Serial killers disgust us. Serial killers bewilder us. But serial killers also attract us. We look into their eyes and hear their thoughts in documentaries because we want to know what they're thinking; what their insides are like. To us, they are enthralling psychological specimens. We constantly want to learn more; to crack the code. In our search for the answer to the enduring question of why they do what they do, we visit some of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now.
My Friend Dahmer
My Friend Dahmer is the newest serial killer film on this list. The 2017 documentary-esque movie, released in November, reenacts scenes from infamous mass murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer's teenage life. Unlike other films in its genre, My Friend Dahmer doesn't discuss the serial killer posthumously or post-arrest. Rather, it portrays the killer's development from quirky boy to violent man. This film puts you right in the midst of a real-life nightmare.
H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer
There's always something special about your first, they say. Well, the same is true for America's first documented serial killer, Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H.H. Holmes.
The Netflix historical documentary about Holmes goes into great detail about how the killer lured, trapped, and tortured his victims. A man with many pseudonyms, Holmes was a hotel owner in Chicago in the late 19th century who literally created a house of horrors. Ultimately, he confessed to 27 murders, though it is generally believed that there are many more unsolved murders, making the real body count significantly higher.
Discover the gory details of his crimes by watching H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer, one of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now.
Like many good horror movies, Cropsey is based on an unnerving local legend. But in this case, the Staten Island myth transformed into a brutal true story. In the 1970s, a series of child kidnappings and murders took place on the New York island. They were centered around the old Willowbrook State School, which was a place for children with mental disabilities.
The local legend says that Cropsey, a monster of a mental patient, escaped from the now-closed building to go around murdering the townspeople. So where does fiction meet reality, and what happened in the end? Find out for yourself.
Interview with a Serial Killer
This is a true crime documentary on Netflix that explores the mind and history of serial killer Arthur Shawcross, otherwise known as "the Genesee River Killer." The reason that Interview with a Serial Killer is one of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now is that it feels, to the viewer, as if they're having a real-life conversation with a psychopath.
Throughout the documentary, Shawcross shows no remorse for his actions, providing what he considers to be reasonable justifications for his many murders. He appears cold and basically inhuman. You will feel uncomfortable and even frightened when you come face to face with this serial killer and his true story.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
When it comes to Jeffrey Dahmer, it seems like there are never enough documentaries to go around. This serial killer has fascinated the world for years, and will in all likelihood never cease to do so.
What makes this killer so captivating is his contradiction. In interviews, Dahmer comes across as a calm, polite, almost normal individual. If you were having a conversation with him without knowing his murderous history, you probably would never guess that he was capable of the heinous crimes he committed. In fact, many who have interviewed Dahmer report that they find themselves understanding and sympathizing with Dahmer, which is one of the overall themes to this documentary.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is one of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now because of these things. It's not because his kills are unsolved murders — we know the details of his past. It's because this man makes you question yourself, your morals, and what you're capable of. Dahmer's relatable nature is, in many ways, as terrifying as his crimes.
Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer
More than 90 percent of serial killers are male, but don't forget that there are female serial killers out there, too. While they are often overlooked, there is no overlooking Aileen Wuornos, especially since Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer has become a documentary sensation.
In the early 90s, Wuornos killed seven men. When arrested, she pleaded guilty and was ultimately charged with six life sentences. But the story of Aileen Wuornos isn't just about her murders, it's about how American media and culture responded to her. This woman went from prostitute to mass murderer to media star.
Aside from the crime aspect, The Selling of a Serial Killer is also provocative because it has elements of gender bias and sexual prejudice. The film's complex nature is what makes it one of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now.
The Confessions of Thomas Quick
The Confessions of Thomas Quick is appealing in much the same way as Netflix's Interview with a Serial Killer. The documentary follows the Swedish serial killer and the story of his 30+ murders in the 90s. Again, this documentary gives the viewer a one-on-one experience with a cold-blooded psychopath. But what makes this true crime documentary an entertaining watch is that it's not your typical, straightforward interview.
The Confessions of Thomas Quick is structured like a true thriller. You are presented with facts and testimonials, just like you are in any documentary, but there is also the element of an unexpected plot twist towards the end of the film. Watch the full documentary to find out what it is.
Albert Fish: In Sin He Found Salvation
While other serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, are perhaps more famous than Albert Fish, it is difficult to find a serial killer more monstrous than he is. A child abductor, molester, torturer and killer, this man is the epitome of an abomination.
This documentary sorts through the darkest parts of Fish's life as a means of exploring his psyche as well as chronicling his crimes. Even if the documentarians had put zero effort into their film, the details of his murders would still be enough to give you chills. This is an example of how narrative alone can produce one of the best serial killer documentaries to watch right now.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
It is a common known fact that South-Central Los Angelos is one of the most dangerous places in the United States. But gang activity is much different than serial killing. Lonnie Franklin Jr., also known as "the Grim Sleeper," was a slayer of prostitutes. Now, that's not highly uncommon, unfortunately. But what is rather rare about this case is that the people of South-Central are divided on how they feel about Franklin Jr.
This documentary interviews dozens of locals who know both the crime and the killer intimately. While some people condemn him and demonize him — as they should — others insist that he was the nicest man they've ever known.