Are you ready to spend your September diving into gripping investigations? We scoured the web to find the best true crime documentaries streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video this September. Our list runs the gamut—from documentaries that explore headline-grabbing investigations and truly bizarre cases to the premiere season of a classic true crime series. Some of the documentaries and docu-series featured below are brand new; others are underrated gems from recent years that you may have missed. All of them deserve your attention. So sit back, dim the lights, and prepare yourself for a riveting September.
In need of more streaming and reading recommendations for the month? We've got you covered:
I Am a Killer Released (2020)
A semi-spin-off to Netflix's I Am a Killer, I Am a Killer Released follows murderer Dale Wayne Signer who, 30 years ago, shot Subway employee John Zeltner six times during a robbery. Originally sentenced to death, then commuted to a life sentence, Signer is granted parole. Signer presents himself as a man remorseful and reformed, but interviews with lead investigators and Zeltner's family remind us of the trauma Signer inflicted and the life he took away. This three-episode series delves into the details of the crime, with shocking facts coming to light along the way.
16 years ago, in a small Colorado mountain town, local welder Marvin Heemeyer committed a crime so bizarre the story swept the nation. Heemeyer modified a bulldozer so that it was covered in bulletproof plates, video cameras, and machine rifles. Over the course of two hours, Heemeyer destroyed half his town, then committed suicide. Tread explores the delusions that would drive a seemingly normal man to commit such a crime, with audio snippets of Heemeyer's own ramblings, which he recorded on cassette before his rampage.
American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)
The upcoming Netflix series, American Murder: The Family Next Door, dives into one of the most shocking and horrifying murder cases in recent memory. With two adorable young daughters and a third on the way, Shanann and Chris Watts seemed to lead the perfect life. But in August 2018, Shanann and their two daughters disappeared. Chris played the grieving husband, but something seemed...off. When the bodies of Shannon and the two girls were found, Chris' story quickly changed. Employing raw footage from the investigation to tell its tragic story, American Murder: The Family Next Door proves that you never know what's happening behind closed doors.
Cold Case Files Classic (Season 1, 1999-2002, 2006, 2017)
AlthoughCold Case Files received the reboot treatment in 2017 courtesy of Netflix, the show's premiere season from 1999 will finally be streaming this September. One of the first true crime series on broadcast television, Cold Case Files follows investigations into long-unsolved crimes. Thanks to modern science and new forensic testing, many of these previously closed cases can finally be solved. A smash hit for both A&E, Cold Case Files Classics takes us back to the beginning while also charting the evolution of forensic investigative techniques over the past 21 years.
The Confession Tapes (2017-2019)
The Confession Tapes is a true crime series that takes a hard look at inequity in America's justice system. Each episode follows a murder-conviction that was, most likely, due to a false and/or coerced confession. Throughout each episode, psychologists, false-confession experts, and criminal law lawyers offer insight and share their assessments. A gut-wrenching series, The Confession Tapes will leave you feeling disillusioned and wondering how these miscarriages of justice are still happening in the 21st century.
Frank Serpico (2017)
In the 1970s, one police officer had the bravery to break the blue wall of silence and expose the wide-spread corruption in the NYPD. To this day, many officers view whistleblowers as rats or, at the very least, individuals who shouldn't break rank and go against fellow officers. Frank Serpico, the whistleblower and focus of this documentary, finally has the chance to tell his side of the story. It's impossible not to respect Serpico, who did what others have failed to do time and time again: stand up for justice, regardless of the personal consequences.
Killing for Love (2017)
Killing for Love examines one of the most famous crimes of the 20th century. In 1985, Jens Söring, the son of a German diplomat, murdered the parents of his girlfriend Elizabeth Hayson, along with her help. The two fled to London, where they were eventually apprehended and arrested in 1986. After confessing repeatedly to the murders, Söring pleaded not guilty at his trial, claiming he confessed to protect Hayson and because he believed he had diplomatic immunity. Seemingly an open-and-shut case, many disturbing details come out in the following years. From a drug-addicted lawyer to a landmark judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, Killing for Love examines all the murky details of this baffling and awful murder.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)
This Danish true crime and mystery documentary follows its director, Mads Brügger, and a Swedish private investigator, Göran Bjorkdahl, as they try to get to the bottom of the 1960s plane crash that resulted in the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary-general of the United Nations. The deeper they dig, the stranger the case becomes. The tension of the documentary builds until it finally reaches a shocking ending. Cold Case Hammarskjöld raises many crucial questions about power, nationalism, and extremism.
Children of the Snow (2019)
Between 1976 and 1977 in the Detroit area, at least two boys and two girls were murdered—then the killings abruptly stopped. To this day, the Oakland County Child Killer has yet to be apprehended. We revisit these tragic murders via the executive producer of Children of the Snow, J. Reuben Appelman, who grew up in the area and believes he might have crossed paths with the killer many years ago. By going through old files, documents, and interviews with investigators and surviving family members, Appelman begins to explore the idea that the killer was within grasp, and what he discovers along the way is terrifying.
Amazon Prime Video
Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole (2019)
Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole follows inmates who were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder when they were minors. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that mandatory life sentences for minors are unconstitutional, and because of this ruling, the prisoners are seeking resentencing. The series reckons with subjects like childhood trauma, what defines rehabilitation, and the use of politics as a weapon.
The First 48 Presents: Homicide Squad Atlanta (2019)
An extension of A&E's The First 48 TV series, The First 48 Presents: Homicide Squad Atlanta focuses solely on the Atlanta Police Department and their investigations into some of the city's most grisly cases. Each episode follows a different murder and its investigation, but throughout the entire series, the detectives are working to discover who murdered Bridget Shiel. Shiel was found naked and shot to death in 2016, and watching the rookie-detective Andrew Lowe tirelessly work to find her killer is fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at once.
Rampage: Killing Without Reason (2009)
This 10-episode series explores some of the most gruesome murders in the past decade and the disturbed minds of the mass murderers who committed the crimes. Although each case is separate, there is one thing that ties all of them together—the murderers killed out of rage, pure and simple. Known as "rage-murder cases", we learn more details about these violent cases and the remorseless and volatile people behind them.
Dr. G: America's Most Shocking Cases (2010)
Through her decades-long career performing autopsies, Dr. Jan Garavaglia has seen pretty much everything you can think of. However, Dr. G: America's Most Shocking Cases follows those few cases that truly surprise her. Each case has caught her attention for one simple reason—pathologists, who have dedicated their education and lives to examining bodies and reaching diagnoses, are baffled by these cases.
Featured image from 'Children of the Snow' via Cineflix Media / Investigation Discovery