Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

(Photo by Netflix)

The 50 Best True-Crime Docuseries

While it might seem like the proliferation of true-crime in pop culture has been a trend of the last five or ten years, in reality the genre has been a staple for at least the last 100. The National Enquirer became popular when it printed gruesome details from criminal cases, and the macabre appeal of not only learning about horrific crimes, but also examining the psychology of those who perpetrate them and honoring the victims is more popular than ever.

So today, instead of mega-popular TV newsmagazines like Dateline and other shows holding down the true-crime fort, we also have podcasts, streaming services, and even entire networks devoted to in-depth reporting on real-life cases. Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max are already frequent contributors to the true-crime discourse, and the trend isn’t slowing. Peacock gets in on the action with John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise, which premieres on March 25; IMDb TV will stream five-part docuseries Moment Of Truth, about the murder of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s father James, starting on April 2; This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist drops on Netflix on April 7; and on April 18, Starz unleashes Confronting a Serial Killer from Joe Berlinger (Emmy winner for 1996 documentary film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills). And that’s not to mention the near-daily debut of new specials on broadcast and cable that examine true crime in some way, shape or form.

For this roundup, though, we’ve decided to focus on the true-crime docuseries that dig a little deeper into cases both famous and relatively unknown, from examinations into well-known public figures (Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Allen v. Farrow, Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, Surviving R. Kelly) to deep dives into smaller cases (Making A Murderer, How to Fix a Drug Scandal, The Staircase). These are the series that go deeper than a typical episode of Dateline or a two-hour documentary — they spend hours dissecting the people and circumstances involved in the cases that captivate audiences.

The criteria was simple: Each docuseries must have at least five reviews from critics, giving it a Tomatometer score, and that score must be Fresh at 60% or higher. If a docuseries you love isn’t on this list, chances are it doesn’t have enough reviews to meet that threshold — yet. Take a look at the list below next time you’re in the mood for a new true-crime binge.

What’s your favorite true-crime docuseries? Let us know in the comments. 

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Critics Consensus: A Wilderness of Errors' investigation of a well-trodden case struggles to justify its runtime - still, those comfortable with ambiguity may find its inconclusiveness strangely appealing.
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Critics Consensus: Don't F**k With Cats offers an intriguing tale, but questionable intent and muddled storytelling make it a hard sell for anyone but true crime completists.

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Critics Consensus: Though it can't help but feel a little incomplete given the circumstances, The Killer Inside crafts a compelling overview of a series of tragic events.
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Critics Consensus: Compelling interviews and a slick style help Fear City entertain, but those already familiar with the case will find few new insights.
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Critics Consensus: Though Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer succumbs to the sensational side of true crime, it paints a fascinating, chilling portrait of a killer and the city he terrorized.

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Critics Consensus: The Innocent Man will satisfy true crime aficionados looking for a slickly packaged mystery, but viewers seeking a more probing deconstruction of the justice system may come away disappointed.
Starring: John Grisham

#43
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The Vow (2020)
75%

#42
Synopsis: Following the experiences of people deeply involved in the self-improvement group NXIVM, an organization under siege with charges including sex... [More]
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Critics Consensus: Though The Family's open ended-ness undermines its impact, it manages to craft a compelling picture of a shocking truth.
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Critics Consensus: Evil Genius makes up for a lack of conviction and nuance with an intriguing sense of discovery and plenty of entertaining insanity.
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#36

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Critics Consensus: A worthy Serial supplement that isn't without flaws, The Case Against Adnan Syed fleshes out the life of Hae Min Lee and gives context to in the complicated boon of true crime entertainment.

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Critics Consensus: It lacks new insight, but by focusing on the stories of survivors Filthy Rich sheds light on the lasting impact of Epstein's crimes.
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Lorena: Season 1 (2019)
83%

#33
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Critics Consensus: Fascinating and frustrating, Lorena's ample footage and fresh perspective on a long-mocked moment provide welcome context and vindication to the woman at its center -- even if its reenactments don't quite measure up.
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Critics Consensus: Allen v. Farrow unearths new evidence in a well-known case to craft a compelling - if one-sided - indictment of society's complicity in upholding powerful people over seeking justice for those they've wronged.

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Making a Murderer (2015)
84%

#29
Synopsis: Exonerated after spending nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, Steven Avery filed suit against... [More]
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Trial by Media (2020)
86%

#28
Synopsis: Trials are examined with a focus on how the media may have impacted the verdicts.... [More]
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Critics Consensus: A bizarre true crime story you have to see to believe, Tiger King is a messy and captivating portrait of obsession gone terribly wrong.

Outcry: Season 1 (2020)
89%

#24
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#22
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Critics Consensus: Like something out of a movie, McMillions effectively -- if not always artfully -- captures the chaos of this once-in-a-lifetime, very real con and the colorful cast of characters at its center.

#21
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Critics Consensus: Wormwood's real-life mystery unfolds in hypothetical tendrils guided by Errol Morris' singular vision and style that will keep viewers engaged despite the four-hour run time.

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Critics Consensus: Compelling, but challenging, The Devil Next Door can be uncomfortable viewing, but essential interviews and an empathetic eye come together to shed light on an important story.
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Critics Consensus: Investigating an outrageous but true story with restraint, Murder Among the Mormons is entertaining true-crime pulp and a fascinating examination of a community.
Directed By: Jared Hess, Tyler Measom

#18
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Critics Consensus: Explosive, but never exploitive, Love Fraud tells a thrilling tale of online dating gone terribly wrong with expert precision and a welcome dose of empathy.
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Critics Consensus: Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children's thorough examination of an unsettling circumstance is as gripping as it is chilling.
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#16
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Critics Consensus: The Staircase -- in its newly expanded form -- offers a gripping, detailed depiction of the complex justice system, even if the overall narrative lacks objectivity.
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Surviving R. Kelly (2019)
95%

#15
Synopsis: This documentary series reveals young women emerging from the shadows and uniting their voices against singer R. Kelly. Celebrated as... [More]

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Critics Consensus: Disturbing themes and an engrossing blend of interviews and dramatizations make The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst a docu-series that merits further pursuit.
Starring: Robert Durst
Directed By: Andrew Jarecki

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Critics Consensus: Director Liz Garbus smartly centers I'll Be Gone in the Dark around the late Michelle McNamara's passionate efforts, weaving together a heavy, but important tapestry of trauma, obsession, and survival.
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Critics Consensus: Director Erin Lee Carr expertly blends journalistic edge and empathy in I Love You, Now Die to create a concise, compelling, and refreshingly exploitation-free exploration of a complicated crime.
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Critics Consensus: The Keepers draws on riveting, real-life terror to expose long-buried secrets -- and tells a brilliantly assembled story along the way.
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Critics Consensus: Wild Wild Country succeeds as an intriguing examination of a forgotten piece of American history that must be seen to be believed.
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The Confession Tapes (2017)
100%

#8
Synopsis: When is a confession not a confession? When it's involuntary, coerced or downright false. Those are the claims made by... [More]
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Free Meek: Season 1 (2019)
100%

#6
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The Innocence Files (2020)
100%

#5
Synopsis: The untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network... [More]
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Critics Consensus: Thoughtful and heartbreaking, Rest in Power acts as both a sensitive exploration of a unthinkable moment in time and an examination of a broken system.
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Critics Consensus: With compelling firsthand accounts and plenty of expert insights, Seduced is harrowing account of the startling ease with which a cult can consume a person's life.
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Critics Consensus: An intoxicating blend of historical footage, candid interviews, and animation that deftly captures Liz Carmichael's incredible life, The Lady and the Dale is a wild ride.
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