Top 5 true crime Netflix documentaries to watch in the dark

Claire Oliver

Poster shows the word "Mindhunter" and an ink blot portrait in blood.
Poster for the new Netflix Original Series, “Mindhunter.”

Netflix, a hub for true crime documentaries, has been churning out some of the most interesting and in-depth mini-series for streaming.

The new Ted Bundy film, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” starring Zac Efron as the notorious serial killer has recently been put under fire due to the recent trailer release of the film. Since the new film has gained the attention of the masses, many are turning to true crime documentaries to fill the gap between now and the new movie’s release. Here are five of the most interesting and diverting true crime documentaries and dramas on Netflix to help feed the true crime obsession before the new film comes out. 

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1. Making a Murderer

This series was an instant hit when Netflix released it in 2015. Those who haven’t seen the show have at least heard of the shockingly true story of a social outcast who was wrongly convicted because the town he lived in held a vendetta. The story is about Steven Avery who went to prison for 18 years on a wrongful conviction. The case was revisited when DNA testing became available, and it allowed Avery to walk free. 

It may seem like a happy ending, but his release is just the first episode. The show throws the audience an epic curveball after Teresa Halbach is found murdered in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. 

The show gained a massive audience with over 20 million views only 35 days after the show premiered. In this case, the numbers speak for themselves. The epic 10-part series is gripping and intense, and it is practically impossible to watch just one episode. Season two does lack the same intensity as the first season, but the first series is perfect to watch on a dark, cold night. 

2. MINDHUNTER

This show strays from the typical documentary series. It is a dramatic retelling of the beginning of the Behavioral Science Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Based on the book of the same name by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, “MINDHUNTER” takes audiences inside the mind of the famed serial killer, Ed Kemper, as the FBI attempts to create a way to profile murderers in order to catch them more effectively. 

The story does take some artistic license, and the characters’ names are different than the names of the original officers who helped to form the BSU, but the dialogue used in the show is based on the actual recordings made between Douglas and Kemper. The term “serial killer” also makes its first appearance as the detectives make their way through the dialogue with Kemper. 

The second season promises to include even bigger players such as Charles Manson, who famously sat down with Douglas and Olshaker to help create the BSU. A release date for season two has not been announced. 

3. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes 

Bundy is the talk of the town in true crime circles due to the new film. The new film’s trailer release coincided with the release of Netflix’s documentary “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” 

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In this documentary, the reporters who recorded the tapes and the legal team involved with the cases against Bundy walk audiences through the story of the killer and how he got away with murder for years. This show is a good introduction to him before the new film is released. 

The show doesn’t divert from the traditional style of serial killer documentaries. One of the most interesting moments is his escape from prison in Aspen, Colorado, twice. Another interesting aspect is the way in which Bundy describes the incidents. In order to talk about the crimes, he has to distance himself from the situation to reveal the reasons behind his need to kill. This is definitely a show to watch with a group of people and not alone at night.

4. The Innocent Man

The town of Ada, Oklahoma, is not a name most people will know, but it is a place that is notorious for two things: corn and the murders of Debbie Carter and Denise Haraway. 

“The Innocent Man” is based on the book of the same name by John Grisham and tells the story of how three men were convicted of murders they did not commit. This show may sound similar to the story of Steven Avery, but the men who were convicted of the crime are seen on tape giving their confessions. Or are they?

Without giving too much away, the show creates a narrative that investigates the true intentions of law enforcement and prosecutors in a small town who rarely deal with horrible crimes like murder. The show is intriguing and extremely upsetting as the series takes you through the stories of the three wrongly convicted men and how their lives are forever altered as they refuse to deviate from the truth. 

5. The Keepers

Firstly, “The Keepers” doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The show focuses on the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a nun and Catholic school teacher in 1969 in Baltimore, Maryland. 

The investigation is brought about because the students who attended the school Sister Cathy taught at came forward and shared their stories about their time at Archbishop Keough High School. At the time, the school was an all-girls establishment. The story is told through the eyes of the women who were at school when Sister Cathy was murdered and addressed how some of them suffered sexual abuse at the hands of male authority figures. 

The women involved believe that Sister Cathy’s knowledge about the abuse was connected to her disappearance. 

The story is compelling and delves into the corruption within the Catholic church and how abuse and assault scandals are covered up. By telling the story through the eyes of the students, this documentary is a step above the average true crime story.

Claire Oliver can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @clariety21.