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10 Gritty True Crime Documentaries You Need to Watch

THIN BLUE LINE, 1988

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One great thing about documentaries is that they allow the audience to get close to things that we wouldn’t want to experience in real life. Case in point: the subjects of the following stellar docs, which brutally depict some of the grisliest crimes you’ve ever heard of. Before you get the facts in the case presented in Documentary Now!‘s “The Eye Doesn’t Lie,” check out some gritty must-see true crime documentaries.

10. The Iceman Tapes (1992)

When a cold-blooded killer finally gets put away, sometimes they want to share their accomplishments with the world. Richard Kuklinski was a hitman for the Gambino crime family who claims to have snuffed as many as 250 people, earning the nickname “The Iceman” for freezing his victims after death. In this horrifying documentary, he covers his dirty deeds in intense detail. Kuklinksi also inspired the 2012 crime thriller The Iceman starring Michael Shannon in the title role.


9. Just, Melvin: Just Evil (2000)

There are few documentaries that immerse you in their world as well as James Whitney’s 2000 documentary about his abusive grandfather. Melvin Just’s trail of violence and perversion spreads across the family like a bloodstain, and the film’s bizarre, nonplussed tone as it exhumes these old bones makes for one-of-a-kind viewing.


8. Crazy Love (2007)

This insane doc gets you closer than you would like to the relationship of New York lawyer Burt Pugach and his girlfriend Linda Riss. Why is this on a list of true crime movies? Because in 1959, Pugach hired a trio of hoodlums to throw acid in Linda’s face when she got engaged to another guy. He went to jail for 14 years and when he got out, he and Linda… got married? It’s a weird peek at a very odd couple.


7. Deliver Us From Evil (2006)

Crime gets even more horrifying when it’s perpetrated by people you trust, and Amy Berg’s startling documentary Deliver Us From Evil brings the shocks home. Exploring the case of Oliver O’Grady, the Catholic priest who abused dozens of children from his pulpit, it reveals how the Church was cognizant of his behavior and the crimes of others like him and did nothing to remove them from office.


6. The Cheshire Murders (2013)

In July of 2007, one of the most inexplicable and violent crimes in Connecticut history shocked the nation. A pair of men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit with the intention of robbing it and ended up murdering Petit’s wife and two daughters. The documentary by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner pores through the events in detail, looking at the tragic case from all sides to try and understand what would motivate people to commit such a brutal and unnecessary crime.


5. Cropsey (2009)

Part true crime, part urban legend, this 2009 documentary delves into Staten Island stories about a mysterious maniac who haunted the ruins of an insane asylum. Here’s the twist: there was a real-life psycho who kidnapped and murdered at least five kids there in the 1970s. The flick expertly weaves truth and fiction to create something greater than the sum of its parts.


4. The Imposter (2012)

When a 13-year-old boy named Nicholas Barclay goes missing from his Texas home, you think you know what’s happening next. But in this mind-bending documentary, the twists come fast and furious. Barclay is found in Spain and returns home, but it’s not him — rather, it’s a French man in his twenties named Frédéric Bourdin who has made it his life’s work to impersonate children. His twisted compulsion – and the reaction of Barclay’s family as they realize the hoax – will keep you glued to the screen.


3. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

One of the most amazing things about the documentaries on this list is how they can take cases that the establishment thought closed and cast them in a completely new light. Errol Morris’ 1988 masterpiece The Thin Blue Line — which Documentary Now! pays homage to with “The Eye Doesn’t Lie” — puts a Texas murder case under the microscope and reveals police put a man on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s an incredible, uncompromising film that is a landmark work in the true crime genre.


2. Dear Zachary (2008)

When you start watching Kurt Kuenne’s gripping documentary about his friend Andrew Bagby, it seems like an innocuous set of home movies about two California teens made for Bagby’s family to watch. Then things take a brutal turn when Bagby is found mysteriously dead and the prime suspect is his girlfriend Shirley Turner, who was pregnant with his son. What follows is one of the most emotionally painful films you will ever watch, with a deeply tragic ending that will leave you breathless.


1. Paradise Lost Trilogy (1996 – 2011)

The gruesome murders that took place in West Memphis, Arkansas took the life of three children. But were they motivated by Satanic ritual sacrifice, or something more sinister? The teens who were the prime suspects were obviously railroaded into confessions, and they’ve languished in jail while the actual killers have roamed free. The three Paradise Lost film brought new attention to the “West Memphis 3” case and the trio were finally released in 2011.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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