If you’re someone who loves bingeing on spine-chilling true crime documentaries on Netflix into the wee hours of the night, we’ve got you covered with this compilation of the best shows to watch.
Infamous and sensationalised serial killers, from Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez (Night Stalker), have fascinated people for years with their prevalence in the news and entertainment sections, feeding the public’s appetite for the macabre. So it’s no surprise that many serial killer documentaries and true crime mysteries have been produced around them and their terrifying exploits. The fact that these stories are rooted in reality — and could happen to essentially anyone — also makes them all the more frightening. Dahmer’s case, in particular, has seen some renewed interest lately, due to the release of Netflix’s TV series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story which charts his murderous journey. Also based on his life is an upcoming docuseries titled Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, which premieres on October 7 2022.
As we eagerly await the latter, what better place than Netflix to binge-watch the best and most gruesome serial killer and true crime documentaries? From The Nilsen Tapes, The Ripper, The Sons of Sam and Catching Killers, among others, audiences are spoilt for choice. Read on for our recommendations, which will keep you on the edge of your seat and riveted to the very end.
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The best serial killer documentaries to catch on Netflix:
(Main and featured image: Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes/Netflix/IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Born in 1960 and dubbed as the Walk-in Killer and Night Stalker of Los Angeles in the United States, Ricardo ‘Richard’ Leyva Muñoz Ramírez, has been a subject of several movies and a true crime docu-series on Netflix, based on his unthinkable crimes. Ramirez was a notorious murderer, kidnapper, rapist, child molester, and burglar who lurked under the glamorous facade of sunny California and committed these nocturnal atrocities in the 1980s.
In this Netflix crime series, two homicide detectives, Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno race against time to nab the Night Stalker for committing close to 15 heinous murders and sexual assaults. This limited docu-series hauntingly shows how the homicide investigators decode the murders and hunt down the serial killer to bring him to justice. It includes detailed accounts of their interactions with Ramirez, chilling archival footage, upsettingly graphic crime scenes and eerie cinematography.
Not for the faint-hearted, Night Stalker is one of the best Netflix true crime documentaries to binge on during the weekend.
Remembered as one of the most ‘handsome and charming’ criminals in the history of true crime, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is perfect for a weekend binge, if you want to gain some insight into the mind of a horrendous criminal and decode his murders.
Born in 1946, Theodore Robert Bundy was an American serial killer who murdered, kidnapped and raped several innocent young women in the 1970s. Bundy denied his crimes for over a decade before he confessed to committing 30 murders over the course of several years in the early ‘70s.
Including Bundy’s notorious blood-curling interviews and rare video and audio footage from the archives, recorded when he was on death row, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes offers a blistering portrait of the heartless killer.
Despite the horrific nature of his crimes, Bundy had sort of turned into a celebrity and was sensationalised due to his charming looks and witty interactions with the court and the media, especially after his 1977 escape from custody in Colorado, US. His real-life case and subsequent popularity inspired several gripping true crime documentaries and movies.
Another morbid addition to the list of true crime documentaries, is the Netflix documentary film from the makers of Don’t F**k With Cats. Titled Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes, this is a haunting collection of audio recordings narrated by the man himself from his jail cell. One of Britain’s infamous serial killers and a former police officer, Dennis Nilsen, recalls his life story and all the details of his gruesome crimes against men, in the audio tapes.
Nilsen was arrested in 1983, after plumbers discovered horrific remains of the human bodies he had disposed of through the drain of his London flat. The cold-blooded criminal had murdered over 15 men and boys before he was caught.
A gripping four-part docuseries, The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness, is another series added to the impressive true crime-themed catalogue that Netflix boasts.
The true crime series dives deep into the mind of investigative journalist Maury Terry, who was convinced that the serial killer, David Berkowitz, had accomplices in the six murders and seven attempted murders he committed in the ‘Son of Sam’ case. Not only this, he believed that the murders were linked to a satanic cult.
The chilling crimes took place in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens in New York, in the 1970s. Dubbed as the ‘point 45-caliber killer’, owing to the namesake revolver gun he used to kill his seemingly random victims, the postal employee Berkowitz was caught in 1977 for terrorising the city of New York for over a year.
The series details the chronological timeline of Berkowitz’s haunting crimes and the subsequent obsessive rabbit-hole that journalist Terry goes down in, while attempting to prove the presence of potential accomplices who might have been roaming around scott-free, committing more crimes.
Another true crime, ten-part series, sure to keep you hooked is Catching Killers on Netflix that chronicles the frightful killings done by the most dangerous criminals around the world. The series takes the viewer through the harrowing details of several serial murder cases as told by the investigative officers assigned to those cases.
Catching Killers follows the enthralling stories of police officers and prosecuting attorneys as they dive deep into the murder cases, solve them and hunt down the killers to imprison them. Each of the ten episodes showcase two stories of diverse murder cases from around the globe
This terrifying mini TV-series dives deep into the details of horrific murders that took place in York, a country in the north of England in the late 1970s. Dubbed as ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’, the murderer Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women and assaulted innumerable others, in the vicinity of the city of Leeds and Bradford.
In this four-part Netflix original docuseries, the show takes the viewers along as the police, prosecutors and witnesses rehash the real life details of the grisly murders that took place between 1975 and 1980 in the peaceful northern England, provoking the biggest police manhunt in British history to nail down the murderer.
The Ripper highlights why the Yorkshire police were unable to catch the hardened criminal for years owing to the amalgamation of his sly, cagy and ambiguous characteristics. The delay was a result of the sexist attitude of the law officials towards the female victims, victim blaming and disorderly judicial system and police department, as well.
Another famous ‘crime scene’ you should visit virtually is through the Netflix series, The Confession Killer. This series is about the self-proclaimed serial killer of the 1980s America, Henry Lee Lucas, who willfully confessed to over 600 unsolved murders without any direct connection to the murders or evidence tying him to the crime scenes.
However, he persuaded the law enforcement that he was responsible for the grisly sins, by uncannily sketching the victims’ portraits and recalling heinous details of each of those murderous attacks and crimes to the tee.
But his confessions were inadvertently doubted by the authorities because of obvious discrepancies in his narrations and the timelines of the brutal attacks. News reporters and prosecutors realised the gaping holes in his alleged storyline when DNA tests started revealing a different truth. Garnering massive media attention around the world, this docu-series examines the truth about Lucas, whose death sentence was famously pardoned by then-President of the United States, George W Bush.
From elusive clarity to hazy reality, the series implores the public to search for the truth and cleverly showcases the story of a complex ‘criminal’ entwined in a distorted judicial system and flawed law enforcements.
A series of seven horrific murders in the historic Bastille neighbourhood between 1991 and 1997 shook Parisian society. The victims, all women, were raped, tortured and killed. The French press dubbed the killer, Guy Georges, ‘Beast of Bastille’.
Georges had already served time in prison for raping or assaulting other women before getting arrested in 1998 for the Bastille murders. Despite mounting DNA evidence pointing at one person, the French Police were still debating the implementation of a database that can help connect a crime to a criminal.
Directed by Mona Achache and Patricia Tourancheau, The Women and the Murderer is an outstanding Netflix serial killer documentary, which tells the story of the victims and the crimes through the voices of Anne Gautier, the mother of one of the Bastille victims, and Martine Monteil, who, in 1996, became the first woman to lead France’s elite investigative body known as Crime Brigade.
The documentary is also unique because Tourancheau was herself part of the investigation as a young crime reporter in the 1990s. As such, it lends an even deeper and in-person account of how Monteil caught Georges and how the latter was convicted.
Perhaps the best serial killer documentary to come from South Korea, The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea recounts a bloodbath that Yoo Young-chul carried out with such barbarity that it can send a chill down the spines of even the most hardened people.
Between September 2003 and July 2004, Yoo bludgeoned entire families, including the elderly, children and women. After killing his victims, Yoo dismembered many of his victims. His actions put the whole of Seoul in terror.
The documentary series reveals how Yoo was captured, his brief escape and immediate rearrest. During his killing spree, Yoo also killed escorts by luring them to his home. This alerted the owner of the escort agency whose personal intervention led to Yoo’s arrest. This part of Yoo’s killings and arrest was the basis of Na Hong-jin critically acclaimed 2008 South Korean thriller film The Chaser.
The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea shows how the police in Korea operated at the time, making it difficult to identify and capture him. Though records put the number at 33, Yoo confessed to killing 26 people and was given a death sentence in 20.
Interviews of an array of police personnel involved in the operation to nab Yoo as well as legal experts feature in the documentary. Two of the most important noteworthy interviewees are Kwon Il-yong, South Korea’s first criminal profiler, and the brothel owner.
This acclaimed three-part series is an out-of-the-ordinary serial killer documentary on Netflix because it connects how someone obsessed with killing animals can quickly turn to murder humans.
The acclaimed and highly emotional narration looks at a series of sadistic murders of kittens, captured on video by the killer and shared on the internet. Concerned amateur online investigators on Facebook try to figure out who the person is, and they succeed.
It is found that the culprit, a Canadian named Luka Magnotta, killed Chinese international student Jun Lin in 2012 after his gruesome murder of the cats. The documentary reveals the dark secrets Magnotta harboured and their effects on his psyche.
In 2006, a then unidentified man dared the Delhi Police by placing the mutilated body of his victim in front of the Tihar Jail. This followed a series of murders in which body parts were found across the city.
Chandrakant Jha, the killer who was dubbed ‘CC Killer’ by the cops, murdered those who were categorised as underprivileged. Police investigation was slow, and the murders didn’t actually unnerve society.
Directed by Ayesha Sood, Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi not only shows how a police force, then unprepared to deal with serial killings quickly, evolved but also throws light on a problem that exists even in death — class divide.
Jha was arrested and convicted of killing three, though he was accused of seven murders. Interestingly, Jha himself claims to have killed 44 — a number that, if proven, would make him one of the most dangerous serial killers in history.
The documentary stays true to its content and doesn’t go into painting the victims, the cops or the criminal in any light except hard facts about them.