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Man is indeed the cruelest animal, and a blind scroll will reveal any number of serial killer movies on Netflix that explore the evil humanity suppresses or projects.
If you’re a fan of subjecting yourself to films about deranged killers, complicated sociopaths, and everyday evil—and contributing to a nice bout of insomnia—here are serial killer movies on Netflix and shows you can stream right now.
The best serial killer movies and TV shows on Netflix
1) Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer
This film by documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield is a bookend to his 1992 film, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, which explored the corruption running through the trial of one of Florida’s most infamous serial killers. A decade later, Broomfield returned to Florida, called as a witness before her execution. Perhaps inadvertently, he becomes a character in his own film, and the cast of supporting characters surrounding the trial is quintessentially Florida. His interactions with “Dr. Legal,” aka Stephen Glazer, Wuornos’ one-time, cable-access–famous lawyer, are the film’s comedic relief. Wuornos was also on death row at the time of filming (she died by lethal injection in 2002), and Broomfield is able to extract her come-to-Jesus monologues, though they do little to illuminate who Wuornos truly was.
Michael C. Hall stars as the serial killer you want to cheer for. Dexter Morgan is a blood-splatter analyst working for Miami police who moonlights as a serial killer, personally taking down criminals who managed to escape the law. Later seasons of this Showtime series get a little aimless, but the first half is solid drama—and a little comedy. (And a lot of blood.)
3) It Follows
David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 film plays on an idea that could have unending sequels: A curse is transmitted through sexual intercourse, and once you have it, the curse follows you until you pass it on to someone else. In It Follows, a young girl named Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers this terrible premise and starts to investigate what exactly “It” is. The cinematography allows for scenes to feel at once innocent and suffocating, and the minor-key soundtrack adds a layer of dread.
4) The Fall
This is a Netflix original series, but it certainly unfolds like a movie. Jamie Dornan stars as Paul Spector—family man by day, a serial killer with very distinct tastes by night. Gillian Anderson melts the screen as steely detective Stella Gibson. In season 1, Gibson and Spector perform a very delicate dance of cat and mouse. In season 2, Gibson locks in on Spector’s fetishistic tendencies, but she also leaves herself vulnerable and has no problem expressing herself as a sexual being. Anderson’s character is one of the most interesting and complex on TV right now, and it’s refreshing that the female characters on The Fall are more than just plot-advancers for the men.
Netflix’s David Fincher-produced Mindhunter takes viewers into the depraved minds of history’s most notorious killers. Set in 1977, the series follows FBI agent Ford Holden through his groundbreaking research. The true crime series tackles a difficult question: Are criminals born, or are they formed? And the answers aren’t easy. But the real-life serial killers featured in the show make for helpful, transfixing interview subjects. With strong dialogue and cinematography, it’s a clinical series that’s already been renewed for season 2. —Danielle Ransom
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This film takes the oversaturated found footage genre and adds a little improvisation. An aspiring videographer named Aaron (Patrick Brice, who also directs) answers an ad to film a man named Josef (Mark Duplass), who lives in a remote house in the woods and says he’s dying of cancer. Josef seems like a normal, affable guy, but then he puts on wolf mask and a series of manipulations begins. If you’re not a fan of the jump-scare, this film will be pretty unnerving; however, it’s employed so much it almost becomes comical. As we see at the end, Aaron wasn’t the first to answer Josef’s call.
7) I Am Not a Serial Killer
What drives someone to kill? What makes them into a serial murderer? And if you think like a killer, does that mean it’s easier to track one down? Director Billy O’Brien’s thriller asks a lot of questions about the nature of the psychopath, as teen John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) attempts to suss out whether his neighbor (Christopher Lloyd) is a serial killer. His curiosity is a bit more morbid than other teens, however, having been raised in a funeral home and all.
8) The Confessions of Thomas Quick
Sture Bergwall was at one time Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, and while in a psychiatric institution, Bergwall’s other persona, Thomas Quick, gleefully recounted the terrible details of the murders. Bergwall was convicted of eight murders, but it took two decades (and one documentary filmmaker) for the big reveal: He’d made it all up. The reenactments leave much to be desired, but the interviews with Bergwall/Quick are chilling. This is the original Making a Murderer.
This true crime series from producers Tom Adams and Ned Parker takes a look at capital punishment by talking directly to death row inmates, though each episode just scratches the surface.
This Netflix original series presents us with a boy named James, who is pretty sure he’s a psychopath. He’s already murdered animals, and now he’s ready to pivot to humans. But when he meets classmate Alyssa and decides she’ll be his first victim, he gets more than he bargained for. The two embark on a road trip, which inadvertently becomes a death trip, and the series deftly balances dark comedy with genuine emotion.
11) The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Only one season of this Lifetimes series exists, but what a campy ride it is. Christina Ricci plays Lizzie Borden, the historical figure tried and acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax. Ricci plays her as no-nonsense, and the series picks up after her acquittal, showing that maybe Lizzie’s not so innocent.
Hush is an hour-long cuticle-ripper. The 2016 film follows Maddie (screenplay co-writer Kate Siegel), a deaf and mute author living in a secluded cabin in the woods. And there’s a killer on the loose, wearing a creepy white mask. This premise might sound awfully well-tread, but Hush upends the typical home-invasion thriller by letting us see the threat (The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr.) unmasked, forcing the tension to build as Maddie finds different ways to thwart his murderous advances. By immersing us in Maddie’s silent world, the tension is even more palpable, and the fact that she’s a writer of fiction allows the film to expand in some inventive directions, even as her fate remains unsure.
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13) Super Dark Times
When you’re a teen, a lot of things can come between you and your friends. In Kevin Phillips’s 2017 film, Super Dark Times, it’s one big, sharp thing. There’s an accidental murder and a panicked cover-up, but the film also zooms out to explore how the town you grew up in, and the experiences you have there, can shape you into someone you don’t recognize.
Though not quite as flawless as David Fincher’s true-crime masterpiece Zodiac, Se7en is still a major work in the thriller genre from the closest thing this generation has to Hitchcock. The script, from Andrew Kevin Walker, is a perfect execution of a brilliant premise. As Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman attempt to track a killer who’s selecting his victims based on the seven deadly sins, Fincher tightens the screws more and more, before everything explodes in the movie’s unforgettable climax. —Chris Osterndorf
15) Evil Genius
In August 2003, pizza delivery driver Brian Wells robbed a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania, with a bomb strapped to his neck. He didn’t get far: Wells died after the bomb exploded, his agonizing last minutes caught on police dash cams. The mind-boggling crime, also known as the collar bomb heist and the pizza bomber, is the starting point for Netflix’s Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist. Before we’re taken through the truly bizarre events of that day, we’re introduced to Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a longtime Erie resident who, we’re told, had a difficult childhood and later developed mental illness. Any further analysis will have to wait, though. The four-part series, produced by the Duplass brothers and directed by Barbara Schroeder, devotes its first episode to Wells, who was supposed to be sent on a macabre scavenger hunt after robbing the bank. A stoic coroner explains that they had to decapitate Wells (in a “caring way”) in order to get the clunky bomb off, something his family was not happy about. He’s painted as a quiet man who happened to get involved with some bad elements, but over four episodes that focus gets softer.
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.