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"Top 25 True Crime Movies You Must Watch for Ultimate Crime Enthusiasts"

Updated: May 16

The allure of true crime stories is undeniable, captivating audiences with tales of mystery, intrigue, and the darker side of human nature. These narratives, whether they unfold on the big screen or through episodic docuseries, provide a glimpse into the complexities of criminal investigations, the pursuit of justice, and the psychological depths of both perpetrators and those affected by their actions. Our comprehensive list of the 50 best films about true crime stories spans a variety of platforms and styles, offering something for every aficionado of the genre.

Key Takeaways

  • True crime documentaries and series offer deep dives into real cases, combining research and storytelling to engage audiences.

  • Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, HBO Max, and others have become major contributors to the popularity of true crime content.

  • The list includes a diverse range of true crime stories, from documentaries about serial killers to inspiring movies that lift spirits.

  • Films and series on this list are praised for their ability to captivate viewers with gripping mysteries and detailed confessionals.

  • The selection of true crime shows and movies highlights significant and compelling stories that have shaped the genre and captured public imagination.

1. I'll Be Gone in the Dark

HBO's gripping docuseries 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark' delves into the chilling story of the Golden State Killer, a notorious serial predator who evaded capture for decades. The series is an adaptation of Michelle McNamara's true-crime book, which became her obsession as she tirelessly worked to uncover the identity of the killer responsible for a series of murders and assaults in the 1970s and '80s.

With Emmy-nominated actress Amy Ryan narrating passages from McNamara's compelling work, the series brings to life the late author's detailed investigation. Patton Oswalt, McNamara's husband, produced the series, adding a deeply personal dimension to this haunting tale.

Viewing Information:

  • Where to Watch: HBO Max

  • Year Released: 2020

  • Genre: Docuseries

  • Seasons: 1 (7 episodes)

  • Rating: TV-MA

  • Director: Liz Garbus

  • Trailer: Available on HBO Max

2. Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God

'Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God' delves into the bizarre world of a spiritual group led by Amy Carlson, who was revered as 'Mother God' by her followers. The series uncovers the unsettling journey of Amy and her disciples, who were convinced that her death would lead to a celestial event akin to Heaven's Gate, promising salvation for society.

Directed by Hannah Olson, the documentary utilizes a mix of firsthand accounts and archival footage to provide a comprehensive look at the cult's rise and fall. It's a story that oscillates between being shockingly disturbing and darkly humorous, highlighting the power of internet evangelism and the lure of conspiracy theories.

Available to watch on Max, the series is a poignant example of true crime storytelling that goes beyond mere sensationalism, offering viewers a chance to reflect on the complexities of belief and manipulation.

3. The Curious Case of Natalia Grace

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace presents a perplexing true crime story that blurs the lines between victim and perpetrator. When Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted what they believed to be a 6-year-old Ukrainian orphan with a rare bone disorder, their lives took an unexpected turn. The series delves into the Barnetts' claims of Natalia being an adult posing as a child, complete with a hyper-theatrical deposition that paints her as a nightmarish figure.

Available on Max, the docuseries is directed by Christian Conway and Jackson Conway. It has captivated audiences with its gripping portrayal of a family's nightmare and the ensuing legal battles. As the story unfolds, it raises questions about the nature of truth and deception, leaving the audience to piece together the reality of Natalia Grace's identity.

4. 3 Minutes, 10 Bullets

3 Minutes, 10 Bullets captures a harrowing story of racial tension and justice. The film delves into the tragic shooting of Jordan Davis, a teenager who was killed for simply blasting music in his car. The documentary is a poignant exploration of the impact of this event on his family and the community.

Directed by Marc Silver, the documentary received an A– grade from Entertainment Weekly and is available to watch on Max. It stands out as a critical piece in understanding the intersection of race, justice, and gun violence in America.

Where to Watch: Max EW Grade: A– Director: Marc Silver

5. Homicide: New York

'Homicide: New York' offers a chilling journey through some of the most notorious murders that have shaken the city to its core. This Netflix docuseries, produced by Dick Wolf, is a meticulous exploration of five grisly cases that have left an indelible mark on New York's criminal history.

The series not only delves into the details of the crimes but also provides a compassionate look at the victims and their families, ensuring that their stories are told with the utmost care. It's a stark reminder of the city's darker chapters, where justice and tragedy are intertwined.

  • This gripping three-part documentary uncovers the battle between the FBI and New York's notorious mob families in the '70s and '80s.

  • The haunting tale of Richard Rogers, a nurse who evaded capture for a decade while committing a series of anti-LGBTQIA+ murders.

  • A deep dive into the infamous case of five wrongfully convicted teenagers, highlighting systemic corruption and racial injustice.

  • An examination of the racially charged murder of a 16-year-old, which sparked widespread protests and highlighted the city's racial tensions.

6. Reptile

Reptile grips its audience with a mystery as intricate and dangerous as its namesake. Directed by Grant Singer, this crime thriller marks his directorial debut and showcases a stellar performance by Benicio del Toro as veteran detective Tom Nichols. The film's intense and brutal ending leaves viewers grappling with questions, as the detective uncovers the central mystery of the story.

The ensemble cast, including Justin Timberlake and Alicia Silverstone, brings to life a narrative that is as unpredictable as it is engaging. With a runtime of 134 minutes, Reptile takes its audience on a journey through a web of lies and deceit, making it a standout at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

Despite mixed reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 45%, the film has found its audience, particularly among those who appreciate a good whodunnit with a dark twist.

7. I Care a Lot

I Care a Lot offers a darkly comedic and thrilling glimpse into the world of legal guardianship and the potential for exploitation within. The film follows Marla Grayson, a court-appointed guardian who seizes the assets of elderly wards, but her latest target proves to be more than she bargained for.

The narrative is a blend of suspense, satire, and crime, showcasing a twisted tale of manipulation and greed. It serves as a cautionary tale about the abuse of power and the consequences that come with underestimating one's opponent.

While I Care a Lot is a fictional story, it resonates with real-world issues, echoing some of the chilling true crime stories from different eras, as highlighted in the podcast 'Shadows of the Past'.

8. The 25 Best Serial Killer Documentaries and Docuseries

The fascination with the macabre and the minds of those who commit heinous acts is a realm that both terrifies and intrigues. The 25 best serial killer documentaries and docuseries delve into this dark subject with a precision that's as chilling as it is captivating. From the infamous to the obscure, these films provide a window into the psyche of killers and the impact of their crimes.

  • "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer" (2003)

  • "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer" (1992)

  • "UNSEEN" (2016)

  • "American Murder: The Family Next Door" (2020)

Each documentary offers a unique perspective, whether it's through the lens of the investigative journalist, the survivor, or the legal system itself. They challenge viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and question their own perceptions of justice and morality.

9. The 20 Best TV Shows Based on a True Story

The fascination with true crime stories is a cultural phenomenon that has only intensified with the advent of streaming services. The 20 best TV shows based on a true story offer a blend of suspense, drama, and a stark look into the human psyche. These series bring to life the most intriguing and harrowing cases from around the world, providing viewers with a deep dive into the complexities of each crime.

  • The Staircase (The O.G.)

  • Michael Peterson

  • TV-MA Seasons: 1 (14 episodes)

Whether you're a seasoned crime enthusiast or new to the genre, this curated list promises to deliver some of the most compelling storytelling available on your screens today. Don't miss out on the opportunity to explore these tales of mystery and suspense that have captivated audiences worldwide.

10. The 20 Best True Crime Shows on Peacock

Peacock has become a treasure trove for true crime aficionados, offering a chilling selection of shows that delve into the darkest corners of human nature. From cold cases to courtroom dramas, the platform caters to a variety of tastes within the true crime genre.

For those ready to embark on a marathon of mystery and intrigue, here's a snapshot of the top true crime shows currently streaming on Peacock:

  • I'll Be Gone in the Dark: A deep dive into the Golden State Killer's reign of terror.

  • Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God: The bizarre and tragic tale of a modern-day cult.

  • The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Unraveling the layers of a perplexing adoption scandal.

  • 3 Minutes, 10 Bullets: The fatal encounter that reignited a national conversation on race.

  • Homicide: New York: A gritty portrayal of the city's most notorious crimes.

This curated list is just the beginning. True crime enthusiasts can explore further and uncover more gripping tales that Peacock has to offer.

11. The 30 Best Action Movies on Max

Dive into the adrenaline-pumping world of true crime action with Max's top 30 selections. From infamous murders to infuriating injustices, these documentaries will immerse you in real cases that are as gripping as they are chilling.

Here are a few highlights from the list:

  • 3½ Minutes, 10 Bullets (2015): A powerful exploration of a tragic shooting, earning an EW grade of A–.

  • Alabama Snake (2020): Delve into the bizarre world of a Pentecostal minister accused of attempting to murder his wife with a snake.

  • Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning: A gripping tale of crime in the city, directed by Jason Hehir.

  • The Mystery of D.B. Cooper (2020): The enigmatic story of the infamous skyjacker who vanished without a trace.

  • McMillion$ (2020): The astonishing scam that rocked the Monopoly game at McDonald's.

Each documentary is a testament to the power of storytelling, bringing to light the darkest corners of human nature and the relentless pursuit of justice.

12. The 20 Most Inspiring Movies on Netflix to Lift Your Spirits

Netflix's vast library is a treasure trove of films that can elevate your mood and inspire you. From heartwarming tales to stories of triumph over adversity, these movies are sure to leave you with a lighter heart and a renewed spirit. Discover a selection of the most uplifting films currently streaming on Netflix to brighten your day.

  • 'The Guilty' (2021) offers a gripping narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

  • 'Reptile' (2023) delves into the complexities of human nature.

  • 'The Mule' (2019) tells the story of an unlikely courier for a drug cartel.

  • 'Luther: The Fallen Sun' (2023) brings a dark world to light with a redemptive arc.

  • 'Enola Holmes' (2020) is a delightful adventure with a strong, intelligent heroine.

13. The 25 Best Movies on Hulu

Hulu's selection of movies is a treasure trove for true crime enthusiasts and thriller aficionados alike. Among the standout titles, Entertainment Weekly highlights 'The 15 best thriller movies on Hulu', ensuring that viewers have access to a gripping lineup of cinematic experiences.

  • Both Sides of the Blade (2022)

  • Fresh (2022)

  • A Haunting in Venice (2023)

  • How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022)

  • L.A. Confidential (1997)

Whether you're in the mood for a recent hit or a timeless classic, Hulu's catalog is curated to cater to a variety of tastes. The platform's commitment to diverse content is evident in its offering, which ranges from the dark and mysterious to the outright exhilarating.

14. The 20 Best Horror Movies on Peacock

Peacock's library boasts a chilling collection of horror flicks that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. From classic scares to modern nightmares, the platform offers a diverse range of films that cater to all horror enthusiasts.

  • Alien (1979): A sci-fi horror staple that has stood the test of time.

  • Better Watch Out (2016): A twisted take on home invasion thrillers.

  • Black Christmas (1974): The slasher film that set the stage for the genre.

  • Braid (2018): A psychological horror that weaves a disturbing tale.

  • The Changeling (1980): A haunting story of grief and the supernatural.

  • Day of the Dead (1985): A cult classic that explores the depths of human survival.

15. The 19 Best Crime Movies on Netflix Right Now

Netflix's vast library of content always has something for every taste, and crime movie enthusiasts are no exception. Discover the top crime movies that are streaming on Netflix this season and prepare for a binge-watching session that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

  • Tiger King: Delve into the wild world of big cat enthusiasts and the dark events that unfold.

  • The Staircase: Follow the gripping court case of a novelist accused of killing his wife.

  • Making a Murderer: Explore the controversial case of Steven Avery and the questions surrounding his conviction.

Whether you're in the mood for a documentary-style deep dive or a fictional story inspired by real events, the platform's selection is regularly updated to include the latest and most talked-about titles. Don't miss out on the current favorites that are captivating audiences worldwide.



16. Excellent Shows About Con Artists

The world of con artists is as fascinating as it is perilous, and television has brought some of the most intriguing stories of deception and cunning right into our living rooms. The art of the con has been masterfully depicted in a variety of shows that explore the psychological and dramatic aspects of these complex characters.

  • The Umbrella Academy dives into a fantastical realm where a dysfunctional family grapples with more than just superpowers.

  • Carnival Row presents a Victorian fantasy world where mythological immigrant creatures live alongside humans, and dark schemes abound.

One standout series that captured audiences features Julia Garner as the enigmatic Anna Delvey, whose story of deceit and ambition left viewers both appalled and entranced. Garner's portrayal of the fake heiress in a world of wealth and privilege showcases the lengths to which con artists will go to maintain their illusions.

Another gripping tale is Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King, which delves into the mysterious death of a crypto-exchange founder and the subsequent disappearance of millions in customer funds. The series takes viewers on a journey through a web of conspiracy theories and digital deception, highlighting the modern landscape of high-tech swindles.

17. Con Artists & Hustlers

The world of con artists and hustlers is one that fascinates and horrifies in equal measure. These films peel back the curtain on the lives of those who use their wits and charm to deceive and defraud, offering a glimpse into the psychology of manipulation and the impact on their victims.

  • The Grifters removes the glitz and glamor often associated with con films, presenting con artists as ruthless criminals.

  • McMillion$ tells the story of a security officer who orchestrated a $24 million fraud, featuring a cast of eccentric characters and a steadily-paced narrative.

  • The cautionary tale of Dirty John showcases the terrifying reality of a manipulator allowed to flourish within the system, revealing a backstory that disintegrates into terror for those around him.

These stories serve as stark reminders that behind the seemingly charming facades can lie some of the most dangerous individuals. They are not just stories of crime, but also of survival and the resilience of those who have been wronged.

18. Everybody's Stalking

The unnerving reality of being watched and followed is a central theme in the true crime genre. The fascination with stalker cases is both a fear and a morbid curiosity for many.

One such harrowing tale is Lover, Stalker, Killer, which premiered on HBO Max. This documentary delves into the dangers of online dating, where a seemingly innocent love triangle escalates into a fatal encounter. Despite a somewhat predictable twist, the story's grounding in reality makes it a chilling watch.

Another gripping series, Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer, available on Netflix, starts with the online pursuit of a cat killer but spirals into a much darker journey as the killer craves more attention. It's a stark reminder of the depths of human depravity.

For those new to the true crime scene, The Staircase is an essential starting point. This docuseries, which spans over a decade, meticulously examines the mysterious death of Kathleen Peterson, offering an in-depth look at the legal battles and personal turmoil that ensued.

Lastly, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer chronicles the pursuit of one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. The series, which can be watched on HBO Max, captures the fear that gripped Los Angeles in the 1980s and the relentless efforts to bring the killer to justice.

19. The Best TV Shows About Prison

The genre of prison-based TV shows offers a gripping window into the lives of those behind bars and the intricate dynamics of the penal system. The True Story Of Inmates Planning An Escape captures audiences with its raw portrayal of confinement and the desperate lengths inmates will go to regain freedom. One standout example is Escape At Dannemora, which dramatizes the notorious 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility escape.

While some series focus on the sensational aspects of prison life, others delve into the psychological and emotional journeys of the incarcerated. The list below highlights some of the most compelling series that have captivated viewers with their authentic storytelling and intense drama.

  • Escape At Dannemora

  • Orange Is the New Black

  • Prison Break

  • Oz

  • Wentworth

  • Lockup

  • Making a Murderer

  • The Night Of

Each show offers a unique perspective, whether it's a fictionalized account of life inside or a documentary-style exploration of the justice system.

20. The Greatest Serial Slayer Movies

The fascination with the darkest corners of crime has led to a plethora of films that delve into the minds and deeds of serial killers. These movies not only shock and horrify but also offer a glimpse into the complexities of the criminal psyche.

  • 'The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story' (2023) portrays the harrowing tale of a 15-year-old's abduction and her courageous escape from a serial killer.

  • 'Saw' (2004) presents a twisted game of survival orchestrated by a mysterious serial killer.

  • 'Scream' (1996) combines slasher thrills with a whodunit mystery, creating a unique and influential horror experience.

The genre's enduring appeal is evident in the continuous production of such films, with audiences drawn to the challenge of understanding the unfathomable. While some movies are based on true stories, others are fictional narratives that capture the essence of this terrifying reality.

21. Movies Based on True Stories

The fascination with true crime stories is not limited to documentaries and series; it extends to the silver screen with a myriad of movies based on real-life events. These films offer a blend of intense drama and a haunting glimpse into the darkest corners of human nature.

  • The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story (2023) portrays the harrowing tale of a 15-year-old's abduction and her courageous escape from a serial killer.

  • Saw (2004), although not a direct retelling, draws inspiration from real-life horrors to craft its twisted narrative.

For those who seek to explore these narratives further, titles such as The Case of the Hillside Stranglers and Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker offer a deep dive into some of the most unsettling criminal investigations. The list of such movies is extensive, ensuring that aficionados of the genre have a wealth of content to satiate their curiosity.

22. The Best Forensic Movies Ever Made

Forensic movies captivate audiences with their intricate puzzles and the thrill of the chase for justice. These films often combine elements of mystery, drama, and sometimes even horror to create a gripping cinematic experience. The meticulous attention to detail and scientific approach to crime-solving are what set forensic movies apart.

  • Silence of the Lambs

  • Se7en

  • Zodiac

  • Prisoners

  • Mindhunter

Whether it's a classic whodunit or a modern psychological thriller, the best forensic movies immerse viewers in the world of criminal investigations, leaving them on the edge of their seats until the very last clue is uncovered.

23. The Best Movies About Kidnapping

The harrowing theme of kidnapping has been a compelling subject for filmmakers, often drawing from real-life crimes to create tense and gripping narratives. The following list includes some of the most riveting films that delve into the dark world of abductions, each offering a unique perspective on the victim's ordeal and the subsequent quest for justice.

  • An American Crime

  • Alpha Dog

  • Room

  • The Silence of the Lambs

  • The Frozen Ground

  • Wolf Creek

  • Hard Candy

  • Hounds of Love

These films not only provide edge-of-your-seat entertainment but also shed light on the psychological and emotional impact of kidnapping on both the victims and their families. While some of these movies offer a glimpse into the resilience and courage of those who have faced such terrifying situations, others expose the chilling mindset of the perpetrators.

Whether based on actual events or fictional accounts, these films serve as a reminder of the importance of awareness and the value of perseverance in seeking closure and justice.

24. Greatest Hostage Movies

The tension and stakes are always high in hostage movies, where the lives of individuals hang in the balance, and every second counts. These films often blend elements of thrillers and dramas, delivering a cinematic experience that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.

  • Collateral (2004) presents a gripping tale of a cab driver's worst nightmare, turning into a hostage situation with a hitman.

  • Charade (1963) offers a blend of romance and suspense, with a storyline that keeps you guessing until the very end.

  • L.A. Confidential (1997) is not a typical hostage movie but includes a complex plot involving police corruption and murder.

While not all films about hostage situations are based on true stories, they reflect the real-life drama and intensity that can arise in such extreme situations. For those interested in true crime stories, the title '10 Great Heist Movies That Are Surprisingly Based On True Stories' suggests a crossover of genres that can be equally fascinating.

25. The 50 Best True Crime Shows and Movies on Streaming Services and more

The allure of true crime stories is undeniable, and streaming services have become a treasure trove for those fascinated by the darker side of reality. Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon, HBO Max, and Paramount+ are just a few platforms that offer a wide array of true crime shows and movies, catering to the insatiable curiosity of fans.

For those ready to embark on a marathon of mystery and mayhem, here's a concise list of must-watch titles that have captivated audiences:

  • I'll Be Gone in the Dark

  • Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God

  • The Curious Case of Natalia Grace

  • Homicide: New York

  • The 30 Best True Crime Documentaries on Max

Each title promises to deliver hours of compelling content, combining expert research, riveting testimonies, and dynamic storytelling. So, draw the blinds, lock the doors, and prepare to dive deep into the enthralling world of true crime.



Conclusion

As we've journeyed through the dark and intricate world of true crime stories, it's clear that the fascination with real-life mysteries and criminal sagas is more than just a passing trend. The 50 films we've discussed offer a deep dive into the most gripping and harrowing tales of human nature, justice, and sometimes, the lack thereof. From the meticulous research and dynamic storytelling of documentaries to the intense dramatizations of TV shows and movies, each entry on our list provides a unique lens through which we can explore the complexities of crime and its impact on society. Whether you're a seasoned true crime enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, these films are sure to captivate, educate, and provoke thought long after the credits roll. So dim the lights, settle in, and prepare to be enthralled by the best true crime stories that cinema and television have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines a true crime film or documentary?

A true crime film or documentary is a genre that explores real-life crimes, focusing on aspects such as the criminal act, the perpetrator, the investigation, and the legal proceedings. They often include interviews with people involved, archival footage, and re-enactments.

Are the films and documentaries listed based on real events?

Yes, all the films and documentaries mentioned in the article are based on real events and true stories, providing insights into actual crimes and their impact on society.

Where can I watch these true crime films and documentaries?

These true crime films and documentaries can be found on various streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, HBO Max, and others. Availability may vary based on your location and the platform's library.

Can watching true crime films and documentaries be disturbing?

Yes, true crime films and documentaries often deal with sensitive and disturbing subject matter, including murder, violence, and injustice. Viewer discretion is advised, and some content may not be suitable for all audiences.

How accurate are true crime films and documentaries?

While true crime films and documentaries aim to present factual information, they may sometimes take creative liberties for dramatic effect. It's important to conduct further research if you're interested in the full accuracy of the events portrayed.

Are there any true crime documentaries that are considered must-watch?

Yes, among the must-watch true crime documentaries are 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark', '3½ Minutes, 10 Bullets', and 'The Curious Case of Natalia Grace'. These have been recognized for their compelling storytelling and investigative depth.

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