5 arresting Netflix true crime titles that are still must-watches

American Manhunt The Boston Marathon Bombing - Courtesy Netflix
American Manhunt The Boston Marathon Bombing - Courtesy Netflix /

Netflix has proven it has a very strong game where its true crime documentaries and docuseries are concerned. If you only recently started delving into some of the newer true crime offerings, here’s a short list of others you may want to check out.

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing

One of the most shocking acts of domestic terrorism in the US happened on April 15, 2013 during the Boston Marathon. This Netflix docuseries consists of three episodes and lays out all of the horrific and jaw-dropping facts, making the viewer feel as if they are re-living the events in real time.

Using police radio communications, CCTV footage, cell phone footage, and interviews with police officers, FBI agents, eyewitnesses and victims, American Manhunt is a fascinating study of the search for, and apprehension of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

There are so many insane (and often heart-breaking) components to the story, including a case of mistaken identity with a victim, a car-jacking, a police shooting, and a shocking standoff, that it often feels as if we are watching a thriller instead of real life events.

American Murder: The Family Next Door. Chris Watts on the day of Shanann’s disappearance. American Murder: The Family Next Door. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix/2020 /

American Murder: The Family Next Door

Chris Watts, his wife Shanann and their two little girls seemed like the perfect American family. With a son on the way, they seemed to have it all, and to be perfectly happy. But all of that changed in August of 2013, when Shanann’s friend Nickole contacted the authorities to express her concern that the pregnant Shanann failed to show up for a doctor’s appointment or to return texts.

As we all know now, Watts had strangled his wife and suffocated little Bella and Celeste, burying Shanann in a shallow grave and dumping the children’s bodies in an oil tank. Knowing the outcome does not at all detract from this Netflix documentary. In fact, it is hair-raising to watch actual body cam footage of Watts lying to police officers when they arrived at the house for a wellness check.

Also included is video footage of Watts talking to his father, claiming that he walked in as Shanann was killing Celeste (Bella had already been killed), and then murdered his wife in a fit of rage. American Murder: The Family Next Door is a very compelling true crime doc.

CrimeScene_TheVanishingattheCecilHotel_Season1_Episode1_00_28_06_00 (1)
Episode 1 of Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. c. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021 /

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

The case of Elisa Lam fascinated true crime followers from the moment they first saw that creepy elevator footage taken at the Cecil Hotel in LA. In the two-and-a-half minute recording, the young woman steps into the elevator, peers out nervously, steps back in, makes odd gestures with her hands, pushes all of the buttons and even appears to try to conceal herself in the corner. And for the entirety, the elevator door does not even close.

There were many theories about what was happening, with one of them even citing the hotel’s macabre history as proof that it was haunted. Whatever the case, she was last seen on Jan. 21. Hotel guests soon began complaining that the water smelled bad and was discolored, so hotel staff went up to the roof to check the water tanks, and that is where Lam’s body was discovered.

What exactly happened in that elevator? Windows and doors leading to the roof were locked, so how did she get up there? How did she manage to get up to the top of the huge water tank, then lift the extremely heavy cover to get inside it?

Along with giving detailed info about the Cecil, and about Elisa Lam, this documentary attempts to answer these questions, and appears to actually have figured it out. It’s a fascinating and sad story, but one that is satisfactorily wrapped up in four episodes.

I Am a Stalker

In each of the eight episodes of this series, we are told a single story of a stalker and his/her victim(s). What makes the series unique is the fact that much of the commentary is given by the stalkers. As one can imagine, their version often varies greatly from the facts presented by the victims and law enforcement.

Something that stands out is how often the stalkers claim not to have known that what they were doing was considered stalking. Basically, they are saying, “Oh, if I had known what I was doing was illegal (or terrifying to the object of my desire), I wouldn’t have done it.”

The tale of stalker Ruben Jaramillo is particularly chilling, as in his version of the story, he showed up at his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ home with toys for her child. In reality, the toys were very real handcuffs and a stun gun.

Lover Stalker Killer. Cr: Netflix. /

Lover, Stalker, Killer

This documentary is filled with twists and turns, keeping the viewer guessing as to exactly what happened. We meet David, who visited the dating site Plenty of Fish after his marriage ended, eventually meeting Liz. The two agreed to a non-committed relationship, which both seemed happy with.

Enter Cari, who met David at the auto shop he worked at. There were sparks upon their first meeting, and they began dating, again, agreeing that this would be nothing serious, at least for now. Then, Cari disappeared and began sending threatening text messages to Dave and Liz, even claiming to have set a house fire at Liz’s residence, killing her pets.

A team of dedicated law enforcement officers give their accounts of the crazy story, as does Dave himself, along with his ex-wife. Where has Cari gone, and how does she manage to always figure out Dave’s phone number and each new place he moves to? This is a true WTF story that keeps us guessing until the final twist is revealed.

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