7. The Paradise Lost Trilogy
The case: In 1993, three 8 year-old boys were killed in West Memphis, Arkansas, in what was originally considered to be a case of Satanic ritual murder. Three teenagers — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — were tried for the crimes, and eventually convicted, largely on the strength of a confession from Misskelley (obtained after 12 hours of questioning, and later recanted) and a number of rumors about the teenagers’ involvement with the occult. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison, and Echols to death; the trilogy of films follows the original trials, subsequent appeals (along with widespread public doubt as to the guilt of the West Memphis Three, as they came to be known), and the inmates’ 2011 release.
8. Into The Abyss
The case: Written and directed by Werner Herzog, the film follows Michael Perry, a death row inmate convicted of murdering a nurse, and strongly suspect of having killed two other people in Conroe, Texas. The triple homicide was thought to have been done in service of stealing a car for a joyride. The film interviews Perry, along with victims’ families and law enforcement, in the weeks before his 2010 execution.
9. Dear Zachary
The case: After the murder of Andrew Bagby — allegedly at the hands of his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner, whom he’d just broken up with — his friend, Kurt Kuenne, the film’s creator, learned that Turner was pregnant with her and Bagby’s son. Originally intended as a “cinematic scrapbook” of memories of Bagby, intended for his son, the film becomes a more traditional true-crime documentary as the events surrounding Turner’s arrest take a tragic turn.