We’ve all seen it. We’re still talking about it, much to the chagrin of late-comers and conspiracy theorists. So what to do now that the case of Steven Avery, so unsuspectingly thrust upon the crime-loving contingent of Netflix subscribers, has wrapped? How do we cleanse the palate left so dirty by the prosecution’s poor case (not to mention Ken Kratz’s creepy, castrated delivery)? For those looking to fill the void left by the concluding minutes of the popular series Making a Murderer, we’ve come up with a list of fitting, true crime contemporaries.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)
Any fan of Making a Murderer in need of an immediate fix should start here. HBO’s own compelling mystery miniseries examines the privileged life, and inevitable fall from grace, of eccentric real estate heir Robert Durst who, since 1982, has been a suspect in multiple homicide and missing-persons cases. Interest in this series rocketed tenfold a day before the airing of the sixth and final episode on March 15, 2015, when Durst was arrested and finally charged with first-degree murder.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Frequently landing on many ‘greatest of all time’ lists, Errol Morris’ seminal true crime documentary relies almost exclusively on factual and hypothetical re-enactments of a 1976 crime scene in which Dallas police officer Robert Wood was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. The investigative work, bolstered by testimony from a motley crew of supporting witnesses, offered a compelling framework that played a pivotal role in the exoneration of Randall Adams, who was falsely convicted of Wood’s murder, and set free a year after the film’s release.
Murder On A Sunday Morning (2001)
This Oscar-winning feature examines the case of Brenton Butler, a young, black Florida teen who was arrested and tried for the murder of a tourist, based almost entirely on improper witness identification. While in custody, a forced confession, as a result of alleged police brutality, brought Butler a life sentence—which was ultimately overturned after a grand jury investigation into shoddy police conduct. A remarkable film with a powerful and pertinent message on race relations and law enforcement that is still relevant today.
The Farm: Angola, U.S.A. (1998)
Set against a searing southern backdrop, this film delves deep into the lives of six inmates who have spent the bulk of their sentences behind the bars in one of America’s most infamous maximum security prisons. The Louisiana State Penitentiary, which also operates as a working farm, insists of its inmates ‘hard labour,’ a controversial practice enforced by the film’s antagonist, warden Burl Cain. Oscar-nominated, The Farm is equal parts poignant and powerful; enraging and emotional.
The Seven Five (2014)
Highly controversial upon its release, this documentary tackles the topic of corruption within the New York Police Department–in particular, the seventy-fifth precinct during the height of the 1980’s Manhattan crack epidemic. Using colourful and frank commentary from former officers, The Seven Five unearths multiple examples of police improprieties, ranging from misdemeanors to felony racketeering practices, and examines how the actions of some, affect the lives, and the image of many.
Into The Abyss (2011)
A chilling account of life on the inside, and how the effects of an impending execution plays on an inmate’s mind. Into the Abyss, Werner Herzog’s first venture into the world of crime, centers on Michael Perry, a convicted murderer and death row resident. Filmed in stark contrast with other “prisoner” documentaries, Herzog refrains from the subject of guilt or innocence, and provides minimal narration, instead offering the floor almost entirely to Perry himself, with the occasional heartbreaking contribution from his victims’ families.
The Central Park Five (2012)
In 1989, a female jogger was attacked in New York’s Central Park, raped and beaten to within an inch of her life. At the same time, a group of teenagers, including the five who would ultimately be charged and convicted of the crime, were hanging out in a nearby location of the massive outdoor space. This documentary, directed by famed chronicler Ken Burns, examines what really went down, and why it took so long for the truth and the victim’s identity, to be revealed to the public.
The Paradise Lost Films + West of Memphis (1996 – 2011; 2012)
Much has been made about the “West Memphis Three,” a trio of teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of killing three young boys in 1993. The suspects did not fit the mold of the rural Arkansas town; one favoured dark clothing, and another was known for vandalizing property. In the court of public opinion, these traits were as good as a confession. The rest is history. Eighteen years (and three successful HBO documentaries) later, their names were exonerated. West of Memphis chronicles the absurd details surrounding their journey to freedom.
Nineteen year-old Ryan Ferguson is arrested, tried and convicted of a heinous crime which he did not commit, –based largely on somebody’s else’s dream. His father, a US army veteran and family man, takes on the American judicial system in a decade-long campaign to free his best friend.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)
Despite the graphic nature, and Broomfield’s signature detached narration, this feature packs an emotional punch by offering up gut-wrenching details of Aileen Wuornos’ crimes, and of her own abusive upbringing. Aileen creates a compelling case of a polarizing figure, one of America’s first female serial killers. A follow-up to Broomfield’s 1993’s Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (his relationship with Wuornos stretches over ten years), this documentary centers on Wuornos’ last days before her execution in 2002, and hints at the injustice of killing a woman who, after years of isolation and alleged abuse behind bars, appears to have descended into madness.
Have anything to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.