5 best Netflix true crime shows with 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes

Merrit Wever and Toni Collette in Unbelievable on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

True crime often gets a bad rap for sensationalizing serial killers and disregarding victims when it comes to telling the stories of killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Yet some of the less buzzy installments in the genre happen to be captivating and informative without sensationalism. 

The genre is at its best when a true crime TV show or movie sheds light on a piece of history that people don’t talk about often enough — especially when it speaks to a greater problem in the world. 

Netflix has made a series of impactful fictionalized true crime shows that not only impressed audiences but critics alike. Here are five Netflix true crime series with 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. 

When They See Us

Most people have heard the term the “Central Park Five” bandied about, but not everyone knows the dark roots of the phrase. Back in 1989, five young Black and Latino teenagers (Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Anton McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise) went on trial for a rape that occurred in Central Park. The group fought the charge for over a decade and eventually sued the state for putting them through the ordeal. 

Netflix’s When They See Us is a powerful recount of the events that follows the young men through the trial, their exoneration, and their case against the city. The movie sheds light on how prevalent racial discrimination still is in the U.S. while getting the story of the Exonerated Five out to mainstream audiences. 

Ava DuVernay created the 2019 series that stars actors like Niecy Nash (Deloris Wise), John Leguizamo (Raymond Santana Sr.), Michael Kenneth Williams (Bobby McCray), Felicity Huffman (Linda Fairstein), Blair Underwood (Bobby Burns), and Vera Farmiga (Elizabeth Lederer).

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Watch on Netflix


Hollywood doesn’t often give us tasteful and accurate depictions of what people go through when they report sexual assaults — and how convictions are a rarity. People are quick to shame sexual assault survivors for not coming forward even though by doing so, they’re forced to live a traumatic event over and over when more often than not, justice isn’t served. Netflix’s Unbelievable shines a spotlight on how often rape cases are mishandled, the victims are treated like suspects, and a failure to believe a victim allows the violence to continue. 

The 2019 series Unbelievable fictionalizes the real story of Marie Adler: a young woman who reported a rape to the police and got accused of making it up. Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, and Ayelet Waldman adapted the show from a Pulitzer Prize-winning article by T. Christian Miller, Ken Armstrong, ProPublica, and The Marshall Project. 

The show chronicles the initial mishandling of Adler’s case and how two detectives, both women, uncover the truth when similar rape reports begin popping up. The cast includes Kaitlyn Dever (Marie Adler), Toni Collette (Detective Grace Rasmussen), Marriott Wever (Detective Karen Duvall), and Blake Ellis (Chris McCarthy). 

Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Watch on Netflix

The Keepers

The very idea of a murdered nun seems like something out of The Conjuring universe rather than real life. Yet for Sister Cathy Cesnik, it was a very real reality. While we love to hear stories with clear-cut endings and the bad guy behind bars, people don’t get justice or closure more often than not. And sometimes, friends and family of the victims decide to Nancy Drew cold cases when the police give up. 

Netflix’s 2017 documentary series The Keepers follows the story of Cesnik’s 1969 murder and the ‘90s revival of the case via her former students. Ryan White directed the seven-part series. 

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Watch on Netflix

American Vandal

With all of the murder and darkness that plagues the true crime genre, sometimes, you just need a laugh. In 2017, creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda put a spin on the genre with American Vandal. So, what exactly is this Netflix series about, you ask? Just uncovering the truth behind a terrifying gang that’s sweeping the nation: teenage pranksters.

Of course, the show is satirical in nature, but there are genuine investigations in each episode that tackle the fictional whodunnits of infamous high school pranks. The show stars Tyler Alvarez (Peter Maldonado) and Griffin Gluck (Sam Ecklund).

Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Watch on Netflix

The Innocence Files

Some people spend their entire lives behind bars without ever having committed the crime they were locked up for — and it’s not rare for there to be a racial component at play. Back in 1992, Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck founded the Innocence Project to use modern developments in science to overturn wrongful convictions. 

The documentary-style 2020 series The Innocence Files dives deep into the stories of eight cases of wrongfully convicted individuals that the Innocence Project took on. While the show highlights the failings of the justice system, it also looks to the future as people within the organization fight for reform. 

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Watch on Netflix

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Xandra Harbet

Xandra is an entertainment journalist with clips in outlets like Salon, Insider, The Daily Dot, and Regal. In her 6+ years of writing, she's covered red carpets, premieres, and events like New York Comic Con. Xandra has conducted around 200 interviews with celebrities like Henry Cavill, Sylvester Stallone, and Adam Driver. She received her B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Randolph College, where she chilled with the campus ghosts and read Edgar Allan Poe at 3 am.