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It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole when scrolling through a pileup of shows, and not really knowing what you’re in the mood for. If you’re like a lot of people who have been spending more time at home than usual, there’s a chance that your TV watching habits have changed in the last year.
Whatever your ritual – whether it’s settling in for a weekend binge session, or catching up on shows during the weekday, true-crime documentaries are an easy way to feed your obsession.
After more than a year in lockdown, and adjusting to social distancing, working from home, and distanced-learning, watching a good series feels like a form of self-care.
And as any skilled TV binger knows, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes along with having a curated lineup of titles to choose from. Firstly, it cuts back on scrolling time, but more importantly, it just makes things easier.
From the unsolved murder of a single mother, and the emotional journey of a family’s fight for justice, to one of the most infamous slayings of a federal agent in recent history, check below for a list of documentaries that you can stream right now.
Eight years after the mysterious death of Kendrick Johnson, filmmaker Jason Pollock investigates the controversy surrounding the case. Johnson, a 17-year-old high schooler, was discovered rolled up inside a high school gymnasium in Valdosta, Ga. In March, the Georgia sheriffs announced that the case was reopened. “Finding Kendrick Johnson is produced by Pollock, Malcolm D. Lee, Morgan J. Freeman, Jenifer Lewis, and Amy Campbell. The film is available to rent of buy on Amazon Prime Video.
The Menendez case dominated headlines in the ‘90s, and it’s still a major true-crime story in pop culture. Lyle and Erik Menendez were sentenced to life for the gruesome double-slaying of their parents, José and Mary Menendez. “Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers,” which was released in 2017, features never-before-seen home videos and photos, and testimony from friends, neighbors, family, and other members of the Menendez brothers’ inner circle. You can also buy it in on Amazon Prime for $2.99.
Who killed Barbara Hamburg? “Murder on Middle Beach” is a personal account that follows a grieving son on the emotional quest to find answers about his mother’s unsolved murder, which means putting the pieces of her past back together. First time director Madison Hamburg travels back to his hometown of Madison, Conn., in an effort to uncover more on his mother’s story, even if it means having uneasy conversations with family members. The 48-year-old single mother, was found dead on her front lawn in 2010. In “Murder on Middle Beach” Hamburg condenses eight years of footage into an emotional, four-part documentary series.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” explores the investigation into serial killer Joseph James Deangelo (aka, the Golden State Killer) as told through the tireless work of writer Michelle McNamara. Directed by Liz Garbus, the six-part documentary unpacks McNamara’s extensive probe into one of the most prolific and violent serial rapist/killer in crime history.
“On its surface, it’s the story of DeAngelo’s criminal activities and how he was eventually captured,” IndieWire’s Kristen Lopez writes of the film. “But what Garbus does is skillfully weave in the story of McNamara’s obsession with bringing the man she only knew as EAR/ONS (East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker) to justice, coupling that with the nature of being a victim of assault. What feels like disparate elements, or the subjects of their own individual documentaries, are masterfully integrated to form a complete picture not strictly of one writer’s life, or a crime itself, but how crime changes women and what it meant to be the victim of rape in the 1970s.”
Now streaming on Amazon Prime, “You Belong to Me: Sex, Race & Murder in the South” shines a light on the little-known story of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy Black Floridian woman who was convicted of murdering a white doctor, in 1952. The documentary, directed by John Cork, tackles issues of racism, class and gender bias, during the early years of the Civil Rights movement.
“Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop” centers around the insane story of Gilberto Valle, a 28-year-old former NYPD officer who was arrested in 2012 on kidnapping charges after his wife found cannibalistic messages that he sent to women in chat rooms. Ultimately, Valle’s case was thrown out for lack of evidence. The documentary, which features Valle’s own words, examines both sides of the story, and questions if the lines blurred between fantasy and crime. You can stream “Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop” on HBO Max.
Anyone familiar with Hulu’s “The Act,” will enjoy this closer look at the story of Dee Dee Blanchard, and her daughter, Gypsy Rose Blanchard. “Mommy Dead and Dearest” digs into the strange relationship between mother and daughter, years of lies about Gypsy’s health condition, and what led to Dee Dee’s murder. The 2017 documentary, directed by Erin Lee Car, includes personal footage from home videos, old photos, text messages, and Gypsy’s own account of growing up with her mother. Stream “Mommy Dead and Dearest” on HBO Max.
Currently streaming on Hulu, “The Blood is at the Doorstep” is about an award-winning documentary about a family’s emotional quest for answers in the murder of Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old mentally ill unarmed Black man who was shot 14 times by Milwaukee police officers in 2014. Filmed over a three-year period, the documentary details the devastating aftermath of Hamilton’s murder, and the fight for Black lives.
Directed by Marcus Vetter, the 2016 documentary “Killing for Love” is a mind-bending deep dive into the 1985 double murder of a Virginia couple, Derek and Nancy Hayson. The couple’s daughter, Elisabeth Hayson, and her boyfriend, Jens Söring, were sentenced to life in prison for the murders. The trial pits Söring (who happens to be the son of a German diplomat) at the center of an international media circus. After decades in prison, Söring shares his side of what he claims was a hopeless, and dangerous, devotion to Hayson. “Killing for Love” is now streaming on Hulu.
If “Narcos” caught your attention, Amazon Prime’s four-part docuseries, “The Last Narc,” should be next on your list. The series revisits the 1985 kidnapping and murder of DEA agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. Amazon described the series as a depiction of a fallen hero, who was abducted, tortured, and murdered by drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico. Three drug lords were convicted in the murder of Camarena’s whose story peel back the layers of the world of drug cartels, and the federal agents who tail them. “The Last Narc” includes first-hand accounts from Camarena’s his friends and family, as well as three cartel members.