10 Disturbing Documentaries Streaming Now to Keep You Up At Night

the nightmare documentary

Horror fans are perhaps better than most at watching some of the sickest, gnarliest stuff imaginable and then resting their heads on the pillow. So unfazed, it might as well have been an evening of Ratatouille, not something like Calvaire or The Treatment. Even for horror fans, though, there are some stories that linger, so frightening and bizarre, they’re impossible to shake. Documentaries are especially poised to rattle even the most hardened horror fan. With true stories ripped from the annals of bizarre history, often, their impact sticks around a little while longer.

If you’re looking for something disturbing enough to keep you up all hours of the night, here are ten documentaries guaranteed to ruin your good night’s sleep. Be warned, however. Several of the following come with pretty heavy content warnings.

The Nightmare

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Director Rodney Ascher of Room 237 fame returns with a documentary-horror movie hybrid. Ascher interviews several subjects whose bouts with sleep paralysis range from the mildly annoying to the downright paranormal. Cross-cutting between live-subject interviews and reimaginings of the ordeals, The Nightmare is uniquely poised to keep audiences up for days on end.

Beware the Slenderman

Where to watch: HBO Max

By now, most people are likely aware of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser’s story. Both girls were 12 when they lured their friend, Peyton Leutner, to the woods with the intent to kill her. Peyton, also 12, miraculously survived, despite being stabbed 19 times and left for dead. An exploration of the deep roots of internet myth, both Weier and Geyser were alleged to have stabbed Peyton as an offering to Slenderman of Creepypasta infamy. While Beware the Slenderman casts doubt—there was considerably more going on than just impressionable young girls—it’s still a chilling documentary about how fiction blends with reality.

A Glitch in the Matrix

Where to watch: Hulu

Is any of this real? Are any of us real? Rodney Ascher continues to ponder the most frightening questions in the documentary A Glitch in the Matrix. Here, Ascher explores the simulation hypothesis. The hypothesis posits that reality is manufactured, a simulated reality, one most akin to a computer game. Basically, we’re not real. Instead, we’re being controlled, programmed to do what we do. Is it real? Maybe. Maybe not. No doubt, though, you’ll be lying in bed awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering if your life is some twisted version of The Sims.

Who Took Johnny

Where to watch: AMC+

Who Took Johnny stands out among similar documentaries with its chilling final note. Following the requisite true crime beats Who Took Johnny adheres to a well-trod path. 30 years ago, Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch went missing while on his morning route. Missing ever since, there is speculation and intrigue, especially once it’s believed Johnny is alive. While it offers no definitive answers, Who Took Johnny ends with a chilling contention. For children to remain missing this long, it’s not enough for one person to know. There has to be a cabal of law enforcement and powerful people involved in keeping these secrets hidden. Try sleeping after that.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Where to watch: AMC+

Over the course of 25 years, notorious serial killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., known in the press as the Grim Sleeper, terrorized South Central Los Angeles. Suspected of killing upward of 17 people, all but one of his victims were Black women. Resultantly, no one cared, and for the better part of two decades, the Grim Sleeper continued to kill women. It’s a harrowing, stark reminder of how inequitable protection under the law is.

Killer Legends

Where to watch: Peacock

Joshua Zeman of Cropsey fame returns for a solo outing with Killer Legends. Zeman and journalist Rachel Mills investigate the real-life origins of several notorious urban legends. Their dive includes interrogations of “The Hookman,” The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs,” and more. Urban legends have a sick, irresistible edge, and for better or worse, they manage to burrow deep. Sleep seems easy until you start wondering whether there’s a man with a hook hidden under your bed.

The Bridge

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

The Bridge isn’t a horror documentary, though it’s no less chilling. Strange as it sounds, it’s more a sobering experience than anything else, but that doesn’t mean it won’t haunt your dreams for days. Filmmaker Eric Steel spent a year at the Golden Gate Bridge, capturing deaths by suicide over the course of filming. Real footage is shown alongside interviews with family and friends as Steel draws focus to one of the world’s most popular suicide spots. Whether viewers find it cathartic and sensitive or exploitative and morbid is up to interpretation, but it’s impossible to shake all the same.


Where to watch: Peacock

Much like Tales of the Grim Sleeper, Unseen is a heartbreaking look into the crossroads of marginalization and true crime. In 2009, investigators discovered the bodies of eleven women in the home of a sex offender. Unnoticed for years, Unseen is so unapologetically tragic and infuriating that viewers are liable to spend their night in a fit of righteous rage.

The Cheshire Murders

Where to watch: HBO Max

The Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murders amount to one of the most harrowing true crimes this century. In July 2007, the home of the Petit family was invaded by Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes. Over the course of the day, the family was subjected to horrific torture, with only the father, William Petit, surviving. It’s a chilling true crime account that feels all too real.

Have You Seen Andy

Where to watch: HBO Max

In August 1976, Andy Puglisi was playing with several other children near a community pool in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Moments later, he simply vanished, never to be seen again. Childhood friend Melanie Perkins, now a documentarian, embarks on a quest for answers. Chilling, raw, and deeply tragic, Have You Seen Andy all but guarantees one or two restless nights.



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