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The 15 Best True Crime Shows to Binge Right Now

You might want to leave the lights on for these

Truth is stranger than fiction — especially lately. But in the comfort and safety of our living rooms (or in bed with our laptops), we are in the midst of a Golden Age of layered and lurid deep-dive nonfiction programming. Here are the best true-crime shows you can stream right now. We'll understand if you go to sleep with the lights on tonight.

When They See Us (Netflix)

When a white woman was assaulted and raped while jogging in Central Park in 1989, the story quickly became a tabloid sensation. And when five young men of color were subsequently charged with the crime, it ratcheted up another gear, becoming a national Rorschach test about race. In Ava DuVernay's riveting four-part series about the Central Park Five, the Oscar-nominated director of Selma digs into this third-rail saga that spanned more than two decades — from the moment the accused were first questioned until their exonerations in 2002. Michael K. Williams, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman and Blair Underwood star.

Where to Stream: Netflix

ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (Netflix)

Many of us grew up listening to Sam Cooke, the famous soul singer of such silky smooth radio staples as “You Send Me,” “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “A Change is Gonna Come.” But the man behind that voice was more complicated. In addition to his career on the pop charts, Cooke was a passionate civil rights pioneer. And some believe his fame made him a target when he was murdered in 1964 at age 33. Theories behind his mysterious death have bubbled up over the years: Was he killed by the FBI? The Mafia? In Kelly Duane de la Vega's sober examination about a legend and a career cut too short, we learn that there was no shortage of motives — even if answers are hard to come by.

Where to Stream: Netflix

A production still from Tiger King

Netflix

Tiger King (Netflix)

An instant viral sensation when it first aired back in March, Tiger King explores one of the strangest American subcultures in the already-strange true-crime genre: the intertwined worlds of big cat collectors and conservationists. On the collector side, there's a colorful, bizarre character named Joe Exotic, who's accused of exploiting his caged menagerie of tigers. On the conservationist side, there's Carole Baskin, an outspoken activist who may not be quite the saint she paints herself to be. By the last of the series’ seven addictive episodes, you'll be hungry for more. But fear not, a second season of Tiger King is currently in the works.

Where to Stream: Netflix


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Wild Wild Country (Netflix)

I'll confess that when I first started watching this six-part series, I had doubts about whether or not it was real or an elaborate put-on. It turns out it's all true. The story goes like this: In 1981, a Rolls Royce-driving Indian guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh bought a remote ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, and moved in with thousands of his blissed-out followers, creating a utopian spiritual commune. The locals were both intrigued by and suspicious of their new neighbors. And soon enough, those suspicions would prove to be founded, as the religious sect (or cult, depending on your point of view) spiraled into a sordid stew of power struggles, murder and mass poisonings. Like a car wreck, Wild Wild Country is hard to look away from.

Where to Stream: Netflix

Unbelievable (Netflix)

A lightly fictionalized spin on a true-life story, this cleverly structured eight-episode miniseries focuses on the horrifying tale of an 18-year-old Washington woman named Marie (played by Kaitlyn Dever) who reported to the police that she had been raped. The two male officers who initially handled her case weren't buying it, and she eventually recanted. But then a pair of dogged female detectives (played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) on the hunt for a serial rapist in the Northwest circle back to Marie's case, heading down some dark alleys and finding some answers you expect and others you don't see coming at all.

Where to Stream: Netflix

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer (Amazon Prime)

Like Charles Manson before him, Ted Bundy became synonymous with the bogeyman back in the 1970s. A charismatic and handsome law student who also happened to be one of the country's most prolific serial killers, Bundy was one of America's first notorious celebrity sickos. His story has been told many times before. But what hasn't been as widely reported is what it was like to be the woman who lived with and loved this Jekyll-and-Hyde monster. In this intimate five-part series, Bundy's longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter Molly break their silence for the first time to tell their side of the story. And it's a gripping — if extreme — reminder that sometimes even the people we think that we're the closest to can, in the end, be complete strangers to us.

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

The Act

Here's a guarantee: The first season of this true-crime anthology series will get you hooked for season two. The compelling eight-part kickoff season stars Patricia Arquette as an overprotective mother named Dee Dee Blanchard who seems to sacrifice everything for her sickly teenage daughter Gypsy (Joey King). But we can see that their relationship is more than a little toxic from the get-go. Just how toxic quickly becomes clear as this addictive drama unfolds, revealing layer upon layer of secrets, lies and, ultimately, murder. The Act may be a true story, but it has the macabre pull of a Hitchcock film.

Where to Stream: Hulu, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon Prime

RELATED: Need a little break from all this true-crime intensity? We've got just the fix: how about some 1980s movies fizz? Get the list (and get rid of your goose bumps) here: The 20 Most Awesome Movies of the ‘80s

I Love You, Now Die (HBO)

In 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy committed suicide by carbon monoxide in his car in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. But when the police examined the text-message history on the teen's phone, it became sickeningly clear that his long-distance girlfriend, Michelle Carter, had goaded him on to kill himself. A bizarre courtroom tale about loneliness, passion, and the all-consuming role technology plays in the lives of kids today, I Love You, Now Die is a hauntingly tragic meditation about love and death in the 21st Century.

Where to Stream: HBO

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

Chances are good that you remember the earlier incarnation of this weekly true-crime docuseries hosted by Robert Stack that ran between 1987 and 2010. Well, Netflix recently rebooted the series — and it's definitely worth checking out. Using a slightly updated (and better produced) version of the original series’ familiar format of interviews and archival footage mixed with staged reenactments, Unsolved Mysteries delivers exactly what its title promises: cases that have long gone cold and a coda that urges you to send in tips to help solve the crimes. Since Netflix's reach has become almost completely global, the new show also examines unsolved mysteries not just at home, but also abroad. The dragnet just got a little tighter for criminals on the run.

Where to Stream: Netflix

The Jinx

One of the most influential series to the current true-crime boom, The Jinx is everything you could possibly ask for when you're in the mood to play armchair detective. Director Andrew Jarecki follows the decades-old trail of clues and suspicions leading to the eccentric and elusive New York real estate heir Robert Durst, a man who has somehow managed to skirt charges that he killed his wife after her disappearance in 1982, as well as the murders of a family friend and a neighbor while he was on the run. The six-episode case against the millionaire is compelling enough, but the coup de grace is the director's climactic gotcha sit-down with Durst. It doesn't get better than this.

Where to Stream: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu

McMillions

If you don't think fast food can be bad for you, you need to watch McMillions. Produced by Mark Wahlberg, this six-part series tells the true story of a diabolical mastermind who managed to make off with $24 million by rigging a promotional McDonald's Monopoly game in the ‘90s. That is, until it all came crashing down, thanks to an anonymous tip to the FBI in 2001. Greed, double crosses, unwitting dupes, the Mafia, Big Macs, it's all here — and it's as lip-smackingly satisfying as a Happy Meal.

Where to Stream: HBO Max, Hulu

RELATED: Hungry? Good thing our critics rounded up the best cooking shows on TV right now! The feast is ready for you, right here: 11 Food and Cooking Shows to Cure Your Corona Blues

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix)

Okay, this one is just insane. In 2003, a pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells walked into an Erie, Pennsylvania, bank with a bomb collar rigged around his neck. He was also carrying a gun and a note demanding a quarter of a million dollars. He walked out with $9,000 and a complimentary lollipop. Not long afterward, his car was surrounded by police and the bomb went off, killing him. That's just the setup for this increasingly bizarre four-part mind bender that introduces us to some truly odd characters and a host of unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable) questions in what may go down as the strangest crime in American history.

Where to Stream: Netflix

The Keepers (Netflix)

There are so many bingeable true-crime options on Netflix that sometimes a really great one like The Keepers gets overlooked. Don't make that mistake. The story ostensibly begins with the abduction and murder of a 26-year-old Baltimore nun, Sister Catherine Cesnik, in 1969. But from there, the net widens into something more widespread and sinister involving the veil of secrecy surrounding the Catholic church. This is a heartbreaking drama about sexual abuse, institutional cover-ups and broken trust. It's also one of the most well-told tales on this list.

Where to Stream: Netflix

The Staircase (Netflix)

Some true-crime binges are breathless sprints, others are marathons that you want to take your time with. This 13-part courtroom thriller is the latter. You'll want to really marinate in all of the telling details and legal minutiae. In 2001, novelist Michael Peterson's wife died in their home. It appeared that she fell down the stairs. At least, that's what Peterson claimed. But the evidence suggested that she had actually been beaten to death with a weapon and the scene was staged to look like an accident. What follows is a thrilling court case full of twists and turns and a husband who, over time, comes off as so confident that it borders on cockiness.

Where to Stream: Netflix

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO)

Based on crime reporter Michelle McNamara's outstanding 2018 book of the same name, director Liz Garbus’ six-part series is the latest entry in the true-crime genre (it kicked off earlier this summer). And it unspools like a great whodunit. An investigation into the identity of a violent predator known as “The Golden State Killer,” I'll Be Gone in the Dark recounts the heinous exploits of the man who terrorized California in the ‘70s and ‘80s with a spree of home-invasion rapes and a dozen murders. Adding an extra wrinkle of tragedy to the story is the real-life death of McNamara (who was married to comedian Patton Oswalt) and whose own words are heard on tape as well as excerpts from her book, which are read by actress Amy Ryan. It's not only a great true crime tale, but also a testament to one reporter's obsessive quest to bring the truth to light.

Where to Stream: HBO

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