Truth is scarier than fiction: 10 true crime movies to watch this Halloween

Truth is scarier than fiction: 10 true crime movies to watch this Halloween

As the saying goes, “truth is stranger than fiction,” and, in some cases, it can be more terrifying. With Halloween just around the corner, lots of people are gearing up to watch their favorite slasher or monster movies. But what if that killer was actually living next door? Or worse — under your roof? Whether you’re looking for a new Halloween tradition, or maybe you’re just not a fan of supernatural horror, here are 10 bone-chilling, true crime movies and documentaries to check out this October.

1. Scream

There’s no question — Scream is, and always will be, a horror movie classic. But did you know that the film is actually inspired by real events? In 1990, the serial killer known as the Gainesville Ripper terrorized Gainesville, Florida killing five students over the course of a few days. In total, he killed eight people. So, if you’re looking for another reason to put down your phone, check out Scream this Halloween.

2. ‘Lost Girls

Lost Girls is a dramatized version of one of the nation’s most famous, unsolved murders — the case of the Long Island Serial Killer. In 2010, multiple young female sex workers went missing, including a girl named Shannan Gilbert. When Gilbert disappeared, her mother, Mari, went to the cops. But law enforcement wouldn’t investigate, alleging that Gilbert would likely turn up. Mari refused to let the police ignore it. Her urging led them to find several bodies of missing sex workers, alluding to the fact that, in this wealthy neighborhood, there might be a serial killer preying on young women.

3. ‘Abducted in Plain Sight

Content Warning: This documentary depicts a story of sexual abuse.

Abducted in Plain Sight tells the horrifying true story of how an unsuspecting family fell victim to a close friend. In the 1970s, the Broberg family befriended their neighbor, Bob Berchtold, who took a liking to their oldest daughter, Jan. One day, Berchtold told Jan’s mother that he wanted to take Jan horseback riding, and they disappeared for several days. What happens in the months and years that followed is as horrifying as it is mystifying.

4. ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a docudrama thriller that asks the question — what if the monster lives within us? Based on the real-life events that took place at Stanford University in 1971, this movie tells the story of Professor Philip Zambardo, who paid several students to participate in his cutting-edge experiment. Each student was randomly selected to play a guard or prisoner in a simulated on-campus prison. However, soon after the experiment began, the students quickly became immersed in their roles, and what followed is both shocking and grim.

5. ‘The Cheshire Murders

There’s nothing more frightening than a true-crime home invasion. But imagine if someone broke into your house, you called 9-1-1, and then the cops failed to act? In 2007, in a quiet suburban town in Connecticut, two men invaded the home of an unsuspecting family and brutally murdered three of the four family members, leaving their neighbors terrified and demanding answers. The Cheshire Murders is a documentary that details one of the nation’s infamous and horrific true crime cases and reveals that, at many stages, this is a crime that tragically could have been prevented.

6. Badlands’

What happens when you fall in love with someone, only to discover that that person is a sociopath? Badlands is a classic movie about a love story gone terribly wrong. Written and directed by Terrence Malick, this story is based on the true crime killing spree of Charles Starkweather and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. This riveting movie warns us all — be careful who you fall for.

7. ‘Zodiac

Zodiac is a thriller that’s based on the manhunt for the Zodiac Killer that occurred in the 1960s and ’70s in the San Francisco Bay Area. This psychological thriller is not for the faint of heart, as David Fincher is both brutal and unflinching in his depiction of these horrific and seemingly random slayings. In addition, what makes this particular case so chilling is that it remains unsolved — the killer was never caught. If that doesn’t leave you sleepless, we’re not sure what will.

8. Monster

Monster depicts the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute in Florida who killed seven of her clients in 1989 and 1990. This unyielding film shines a light on the horrors that are inflicted upon women and how trauma and violence can create a monster in an otherwise harmless person. This one can be a difficult watch, but Charlize Theron’s masterful performance definitely makes it worth it.  

9. ‘Beware the Slenderman

This HBO documentary tells the disturbing tale of how two 12-year-old girls shockingly became murderers. After reading about the online urban legend, The Slenderman, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier plotted for months to lure their friend, Peyton “Bella” Leutner, to the woods and proceeded to brutally stab her, in the hopes that they would become servants of The Slenderman. This is a haunting documentary that will leave everyone shaken and parents everywhere updating their online parental controls.

10. ‘My Friend Dahmer

For centuries, people have wondered — what exactly creates a monster? That’s the question that’s posed in the film My Friend Dahmer, a chilling drama that takes a look at one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer. In a strange take on a coming-of-age story, the movie depicts Dahmer’s senior year of high school from the point of view of one of his real-life classmates. What makes this movie particularly unsettling is how Dahmer’s character is handled with a great deal of empathy — Or at least as much empathy as you can have for someone that we all know became the “Milwaukee Monster.”

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