Be it podcasts, TV shows, movies or even books, true crime content is officially having a moment—with Netflix alone dropping new documentary films or miniseries under the genre every month since December 2020. With stories of bone-chilling serial murders and the minds of suburban killers gripping viewers worldwide, it’s safe to say that being a true crime fan has now evolved from being a niche interest on Tumblr to a widespread hobby for many.
On 6 July 2022, Netflix released one of the “most frightening” documentaries of all time called Girl in the Picture. Shortly after, thousands of fans took to social media platforms to admit how disturbed they were by the film.
Calling all true crime aficionados! Here are ten documentaries similar to Girl in the Picture that you just can’t miss on Netflix. After you’re done with this list, I guarantee that you’ll ask yourself the following: Do I really know my neighbours next door? How safe is it to walk alone on a quiet street? Are hot people capable of committing gruesome crimes? Wait, did I lock the front door in the first place?
Directed by Skye Borgman and originally released in 2017, Abducted in Plain Sight tells the story of Jan Broberg, an Idaho teenager who was abducted, brainwashed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her decades-older neighbour Robert Berchtold in the 1970s.
But Berchtold did not just abduct Broberg once. In fact, he trapped the teen’s religious parents in such a web of trust and shame that he managed to convince the family to drop the most serious kidnapping charges against him, who in turn continued letting him spend disturbing amounts of time with their young daughter, and—in the most shocking twist of all—eventually abducted her a second time.
2020’s American Murder: The Family Next Door is guaranteed to leave you wondering if we really know those around us—especially the ones we love. Using raw first-hand footage, text messages and law enforcement recordings, the documentary follows Chris Watts, who killed his pregnant wife Shanann and their two daughters, Celeste and Bella, back in 2018. The 80-minute film explores the quadruple-murders in a way that makes the mother and daughters more than just the victims of a crime committed by an incredibly disturbed and broken man.
One thing you should know before watching Casting JonBenét is that you won’t get any answers. And according to director Kitty Green, that’s exactly the point.
The 2017 true crime documentary is based on the unsolved 1996 murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey. Was Ramsey killed by her brother? Is she secretly Katy Perry? Conspiracies aside, most of Casting JonBenét comes from real-life casting calls—featuring actors auditioning for the roles of the crime’s key players, while also sharing their own theories on what happened to the young pageant star.
What starts as a normal at-home 23 and Me DNA test for Jacoba Ballard quickly evolves into something sinister once she learns that not only does she have dozens of siblings she didn’t know about but they all share the same father: the supposed fertility specialist that helped their parents conceive children decades earlier.
2022’s Our Father revolves around Indiana-based doctor Donald Cline, who would often substitute donor sperm with his own in a serious breach of trust and horrific incident of medical sexual assault. Over the years, Cline fathered 94 biological children (and possibly more). But what’s even worse is that he used to limit the so-called ‘donor’ sperm to lessen the risk of creating too many siblings living in the same area, which could result in them becoming romantically involved with each other.
Who killed Sister Cathy? That is the question The Keepers asks over the course of its runtime. The seven-episode docuseries analyses the murder of nun Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik—whose sudden death stunned the town, especially her students at Archbishop Keough High School. Was Cathy’s murder part of an elaborate cover-up by the Catholic Church? Was she killed because she threatened to reveal rampant sexual abuse going on at the high school for girls? Why don’t you find out by yourself?
The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea is a three-episode-long docuseries that dives into the case of Yoo Young-Chul, who admitted to killing 26 victims—although the police initially believed he only committed 19 murders—between 2003 and 2004. Mostly targeting wealthy elderly, sex workers and masseuses, Young-Chul used to bludgeon his victims to death with a makeshift hammer, decapitate them and even eat some of their organs. Simply put, there’s enough blood and gore here to make you look over your shoulder the next time you find yourself in a dimly-lit street.
There was a time when three-year-old Madeleine McCann’s picture was on the cover of every tabloid in the UK. While the McCann family was vacationing in Portugal back in 2007, the young girl disappeared from her bed when her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant and was never seen again. Her disappearance became a media frenzy and one of the most heavily-reported missing persons cases in history. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann hence landed as an eight-part series on Netflix in 2019.
If you’ve watched Amanda Knox before, chances are that you spent significant portions of it yelling at the screen. While on a foreign exchange trip in Perugia, Italy, American college student Amanda Knox was accused of brutally murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox was quickly painted as a “monster” as she became a media sensation and was eventually sentenced to an Italian prison.
The documentary showcases her four-year incarceration before being acquitted by the Supreme Court of Cassation. Amanda Knox is not only a shocking story about a tragic murder but it also proves how dangerous the court of public opinion can be. Knox herself sums up the scare metre for this film by stating: “If I’m guilty, it means that I am the ultimate figure to fear… but, on the other hand, if I am innocent, it means that everyone is vulnerable. And that’s everyone’s nightmare.”
You might want to lock your doors and windows for this one. Beneath the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles lurked a sinister killer called Richard Ramirez (also known as the ‘Night Stalker’), who menaced the city of angels throughout the 70s by breaking and entering his victim’s homes before assaulting and torturing them in unimaginable ways with increasing sadism.
The four-part 2021 documentary is told from the perspective of the detectives who hunted him down and the few who survived him. Unlike other true crime documentaries, Night Stalker doesn’t seek to humanise its subject. Instead, it taps into our worst fears and doesn’t hold back.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork is a three-part docuseries about the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French national who had a vacation home in the tiny Irish town of Schull. Upon the discovery of her body in a laneway by her house, it was also detailed that her face was so disfigured she couldn’t be identified by her neighbours. The search for her killer has also led to bizarre twists, with the main suspect, Ian Bailey—who denies all charges to this day—convicted of homicide in a Parisian court in absentia.
The docuseries makes a shocking story, steeped in death and controversy about how a cosy community was changed forever by one horrific incident.
With the advent of the cancelled Good Girls—a show about three suburban women diving into the world of crime, drug lords and money laundering—making its way back into Netflix’s top 10 this week, we thought it’d be interesting to look back at some of the other series whose threads were cut way too soon.
According to Forbes, the anomaly that is Good Girls just keeps giving. Dubbing it “one of the most bizarre situations in television,” the article goes on to say that the show was axed after its fourth season before it even had the chance to conclude properly. Its finale episode aired in July of 2021, ending its short three-year presence on our screens. Without the sweet release of true catharsis, we were left without a rhyme or reason as to why it ended.
Clearly, the show was (and still is) crazy popular—so low viewer ratings is not it—with Forbes noting that the show still managed to edge its way into the streaming platform’s elusive number 2 spot on its US top 10 list. Though there’s been a lot of speculation as to why the show was cut, such as show leads Christina Hendricks’ (who plays Beth Boland) and Manny Montana’s (the internet’s heartthrob, Rio) rocky relationship—not to mention the supposed issue with Montana’s contract as well as the season five pay cuts. I won’t get too much into that though as we’re here to focus on the TV shows and only the TV shows.
So grab your shovels, folks—it’s time to enter Netflix’s cancelled-show graveyard and dig around for some gems.
Of course, I had to put Good Girls up in the top spot. How could you not want a finished ending to women who become so “fed up with playing by the rules and not getting the respect they deserve, they band together to take control of their lives by holding up a local grocery store”? It’s the perfect show—crime, comedy and Retta, what more could you want?
According to Business Insider, Netflix doesn’t really see the value in shows that exceed the 30 episodes mark and that couldn’t be more true in Castlevania’s case. Announced in mid 2021, the series was cancelled on its fourth season. The animated horror show, drawn from the series of video games of the same name, follows Trevor Belmont and Co. as they navigate a world of dark mediaeval fantasy filled with complicated vampiric hierarchy and the expansive world of witchcraft. The gothic horror action series definitely had a few more seasons of anarchic blood-shedding to offer its audience.
TVLine listed Grand Army on its roster for shows that shouldn’t have gotten away. Alongside American Vandal, The Society and On My Block, this one truly hurt as a zillenial who still lives for a bit of coming-of-age drama.
In 2021, rumours about the show’s success and its renewal greenlight for a second season began circulating, yet sadly, #blackAF was cancelled by the platform after, you guessed it, only one season. The black family mockumentary just didn’t do it for the streaming service. Deadline hinted that there’s still hope though, as there are talks that plans for the show in the idea mill include a movie franchise. Win, win, win, win, win, indeed, Kenya Barris.
Netflix’s dream to jump into the Marvel universe started off so well with Daredevil. Shortlist noted the structural plan for the Marvel universe shows—“each character getting their own show and an Avengers-like coming together in The Defenders”—was kind of genius. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for Daredevil, despite its three seasons being a success, which still pains me to this day.
One man’s trash is another mouse’s treasure it seems since, according to The Manual, the show is confirmed to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), only this time on Disney+, as stated by Marvel President Kevin Feige. Too bad Netflix didn’t see the series’ full value. But hey, at least we get that anticipated fourth season.
One of the many forgotten Netflix wonders you will find is The OA, and for good reason too. The show’s trailers remain unforgettable to this day though its two-season run has since faded into obscurity.
This one makes me so mad that I can’t even talk about it only having one season when a show beginning with ‘R’ and ending in ‘Dale’ still exists. Yeah, that’s still going strong, by the way… I think I need a minute, honestly. I’d still watch the entire season of The Get Down all over again anyway.
Need I really say anything for this one?
Though it’s not a Netflix show, my honourable shoutout must go to Hulu’s High Fidelity starring Zoë Kravitz. Despite her being on bigger, better and more bat-ish things like 2022’s The Batman by Matt Reeves, I do lie awake at night wondering if she’ll ever reprise her role as Rob.