Human curiosity in crime and prurient matters has been longstanding. This has historically spawned numerous novels, dramas, and even musicals. However, the interest in true-crime documentaries has been relatively recent. The rise of television and OTT platforms is partially responsible for this. While critics often trash such documentaries as being insensitive to the victims and perpetuating a culture of trial by media, the popularity of such crime documentaries or docu-series is ever-rising. Here are some of the best crime documentaries to watch on Amazon Prime Video that are worth your late-night, binge-watching sessions.
Best crime documentaries to watch on Amazon Prime Video
The House of Suh
Family politics, manipulation, and abused loyalties come together in this spine-chilling documentary based on a real-life murder within a seemingly perfect midwestern Korean immigrant household that gained national popularity. In 1993, Robert O’ Dubaine was murdered in the garage of his suburban Chicago home.
Within days, his fiancée, Catherine Suh, was charged with criminal conspiracy, while her 19-year-old brother Andrew, was charged with the actual crime. The portrait that emerged from the previous dramatisation of the act in America’s Most Wanted was that of a manipulative sister, who orchestrated her fiancée’s death for financial gains. This new documentary, however, is a much less-sensationalised account of the true events that play out like an intricate puzzle, peppered with commentaries by Andrew, who is now serving a 100-year jail term, and the victim’s brother, Kevin Koron.
IMDb rating: 6.9/10
The Making of the Mob
Fascination with the tuxedo-clad Italian-American gangsters has produced movie classics like Scarface and The Godfather and even video games like the Mafia and the Grand Auto Theft. Now, a new docu-series sheds a light on the actual history of organized crime groups that operated in New York and Chicago between 1900 and the 1950s. The Making of the Mob is an immensely enjoyable two-part series that chronicles the rise to power of some of the most notorious gangsters of the past century, such as Charlie Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benny Bugsy, and Frank Castello. Featuring dramatic enactments, along with interviews, this series is for the die-hard fans of the mafia-crime genre.
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers – American Sons, American Murderers
On the evening of August 20, 1989, José Enrique Menéndez, a businessman, and his wife, Kitty, were found murdered in their sprawling Beverly Hills mansion. For months, the police were without a clue regarding the identity of the perpetrator, before their suspicion fell on the couple’s sons, Lyle and Erik. During the trial that ensued, the brothers alleged that they killed their father to protect themselves as they had threatened to expose him for years of sexual abuse. The jury, however, argued that the brothers did it to inherit their father’s multi-million-dollar estate. This crime documentary takes a look back at the courtroom trial and tries to establish the brothers’ motive.
IMDb rating: 7.0/10
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father
This poignant crime documentary, which serves as a cinematic scrapbook about a father for his unborn son, is unlike any other you have watched. Widely acclaimed by critics for its emotional content, the documentary tells the story of a promising medical student named Andrew Bagby, who was murdered by his ex-lover Shirley Jane Turner, who was pregnant with Bagby’s son. Turner, who was released on bail, later jumped into the Atlantic Ocean, along with her thirteen-month-old son strapped to her belly. While the film sheds light on Andrew, it also serves as a timely reminder to amend the Canadian legal system that allowed Andrew’s murderer to roam free.
IMDb rating: 8.5/10
Cold Case Files
This reboot of a crime documentary series of the same name depicts how persistence, police intelligence, and technological advancement can come together to solve crime puzzles that have been lying unsolved in cold storage for years. Narrated by Danny Glover in his baritone voice, the series takes viewers through the details of the crimes and how the investigation went cold due to lack of evidence. The show has been praised by critics for its realistic portrayal of investigative techniques with law enforcement agencies using its investigation reports to even train young detectives.
IMDb rating: 7.9/10
You Belong to Me: Sex, Race, and Murder in the South
A lesson in history in the garb of a crime documentary, this one is a must-watch for people interested in systemic racism in America and the lasting legacy of Jim Crow laws. Sixty years ago, the quiet town of Live Oak, Florida, was rocked by the murder of a white doctor in the hands of Ruby McCollum, a black woman, who alleged to have endured years of sexual abuse by the physician. The trial that followed rocked the nation and haunted jurors for decades. The details of the case and the influence it had on the American judicial system form the subject matter of this documentary.
IMDb rating: 6.6/10
This four-part crime documentary series by executive producer Jordan Peele features the story of Lorena Bobbitt, who castrated her husband, following years of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The courtroom trial, widely covered by the media in the early 1990s, was turned into a national joke by contemporary public opinion which failed to grasp issues of women’s rights, morality, and sexual abuse at that time. This docu-series takes a relook at the case and the public opinion that shaped its popular perception. Clearly one of the best crime documentaries to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
IMDb rating: 7.2/10
While Americans have not been strangers to mass shootings in schools and other educational institutions, the Columbine High School massacre has had a profound impact on American politics, public policies, and emergency response protocols. In 1999, a school shooting in Columbine High School in Colorado left 13 people dead and 21 injured. One of the deadliest mass shootings in the US, the pre-meditated attack was carried out by two 12th-grade students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Investigation into the massacre suggested that both the students suffered from some form of mental disorder, although the exact motive behind the crime, still remains unknown. In a new crime documentary, Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the shooters, sheds light on her learnings from the tragedy and what America can learn from this incident.
IMDb rating: N.A.
In 2009, the Cleveland Police department made a sensational discovery. It found the decomposing, maggot-infested bodies of 11 women in the house and yard of a sex offender, named Anthony Sowell. While this may seem like an open-and-shut case, the crime documentary raises disconcerting questions regarding the disappearance of these women and why were they overlooked by the police for years. Best known for shedding light on the invisibility of marginalised Black women in American society, this crime documentary on Amazon Prime Video is nothing short of an eye-opener.
IMDb rating: 6.8/10
“Bulging with twists, turns, and shocking revelations” this crime documentary is a true-crime hook, to put it in the words of a reviewer. The Imposter chronicles the life of Frédéric Bourdin, a French serial imposter, who impersonated several missing children. Focussing on one such case, the documentary recounts how Bourdin managed to fool both Spanish and American authorities and live as Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old who went missing from his hometown in San Antonio, Texas. He managed to convince Barclay’s family that he was indeed their missing son, despite having brown eyes and dark hair rather than blue eyes and blonde hair.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
(Hero and featured image credits: 24 Seven Productions & IMDb)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Amazon Prime Video has an extensive collection of true crime documentaries that can only be viewed with a Prime membership. Viewing rights may differ from one country to another.
Answer: Psychologists believe that people vicariously explore the dark world of serial killers and crimes without being a part of it in reality. In short, it gives them a safe zone to enjoy this world and they can switch back to normalcy whenever they want.
Answer: Most true-crime documentaries are based on real-life incidents, although many of them may have dramatic reconstructions of those events.