True-crime documentaries are all the rage right now, telling oftentimes gruesome stories that prove that fact can be more frightening than fiction. With Netflix pumping out new original shows with increasing regularity, it can be hard to help you find the best. To save you some precious time, here are five terrifying documentaries that come with the FANDOM stamp of approval.
The Staircase is a French-made miniseries that documents the trial of Michael Peterson, a man accused of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson in December 2001. The filmmakers were given incredible access to the accused’s family, as well as the investigating officers, the defence attorneys, and of course the trial itself. As you’d probably expect, the courtcase results in a multitude of jaw-dropping moments.
The documentary initially aired in October 2004, but surprisingly, the case continued to twist and turn after that, resulting in follow-up docs and even all-new episodes. All of which Netflix has collected together to make a single, 13-part version that tells the full story in gripping fashion.
Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country is notable for the fact that, pretty much every 15 minutes, you’ll find yourself exclaiming “That can’t be true” and frantically Googling to make sure it all really happened. Because the story beggars belief throughout. Yet it’s all true, the film cobbling together six hours of remarkable footage and interviews to prove it.
The six-part series concerns Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their Rajneeshpuram community, which relocated from India to Wasco County, Oregon in the early 1980s. And what starts out as a story of the newcomers rubbing locals up the wrong way soon turns into a story of sex, fraud, poison, wire-tapping, bombs, and attempted murder. It’s not all doom and gloom though, with sprinkles of comedy and drama giving you a break from all the tragedy and horror.
Subtitled “The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” Evil Genius is another story that wouldn’t be believable in a fictional film. The four-part series kicks off with the murder of Brian Wells, a pizza delivery guy who, on August 28, 2003, robbed a bank by claiming to have a bomb attached to his neck. The police quickly apprehended him, Wells claimed that he had been forced to commit the robbery, and then the bomb exploded, killing him.
Was Wells telling the truth and therefore a hostage forced on a deadly scavenger hunt to save his own life? Or was he involved in the planning of the robberies, and therefore his own murder? That’s just the start of this frequently unfathomable story.
The Keepers concerns a belated investigation into the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun who taught English and drama at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s. And it goes to some very dark places, her death seemingly part of a conspiracy to cover-up sexual abuse by priest A. Joseph Maskell at the school.
The seven-part series isn’t an easy watch, being both the horrific story of a brutal murder, and a damning indictment of the Catholic Church. But it’s also an inspiring story of good people fighting for innocent victims, unwilling to give up in their search for justice.
Making a Murderer
Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for sexual assault and attempted murder before his conviction was overturned and he was fully exonerated in 2003. Then two years later the Manitowoc County resident was arrested for a different murder, and found guilty, earning him life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Making a Murderer tells Steven’s tale, and the many doubts and inconsistencies that surround his case. It’s a story that had the world debating Avery’s guilt.
And that story isn’t over yet, as Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey was found guilty of committing the murder with Steven, but even more question marks hang over his conviction. Still want more? Don’t worry, Season 2 is coming shortly as the crew continue to explore the case.