6 Disturbing Serial Killer Documentaries to Stream on Netflix

It's like a car crash; you can't not watch.

New York Times

As much as murder is, y’know, frowned upon in most societies, we sure like to watch television shows, movies, and documentaries about it. Netflix clearly understands this need, as the streaming service has provided plenty of crime and horror documentaries, some of which focus solely on serial killers.

A “serial killer” is typically defined as a person who murders three or more people, usually in a period of over a month in length, making it a pattern rather than a one-off thing. But the definition depends on where you look. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a serial killer as someone who has committed “two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone.”

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Whatever the definition, one thing is for certain: serial killers are fascinating, and most people would probably agree that it’s hard to look away when some of these grisly acts are being described. So, with that in mind, here are six serial killer-specific documentaries you can stream on Netflix.

6. H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer

As much content as there is out there about America’s first documented serial killer, most people will never get tired of hearing the disturbingly fascinating story of H.H. Holmes. This documentary explores Holmes’s well-documented crimes, as well as his Chicago-based, booby-trapped home, best known as the “Castle,” which was outfitted with torture dungeons and hidden rooms aplenty. Even though Holmes only confessed to killing 27 people, many guess that the number reached 200 by the time he was caught.

5. Into the Abyss

Oscar-nominated director Werner Herzog explores the story of death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), focusing in on the three murders he committed and interviewing the family members and friends of those victims. Herzog describes the work as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul” as he questions not only why people kill but why the system kills those who do.

4. Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer

Aileen Wuornos was the first documented female serial killer in American history, murdering men who took advantage of sex workers, otherwise known as “johns.” Nick Broomfield’s first documentary on Wuornos highlights the exploitation of Wuornos’s situation by those around her, including her adopted mother, Arlene Pralle, and lawyer, Steve Glazer, as well as the enthusiasm the police had for her case.

3. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer

Life and Death of a Serial Killer is the follow-up film to Broomfield’s 1992 documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. This sequel follows Wuornos’s declining mental health and explores the decision to put her to death in the state of Florida despite her being of unsound mind.


2. Interview With a Serial Killer

This doc is exactly what it promises. In an in-depth interview with convicted serial killer Arthur Shawcross, otherwise known as the Genessee River Killer, the filmmakers question Shawcross on his motives and the crimes he committed, as well as whether or not he feels remorse for those things. His dead-eyed answers are chillingly blunt, as is his renewed relationship with his family, who seem to have no problems with what he did in the past.

1. The Confessions of Thomas Quick*

In 1993, Thomas Quick, a therapy patient in Sweden, told his therapist that he had kidnapped, raped, and murdered an 11-year-old boy named Johan Asplund 13 years prior, in 1980. Over time, Quick, confined to a psych ward, confessed to killing 39 men, women, and children, and became an overnight celebrity, especially amongst his fellow patients. Then, in 2001, he stopped talking about the murders and started going by his real name, Sture Bergwall, declaring that his alter-ego, Thomas Quick, was dead.

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