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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.