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.