Since the mid-2010s, true crime as a genre has been at an all-time high. Podcasts, TV shows, and movies like Serial, Making a Murderer, and O.J.: Made in America have introduced a whole new generation of fans to the genre, cementing it in pop culture and paving the way for numerous productions about the strangest and most shocking stories the crime world has to offer. Soon enough, with the help of streaming services (particularly Netflix), people all around the globe were getting acquainted with the cases of Amanda Knox (Amanda Knox), Joe Exotic (Tiger King), and the Rajneeshpuram community (Wild Wild Country), among many others. And if true crime, at first, seemed to be an American phenomenon, or at least restricted to the English-speaking world, now more and more crime stories from all over the world are popping up on Netflix at an ever quicker rate. Over the second half of 2021 alone, the platform has included in its catalogue at least six true crime docuseries from countries like Germany, South Korea, Israel, Brazil, and India. Many more are on the way and lots of titles are already available to stream. Here’s a list of seven international true crime shows on Netflix that definitely deserve a watch.
Editor’s note: This article was updated April 2023 to include Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime.
The Great Robbery of Brazil’s Central Bank (2022) (Brazil)
Directed by: Daniel Billio
The 2005 robbery of Brazil’s Central Bank is one of those crimes that became the stuff of legends. About 25 men spent three months digging a tunnel connecting the government agency’s vault to a nearby house they rented and disguised as a synthetic grass company. Over 160 million reais (approximately US$ 60 million, in 2005) were stolen in 50 reais bills. This real-life Money Heist took place in the city of Fortaleza – a name that, ironically, means “fortress”. The case became one of the biggest criminal stories in Brazilian papers at the time and reached international notoriety due not only to the money itself but to the complexity of the whole operation, which involved a 245 ft. long tunnel with its own air-conditioning and telephone systems. In The Great Robbery of Brazil’s Central Bank, this bizarre, attention-grabbing story is told in detail by the people that witnessed the crime and its aftermath first-hand, from police officers to journalists to the robbers themselves. The fast-paced three-part docuseries goes beyond the most eccentric aspects of the crime, presenting both the alluring and the ugly sides of a story that, for many of its characters, didn’t have a happy ending. — Elisa Guimarães
Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime (2021) (Brazil)
Creator: Gustavo Mello
Cast: Elize Matsunaga, Thaís Nunes, Luciano Santoro
True crime documentaries thrive on mystery, speculation, and revelations. Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime sets itself apart by featuring the first interview with the woman whose heinous attack shocked Brazil back in 2012. Along with convicted murderer Elize Matsunaga, the four-episode docuseries includes interviews with Thaís Nunes and Luciano Santoro, exploring the realities of a precarious marriage and the circumstances that ultimately drove Matsunaga to shoot and dismember her wealthy husband. Supported by the benefits of time, reflection, and, of course, evidence, Once Upon a Crime takes audiences along Matsunaga’s journey from childhood to marriage to vicious murder and, ultimately, prison. – Yael Tygiel
Fortune Seller: A TV Scam (2022) (Italy)
Directed by: Nicola Prosatore, Alessandro Garramone
Infomercial queens turned con artists? That’s right. Fortune Seller: A TV Scam follows Wanna Marchi and Stefania Nobile, two women who became famous in Italy in the 80s for selling everything from weight loss creams to lucky numbers. However, their kingdom falls after they’re convicted of committing aggravated fraud. The series offers interviews with Marchi and Nobile as well as various journalists and even people scammed by them. The results? A scandalous, addictive docuseries. – Taylor Gates
Under Suspicion: Uncovering the Wesphael Case (2021) (Belgium)
Directed by: Alain Brunard
Political scandals are nothing new, but when murder is involved, things get cranked up to a whole new level. That’s why this Belgian series – which centers around Bernard Wesphael, who was accused and later acquitted of murdering his wife Veronique Pirotton in a hotel room – is so intriguing. In addition to the complex story of her death, Wesphael’s status made this a particularly high-profile case surrounded by an intense media frenzy. If you’re one of the millions of people who got hooked on The Staircase, make this your next watch. – Taylor Gates
Carmel: Who Killed María Marta? (2020) (Argentina)
Directed by: Alejandro Hartmann
The death of sociologist María Marta García Belsunce de Carrascosa shook Argentina in 2002. María Marta came from a rich family, well-known in the high society of Buenos Aires, and married into even more wealth with stock broker Carlos Carrascosa, who found her dead on the bathroom floor in their house in Carmel Country Club, a gated community near the Argentinian capital. What was at first reported as a domestic accident – María Marta had tripped in the bathroom and hit her head on the sink – began to raise suspicion among some of the victim’s friends as well as a couple of police officers and prosecutor Diego Molina Pico. After exhuming the body, it was discovered that María Marta had five bullets still in her head, and a mark that suggested that a sixth one had grazed her skull. What transpired next was a series of accusations regarding who was where, who called the emergency services, who touched the body and who didn’t. In the end, Carrascosa was taken to trial for the murder of his wife, and six other people – two of which were María Marta’s brothers – were charged with helping cover-up the crime. The family never believed the prosecution’s hypothesis, and Carrascosa was eventually absolved, but, up to this day, no one knows what happened in that bathroom – at least, not officially. Alejandro Hartmann’s Carmel: Who Killed María Marta? tells this deceivingly simple story, full of twists and turns, in an incredibly interesting way, that leaves viewers just as confused as they are enthralled. Only four episodes long, the docuseries uses its runtime wisely in telling us all there is to know about the death of María Marta.
A Sinister Sect: Colonia Dignidad (2021) (Germany/Chile)
Directed by: Wilfried Huismann, Annette Baumeister
A Sinister Sect: Colonia Dignidad walks the fine line between true crime and historical documentary. The six-episode long German production tells the story of the Colonia Dignidad, a particularly chilling chapter in the book of horrors that was the Chilean military dictatorship (1973-1990), and one that has received its fair share of media attention, having been the subject of a 2015 thriller starring Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl titled Colonia. Founded by former German military member Paul Schäfer, the Colonia gathered numerous German immigrants that believed they were in for a life of Christian devotion and communal happiness. However, Schäfer soon revealed himself to be a cult leader with an iron fist who sexually abused young boys and offered the commune’s facilities as torture chambers for the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. With previously unseen footage of life inside the compound and interviews with former colonists, torture survivors, and members of Pinochet’s forces, A Sinister Sect paints a comprehensive portrait of the Colonia Dignidad, as well as of one of the most traumatic periods of Latin American history.
John of God: The Crimes of a Spiritual Healer (2021) (Brazil)
Directed by: Tatiana Villela, Maurício Dias
We’re once again in cult territory with the story of Brazilian spiritual leader João Teixeira de Faria, known as John of God. A medium of international recognition – he was even featured on an episode of Oprah– John of God claimed to cure millions of people afflicted by either physical or spiritual maladies in his compound in Abadiânia, in central-west Brazil. But everything changed in 2018, when four women came forth accusing the healer of sexually assaulting them on various occasions under the guise of spiritual treatment. Their testimonies paved the way for hundreds of others, each more harrowing than the last. Some of these women’s stories are told in Maurício Dias and Tatiana Villela’s four-episode long docuseries John of God: The Crimes of a Spiritual Healer. Besides interviews with the victims, the show offers viewers an exploration of the socio-economic circumstances that led to Faria’s rise as a prominent figure, guaranteeing him a place of adoration in the eyes of both his followers and the people of Abadiânia even after his downfall. The documentary goes deep in its investigation and can sometimes feel a little heavy, but it sure is a must-watch for anyone that wishes to understand how people’s faith can be used to manipulate and silence them.
The Alcàsser Murders (2019) (Spain)
Directed by: Elías León
On November 13, 1992, Miriam García, Toñi Gómez, and Desirée Hernández, three teenage girls from Alcàsser, Spain, disappeared on their way to a nightclub in the nearby town of Picassent. Their bodies were found in January of the following year, buried in a field by an abandoned house. Evidence pointed to two men, Antonio Anglés and Miguel Ricart, who were accused of raping and murdering the girls after offering them a ride. It’s one of those crimes that sounds terrifyingly ordinary; however, there are a couple of elements that set it apart from others like it: the series of mistakes made by the police, culminating in Anglés fleeing the country before his arrest, and the media circus that was built around the case. In this docuseries, directors Ramón Campos and Elías León Siminani retell the story of the Alcàsser murders with a special focus on the news coverage of the crime, which broke all the rules of journalistic ethics. One figure in particular stands out as the most egregious of all: criminologist and true crime author Juan Ignacio Blanco, who led Miriam’s father, Fernando, down a spiral of denial and conspiracy, convincing him that the girls had been killed at the behest of cabal of rich, powerful men.
Who Killed Little Grégory? (2019) (France)
Directed by: Ibrahim Hamdan, Gilles Marchand
Much like in the María Marta affair, no one officially knows what happened that led 4-year-old Grégory Villemin to his death, but what hangs in the air is the clear sensation that a lot of people know a lot more than they are willing to share. In 1984, little Grégory was found dead in a river at his hometown of Lépanges-sur-Vologne, France, with his hands and feet bound and a cap covering his face. The cause of death was drowning. Due to the young age of the victim, the parents’ social status, and the bizarre events that preceded the murder, the case has received a lot of media attention in the decades that followed it. It is believed that Grégory was taken by a mysterious person known only as “Le Courbeau,” or “The Raven,” that had been harrassing the Villemin family for over three years. However, attempts to uncover the true identity of this figure proved fruitless, and even the family was reluctant to tell the police what they knew. Gilles Marchand’s Who Killed Little Grégory? dives deep into the investigation, the media circus, and the social impact of the murder, including the jarring sexism the boy’s mother, Christine, was subjected to in the eyes of the public.
The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea (2021) (South Korea)
Directed by: Rob Sixsmith
In The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea, John Choi and Rob Sixsmith interview men and women that played crucial roles in the case that led to a reform of the Korean police. In the early 2000s, South Korea was coming out of a financial crisis that drove many to unemployment and poverty, and undid social ties. It was in this scenario that Yoo Young-chul began committing his crimes. At first, his victims were wealthy senior citizens bludgeoned to death in their homes, but he soon changed to sex workers he invited over to his apartment, where they were killed and mutilated. With little experience with serial killers, let alone serial killers that changed M.O.s seemingly out of the blue, the Korean police took a long time to figure out the crimes were connected. The fact that many of Yoo Young-chul’s victims were disenfranchised sex workers sure didn’t help. Over the course of three episodes, The Raincoat Killer presents us with what can only be described as a series of terrible mistakes made by the Korean police, from letting a suspect escape barefoot out the front door to kicking a victim’s mother. It’s a disheartening spectacle that ends on a somewhat positive note, indicating that Yoo Young-chul’s case might have at least served to show the Korean police what they were doing wrong.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths (2021) (India)
Directed by: Leena Yadav
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths shines a light on the strange death of the Chundawat family, in Burari, India, in 2018. Directed by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra, the series explores the investigation, the media coverage, and the impact the case had on those closest to the family. The crime itself is as chilling as it gets: 11 members of a three generational, middle-class family are found dead in their home, almost all of them hanging from the ceiling. While some were quick to rule the case as a mass-suicide, others suspected foul play since the bodies had their hands bound and their eyes covered. Furthermore, neighbors, friends, and relatives alike reported that the Chundawat were a happy, well-functioning family that had just celebrated the engagement of one of their daughters. The investigation, however, revealed a truth far more complex than anyone could have imagined: after the death of the patriarch, Bhopal Singh, in 2007, the Chundawat family began to function as its own little cult. The leader was Lalit, Bhopal’s youngest son, who claimed to be able to channel his father’s spirit. Only three episodes long, House of Secrets captures viewers’ with a gruesome tale, but quickly evolves into a discussion about Indian patriarchy, mass delusion, and, most of all, the true costs of stigmatizing mental illness.
https://collider.com/international-true-crime-docuseries-on-netflix/ Best International True Crime Docuseries to Watch on Netflix (April 2023)