The Binge-Watcher’s Guide to True Crime

If you think HBO’s new show The Jinx is great, you’re right and ready to experience some darker fare.

In 2001, the decapitated remains of an elderly man named Morris Black were found floating in Galveston Bay. Black had been dismembered using a bone saw and paring knife before being dumped in the Gulf. His neighbor, Robert Durst, confessed to the crime before being acquitted of murder. 

It would have been an odd case even if Durst didn’t have a history of violence, but he did. He’d been linked to three separate killings, starting with the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack, in 1982. He’s also the heir to the real estate magnate Seymour Durst’s fortune. Notoriously reclusive and eccentric, Durst is reportedly mentally disturbed; He was last arrested in 2014 for exposing himself in a Houston CVS and urinating on a rack of Skittles, then calmly walking back out into the street.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which premiered on HBO on Sunday, takes a closer look into the billionaire’s bizarre, mysterious life. The result, shaded by director Andrew Jarecki and producer Marc Smerling, is a dark-as-hell portrait of man who may have been a killer. It is also the latest worthy inheritor of a profoundly American tradition. Ever since Truman Capote put In Cold Blood to paper, men have been making names for themselves telling sad, true stories about other men. Here’s how to get your morbid fix after you give The Jinx a shot (by clicking here). 

The Staircase 

This miniseries is about novelist Michael Peterson, who claimed his wife Kathleen had died after falling down the stairs in their North Carolina mansion. The prosecution believed that Michael had bludgeoned Kathleen to death after she discovered his bisexuality. Michael and his family maintained his innocence. The eight installments give an intimate look into a complex, contentious trial.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Dear Zachary is a documentary created by Kurt Kuenne about his childhood friend Andrew Bagby. After a breakup, Bagby began dating a much older woman named Shirley Turner. When their relationship fell apart, she murdered him, then revealed she was pregnant with his child. This is an intimate, heart wrenching portrait of loss, as well as the serious failings of the Canadian legal system.

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger

No modern day criminal figure has inspired as much legend as notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. This 2014 documentary features extensive screen time with his victims’ families and former law enforcement officials as the trial for the man who was Number Two on America’s Most Wanted list unfolded.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

The first installment in a landmark documentary trilogy tells of the three teenage boys (who came to be known as the West Memphis Three) who were convicted of the murder and mutilation of three children. The trial was an egregious mishandling of justice from the start; the West Memphis Three were primarily targeted because they listened to metal and wore black, and much of the evidence was handled irresponsibly. The prosecution determined that they had committed the murders as part of Satanic rituals and sentenced one to death, while giving the other two life sentences. This film was made while, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were still in prison; after you’ve made it through, check out Damien Echols’ revealing memoir, “Life After Death,” which he wrote when he was released.


A salacious Erroll Morris romp, this film tells the story of Joyce McKinney – the blonde and beautiful former Miss Wyoming – who, in the seventies, went to the U.K. to track down a Mormon missionary she had previously dated. What followed next was his account that she had kidnapped him, chained him to a bed in a remote cottage, and raped him repeatedly. She claimed that they were in love and he was complicit. The case, which colloquially became known as the “Mormon sex in chains case,” sparked an all-out war between Britain’s two largest tabloids.

Photos by HBO