Behold: The Top 10 Streaming True Crime Documentaries of 2023

True Crime Documentaries

2023 has been a prolific year for true crime programming. Many compelling stories were profiled and recounted by those involved. The downside of that is that viewers get a front-row seat to what a wicked place the world we live in truly is. The upside is that true crime programming has the potential to make people more aware of the dangers that lurk around us. 

Given the sheer volume of content, I had a tough time narrowing the field down to just 10 selections. But I have managed to do exactly that. And I now present to you my picks for the top 10 streaming true crime docs of 2023. 

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker (Netflix)

Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker true crime

This true crime documentary starts with an uplifting account of a heroic act of bravery. But the film ends in a decidedly different place from where it begins. I went in cold and was completely blown away by how the case concluded. Suffice it to say, first-time viewers should brace themselves before enduring this harrowing effort. I’ll leave it at that to avoid revealing too much for the uninducted. 

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker follows the trajectory of a young man called Kai, who is on the scene when a motorist crashes into a woman and pins her between his vehicle and a truck. From there, the driver proceeds to endanger a concerned citizen attempting to provide aid. At this point, Kai intervenes and hits the motorist over the head with a hatchet. From that moment, Kai becomes a viral sensation and is celebrated as a hero. But his rise to fame leads to a violent downfall that will forever change multiple lives. 

Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York (Max)

I was really impressed with this docuseries. It’s a respectful, yet heartbreaking, look back at a heinous crime spree that rocked the gay community in the ‘90s. The series speaks to cultural attitudes and societal views that culminated in the loss of multiple lives. Moreover, the program hones in on problematic mindsets from law enforcement and the heroic activists who put pressure on the police to bring the Last Call Killer to justice.  

Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Gay New York looks back on a time, not all that long ago, when a maniac prowled the gay bars of New York City, targeting queer men. The killer would dismember victims and scatter their remains throughout New York. 

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace (Max)

I screened this docu-series for review here at Dread Central and it sucked me in. In fact, I watched The Curious Case of Natalia Grace in its entirety in a single sitting. Natalia’s story is that compelling. It has more twists and unexpected turns than narrative fiction and serves as a heartbreaking portrait of cruelty and neglect. But it should absolutely be seen, as Natalia’s story needs to be told and those who wronged her should be accountable for their actions.   

In 2010, the Barnett family adopted Natalia, a Ukrainian child with a rare form of dwarfism. After bringing the young woman into their home, the adoptive family discovers that Natalia has already reached sexual maturity and is older than they were led to believe. They are also surprised to learn that Natalia doesn’t speak a word of Ukrainian, despite being a native of that country. What follows is a whirlwind of abuse, neglect, and conflicting accounts of what transpired. 

Jared from Subway: Catching a Monster (Max)

I watched this docuseries with my husband, and I vividly remember repeatedly hitting the ‘pause’ button to ask him if what we were seeing was actually real. The taped conversations between the former Subway spokesperson and the mother of two of his intended victims simply floored me. There aren’t adequate words to describe the depths of Jared Fogle’s depravity. He is clearly a very sick man who poses a credible threat to society. If I never watch this series again, it will be too soon. But I have to say that I’m glad I watched it. This compelling, yet horrifying, presentation opened my mind to the type of evil that exists right under our noses. While some consider ignorance bliss, I would rather be armed with information. 

Scout’s Honor: The Secret Files of The Boy Scouts of America (Netflix)

This Netflix documentary blows the lid off the shady exploits of the Boy Scouts of America and recounts the unspeakable hardships endured by numerous young men who were victimized. 

The very idea that scouting officials were aware of the abuse and did less than nothing to stop it is mind-boggling. With that said, the film provides prospective scouts (and their parents) with the information necessary to make an informed decision about the organization. I am a former Eagle Scout and escaped unscathed. But the statistics in this doc go to show that I was more like the exception than the rule. In fact, nearly 100,000 men came forward before the organization filed for bankruptcy in 2020. But that is, by no means, an exhaustive account of every victim affected by the willful neglect of high-level executives within the youth-focused organization.  

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)

This true crime case profiled within this docuseries has been reported on ad nauseam. But that’s no surprise, considering just how shocking and depraved the case is. This two-season true crime series serves as perhaps the most exhaustive accounting of Alex Murdaugh’s violent exploits (including the murder of his spouse and one of his children). Even if you know the nuts and bolts of the case, there’s still plenty of new context from those who lived it to be discovered within this Netflix original. 

Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (Hulu)

This docuseries delivers an unflinching profile of a charismatic sociopath called Larry Ray and the youthful victims he manipulated, belittled, abused, and brainwashed. 

Stolen Youth is a lot to take in. In fact, I had a hard time sitting through it because the depths of the depravity and the unflinching nature with which the abuse is perpetrated feel almost incomprehensible. How does this kind of evil exist in the world? Moreover, what kind of monster gets his kicks by breaking the spirits of college kids while beating them into submission? Those are a few of the questions you will have to attempt to answer when checking out this true crime series. 

Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets (Prime Video)

Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets delves into the unspeakable abuse perpetrated by members of a family obsessed with their squeaky-clean image. The series probes the hypocrisy of the message pushed by the family patriarch despite what was going on behind closed doors. The program also speaks to the toxic culture that allowed young women to be sexually abused without ramifications. It goes without saying that the subject matter of this series will prove difficult to endure for many.

Who Killed Robert Wone? (Peacock) 

True Crime Documentaries

Wow. This true crime docuseries completely floored me. For a case that seems so cut-and-dried to remain unsolved after the better part of two decades is nothing short of mind-boggling. As one journalist profiled in the series puts it, the details of the case resemble a real-life version of the board game, Clue. I was riveted by the case and sincerely hope that Wone’s loved ones will someday get the closure they deserve. 

Who Killed Robert Wone? follows the 2006 murder of Washington D.C. attorney Robert Wone and attempts to piece together the puzzling circumstances surrounding his death on August 2, 2006. The night he was killed, Wone was visiting friends at their townhome in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington D.C. He had plans to spend the night there. But shortly after his arrival, one of Wone’s hosts called 9-1-1 saying that he had been murdered by an intruder. 

Victim/Suspect (Netflix)

In the #MeToo era, it’s easy to assume that people take claims of sexual assault seriously. And though many people do presume that such allegations come from a place of honesty and bravery, it seems there are still outliers. Lots of them. In fact, the doc chronicles multiple cases where law enforcement made the fateful decision to disbelieve women’s allegations. That led to two of the subjects profiled serving prison time after being accused of making a false police report. 

I commend director Nancy Schwartzman for telling the stories of women whose voices were taken away. And I highly recommend seeking out this harrowing documentary.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter