True crime documentaries have become a crowd favourite for a lot of us, thanks to platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. These platforms have created movies and TV shows based on the most chilling crimes in history, right from the infamous night stalker in Los Angeles to the ghastly ripper of Yorkshire, or the mystery behind the famous and beloved Marilyn Monroe. Created in the form of documentary series, also called “docu-series”, these make for a great watch and are better than some of the best crime fiction movies and shows available online.
If you’re into crime documentaries or are simply looking to give them a try, here are some of the best docu-series to watch.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel
One of the many unfortunate crimes in the US, the vanishing of Elisa Lam was one mysterious case that started the cycle of cyber sleuths on YouTube. Elisa Lam, a young student from Vancouver, travelled to Los Angeles for a holiday on her own and checked into the Cecil Hotel. A 5-star hotel in the beginning, the Cecil Hotel was a victim of The Great Depression. The hotel was forced to turn into an affordable housing complex, with many criminals taking up permanent residence. Elisa Lam’s mysterious disappearance led the police to turn to the internet crime sleuths for help, each creating their own theories, some believable, some utterly far-fetched. Was it her failing mental health? Or a run-in with one of the dangerous criminals on the floors? The secrets unfolded in the series really leave you wondering what actually did happen at the Cecil Hotel.
Watch online on Netflix
King of the Con
Barry Minkow stands as history’s youngest self-made millionaire ever, who turned out to be a clever con artist. King of the Con is a three-part docuseries about the life and crimes of the serial scam artist, a teenage entrepreneur behind the successful carpet-cleaning company ZZZZ Best. However, it was discovered that Minkow’s business was part of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, and the latter was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1988, although he was released much earlier in 1995. Post his release, Minkow turned his life upside down and became a pastor at a church in San Diego and would use his expertise to establish a fraud detection business, while releasing the best-selling book spilling details of the ZZZZ Best scam. But did the serial con artist really have a change of heart? We hardly think so!
Watch online on Amazon Prime
Mommy Dead and Dearest
There’s nothing more pure than a mother’s love. Unconditional and wholesome, this love turns into obsession, insecurity and abuse in Mommy Dead and Dearest. The series is the real-life story of a mother-daughter duo Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. What appeared on the front was a saintly mother who took care of her ailing daughter’s every need. However, behind closed curtains was a mentally ill, control freak of a mother who feigned her daughter’s many illnesses, rendering Gypsy dependent on her mother for the rest of her life. The docu-series is one of the most shocking tales of motherhood, filled with gruesome stomach-churning tales and secrets unveiling, beginning with the death of Dee Dee herself in the very first episode.
Watch online on HBO
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
One of the most dangerous serial killers in LA, the series tells the story of young detective Gil Carrillo and legendary homicide investigator Frank Salerno’s hunt for Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker in the ’80s. Active for a period of 14 months, Ramirez was responsible for thirteen murders, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries. Ramirez had a sneaky way of getting into homes at night, murdering the husbands and children, and then brutally assaulting the women. Apart from his brutal murders, Ramirez’s trial was popular in the media for being nothing short of a circus fest with multiple fans and women claiming to be in love with the man!
Watch online on Netflix
Perfect World: A Deadly Game
The online gaming world is filled with anonymous players and users with false identities. But what happens when one of them turns out to be a psychopathic killer? Perfect World: A Deadly Game traces the story of real-life killer Menhaz Zaman, an internet troll who announces his plans to kill his family members to his gaming friends. Believing it to be a joke, his friends laugh it off until Menhaz sends them a picture of his horribly slaughtered mother and grandmother. Realizing that this isn’t a hoax, the friends put their hacking skills to the test to track down Menhaz and save his father and sister. But without any real information about Menhaz’s identity and whereabouts, how do you stop a killer you’ve never met?
Watch online on Apple TV
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer
Ted Bundy is a name the US might never forget. Another one of America’s notorious serial killers, Ted Bundy was responsible for kidnapping, raping and even killing numerous women in the 70s. This is the second docuseries on Bundy after Netflix’s The Ted Bundy Tapes. While Netflix’s version focuses on Bundy himself, Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, shows us who Ted Bundy was before a serial killer, and of course, the trails of victims left behind, as told by his former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall. The very first episode begins with a bold statement from Kendall, “This story has been told many times by men. Now’s the time to talk about our own story from beginning to end.”
Watch online on Amazon Prime
The Tinder Swindler
Even if you haven’t watched it, there’s a good chance you’ve come across or at least heard of The Tinder Swindler. It tells the story of a handsome and charming man named Shimon Hayut who went by the name Simon Leviev. Leviev would connect with his victims on the popular dating app Tinder and swoon them with expensive gifts and trips around the world. After a few weeks, he would contact them and ask them for huge amounts of money claiming to be under attack by “his enemies”. Leviev is said to have scammed women out of an estimated USD 10 million. An unfortunate tale, the docuseries keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end, leaving you wondering how safe online dating really is.