The 20 most chilling true crime documentaries on HBO Max

Are you looking to be hooked on a new true crime story? HBO Max has you covered.
There are many great documentaries on the streaming service, some of which focus on criminal activity. We've restricted the genre definition to those stories that are so compelling you will be compelled to watch multiple, frightening tales over and over again. You know the ones that are whodunnits, or more commonly, those that are why'd-they do-it-its. These stories will send you down a rabbit hole filled with armchair psychology, amateur investigation, and nonfiction nightmares.

These are the 19 best true crime series, films and series, available now on HBO Max.

20. The Lady and the Dale

The Lady and the Dale Credit: Courtesy hbo

HBO has an impressive collection of true crime series, but this mini-series from 2021 is a standout. Zackary Drucker and Nick Cammilleri, directors, tell the story of Elizabeth Carmichael. She was not only an internationally recognized auto executive, but also a con artist and a mother.

Her story has been told for decades by people who hate her. This has led to a lot of speculation and transphobia. This four-episode documentary miniseries about Carmichael's story is challenging but boldly funny. It combines the perspectives of her detractors with deep interviews with her closest friends. The Lady and The Dale features animated photography, playful music, and a cheeky sense for adventure. They aim to not only show the complexity of Carmichael's life but also capture her spirit. This makes it a watch that is both thrilling and memorable.

How to watch: The Lady and the Dale streaming on HBO Max

19. Class Action Park

People think of "true crime" when they think of bloody murders, twisted thoughts, and criminal enterprises. They think water slides. Class Action Park is an exception. The superb documentary by Seth Porges & Chris Charles Scott III is a mix of nostalgia for theme parks and hilariously stupid ideas. Here's where the crimes happen: in the unfortunate victims. This movie is about Action Park, a notorious New Jersey water park that's known for its unsafe attractions and inept approach to safety.

Between 1978, when it opened, and 1996 when it closed down in 1996 there were six deaths and countless injuries. Class Action Park tells the story and explains the circumstances that allowed this dangerous tourist attraction to remain open for nearly two decades. Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter

How to Watch: Class Action Park streaming now on HBO Max

18. Thought Crimes: The Cannibal Cop Case

HBO Max Credit: The best true crime documentaries

Director Erin Carr has another project, Thought Crimes The Case of the Cannibal Cop. This follows the bizarre case of Gilberto Valle, a former NYPD officer.

Valle was charged with conspiring to kidnap and rape, kill and cannibalize women in 2012. His wife found hundreds of chat messages on the internet that described these acts. Valle started accessing incorrectly the National Crime Information Center database using his NYPD credentials, and he began to create detailed abduction plans for women that he knew.

The documentary is a deft navigation of the complex legal area. It poses fascinating questions about the implications of Valle's case for the future criminal justice in the digital age. A.F.

How to watch: Thought Crimes - The Case of the Cannibal Cop streaming now on HBO Max

17. Mommy is dead and Dearest

Erin Lee Carr, a documentary and true crime heavyweight, whose riveting works are twice more on this list. She covers the bizarre murders of Dee Dee Blanchard and Dearest. This 2017 film is about Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a 19 year-old victim by proxy of Munchausen syndrome, who conspired to kill her mother in 2015 after years of abuse.

While some viewers may recognize the case because of its serialized dramatization on Hulu's The Act series, Carr's version offers a more detailed look at the facts. This is a confusing conundrum of justice, in which mother and daughter swap places as attacker and victim. It raises serious questions about how the criminal justice system can deliver fair verdicts in morally complex cases. Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: Mommy Dead & Dearest are now streaming on HBO Max.

16. The Cheshire Murders

HBO Max Credit: The best true crime documentaries

The Cheshire Murders is directed and produced by Kate Davis. It tells the story of a horrible home invasion that decimated a Connecticut town.

Two men broke into a suburban home and started a terror campaign against a family with four children. Only father William Petit survived. This is a disturbing account that includes graphic descriptions and details of child rape, torture, and other crimes.

The project is often viewed as pro-the death penalty. It features disturbing interviews with attackers' families that actually recommend the death penalty to the two men convicted. It also shows a disturbing glimpse at the shocking lack of transparency by police about the trials and arrests of the perpetrators. A.F.

How to watch: The Cheshire Murders can be viewed now on HBO Max.

15. There is Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

Diane Schuler, a woman from upstate New York, traveled 1.7 miles the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway. Her minivan collided with an SUV and she, her daughter, three nieces, as well as all the passengers in the other vehicle, died.

Director Liz Garbus' Theres something Wrong with Aunt Diane focuses on Schuler's relatives, witnesses and investigators as they attempt to understand the strange decisions she made that day. Schuler's blood alcohol content was reported to be.19% at time of collision. However, Schuler had no alcoholism history and appeared sober to witnesses just a few days before.

Garbus's take on the case emphasizes complex and deep analysis over tidy narrative. This is a relatable, but honest account that will leave you with much to chew on. A.F.

How to watch: You can now stream There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane on HBO Max.

You are likely to be a true crime enthusiast and know all there is about the "Slenderman stabbing." But uh, if you don't? Keep your feet on the ground.

This haunting documentary by director Irene Taylor Brodsky focuses on the attempted murder of Payton Leutner, 12, in 2014. Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, both 12-year-old girls, carried out the attack on Payton Leutner. They claimed they were trying to impress Slenderman online. This film is a chilling look into the sometimes distorted interactions between teenagers and the internet. It's not perfect, but it's a fascinating watch. Some of these interviews will stay with you forever. A.F.

How to watch: The Slenderman streaming now on HBO Max

13. The Case against Adnan Syed

The Case against Adnan Syed Credit: Courtesy hbo max

The Case Against Adnan Siyed, directed by Amy Berg (Academy Award nominee), can be appreciated and understood as a stand-alone project. For most viewers, however, the four-part docuseries is a companion piece for Serial's watershed Serial podcast. Serial brought Hae Min Lee's murder in Baltimore County to international attention in 2014.

The podcast explores the media enthusiasm that a podcast has brought to the case. It also recounts the story of Adnan, the murder victim, from the investigation stage through the 2016 post-conviction relief hearing. The project won't change your mind, but it will provide new insights and evidence that may be worth your (and the court's!) attention. A.F.

How to watch: The case against Adnan Syed can be viewed now on HBO Max.

12. Capturing the Friedmans

Andrew Jarecki, director of this Academy Award-nominated crime documentary examines the family's collapse when Arnold and Jesse are investigated. They later face charges of child molestation. It is a chilling contrast of the predators' choices and what they hide behind closed doors. A.F. A.F.

How to watch: Capturing Friedmans is available on HBO Max.

Robert Durst, a suspected serial killer, has been wanted behind bars for decades. Andrew Jarecki's The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst retells the fascinating and charming life of this New York real estate heir. He is currently on trial in 2021 for the murder of Susan Berman in 2000. Berman is among three people linked to Durst. He is also charged with the murders of his first wife Kathleen McCormack, in 1982, and Morris Black, in 2001.

Contrary to the advice of his lawyers, Durst actively participated the creation of the 2014 documentary series. Durst and Jarecki sit down for six episodes. They then have a series depressing interviews. Some of these interviews are now being used as evidence in Durst's ongoing prosecution. The Jinx is one of the most horrifying portraits of truly horrible people. A.F.

How to watch: The Jinx: The Deaths and Life of Robert Durst can be viewed now on HBO Max.

10. Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn

Yusuf Hawkins Storm Over Brooklyn Credit: Courtesy HBO

Yusuf Hawkins' murder was clearly a hate crime. Yusuf Hawkins, Storm Over Brooklyn director Muta'Ali explores other theories in the shooting death of the Black 16 year-old in 1989. This is enough to help you understand the strength of the white narrative Hawkins family used when they sought justice.

The 2020 documentary is well-paced and thoughtful. It goes beyond the sad facts of the death to show the culture of racism that existed in New York City during late '80s/early '90s. This is a devastating true crime entry but it's crucial. A.F.

How to watch Yusuf Hawkins Storm Over Brooklyn streaming now on HBO Max

Garrett Phillips was killed by someone?

Garrett Phillips' 2011 death triggered a series of tragic events. A New York family lost their 12-year-old son to a senseless act de violence. The subsequent investigation also left a Black man in great pain under a racist legal system.

Liz Garbus's true crime film "Theres Something Wrong with Aunt Diane" is also available. Who Killed Garrett Phillips? Both sides are relentlessly pursued for justice. Garbus asks the right questions at just the right time and creates a compelling story that is both an indictment for police failures and a rallying cry to find the true killer. A.F.

How to watch: Garrett Phillips was killed You can stream it now on HBO Max.

8. Atlanta's Murdered and Missing Children

Director Sam Pollard examines the troubling crime trend in American history, Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. Between 1979 and 1981, 30 Black children were kidnapped and murdered. Many people doubted Wayne Williams' involvement in every case, but prosecutors decided to charge all those deaths to Wayne Williams.

Pollard follows the story of the murders through the reopening in 2019 of the investigation. This is a thorough look at the pervasive racism that has plagued Atlanta police for decades. It only gets more important. These cases are tragic because the decision to close them prematurely in the 1980s could mean that they are unsolvable today. A.F.

How to watch: Atlanta's Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children can be viewed now on HBO Max.

7. I Love You, Now Die

I Love You Now, Credit to HBO

Erin Carr's second true crime project, I Love You, Now Die, is a two-part investigation into one of the most sinister crimes of our time. Conrad Roy, 18, committed suicide in a Kmart parking garage in Massachusetts on July 13, 2014. Michelle Carter, 19, was not only aware of her boyfriend's plans to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning but encouraged him to do it. She sent a series bewildering texts that eventually led to her being charged with involuntary murder.

This series follows Carter's attempts to prove her innocence and poses fascinating questions about the nature of online crimes. This series is hard to watch, not only because of the heartbreaking portrayal of Roy's mental illness but also because it shows how helpless one feels knowing that Roy could have been saved had Carter intervened. A.F.

How to watch: Watch I Love You, Now Die on HBO Max.

6. The Inventor: Out for Blood In Silicon Valley

The Inventor: Out for Blood In Silicon Valley - Elizabeth Holmes, disgraced founder of Theranos, is a fascinating look into the utterly fabricated delusion. Academy Award winner Alex Gibney explains the alleged scam that Elizabeth Holmes concocted. This scam not only attracted the support of many high-profile investors, but also saw the fake technology called Edison begin a pseudo-rollout in real pharmacies.

Gibney creates an amazing portrait of Holmes using footage from Holmes that was originally intended to be used in a Theranos advertisement campaign. This watch is captivating and will leave you wondering how easy it would be to fool one of the most famous liars in the 21st century. A.F.

How to watch: The Inventor is streaming now on HBO Max.

5. Murder at Middle Beach

True crime is better when victims and survivors are the ones leading the way. Murder on Middle Beach is a film that champions this idea. Madison Hamburg, a debut filmmaker, investigates and reflect on the unsolved death of his mother Barbara Hamburg in 2010.

The four-part docuseries follows Hamburg's search for the truth about his mother's death. It was shot over eight years. Madison is soon drawn into a secret world of scams and hierarchy that begins with a glimpse into his family's most difficult relationships. This is a fascinating project, even if it's not satisfying. You'll love the witty narrative and unexpected last-act revelations. A.F.

How to watch Murder on Middle Beach now streaming on HBO Max

4. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

Credit: hbo

The HBO documentary "West Memphis Three" was released in 1996. It was the first to challenge the judgment. While there are many legal developments you will want to study after watching the movie, it is still one of the most respected perspectives on disturbing crime. It's also one of the most captivating viewing experiences.

Three 8-year old boys were murdered and found dead in Robin Hood Hills on May 5, 1993. The prime suspects in this crime were quickly identified as Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols, local teenagers. However, their connection to the murders was not clear. Paradise Lost, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, is a true crime movie that never fails to strike a chord. A.F.

How to watch: Paradise Lost - The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills can be viewed now on HBO Max.

3. Behind Closed Doors

A double homicide of Aarushi Talwar, 13 years old, and her family's servant Hemraj Banjade (45 years old), remains a shocking event for the people in Noida.

P.A. is the documentaryarian behind Behind Closed Doors. Carter takes viewers inside the heart of the media storm that broke out after the murders in 2008. Carter speaks with people who were close to the case to discuss everything, from the details that needed to be nabbed to the larger societal issues that made the investigation so difficult. This true crime episode is particularly interesting because it allows for a wider discussion about how justice is or doesn't work internationally, a genre that is often dominated by westerners. A.F.

How to watch: Behind Closed Doors streaming now on HBO Max

2. I'll be Gone in the Dark

Director Liz Garbus' I'll Be Gone in the Dark is one of the most accurate portraits of a true-crime writer. It offers a glimpse into the terrifying Golden State Killer, also known as the "Original Night Stalker" or "East Area Rapist", and the woman who will stop at nothing in order to identify him.

Michelle McNamara, who was suddenly killed in 2016, spent years trying to find the man responsible. He committed a series of murders and rapes across California between 1973-1986. She didn't know anyone affected by these crimes. Posthumously, a book about her work was published, also titled I’ll Be Gone In the Dark. The docuseries is a companion piece that contains loving remembrances of McNamara and overwhelming admiration.

McNamara is the true crime "fan" of all. McNamara's unrelenting passion to serve justice is evident on the screen and page, and will continue to inspire. A.F.

How to watch: I’ll Be Gone In the Dark is streaming now on HBO Max.

McMillions Credit: Courtesy HBO

A veritable army crooks, stooges and swindlers bilked McDonald's of $24 million in winnings from the annual McDonald's Monopoly sweepstakes. This began more than a decade ago, in 1989. The scheme was so complex that HBO made a miniseries about it directed by James Lee Hernandez, and Brian Lazarte. The fascinating and often hilarious documentary, which spans six episodes, introduces us both to the colorful characters of each side of the law. It also reveals the details of the criminal enterprise and its eventual demise.

You'll be able to identify the who, what and when of the historical McDonald's Monopoly fraud case. You'll be left with many questions about McMillions most famous character, FBI Agent Doug Matthews. A.R.

McMillions streaming now on HBO Max

Anasterisks (*), signify that the entry description is from an older Mashable streaming site.