True crime documentaries can horrify — and galvanize — viewers, leading to the release of wrongfully accused convicts and sometimes reform. Errol Morris expanded the notion of what documentaries can be with his 1988 doc-noir “The Thin Blue Line,” which controversially recreated the killing of a Dallas cop and led to the release of Randall Adams after 12 years behind bars. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of format-busting docuseries such as Ezra Edelman’s five-part “O.J.: Made in America” for ESPN in 2016, which won an Emmy and an Oscar, not that long after Andrew Jarecki’s multi-part HBO series “The Jinx” won two Emmys for its riveting look at real-estate heir Robert Durst, now on trial for murder.
Other notable true crime documentaries in recent years include the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, which led to the eventual release of the so-called West Memphis Three and Paramount Network’s “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.” These stories have staying power: “The Staircase,” a docuseries about the North Carolina murder of Kathleen Peterson, is being adapted into an HBO Max limited series starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette.
Here are 10 noteworthy true-crime documentaries dating back to the late 1980s.