Beware, these films will defiantly keep you up at night!
Is evil created or born? Can someone be all bad or all good? Questions like these have haunted psychologists, detectives, judges, and thousands of others for as long as anyone can remember. And while to this day, their answers are highly debated, the journey to finding them has revealed that people are fascinated by the dark nature of humans. And what could be darker than serial killers?
Although their crimes and stories are often very disturbing, many keep coming back for more, learning everything there is to know about these individuals with the goal of trying to understand why. What would compel a human to do such things? And when you can’t personally ask a serial killer why they did what they did, an opportunity very few are given, the only reasonable thing to do is to find the next best thing: serial killer documentaries.
Though I must warn you, this list is not for the faint of heart. However, if you venture far enough, you might find your own answers to these universal questions… just be sure to not wander too far. You never know what, or more precisely who, could be lurking in the dark.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)
A serial killer that needs no introduction, Ted Bundy was known across the United States for his numerous crimes against women. And while he’s been the subject of various movies, books, and crime podcasts, Joe Berlinger’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is the first documentary of its type, allowing Bundy to tell his story in his own words. Using interviews taken during Bundy’s death row years and other archived footage, the four-part docuseries gives viewers an insider look at the killer, exposing who he truly was underneath the charm and good looks he used to fool many for so long.
If you found this documentary fascinating, I would also recommend Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer. The documentary brings an original take on the notorious serial killer’s life as it recounts the events of his murders, trial, and execution through the eyes of his longtime girlfriend and her daughter, whom he considered his own child. The miniseries also includes interviews with surviving victims, reporters, and police who worked on the case.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021)
Next up, we have a documentary telling the story of another notorious serial killer, Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker. While L.A. grew more glamorous in the 80s, the other side of the town told a different story as a killer terrorized the area, causing fear to spread like wildfire. But perhaps what made Richard Ramirez scarier than any other serial killer is that there was no pattern in his crimes… anyone could become his next victim. Luckily, the four-part docuseries centers around how Ramirez was captured and brought to justice, mixing in interviews with police officials, crime scene photos, and archived media footage.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2020)
Ask a true crime lover about their lifelong dream and they’d probably tell you they want to solve an actual murder and catch the killer. And through her work and book, also titled I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara was able to do just that. Not only did the author coin the killer’s nickname, making him known as the Golden State Killer, but she spent the last years of her life devoted to unearthing the man that filled the city of San Francisco with terror and panic during the 70s and 80s. Ultimately, her work forced law enforcement to reexamine a once considered cold case.
Unfortunately, while McNamara died approximately two years before the police were able to catch the serial killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, this six-part docuseries shows how one woman’s determination to get justice for the victims and their families restored enough hope to solve an unsolvable case.
The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness (2021)
While having obsessions isn’t necessarily a good thing, journalist Maury Terry was able to prove once again how being a true crime lover with the determination to bring down murders can help law enforcement solve cases. While New York slept peacefully knowing that the shooter who shook the city in the late 70s had been caught, his killing spree coming to an end, Terry was convinced that something was just not right. What if there was more than one killer? What if the Son of Sam was actually the Sons of Sam?
And although finding the answer to these questions put his life at risk numerous times, this four-part docuseries uses extracts from Terry’s diary, finding the truth to his belief that the murders were linked to a satanic, countrywide cult.
Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)
Last but not least, you didn’t think I’d end this list without mentioning a female serial killer now, did you? And while I’m not sure if I should be bragging about the fact that there can be female serial killers, Aileen Wuornos made headlines in the late 80s after it was discovered that she killed seven males in Florida. Although Wuornos stated that her actions were simply acts of self-defense, during her trial, she pled guilty to some of the murders, landing herself on death row.
Director Nick Broomfield also released a second documentary titled Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer in 2003. The film acted as a follow-up to the first, only this time, Broomfield focused on Wuornos’ deteriorating mental state during her days in prison, shining a light on the controversial decision to execute her instead of recognizing that she was of unsound mind and admitting her into an institution.
Photo: Motortion Films/Shutterstock
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