10 Best Crime Documentaries of All Times


Serial Killers, mysterious people and a long history of crimes, these are the main elements of the best crime documentaries. What makes them even creepier is that they are based on life of real people and these are the real crimes that they have done in their lives.

Some of them are seriously unbelievable because you cannot imagine the kind of crimes these people have committed and that too for no reason in particular. So, if you have a thing for drama and mystery and of course crime too then you have come to the exactly right section.

Top 10 Crime Documentaries

There are like thousands of documentaries made on the theme of crime drama and of course plenty of them are just amazing. But I am really sure the modern day routine won’t allow you to watch them all so I shortlisted 10 best crime documentaries option here in this list. They are given along with their ratings received so you can make a quick idea that which are the best ones.

1. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Rotten Tomatoes: 100% IMDb: 8/10

The Thin Blue LineThe Thin Blue Line is one of the oldest and most gripping murder documentaries in this list which by far creates such a suspense that people can lose their mind on it. The Thin Blue Line is the most popular crime documentary in this list which focuses on the story of Randall Dale Adams who got convicted and sentenced for a murder that he did not commit.

In fact, this documentary brought a drastic revolution into the life of this convict whose case got reviewed again and he got released after a year of this documentary.

This documentary highlights every single event which took place the day Randall was convicted and how did he get caught for something he didn’t commit. This masterpiece is a must watch for everyone especially because the reviews are quite amazing and the movie got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Moreover, The Thin Blue Line also got amazing commercial success too as it earned such a great response on box office too making it one of the best crime documentaries in this list.

2. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father (2008)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% IMDb: 8.6/10

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His FatherThe title of the next pick in the category of best crime documentaries is as mysterious as its plot. What makes this documentary even more close to reality is because the close friend of this documentary’s creator Kurt Kuenne.

The movie focuses on the murder of Andrew Bagby which was done by Shirley Jane Turner after Bagby decided to end their relationship. However, soon when Shirley was arrested, she announced that she is pregnant with Bagby’s child which inspired Kurt to make a documentary featuring interviews of Bagby’s relatives and friends to let his child know what his father was like.

The movie is as filled with crime drama as it is with emotions and such a father-son relationship which could not become possible because of the child’s own mother. The documentary is more sort of a cinematic scrapbook for the kid whose events slowly unfolds and are definitely heartbreaking.

In fact, the earning yielded from this movie was dedicated as a scholarship established in the names of Andrew and his child Zachary Bagby.

3. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes: 86% IMDb: 7.1/10

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial KillerA feature length movie about the life of Aileen Wuornos, this one is the next inclusion in the list of best crime documentaries. This documentary named Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer is a follow up on a movie based on her life made by Nick Broomfield who made this documentary also.

The movie brings out the issues of Aileen’s life and her declining mental state amidst which the court orders to execute her despite her poor mental state.

The documentary features interviews from the people who were involved in this case directly and indirectly. It also shows the conflict between bench of judges for the execution of Aileen because of her poor mental state.

What makes this documentary full of suspense is that it involved an interview of Aileen a day before her execution in which she reveals that she was tortured in prison and was not looking as if she was mentally unstable. The facts of her case are still questionable.

4. Cartel Land (2015)

Rotten Tomatoes: 89% IMDb: 7.4/10

Cartel LandCartel Land is one of the best crime documentaries of all time which is quite evident from the critical acclaim it has received. This American crime documentary focused on a much bigger case rather than focusing on an individual murderer or something crime case.

The theme of Cartel Land is based on Mexican Drug War and further highlights Vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels.

The major characters of the movie are Tim “Nailer” Foley who is the leader of Arizona Border Recon and Dr. Jose Mireles who is a physician leading Autodefensas. Cartel Land shows a different type of crime drama which is actually quite inspiring.

It teaches that when government does nothing then citizens have to take the law in their hands for their own safety and secure future. Based on the true story, Cartel Land is one of the best crime documentaries to watch.

5. Cropsey (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% IMDb: 7.4/10

CropseyThis inclusion in the list of best crime documentaries is not just about crime drama but also about mystery too. The documentary is about the examination of Cropsey, a boogeyman like figure from NYC Urban Legend whose story takes a huge turn later on.

The story then moves on to Andre Rand who is a convicted child kidnapper from Staten Island. The story of this documentary is no less than a creepy horror movie where the truth unfolds with one thing at a time.

In fact, things get connected with each other on a slow but steady pace but when the truth comes out everyone becomes completely shocked. From an eerie story to the investigation of five missing children, this documentary keeps up with the suspense till the very end.

This controversial documentary revealed such a mysterious story which kept people shocked for a really long time. Unfortunately, the movie does not contain any interview from Rand as he changed his mind at last moment.

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6. The Imposter (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95% IMDb: 7.5/10

The ImposterThe Imposter is a British American crime documentary film which talks about an interesting case of 1997. In this case, a French person named Frederic Bourdin who is also a confidence trickster impersonates Nicholas Barclay who turn out to be a Texas Boy missing at the age of 13 from 1994.

Frederic turns out to be quite an infamous name in this cheating case where has been impersonate more than 500 identities and some of them turned out to be missing people.

Frederic got successful in convincing some of Nicholas’s family members despite having an age difference and physical differences like color of eyes and hairs. However, his identity was later discovered by a private investigator and later on this documentary was made on him in which his interviews are also included where he talks about different stages of this impersonation.

This is definitely one hell of a mention in the list of best crime documentaries whose story is very much engrossing and interesting too.

7. Tabloid (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92% IMDb: 7.1/10

TabloidTabloid is another addition in the list of best crime documentaries which was released in 2010. This American film tells the story of Joyce McKinney who was accused of kidnapping and raping Kirk Anderson, an American Mormon Missionary in 1977.

The incident was named as Mormon Sex in Chains Case and covered as a major tabloid story in UK and hence the name of the documentary.

In fact, this incident became so popular that it caused circulation battle between two popular tabloid newspaper of that time Daily Mirror and Daily Express. The documentary includes interviews of McKinney and journalist Peter Tory and a photographer too.

Tabloid is narrated by McKinney herself which also deals with then popular Mormon culture too. It is one of those crime documentaries which highlighted a very sensitive case and it also garnered very critical acclaim too. According to McKinney the Church was actually a cult which brainwashed Anderson who was reportedly “in love” with her.

8. Into the Abyss (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92% IMDb: 7.3/10

Into the AbyssThe next mention into this list of best crime documentaries is Into the Abyss which is also subtitled as A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life. The American documentary is about two men who got convicted of a triple homicide that was occurred in Conroe, Texas.

One of them was Michael Perry who received death sentence for the crime. However, Perry did not admit till the end that he committed the murders.

What makes the content of the movie so sensitive is that it was recorded only eight days before his execution. One of the victims of this crime was a 50 years old nurse and apparently, they killed all the three people just for stealing a car for a joyride.

The crime documentary does not take any sides and remain completely impartial for anyone involved in the case. The murders were committed eight years before the filming of the movie and also includes interviews from victim’s family members too.

9. Murder on a Sunday Morning (2001)

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% IMDb: 8/10

Murder on a Sunday MorningMurder on a Sunday Morning is a French American documentary movie who is based on the subject of Brenton Butler Case which was a criminal case in which a young 15 years old teenager was wrongly accused of a murder which he did not commit.

The execution of this documentary is portrayed in such an amazing way that it went on to win Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

What makes it a greatest pick for the category of best crime documentaries is that the storyline is just amazing and maintains that perfect suspense for a crime drama. This case which focuses on Brenton Butler talks about his arrest for a murder of a tourist in Jacksonville, Florida.

The conviction was entirely based on the identification by the tourist’s husband and Butler’s own confession. However, the defense tried the best to get Butler out of this situation for the innocence he had in his eyes. The documentary includes interviews from everyone related to case including Brenton’s own interview too.

10. Amanda Knox (2016)

Rotten Tomatoes: 84% IMDb: 7/10

Amanda KnoxThe last one for this list of best true crime documentaries is Amanda Knox. This is one of the most mysterious and sensitive cases of crime and murder recorded and has also witnessed quite a coverage on it including a TV film too.

So, just like the title, the movie focuses on the woman named Amanda Knox who was convicted twice but later released for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007.

There is no doubt in the authenticity of the events as well as the murder as the documentary features interview of Amanda Knox as well as her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. The creators even managed to bring down the interview of Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and the rest of the people who are involved in this case.

Meredith was Knox’s roommate which made her the victim indirectly but thankfully she got freed after spending four years in prison. This is surely one hell of a case but it one of those best crime documentaries where there was no idea about the real culprit.

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There is no doubt in this fact that crime drama is one of the most sensitive genre of documentaries especially when the criminal is quite offensive one. But this is also a factor which sets the best crime documentaries apart from other movies and short films.

These documentaries are surely going to shock you and would also make you think twice before leaving your house. This is also a warning that you should better stay away from absurd people because you never know who turns out to be a serial killer amongst them.

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Nagama Ansari is a well-known blogger and digital marketer, working in the industry from several year, and has written more than 1000+ well-researched information guides and product testing review articles..