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10 True Crime Documentaries You Should Have Already Watched

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Some of Vulgar Little Ladies’ favorite true crime documentaries.

1. Dear Zackary

Where I watched it: You Tube

Reining in at #1 on this and so many other true crime documentary lists is the incredibly heart breaking film Dear Zackary. Fair warning: this is one of the most fucked up true crime stories that I know of, not due to shear violence or gore, but because it will rip your still beating heart out of your chest. Dear Zackary is the story of Canadian medical resident Andrew Bagby, who was murdered in 2001. One of the remarkable things about Dear Zackary is the fact that the person who made it is a life-long friend of the victim, and he pours his love and grief into every piece of the film. Although the story may destroy your faith in humanity, I believe it to be a masterpiece. It illuminates the flaws within in the Canadian judicial system, focuses on the devastating and widespread impact that murder has on the loved ones of the victims, and keeps the memory of a extinguished light burning.

2. The Paradise Lost Series

Where I watched it: HBO Go

The Paradise Lost Series tells the story of three West Memphis eight-year-olds that were murdered in the 90s, and the three teenage boys who were accused and convicted of their murders. There are three full documentaries; Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. The first documentary was released in 1996, and received a ton of attention due to the “satanic panic” element to the case. Although at the time, most of the locals believed that the accused were strange and even into occultism, many people who watched the documentary saw a group of scared teenagers who were targeted based on their socioeconomic status and affinity for heavy-metal and black clothes. The documentaries follow the accused and the victims throughout their trials and after, and ranges over the course of 15 years. I have a lot to say about this case, so I will be writing more about it in the future. For now I will say that I think that prosecutors got this horribly wrong, that there has never been justice served in this case, and that the interrogation and confession make me want to ruin the lives of the fucks responsible. *Trigger warning: although many documentaries show shots of crime scenes, there are some very disturbing crime scene shots in the very beginning of the first documentary, and you may want to skip that.

3. The Confession Killer- False Confessions are Real

Where I watched it: Netflix

While I personally did not enjoy this documentary very much, I put it on the list for a few reasons. One, I noticed a lot of people watched it and were talking about it after it came out. The other reason I put it on this list is because I think that it’s always important to talk about false confessions or possible cases where people may have been convicted based on one. In this documentary, you will hear the story of Henry Lee Lucas, a supposed serial killer- and if we are to believe his confessions, one of the worst we’ve ever known. My opinion on this case is that Lucas is an attention whore and a bullshitter, which is probably why I didn’t love the documentary in the first place. It is amazing to see all of the recordings in which he confesses to countless murders, and the all too eager police officers who accepted his confessions despite alarming inconsistencies and in probabilities in order to close cases.

4. Ruby Ridge

Where I watched it: You Tube

Before Waco, there was Ruby Ridge. In this documentary, we learn the story of the Weaver family, and the siege at their homestead that claimed multiple lives and left the nation shocked. Like Waco, this story calls into question the use of deadly force and extreme military tactics on civilians. Unlike Waco, the 1992 incident did not begin with an investigation into a possible armory filled with guns and explosives, but rather with a failure to appear and a possible set up. The 11 day siege that follows can only be described as been at war with your own government, and left the lives of the Weaver family ruined forever. The story of Ruby Ridge leaves you wondering who the “bad guy” really is. What where the motives of the US Marshals; what outcome where they looking for? There are those that would say that Randy Weaver is a racist and a criminal, but does that justify what happened to him and his family? Another interesting aspect of this case is that the Ruby Ridge incident, paired with the Waco incident further disenfranchised the Unibomber with our government and may have inadvertently led to the Oklahoma City Bombing.

5. Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Where I watched it: Netflix

We’ve all heard horror stories of wrongful conviction cases in which innocent people lose years of their lives, their reputations, their mental health, and more- all for nothing. But what about a case where there is no conviction and over 1,000 days in prison? In 2015, sixteen year old Kalief Browder was accused of stealing, and what ensued over the next three years is one of the most heartbreaking miscarriages of justice that I have heard of. The Browder family, financially unable to make bail were helpless against a system that failed to give him a fair and speedy trial. Kalief’s nightmare at Riker’s Island is well documented through surveillance footage that is horrifying to watch, making the documentary all the more powerful. It also showcases major flaws within the prison systems in New York, evidenced by a sort of gang/ concept called “the program”, allotted days in solitary confinement, and his denial to a fair and speedy trial.

6. Not Carol

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

This film offers a heartbreaking look into the world of postpartum mental illness, through the story of Carol Coranado who did the unthinkable when she killed her child while experiencing a psychosis brought on through postpartum mental illness. Like other mothers with postpartum psychosis who killed their children (Andrea Yates came to mind), Carol was described as a loving mother who would never harm her child. In the documentary we find out that she has a reputation for being soft-spoken, kind, and an all-around good person. So how does one go from being a doting mother to killing her child? Having never experienced childbirth myself, I learned some things that I did not know about postpartum mental illness, which I think is good information for the public to know.

7. Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop

Where I watched it: HBO Go

Despite the grim title of this documentary, no one gets eaten- So don’t let that stop you from watching this bizarre film. The thing that I find the most intriguing about this case is that it is all based on a dark sexual fantasy of a NYPD officer, and although he was guilty of a crime, one could argue that he did not act on the dark thoughts centered around this film. Even though the last few years may have been slightly Orwellian, it is still not illegal to have any sort of “dark” thoughts, no matter the degree of depravity. It is only when one acts on these thoughts that legality comes into play; but how far down the rabbit hole of dark fantasy is too far? How or when can a thought become illegal? Decide for yourself after watching the story of one man’s weird af fetishes.

8. Audrie and Dasit

Where I watched it: Netflix

If you grew up in the days before social media like me, then you were lucky enough to not experience high school hell with the added possibility of cyber bullying. Kids today do not have that luxury and the use of the internet and social media with teenagers can have absolutely devastating effects on their lives. This documentary not only examines cyber bullying, but also rape culture and sexual deviancy among teenagers through the story of two victims. Through the stories of two teenage girls who were assaulted in separate but equally. disgusting events, we see the long lasting mental toll that sexual assault and cyber bullying can have on a person. As with Roll Red Roll, I believe this is an important watch, and an important conversation to have.

9. Roll Red Roll

Where I watched it: Netflix

This documentary will make you want to flip a table. In Roll Red Roll, we will once again be in high school hell, but this time with a strong emphasis on rape culture, football/ athlete culture, and non-consent. Something that I found particularly upsetting about this film was the attitude of girls and woman when discussing rape. I was frankly disgusted to share a gender with these girls, and I think after you watch, you will share these sentiments. Although this documentary is an infuriating watch, I think that this is a topic that we have to continue to speak out against and an uncomfortable conversation that we should to challenge ourselves to have.

10. The Fear of 13

Where I watched it: Netflix

In this documentary you’ll hear the story of death row inmate Nick Yarris who is petitioning to be executed after 20 years of waiting to be executed. The whole documentary is so well done, and Nick is so well spoken that I couldn’t help but love the film. After almost a lifetime of reflection on death row, he very eloquently shares his experiences in a series of beautifully sad and detailed stories. He shares stories of extreme punishments including the unique use of silence and the alarming practice called gladiatoring, stories of love and heartbreak belonging both to himself and to other inmates, and even stories involving escape and capture. The way that he reflects on his life and the self-awareness that he possesses is mesmerizing to the viewer, and I found myself feeling sorry for him despite his obvious status as a criminal.

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