5 Best True Crime Documentaries

Five Documentaries About Crime for Those Interested in Studying Law

  • The Central Park Five
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
  • The Staircase

If you’re interested in a career as a paralegal or in another aspect of the legal system, here are five documentaries about true crime that can give insight into various aspects of the criminal justice system. With the release of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” the genre of true crime documentaries has attained mass popularity never seen before. While “Thin Blue Line,” released in 1988, is generally thought of as the pioneer of modern true-crime documentaries, many films since have sought to highlight events, players, and the social context in which investigations and trials took place.

Related resource: Top 10 Best Value Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies

1. The Central Park Five (2012)

Master documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, along with his daughter Sarah Burns, worked together to create this film. Because Sarah Burns is a paralegal, this true crime documentary brings a point of view and insight useful to people interested in that career path. The story is about one Hispanic and four black teenagers who were imprisoned for raping a white woman despite evidence to the contrary. The police and the media’s mania to convict these five youths highlights the damaging effects racism and bias can and do have in preventing true justice from occurring.

2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

While many true crime documentaries focus on murder and extreme violence, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” highlights the nature of white-collar crime and the legal machinations necessary to convict. The film covers the accounting, business practices, events, and cover-ups that led to the collapse of Enron and shows the disruption and destruction of thousands of lives as a result. This film would be of particular interest to anyone considering a career in corporate law.

3. Paradise Lost (1996, 2000 and 2011)

The original film, from 1996, looks at the case of three children murdered in Arkansas in 1993. Three teenage boys were convicted of the crime that was allegedly part of a Satanic ritual. The true crime documentary questions the credibility of the evidence and suggests that bias and prejudice may have played a part in the conviction. The follow-up film from 2000 highlights a movement to exonerate those three young men and casts doubt on another possible suspect. The 2011 follow-up brings up new

DNA evidence.

4. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

Documentaries seek to reveal the truth, and this true crime documentary series certainly did that. The cases involve allegations that Robert Durst killed three people, including his wife, over a span of two decades. During filming, Durst admitted that he had lied to police and made a statement that appears to be a confession. According to an article in The New York Times, these recorded statements, along with evidence uncovered during the research for the series, likely contributed to the arrest of Durst with the charge of murder.

5. The Staircase (2005)

This French miniseries investigates the death of author Michael Peterson’s wife, which he alleges was the result of her falling down the stairs in their home. This true crime documentary is an intimate portrayal of Peterson and his treatment by police during the investigation.

These documentaries about real life, real people, and real cases give a bbehind-the-sceneslook at investigations, trials, and the impact these events have on the people involved. With cinematic retelling of events, these exceptional true crime documentaries not only present the facts but also serve to entertain and maybe even enlighten the viewer.