The 10 Best True Crime Documentaries About Killers You May Not Have Heard Of
True Crime Documentaries have always been fascinating. Recently they have become guilty pleasures for the masses who are still stuck home with nothing better to do than obsess over the perversion of others. There are tons of excellent documentaries, but there are even more hidden gems you might have overlooked. These are the Best True Crime Documentaries About Killers You May Not Have Heard Of.
Documentaries like HBO’s I’ll Be Gone In The Dark detailing one woman’s mission to solve the Golden State Killer Murders were captivating as much for the subject but the story behind the story. Hulu’s upcoming Sasquatch is the single wildest documentary you will watch in 2021 about a series of murders in California’s Emerald Triangle that may or may not have been committed by Bigfoot. STARZ’s Confronting A Serial Killer is a chilling look at the most prolific serial killer in history through actual conversations with Samuel Little. If scary stories aren’t your thing, of course, there was Netflix’s Tiger King, but for those who love to be scared by the real deal, here are the 10 Best True Crime Documentaries About Killers You May Not Have Heard Of.
H.H. Holmes: Original Evil
This is a weird little film that plays like a high school history lesson but with gory images. H.H. Holmes is one sick guy who also may be Jack the Ripper and quite possibly just an enormous liar. We may never know precisely what he is responsible for. This interesting documentary is a bizarre mix of the intensely macabre and an almost chipper British narrator that seems to take glee in detailing all of the infamous man’s potential crimes. It is a quick watch and worth your time if you are into these kinds of weirdly upbeat horror documentaries.
A Wilderness of Error
This five-part true-crime doc is based on the book by Errol Morris W Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald. It is directed by Academy Award-nominated film producer Marc Smerling who also produced All Good Things with Andrew Jarecki. In 1979 MacDonald was convicted of killing his wife and children. He claimed the house was invaded by drug-crazed hippies who knocked him unconscious and killed the rest of the family. It’s a fascinating series because Morris’s original intent was to exonerate MacDonald, but the result has quite the opposite effect.
The Cheshire Murders
Suburban Connecticut is the last place you would expect such a horrible crime to have taken place. Cheshire, Connecticut nonetheless, was the scene for a gruesome home invasion. Jennifer Petit and her two young daughters died. Only husband William escaped alive. The documentary shows the incredible community drama behind the scenes, the police failings, and the sad truth that this crime could have been prevented. It is an emotional story that is lesser-known.
Albert Fish: In Sin He found Salvation
This is the terrifying story of Albert Fish, an elderly cannibal who lured, killed, and ate children in Depression-era New York. Fish is a full sicko who uses the bible to justify his depravity. Writer/director John Borowski captures an intriguing interview with Odditorium owner Joel Coleman and true crime author Katherine Ramsland. The number of children this man actually took, tortured, killed, and ate we may never know. Fish himself claims not to remember. He had no boundaries, and this documentary shows all Fish’s proclivities.
American Murder: The Family Next Door
Netflix’s haunting doc is a deep dive into the crime that captivated the world. In 2018 a young mother and her two daughters disappeared in Colorado. This is an addictive story that plays out across many platforms. Social media posts, police body cams, text messages, and interviews all help piece together the heartbreaking story. This is not for the easily triggered. It is emotionally charged and makes you wonder how well you really know your neighbors.
The 2009 documentary written and directed by Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio is a chilling look at when fiction makes fact. The film melds the study of a boogeyman legend named “Cropsey” in upper state New York with the real man who was inspired by the myth Andre Rand. Rand is a convicted child kidnapper and a horrendously frightening man. This is easily the scariest documentary on the Best True Crime Documentaries list. Part dissection of an urban legend, including an exploration of an unsettling abandoned mental institution and true crime investigation into the mind of a monster it is a hidden gem that most horror fans know, but few documentary fans have found.
The Pig Farmer
Canada’s most prolific killer Robert Pickton makes for a disturbing look at who knew what, when. Pickton preyed on the most vulnerable and then fed them to pigs to cover up his crimes. It features chilling reenactments and interviews with past farm workers who had no idea what their employer was up to. There are also heartwrenching interviews with the few victims who managed to escape. Pickton himself lends his voice, and he is everything you imagine and nothing you ever want to meet.
If you haven’t seen this documentary about a man convicted of killing his wife, you must see it immediately. Author Michael Peterson’s high-profile trial is the jumping-off point for this series from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade. Lestrade has incredible access to Peterson’s lawyers, family, and friends. This story is so good and has so many twists. Lestrade revised it years later and added it to the already amazing documentary. When it is all over you, walk away, unsure if Peterson pushed his wife down the stairs or if some unknown person or force did it while he was in the other room.
The Jinx: The Life And Deaths of Robert Durst
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki documents the complicated story of reclusive real estate tycoon Robert Durst. He was the key suspect in several unsolved murders. Told over a six-part miniseries, Durst was suspected of having killed his wife in 1982 and his neighbors Susan Berman and Morris Black. The murders are still unsolved. There is a very revealing interview between Durst and Jarecki, who developed an odd relationship. The film highlights a nearly decade-long investigation, including private prison conversations and hidden documents.
Wild Wild Country
From the Duplass brothers who also produced Sasquatch coming out on Hulu on April 20th comes the weirdest cult documentary, you will ever see. A controversial guru builds a self-proclaimed utopian community in Oregon, angering local ranchers. The documentary focuses mainly on Ma Anand Sheela, the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s (Osho) personal assistant. This largely forgotten crime featured America’s first-ever bioterrorism attack, movie-level drama, and an obscene amount of wire-tapping. It plays like the best tragic opera and is almost too strange to be true. The characters and the story are engrossing and thoroughly entertaining.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.