15 Killer True Crime Documentaries to Stream on Netflix Right Now

Jacoba Ballard in 'Our Father' (2022).
Jacoba Ballard in 'Our Father' (2022). / Netflix © 2022

In recent years, Netflix has established itself as a prime platform for all things true crime. From recent releases to hidden gems, the streamer offers a wide variety of addicting programs. Terrorist attacks, serial killers, unsolved murders—they have everything to feed our obsession. If you need some help deciding what to watch for your next true crime binge, we’ve selected 15 of the best documentary films currently streaming on Netflix

1. Capturing the Killer Nurse (2022) 

For more than a decade, Charles Cullen worked as a nurse at several hospitals and health care facilities between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And everywhere he went, patients died at an unusual rate. It wasn’t until 2003 that his colleague and friend Amy Loughren realized what was happening and made it her mission to stop him. Netflix released this documentary shortly after dropping The Good Nurse, an original film about the case starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain. Cullen eventually admitted to murdering 40 people; while only 29 were confirmed, some people involved with the case believe the total might be much higher. Cullen’s crimes prompted New Jersey to adopt the Cullen Law, which requires health care facilities to give an honest assessment of a former employee’s skills, and any suspected problematic behavior. Pennsylvania and 35 other states soon followed suit with similar laws of their own.

2. The Anthrax Attacks (2022) 

One week after 9/11, a series of letters containing anthrax spores made their way through the U.S. postal system. Through interviews and reenactments, this documentary takes us through the events of the bioterrorism attack that came to be known as Amerithrax. Actor Clark Gregg, known for his role in the MCU as Agent Phil Coulson, plays the prime suspect and anthrax expert Dr. Bruce Ivins. 

3. Girl in the Picture (2022) 

When investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck came across a seemingly normal yet unsettling photo of a man with a little girl on his lap, he knew there was a story behind it—and he was right. Birbeck covers the shocking string of crimes tied to Franklin Delano Floyd in his two bestselling books, Finding Sharon and A Beautiful Child. Filmmaker Skye Borgman adapted Birbeck’s books into this 2022 documentary featuring the journalist as well as law enforcement and others close to the case. One part of the story the documentary does not include is that the girl referenced in the title, Suzanne Sevakis, had a 1-year-old brother, Philip, who was kidnapped along with her and her two sisters. In 2019, a man came forward claiming to be Phillip, which DNA confirmed. He had been adopted to a family in North Carolina not long after their disappearance.

4. American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020) 

In this chilling Netflix documentary, director Jenny Popplewell reexamines the tragic 2018 murders of pregnant Colorado woman Shannan Watts and her two young daughters at the hands of her husband, convicted family annihilator Chris Watts. Using police body cam recordings, home security footage, and Shannan’s own social media posts, Popplewell shows the months and weeks preceding their deaths as well as the aftermath. In the first month of the documentary’s release, it was watched by more than 50 million households, making it Netflix most-watched documentary at the time.

5. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017) 

Skye Borgman’s 2017 documentary presents the jaw-dropping story of Jan Broberg, a small-town Idaho girl who, in the 1970s, was kidnapped by her next-door neighbor—twice. An adult Broberg recounts the bizarre events surrounding the kidnappings, which are just as disturbing as the crimes themselves. Broberg later collaborated with Nick Antosca for Peacock’s A Friend of the Family, a drama series based on her story, starring Jake Lacy as Robert Berchtold.

6. Why Did You Kill Me? (2021) 

The 2006 murder of 24-year-old Crystal Theobald might have remained a mystery, had her mother Belinda Lane not conducted her own investigation via social media. Along with Crystal’s teenage cousin Jaimie McIntyre, Belinda set up a MySpace profile using pictures of her daughter to find the person or people involved in her death. The documentary digs into the catfish operation and how impersonating a deceased loved one affected her family. Director Fredrick Munk decided to recreate the crime using miniatures instead of dramatized reenactments, in order to tell the story in a factual way that wasn’t overly gratuitous or exploitative.

7. Amanda Knox (2016) 

In 2007, 20-year-old American college student Amanda Knox was studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, when she found herself convicted of the murder of fellow exchange student and roommate Meredith Kercher. This 2016 Emmy-nominated documentary examines the murder investigation, the international media obsession with the case, and the years-long legal process to free Knox. Now a mother of three, Knox has become an author, activist, and host of Vice’s The Scarlet Letter Reports, a series that covers women who have been publicly shamed in the media.

8. Operation Varsity Blues (2021) 

For seven years, Rick Singer accepted millions of dollars from wealthy parents desperate to get their children into the most prestigious universities in America. The scheme was made public in 2019, leading to the arrests of several high-profile individuals who bribed their kids’ way into college, most famously actresses Lori Loughlin (who served two months in prison) and Felicity Huffman (who was sentenced to just 14 days in the slammer). Stranger Things actor Matthew Modine stars as Singer in reenactments.

9. Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes (2021) 

Similar to Netflix’s 2019 docuseries Conversation with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes features 250 hours of never-before-heard jail cell audio recordings of infamous Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen. In the tapes, he details his life, the murders, and how he managed to evade capture for so long. David Tennant won the 2021 International Emmy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Nilsen in the limited drama series Des, which premiered less than a year before the documentary premiered. 

10. Our Father (2022) 

Our Father explores how one woman’s curiosity about her ancestry led to her discovery that she had at least 50 half-siblings, all of whom shared the same father. That man, shockingly, was Indianapolis fertility doctor Donald Cline, who, in the 1970s and 1980s, impregnated unwitting patients with his own sperm. The documentary also examines how at-home genetic genealogy testing like 23andMe has exposed several cases of fertility fraud. The terrifying real-life story is produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, which is best known for producing horror films, including Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Get Out, Halloween, and The Black Phone.

11. ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (2019) 

This installment in Netflix’s music documentary film series ReMastered celebrates the legendary musician and activist Sam Cooke. The film explores the King of Soul’s musical beginnings, his mainstream success and groundbreaking contributions to the industry, and the cultural impact he had on the civil rights movement. Tragically, the artist’s life was cut short in 1964 when he was shot and killed by a hotel manager in South Central Los Angeles, who claimed she was acting in self-defense after Cooke had allegedly attempted to assault a woman who accompanied him back to the motel.

Several elements of the stories reported about Cooke’s final moments have been called into question over the years and proven inconsistent, making the artist’s death still a bit of a mystery. Fellow musician Etta James, who was one of the few people to view Cooke’s body, later wrote that: “Cooke was so badly beaten that his head was nearly separated from his shoulders, his hands were broken and crushed, and his nose mangled.”

12. Long Shot (2017) 

Don’t let the 40-minute runtime fool you: Long Shot packs a punch in a short amount of time. The intimate doc recounts the unbelievable story of Juan Catalan, a man wrongfully accused of murder. Thanks to his determined defense attorney Todd Melnik, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Larry David’s little show called Curb Your Enthusiasm, Catalan was able to clear his name. Pretty, pretty amazing.

13. Team Foxcatcher (2016) 

John du Pont, philanthropist and heir to the famous du Pont family’s fortune, had many interests, but his true passion was amateur wrestling. He established “Foxcatcher Farm” at Liseter Hall, the Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, estate he inherited, which acted as a training center as well as a residence for several wrestlers. However, in 1996, du Pont’s mental instability and obsession with the sport led to tragedy for Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz, whose brother Mark—also an Olympic wrestler—was part of the Foxcatcher program. Netflix released the documentary two years after director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carell as du Pont, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz, and Channing Tatum as Mark, arrived in theaters (and earned five Oscar nominations, including acting nods for Carell and Ruffalo and a Best Director nomination for Miller).

14. Into the Deep (2020) 

Emma Sullivan’s Into the Deep revisits her time documenting Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen as he embarks on a mission to launch his DIY rocket into space in 2016. But a year into filming, her subject was accused of murder. Speaking to those who thought they knew Madsen, Sullivan presents a rare, up-close portrait of a madman. Though the film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it took two years before it landed on Netflix (due to legal issues). 

15. In Broad Daylight: The Narvarte Case (2022) 

In July 2015, five people—including photojournalist Rubén Espinosa and activist Nadia Vera—were murdered in Mexico City’s Narvarte neighborhood, a relatively quiet residential area. While there have been suspects and arrests, the complicated case is still unsolved as of January 2023. This film explores the lives of the victims and their families, delving into the systematic corruption within the investigation, and the rise in journalist deaths in the area. Director Alberto Saúl Arnaut Estrada previously made Armed to the Teeth, which also takes a critical look at the Mexican government (and is also currently streaming on Netflix).