24 Best True-crime Movies On Netflix

Staff & contributors

Find the best true-crime movies to watch, from our mood category. Like everything on agoodmovietowatch, these true-crime movies are highly-rated by both viewers and critics.

A follow-up/companion piece to the award-winning The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence is another compelling documentary from Director Joshua Oppenheimer. Both films aim attention at the Indonesian Genocide of 1965-66, when the military government systematically purged up to one million communists. While the first film's focus was on the culprits and on providing facts, the second one lets us meet the victims. One victim in particular: a soft-spoken optician named Adi Rukun, who meets with various members of the death squad who murdered his elder brother Ramli, under the guise of giving them an eye test. As he questions them about the killings, the murderers, again, show little remorse and eagerly provide the lurid details to the many executions. It's a stunning and provocative look at the legacy of historical mass killings, along with the insidious propaganda that provokes them, and continues to justify them to younger generations. A testament to the power of cinema to remember the forgotten.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Adi Rukun, Amir Hasan, Amir Siahaan, Inong, Joshua Oppenheimer, M.Y. Basrun

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Rating: PG-13

Joshua Oppenheimer's daring feat is a documentary unlike anything ever done. Despite it being one of the most difficult things to watch for any human being (or because of it), The Act of Killing received praise across the board, including an Academy Award nomination. Without Oppenheimer's efforts, you might have never heard of the unspeakable events that happened when, in 1965-66, Suharto overthrew the then-president of Indonesia and a gangster-led death squad killed almost a million people. Did they pay for their crimes? Quite the contrary: said gangsters went on becoming political mainstays in modern-day Indonesia, are still now heralded as heroes, and admit to all these crimes with a smile and not a hint of regret. The gruesome twist of this documentary is that Oppenheimer asks them to re-enact the killings in surreal, sadistic snuff movies inspired by the murderer's favorite action movies. You are forced to stand idly by as they re-create brutal mass murder and joke about raping a 14-year-old. However, somewhere amidst this terrifying farce, the killers, too, have fleeting moments of realization that what they're doing is wrong. If you make it through this in one piece, try watching its more victim-focused follow-up The Look of Silence. Bone-chilling but very powerful stuff.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Adi Zulkadry, Anwar Congo, Haji Anif, Herman Koto, Ibrahim Sinik, Safit Pardede, Syamsul Arifin

Director: Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer

Rating: Not Rated

This groundbreaking documentary follows the USA Olympics sexual abuse case that made headlines in 2015. Through interviews with Olympians, their families, and investigative reporters, it’s also a documentary on the overall culture of abuse in gymnastics: sexual, physical, and emotional.

In one scene from the 1996 Olympics, gold medalist Kerri Strug has to run, vault, and land - all with a severe foot injury that was covered up by her coaches. She does this twice, limping between attempts and crawling off the mat on the second, crying. Meanwhile, her family, her coaches, the spectators - the World - is celebrating.

When she’s carried off, it’s Larry Nassar, the pedophile at the center of the documentary, who carries her.

Athlete A is groundbreaking exactly because it illustrates that the problem is not only with one doctor, or the 54 coaches who were also found guilty of sexual abuse, or the morally bankrupt leadership of USA Gymastics; it’s also about what went so wrong with society to see the abuse of young girls as cause for celebration.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Géza Poszar, Gina Nichols, Jen Sey, John Nichols, Maggie Nichols

Director: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

Rating: PG-13

This documentary from journalist David Farrier, New Zealand’s answer to Louis Theroux, plays more like an out-and-out horror movie. But don’t be fooled by the serial killer connotations of its title — the real Mister Organ’s crimes are (mostly) psychological and have no obvious motive, making him quite a bit scarier than your usual screen villain. Described as a “parasite,” “terrorist,” and a “black hole” by the few traumatized victims of his who agree to talk on record about him, Organ is clearly a master at weaving a sticky web around everyone who comes near him — including, as it turns out, Farrier himself, who soon becomes a casualty of his own investigation.   Though the doc never really punctures the nebulous aura of this deeply creepy — and yet somehow deeply dull — character, that’s what makes it such an arresting watch: Farrier takes us along for the ride as he’s sucked into the disorienting orbit of an energy vampire, largely denying us the relief of a clarifying explanation so that we, too, get a taste of the claustrophobia and psychological torture that come with dealing firsthand with someone like Organ.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: David Farrier, Michael Organ

Director: David Farrier

There’s more than a touch of Louis Theroux to this engrossing documentary — fronted by New Zealander pop-culture journalist David Farrier — about an innocuous-seeming Internet phenomenon: the actually-sinister subculture of “competitive endurance tickling”, in which young men undergo “tickle torture” for money on camera. When Farrier unassumingly requests an interview with an American producer of tickle content, it kickstarts a bizarre campaign of harassment and opens up a rabbit hole of unbelievable twists and turns. The wild places this documentary goes are best left as unspoiled as possible, but it’s no spoiler to say this emerges from its seemingly lighthearted premise as a deeply unnerving story about money, power, sex, and shame in the Internet age.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: David Farrier, David Starr, Dylan Reeve, Hal Karp

Director: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve

Rating: R

Monster is a biographical depiction of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a prostitute and serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The film follows the burgeoning relationship between Wuornos and young Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, in a role based on Wuornos' real-life girlfriend Tyria Moore), as she grows increasingly desperate to provide for her young companion financially. Her desperation and her rage against men, brought on by years of both childhood and adult abuse, leads her down a dark path of murder and theft, even as she struggles to shield Selby from the horror of her crimes. The overwhelming highlight of the film is Theron’s mesmerizing performance as Wuornos—a role that won her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She’s almost unrecognizable and altogether phenomenal as the volatile and increasingly unstable Wuornos, whose ferocity is interwoven with surprising affection for young Selby. This unexpected tenderness lends the film an air of tragic poignancy, and provides a bittersweet portrayal of a severely troubled woman. Very much intended for mature audiences only, Monster is a fascinating recreation of a disturbing yet compelling chapter in the annals of true crime in America.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Al, Annie Corley, Brett Rice, Bruce Dern, Bubba Baker, Cannonball, Catherine Mangan, Charlize Theron, Christian Stokes, Christina Ricci, Cree Ivey, Glenn R. Wilder, Jesse Stern, Jim R. Coleman, Kaitlin Riley, Kane Hodder, Lee Tergesen, Lyllian Barcaski, Magdalena Manville, Marc Macaulay, Marco St. John, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Romonda Shaver, Rus Blackwell, Scott Wilson, Stephan Jones, Tim Ware

Director: Patty Jenkins

Rating: R

Even if the overall message screams "Girl power!", The Tinder Swindler must be taken with a pinch of salt. Yes, it's perversely entertaining to witness the victims of an emotional and financial scam retell their traumatic experience. Yes, whoever decides to watch a true crime probably knows the genre's highs and lows by heart. And yes, there's an unsettling feeling that sticks to you after the film's finished. All these contradictions make up a powerful, perhaps misunderstood film. There's so much more to be said about how both women and men are victims of the patriarchal order in a different way and this is why such a scam can work without a hitch, but maybe that's better left off screen. I want to flag that the documentary decisively brackets Tinder's role in facilitating these crimes in the first place. It is at once a platform that allows specific targeting and false identities. One begins to wonder whether this decision allowed Netflix to use the company's name and interface in the first place...

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Ayleen Charlotte, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Erlend Ofte Arntsen, Kristoffer Kumar, Pernilla Sjöholm, Shimon Yehuda Hayut

Director: Felicity Morris

This documentary prides itself on its rawness from its home video style. It uses a lot of uninterrupted clips that don’t really need to be there, as well as odd choices for symbolic b-roll and mood-setting music in the early going. But at the center of the documentary is John du Pont, an unstable old money mark who wishes to be one of the boys, treating the wrestlers like his family in the absence of his own. The interviews paint a clear picture of him as a delusional, lonely, and dangerous man, and the foreshadowing is insane albeit too slow. While it may be visually all over the place, perhaps the biggest nitpick about it is that, out of respect, it could have allotted more time to Dave Schultz or the aftermath.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Dan Chaid, Dave Schultz, John E. du Pont, Mark Schultz, Nancy Schultz

Director: Jon Greenhalgh

Rating: TV-14

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson, Deja Dee, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Lee Spencer, Mick Foley, Rob Thomas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan McPhail, Thomas Haden Church, Tim Zajaros, Wayne Dehart, Yelawolf, Zachary Gottsagen, Zack Gottsagen

Director: Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Rating: PG-13

Jessica Chastain plays a driven Washington lobbyist called Elizabeth Sloane in this high-speed political thriller. After being pitched to work for the gun lobby, she decides to work for the opposition: an NGO trying to pass a background check bill. It's a long movie, and even if everything happens fast, it still lags. 

The events do wrap up by the end to explain the complex plot. Not to mention, Chastain's performance something to behold and is reason enough to watch. Her character's hidden motive and questionable methods make her an anti-hero, but Chastain always keeps a lure of hope that her character will redeem herself. That delicate balance might be the most thrilling aspect of Miss Sloan.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Hale, Al Mukaddam, Alexandra Castillo, Alison Pill, Anand Rajaram, Andrew Moodie, Angela Vint, Austin Strugnell, Christine Baranski, Chuck Shamata, Courtenay J. Stevens, Craig Eldridge, David Rosser, David Wilson Barnes, Doug Murray, Douglas Smith, Dylan Baker, Ennis Esmer, Grace Lynn Kung, Greta Onieogou, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Gurdeep Ahluwalia, Helen Johns, Jack Murray, Jake Lacy, Jessica Chastain, Joe Pingue, John Lithgow, Kevin Jubinville, Kyle Mac, Lee Smart, Lucy Owen, Mark Strong, Meghann Fahy, Michael Cram, Michael Stuhlbarg, Murray Furrow, Noah Robbins, Ola Sturik, Raoul Bhaneja, Rick Campanelli, Sam Waterston, Sergio Di Zio, Zach Smadu

Director: John Madden

Rating: R

After the La Manada rape case in 2016, it was necessary to document this event, especially since the widespread national outrage and demonstrations managed to move the country to change the way Spain defines consent. You Are Not Alone: Fighting the Wolf Pack documents this arduous journey. While it’s done through the familiar Netflix true crime approach, there’s some respect given to the victim that hasn’t been given previously by the media. The film sticks to the actual verbatim words used by the victim, albeit edited for clarity, but they ensured that their words were not accompanied with photos or similar looking actors, keeping the truth of their words without risking their safety. While the documentary’s direction isn’t new, the outrage is still felt, as well as the genuine hope of a country that came together to ensure justice.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Carolina Yuste, Natalia de Molina

Director: Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar

Rating: R

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this mystery by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman. When Laura returns to her small Spanish hometown with her two daughters, she is greeted with the warm welcome worthy of someone who once was a loved member of the community. However, when an event concerning one of her daughters happens at a wedding, secrets come to the surface about her history that threaten the fabric of the whole village. Laura is masterfully played by Penélope Cruz, who seems to shift gears in this Spanish-language movie. Farhadi is outside of his usual territory, but he does what he does best: deliver a rich, thrilling family drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Barbara Lennie, Carla Campra, Eduard Fernandez, Elvira Minguez, Inma Cuesta, Iván Chavero, Jaime Lorente, Javier Bardem, Jordi Bosch, Jose Angel Egido, Mar del Corral, Penélope Cruz, Ramon Barea, Ricardo Darín, Roger Casamajor, Sara Salamo, Sergio Castellanos, Vicente Vergara

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: R

This Danish thriller is about a man who gets into a car accident with a woman and, upon visiting her at the hospital, gets mistaken for her boyfriend by her wealthy family.

The man in question is Jonas, a family guy with two cheerful children who is also going through a text-book case of mid-life crisis. So when he realizes that Julia lost her memory and that she shows interest in him, he steps into the role of her boyfriend.

Things escalate very quickly, both as Julia starts to get some of her memory back and her actual boyfriend arrives. If you like Scandinavian noirs like Headhunters, you will love this.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anders W. Berthelsen, Bent Mejding, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic, Ditte Hansen, Ewa Fröling, Fanny Leander Bornedal, Flemming Enevold, Jannie Faurschou, Josephine Raahauge, Karin Jagd, Karsten Jansfort, Lin Kun Wu, Niels Anders Thorn, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Rebecka Hemse, Rolf Rasmussen, Rune Klan, Thomas Chaanhing, Timm Vladimir

Director: Ole Bornedal

Rating: Not Rated

King of Clones tells the story of Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist once praised as a national hero for his pioneering work in cloning. However, Hwang's reputation was shattered in 2006 when it was revealed that he had falsified data in his research. The documentary follows Hwang's rise and fall, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of scientific research and the ethical challenges that it raises. Through simplified explanations and testimonies from beneficiaries and journalists that exposed his fraudulent activities, the film remains accessible without losing its narrative. It also opens the conversation on the progress of cloning technology and the implications of not having ethics that can be agreed upon among the scientific community and the general public. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: ChoI Seung-ho, George W. Bush, Hwang Woo-suk, Jung Ho-seok, Kim Dae-jung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Tae-hyung, Park Ji-sung, Roh Moo-hyun, Son Heung-min

Director: Aditya Thayi

Rating: PG-13

Christine is about Christine Chubbuck, an awkward and complex reporter who was the first person ever to commit suicide on live TV.

Rebecca Hall is terrific as Chubbuck and goes to great lengths to communicate the personality of her subject matter. The movie might seem slow at times, and her acting off, but it’ll all make sense once she immerses you in the complex reality of the character.

An interesting story and an incredible performance.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexandra Paul, Allan Cox, Angela Ray, Anissa Matlock, Anthony Triceri, Antonio Campos, Carl Palmer, David Alexander, Hannah Black, Ian Covell, J. Smith-Cameron, James Rackley, Jayson Warner Smith, John Cullum, John Newberg, John Stockwell, Keith Gordon, Kim Shaw, Kimberley Drummond, Lindsay Ayliffe, Maria Dizzia, Masey McLain, Meghan Strange, Michael C. Hall, Morgan Spector, Rachel Hendrix, Rebecca Hall, Rebecca Koon, Ritchie Montgomery, Robert Prosky, Stacy Hall, Susan Pourfar, Susie Spear Purcell, Timothy Simons, Tracy Letts, Wayne Hughes

Director: Antonio Campos, John Carpenter

Rating: R