10 Must See Adaptations of True Crime Stories

Have you seen any of these shows or movies?

True crime is so impactful that sometimes it makes it’s way into Hollywood. Many of the most infamous true crime stories in history have been adapted for both the big and silver screens—often going on to win major awards. We’ve narrowed down the top 10 must see adaptations of true crime stories, take a peek at our picks and let us know your favorite TV show or film from this list in the comments below.

“The Act” 2019

This Hulu miniseries is based on the story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard (portrayed by Joey King) and her mother Dee Dee Blanchard (portrayed by Patrica Arquette). The story follows the events surrounding Dee Dee’s murder, notably her abuse against Gypsy Rose through fake illnesses and disabilities brought on by Factitious disorder imposed on another (also known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy). This series earned Patricia Arquette an Emmy and Golden Globe award in the supporting actress categories, with Joey King earning nominations in the leading actress categories.

“Monster” 2003

This film is based on the story of Aileen Wuornos, one of the most famous female serial killers in true crime history. The film follows Wuornos, a former street prostitute, as she robs and murders seven of her clients from 1989 to 1990. Charlize Theron portrays Wuornos in the film, earning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. This film received plenty of hype upon it’s release in 2003, as it came out a year after Wuornos was executed.

“My Friend Dahmer” 2017

Based on the 2012 graphic novel of the same name by cartoonist John “Derf” Backderf, this film tells the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer as a high school student before beginning his killing spree in 1978. The film showcases Dahmer’s early interest in bones and dead animals, which later evolved into him becoming a serial killer. The film stars Ross Lynch, a former Disney Channel star, as Dahmer and Alex Wolff as Backderf.

“Zodiac” 2007

This thriller is based on the 1986 non-fiction book of the same name by Robert Graysmith about the unsolved serial murders committed by the Zodiac killer. The film follows the crimes of the unknown killer and the attacks presented against the San Francisco police, with Mark Ruffalo playing Inspector Dave Toschi, Jake Gyllenhaal playing Graysmith and Robert Downey Jr. playing journalist Paul Avery.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” 2018

In the second season of Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story,” the limited series follows the murder of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace (played by actor Édgar Ramírez) by spree killer Andrew Cunanan (played by actor Darren Criss). The nine-episode series is based on the book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History” by Maureen Orth and earned three Primetime Emmy Awards. The series features a number of famous faces, with actor Ricky Martin portraying Versace’s partner Antonio D’Amico and Penélope Cruz portraying Donatella Versace.

“When They See Us” 2019

This four-part mini-series was directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix and follows the story of the 1989 Central Park Jogger Case. The show explores the stories of the five black men who were falsely accused of and later prosecuted for assaulting and raping a white woman in New York City. The series was nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy Awards and was followed by a Netflix special titled “Oprah Winfrey Presents When They See Us Now,” featuring interviews with DuVernay, the cast and the exonerated five.

“Unbelievable” 2019

This Netflix miniseries is a dramatization of the 2008-2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases. Actor Kaitlyn Dever portrays the first victim, Marie, an 18-year-old whom the police did not believe and charged with lying about being raped. The show takes inspiration from a 2015 article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” which earned a Pulitzer Prize. Actors Toni Collette and Merritt Wever portray the two detectives (inspired by real detectives) who eventually figure out the truth of this case.

“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” 1986

This horror film is loosely based on real life serial killers, Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. Lucas began his crime spree in 1963 and in 1983, had three confirmed victims, eight disputed victims and hundreds of claimed victims. Lucas and Toole became infamous for admitting to more than 100 murders to the Texas Rangers while in prison.

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” 2019

This film portrays the life of serial killer Ted Bundy (played by Zac Efron). The film is based on the memoir, “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy,” by Elizabeth Kendall, Bundy’s former girlfriend (played by Lily Collins). A number of other actors give compelling performances throughout this film, including Kaya Scodelario as Bundy’s wife Carole Ann Boone, Jim Parsons as the Florida prosecuting attorney Larry Simpson and John Malkovich as the presiding judge Edward Cowart.

“Mindhunter” 2017-2019

This Netflix series is based on the non-fiction crime book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” by retired FBI agent John E. Douglas and his co-author Mark Olshaker. The first season of the show follows the interviews of serial killer Ed Kemper (played by Cameron Britton), who helps the special agents to understand the mind of a serial killer. Kemper was an active serial killer between 1964 and 1973, known for his height of 6 feet 9 inches and his high intellect. The first season also features depictions of other real serial killers, including Montie Rissell, Jerry Brudos, Richard Speck and Dennis Rader. The second season of the show is based on the case of Wayne Williams, a serial killer who was convicted for killing two men but believed to have been behind the infamous Atlanta Child Murders that occurred between 1979 and 1981. Actor Christopher Livingston portrayed Williams in the show, with other famous killers Charles Manson, David Berkowitz, William Pierce Jr. and Elmer Wayne Henley depicted as well.