Thanks to the proliferation of streaming services and podcasts, there are more true crime programs to choose from than ever before. For die-hard fans, this can be both a blessing and a curse: you’ll never run out of stuff to watch, but how can you make sure that you’re watching the really good stuff? This list will point you in the direction of six of the best true crime documentaries. They cover some of the most sensational crimes of the past few decades—and why they still matter years after the fact.
I Love You, Now Die relates the teen romance of Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter, whose relationship was conducted almost entirely via text. The affair ended tragically in 2014 with Conrad’s suicide—and Michelle’s arrest, after it was discovered that she had been texting messages that pushed Conrad to kill himself. Does that make Michelle a murderer, or would Conrad have chosen to end his life anyway? This chilling modern crime story explores the dark side of technology.
Medical scams are nothing new, but the scale on which Elizabeth Holmes was able to operate has attracted national headlines. Holmes’s company, Theranos, purported to be able to conduct blood tests faster and with smaller sample sizes than competitors. But after making a fortune and earning multiple celebrity endorsements, Holmes’s claims were exposed for the lies they were. She and a former business colleague have since been brought up on multiple charges.
Making a Murderer
Making a Murderer caused a sensation when it debuted in 2015. The story of Steven Avery, who the filmmakers claimed was falsely convicted of murder, won multiple awards and sparked a public outcry for Avery’s release. There has been some backlash to the series, including accusations that the filmmakers left out important evidence. But it is impossible to deny that Making a Murderer boosted the profile of true crime documentaries like few other programs have.
ReMastered is a series of documentaries that highlights music-related crimes and other watershed moments in music history. The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, for instance, reviews the legendary soul singer’s murder, while Who Shot the Sheriff? delves into how roots reggae, a politically and spiritually motivated form of reggae, so threatened the established order that the CIA attempted to assassinate Jamaica’s most famous reggae singer, Bob Marley. No matter which ones you choose to watch, you are sure to walk away with a new understanding of your favorite artists.
I Called Him Morgan
I Called Him Morgan is an acclaimed film about the life and death of Lee Morgan, a jazz musician who was murdered by his common-law wife in 1972 when he was just 33 years old. The tragedy and mystery of Morgan’s death—including the fight that led up to the shooting and the role that the weather played in his untimely demise—are explored in full detail in this meticulous documentary.
The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park
In 1986, Robert Chambers, nicknamed “the Preppy Killer” for his clean-cut collegiate persona, strangled Jennifer Levin in Central Park. The case (and Chambers) were a media sensation, especially once Chambers began changing his story repeatedly and behaving erratically. The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park revisits the case, Chambers’s behavior, and the way that Levin’s reputation was disparaged by both her killer and the tabloids.
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Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.