10 New Crime Dramas To Binge Over The 2022 Holidays
It's the year of true crime obsession, and plenty of gruesome, quirky and downright chilling suspects are the stars of new TV shows. Check out "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," "The Girl From Plainville" or "The Staircase," and many more.
If you’re looking for a nightmare before Christmas to get in the holiday spirit, this year was full of true crime stories brought to life on TV and digital screens.
The best stories in 2022 added new angles, details, twists and even points of view to old crimes, keeping viewers guessing until the very end. Not to forget the A-list actors who delivered stellar performances in these shows, including Andrew Garfield, Colin Firth, Toni Collette and Renee Zellweger.
But many stories also saw their share of controversy off screen — from victims speaking out against the show, to fights between the real-life people over character portrayals and motives. Netflix's "Inventing Anna" even found itself embroiled in a lawsuit by one of the subjects!
Featuring criminals from con artist Anna Sorokin to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, there’s plenty of chilling shows to choose from as you curl up with a warm blanket in front of the Christmas tree. Keep scrolling to learn more...
1. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
“American Horror Story” actor Evan Peters plays notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the Netflix limited series which chronicles Dahmer’s brutal murders of 17 men and boys over the course of 13 years. Niecy Nash, Molly Ringwald and Richard Jenkins also star.
This isn’t the first dramatized portrayal of the man also known as the “Milwaukee Cannibal" and it likely won't be the last but Netflix is under fire from families of Dahmer’s victims.
Shirley Hughes, whose son, Tony Hughes, was murdered by Dahmer in 1991, is upset Netflix didn't contact the families about the making of the series.
"I don’t see how they can do that," she told The Guardian following the September premiere. “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.”
Dahmer victim Errol Lindsey’s cousin Eric Perry said that "Monster" has hurt the victim's families.
"I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge," Perry tweeted on Sept. 22. "But if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbells) are pissed about this show. It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”
2. Inventing Anna
This is the dramatized story of a woman behind bars for posing as a fake German heiress in order to defraud some of New York’s wealthiest socialites out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Julia Garner plays Anna Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey, in Shonda Rhimes' true crime series. Rhimes admits parts of the series were intentionally fictionalized.
The Russian-born Sorokin, 31, was released from ICE custody back in October of this year, after she was arrested for overstaying her visa. Before that, she served four years in a New York prison following a conviction on charges of attempted grand larceny, theft of services and larceny in the second degree. These charges stemmed from her lavish and scammer lifestyle, which she enjoyed until she was arrested in 2017.
While in ICE detention, she wrote in an open letter she had no intention of watching the portrayal of herself in “Inventing Anna," though she spoke with Garner in prison. She referenced the $320,000 she made off the series, which has all been used to pay off her victims.
Sorokin has also accused her former friend Rachel Williams of “shamelessly” exploiting their friendship in a Newsweek report.
During Sorokin’s 2019 trial, she was found not guilty of a larceny charge involving Williams, a former Vanity Fair photo editor. After writing a popular 2018 “Vanity Fair” story alleging she was duped by the fake heiress, Williams got a book deal with Simon & Schuster to write the 2019 book “My Friend Anna.”
Williams, who was portrayed by Katie Lowes in the series, sued Netflix, saying she was portrayed in an unduly negative light, according to court records reviewed by Oxygen.com.
The Netflix drama series also features Anna Chlumsky, Jennifer Esposito, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Perry, Anders Holm and Laverne Cox.
3. The Girl From Plainville
Michelle Carter, who infamously encouraged her boyfriend to die by suicide, is played by Elle Fanning in the Hulu series “The Girl From Plainville.”
The drama is based on a 2017 Esquire article of the same name by Jesse Barron, which gave insight into Carter’s mindset when she encouraged her boyfriend Conrad Roy III, over text and phone, to take his own life back in 2014.
Fanning portrays Carter, who was 17 at the time that a judge determined she was culpable in 18-year-old Roy’s suicide. Now 25, Carter was sentenced to serve 15 months after being convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter. She was released in January 2020.
Fanning hopes that the depiction will shed new light on the case.
“For us, it was looking at the case in a different light and in a more of an unbiased way,” Fanning said on “Good Morning America," adding that the media had portrayed the high profile case in a “one-dimensional way," focusing on Carter as a “black widow manipulator” without revealing all the nuances involved.
“Everyone definitely had an opinion about this case,” Fanning said. “It definitely shocked the nation and we wanted to dig deeper and look at more sides to it.”
The creative team behind the series includes Golden Globe-nominated screenwriter Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus, who is also the writer behind the Peacock series “Dr. Death.”
“Patrick and I really connected on [what] was the opportunity to find empathy in these characters and in this story, not just with Michelle, but with Conrad and the families and I think we both came to it with the same amount of knowledge that everybody else did,’ said Hannah of making the series. “So we felt like we had a chance to maybe show a little bit more of the true story.”
Nonetheless, St. Denis, who has been working with Massachusetts lawmakers on a bill that would criminalize suicide coercion in the state, hopes that the series draws some attention to that proposed law change.
4. The Dropout
It’s a white-collar scandal that rocked the tech world, as Elizabeth Holmes claimed to have developed a rapid blood testing device that used only a very small sample. But instead of a medical breakthrough, it turned out to be a faulty product.
Oscar nominee Amanda Seyfried plays the part of Holmes in Hulu’s “The Dropout,” portraying the Washington-D.C. native as she dropped out of Stanford University’s School of Engineering to work full-time on her healthcare-focused tech company, Theranos. It also focuses on her relationship with Sunny Balwani, Theranos' president and Holmes' romantic partner at the time — alleging in the series that the pair knew the device didn’t work and had covered it up by sending out blood samples for traditional testing to meet the terms of their contracts.
The show depicts the pair meeting when Holmes was just 18 and Balwani was well into his thirties while on a 2002 trip to Beijing, China.
The 38-year-old mother was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison on Nov. 18 for deceiving company investors about the capabilities of her blood testing company — after being found guilty of three counts of felony wire fraud and felony conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Balwani was sentenced on Dec. 7 to nearly 13 years in prison after he was convicted earlier this year on 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
5. The Thing About Pam
It’s a story filled with twists and revelations as Missouri woman Pamela Hupp is accused of murdering her close friend Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria — but this Peacock story breaks out of the typical true crime genre.
The series stars two-time Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger as Hupp.
Russ Faria, Betsy’s husband, was initially tried and convicted for her 2011 death before being exonerated in 2015; Hupp, now 64, was already in prison for a separate murder linked to the case. Hupp was officially charged with Betsy’s murder in 2021 and has pleaded not guilty. She could face the death penalty when she goes on trial.
“Some crime dramas have a way of, by their very nature, being so terribly sad that you’re really moored in that emotion throughout,” showrunner and executive producer Jenny Klein told Oxygen.com. “But because of the absurd nature of this story and the fact that I’ve never seen a character like Pam on TV, it creates this sort of constant sense of ‘Oh, my God, did this really happen?’ and humor to it because truth really was stranger than fiction in this case.”
Based on the "Dateline" podcast of the same name, Zellweger said the story of “escalating absurdities” is what drew her to the role.
“This is one of those stories you couldn’t make up,” Zellweger said during a panel for the Television Critics Association. “I was listening to it, I binged the podcast, actually… and I couldn’t believe it. It was like this experience of escalating absurdities. It just felt like something that would be interesting to explore further.”
The six-part series brings another unique aspect to the story that some true crime fans might already be familiar with: a narration by Keith Morrison, the host of "Dateline" NBC.
“It was a dream; I’m such a fan of 'Dateline,' and Keith is such an iconic voice,” Klein told Oxygen.com of working with the news correspondent who covered the case. “Writing this voiceover for our show, we wanted to tilt it a bit from the way it's presented straightforward on Dateline, where he’s more of a philosophical, omniscient narrator, where it lends a bit of a meta aspect to our storytelling.”
You can also see Hupp’s story portrayed in season 26, episode 23 of “Snapped” now on Peacock.
“The Thing About Pam” is produced by NBC News studios, Blumhouse Television, and Big Picture Co. Oxygen’s parent company is NBCUniversal.
6. The Staircase
A woman is found dead at the bottom of a staircase and her husband is later convicted of killing her — but did he? That's the question at the center of this dramatic new series, streaming on HBO Max and featuring an all-star cast of Colin Firth, Toni Collette and Sophie Turner.
Michael Peterson was convicted in 2003 for the murder of his wife, Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their North Carolina home in 2001, with lacerations on her head.
Her death spawned many wild theories, including one that an owl had killed her after microscopic owl feathers were found in a clump of hair Kathleen had in her hand, and speculation the lacerations on her head could be owl talons.
Firth said he never met with the real-life Peterson before filming the role.
“I didn’t communicate with Michael Peterson. I felt the way the script was structured, and just the whole approach of this was its own ecosystem, so to speak,” Firth told Deadline. “These are created characters, but we all know what the source is. We all know that these characters have names of living people, but it’s very carefully calibrated to tell the story in a certain way. I felt that I wanted to keep my inspiration, my motivation, and the sense of the source material, as much as possible contained within the script and the way it was written.”
Peterson spent nearly a decade behind bars for his wife's death before he was granted a new trial in 2011, after a judge determined that a key prosecution witness provided unreliable testimony during his trial. Then in 2017, just months before the scheduled retrial, Peterson submitted an Alford plea acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict him at trial, while still allowing him to maintain his innocence. He was sentenced to time served and subsequently released.
The HBO series is a dramatization of French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s docuseries of the same name — which is depicted in the HBO show. The fiction series portrays de Lestrade and other members of the crew, including editor Sophie Brunet, as they follow Peterson.
De Lestrade isn’t thrilled with the new dramatized version, telling Vanity Fair he felt betrayed, particularly with episode five of the new series which suggested that Brunet began an affair with Peterson while filming was still going on.
De Lestrade told L’Express, a French newsweekly, that the two did fall in love and have a relationship that spanned a decade. But Brunet told Vanity Fair that their affair did not begin until after the initial filming had concluded.
7. Friend Of The Family
Kidnapped twice by a trusted family friend, after years spent manipulating her family. This scripted Peacock drama is based on the 1970s kidnappings in Idaho of Jan Broberg by her neighbor Robert Berchtold.
Anna Paquin stars as Jan’s mother Mary Ann Broberg, while Jake Lacy, who starred in “The White Lotus,” plays Berchtold. Colin Hanks and Lio Tipton also star in the series.
During the kidnappings, Berchtold convinced Jan that they had been chosen to have a baby together to save a dying alien civilization. She didn’t tell anyone about the abuse she experienced because he told her that her family would be hurt if they knew about their secret mission.
“It's really different to watch it in a series,” Jan Broberg told Oxygen.com. “People can relate to those characters; they can see how the grooming and the manipulation happens and that might prevent something in the future.”
The Broberg family was directly involved in the making of the series, with Jan and Mary Ann Broberg both named as producers.
“We were a loving, trusting, educated family. We were not stupid or careless,” Jan said in a trailer. “So how could this happen in our neighborhood, where we knew everyone, and everyone was a friend? The truth is that most predators are not strangers but people we know — people who can build trust, create special friendships, and separate family members psychologically."
Nick Antosca, the writer, show runner and executive producer of the true crime drama, said the series tries to explain how an average American family got entangled with Berchtold.
“It’s easy to judge the Broberg family’s story from the outside. Sometimes when people first hear it, they get defensive: How could these parents have let this happen? I’m not like them,” he said in the Peacock release. “That’s understandable. It’s a surreal story. When I first heard it, I empathized with the family’s vulnerability, and I felt like I understood their story from the outside. But it stayed with me, and I wanted to understand from the inside — to know what their lives felt like, to live in each family member’s experience, to see how they were caught in such a bizarre web, and help audiences too.”
Jan Broberg hopes the series will show viewers how easily abuse can happen.
“I hope that our story will start conversations — because secrets live in darkness and silence,” she said.
8. Under The Banner Of Heaven
It’s still considered one of the most gruesome and notorious murders in Utah history — a young mother and her 15-month-old daughter killed — strangled with a vacuum cord and throats slashed. Their relatives were later convicted of the 1984 crime.
The dramatized series is based on Jon Krakauer’s 2003 true-crime bestselling book of the same title, which details the murders of Mormon mother Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica.
Actor Andrew Garfield stars as Detective Pyre, an LDS elder “who is committed to his Church and family but begins to question some of the Church's teachings through his contact with a suspected murderer,” according to the show’s description. Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Lafferty, who is described as “a young faithful Mormon who is the victim of a brutal murder.”
While the case is real, the show does have some fictionalized elements, including Pyre, who was created purely for the show, Newsweek reports. Garfield, who plays Pyre, told Newsweek that while his character isn’t based on any real persons involved in the case, he did speak to a Mormon detective to prepare for the role.
It’s the sensational real-life story of a woman accused of killing her friend with 41 chops of ax, after having an affair with her husband.
Jessica Biel plays the starring role in “Candy” — the shocking story of the real-life relationship between Candy Montgomery and her friend Betty Gore in Dallas nearly 42 years ago — when both women were 30 years old.
The series starts off like a suburban dream — with the women singing in church choir together and organizing play dates for their children. Eventually, Montgomery and Allan Gore began an affair while Betty Gore was pregnant, and Allan ends the affair after his child with Betty is born.
Candy claimed to police that Betty came after her with an ax after she confessed to the affair with Allan. She was eventually acquitted on the basis of self-defense.
Melanie Lynskey plays the role of Betty Gore in the series, and Pablo Schreiber portrays Allan Gore.
The crime was also told in an episode of Oxygen’s “Snapped.” You can find Season 30, episode 15 on Oxygen.com.
10. Black Bird
The Apple TV+ series is based on the real-life story of a young drug dealer who tries to get a confession from a suspected serial killer in exchange for his freedom.
Jimmy Keene was a well-liked high school football star and policeman's son who was sentenced to 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole for dealing drugs. But a prosecutor offers Keene, played by Taron Egerton, a deal — get killer Larry Hall, played by Paul Walter Hauser, to admit where he allegedly hid the bodies of young girls the FBI suspects he killed.
The series also marks the late Ray Liotta’s final on-screen TV performance, playing Jimmy Keene’s father, as reported by Deadline.
Liotta, 67, died in his sleep on May 26.
Dennis Lehane, who developed the series, said he specifically wrote the part of decorated policeman Big Jim Keene with Liotta in mind.
“I had no other actor in mind and was floored — humbled, honored, fist-pump elated — when he leapt at playing the part less than 24 hours after we sent him the scripts,” said Lehane in a statement on Liotta's death. “And the performance he gave? It was a master class.”
“Black Bird” is based on the 2011 nonfiction memoir “In With the Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, And A Dangerous Bargain For Redemption” by James Keene and Hillel Levin.