The 14 Best True Crime Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now

Patricia Logan in Netflix's Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021).
Patricia Logan in Netflix's Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021). / Netflix ©2021

Is the true crime genre going anywhere? Probably not. Since Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line premiered in 1988 and helped free an innocent man accused of murder, filmmakers and viewers alike have developed a bottomless appetite for movies (and gifts for true crime fans) based on stories that shed light on the darker sides of the human condition. Check out some of the best true crime documentaries you can stream right now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other platforms.

1. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021)

How far would you go to secure your child's future? That's the question posed by this documentary that examines how the rich and famous (including Full House star Lori Loughlin) used their influence rather than grades to make a bid for their kids' college hopes.

Watch it: Netflix

2. Baby God (2020)

In the mid-20th-century, fertility specialist Dr. Quincy Fortier “helped” women struggling to conceive by injecting them with his own sperm, unbeknownst to them. Baby God chronicles how it happened through the eyes of the mothers and their children (some two dozen confirmed, with probably more who still don’t know), who find out the truth decades later.

Watch it: HBO Max

3. Untouchable: The Inside Story of the Harvey Weinstein Scandal (2019)

The rise and fall of Hollywood power player Harvey Weinstein is detailed in this documentary, which breaks down how the influential movie mogul managed to evade consequences for his abusive behavior until his victims began fighting back.

Watch it: Hulu

4. I Love You, Now Die (2019)

Teenagers in love Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy nourished their long-distance relationship via text messaging. But as Conrad’s moods grew darker, Michelle believed the best way to help her boyfriend would be to encourage him to take his own life. That dynamic sets the stage for a dramatic trial in Massachusetts that asks whether it's possible to be responsible for taking someone’s life via text.

Watch it: HBO Max

5. Tread (2019)

Using interviews, reenactments, and even original audio tapes, this documentary chronicles the meltdown of mechanic Marvin Heemeyer, a man who got so fed up with red tape in his small Colorado town that he took matters into his own hands. Building a nearly-indestructible bulldozer, he exacted revenge against those he believed had wronged him.

Watch it: Netflix

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6. Frank Serpico (2017)

An honest cop among thieves in late 1960s and early 1970s New York, Frank Serpico helped bring down corrupt officers and inspired the 1973 film Serpico starring Al Pacino. This film goes inside the mind of the man who made sure justice was being served—even at the risk of his own life.

Watch it: Hulu

7. Strong Island (2017)

In 1992, William Ford Jr., a 24-year-old Black high school teacher, was shot and killed by a white mechanic in a Long Island auto body shop. The mechanic claimed self-defense, and a grand jury decided not to charge him with murder—forcing Ford Jr.’s family to grieve without any hope of justice. Strong Island, directed by Ford Jr.’s brother, Yance Ford, is a detailed and personal investigation of racism’s role in the crime and the failure of the criminal justice system to acknowledge it as a crime: The jury was all white. “Initially, I thought that the question was going to be, ‘What happened?’ But when I realized the answer to that question is easily arrived at, instead the question became, ‘Why?’” Ford told People.

Watch it: Netflix

8. Out of Thin Air (2017)

In 1974, two men in Iceland disappeared. A police investigation led to six men, who were all eventually sent to prison after confessing to murder. Decades later, new evidence casts doubt on their version of events—and whether they killed anyone at all.

Watch it: Netflix

9. Long Shot (2017)

Though it’s more of a short film than a feature, this examination of Juan Catalan’s fight to be recognized as innocent of committing murder is notable for his attorney’s methodology: Catalan couldn’t have done it because he was at a baseball game. How they go about proving that turns into one of the biggest left-field twists you’re ever likely to see.

Watch it: Netflix

10. White Boy (2017)

In the 1980s, teenager Richard Wershe Jr. was recruited by federal agents to be an informant for the drug trafficking scene in Detroit. But when the FBI got what they wanted, they took "White Boy Rick" for a ride. This captivating account of Wershe's bid for freedom after decades in prison is as infuriating as it is compelling.

Watch it: Netflix

11. Icarus (2017)

Amateur cyclist and filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s original premise for a documentary was interesting enough: He’d start taking performance-enhancing drugs and document his journey to compete in an amateur cycling race. That way, he could find out exactly what Lance Armstrong and other dopers had actually been doing behind the scenes. But the expert Fogel chose to inform and oversee his doping process was Grigory Rodchenkov—the head of Moscow’s Anti-Doping Center—who, right in the middle of the project, got outed as the mastermind behind Russia’s own doping scandal. As Rodchenkov turns whistleblower, Fogel becomes his advocate, and viewers get to watch the story of one of the biggest scandals in Olympic history unfold in real time.

Watch it: Netflix

12. Amanda Knox (2016)

College student Amanda Knox grabbed headlines in 2007 and beyond when her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was found dead in the apartment the two shared in Italy. What follows is a grueling path through an often-impenetrable Italian justice system.

Watch it: Netflix

13. Dream/Killer (2015)

Bill Ferguson lived every parent's worst nightmare: In 2005, his son Ryan was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder. But the elder Ferguson is convinced Ryan is innocent, setting off an unlikely chain of events that will test the foundation of the judicial system in America.

Watch it: Netflix

14. Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop (2015)

In 2012, (now former) NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was arrested for conspiracy to commit kidnapping after his wife discovered that he’d been fantasizing about kidnap, murder, and cannibalism in online chat rooms. Valle, better known by his media-given nickname “The Cannibal Cop,” became the face of one of the most difficult questions a jury must answer: At what point does fantasy become criminal intent? Thought Crimes lets you form your own answer.

Watch it: HBO Max

A version of this story originally ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2022.