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Crime News Movies & TV

10 True Crime Films To Binge While You're Social Distancing

There's plenty of entertainment for the true crime fan looking to find a diversion during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Connor Mannion
Movies To Watch

As the United States has collectively hunkered down during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a large number of Americans may now have unexpected free time on their hands due to either encouraged or mandated work from home policies being implemented across the country. 

With this newfound freedom, you may be wondering what would be worth watching in the world of true crime on the big screen — that you can also find to watch right now on your living room screen.

We've rounded up some of the best in recent true crime films to hit the streaming and digital rental markets, from tales of unknown serial killers to stories of infamous cults to factual documentaries that are almost too much to believe, all of which you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch.

1. "Lost Girls"

Lost Girls Netflix 2

"Lost Girls," which premiered on Netflix on March 13, is a striking dramatization of a mother searching for her missing daughter, an investigation that led to the discovery of a still-unidentified murderer known as the Long Island Serial Killer. The daughter, Shannan Gilbert, was later discovered dead and her cause of death remains unknown.

Starring Amy Ryan and directed by Liz Garbus, "Lost Girls" flips the all too common killer-focused narrative of true crime on its head — instead zeroing in on the stories of the women impacted by the unsolved killings.

"Lost Girls" is now available to stream on Netflix.

2. "The Witnesses"

The Witnesses Show Art

This compelling two-night investigative special from Oxygen follows the stories of four former Jehovah’s Witnesses, as they recount details of the sexual abuse they endured during their time within the organization. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have long relied on its own governing body to set the course by which its followers live their lives, but by examining the organization’s policies and practices, the special explores whether those procedures operate to conceal the identities of potential child predators.

For half a decade, an investigative journalist from The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), Trey Bundy, has been working to empower the public to protect children within the insular institution, reporting the stories of survivors of sexual abuse.

Both parts of "The Witnesses" are available to watch on Oxygen.com (Episode 1) (Episode 2).

3. "All Good Things"

All Good Things

"All Good Things" is a deceptively important movie in modern true crime. Although director Andrew Jarecki's tale of a wealthy man accused of killing his wife was met with relatively tepid reception at the time of its release in 2010, the film itself allowed Jarecki to obtain access to the person he based the film upon: Robert Durst.

In the film, Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, a wealthy real estate heir not-so-loosely inspired by Durst and questions David's involvement with the disappearance (and possible murder) of his wife.

Surprisingly, Durst himself so approved of the movie he ended up calling Jarecki and offered an interview that would ultimately result in the HBO docu-series "The Jinx." As is now widely known, Jarecki's follow-up project uncovered potentially damning information in Durst's case — leading to his current trial on murder charges. 

"All Good Things" is available to stream on Amazon Prime. "The Jinx" is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

4. "Long Shot"

Long Shot

If you feel like you may not have the ability to commit to a longer watch, this 40-minute Emmy-nominated documentary may be right up your alley. 

This documentary weaves together an unbelievable true story of a man wrongly convicted of murder and the story of his exoneration that ties together the man's love of baseball and the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" starring Larry David.

"Long Shot" is available to stream on Netflix.

5. "I Love You, Now Die"

Michelle Carter G 1

Although Erin Lee Carr's two-part documentary delves into difficult waters, it's a must-see look into the story of Michelle Carter, who was convicted of persuading her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to die by suicide. The documentary does not make excuses for Carter while diving into the media narrative around the story — and what was left out at the time.

Carter was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was released from prison in January for good behavior.

Both parts of "I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter" are available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

6. "Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood"

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino's tale of 1960s Hollywood in all of its sun-drenched glamour and glitz anchored by the friendship between a fading actor and his trusted stunt double had a distinct true crime element, as the sinister presence of Charles Manson and his Family looms throughout the movie, building to a bloody and shocking climax.

But for those interested in the real story of the Manson Family, Oxygen's "Manson: The Women" may be more your speed, which you can stream through the Oxygen website.

"Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood" is available for rental on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. It will also begin broadcasting on the cable channel Starz beginning March 27.

7. "Zodiac"

Zodiac 0

There have been many attempts to uncover the identity of the Zodiac Killer, the murderer who terrified the San Francisco area in the late 1960s into the early 1970s. David Fincher's star-studded 2007 biopic, however, focuses more on the police and journalists who investigated the Zodiac, rather than the murderer himself. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a newspaper cartoonist who becomes fascinated by the killer's cryptic notes.

"Zodiac" is available to stream on Netflix through March 20. It is also available for rental on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

8. "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Can You Forgive

Director Marielle Heller adapts Lee Israel's confessional memoir, where she owned up to forging a number of letters in an attempt to revitalize her writing career, which ultimately resulted in an FBI investigation and her arrest. The darkly funny take on the real-life scandal earned critical acclaim and Oscar nominations for Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy. 

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now

9. "Hustlers"

Hustlers 1

Another recent film based on a true crime to receive well-deserved critical acclaim is "Hustlers." The Lorene Scafaria film tells the tale of a group of New York City strippers who take to drugging wealthy Wall Street businessmen for personal profit. The movie itself was based on a 2015 New York Magazine story by Jessica Pressler. 

Though the movie won no major awards, save a Golden Globe nomination for Jennifer Lopez's supporting role, it received a worthy spot on multiple critics' best of the year lists in 2019. 

"Hustlers" is available for rental on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

10. "The Bling Ring"

Bling Ring

This slick production from directorial legend Sofia Coppola was loosely inspired by a Vanity Fair column by Nancy Jo Sales that examined a string of Hollywood robberies perpetrated by a fame-obsessed gang known as "The Bling Ring."

The group targeted a number of celebrities including actors like Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. Although it takes many liberties with reality, Coppola's film has a sense of style that matches the larger-than-life personalities of the Bling Ring.

"The Bling Ring" is available to stream on Netflix.

BONUS: The Hunt and The Invisible Man

The Hunt

Although "The Hunt" and "The Invisible Man" are definitely more fantastical than the other films on this list, they are definitely worth a watch — especially knowing now that the films, which are currently in theaters, will now also be available for audiences in the comfort of their homes, according to a recent announcement from Comcast NBCUniversal

"The Hunt" and "The Invisible Man" are modern spins on classic stories: "The Hunt" seemingly takes inspiration from the story "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Invisible Man" is adapted from the classic H.G. Wells novel — both with plenty of suspense to sate any true crime fan.

“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a statement. “We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible.”

(Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Oxygen.)