 acres of land in a small town by the name of Antelope in Oregon. It didn’t take very long for the movement to come at blow with the local residents and government.
This might not sound like it belongs on this list just yet but it doesn’t take long for this story to turn ugly. What started with simple legal battles around the construction of the community’s ashram, quickly developed into serious crimes like a mass food poisoning attack and an assassination plot against U.S. Attorney Charles H. Turner. This show will simply leave you guessing and wanting more.
Unbelievable,which came out on Netflix September 2019, is a true crime miniseries consisting of 8 episodes. Starring Toni Collette (Hereditary, Little Miss Sunshine), Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie, Godless) & Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), this 4 time Emmy nominated series covers 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 was raped. After a series of long interrogations by two detectives lacking empathy, Marie ends up saying that her report was false which leads to her being charged with gross misdemeanor for making a false report.
Meanwhile in Colorado, two detectives (Collette & Wever) investigate a serial rapist who is known to have raped four women as well as a fifth attempted rape. The show intertwines both the search for the rapist by the two detectives while showing the traumatic aftermath of Marie’s rape whilst not being believed by anyone around her. Regardless of all the similarities between Marie’s story and the Colorado survivors, she still faces a lot of backlash from the police, her friends and her previous foster family.
This show is a must watch and thanks to the incredible acting by all three main actresses it makes this one of the best shows of 2019. Unbelievable is a compelling story that shows the harsh reality that survivors of sexual assault have to go through to fight for themselves when the system doesn’t believe them. It adds empathy to a story that sadly lacked it when it mattered most.
Intended to be the fourth season of Narcos, Narcos: Mexico premiered on Netflix November 2018. Following its success, a second season came out in February of 2020 and now a third season is in the works. Starring Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Crash), Diego Luna (Rogue One) and the underrated Scoot McNairy (True Detective, Godless), this show covers the growth of Mexico’s illegal drug trade.
It all begins in the 1980s at a time when marijuana was dealt by small independent and disorganized growers which lead to Miguel Gallardo (Luna) seizing an opportunity. This lead to the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel which specialized in shipping cocaine and marijuana to the United States. Through most of the 80s, they maintained controlled of the trafficking of drugs in the corridors between the Mexico-United States border by using extortion, torture and political corruption. The show also follows DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Peña) and Walt Breslin (McNairy) in their efforts to bring down Gallardo.
Narcos: Mexico follows the quality of its predecessor and offers great performances by all lead actors. Although this show can feel a bit slow at times, it always picks it up for the seasons’ final episodes. If you are a fan of the original Narcos, you will be hooked right away by this series as it maintains the same style and class while shifting his focus from Colombia to Mexico.
Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
This Netflix true crime docuseries was directed by Mark Lewis (Surviving Disaster) and released in December 2019. The series follows a group of internet sleuths who dive into an amateur investigation after videos depicting animal cruelty acts are posted online. Following a video of two cats being suffocated inside a vacuum seal bag, the internet sleuths start a Facebook group and examine every single frame of the video in order to locate the perpetrator. Their search eventually led them to the province of Ontario in Canada and to one Luka Magnotta. What followed was a game of cat and mouse as more videos surfaced online.
It was very easy to see how entertaining this was for Luka as he was reported to have over 70 different Facebook profiles and had potentially infiltrated the very group investigating him. Unfortunately, the amateur investigators were unable to get the attention of the police before it was too late. In May 2012, the 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 rest of this three episodes long docuseries will take the viewer from Toronto to Montreal to Berlin as the chase for Magnotta intensifies. Did the internet sleuths fuel Magnotta’s narcissistic personality or would he have gone that far regardless? You won’t want to miss this.
November 13: Attack on Paris
November 13: Attack on Paris is another 3 episodes docu-series that came out in June 2018 on Netflix. This French show is directed by brothers Gédéon and Jules Naudet and depicts the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks that left 130 dead and hundreds more injured. This 3 hour show is full of interviews and testimonies from survivors, first responders, the mayor of Paris and the French President at the time of the attacks.
This all began on Friday November 13 in Paris when three suicide bombers went off outside the Stade de France after being denied access in during an international football match. Following this, another group then fired at busy cafés and restaurants which led to more confusion for first responders as calls came in from all across the city. Lastly, the terrorists carried out another mass shooting at a rock concert attended by 1500 people in which they held hostages during a stand-off with police. The terrorists killed 130 people, 90 of which at the rock concert, along with 416 injured (100 in critical condition).
This show tragically portrays the events of that night while mixing in real 9-1-1 calls and first responders’ reactions to arriving on the scene of the crimes. It also has testimonies from survivors of each attacks but mainly focuses, in the final two episodes, on the events inside the Bataclan theater where the rock concert was held. It is absolutely heartbreaking to begin to understand what all these people went through and had to endure mentally in order to survive. Add this to your list right away.
Making a Murderer
Created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, Making a Murderercame out in December, 2015 winning 4 Primetime Emmys in the process. Following the staggering success which arguably paved the way for true crime docuseries on Netflix, a second season was ordered and came out in October, 2018. This show details 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 being released and suing the Manitowoc County for wrongful imprisonment, he was once again charged and convicted this time for the murder of Teresa Halbach.
This absolutely riveting story starts off in 1985 as season 1 takes a look at his arrest and conviction which it then follows up with his eventual release in 2003. After his civil lawsuit and a 2007 new conviction, the first season digs into the arrest of Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, as he is accused of coercion. Keeping viewers on their toes for 3 years, Netflix finally released season 2 which dives into the aftermath of both Avery’s and Dassey’s convictions. It explores their families and the finding’s made by Avery’s attorney that prove his innocence and that he was framed for the murder of Halbach. Meanwhile, Dassey’s claims that his initial confession was coerced by prosecutors and that his rights were violated.
Still heavily debated years later, Making a Murderer goes to show that some of the best true crime stories are sometimes not the ones that make National headlines. Whether you believe Avery’s innocence or not this show shines in showing the failures of the legal system and the danger of violations made by authority figures. You’re not a true crime junkie if you haven’t watched this.
When They See Us
Creator Ava DuVernay (Selma) brings to Netflix this four part miniseries about the 1989 Central Park 5. Winner of 2 Primetime Emmys, this series has an all around amazing cast rounded out by the likes of John Leguizamo (Waco, Bloodline) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) in supporting roles. When They See Us does a great job at portraying the lives of the five black male suspects falsely accused and charged with rape along with assault of a white woman in Central Park.
Using racial bias, discrimination, false evidence and violence, New York City police coerced these 5 youths to make confessions to the rape. While four of the juveniles served 6-7 years, Korey Wise, who was 16 at the time, was trialed as an adult and served 13 years. It is truly devastating to watch them go through hours of interrogations without parents or lawyers present, to then be forced to admit to a crime they didn’t commit and then go through the struggles of rehabilitating after being released in their twenties.
Although only four episodes, When They See Usis a very hard show to binge watch as it is so gut wrenching, moving and doesn’t flinch when confronting the truth. Every actor, old or young, are at the top of their game especially Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome who portrays Wise as a 16 year old all the way to his release in his late twenties. Prepare the tissues as you put on this must watch show.
If you’ve made it this far (thank you!), you’ve already read about Pablo Escobar and the Narcos spinoff set in Mexico so I will keep this 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 great cast as DEA agents Javier Peña and Steve Murphy. Even though, Escobar is pretty well documented at this point, watching his rise and downfall has never been more captivating than it is in Narcos.
What sets this show above the rest, is that it still keeps the quality going in season 3 even after the fall of Pablo Escobar. It covers arguably one of the least documented part of his life which is the legacy he left behind. Following his death, business is still booming for the Cali Cartel yet they struggle as they fight from within on their path to legitimize their operations.
Being filmed on location in Colombia adds to the authenticity of the show but what sets this apart is the incredible writing and acting. Self-contained and full of suspense Narcos will keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch everything unfold in front of your eyes. This story is so crazy that it is almost impossible to believe that all of it is real.