The 20 best true-crime shows ever (2023)

The Dropout

Available on iTunes/various
Her love of black rollnecks and a fake baritone voice might have made her a favourite of Twitter meme-makers, but the case of fraudulent US entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes is actually rather dark. Inspired by Wall Street Journal writer John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood, The Dropout podcast explores how the former Stanford student jacked in her studies to charm investors and big businesses alike with a supposedly revolutionary but actually useless blood-testing device. Like Enron for millennials, the endeavour itself is less important than the confusion and cult of personality that grew around it. HJD

The Keepers

In 1969, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun and teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, was murdered by person(s) unknown. This seven-part documentary isn’t so much a hunt for her killers as a harrowing study of the long-term effects of child sexual abuse and the city-wide corruption that can allow it to go unchallenged. The schoolgirls Sister Cathy taught are now in late middle age, but have never given up on finding justice for the teacher who tried to protect them. EEJ

The Jinx

Google Play/YouTube
An oddball real-estate tycoon, suspected in the disappearance of his first wife, goes on the run after his best friend’s murder 18 years later. He lives undercover as a mute woman until the discovery of a dismembered corpse once again draws police attention. After fading from public notice for a few years, he offers himself up to director Andrew Jarecki for 20-plus hours of interview, culminating in a rambling “hot mic” confession. And that’s just the basic outline. File under “you couldn’t make it up if you tried”. EEJ

(Video) Top 10 Best True Crime Shows of the 21st Century

OJ: Made in America

There are reasons to study true crime beyond simple ghoulishness. Nothing tells us more about a place and time than its most famous murder. For late-20th-century America, it was the double killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and the subsequent acquittal of OJ Simpson. This staggering five-part, eight-hour odyssey takes in LAPD racism, America’s intoxication with sports celebrities, the way domestic violence was (and is) habitually ignored in well-to-do communities and much more. It’s a portrait of a nation in crisis. EEJ

American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson

Yes, the wigs deserve a spin-off series of their own, but there is also serious reflection at the heart of this shamelessly entertaining series. Ryan Murphy, the trash TV maestro behind Glee, American Horror Story and Feud, here brings together a cast combining his regulars (Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark, Connie Britton as Faye Resnick) with unexpected star turns (David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian) to create a TV show that’s part true-crime classic, part Kardashians origin story. Even if you already know the details, the cumulative effect is mesmerising. EEJ

Capturing the Friedmans

Google Play/YouTube
Can you ever really know the truth? That is the deeply troubling subtext of this documentary by Andrew Jarecki (a film-maker whose career, along with The Jinx, has now been blessed by not one but two great true-crime exclusives). In the late 80s, Arnold Friedman and one of his three sons were accused of molesting boys who attended the computer classes they ran. While awaiting trial, the Friedmans began shooting home videos of family interactions both mundane and bizarre. Piecing together this footage with interviews, Jarecki asks us what to believe: was this whipped-up hysteria or something more sinister? EEJ

The Central Park Five

If there is one thing true-crime documentaries teach us, it’s “never trust a New York real-estate tycoon”. In April 1989, a white woman in her late 20s was brutally raped in Central Park, leaving her in a coma for 12 days. Amid intense media interest, and based on dubious confessions, the police quickly rounded on their suspects: five Harlem teenagers, four black and one Hispanic. Yet even among the many examples of human error and structural racism that led to their wrongful conviction, Donald Trump’s idiotic interventions stand out. It’s part of what makes this particular miscarriage of justice so enduringly relevant. EEJ


After Serial, there was S-Town. Brian Reed’s backyard maze of a podcast used listeners’ interest in murder mysteries to lure us into a much richer and more novelistic tale. Or was it Reed’s endlessly compelling subject, John B McLemore, who did the luring? Either way, early listeners of this Alabama-set hit were advised to reserve judgment until at least episode two. By then, the story’s true themes had begun to emerge: antique clocks, buried treasure, environmental ruin, unconsummated romance and the strange ways of the American south. EEJ

(Video) A True Crime Fan's Dream Netflix Tier List

Making a Murderer

The series that transformed true-crime TV from late-night infamy to mainstream success, Making a Murderer combined an unbelievable real-life story with painstaking production from writer-director duo Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. Steven Avery – a Wisconsin man who had been wrongly convicted of rape and attempted murder, then charged with a second killing – provided the perfect subject, but it was Ricciardi and Demos’s film-making over 13 years that brought this possible miscarriage of justice to life, even if the second run didn’t manage to match the momentum of the first. HJD

Atlanta Monster

The Atlanta Child Murders, which took place from 1979 to 1981, are not unsolved crimes – at least not officially. A man named Wayne Williams has been sitting in prison for the last 37 years, convicted of two murders and suspected in the rest. But something doesn’t quite add up. For the second of his investigative podcasts, Up and Vanished’s Payne Lindsey moves from small-town Georgia to the big-city, majority black setting of Atlanta. What begins as a sensationalist serial-killer hunt soon expands into something much more complicated. EEJ


Helmed by This American Life journalist Sarah Koenig, Serial was a thrilling yet tragic podcast that also offered an intelligent exploration of a flawed US justice system and the lives of two first-generation immigrants. Over the course of 12 episodes, Adnan Syed – imprisoned for the murder of girlfriend Hae Min Lee – found himself alternately critiqued and validated by Koenig via their prison phone calls. Their dynamic highlighted the flaws and triumphs of modern journalism, while expanding the reach of the true-crime podcast. HJD

(Video) Infamous True Crime Stories From the 20th Century 🕵 Smithsonian Channel

The Moorside

The faked abduction of Shannon Matthews by her mother Karen in 2008 was one of the grimmer UK news items of recent times. So it was to the credit of writer Neil McKay that he found a way to tell the story that felt reasonably nuanced. Sure, the dysfunction at the heart of the tale was bleak. But thanks to the humanity and defiance of Sheridan Smith’s Julie Bushby (the neighbour who organised the search for Shannon but eventually uncovered her mother’s deception), this BBC drama actually became an almost uplifting parable of community resilience under pressure. PH

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Forget about the whodunnit element: the killing takes place in the opening episode and, in any case, the killer’s identity is well known. This alternately glitzy and horrifying tale works instead as a study of cause and effect. Showing Andrew Cunanan’s life in reverse chronological order, it manages to interrogate fame and aspiration in modern America and paint a picture of the desperation and loneliness of some gay lives in the very recent past. At the heart of the story is an extraordinary performance by Darren Criss as the terrifying yet initially oddly sympathetic Cunanan. PH

The Staircase

This was where the modern episodic true-crime craze began. Back in 2004, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade did a remarkable job of bringing the bewildering story of Michael Peterson to light. Peterson’s wife Kathleen died in December 2001 and Michael was accused of her murder. But what began to unfold feels like an uncanny precursor to the later likes of Making a Murderer, a confirmation that the truth really can be stranger than fiction. Had something like this happened to Peterson before? Could the prosecutors be trusted? And what on earth was “the owl theory”? PH

Dirty John

While slick conman John Meehan follows a long line of American grifters, his gall is particularly impressive. Having been incarcerated for drug theft, the former nurse anaesthetist targeted California businesswoman Debra Newell, posing as a doctor and slowly inveigling himself into her life and affairs to dangerous ends. While Meehan’s unkempt appearance and general shadiness left some listeners wondering how Newell didn’t cotton on earlier, this podcast from feted US network Wondery and the LA Times (which also became a Netflix series) highlights his knack for compulsive, complicated lies. HJD


Although best known as the director of films such as Fight Club and Seven, David Fincher’s minutely detailed technique also lends itself perfectly to prestige-era television. His 2017 Netflix series Mindhunter provided the perfect vehicle for this kind of auteur approach. A thriller focused more on the psychology of crimes than the gore of them, it’s based on the true story of how the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit came to exist. With the steady, tell-rather-than-show type of storytelling that made Mad Men similarly compelling, it was unsettling, slow-burn TV at its best – and there is a second series on the way. HJD

Appropriate Adult

The awful story of Fred and Rose West – who assaulted and killed a host of vulnerable young women between 1967 and 1987 – has long reverberated through British society and popular culture, with documentaries through the decades focusing on the pair. ITV’s Appropriate Adult – which first aired in 2011 – took a slightly different tack, focusing on Fred’s relationship with Janet Leach, a social worker who chaperoned him in police interviews. Dominic West plays Fred with just the right mix of ineptitude and coldness, in what is a compelling, unusual drama. HJD

See No Evil: The Moors Murders

Google Play/YouTube
Like Fred and Rose West, a sense of fear and fascination has long surrounded Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, from namechecks by the Smiths and Manic Street Preachers to Marcus Harvey’s 1995 painting of Hindley made up of children’s handprints. This 2006 ITV drama offered a dark and naturalistic portrait of the pair, with Maxine Peake and Sean Harris in the central roles. Although arguably overly neutral towards Hindley, it was a striking one-off, made in consultation with the victims’ families. HJD


Although the vast majority of them might seem to, true-crime podcasts don’t just focus on violence and murder. Criminal is an example of combining smart, longform storytelling with the genre to make something unpredictable and varied. Telling the tales of “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle”, this long-running US series hasn’t had a breakout star like Serial’s Adnan Syed, however it manages to offer something genuinely engrossing with each episode, from police violence and counterfeit currency to black market adoption and captive animals. HJD

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Wild Wild Country

This six-part doc series tells the story of an Indian spiritual guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – or Osho to his followers – his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and the community of devotees they assembled on their “Big Muddy Ranch” in Wasco County, Oregon. While we learn early on that wire-tapping, immigration fraud and poisoning were part of the picture here, it’s the way in which these disparate elements and more come together in Osho’s cult that make this such an intriguing and troubling watch. HJD

The Case Against Adnan Syed is on Sky Atlantic


What is the longest running true crime TV show? ›

FORENSIC FILES is the longest-running true crime series in television history.

What is the best true crime? ›

The 20 Best True Crime Documentaries Ever Made
  • The Thin Blue Line (1988) Miramax. ...
  • The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992) HBO. ...
  • Paradise Lost Trilogy (1996, 2000, 2011) HBO. ...
  • The Staircase (2004) ABC News. ...
  • The Imposter (2012) Indomina Releasing. ...
  • The Act of Killing (2012) ...
  • Citizenfour (2014) ...
  • The Jinx (2015)
Jul 6, 2022

What crime show has the most episodes? ›


Inspired by the classic radio drama, "Gunsmoke," the highly-acclaimed TV series depicting the settlement of the American West, aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975. During those 20 seasons, it racked up an astounding 635 episodes, the most of any scripted primetime series ever.

What true crime should I watch on Netflix? ›

The 20 Best True Crime Documentaries on Netflix
  • Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Watch on Netflix. ...
  • The Two Killings of Sam Cooke. ...
  • Wild Wild Country. ...
  • Casting JonBenet. ...
  • The Death and Life of Marsha P. ...
  • This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. ...
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. ...
  • The Keepers.
Jul 13, 2022

What is the most popular police drama? ›

10 Best TV Cop Shows, According To Reddit
  • 'Reno 911! ...
  • 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' ...
  • 'The Wire' ...
  • 'Live PD' ...
  • 'Criminal Minds' ...
  • 'Law & Order: SVU' ...
  • 'True Detective' ...
  • 'Homicide: Life On the Street'
Feb 6, 2022

What was the first crime show on TV? ›

Telecrime (BBC, 1938–39) – later known as Telecrimes (1946) – challenged TV viewers to unravel crimes before the police and featured the first TV police detective, Inspector Holt (played by J B Rowe, UK).

What should I watch in true-crime 2022? ›

For everyone dying to hear the whole story of your favorite scammers, here are the 2022 true-crime documentaries and series to watch out for.
  • 'The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman' ...
  • 'King of the Con' ...
  • 'We Need to Talk About Cosby' ...
  • 'Inventing Anna' ...
  • 'Worst Roommate Ever' ...
  • 'The Girl from Plainville'
Jun 23, 2022

What's the best killer documentary on Netflix? ›

The Top 10 True-Crime Documentaries on Netflix
  1. Making a Murderer. ...
  2. Amanda Knox. ...
  3. The Staircase. ...
  4. Abducted in Plain Sight. ...
  5. Trial 4. ...
  6. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. ...
  7. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer. ...
  8. The Innocent Man.
Aug 2, 2021

What's new on Netflix true-crime? ›

Almost seven years after the release of the Emmy-winning Making a Murderer, true-crime documentaries are still wildly popular on Netflix.
  • 5/12. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020) ...
  • 6/12. Athlete A (2020) ...
  • 7/12. Sophie: A Murder In West Cork (2021) ...
  • 8/12. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021)
Jul 13, 2022

What should I watch this weekend true crime? ›

20 totally engrossing true crime documentaries to stream right...
  • 1 of 20. "Long Shot" Screengrab via Netflix. ...
  • 2 of 20. "The Jinx" ...
  • 3 of 20. "Allen v. ...
  • 4 of 20. "The Staircase" ...
  • 5 of 20. "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness" ...
  • 6 of 20. "Don't @#$%&! ...
  • 7 of 20. “The Confession Killer” ...
  • 8 of 20. “I Love You, Now Die"
Aug 3, 2022

What should I watch murder mystery? ›

The 20 Most Thrilling Murder Mystery Movies to Watch Right Now
  • Clue (1985) HD Retro Trailers. ...
  • Knives Out (2019) Rotten Tomatoes Trailers. ...
  • Get Out (2017) Rotten Tomatoes Trailers. ...
  • Rear Window (1954) Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers. ...
  • Charade (1963) ...
  • Gone Girl (2014) ...
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974) ...
  • Gosford Park (2001)
Jun 30, 2022

What streaming service has the most crime shows? ›

Netflix is home to some of the best true crime docuseries, and The Night Stalker: Hunting for a Serial Killer is at the very top of that list.

What are the top 10 longest running TV series? ›

The 20 Longest Running TV Shows Of All Time
  1. 1 The Simpsons (1989 - Present)
  2. 2 South Park (1997 - Present) ...
  3. 3 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999 - Present) ...
  4. 4 Family Guy (1999 - Present) ...
  5. 5 Law & Order (1990 - 2010) ...
  6. 6 Gunsmoke (1955 - 1975) ...
  7. 7 NCIS (2003 - Present) ...
  8. 8 It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005 - Present) ...
Jan 17, 2022

What true crime should I watch on Hulu? ›

The 22 Best True-Crime Documentaries Streaming on Hulu Right Now
  • 1. " Fyre Fraud" Cinetext. ...
  • 2. " Forensic Files" TeleclanTV. ...
  • 3. " Cold Case Files" ...
  • 4. " The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All" ...
  • 5. " The Murder of Laci Peterson" ...
  • 6. " Deadly Women" ...
  • 7. " Cold Case Hammarskjöld" ...
  • 8. " The First 48 Presents: Homicide Squad Atlanta"
May 27, 2022

How realistic are crime shows? ›

Some crime shows depict law enforcement and the legal process in an unrealistic way. Although a lot of people can wander onto crime scenes in TV shows, access to them is much more strictly controlled in real life. Popular in TV-show courtrooms, the insanity defense is rarely used in real-life criminal court cases.

What is the name of the serial killer series on Netflix? ›

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

What is the number one cop show? ›

The Best TV Cop Shows and Police Procedurals in America, Ranked
  • 7 Hawaii Five-O.
  • 6 NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • 5 Monk.
  • 4 Blue Bloods.
  • 3 Miami Vice.
  • 2 FBI.
  • 1 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Mar 28, 2022

What crime shows should I watch? ›

30 Best Crime Drama Shows That Will Keep You on the Edge of Your...
  • 1 Mare of Easttown. Amazon. $25 AT AMAZON. ...
  • 2 Broadchurch. Amazon. $17 AT AMAZON. ...
  • 3 Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. Amazon. ...
  • 4 Happy Valley. Amazon. ...
  • 5 Cruel Summer. Amazon. ...
  • 6 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Amazon. ...
  • 7 NCIS. Amazon. ...
  • 8 True Detective. Amazon.
Apr 28, 2022

What is the best British crime drama? ›

Best British Crime Dramas of 2021, Ranked
  1. 1 Line of Duty - Season Six. ITV Studios.
  2. 2 Unforgotten - Season Four. BBC Worldwide. ...
  3. 3 Time. BBC. ...
  4. 4 Stay Close. Netflix. ...
  5. 5 The Pembrokeshire Murders. ITV Studios. ...
  6. 6 Vigil. ITV Studios. ...
  7. 7 Bloodlands. Hat Trick International. ...
3 days ago

What crime shows does Netflix have? ›

Crime TV Shows
  • Breaking Bad.
  • Better Call Saul.
  • Riverdale.
  • Peaky Blinders.
  • The Blacklist.
  • Lucifer.
  • I Just Killed My Dad.
  • NCIS.

How many crime shows are there? ›

In 2019-20, there were 19 crime shows on the broadcast networks, which represents just under 20 percent of the 97 scripted shows that aired during the September-to-May season.

What was the name of the police show in the 80s? ›

T.J. Hooker was also a good crime show that aired in the 1980s. TV viewers got a look inside the dramatic lives of a group of Hill Street police officers in the '80s crime dramas Hill Street Blues. Other good cop shows that appear on this top 1980s crime drama TV shows list include Miami Vice, 21 Jump Street and L.A.

What was the name of the old detective show? ›

The Detectives (1959 TV series)
The Detectives
Robert Taylor as Capt. Matt Holbrook and wife Ursula Thiess as Lisa Bonay in The Detectives
Also known asRobert Taylor's Detectives
GenreCrime drama
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Who was the first TV detective? ›

the first TV police detective, Inspector Holt (played by J B Rowe, UK) in the first crime show on TV - Telecrime (BBC, 1938–39) – later known as Telecrimes (1946).

What documentaries are trending right now? ›

  • An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase (2018) new. Trailer. ...
  • Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed (2021) Trailer. ...
  • White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (2022) Trailer. ...
  • Meltdown: Three Mile Island (2022) Trailer. ...
  • Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. ...
  • The Tinder Swindler (2022) 7.2/10. ...
  • Voir (2021) Trailer. ...
  • Heist (2021)
4 days ago

Does Netflix have true crime shows? ›

Seasoned favorites like Making a Murderer and Tiger King and recent releases like Worst Roommate Ever and Bad Vegan are all part of the expansive selection of true-crime series available on Netflix today. From hidden gems to old and new hits, the choices are endless.

Where is the Netflix true crime Code? ›

In this section, we'll list all of Netflix's secret codes according to category.
TV Shows — Code 83.
Classic TV Shows46553
Crime TV Shows26146
Cult TV Shows74652
Food & Travel TV72436
11 more rows
May 22, 2022

Who was the best serial killer? ›

The World's Most Famous Serial Killers And Murderers
  • Ted Bundy.
  • Jack the Ripper.
  • Ed Gein.
  • John Wayne Gacy.
  • Carl Panzram.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • Aileen Wuornos.
  • Harold Shipman.
Jan 17, 2021

Are there any new serial killer documentaries on Netflix? ›

A gripping four-part docuseries, The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness, is another series added to the impressive true crime-themed catalogue that Netflix boasts.

Which came first NCIS or Criminal Minds? ›

Fourth, and just before "NCIS," is "Criminal Minds," which captured a lot of attention with its focus on the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (Behavioral Sciences Unit in reality) and their investigations of the world's most notorious serial killers.

When did true crime TV shows start? ›

True Crimes (TV Series 1991– ) - IMDb.

What is the longest running British detective series? ›

TitleGenreNo. of broadcast years (after year of first broadcast)
Midsomer MurdersDetective series25
Jonathan CreekCrime drama25
Family FortunesGame show24
Red DwarfSitcom24
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