Everyone is talking about Making A Murderer. The 10-part Netflix documentary series has gripped the entire world with its recount of the Steven Avery case, a man accused of murder by a police department with an agenda and who may have planted evidence to frame him. It is a riveting true crime documentary that inevitably leaves a profound impression on the viewer. But it’s not the first of its kind. There are many other staggering true crime documentaries just like Making A Murderer, and here 5 that are definitely worth checking out:
The Thin Blue Line
We begin with the granddaddy of true crime documentaries, a film which paved the way for Making A Murderer and the other four films on this list: The Thin Blue Line. This classic documentary was made by a former private investigator, Error Morris, in the late 1980s. It depicts an accusation of murder against 28-year-old Randall Adams and his sentence to death despite much of the evidence pointing towards a 16-year-old named David Ray Harris. The documentary posits that Harris avoided being charged because he was not old enough to receive the death penalty, so the judicial system wrongly pursued Randall Adams instead. The documentary managed to save Adams from the lethal injection with his conviction overturned one year after the film’s release.
After Andrew Jarecki made a drama called All Good Things about Robert Durst, the real estate heir accused of being involved in the murder and disappearance of three women, Durst offered to give an interview to Jarecki and tell his whole story. He recounts it over six episodes, complete with interviews from persons who knew Durst and his alleged victims as well as dramatic recreations of the events as they are described. The Jinx gets really chilling in the last few episodes as Jarecki and his team uncover new evidence in the case and prepare to confront Durst with it. We won’t spoil what happens next, but it leads to one of the most jaw-dropping moments in television history.
The Central Park Five
One of the main themes of Making A Murderer is how prejudice can play a worryingly large role in who becomes the lead suspect in an investigation. Making A Murderer is about the prejudice against one man who was suing the police department, while The Central Park Five examines the institutionalised racial prejudice in the NYPD and US media who were collectively to blame for the wrongful convictions of five persons of colour after a rape in New York’s Central Park. After the film was released they were awarded with over $100m in damages from New York State for what happened.
Tales Of The Grim Sleeper
Following the theme of racial prejudice and how it affects the criminal justice system, Nick Broomfield’s documentary Tales Of The Grim Sleeper is a tremendous insight into how a murderer ran amok in a predominantly black neighbourhood in Los Angeles for 25 years. The film exposes the lack of interest the police showed in a neighbourhood like this and how they, simultaneously, had such a lack mistrust of the police that testimonies weren’t properly heard. Broomfield manages to investigate the case in the way the LAPD never did by simply listening, understanding and showing sympathy towards those he is interviewing.
How were a family tricked into thinking their missing 8 year old son was actually a 23 year old Frenchman, who they invited into their home to live with them believing he had been found? It’s that bewildering question that kicks off the events of The Imposter, a nail-biting documentary that takes us through the months before and after this bizarre con. It will keep you glued to the edge of your seat like any great Hollywood thriller.