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Netflix’s Must-See Documentaries: From True Crime to Nature

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There has been a veritable explosion of true-crime stories on virtually every platform over the past few years. A video, podcast, long-form story, or other piece of content that exposes a horribly tragic crime and/or a horribly tragic justice system can be found almost anywhere you open a web browser. The takeaway, as usual: Make a documentary about a nation’s corrupt and punitive justice system, which favors the poor and minority groups.

Making a Murderer, one of the most well-known crime documentaries on Netflix, helped to solidify the resurgence of the genre, but there are many more to satisfy your appetite. Take a look at these titles, which include documentaries and docuseries of various lengths.

A lot of people who watch Abducted in Plain Sight can’t quite believe the story of how a sociopathic neighbor, Bob “B” Berchtold, who was obsessed with the Broberg family’s 12-year-old daughter Jan, nearly destroyed the seemingly perfect Broberg family in the middle of the 1970s. However, this description doesn’t do the documentary justice because what happens is one of the most mind-boggling cases that was committed by an insanely conniving man who managed to kidnap Abducted in Plain Sight is another terrifying look at how one man’s manipulation can destroy several lives and how adults and the justice system consistently fail young victims of sex crimes, despite the fact that it is one of the wildest true crime films of recent history.

As the primary suspect in the murder of her roommate while she was studying abroad in Italy, Amanda Knox has been found guilty twice and acquitted once. Chiefs Bar Blackhurst (Here Alone) and Brian McGinn (Culinary specialist’s Table) return to the beset media sensation’s tangly story here with unequaled admittance to central participants and new recorded film. The documentary looks at both sides of Knox’s case, but Knox’s participation lets you know which way the film thinks about her guilt or innocence. At the end, it asks viewers to put themselves in Knox’s position and ask, “Do you suspect her?” or “Do you think she’s real?

How can a story that was previously told in tabloid headlines and cable news chyrons be reframed? This documentary about the highly publicized case of Chris Watts, who killed his pregnant wife Shanann and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, is both horrifying and extremely gloomy, as is the case with any true-crime story. Jenny Popplewell creates a striking documentary that feels more like a found-footage film by focusing primarily on Shanann Watts’ social media accounts and text messages, as well as the  American Murder is the kind of true-crime documentary that will stay with you, despite the straightforward approach that may alarm some viewers.

Athlete A is Netflix’s original documentary about the US gymnastics team scandal that shocked the sports world when it was discovered in 2017. It is not to be confused with HBO’s At the Heart of Gold. It examines the work of the investigative journalists at the Indianapolis Star who first broke the story and focuses on the heinous sexual crimes committed by former team doctor Larry Nassar, who abused young athletes for years. 

Sarma Melngailis, a raw vegan restauranteur, was she a victim of fraud or the “vegan Bernie Madoff” the media made her out to be? Chris Smith, director of Fyre and executive producer of Tiger King, attempts to answer this question in his film Bad Vegan, which, unsurprisingly, is more complicated than either film. Yes, she was duped by a con artist who went by the alias Shane Fox and promised Melngailis success, riches, and immortality for her beloved rescue dog if she wired him hundreds of thousands of dollars from her restaurant earnings that he gambled away at casinos. However, the story is so wild that the four-part docuseries leaves you with more questions than answers.

Casting JonBenet is one of the most difficult documentaries to watch while relaxing. The film finds amateur actors, all of whom are residents of the town where the tragedy occurred, auditioning for roles in a dramatization of the story. The unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in 1996 serves as the foundation for the film. The outcome is more disturbing than anticipated, but the investigation into the legacy of the mystery and others like it is more fascinating. The narrative almost never comes before the facts in true-crime films. This is a significant exception that merits more discussion than the specific cold case.

Billy Corben’s true-crime documentaries set in Florida, like Cocaine Cowboys and Cocaine Cowboys 2, with style and nerve, documented the excess of the Miami drug trade in the 1970s and 1980s. Cocaine Cowboys presents a familiar rise-and-fall narrative with Corben’s signature blend of flash and wit, striking the perfect balance between epic sweep and gritty detail, unlike many other crime sagas of the streaming age.

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