Andrew Garfield in “Under the Banner of Heaven.” | Elle Fanning in “The Girl from Plainville.” | Source: YouTube/FX Networks | YouTube/Hulu
For years now, true crime television has gone beyond mere visual documentation and has entered the realm of cinematic dramatization. Among the more recent additions to this genre is the mini-series “Love & Death,” about a love affair gone horrifically wrong.
“Love & Death” premiered in early 2023. The Netflix biographical mini-series takes viewers back to the late 1970s and ’80s in a small town in Texas. It follows the story of two couples leading seemingly fulfilling lives.
Candy and Pat Montgomery are raising a family, are active in their community, and are committed to their faith, as are their neighbors, Allan and Betty Gore. However, while Candy appears happy, she has a nagging desire for more.
Then enters Allan, accidentally knocking her over and gently helping her up at her church volleyball game. Candy secretly courts her neighbor’s husband, who is initially reluctant but eventually surrenders.
Allan and Candy’s affair ensues, and as one review described it, “It’s moving, but also stressful, to watch their intimacy grow.” From the beginning, they agreed their relationship was only for pleasure. However, things grow complicated when they develop feelings for one another.
And more so when Betty dies with Candy standing trial for her murder. “Love & Death” is a retelling of an already dramatized crime case in Hulu’s “Candy.” David E. Kelley adds his spin with “Love & Death.”
Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons as the unfaithful spouses, the show is considered his best after “Big Little Lies.” And it’s only one of many equally gripping televised true-crime stories. Find a curated list to get started below.
‘The Staircase’ (2022)
An HBO Max original, “The Staircase,” is a limited series following the story of a crime novelist accused of murdering his wife. Michael Peterson stands trial for 16 years, fighting to prove his innocence after his wife, Kathleen, is found dead at the bottom of their staircase.
A near-perfect life for the couple and their kids crumbles as the mystery unravels. “The Staircase” is led by a star-studded cast, with Colin Firth playing Michael Peterson. The actor shares the screen with Toni Collette, Dane DeHaan, and Sophia Turner.
‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ (2022)
“Under the Banner of Heaven” follows the fictional character, Jeb Pyre, a detective and follower of the LDS Fundamentalist faith, investigating the murder of Brenda and her baby, Erica. Although Jeb Pyre wasn’t part of Brenda and Erica’s story, their deaths are real-life events.
‘A Friend of the Family’ (2022)
“A Friend of the Family” tells the tale of the Brobergs, whose daughter, Jan, is kidnapped by a family friend twice in the 1970s. Robert “B” Berchtold is the titular friend whose eerie obsession with little Jan gradually becomes evident as the story continues.
Although his relationship with her is central to the retelling of this true crime, other surrounding convoluted mysteries are unearthed. The limited series starred Emmy-nominated actress McKenna Grace, with Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin.
‘The Girl from Plainville’ (2022)
“The Girl from Plainville” sees Elle Fanning transform into Michelle Carter, portraying the teenage girl of the “texting suicide case.” Michelle Carter was romantically involved with a boy named Conrad Roy III, who died by suicide.
However, as the events leading to Conrad’s death are investigated, authorities find reason to believe that Michelle is guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Fanning leads this thriller alongside Colton Ryan, Cara Buono, and Chloë Sevigny.
‘Black Bird’ (2022)
“Black Bird” tells the fear-arousing story of Jimmy Keene, a young man sentenced to ten years in prison who gets a second chance, but at a cost. Jimmy begins serving his time at a low-security prison, but authorities approach him with an offer for freedom.
They task him with befriending a serial murderer and rapist to elicit a confession of his crimes. While telling a true story, the series explores a disturbingly dark corner of the human psyche. It stars “Kingsman: The Secret Service” star Taron Egerton with Paul Walter Hauser.
‘The Serpent’ (2021)
Moving away from the West, “The Serpent” follows Charles Sobhraj, a conman and serial killer whose murderous spree stretched across the Southeast Asian Hippie Trail. His crimes began in the 1970s.
Tahar Rahim plays Charles in this winding series, with Jenna Coleman portraying his lover, Marie-Andrée Leclerc. The couple leads a luxurious life that comes crashing down when the Dutch Embassy begins sniffing their trail.
Another acclaimed true crime series, “Landscapers,” puts a comedic twist to an otherwise heartbreaking story. It follows Susan and Christopher Edwards, apprehended when the bodies of Susan’s parents are exhumed in the dead couple’s backyard.
The corpses are recovered after 15 years of concealment and running for a seemingly harmless old couple. Yet, in the face of being found out, the lovebirds are determined to “stick to the plan.” The show stars award-winning actors David Thewlis and Olivia Colman as the mild-mannered Susan and Christopher.
‘Delhi Crime’ (2019–)
A Netflix crime drama series based on the Nirbhaya case from the Dehli Police files, “Dehli Crime,” begins with the search for a group of six men that ensued after they sexually assaulted Jyoti Singh Pandey, a medical student in her early 20s, in 2012.
Nirbhaya means “fearless” and was an alias given to Pandey to protect her identity. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive the heinous crime she suffered, but her family fought for her justice and for her name to be known.
Set in the 1970s, once again, “Mindhunter” sees two FBI agents determined to enter and understand the minds of the most notorious criminals because, as one of them justifies, “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”
Much like Jeb Pyre from “Under the Banner of Heaven,” these leading officers, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), are fictional characters. Be that as it may, the story they drive is based on the life of one of the first criminal profilers, John E. Douglas.
‘A Very English Scandal’ (2018)
A true crime story that doesn’t end in a tragic death, and like “Landscapers,” adds a comedic twist, “A Very English Scandal” takes viewers back to late 1970s England, where British Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe is charged with conspiring to kill his gay lover.
The politician became romantically involved with a young model when being gay was considered illegal. As the affair and his crime threatened his marriage, reputation, and career, he resorted to extremes. Hugh Grant stars as Thorpe, and Ben Wishaw portrays his lover.