If you’re anything like us, there’s nothing that gets you more into WE MUST STAY UP LATE AND WATCH ANOTHER EPISODE mode than a gripping real-life whodunnit. They’re devastating and immeasurably sad, and it’s often the shock factor that it’s not a fictional story produced by a team of writers, combined with the element of mystery that gets us well and truly hooked.
With a little while of lockdown and endless hours of screen time to get through before we begin to enter the big wide world again, we thought we’d share some of the most haunting crime documentaries we’ve ever watched. Y’know, just in case you’re on the hunt for something new…
Don’t F**k With Cats
If you want a complete rollercoaster ride of WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKs, and a twisted storyline that has a complete ending (rather than an unsolved case), then please let us point you in the direction of Netflix’s Don’t F**K With Cats. There’s only three episodes (all around an hour-long) which makes it super easy to watch in one-go (or at least over one weekend) and unlike a lot of other Netflix titles, it doesn’t feel dragged out. The story follows a group of online web sleuths as they attempt to solve one of Canada’s most horrendous modern-day murders. We can guarantee you’ll say “I can’t believe I didn’t know this even happened” at least once. (And just an FYI, there is some disturbing animal cruelty footage, as the title suggests, but from memory it’s just the one clip in the first episode).
The Jinx is a six-episode long crime documentary series which follows American property tycoon Robert Durst who is suspected of a string of murders across the States. The real twist in the programme, which first aired in 2015, isn’t so much the investigation into what happened and the things Durst is alleged to have done, but the fact the film makers convinced Robert Durst (now in his seventies) to willingly take part in it. It is odd and shocking, and available to watch via Sky or Now TV.
American Murder: The Family Next Door
Easily one of the most surreal things I’ve watched in a long-time. American Murder: The Family Next Door arrived on Netflix at the end of last year – it’s just one episode long, and is just under 90 minutes. The thing that separates this from most other real-life crime docs is that there is a lot of video footage (from social media and police body cameras) that makes it feel eerily like you know both the victims and the perpetrator, and that you’re right there with them. It is also hauntingly sad, the kind that leaves you awake thinking about it long-afterwards. An extra warning on this one for parents of young kids.
Making A Murderer
The crime documentary that started them all, Making A Murderer follows the case of missing woman Teresa Halbach who disappeared in 2005 from Wisconsin whilst taking photos of a car in a salvage yard as part of her job. The investigation that followed ended with the arrest of Steven Avery, and this documentary series (there’s two seasons on Netflix, each with 10 hour-long episodes) questions everything that the police wanted us to believe – including Avery’s guilt. It’s a meaty one with a lot to get through, but an incredibly interesting one that will leave you unsure and confused long afterwards.
Catching a Killer
There’s currently five episodes of Catching A Killer available to watch over on All4 – all of them focus on different murder investigations within the UK and all of them have aired separately over the past few years. The camera crews are granted extraordinary access to different police forces across the country in the crucial hours after a murder. This means the viewer gets thrown in right from the start and gains an interesting insight into how the police work on and solve these kinds of horrendous crimes.
Another Netflix special, this time focusing in on a 2003 bank robbery in Pennsylvania. So far, so relatively mundane. But there’s much more to the story, involving homemade explosives, a scavenger hunt and a pizza delivery. Not far into the first episode you’ll get a wild twist that will make you go ‘wait, no, hang on, WHAT?’, but I won’t spoil it for you just yet. There’s only four parts, so a speedy one to get through without too much commitment, and they’re all under an hour too.