Best True Crime
Warner Bros.

WHAT IS IT about the true crime genre that attracts viewers like no other? It would appear that, at our basest level, humans are fundamentally drawn to stories of the morbid and macabre that expose society’s dark underbelly. But even still, there’s something about a story being real that adds a level of intrigue no work of fiction could ever match. Perhaps it’s the feeling that, deep down, we know there’s a chance that we could be the victims in our own true crime stories someday.

Moving on after a brief pause for you to shudder. True crime has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Originally most popular in the form of a novel, true crime has evolved to include television series, documentaries, films and even podcasts, where a little bit of production magic can turn a rather dry news report into a gripping story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and your eyes glued to the screen.

Fans of true crime are currently spoilt for choice, with highly anticipated new films, series’ and documentaries releasing nearly every week. The result is a fairly crowded viewing space, with so many options on the table it can be difficult to discern which deserve your valuable time. To ensure you only consume the best of the best, we’ve rounded up the pinnacle of the genre and are ranking them from 10-1.

What are the best true crime movies?

10. Amanda Knox

Best True Crime
Netflix

Amanda Knox is a documentary film chronicling the murder of the eponymous Knox’s roommate and the subsequent processes of investigation, trial and appeal which ultimately saw Knox convicted for the murder and spend four years in prison before she was acquitted. The film features interviews with Knox herself, as well as her ex-boyfriend, an Italian prosecutor, and a reporter who witnessed first hand the notoriety Knox gained as a result of sensationalist tabloid journalism.

9. Summer of Sam

While the figures at the heart of Summer of Sam are fictional, a real-life serial killer is central to the story. An early work of Spike Lee, Summer of Sam is set in the summer of 1977, during which David Berkowitz (more commonly known as Son of Sam) carried out a string of deadly shootings in New York City. Rather than focus on Berkowitz, the film follows the effect of his killings on a group of fictional Bronx denizens who live in growing distrust of each other. Spike Lee is known for his unconventional approach to storytelling, and Summer of Sam is a prime example of it. Side note: we didn’t know we needed Adrien Brody as a punk rocker until we saw this film.

8. Lost Girls

Best True Crime
Netflix

Revolving around the murders of 11 young women on Long Island from 1996-2011, Lost Girls stars Amy Ryan as Mari Gilbert, the real-life mother of a woman who was found dead in the area. After leading an independent investigation into her daughter’s disappearance, Gilbert uncovers a wider series of potentially connected murders. The ‘Long Island serial killer’ is yet to be formally identified, as many of the deaths and disappearances remain unsolved, but a suspect was charged with four of the murders in 2023.

7. Bonnie and Clyde

Best True Crime
Warner Bros.

Bonnie and Clyde might just be the most influential film in Hollywood history as the kick-starter of the Hollywood renaissance and the first American film to openly address overtly sexual and criminal themes without being met with censorship and widespread moral objection from viewers. Such is the singular, genre-defining nature of the film that its fame nearly equals that of its subjects. The real Bonnie and Clyde need no introduction as some of the world’s most prolific modern bandits, and the film does their story justice – right up to its inevitable, bloody conclusion.

6. Memories of Murder

Best True Crime
CJ Entertainment

Before he rose to international recognition for helming Best Picture winner Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho crafted this masterpiece of a murder mystery. Memories of Murder follows two detectives – one, a local cop unaccustomed to important cases, the other a forensically-trained investigator from Seoul unfamiliar with small-town customs. The pair come to realise they’re in over their heads while trying to catch South Korea’s first ever serial killer.

5. Killers of the Flower Moon

Best True Crime
Apple TV+

Based on David Grann’s 2017 book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon illuminates the mysterious murders of members of the Osage Nation shortly after oil was discovered on the tribe’s land in Oklahoma during the 1920s. Following the inability of law enforcement and private detective agencies to uncover the perpetrators of the crimes, federal investigators were dispatched. The ensuing events uncovered a series of sinister plots and were crucial in the establishment of the FBI. Some detractors may have panned the film for it’s 3-hour+ runtime, but few true crime stories get the Scorsese treatment. So settle in for a slow burn of a film that was widely praised and received ten Oscar nominations (but no wins!).

4. In Cold Blood

Based upon Truman Capote’s monumental non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood tells the true story of the quadruple murder of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. Capote’s work is frequently considered the archetype of true crime, laying the groundwork for the genre as we know it today. The film has been similarly influential as one of the first examples of new realism as it captures the cold-blooded nature of its pair of antagonists with little restraint.

3. Badlands

Best True Crime
Warner Bros.

Terrence Malick’s visually stunning debut feature film frames its inspiration with poetic substance. Badlands follows a 15-year-old boy who goes on a killing spree with his girlfriend in the American Mid-West, focusing on the incendiary themes of love and death while playing out against the backdrop of Midwestern banality. The film is loosely based on a similar string of murders carried out by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958.

2. JFK

Warner Bros.

As far as the United States government is concerned, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a closed case, with Lee Harvey Oswald dead to rights as the president’s murderer. But Oliver Stone’s JFK might make you think otherwise. A conspiracy thriller, JFK follows Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, a district attorney who opens his own investigation into the assassination as he becomes increasingly convinced there were other forces at play – watching this film, it’s difficult not to feel the same way.

1. Zodiac

Best True Crime
Warner Bros.

Only David Fincher could turn what is essentially a nearly three hour long crime procedural that could very well have been a documentary into (in our esteemed opinion) the most gripping true crime film of all time. Impeccably shot and intensely well-researched, Zodiac utilises exacting attention to detail to document a series of attempts to unmask the infamous Zodiac killer, ultimately revealing something larger about the nature of crime and mystery itself.

What are the best true crime shows?

10. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Netflix

Focusing on one of the world’s most notorious serial killers, the first edition of Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer docuseries pieces together archival footage and more than 100 hours of audio recordings. Most of the material was captured during Bundy’s time on death row, and the docuseries offers a unique perspective inside the mind of a serial killer reflecting on his own motives and life choices.

9. The Ripper

Netflix

No, The Ripper isn’t about the Ripper you’re probably thinking of – that being Jack the ripper. It follows another ripper, the Yorkshire ripper, who terrorised northern England during the 1970s. The four-part docuseries recounts the Yorkshire ripper’s murder of 13 women, and the subsequent investigation that led to his capture, while drawing comparisons to the original Jack the ripper.

8. The Devil Next Door

Best True Crime
Netflix

Netflix is the unchallenged king of true crime, as this is the third consecutive entry produced by the streaming giant, and it won’t be the last. The Devil Next Door follows the legal battles of John Demjanjuk, who, after living out his later years in Cleveland, was arrested and accused of being a Nazi prison camp guard known as ‘Ivan the terrible’. Originally convicted of war crimes, Demjanjuk eventually had his conviction overturned, only to be found guilty on 27,900 separate charges of accessory to murder. Demjanjuk died while his case was being appealed, so his guilt or innocence may never be proved. Although, The Devil Next Door paints a convincing picture of his culpability, featuring extensive footage from his trials, testimony from Holocaust survivors and unearthed archival footage.

7. American Nightmare

Netflix

American Nightmare covers exactly what you’d imagine, an American Nightmare that lead to one of its participants being labelled as the real-life Gone Girl. The series showcases the 2015 kidnapping of Denise Huskins, which was initially called a hoax by law enforcement and the media. Vindication was eventually achieved when a different kidnapping was connected with Huskins’, but American Nightmare is a testament to how institutional biases can influence our perceptions of crime.

6. Love & Death

Best True Crime
Binge

Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons, Love & Death is based on the true story of Candy Montgomery, a Texan housewife whose affair with a member of her church group ultimately leads to murder.

5. Unbelievable

Best True Crime
Netflix

If you’re a fan of frustrating television, you’ll love Unbelievable. The series follows a woman who is charged with a crime after making what was originally deemed a false report of rape, but later lead to the arrest of a serial rapist. The series draws from a Pulitzer-prize winning article titled ‘An Unbelievable Story of Rape’.

4. Making a Murderer

Netflix

The Making a Murderer docuseries brings to light the external factors and motivations that lead to crime, or in this case, make a murderer. The series tells the story of Steven Avery, who was wrongly convicted of sexual assault and served 18 years in prison on the charge. After being released, Avery went on to commit an actual murder – with no doubt as to his guilt the second time round.

3. Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

Best True Crime

As one of – if not the most – notorious serial killers in history, it is fitting that Jeffrey Dahmer is the subject of one of the most watched true crime series of all time, with Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story becoming Netflix’s most watched series ever just 28 days after its release. Monster chronicles some of Dahmer’s most heinous acts, largely from the perspectives of his victims.

2. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

HBO Max

This two-part docuseries focuses on convicted murderer Robert Durst, who, after seeing Andrew Jarecki’s 2010 film All Good Things, which is about him, contacted the director offering to be interviewed, despite previously refusing to cooperate with journalists. Jarecki interviewed Durst on several occasions and their recorded conversations were used in the The Jinx. A day before the first season’s finale, Durst was arrested on murder charges. It’s rare that a true crime series will have an actual, tangible impact on the real world, but The Jinx is one of the few.

1. O.J.: Made in America

Best True Crime
ESPN

O.J.: Made in America is not just the best true crime docuseries of all time, it’s frequently recognised as one of the best ever docuseries in general. Made In America examines race and celebrity through the lens of OJ Simpson’s polarising legal battle. The docuseries doesn’t only look at Simpson’s case, but the external factors like rising racial tensions that ultimately influenced its outcome. In light of Simpson’s recent death, there’s never been a better time for a retrospective rewatch.

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