From the scene of the crime to the courtroom and all of the psychological analysis in between; there is something fascinating about true crime documentaries. It might sound crazy to be interested in such heavy topics like murder and other crimes. 

More recently, the true crime genre has grown in such a way that it has infiltrated popular culture in a more normal context. Over time, it’s become less taboo to talk about murders and true crime. It’s similar to the way society has embraced the horror genre. The horror genre tends to reflect societal fears throughout the films, making our hearts race with the suspense of what could happen.  Whereas, true crime is the result of our worst fears actually happening; coming to life. Fear is an emotion that equalizes all people.

Steve Bonn of Time Magazine says that true crime allows us to explore the emotion of fear in a controlled environment.  As the viewer, we have the power to walk away or change the channel if we become too uncomfortable. That feeling of being uncomfortable is what humanizes us, because we feel compassionate for these people. Meanwhile, serial killers are able to disassociate themselves from the emotional element because they want to cause harm. 

People who like this genre are not as deranged as the serial murderers sitting on death row. They just enjoy exploring a the human psyche in a comfortable and non-threatening space – their couch.

It’s essential to recognize that these are real people and real stories.

By sharing these stories, we learn about the details of the crime, backstories on the victim and the perpetrator. Watching these documentaries, you are able to live vicariously through others, where you realize how traumatic it is for the victims’ families to have to recount every single detail and piece of evidence found at the crime scene. Especially when the cases are so high profile that they become a part of the news cycle and part of popular culture. For example, Casting Jon Benet is a documentary that interviews the people about what they remember from the case and how it shaped society at the time.

Here are some binge-worthy documentaries currently streaming that touch upon these ideas or if you’re eager to dive into the fascinating world of true crime.

  1. The Staircase

    The Staircase explores the case around the mysterious death of a women who fallen down the stairs one evening while home with her husband. The husband, however, claims he had nothing to do with it. This sparks the question: how did she die?

  2. Evil Genius

    This documentary follows the diabolical bank heist that lead to the murder of Brian Wells from a makeshift collar bomb, leading to all sorts of unsuspecting twists and turns.

  3. Making A Murderer

    Two family members are convicted for a crime they swear they didn’t commit while the state will do anything in their power to keep them behind bars. Will the law ever be on their side?

  4. I am a Killer 

    Death row criminals share their first-hand accounts of the crimes that put them behind bars.

  5. The Fear of 13

    This documentary explores the story of Nick Yarris; a convicted death row criminal, who proves his own innocence through new DNA technology.

  6. Mindhunter

    In this docuseries, two FBI detectives explore the behavior of incarcerated repeat offenders to create the term serial killer.

  7. Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

    Explore the twisted mind of one of the most notorious serial killers to ever walk the earth. The series chronicles his life as a killer through court trials, appeals, his escape and his death.

  8. The Vow

    This documentary details the happenings of the cult NXIVM. Their sex and human trafficking crimes are just the tip of the iceberg.

  9. John Wayne Gacey: A Devil in Disguise

    This documentary goes into the pathology and psychology of the man who murdered 33 young men. It’s a fascinating insight into what goes on in a serial killer’s mind.

  10. The Most Dangerous Animal of All

    Have you ever wished that you had a famous parent? This adopted man goes out on a mission to discover who his real father is, only to discover that he might be the Zodiac Killer.

It’s far easier to see the twisted and evil side of true crime, because that is what crime is. When you are able to humanize the people involved, it changes everything. Suddenly, we realize these victims are real people who were loved and far more than the autopsy photos shown in a courtroom.


Photo by Martin Lopez from Pexels

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