Thanks to the latest COVID surge in Southern California, I am once again at home 24/7, and just like in March 2020, I have taken a trip down the true crime documentary rabbit hole. So, Armchair Detectives, grab your coffee and your cat and get ready to solve some crimes while watching these documentary series!
Before we dive in, just a short disclaimer: while it can be entertaining to try to put the puzzle pieces together and solve the crime, please remember that the victims are real people, and their lives/their families’ lives were irreparably changed by these events.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark (HBO Max)
This documentary is unlike any other true crime documentary I’ve seen…and I’ve seen a few. The documentary revolves around true crime author Michelle McNamara as she writes a book about a serial killer who had terrorized California for decades and never been caught, a killer who she names “The Golden State Killer.”
The documentary follows McNamara’s investigation, and its aftermath. The writing is dark, poignant, and McNamara’s writing is nothing short of literary beauty. Unfortunately, McNamara died in April 2016 and did not live long enough to see her book published or the killer caught. Her impact and research, however, was crucial to cracking the case. (You can also purchase McNamara’s book, which I also highly recommend.)
Lularich (Amazon Prime)
NGL, at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, I pretty much lived in LuLaRoe leggings that I had gotten from a friend a few years ago (disclaimer: she’s no longer a consultant!). Did I wear them outside? No, because most of the prints are absolutely hideous. But, they were more comfortable than jeans, and that was the only criteria I had for WFH attire.
The LuLaRoe business model was always problematic…no matter how comfortable the leggings were (not are…were). Once the business model was explained to me, I saw “PYRAMID SCHEME” in big, bright red neon letters, and, well, it turns out that soon the rest of the world did too.
It’s not a murder mystery, but if you want to see a shady corporation get their comeuppance, look no further than LuLaRich. (It’s also extra delicious to be wearing non-LuLaRoe leggings while watching it.)
The Keepers (Netflix)
When I started watching The Keepers, I thought it was just another murder mystery true crime documentary series. It’s not. While the documentary may begin by focusing on the unsolved murder of a Catholic nun who worked as a teacher, it ends with possibly one of the biggest scandals (and coverups) in the history of Catholicism in the United States.
The most incredible part of this documentary is the depth that the filmmaker goes to uncover decades of crimes in order to prove a motive for Sister Catherine Cesnik’s murder. It’s shocking, revelatory, but you’ll be rooting for the women who have been trying to solve this case for decades.
The Chameleon Killer (Discovery+)
Nina and I just watched this documentary for the first time not long ago, and we had never heard of “The Chameleon Killer” before. This story is a rollercoaster from start to finish, and spans the entire continental United States. It also includes fake aliases, kidnapping, and 200 lbs of cat litter. No, really.
Intertwined with the stories of the victims are stories from the killer’s own biological family, and the result is a captivating, yet heartbreaking, case study of this serial killer and the destruction he wrought on many lives.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO Max)
You may have seen the name “Robert Durst” a lot in the news lately. He died last just over a week ago on January 10, 2022. Because I am who I am, this of course led me to watching this documentary about his life, and the three murders that he was accused of between 1982-2001.
It’s not very often that you get a potential serial killer to sit down for a face-to-face interview, and the filmmakers quickly have to pivot their strategy as their film takes them in places they did not expect.
I’d tell you more, but my god, the ending of this documentary is one you absolutely will not expect. It will more than likely have you screaming at the television by the end.
Bonus (because I can’t keep this list to 5 apparently)
Q: Into the Storm (HBO Max)
This documentary that delves deep into the Q *non phenomenon is not your typical true crime documentary. However, after January 6, 2021, I maintain that it is true crime, and a pretty terrifying one at that.
Need more true crime? I recommend the podcast “Crime Junkies.” (I’m listening to it as I type this!)
Are you a fan of true crime documentaries and have a recommendation on what I should watch next? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter!