Thanksgiving is the perfect time for family, turkey, and true crime marathons! If you’re a big fan of true crime shows, then start planning your Thanksgiving watching with these seven fantastic true crime documentaries that cover everything from murder, conspiracy, financial fraud, and negligence. These documentaries reveal some of the darker aspects of human nature, but they also shine a light on humanity’s relentless pursuit of justice.
I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter
This two-part documentary examines the puzzling and bizarre case of The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter. Part One, The Prosecution, sets the scene: Teenagers Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter fall in love, and engage in an extensive long-distance texting relationship over the course of two years, even though they only meet in person a few times. Then, Conrad is found dead in his car, and the cause of death is ruled a suicide. When investigators look at his phone, they find texts between him and Michelle in which Michelle encourages him to take his own life. In Part Two, The Defense, the documentary focuses on the ensuing trial and legal battles as Michelle’s legal team attempts to prove that she is not liable for Conrad’s death, and the trial gets heated. This is a fascinating documentary that tackles mental illness, technology, and the law is a complicated and emotional case.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a close look at the heartrending case of an eight-year-old boy who was abused and tortured by his mother and her boyfriend, and ultimately was beaten and died as a result of his injuries. Over the course of the investigation into his death, his mother and her boyfriend were arrested and charged on multiple accounts, but it was also revealed that at least four social workers knew of Gabriel’s ongoing abuse and did not remove him from the home. As a result, they were also charged in his case. This is a hard-hitting documentary that looks at what happens when a system tasked with helping and protecting the most vulnerable fails.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Based on the late Michelle McNamara’s bestselling book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a deep dive into the Golden State Killer cases that brings the saga full circle. Produced in cooperation with Michelle’s husband, Patton Oswalt, the documentary reviews the cases and interviews law enforcement, researchers, and families and victims of the crimes, giving them a voice. The documentary also looks at Michelle’s tenacity and determination, and how her relentless pursuit of answers might have contributed to her death. The final episode looks at what happened when the Golden State Killer was identified and arrested after the release of her book, and how the victims have found closure. This is a fantastic documentary that goes beyond the book, making it perfect for readers and new audiences alike.
The Confession Killer
In 1983, Henry Lee Lucas was arrested in Texas and quickly linked to various murders and crimes throughout the country—but that was only the beginning. He quickly began confessing to more and more murders, offering details that law enforcement eagerly lapped up. He was given preferential treatment in exchange for his confessions and even had free rein of the police station, walking about without handcuffs—but did he really commit the murders? While there is no doubt that he did commit murder, this documentary explores his confessions, questions whether or not he was really capable of doing all he said he did, and asks the uncomfortable question: What happens to all the cases that were closed when they should still be open?
In 2001, Michael Peterson called 911 to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down the stairs and suffered a traumatic injury. When help arrived, he immediately came under suspicion and was arrested for bludgeoning her to death. There was enough evidence to warrant a trial, and the trial that unfolded led to Peterson’s conviction. But that’s far from the end of the story. This true crime documentary series is notable for the Peterson family’s active and willing participation, including extensive interviews with Peterson himself, and his children’s steadfast support of their father.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicone Valley
Elizabeth Holmes was a college dropout and the CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s hottest new companies, Theranos. Together with her COO Sunny Balwani, she claimed to have invented a blood-testing device that was able to use a small amount of blood for a wide array of tests. As she was hailed as a genius and her company made millions, she was hiding a darker truth: the devices didn’t work, and she was harboring a workplace culture of secrecy and distrust, so even many of her employees were unaware that she was promoting a useless product. It wasn’t until a few whistleblowers revealed the truth that it all came toppling down.
What to Read Next
A freelance librarian, Sarah S. Davis, MLIS, writes about books on Book Riot, Electric Literature, PsychCentral, and others. She has published the bestselling quote collections Brave Brain and A Reader’s Library of Book Quotes. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at VCFA.