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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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Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…

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IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

See the whole season of Commuters right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.

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Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:


Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.

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Happy Tears

Binge Don’t Cringe

Catch up on episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: GIFs via GIPHY

A brain can only take so much.

Every five minutes, all day, every day, ludicrously stressful headlines push our mental limits as we struggle to adapt to a reality that seems increasingly less real. What’s a mind to do when simple denial just isn’t good enough anymore?

Radical suggestion: repeal and replace. And by that we mean take all the bad news that keeps you up at night, press pause, and substitute it with some genuine (not nervous, for a change) laughter. Here are some of the issues on our mind.

Gender Inequality

Feminist bookstore owners by day, still feminist bookstore owners by night, Toni and Candace show the male gaze who’s boss. Learn about their origin story (SPOILER: there’s an epic dance battle) and see what happens when their own brand of empowerment gets out of hand.

Healthcare

From Candace’s heart attack to the rise of the rawvolution, this Portlandia episode proves that healthcare is vital.

Peaceful Protests

Too many online petitions, too little time? Get WOKE with Fred and Carrie when they learn how to protest.

What Could Have Been

Can’t say the name “Clinton” without bursting into tears? Documentary Now!’s masterfully political “The Bunker” sheds a cozy new light on the house that Bill and Hill built. Just pretend you don’t know how the story really ends.

Fake News

A healthy way to break the high-drama news cycle is to switch over to “Dronez”, which has all the thrills of ubiquitous adventure journalism without any of the customary depression.

The more you watch, the better you feel. So get started on past episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia right now at IFC.com and the IFC app.

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