The 15 most popular Netflix true crime and documentary series

  • Since Netflix released “Making a Murderer” in 2015, it hasn’t slowed down with true crime and other documentary series.
  • TV Time provided a list of the most popular original docuseries on Netflix.

Netflix started a true-crime boom in 2015 with “Making a Murderer,” and it hasn’t slowed down since.

In the years following that hit series, which told the tale of convicted murderer Steven Avery, Netflix has released other popular true-crime docuseries like “Evil Genius,” “The Staircase,” and “The Ted Bundy Tapes,” as well as a follow up, “Making a Murderer Part 2,” last year.

But true crime aren’t the only true stories Netflix is telling. Its most recent docuseries, “Our Planet,” dropped this month. Narrated by David Attenborough, who also narrated “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet,” the series focuses on the dangers of climate change.

In its 2019 Q1 earnings report on Tuesday, Netflix said “Our Planet” is “tracking to be one of our most
successful global documentary series launches yet,” and is projected to be watched by 25 million member households in its first month.

Netflix has built such an impressive library of documentaries, particularly ones that have sparked cultural conversations, that Business Insider named Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s vice president of independent film and documentary features, to its inaugural 100 people transforming business list. (You can read the 10 people transforming media here.)

Television-tracking app TV Time provided Business Insider a list of the most popular Netflix original true-crime and documentary series, based on its 12 million global users.

15. “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons”

Description: “Raphael Rowe, who spent 12 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, investigates some of the world’s toughest prisons from the inside.”

Number of seasons: 3

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said (Season 3): “Much like its name implies, ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’ is all about exploring the worst of the worst. It’s a relatively superficial dive into this premise, but the docuseries does a good job of immersing itself into the worlds of these criminal-filled institutions.” — Kayla Cobb, Decider

14. “Last Chance U”

Description: “Elite athletes with difficult pasts turn to junior college football for a last shot at turning their lives around and achieving their dreams.”

Number of seasons: 3

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 95%

What critics said (season 3): “As many of these men have one eye on the future, Last Chance U excels at understanding that pull while keeping a sharp focus on the present.” — Steve Greene, Indiewire

13. “Vai Anitta”

Description: “Go behind the scenes with Brazilian pop icon Anitta, along with her friends and family, as she aims to create a new song and music video each month.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

12. “Wild Wild Country”

Description: “When a controversial cult leader builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 98%

What critics said: “By handling this story so intelligently and by opening its heart to a very complicated idea of good and evil, “Wild Wild Country” has a profound, mesmerizing power itself.” — Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com

11. “The Investigator”

Description: “This eerie true-crime series reopens the mysterious case of Carole Packman, who utterly vanished in 1985, and the husband convicted of her murder.”

Number of seasons: 2

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: “As a streaming-era offering, the series is a failure.” — Kahron Spearman, Daily Dot

10. “November 13: Attack on Paris”

Description: “Survivors and first responders share personal stories of anguish, kindness and bravery that unfolded amid the Paris terror attacks of Nov. 13, 2015.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 100%

What critics said: “Perhaps this is not documentary but testimonial: a three-hour exercise in collectively bearing witness.” — Harriet Fitch Little, Financial Times

9. “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”

Description: “Drivers, managers and team owners live life in the fast lane — both on and off the track — during one cutthroat season of Formula 1 racing.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: “Sometimes a Netflix doc hits it out of the park. Sometimes it falls flat. But, sometimes it just falls right smack in the middle of these two plains of existence. That’s the deal with Drive to Survive. It’s right in the middle.” — Merrill Barr, Forbes

8. “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann”

Description: “The documentary takes a detailed look at the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann, who vanished while on holiday with her family.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: “Viewers may wish they had followed the example of the McCanns and steered clear.” — Ed Power, Daily Telegraph

7. “The Staircase”

Description: “After the mysterious death of his wife, author Michael Peterson watches his life go under the microscope.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: “It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in true crime shows as it’s not only a fascinating case on its own but really the template for so much that’s on television and streaming services today.” — Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

6. “Chef’s Table”

Description: “In this Emmy-nominated series, meet culinary stars around the world who are redefining gourmet food with innovative dishes and tantalizing desserts.”

Number of seasons: 6

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said (Season 6): “The joy of season six is that every episode asks for more than great food. It wonders ‘why here?’ ‘Why now?’ ‘Why is this chef important?’ Then ‘Chef’s Table’ proceeds to answer those questions, without denying us our food porn fix.” — Zach Johnston, Uproxx

5. “Evil Genius”

Description: “This baffling true crime story starts with the grisly death of a pizza man who robs a bank with a bomb around his neck — and gets weirder from there.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 80%

What critics said: “Only becomes more captivating-and bizarre-in the final episode when a crucial witness makes an appearance.” — Eliana Dockterman, Time

4. “Dark Tourist”

Description: “From a nuclear lake to a haunted forest, journalist David Farrier visits unusual — and often macabre — tourism spots around the world.

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 70%

What critics said: “The series isn’t always focused or consistent, but it’s got ample strangeness and droll laughs, and every once in a while it packs an unexpected emotional punch.” — Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

3. “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”

Description: “Present-day interviews, archival footage and audio recordings made on death row form a searing portrait of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 54%

What critics said: “Joe Berlinger’s four-hour Netflix series about Ted Bundy is called Conversations with a Killer, but its dialogues tend to only run one way.” — Sam Adams, Slate

2. “Explained”

Description: “This enlightening series from Vox digs into a wide range of topics such as the rise of cryptocurrency, why diets fail, and the wild world of K-pop.”

Number of seasons: 1

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: “It’s not a revolutionary idea, but this explainer model has specific value in a growing, search-based relationship to knowledge that produces bite-sized understandings of vast-reaching concepts.” — Steve Greene, Indiewire

1. “Making a Murderer”

Description: “Filmed over 13 years, this real-life thriller follows the unprecedented story of two men accused of a grisly crime they may not have committed.”

Number of seasons: 2

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 84%

What critics said (Season 2): “Part 2 still offers its share of the mystery and surprise that made the original so compelling. It’s a very different viewing experience, however.” — Mike Hale, New York Times

SEE ALSO:Disney revealed the details of its Netflix rival, Disney Plus, including its price and release date

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