Ranked: The best true crime documentaries on Netflix, according to Rotten Tomatoes
Hours of cases that will blow your mind
Netflix has become known as one of the best places to get your fix of true crime. Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more twisted and chilling cases going on in the world that you’ve never heard of, Netflix will pull out another one which will prove you wrong.
There’s everything from murder and false confessions to drug crimes and the college admissions scandal. But what are the ultimate best true crime series and films that Netflix has to offer? Here is a full ranking of the best true crime documentaries and docuseries on Netflix right now, according to their score on Rotten Tomatoes.
24. American Murder: The Family Next Door – 86 per cent
American Murder: The Family Next Door scores 86 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The true crime film covers the case of the Watts family killings. In 2018, Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife Shanann and their two young daughters. It was believed he did it so he could be with his other girlfriend, Nichol Kessinger, forever. It recently became the most watched Netflix doc feature ever, having been viewed by 52 million households.
23. Trial By Media – 86 per cent
Trial By Media puts the spotlight on huge criminal cases which were sensationalised in the press, and it has an 86 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The six-part series was produced by George Clooney and explores six famous cases in America – from murders after talk show appearances to police brutality. All the cases examined captured huge national attention and the series looks at how press coverage of court cases affects the justice system.
22. How To Fix A Drug Scandal – 86 per cent
How To Fix A Drug Scandal is all about the cases of two crime lab chemists who were found out to be taking the drugs they were meant to be testing. The four-part series also looks at how this caused a massive misconduct case and resulted in thousands of criminal convictions being overturned and costing the state millions in payouts. The official Netflix synopsis reads: “Two drug lab chemists’ shocking crimes cripple a state’s judicial system and blur the lines of justice for lawyers, officials and thousands of inmates.”
21. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal – 88 per cent
The college admissions bribery scandal was the biggest of its kind in American history. The scheme saw William “Rick” Singer pocket $25million from parents who were desperate to get their kids into the most elite colleges in the country. More than 50 people, including celebrities and big-time CEOs, as well as coaches and admissions staff at the colleges, were caught out for being involved. Parents paid up to millions of dollars for Rick’s so-called “side door” entry into uni. The series has 88 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
20. Murder Among The Mormons – 89 per cent
This series, which has a score of 89 per cent, tells the shocking story of a series of bombings which rocked the Mormon Church in America. The story centres around Mark Hofmann, a documents dealer in Utah, who sold his finds to the Mormon Church. In 1985, the homemade bombs took the lives of two people. The case has been called “one of the most bizarre, complex and ultimately tragic criminal cases in Utah history”.
19. The Pharmacist – 89 per cent
This four-episode docuseries is about a father whose son was killed in a drug deal. He then takes it upon himself to investigate further. Dan Schneider, a pharmacist from Louisiana, is trying to track down who killed his son during a drug-deal gone wrong. Dan believes the police had the attitude that “these kids got what they deserved”. But he is determined to find out who murdered his son and get justice – and if the police won’t do it, he will.
18. The Devil Next Door – 91 per cent
Netflix’s The Devil Next Door is the true story of John Demjanjuk, a man accused of being a Nazi concentration camp officer who enabled the deaths of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. John was convicted twice of war crimes. He managed to overturn one conviction, and died before the second verdict was reached. His first verdict was overturned on the grounds the court may have mistaken his identity for somebody else. The Netflix series examines his case across five episodes, and scores 91 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
17. Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened – 93 per cent
Fyre Festival was the 2017 music event that never happened. It was meant to be the best festival the world had ever seen, on a beautiful island in the Bahamas. The founder called it: “The biggest event of the decade, I promise you.” The promotional videos showed gorgeous Instagram models parading around on beaches, having parties and eating incredible food. But what greeted people that got there was a disaster scene: collapsing tents, soaked mattresses and no festival. The event had been promoted on Instagram by famous super models and influencers – but yeah, it was all a lie. The festival might have been awful, but the doc gets 93 per cent.
16. The Staircase – 94 per cent
The Staircase is a 13-episode, Netflix true crime docuseries about the 2001 death of novelist Michael Peterson’s wife, Kathleen Peterson. He claimed she died after falling down the stairs at their home, but a medical examiner determined she had been beaten with a weapon, which led to Peterson becoming a suspect in what would become a murder investigation. It’s a classic Netflix true crime series, which is reflected in its 94 per cent Rotten Tomatoes score.
15. Surviving R-Kelly – 95 per cent
Surviving R-Kelly has scored 95 per cent. The six part documentary is all about sexual and physical abuse claims against R Kelly and includes interviews with several women who recall their experiences.
Some of the historic allegations against him include marrying a minor, inducing someone into an indecent sexual relationship, videotaping him having sex with a woman without her knowledge and selling the tape, making child pornography and trapping six women in a sex “cult”.
14. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator – 96 per cent
Just out of the top 10 with 96 per cent is Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator. The hour and a half show looks into Bikram Choudhury’s hot yoga empire and the claims that have been made against him. It also looks at how his empire was built and features interviews with women who say he abused them, as well as journalists and those close to Bikram Choudhury.
13. The Tinder Swindler – 96 per cent
The Tinder Swindler had everyone shook when it was released – it topped the Netflix top 10 list and was one of the most watched shows in 92 countries worldwide. It now scores a nearly perfect 96 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, too. The documentary film tells the jaw-dropping story of how Shimon Hayut posed as a billionaire heir, Simon Leviev, on Tinder and used this to con women out of hundreds of thousands, all over the world. He seduced women by treating them to luxury gifts and a fancy lifestyle, all paid for by previous women he had scammed. In the film, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte speak of how much they lost whilst being conned by Shimon Hayut. Simon Leviev is said to have stolen around $10million (£7.4million) from his victims.
12. Tell Me Who I Am – 97 per cent
Tell Me Who I Am is a true story about twin brothers Alex and Marcus Lewis. Age 18, Alex Lewis was in a motorbike accident. He lost all his memory prior to the accident, and could only remember that Marcus was his twin brother. The documentary is split into two acts. In act one, Alex narrates his version of events and in act two, Marcus tells his.
Marcus had to retell Alex’s entire life to him and in act two, the audience discovers Marcus hasn’t been telling the entire truth and has been covering up a darker side of their childhood to protect him.
11. The Keepers – 97 per cent
The Keepers is a seven-episode series based on the murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik. The mystery of her death remains unsolved. The series was released in May 2017, and has been called Netflix’s best true crime docuseries to date. It’s not quite the best on Rotten Tomatoes though, but is very close, scoring 97 per cent.
10. Wild Wild Country – 98 per cent
Wild Wild Country is a six-part docuseries about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He bought a plot of land in the Oregon desert and attempted to build a utopian society in 1981. He had built brand new homes that could house over 7,000 residents and the plan was to develop a food supply, police and fire stations, restaurants and a small airport. It scores so close to the perfect rating, but falls just short with 98 per cent.
9. The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman – 100 per cent
First doc to score the perfect 100 per cent is The Puppet Master. The show explores the story of a man who is now known as a conman and impostor who masqueraded as an MI5 agent and fooled several people to go underground for fear of IRA assassination. Netflix has described the case as a “jaw-dropping story of one of the world’s most audacious conmen”. There are three episodes in the true crime series, created by the same people behind The Ripper and Don’t F*** With Cats documentaries. The synopsis reads: “A cruel con man masquerading as a British spy manipulates and steals from his victims, leaving ruined families in his wake.”
8. November 13: Attack On Paris – 100 per cent
Filmmakers Jules and Gédéon Naudet directs this three-part documentary that explores the human stories behind the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13th 2015. It’s been given the perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Bad Vegan – 100 per cent
Bad Vegan also scores the perfect 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells a story which sounds completely unbelievable. It’s the case of a celebrity restaurateur, Sarma Melngailis, who was once hailed as the queen of vegan cuisine. She became a fugitive when she went on the run with a man who conned her out of a fortune by convincing her he held the key to making her every dream — from expanding her food empire to making her beloved pit bull Leon immortal — a reality. He told her she had to perform a series of “tests”, a lot including wiring her money to him, and she ended up draining $2million from her restaurant and its staff.
6. The Confession Tapes – 100 per cent
The Confession Tapes is all about when a confession isn’t a confession – when it’s involuntary, coerced or downright false. Each of the six subjects in the series someway or another have given a false confession, and experts are interviewed including criminal law, miscarriages of justice, and psychology professionals.
5. The Innocence Files – 100 per cent
The Innocence Files scores the perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The nine-part series aims to expose the American criminal justice system and focuses on wrongful convictions. There are eight cases explored in The Innocence Files and they look at the reasons why the convictions happened such as flawed evidence, misconduct and eyewitnesses wrongfully identifying the accused.
4. The Confession Killer – 100 per cent
Another top scoring series is the five-parter, The Confession Killer, which tells the story of Henry Lee Lucas. He was first put into prison for murdering his mother, and then for the murders of his girlfriend and landlord. However when he was in prison he started confessing to more and more killings. The number got up to 100, then 150, then 300 and it wasn’t long before Lucas said he was responsible for over 600 deaths all over America. But, his confessions weren’t true.
3. Time: The Kalief Browder Story – 100 per cent
Another 100 per cent scoring doc is Time: The Kalief Browder Story. The six part series is about Kalief Browder, a high school student who was sent to prison and solitary confinement without even having been convicted of a crime. He was accused of nothing more than stealing a backpack, but his family couldn’t afford his bail.
2. Dirty Money – 100 per cent
There are six episodes in each of the two seasons of Dirty Money on Netflix, each an hour long and covering a different story. They basically all tell the story of different dirty money cases (obviously). Think money laundering, corporate corruption, securities fraud and dodgy accounting.
1. Athlete A – 100 per cent
Athlete A is ranked as the equal best documentary ever produced by Netflix. On Rotten Tomatoes it is described as: “Harrowing yet essential viewing, Athlete A shines an unforgiving light on horrific abuses — as well as the culture that allowed them to continue unabated for years.” The documentary exposes Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of young gymnasts.
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