Top 20 Crime / Prison / Drugs Documentaries of the 2010s (2010-2014)

This list brings together the best crime documentaries of the decade so far (2010-2014). War, political and economical documentaries are not included because soon, they will receive lists devoted entirely to themselves. This list deals with crime, drugs & prison documentaries. Let me know if I missed one.


Crime documentaries to watch out for in 2014 & 2015

First let’s go over documentaries that are about to be released in 2014 & 2015. You can find the 2010-2014 list below.

The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014)


A surviving Indonesian family saw Oppenheimer’s Act of Killing (see below) which covered the dead of one of the members. The youngest brother confronts the men responsible for his older brother’s murder. This sequel is hailed as important as its first part which already was a masterpiece.


Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (Joe Berlinger, 2014)

The feature reveals the ruling corruption at the highest levels of law enforcement.


Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, 2014)

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Filmmaker Broomfield takes the initiative to investigate a Los Angeles serial murder case that has been deferred because of lack of evidence.


Happy Valley (Amir Bar-Lev, 2014)


After forty successful years, the praised football coach Joe Paterno gets blamed for numerous child abuses.


The Staircase 2: The Last Chance (Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, 2012)

Although 2012, I did not manage to see this interesting one yet. It is the second chapter in Jean-Xavier de Lestrade fascinating, unbelievable Staircase project about the presumably innocent Michael Peterson whose wife was attacked by a bird inside the house.


Top 20 documentaries about crime, prison life & drugs of the 2010’s

21. The Two Escobars (Michael Zimbalist, 2010)

Andrés en Pablo have the same last name, Escobar, but that is not the only thing they have in common. This ESPN “30 for 30” documentary tells the convening story lines of drug lord Pablo and soccer star Andrés.


20. Napoli, Napoli, Napoli (Abel Ferrara, 2009)


It is probably not new to you but Napoli is full of mafia. Critically acclaimed Italian director Abel Ferrara interviewed some locals. Their testimonies describe a brutal truth.


19. The Central Park Five (Sarah Burns, 2012)

Again, some teenagers being wrongfully accused. After hours of tiresome interrogations, a lot of people seem to sign just anything to get some fresh air, which causes years of useless trials and undeserved prison time.


18. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Alex Gibney, 2012)


A documentary that shows you the facts about pedophilia in the church, and how the church sees fit to deal with these issues. Silence in the House of God stays anything but quiet.

17. The Interrupters (Steve James, 2011)

Former gang members come out of prison and try to help fighting violence in the neighborhood.


16. June 17th, 1994 (Brett Morgen, 2010)

The director of The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) about New Hollywood producer Robert Evans and Crossfire Hurricane (2012) about superband the Rolling Stones, made a summary of happenings on the 17th of June 1994. He compiled events of a day in the life of American sports and heroes for ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentaries. That day, among finals of many sport disciplines, O.J. Simpson, former African American football hero and actor, was literally chased by the authorities for killing his wife and lover. The pursuit (on the highway), arrest and trial were among the most widely publicized events in American history. Millions were watching and some even supporting Simpson. A giant leap for Reality TV.


15. Hot Coffee (Susan Saladoff, 2011)


An old lady gets a cup of coffee at a McDonalds, drops it in her lap, gets third degree-burns. Who is to blame here? This film is about suing companies and their power over/above justice.


14. L’ image manquante [The Missing Picture] (Rithy Panh, 2013)


What happens when nobody recorded any images of an event in history or they get lost? Nobody seem to remember or care about it. L’image manquante tries to fix that problem with clay and succeeds in giving a sad and moving testimony of terrible happenings when communist dictator Pol Pot came to power in Cambodia in the seventies.


13. The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)


Catch him if you can, this crazy guy, Frédéric Bourdin, pretends he is a missing kid and gets accepted into an American family. He fooled them completely and he already did it before. Unbelievable story of a master impostor.


12. Let the Fire Burn (2013)


Shocking documentary about the bombing of the religious ‘MOVE’ community in 1985. The police force bringing a little bit of Vietnam into Philadelphia. Features immensely apathetic, intolerant and racist behavior.


11. Uprising: Hip Hop & the LA Riots (Mark Ford, 2012)

In 1991, African American Rodney King gets abused physically by white police officers. Rappers like Ice Cube and his buddies from N.W.A. have put their rage into their songs. After the acquittal of those policemen in 1992, something snapped in the African American soul. Snoop Dogg guides us through this violent uprising in Los Angeles with the influence of hip hop in mind.


Top 10 on the next page…