Skip To Content

    38 Wild Documentaries That Will Completely Mess With Your Head

    True crime, missing people, cult leaders, and everything in between.

    We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about the wildest documentary movie or series they've ever watched. Here are the must-see results.

    🚨 Note: Some of the content below includes stories about sexual assault, murder, and suicide. 🚨

    1. John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise (2021)

    John Wayne Gacy walking to trial, handcuffed
    NBC / Via youtube.com

    Suggested by: LeslieAnn23

    What it's about: John Wayne Gacy, also known as "the Killer Clown," was convicted of 33 counts of murder in 1980. He sexually assaulted, tortured, and killed his victims — all of whom were teenage boys or young men — within a six-year period in the '70s. This six-part documentary series explores Gacy's double life, including new interviews with the people who knew him best and the ones who worked to convict him.

    Where you can watch it: Peacock

    2. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2019)

    Side-by-side of Madeleine McCann and her parents
    Netflix

    Suggested by: PeachPie1995

    What it's about: In 2007, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished during a family vacation at a resort in Portugal. Her parents were at a restaurant with friends and had left Madeleine and her two siblings back in the room, sleeping. They checked on the children throughout the night, and that's when they realized something was wrong: Madeleine was gone. Over the next few weeks, several damning accusations were made, stories stopped matching up, and even the head of the investigative unit was under investigation. Madeleine became the most high-profile missing child in the entire world, and this documentary series will show you why.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    3. God Knows Where I Am (2016)

    An old photo of Linda Bishop, then a picture of a couch in the abandoned house she lived in
    1091 Pictures

    Suggested by: lisas4bb382393

    What it's about: This intriguing documentary is told from the perspective and own words of Linda Bishop, a woman experiencing homelessness who journaled during the final months of her life while living off apples and rainwater in an abandoned house. Her diary entries are engrossing and strange but also beautiful and funny, and they're juxtaposed with real-life interviews from family members and people who worked on her case. This documentary will make you question how you look at death, loneliness, homelessness, and mental illness.

    Where you can watch it: YouTube

    4. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020)

    A photo of Gabriel Fernandez as a child, then a newspaper clipping with the headline about his parents murdering him
    Netflix

    Suggested by: Taylorharta

    What it's about: This six-part documentary series explores the murder of Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old boy who had been abused by his parents for months before being beaten so badly that he died. The events were so disturbing that producers had an on-call therapist available for staff throughout the two-year period when they were making this series.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    5. Last Breath (2019)

    A photo of Chris Lemons in the cabin, plus a photo of a diver on the ocean floor
    Dogwoof Studios

    Suggested by: sianb4405

    What it's about: Open water is scary. It's even scarier when you're trapped 100 meters (about 328 feet) below the surface, with no heat or light. That's exactly what happened to Chris Lemons in 2012. He was working on a ship, doing repairs at the bottom of the North Sea, when harsh weather caused the vessel to drift off and break his breathing cable. This gripping documentary uses interviews and security footage from the ship to retell the events of that day. It'll leave you gasping for air.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    6. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

    Lafayette Films

    Suggested by: ashleyo43058f0de

    What it's about: This documentary follows the filmmaker as he attempts to interview Aileen Wuornos, who was dubbed the world's first woman serial killer. Wuornos murdered seven men between the years 1989 and 1990 (Charlize Theron won an Oscar for portraying her in the movie Monster). This documentary was even used by the defense in Wuornos's trial in 2001.

    Where you can watch it: YouTube

    7. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

    Bobby Shafran and his two brothers in their late teens
    Neon / CNN Films

    Suggested by: abigaeljoyceanderson

    What it's about: This real-life Sister, Sister episode will immediately warm your heart, but then it'll tear it to pieces. The documentary starts with Bobby Shafran, who, after leaving for college in the 1980s, finds out he's an identical twin. Then things get even weirder. After their picture gets posted in the paper, a third guy comes forward, and they realize they're actually triplets. After questioning ~why~ they were split up in the first place, their families discover that they were unknowingly part of a government-sponsored study. I won't spoil anything else for you, but just know that this movie will make you feel completely uneasy.

    Where you can watch it: Hulu

    8. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

    Side-by-side of Jan Broberg vs. Jan as a kid being photographed with her kidnapper
    Netflix

    Suggested by: heatherp12

    What it's about: In the 1970s, a 12-year-old girl from Idaho was kidnapped by her family's neighbor and best friend...twice. There are so many twists and turns in this movie, including a love affair with the girl's parents and her kidnapper, so, yeah, just watch it.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    9. Haunters: The Art of the Scare (2017)

    One main setting up his haunted house, and a guest having a panic attack while inside
    The Brain Factory

    Suggested by: Lauryn.E.Lugo

    What it's about: Haunted houses are thrilling. One second they're making you laugh, and the next they're giving you nightmares. Some people make it their life's mission to take them even further with "extreme horror simulations." This fun yet terrifying documentary gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the scariest haunted houses in the world, as well as the people who create them. It'll make you feel a litttttttle uneasy, that's for sure.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    10. Cropsey (2009)

    Breaking Glass Pictures

    Suggested by: katim4fa532b02

    What it's about: People who live on Staten Island grew up learning about the urban legend of Cropsey, a bogeyman-like murderer. This myth started to become a reality because of Andre Rand, a convicted child kidnapper and suspected serial killer. This documentary uses interviews and old footage and follows two people as they search for the five children Rand is suspected of killing.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    11. There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (2011)

    Diane Schuler's wedding photos and CCTV footage of her at a gas station
    HBO

    Suggested by: l4a6879caf

    What it's about: In 2009, Diane Schuler was driving 85 mph on the highway in the wrong direction when she collided with another car. Eight people were killed, including Schuler, her daughter, and three of her nieces. The medical report revealed that Schuler was heavily intoxicated at the time of the crash, but her husband insisted that she would never drink excessively. This documentary retells the events leading up to the 2009 crash and tries to uncover what really happened.

    Where you can watch it: HBO Max

    12. Born to Kill? Richard Trenton Chase: The Vampire of Sacramento (2010)

    Richard Trenton's mugshots
    Wasnoe County Sheriff's Department

    Suggested by: emmathatsruddymysterioust

    What it's about: Richard Chase killed six people within a single month in the late 1970s. One of his victims was a pregnant woman whom he killed during a home break-in, and then he had sex with her corpse. When police searched Chase's apartment, they found that "the walls, floor, ceiling, refrigerator, and all of Chase's eating and drinking utensils were soaked in blood." This documentary retells those events and includes interviews with the people who worked the case.

    Where you can watch it: Dailymotion

    13. The Woman Who Wasn’t There (2012)

    Side-by-side of Alicia at the World Trade Center Memorial, vs. her ex-friend questioning who she really is
    IFC Films

    Suggested by: georger46e

    What it's about: Alicia Esteve Head was on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center during the attacks on 9/11. She had gripping testimony about surviving the attack and even revealed that her fiancé died in the other tower. Later on, she became the president of the World Trade Center Survivors' Network support group. But there was one problem: Head wasn't actually in either of the buildings on the day of the attacks. In fact, she wasn't even in the country — she was at school in Barcelona. So who was Alicia Esteve Head? I guess you'll have to watch the documentary to find out.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    14. Holy Hell (2016)

    The leader of the Buffhafield cult, then a photo of a woman who was in the cult during an interview
    WRA Productions

    Suggested by: jordanb46f29d6ff

    What it's about: Will Allen loved making movies as a child. When he got older, he joined Hollywood's Buddhafield cult and continued to record his life through home videos, even becoming the cult's official videographer. This documentary uses real-life footage and interviews that Allen actually shot during his 22 years in Buddhafield, ultimately uncovering the downward spiral of the group and an onslaught of paranoia.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    15. Evil Genius (2018)

    Brian Wells sitting outside next to a police car with the bomb strapped around him
    Duplass Brothers Productions

    Suggested by: chinar

    What it's about: Brian Wells, a pizza delivery driver in Pennsylvania, robbed a bank with a bomb strapped around his neck in 2003. He claimed he was being forced to commit the heist and if he didn't follow through, the real criminals would detonate the bomb. This true crime documentary series follows the investigation into the "pizza bomber" case and aims to figure out whether Wells was indeed a victim of the crime or a conspirator.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    16. Team Foxcatcher (2016)

    Side-by-side of John du Pont and Dave Schultz in their wrestling team jackets
    Madrose Productions

    Suggested by: littlethadd10

    What it's about: John du Pont was a multimillionaire who built a training facility for the US Olympic wrestling team. He became obsessed and paranoid with one wrestler in particular: Dave Schultz. This chilling documentary uses interviews and never-before-seen footage to showcase the downfall of du Pont, who ultimately murdered Schultz. You might remember this story from the 2014 crime drama Foxcatcher, in which Steve Carell (as du Pont) and Mark Ruffalo (as Dave) both received Oscar nominations for portraying the two men.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

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

    HBO

    Suggested by: Gabsterwabster17

    What it's about: Robert Durst, a New York real estate heir from a family worth billions, was accused of murdering three people. This six-part documentary series looks into the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie McCormack, and the events that followed. Against his lawyer's wishes, Durst sat for hours of interviews with the filmmakers, a lot of which is included in this miniseries, making everything all the more chilling. You'll want to watch this to see how it all unfolded.

    Where you can watch it: HBO Max

    18. The Keepers (2017)

    Side-by-side of Sister Catherine Cesnik in everyday clothes vs. her in her habit
    Film 45 / Netflix

    Suggested by: rachelrae

    What it's about: Sister Catherine Cesnik was a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in Maryland when she disappeared in 1969. Two months later, her lifeless body was found near a garbage dump. Cesnik had previously suspected the school's priest of sexual assault, so this compelling documentary series investigates what really happened to her, questioning whether it was a cover-up by the police.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    19. The Family I Had (2017)

    Paris Bennet on a muffled phone call with 9-1-1, revealing that he killed his sister
    Investigation Discovery Channel / Via youtube.com

    Suggested by: laurenc42

    What it's about: A 13-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister were at home with a babysitter in 2007 when the boy killed his little sister by strangling her and stabbing her 17 times. This documentary follows their mother as she tries to piece together how everything unfolded and what the consequences for her son — whom she still loves — should be.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    20. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

    Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne holding Andrew Bagby's infant son
    MSNBC Films / Oscilloscope Laboratories

    Suggested by: BeefSquatch

    What it's about: This documentary is a punch straight to the gut. It was originally created to be a love letter to Andrew Bagby, who was murdered in 2011 by his ex-girlfriend Shirley Jane Turner. Soon after, Turner revealed she was pregnant with Bagby's son. This cinematic scrapbook ultimately turned into a gripping true crime documentary that will stick with you for years. (This was by far the documentary most suggested by our readers, so you should definitely check it out.)

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    21. The Cannibal That Walked Free (2007)

    Issei Sagawa being interviewed and talking about what he did to one of his victims
    Channel Five

    Suggested by: Anna Kopsky

    What it's about: Issei Sagawa shot and killed a woman in his apartment. He believed he would be able to absorb her beauty if he ate her, so he ate different parts of her body over a two-day period. He also had sex with her corpse and later tried to dispose of the leftovers in a lake in France, where he lived. He awaited trial for two years and was declared insane, and the charges against him were dropped. He was deported to Japan, where he couldn't be legally detained, and over time he became a mini celebrity. He remains free to this day. This short documentary follows alllll of those wild events.

    Where you can watch it: Dailymotion

    22. Blackfish (2013)

    A side-by-side of an orca being moved to a facility, and a pic of a trainer with an orca under water
    Magnolia Pictures

    Suggested by: Mireya González

    What it's about: This disturbing documentary follows the story of Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld who killed three people. The movie exposes the shocking truth and controversy behind keeping animals in captivity, and it takes a close look at what happens to the orcas and their families when they're separated by these water parks.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    23. BTK: A Killer Among Us (2019)

    Cream Productions / Via youtube.com

    Suggested by: barbarathornhill

    What it's about: For 31 years, Dennis Rader (aka the BTK Killer, meaning "blind, torture, kill") was able to live a double life. He murdered 10 people in secret and for years sent detailed letters to the police and reporters about the crimes. This documentary chronicles comprehensive interviews with law enforcement, the victims' family members, reporters, and even his daughter, Kerri Rawson.

    Where you can watch it: Apple TV and Sling TV

    24. Tabloid (2010)

    Air Loom Enterprises

    What it's about: "Girl meets boy. Girl and boy fall in love. Boy is Mormon, girl is not. Boy is sent on his mission to London and doesn't tell girl. Aaaaand girl hires private investigator to find him, goes to London, kidnaps him outside where he's staying, holds him hostage in a house she's rented, and plays house with him. After he escapes, there's a trial and all kinds of weird stuff. It may not be a forensic-filled, gritty investigative documentary, but hot damn." —prncskaters

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    25. Monster in My Family: Happy Face Killer (2015)

    ABC / Via youtube.com, Clark County Sheriff's Department

    Suggested by: l4bbb4efe7

    What's it's about: Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the child of a serial killer? This documentary follows Melissa Moore, daughter of Keith Hunter Jesperson (otherwise known as the Happy Face Killer), on her path of self-discovery as she reveals what it was actually like to learn that her father was a murderer.

    Where you can watch it: Dailymotion

    26. Who Took Johnny (2014)

    RumuR Inc.

    Suggested by: sophepe

    What it's about: Johnny Gosch was 12 years old when he disappeared without a trace in Iowa in 1982, presumably kidnapped while on his paper route. His face was among the first to be featured on a milk carton. This documentary follows his mother's pursuit to discover what really happened to her son. It's chilling.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    27. Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)

    Netflix

    Suggested by: nkrjj957

    What it's about: Most people already know the story of Ted Bundy, but this four-part documentary series takes you inside the mind of one of America's most infamous serial killers. It also features interviews with him on death row, which are especially chilling.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    28. Manson (1973)

    State of California, San Quentin Prison, Tobann International Films

    Suggested by: pawseyhailey

    What it's about: This documentary does a deep dive into Charles Manson and his "family." It includes interviews with some of the cult members (like Squeaky Fromme and Sandra Good) and old, real-life footage of everyone at their hideouts. The movie was nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

    Where you can watch it: YouTube

    29. The Witness (2015)

    A photo of an old newspaper and a picture of Kitty Genovese
    FilmRise / Via youtube.com

    Suggested by: tracis496a4d84c

    What it's about: Kitty Genovese was stabbed, raped, and murdered by a man outside her apartment building in March 1964. It was reported that 38 people watched the attack unfold, yet no one intervened. This documentary follows Kitty's brother as he tries to uncover the truth behind what happened. Kitty's murder is also a major reason the US adopted the 911 system because "up until the late 1960s, there was no centralized number for people to call in case of an emergency."

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    30. Albert Fish: In Sin He Found Salvation (2007)

    Facets Video

    Suggested by: elsceneinc

    What it's about: This documentary tells the horrific story of Albert Fish, a child rapist, serial killer, and cannibal who was often referred to as "the Boogey Man." His crimes are especially heinous, so I won't go into any more detail, but I guess you should check out the documentary if you can stomach it.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    31. Missing 411 (2016)

    A photo of trees in a national park plus photos of missing people
    David Paulides

    Suggested by: mitchd48e641c56

    What it's about: It's scary to think about, but people disappear without a trace in national parks every year in North America. This documentary dives into the similarities between five different people who went missing over multiple decades.

    Where you can watch it: Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

    32. This Is the Zodiac Speaking (2008)

    A police sketch of what they think the Zodiac Killer looks like, plus a photo of an open field
    Dreamlogic Pictures

    Suggested by: morganm46bf64fe2

    What it's about: Anyone who loves true crime already knows the basics about the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer in California who's suuuuper scary to think about, since we STILL don't know who committed the crimes over 50 years ago. This chilling documentary closely examines the Zodiac investigation and interviews people who actually worked on the case, as well as the two victims who survived his attacks.

    Where you can watch it: YouTube

    33. Amanda Knox (2016)

    Amanda Knox being filmed after the murder of her roommate, then a photo of Amanda Knox several years later being interviewed
    Netflix / Via u

    Suggested by: isaaclahey

    What it's about: Amanda Knox was living as an exchange student in Italy in 2007 when her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was murdered. Knox was convicted of the murder, spent four years in prison, and was later acquitted. This documentary features interviews with Knox and several key people who were involved in the investigation and trials, and it will make you question absolutely everything.

    Where you can watch it: Netflix

    34. Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse (1990)

    Beth Thomas being interviewed as a child
    youtube.com

    Suggested by: Markku Naukkarinen, Facebook

    What it's about: Beth Thomas was a 6-year-old with reactive attachment disorder, due in large part to the abuse she experienced. This short, bone-chilling documentary includes actual interviews with Beth as she calmly recounts what she'd like to do to her new, adoptive family: kill them.

    Where you can watch it: YouTube

    35. The Pig Farm (2011)

    CTV Television Network

    Suggested by: Bbpossum

    What it's about: This award-winning documentary explores the crimes of Robert Pickton, a serial killer who murdered six women over a span of nearly 20 years. This documentary investigates why it took so long to capture and convict Canada's most prolific serial killer and includes troubling revelations about who knew what and when.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    36. The Imposter (2012)

    Film4 Productions / Via youtube.com, Film4 Productions

    Suggested by: dianem13

    What it's about: Nicholas Barclay was 13 years old when he disappeared in 1994. Three years later, he returned home. Well, Frédéric Bourdin returned home. Bourdin was pretending to be Barclay and literally lived with the Barclay family for six months before anyone figured out that he wasn't who he said he was. This documentary tries to uncover how and why that happened.

    Where you can watch it: Vimeo

    37. The Bridge (2006)

    The Golden Gate Bridge and a man climbing to the top
    IFC Films

    Suggested by: Dana Prophet, Facebook

    What it's about: In 2003, during the filming of this documentary, the Golden Gate Bridge was the world's most popular suicide site. This disturbing movie captured several people jumping in real time, and it even interviewed friends and family members of some of the people who killed themselves. Fair warning: This documentary is especially disturbing.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    38. And Jesus Camp (2006)

    Magnolia Pictures

    Suggested by: kendrajeans

    What it's about: This Oscar-nominated documentary follows three children in particular at an evangelical Christian camp who are told that they have "prophetic gifts" and can "take back America for Christ." Among other things, the children are taught that Harry Potter is a "gateway to joining the occult," homosexuality is a sin, and they need to be "pure" to join the army of God.

    Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime Video

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form