It seems fairly apparent that our obsession with true crime is not going anywhere any time soon.
In 2020, Netflix’s Tiger King had people glued to their screens as they devoured the stranger-than-fiction tale of Joe Exotic — the former zookeeper who has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder-for-hire plot to kill animal rights activist, Carole Baskin, and for killing five tiger cubs.
More recently, audiences have been making some serious dents in their couches, absorbed in the gripping tale of The Serpent, inspired by serial killer Charles Sobhraj who drugged, kidnapped and murdered Western backpackers in Thailand and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, which investigates the mysterious disappearance and death of Elisa Lam.
If you’re looking to satiate your curiosity about the murderous, the mysterious or the macabre, then sink your teeth into one of these true crime documentaries that are sure to keep you spooked.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Where to even begin with this utterly bizarre tale?
In 2003 a pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells walked into a bank, with a bomb locked around his neck and tried to rob it. Things take a rather unfortunate turn and then became increasingly baffling as law enforcement attempt to unravel a twisted plot and uncover who forced Wells to commit the crime and why.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Bill Rothstein are the prime suspects in the case and, in the case of Diehl-Armstrong, provide solid proof as to why you should never underestimate even the most unimpressive of people.
Watch it on: Netflix
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer
You are in for one wild ride when you watch this intriguing — and disturbing — tale.
When Luka Magnotta filmed himself torturing and killing kittens, and then shockingly decided to upload the footage to YouTube, internet sleuths were not only outraged but convinced it wouldn’t be long before he escalated to an even more severe crime.
As it turned out, they were spot on and Magnotta soon progressed to the murder of a human — 33-year-old Lin Jun — which he also filmed and uploaded.
As Magnotta was soon to discover, the cardinal rule of the internet is that you don’t f—k with cats, and if you do — you’d best watch you back.
Watch it on: Netflix
Dorothea Puente: An American Serial Killer
When you look at Dorothea Puente, it’s unlikely that the words “serial killer” spring to mind.
However, that was exactly what this unassuming landlady was, having murdered some of the tenants who occupied her Sacramento, California boarding house in the 80s.
Puente was convicted by a jury in the 1990s of having murdered her elderly and mentally disabled boarders before cashing their Social Security checks.
Nine of Puente’s murders were confirmed but she was suspected of another six.
Watch it on: Hayu from April 18.
After the Night
This one might just be even more terrifying because it happened right here in Australia, albeit in the early 1960s.
After the Night examines the story of Eric Edgar Cooke aka ‘The Night Caller’ who brought terror to the streets of Perth, killing at least eight people and assaulting many more. What’s worse is that two innocent men were convicted of Cooke’s crimes before he was finally caught and brought to justice.
Watch it on: Stan
And if you want more Aussie crime to keep you up at night, check out our article on The Best Australian True Crime Podcasts to Binge During Winter.
If you need a respite from grisly murders and depraved criminals, then check out the HBO documentary McMillion$ which explores how a former police officer managed to steal millions of dollars through McDonald’s annual Monopoly promotion.
Jerry Jacobson successfully assembled a network of co-conspirators to rig the game for more than a decade, before eventually being taken down by the FBI.
Watch it on: Binge
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult
NXIVM marketed itself as a safe haven for self-improvement (for those who could afford the hefty fees) and a community that fostered friendship, healing, growth and emotional progress.
Hundreds of people were swept up in the craze thinking they were on the path to operating at a “higher frequency” when they were actually becoming further indoctrinated into the cult of Keith Raniere.
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult examines how Raniere was able to groom and manipulate several women into master/slave relationships, with some adherents even going so far as to allow themselves to be branded by the cult.
Watch it on: Stan.
When small-town pharmacist Dan Schneider’s son was murdered buying drugs in New Orleans’ lower ninth-ward, he worked tirelessly to ensure the murderer was brought to justice.
However, Schneider soon realised that another killer posed an ongoing threat to the American public — in the form of opioids marketed by big Pharma companies and overprescribed by doctors who were knowingly failing in their duty of care.
This heartbreaking, yet enlightening documentary examines how one man went up against the juggernaut of big, morally corrupt business in a fight to try to hundreds from the grips of America’s devastating opioid epidemic.
Watch it on: Netflix