Humans behaving badly; it’s terribly addictive
In August of 2019, inside a dingy prison cell in New York, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself—or that’s what they would like us to believe. The elusive pedophile’s horrors were disclosed in Netflix’s four-part documentary series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. Here we discover his “sexual abuse pyramid scheme” where he recruits young women—mostly teenagers—to exploit and “lend” to his friends in high places. (We’re looking at presidents and princes.) How can this man be capable of such ludicrous acts and not have been caught sooner?
With the onslaught of true crime documentaries, series and podcasts, let’s face it: We’re fascinated with the genre—especially in quarantine. This form of media is verily addictive as it explores the inner workings of vile and morally corrupt individuals; after all, one isn’t born a monster.
If you’re drawn to such lurid content—we’re not judging—here’s a definitive list of the best true crime films, TV series and documentaries for your viewing pleasure.
The latest masterpiece from David Fincher (Fight Club) explores the minds of American’s most wanted serial killers. It’s loosely based on the nonfiction book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by the original “Mindhunter” John E. Douglas. The psychology-driven team uncovers motives behind their killings. It becomes evident that a lack of remorse and empathy are key defining features of a serial killer. From Charles Manson and Edmund Kemper to David Berkowitz, they’ve got the most notorious serial killers on the show.
Binge-watch both seasons on Netflix.
Unbelievable is a factual retelling of a series of rapes, which happened between 2008 to 2011 in Washington and Colorado. It’s based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning piece from ProPublica and The Marshall Project entitled An Unbelievable Story of Rape written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. It features a masterful performance by Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart).
Read the full Wonder review here.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018)
Filipino-American actor Darren Criss won both a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for his awe-inspiring performance in Ryan Murphy’s second season of American Crime Story. He plays Andrew Cunanan, a spree killer who murdered designer Gianni Versace outside his Miami Beach mansion in 1997. It’s based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors. He is joined by A-listers Édgar Ramírez, Penélope Cruz and Ricky Martin.
Stream it on Netflix.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002 is the subject of Spotlight, a recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016. A group of old-style journalists uncovers the conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse made by the Catholic Church in Boston for decades—inevitably leading to a full-fledged investigation on the church and its figures of authority. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton are at the helm of the newsroom drama.
Devil’s Knot (2014)
In 1994, the West Memphis Three were tried for killing three young children as part of a satanic ritual. The brutal murders made national headlines and attracted a dedicated investigator. He is determined to prove the truth to a grieving mother and the rest of the world. Devil’s Knot stars Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
David Fincher really is no stranger to true crime. The follow-up to his early box office success Se7en is Zodiac. The self-proclaimed Zodiac Killer is behind at least five and possibly even up to 37 murders in California from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He sent taunting letters to the police and included cryptograms to be solved. To this day, the identity of the killer is still unidentified. Watch it for the gore and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Charlize Theron bagged her first Academy Award—her first nomination, too—in 2004 for her role as Aileen Wuornos, America’s first known female serial killer. No one is born a murderer; her tortured past as a prostitute brought her to shoot and kill seven men in 1989 and 1990. She was executed in 2002. Monster was directed by Wonder Woman and I Am the Night’s Patty Jenkins.
Have more recommendations for the best true crime releases? Leave them in the comments below!
Art Alexandra Lara