Humans are instilled with a natural morbid curiosity, which is defined as “a fascination with grisly or gruesome matters.” Whether it be a real-life incident or true crime documentaries on Netflix, the morbid stimuli are so engaging that it becomes difficult to look away. Another key factor is catharsis; by watching crime investigations unfold, heightened emotions – such as pity and fear – are purged. Viewers feel safer and reassured, learning from the experiences that they subject themselves to. Here are some must-see Netflix docuseries to satiate that morbidly curious hunger.
Following the conclusion of HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst in 2015, true crime enthusiasts were encouraged to flock to the world-renowned streaming service, Netflix, for further chilling revelations in cold cases or the retelling of infamous crimes. Netflix’s collection of true crime documentaries are updated every month.
WARNING: This article may contain some upsetting descriptions.
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Serial Killer
Released in 2019 without much fanfare, Don’t F**K With Cats became something of a phenomenon for true-crime fans worldwide. The three-part Netflix docuseries focuses on a crowd-funded amateur investigation and an online manhunt for Luka Magnotta, a Canadian pornographic actor, who committed acts of animal cruelty that eventually culminated in his brutal murder of a Chinese international student, Jun Lin.
Luka Magnotta gained international notoriety in 2010 for sharing a graphic video online of himself killing two kittens. Don’t F**K With Cats stars Deanna Thompson, aka “Baudi Moovan”, a data analyst for a casino in Las Vegas, and John Green, from Los Angeles. Deanna and John join forces to spearhead the manhunt by starting a Facebook group to build evidence and track down the perpetrator.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist was released as a four-part docuseries on Netflix in May 2018. Three years on, it remains one of Netflix’s most high-profile true crime documentaries, following the death of Brian Wells, an incident often referred to as the “collar bomb” or “pizza bomber” case.
In 2003 in Erie, Pennsylvania, a pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells walked into a PNC bank with a collar bomb around his neck. He demanded a quarter of a million dollars, but the teller gave him less than $9,000. A few minutes after he was apprehended by the police, the bomb explodes, killing him. An investigation begins to uncover the truth behind Well’s involvement in a much bigger scheme. Evidence leads the FBI to Brian Wells’s co-conspirators, namely the titular “evil genius”, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a mentally-ill woman with a string of boyfriends that had died in mysterious circumstances.
Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes arrived on Netflix in 2019. Its four 60-minute episodes compiled interviews and archive footage of the serial killer, Ted Bundy. Due to Bundy’s notoriety as a murderer, rapist, and necrophiliac, The Ted Bundy Tapes skyrocketed to the top of Netflix’s viewing list when it was first released.
The series chronologically traces Bundy’s life, including his crimes, arrests, escapes, and death in detail. Archival footage, police evidence, personal photos, and Stephen Michaud’s 1980 death row interviews are all present in the series. Interestingly, the Netflix docuseries premiered on January 24, the 30th anniversary of Ted Bundy’s execution.
Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer
Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer is a four-part true crime documentary miniseries surrounding the crimes of one of LA’s most ill-famed serial killers, Richard Ramirez. It retraces the hunt for Ramirez throughout the summer of 1985, wherein he terrorized Los Angeles and preyed on unlocked homes.
Additionally, Ramirez was, at the time, faceless, nameless, and at large. Citizens were so terrified that they were forced to lock their homes in blistering heat, purchase window bars, or adopt large dogs to defend against the unknown boogeyman with unusual indiscretion. Night Stalker incorporates many staples of the true crime genre – extended slo-mo montages and the click-click flitting through crime scene photos. Compared to others, it is a lesser-known docuseries, but still exceedingly fascinating and unnerving in its own right.
The Staircase documents the trial of Michael Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. Its thirteen episodes premiered on Netflix in 2018. Kathleen’s death was blamed on any kooky lawyer theory – from owl attacks to infidelity.
In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson called to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a set of stairs in their Forest Hills mansion and died. While he seemed believably distressed, authorities disbelieved Peterson’s story that Kathleen had fallen while drunk and concluded instead that he had bludgeoned her to death. As a result, Peterson was charged with murder and put on trial.
If any true crime fans are itching for more, there is an endless bounty of solved and unsolved crimes to delve into on Netflix’s extensive platform. Besides the five aforementioned true crime documentaries, here are some other Netflix docuseries that are worthy of a binge-watch.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann premiered on Netflix in March 2019. Its eight episodes explore the global phenomenon of three-year-old Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, who vanished from the seaside resort of Praia da Luz in Portugal, while on holiday with her family.
Additionally, its recount includes the media involvement, the investigation, and the McCanns, although the McCanns themselves do not take part in the docuseries. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is perhaps the most famous child abduction case ever documented.
The Confession Killer
The Confession Killer is a true crime documentary miniseries that revolves around the 1983 case of Henry Lee Lucas, a self-proclaimed serial killer, who confessed to over 200 murders in the United States. Years after his admissions, they turned out to be lies.
Furthermore, archive footage from news channels, police confessional videos, and interviews with law enforcement and the victims’ families offer a compelling look at Lucas’ false confessions – and the police officers who were more than willing to believe them.