While I love any good crime thriller, there is something about knowing that it is a true story that just makes the details all the more fascinating. So, crime documentaries are one of my favorite genres.
Luckily, Netflix doesn’t disappoint when it comes to crime documentaries, both original and back catalog.
Today I want to share with you what I think are the ten best murder documentaries currently available on Netflix. There is a mix of movie-length options and series, all of which will leave murder-buffs satisfied, but looking for their next binge-watch.
A sub-category of the true-crime genre, you can also check out my list of the best true murder shows on Netflix, and all of my favorite documentaries in the Amazon Prime Video collection (yes, most of them about murder).
1. Amanda Knox (2016)
This film, about the now infamous death of English woman Meredith Kercher in Italy, is less about the murder victim, and more about the woman accused of her murder.
American student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend were singled out by police as guilty from the outset of their investigation. The lead investigators believed that Amanda did not respond “as expected” to the death of her friend and roommate Meredith, and took this as a sure sign of her guilt.
This documentary covers the investigation, conviction, and subsequent acquittal of Knox after spending four years in prison for the crime. We hear both from those who thought Amanda was a victim of a miscarriage of justice, and from those who still believe that she is guilty Foxy Knoxy.
2. American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)
This movie-length Netflix Original documentary tells the story of pregnant Shanann Watts and her two daughters, who were murdered in Frederick, Colorado in 2018. The prime suspect? Husband Chris.
Director Jenny Poppelwell recreates the events using archive footage, social media posts, law enforcement recordings, and other real content.
The documentary starts with what seems like the perfect family, but as we dig under the surface we realize that no one’s life is as perfect as it seems and that people are capable of the unimaginable.
3. I Am A Killer (2018-)
One of Netflix’s most popular documentary series, each episode features interviews with a different inmate on death row for murder. We also hear from their families, and from the people affected by the crimes of which they are accused.
Some proclaim their innocence, others justify their acts based on their own history, while some fully accept responsibility for their actions and the fate that awaits them.
All the crimes examined are harrowing, and some of the convicted tragic victims of even more ghastly crimes. This is must-watch viewing for any fan of the murder documentary genre.
4. I Am A Killer: Released (2020)
Spinning off from the popular I Am A Killer docuseries, this limited series follows Dale Wayne Sigler, a convict who is paroled after spending 30 years on death row.
The series looks at both what it is like to try and reintegrate into society after spending so many years behind bars, and into the truth behind Sigler’s crime.
We hear about his youth of abuse that eventually drove him to shoot Subway employee John Zeltner six times for $400. Sigler then describes the redemption that he found in prison, which helped enable his parole.
But, was this murder really just about a few hundred dollars?
5. The Keepers (2017)
This seven-episode series investigates the still-unsolved murder of nun and school teacher Catherine Cesnik in 1969.
But, this is a gateway into a much greater crime story as it becomes apparent that Sister Cathy may have been killed because she stood up against sexually abusive behavior at a prestigious Baltimore all-girls Catholic school.
But, while the crimes in the school are real, is that really what killed Sister Cathy, or were there more personal motives behind her murder?
6. Making A Murderer (2015-2018)
An oldie but a goodie, and a must-see for any fans of the murder-docu genre, this series investigates the idea of how prosecutors often make their prime suspect into a murderer through coerced confessions and selective use of evidence.
The series primarily follows Steven Avery, a man convicted of attempted murder in 1985, but then acquitted in 2003. However, he was arrested again for a different murder in 2005, of which he was again convicted on, the show would have us believe, questionable grounds.
The first season of this show was filmed over the course of 10 years. This allows for an incredibly detailed and compelling deep dive into the life and trials of our real-life protagonist.
7. Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (2020)
A new Netflix Original Release, this documentary film follows Cyntonia Brown, a young black woman convicted of shooting a man, Johnny Michael Allen, when she was just sixteen years old.
We actually first meet Cyntonia in I Am A Killer, where she tells the story of her life as a young prostitute, and claims to have acted in self-defense. This film looks more closely at her struggle to be released.
This was made possible when Tennessee changed a law in 2017 which now stated that minors could not be charged with prostitution, relabeling these cases as instances of sex trafficking. This created an important opening for her to seek clemency and be paroled.
8. Out Of Thin Air (2017)
This documentary is refreshing as we leave the familiar territory of American culture and the US legal system and head to Scandinavia and the story of Iceland’s most notorious murder case.
In 1974 two apparently unrelated men disappeared, and their bodies were never found. Once an 18-year-old boy who never made it home from a party, the other a 32-year-old man who received a late-night phone call and was never seen again.
Police zeroed in on six young people that they were convinced were guilty of the crime. What followed was a media circus in which they were compared to Charles Manson and his followers. They eventually confessed and were convicted of the crimes.
But this documentary questions whether due process was followed, and how reliable is a confession gained by coercion.
9. ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre (2019)
One of many fine documentary movies in the ReMastered series that looks at the truth behind some of music’s biggest crimes.
This installment looks at an attack in Ireland on The Miami Showband in 1975 by the loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Volunteer Force. Five people were killed in the attack, including three members of the popular band.
The documentary both unravels the details of the crime, and looks at what it meant afterward to those closest to the victims.
10. Strong Island (2017)
Director Yance Ford created this documentary to look into the murder of his own brother, William in 1992.
24-year-old William was an African-American school teacher killed by 19-year-old white mechanic Mark P. Reilly. An all-white grand jury declined to indict.
This documentary, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2018 looks at the injustices that still exist within the system and mean that people are treated differently based on who they are.
What to Watch Next?
All of these murder documentaries on Netflix tell the stories of harrowing real-world crimes in sensitive and unexpected ways that will leave viewers with exactly the right kind of questions, and craving more.
If you are looking for more true crime grit, you might want to consider something a little bit different. For example, you could check out our list of the 15 best true crime and mystery podcasts. If you like crime fiction, as long as it is top quality, then you might also like these 8 Scandinavian crime series currently on Netflix.