The Best True Crime & Morbid Documentaries and TV Series

The Best True Crime & Morbid Documentaries and TV Series

  • A periodically updated curated list of the best true crime and morbid documentaries.

Did you know that while women are less likely to be criminals, they account for a disproportionate portion of readers and writers of the crime genre? Bizarrepedia’s own statistics say 60% of the readers are female.

Although women are the biggest true crime buffs, there is nothing better for anyone than spending a weekend with a true crime marathon. We sure are compelled by terrible things, but only when it’s perfectly safe, sitting comfortably on your sofa or watching from the sidewalk.

Below is the list documentaries that should help you with for many of those satisfying weekends.

A Crime to Remember (TV Series, 2013 - …)

3 season long TV Series about long-forgotten murder cases from the 1950’s and 60’s that often changed societies. The story is narrated by a fictional bystander who knew the victim. The reenaction and the attention to detail of the era’s style, cultural taboos, and social norms is a form of art on its own.

Just look at these beautifully made “cinematographs” published on the official website of A Crime to Remember. Tell me another true crime series where there is put so much effort into detail.

All the 3 seasons and their episodes are worth watching but you can dive in from season 1, episode 2. “The Career Girl Murders” talks a story of a homicide case from New York in 1963. Two young women are brutally murdered in their apartment. The media dubs the case The Career Girls Murders. Eager to solve the case, the investigators arrest a man who fits the bill but overlook a key piece of evidence. Just like in all of the series, during the pre-DNA era how suspects looked played a far bigger role determining the guilt than what they actually did.

Amazon has all the series available.

The Impostor (2012)

“There are two sides to every lie” – just like the movie poster says, as there are two sides to every story, there are also two lies.

The Impostor movie poster

The chronicles of a French master con artist Frederic Bourdin (spoiler alert!), who tricked a Texas family into believing he was their missing son who disappeared mysteriously years earlier. How can a Frenchman living in Spain trick an American family to believe he is their missing son? And did he trick them or was the family playing along despite all the inconsistencies because they have something to hide? This story will give you chills and asks more answers than it gives you.

The documentary has a solid rating of 7.5 on IMDB.

Savile (2016) by Louis Theroux

Legendary British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux tries to understand how entertainer Jimmy Savile — a man at the center of entertainment and charitable fundraising — was able to get away with a litany of crimes for decades.

Louis Theroux and Jimmy Savile

After his death, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse lead the police to believe that Savile had been one of Britain’s most prolific predatory sex offender.

Jimmy Savile is considered in Britan somewhat a national treasure. Theroux feels guilty of letting Savile off the hook when they first met 15 years ago. Now, he’s created a new documentary to make sense of his guilt – and face the victims of the man he once called a friend.

If you’re British, the documentary is available on BBC’s iPlayer. Or you can just use your Google and Youtube skills.

Amanda Knox (2016)

Probably the people who didn’t know a thing about the case of Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox, now do, because all of the media attention the new documentary published on Netflix has gotten from the mainstream media.

Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox: ‘Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing or I am you.’

American girl Amanda Marie Knox spent almost four years in an Italian prison following conviction of the murder of Meredith Kercher — a British exchange student who was sharing the house with Amanda. Is she guilty? — Most likely no, but just like any good case, it adds more and more to the discussion. The documentary has everything: corrupted Italian court system with its Catholic prosecutor who believes that he is Sherlock Holmes. A Daily Mail journalist with no shame, which I like, but probably offends many.

The documentary itself is not a masterpiece but gives an excellent overview of the intriguing case and is available on on Netflix.

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012)

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Milwaukee Cannibal. Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most famous serial killers of all times. The documentary is a good start for beginners and to those who already know something about Dahmer. Archival footage, interviews, and fictionalized scenarios tell the story of the people around him. An insightful look at those whose lives were changed forever. It’s full of little mundane segments about the strange personality of Dahmer such as walking on train tracks alone. Pat Kennedy, the detective handling the case, is fantastic storyteller.

Did you know that Dahmer had nothing appropriate to wear, so the detective got shirt and pants from his own son for him to wear during the trial? Get it on Amazon.

This is the Zodiac Speaking (2007)

This is the Zodiac Speaking

Now this one is different from the usual Crime and Investigation Channel type of documentaries. No exaggeration, creepy music and editing tricks. No orchestrated drama, just raw interviews from people that were actually there and much of an impact the case really had on their lives. It highlights the problems with initial investigation and only deepens one of the greatest criminal mysteries — who was Zodiac?

Available on Youtube.

Death by Fire (Frontline, 2010)

Death by Fire (Frontline, 2010)

The controversial case of Cameron Todd Willingham who was put to death for the arson-murder of his three little girls. But was he guilty? There is no doubt Willingham was not your model citizen. But having Iron Maiden posters as proof that he’s into devil worshipping? The documentary is a must watch either you support death penalty of not. How can state put a man to death when all of the fire experts agree it was not arson but an accident.

Death By Fire is free to watch on Frontline’s website.

The Fear of 13 (2015)

Nick Yarris: The Fear of 13

You can just ignore the title, it really has nothing to do with the story. Self-educated inmate Nich Yarris has been on death row for 20 years and at one point petitions the court to be executed. But the story doesn’t end there. After reading 1000 freaking books while incarnated, this guy turned into a well-spoken, remarkable story teller. He tells his story and somehow you just sit back and listen to every detail. Really worth a watch and it’s currently available on Netflix.

The Lobotomist (American Experience, 2008)

What’s wrong with shoving ice pick rods through eye sockets brains of children to damage frontal lobes of the brain? It turns out many things. Walter Jackson Freeman was an American physician who specialized in lobotomy and can be considered grandfather of the procedure in the United States.

The Lobotomist: Walter Jackson Freeman
Freeman on the right.

The man was convinced and was able to persuade many people believing that this is the magical cure against depression, suicidal thoughts, even bad behavior. In many cases, the surgery turned patients into a vegetable or utterly child-like. The history of the lobotomy is ugly, and many people have to live with the consciences. Get it on Amazon or watch from YouTube.

The Condemned (2013)

Footage of Russian prison named Black Swan, or just Penal Colony 56

In a forest larger than Germany, 7 hours from the civilization, where temperatures drop to one of the lowest on earth, lies a prison that is home to 260 men. Old-school maximum-security prison named White Swan, or just Penal Colony 56, is exclusively for killers. In addition to recidivists, it holds a number of criminal authorities (Thieves in law) and terrorists. The documentary is depressing and eye-opening at the same time. After watching these inhumane conditions and sad lives, you will appreciate your freedom a little bit more. Watch on YouTube.

Oxyana (2013)

Oxyana

A once thriving coal-mining town Oceana’s has fallen victim to the fast spreading addiction of painkiller Oxycontin. A prescription drug that is nothing more than a regular opiate, with the only difference instead of organized crime getting the money, this time it’s the well-respected multinational pharmacy companies. Oxyana places you inside the center of Oceana’s heartbreak and despair. Available on Amazon.

Thieves by Law/Vory V Zakone (2010)

Thieves by Law

A film that gives a good picture of Russia’s vast organized crime scene and a phenomenon called “Thieves by Law.” Involved persons wanted by Interpol give you the in-person view of the system and how did it develop. Fantastic comparison between how crime is seen in Russia and abroad. Watch on YouTube.

Genie Wiley: The Secret of the Wild Child (1994)

Genie Wiley
Genie Wiley.

The story of Genie Wiley is one of the cruelest instances of social isolation in the American history. Her father determined she was mentally retarded and locked her up in one of the family’s bedrooms where she spent her entire childhood. Raised in extreme isolation, Genie was a wild child: uncivilized, barely able to talk or walk, still wearing diapers, although being almost 14 years old.

The Secret of the Wild Child a beautiful an hour long documentary about Genie’s life, linguistic and physical development and progress, with a lot of original, raw video material of her progress. Watch it on Vimeo.

Kid Criminals S1E1: America’s Youngest Sex Offenders (2015)

America’s Youngest Sex Offenders

America’s Youngest Sex Offenders is part of Channel 4’s Kid Criminals series. The plot is mainly around two young sex offenders — 14-year-old Tavarius McNair and his roommate Garrett Clutter, 15. The boys live in Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana that specializes in the treatment of young sex offenders. How the boys ended up as registered sex offenders at such a young age is somewhat obscure, but many of the boys living the facility are themselves, victims of sexual and physical abuse.

‘I did a sexual offense on a family member,’ revealed one of the boys. ‘My friends tell me they will kill me if they see me again. I feel like people see a label on me now because of that one thing. I feel lost.’ Watch it on Youtube.

The Children of Leningradsky (2005)

The Children of Leningradsky

The Children of Leningradsky is a 31-minute long Polish documentary directed by famous producer Hanna Polak. There are millions of homeless children in Russia, around 30,000 of them live in and around Moscow railway stations. The documentary follows a small community of them — how they live and survive the constant threat of sexual predators. Sniffing glue to get high and drinking vodka during the day time is nothing out of ordinary for these young soldiers. Watch it on Youtube.

A Case of Insanity (Frontline, 2002)

Paranoid schizophrenic Ralph Tortorici

Paranoid schizophrenic Ralph Tortorici took a classroom of hostages at the State University of New York at Albany on December 14, 1994. Police arrested Tortorici without casualties. As he was dragged to the police car, he shouted at journalists, “Stop government experimentation!”

A mentally ill man was thrown to jail with the general prisoner population without proper psychiatric care and eventually hanged himself. The incident prompted controversy what is legally and what is morally correct. Watch it on Youtube.

•   •   •

The list will be updated periodically. Meanwhile, you can check out the best true crime podcasts and true crime blogs.

You might be also interested in Bizarepedia’s Youtube Channel – All true crime, unsavory, unwise and non-fictional, intended to document only the reality. Without embellishment.

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