With the success of such multi-part, true crime documentaries as Making a Murderer in 2015, and The Staircase this year, Netflix has positioned itself as television’s leading network for gripping, bingeworthy tales of real-life crimes. But even once viewers have finished binging the better-known Netflix crime shows, there are still many more.
Here are five of the best multi-episode true crime documentaries streaming on Netflix right now.
THE CONFESSION TAPES
Telling six stores over seven episodes, The Confession Tapes, which the Inquisitr covered shortly after its release last September, confronts a question that most people would find simply unbelievable: why would you confess to a crime, even a horrendous crime such as a brutal, mass murder, that you know you did not commit?
This Netflix series provides at least some answers, and they largely have to do with techniques used by police to intimidate and confuse suspects who, in most cases, have never been in trouble with the law before and despite becoming suspects in horrible crimes, go in with a naive faith that their interrogators are interested only in the truth, and nailing the bad guy.
Sadly, that’s not the way it always works, as the six cases in The Confession Tapes agonizingly demonstrate. The strongest episode in the series is the two-part opener, True East, the 1994 case of two Canadian teenagers — Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns (pictured at the top of this page) — were accused of the horrific, baseball-bat beating deaths of Rafay’s whole family in Bellevue, Washington. Why would the two seemingly ordinary, middle-class teens confess to such a shocking and gruesome crime if they didn’t do it?
Other cases include a father who confessed to driving a car containing his four kids into a river; a mom who confesses to burning her troubled teenage daughter to death in their home; and a group of young African-American men whom the cops coax into turning against each other in the case of a sickening rape-murder that was clearly committed by someone else.
In one of the most bizarre and tragic bank robbery cases in American history, an Erie, Pennsylvania, pizza delivery man named Brian Wells calmly entered a bank wearing a bomb in a locked, metal collar around his neck. Sadly, as police surrounded him shortly after he departed the bank, the bomb went off, killing him.
Why did he do it? In this four-part series, whose full title is Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist, the fingers point to the woman who was ultimately jailed for the crime, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. The doc was produced by Hollywood power-brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, as IndieWire described.
But though Diehl-Armstromg is the “evil genius” of the perhaps-ironic title, did she act alone? And if not, was everyone involved with the cruel murder of Brian Wells ever caught? The series offers some surprising answers.
WILD WILD COUNTRY
In another Duplass Brothers production, an Indian guru leads his devoted — and perhaps cultish — followers from their small compound nestled into India’s populous and chaotic city of Mumbai, to the idyllic fields of rural Oregon in 1981. The cult was ostensibly led by the spiritual master known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, but the focus of this six-part documentary series is the Bhagwan’s top lieutenant and the woman who actually controlled the cult, Ma Anand Sheela.
Under Sheela’s command, the Rajneeshpuram settlement quite literally took control of an entire county of Oregon farmland, and held on by any means necessary, including attempted murder. After watching the six episodes of Wild Wild Country, viewers will want to read the definitive account of the bizarre Rajneeshpuram case, as chronicled by The Oregonian newspaper.
Part documentary, part drama, Wormwood is the product of Academy Award-winning Director Erroll Morris, who won the 2004 Best Documentary award for his film about the Vietnam conflict, The Fog of War. In Wormwood, Morris again confronts a tragic and horrifying U.S. government operation — in this case the possible murder of an Army scientist, Frank Olson, in 1953.
Olson’s death was ruled a suicide. The 42-year-old biologist supposedly hurled himself out a window in a New York City hotel. Later, the government appeared to admit that Olson was the victim of a CIA experiment gone wrong. He was dosed with LSD without his consent, and as a result, he lost his mind and killed himself. At least, that was the story.
But in this six-part series, through interviews with Olson’s son Eric, who was 9-years-old when his father died and went on to become a prominent psychologist, Morris uncovers an even darker secret that may have led to Olson’s death. It was a death that may not have been a suicide at all, and a secret that Eric Olson has been obsessed with exposing for more than 60 years.
In the extensive dramatic re-creations of Olson’s story, actor Peter Sarsgaard portrays Olson, surrounded by sinister CIA operatives who will stop at nothing to protect the government’s most frightening secrets in the aftermath of the Korean War. After binging this atmospheric and often creepy series, more information can be found at the Frank Olson website, which is dedicated to getting the truth about the ill-fated scientist’s fate to the public.
The six episodes of Dirty Money on Netflix focus on crimes committed by people not generally looked on outlaws or gangsters. It is the brainchild of another Oscar-Winning documentarian, Alex Gibney. Gibney’s series makes clear that corporations, executives, and businessmen have committed outrageous offenses against the public trust.
There’s even an entire episode devoted to the rise and career of one Donald J. Trump, “The Confidence Man.” Vulture described that particular episode as a “stealth biography” of Trump, and the opportunity “to watch a compulsively lying sociopath age and thicken over time while rolling over various marks. It’s as if somebody had made an adult version of Boyhood starring The Simpsons‘ Montgomery Burns.”
Other episodes of the series focus on HSBC Bank, the otherwise “respectable” financial institution that functioned as a money-launderer for international drug cartels; Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a global prescription drug-maker who are almost single-handedly responsible for sky-high drug prices that have cost numerous lives; and Scott Tucker, the race car driver who allegedly ripped off and exploited thousands with his predatory “payday loan” company, masking his illegal activities by partnering with Native American tribes.