3 shocking true crime dramas to stream on Netflix and Apple TV+

Grisly yet gripping, here are three true crime dramas that you really must watch

Dahmer – Monster (Netflix)
(Image credit: Netflix)

Human beings are simple creatures – no matter how much we evolve we still find morbid fascination with crime and death.

Television and movie producers realised this years ago. Every night on every network and platform we are bombarded with shows that fuel this fascination and garner our attention.

The concept of "true crime" seems even more delicious as an entertainment hook. Real people doing real things adds the cherry on the good old murder and mayhem cake... a brutal Battenberg, if you like.

Here then are three great examples of true crime dramas you can watch on the major streaming services.

Baby Reindeer

  • Where: Netflix
  • Stars: Richard Gadd, Jessica Gunning
  • Created by: Richard Gadd

No matter what you think about Netflix, it cannot be denied that now and again the streamer comes up with absolute gold that becomes the zeitgeist.

From Tiger King to Squid Game it is Netflix that seems to most regularly find shows that spark at just the right moment in time. In 2024 it is Baby Reindeer’s turn to shine – for all the right (or wrong) reasons.

Without any kind of spoilers (important in a show like this), Baby Reindeer is a true crime drama based on the real life experiences of UK comedian Richard Gadd. A story of obsession, abuse, loneliness and perceived masculinity that started its life years ago as a one man Edinburgh fringe show now stands as the most viewed programme on all of the Netflix platforms, worldwide.

The word "problematic" is used a lot these days and, in most cases, incorrectly. However, here we do have a case – the antagonist of the show, the stalker "Martha" has been outed very publicly in the last few weeks leading to calls for why this was allowed to happen and for better discretion and safeguarding in the future.

With the huge success of the show it does seem cruel to push someone with clear mental health issues into the spotlight of worldwide public ridicule and scrutiny, no matter what crimes she has committed previously.

Despite this there is no doubt that the show will become a talking point for years to come – a study into trial by media and the importance of protecting those who we seek to gain entertainment from.

Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

  • Where: Netflix
  • Stars: Evan Peters, Richard Jenkins, Molly Ringwald, Niecy Nash
  • Created by: Ryan Murphy

We are fascinated by serial killers. This sentence alone should give pause and a level of inner contemplation as to the nature of our own personality and moral compass, but the sad truth is that despite what we want to believe about ourselves, we simply are.

Ryan Murphy knows this. From his work with American Horror Story, The Watcher, and Ratched, he has proved time again that he understands perfectly what people want and no matter how divisive or unpalatable, he will bring this to the screen. His ongoing deal with Netflix has seen him rise very quickly to the top of his profession and it seems that there is no end in sight to the success he is having through the streaming giant.

Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is Murphy’s take on the serial killer genre, with focus on the early 90s killings of 17 young men around the Milwaukee area at the hands of one of the most notorious multiple murders of all time.

Running for 10 episodes, the show brings us Dahmer’s childhood, his unstable home life, his repressed sexuality, his failure to maintain professional and personal relationships, the struggle to contain his urges, and the barely concealed issues seemingly ignored by parents, police, educators, and literally anyone who came into contact with him.

Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is a very solid, well produced, well directed and written show. It brings the life of one of America's most infamous killers to the screen with a level of curiosity and investigation that gives the viewer a glance inside the mind of the man. It deals well with his history, brings up the idea of nature versus nurture, and decides correctly not to glamourise the actual physical killings as would have been so easy to do so.

Despite the issue of consent and the shadow of being exploitative, I do believe this is a very solid watch, especially if taken as a character study and a prime example of the glamorisation of murder through the press and public opinion.

The Crowded Room

  • Where: Apple TV+
  • Stars: Tom Holland, Amanda Seyfried, Sasha Lane, Will Chase
  • Created by: Akiva Goldsman, Todd Graff

One of the biggest problems with the true crime genre and shows "based on a true story" is the temptation to google the real life events before you watch the dramatisation. Sheer curiosity takes over and we lose the ability to simply watch and enjoy a show that has been carefully crafted to entertain and purposely holds things back for narrative reasons. The Crowded Room is a prime example of this.

Based on the real life events of crimes committed in the late 70s by Billy Milligan (renamed for the show as "Danny Sullivan"), it relies on the main plot point being kept hidden until the end. It's an idea that seemingly proved alien to journalists and the media back in 2023 who seemed to delight in giving the entire premise away as soon as the show was released. We'll not repeat the error here.

Sullivan is an unreliable narrator, seemingly unaware of the crimes he is accused of and convinced at his own innocence no matter the evidence held against him… and for good reason.

Heralding Tom Holland's first step into high profile, peak streaming television he gives an outstanding performance as the lead. It's a million miles away from his clean cut and safe showing as Spider-Man.

It's great to see him pushing himself in different direction and although this could be seen as stunt casting, I feel he gives the role a certain weight without detracting from the show.

A Crowded Room is well worth a watch but as mentioned, under no circumstances should you listen to reviews, google it or read anything online before you do. Coming to this show with an open and empty mind is the only way to go and will ensure you get the most out of it. 

Brian Comber

Liverpool lad, mid-life crisis survivor, writer of short fiction, screenplays, articles, reviews and opinion pieces. Brian is totally in love with cinema in all its many forms. He writes for websites, blogs and published magazines, including Screen Rant, IGN and Purple Revolver in the constant hope it will help him avoid getting a real grown-up job. In his free time, he's a gym obsessive and previously good guitarist.