10 Best Shows & Documentaries Like The Staircase (2022)

Best Shows & Documentaries Like The Staircase (2022)

In only a week or so, true crime fans will rejoice when the new HBO Max Original TV series, The Staircase, premieres on the platform. Starring Colin Firth and Toni Colette, the series will explore the story of Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, in a brutal fashion, while he claimed his innocence, saying she fell down a narrow staircase.

The case enthralled the public for almost two decades, with many believing Michael was guilty while others believed his innocence. I’m super excited to see in which direction the show will go. Until it arrives, though, I strongly advise you to check out some stuff from this list. Here’s an unranked list of the ten best TV shows and documentaries like The Staircase.

The Staircase (2004-2018)

staircase the staircase

Type: Documentary Series (Netflix Original)

Synopsis: “Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, presents a gripping courtroom thriller, offering a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial. In 2001, author Michael Peterson was arraigned for the murder of his wife Kathleen, whose body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their home. 

Granted unusual access to Peterson’s lawyers, home and immediate family, de Lestrade’s cameras capture the defense team as it considers its strategic options. “The staircase” is an engrossing look at contemporary American justice that features more twists than a legal bestseller.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: Obviously, this documentary series gives you an in-depth look at the case that HBO’s TV series is based upon. If you’re interested in the Colin Firth-led show but don’t know much about the case, I suggest you should watch The Staircase Documentary Series first.

There are so many twists to this case that it’s almost impossible to definitively say Michael Peterson is guilty or not. Like, almost the same type of accident already happened to a woman Michael was close to in the past and then adopted her children. There was so much blood in Kathleen’s case and so many lacerations that it’s almost impossible she just fell.

I have to admit, I’ve done some digging about the case after I watched the documentary, and it was clear that they were biased towards Michael’s side of the story. Some key pieces of evidence that ultimately led to his conviction were left out, but I won’t spoil the fun – check it out yourself!

The Girl From Plainville (2022)

staircase the girl from plainville

Type: TV Mini-Series (Hulu Original)

Synopsis: “Inspired by the true story of Michelle Carter’s unprecedented “texting-suicide” case. Explores Carter’s relationship with Conrad Roy III and the events that led to his death and, later, her conviction of involuntary manslaughter.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: The Girl From Plainville is a live-action TV series based on a suicide case – or, as the court ruled, involuntary manslaughter – that shocked the world. Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III were teenagers who had a texting/phone relationship that spiraled out of control.

They met live only once or twice, but both were very adamant about their love for one another. However, both Michelle and Conrad were mentally unstable. Roy was in deep depression and eventually decided to kill himself – which Michelle encouraged through text messages. 

Some believed that she wanted to portray herself as a victim and grow in popularity, which, when you see her actions after Conrad’s death, isn’t so far-fetched. I mean, she literally texted him as he was dying. One text said: “I love you. Now die.” That’s also the name of a 2019 documentary you should definitely watch, along with The Girl From Plainville.

The Serpent (2021)

staircase the serpent

Type: TV Mini-Series (BBC & Netflix Co-Production)

Synopsis: “The twisting, real-life story of Charles Sobhraj, a murderer, thief and seductive master of disguise, who was a hidden darkness in the mid-70s on Asia’s hippie trail.”

“In the mid-1970s, Charles Sobhraj is a gem dealer in Bangkok. However with his girlfriend and another accomplice he is responsible for the murders of scores of tourists. His crimes go unnoticed until a Dutch diplomat starts investigating the disappearance of two Dutch tourists.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: The Serpent is a TV Mini-Series based on a true crime story about Charles Sobhraj. The series is really gripping and harrowing, and it just hit me differently because I’m a travel enthusiast myself. The guy was just diabolical and a true psychopath with no emotions whatsoever.

It’s unclear how many people Sobhraj killed and robbed over the years, but the fact that it took such an effort from Herman Knippenberg – the real-life Dutch diplomat in Bangkok – to go against orders, risk his job and his family’s life to catch the guy was even more bone-chilling to be.

Sobhraj knew how to pick his victims, aiming at tourists with little contact with family. When they went missing, nobody cared. It’s something you should definitely watch to force you to be more careful about who you trust on your travels.

Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)

staircase ted bundy

Type: Documentary Series (Netflix Original)

Synopsis: “America’s most notorious serial killer in his own words. A look inside the mind of Ted Bundy, featuring interviews with him on death row.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is a true-crime documentary series, just like The Staircase. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing Bundy to Michael Peterson – whether he’s guilty or not, he’s not Ted Bundy. Still, the brutality of Bundy’s crimes will give you chills, much like the murder/accident that Kathleen Peterson went through.

The Ted Bundy Tapes features interviews and conversations with the horrible murderer who ravaged through America and killed over thirty people, mostly women. Even in those conversations, he’s eloquent and knows how to present himself as this calm, kind, loving guy.

He never really owns up to his crimes – his gigantic, sociopathic ego simply doesn’t allow him to do so. Instead, he goes: “I didn’t commit these crimes, but if somebody did, they would do it like this…” and then opens up about everything, but talking as if he’s talking about somebody else, not himself.

It’s a truly diabolical and terrifying experience and one of my favorite true crime docuseries ever. Another docuseries of the same kind recently premiered, called Conversations With A Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes, talking about the infamous murderer that used an alter-ego, Pogo the Clown. It’s not as good as the Bundy tapes, but still quite interesting.

American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)

staircase american murder

Type: Documentary Film (Netflix Original)

Synopsis: “In 2018, 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters disappear in Colorado. With the heartbreaking details emerging, the family’s story made headlines around the world.”

Why it’s like the Staircase: Like Michael Peterson, Chris Watts – the father & husband – was the center of this family’s true crime story. It’s the only documentary film I’ve put on the list because I couldn’t skip including it. It’s the most awful, heartbreaking story you’ll hear that’ll shock you to the core. I don’t want to spoil the details, but here’s the premise:

Chris calls the cops because his wife and two daughters went missing. As the police investigate, the neighbors share that there’s something odd about the entire thing. As the story unravels, you’ll see that even the happiest, most unsuspecting people might have secrets you would never, ever predict or anticipate.

The Keepers (2017)

staircase keepers

Type: Documentary Series (Netflix Original)

Synopsis: “A seven-part docuseries about the unsolved murder of a nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: The theme is different, but the premise is the same: an unsolved murder lingering for decades, revealing many dark secrets that would never see the light of day had the murder not happened. In The Keepers, sister Cathy is a loving nun who was found dead near her apartment.

The investigation reveals horrifying secrets in a catholic school about rape, pedophilia, and many, many more awful things that still linger over five decades after sister Cathy died. 

The most unfortunate thing about this is that Cathy’s murder kind of took a back seat to all the horrible things that were later revealed, but I like to believe that, even in death, it was her cause to do justice and save innocents from harm.

The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst (2015)

staircase the

Type: Documentary Series (HBO)

Synopsis: “A groundbreaking six-part documentary directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling (the Oscar-nominated behind “Capturing the Friedmans (2003)”) delves into the strange history of real estate heir Robert Durst, long suspected in the still-unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife as well as the subsequent murders of family friend Susan Berman and neighbor Morris Black. 

It features an extended, revealing interview with Durst himself, with whom Jarecki developed a unique relationship following the release of “All Good Things (2010)”, Jarecki’s 2010 feature about Durst’s life starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. “The Jinx” results from nearly a decade of research by the filmmakers, who expose police files, key witnesses, never-before-seen footage, private prison recordings, and thousands of pages of formerly hidden documents.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: Like Michael Peterson was a wealthy suspect in two murder/accident cases, so was Robert Durst, a rich real estate icon in the US, who was linked to several murders over four decades but never actually convicted.

However, this phenomenal, groundbreaking documentary shed new light on the cases and ultimately led to a breakthrough… I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that Andrew Jarecki is an incredible director and documentary investigator. This is probably the best true crime documentary series you can find. 

The 8.6 IMDb rating tells you all you need to know. If you haven’t watched The Jinx, do it right away.

The Case Against Adnan Syed (2019)

staircase adnan syed

Type: Documentary Series (HBO)

Synopsis: “Popularized by the podcast “Serial,” the ongoing story of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering a high school student.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: The Case Against Adnan Syed is a documentary series about Adnan Syed, who was accused and convicted for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Now, the case wasn’t nearly as strong as you might think when you know Syed got a life sentence. Hence, just like The Staircase, this case polarized the audience.

Many believe Adnan was innocent and simply used as a scapegoat to finish an investigation that was under heavy public pressure. Others have doubts, believing that Syed might be guilty or innocent, but the fact is, the case didn’t prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, some believe Syed was guilty, and the verdict was appropriate.

In my opinion, the documentary is a bit biased towards Adnan’s innocence, deliberately leaving out some incriminating pieces of evidence. That being said, even with that evidence, I’m not sure there’s enough for a conviction. If you plan on watching this documentary, I suggest listening to the Serial podcast, too.

It has over 200 million plays and even caught the attention of many high-profile celebrities. It does a better job at presenting both sides of the story, although I found The Case Against Adnan Syed more interesting.

Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer (2019)

staircase cats

Type: Documentary Series (Netflix Original)

Synopsis: “A group of online justice seekers track down a guy who posted a video of himself killing kittens.”

Why It’s Like The Staircase: This horrifying case is not quite like The Staircase in many ways – we know who the killer is for sure, and there’s no controversial trial. However, Luka Magnotta’s crimes are even more brutal, sadistic, vile, and disturbing.

So, there was a video online that quickly went viral of a guy killing kittens on camera. Then there was another video of the same guy feeding a kitten to a python. Now, the so-called cat community online is pretty huge and pretty active. 

So, when nobody knew where the guy was from, and no government in the world wanted to take jurisdiction over the case, the cat community started investigating, digging for simple clues in the video to try and find the guy. They compared outlet types and similar stuff to try and find the sadistic psychopath, urging that he’ll escalate to humans sooner or later.

They found him, but it was too late. The perpetrator was Luka Magnotta, a Canadian porn actor who wanted fame, regardless of how he got it. Before the authorities got him, Magnotta also killed a student named Jun Lin in an even worse, more sadistic fashion.

I’m a huge cat lover, and this stuff just pissed me off wildly, but it was a hell of a documentary that true crime lovers just have to watch.

The Act (2019)

staircase the act

Type: TV Mini-Series (Hulu Original)

Synopsis: “Dee Dee Blanchard is overprotective of her daughter, Gypsy, who is trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her mother. Gypsy’s quest for independence opens up a Pandora’s box of secrets, which ultimately leads to murder. The stranger-than-fiction true-crime series is based on the shocking 2015 crime.”

Why it’s like The Staircase: The Act is a live-action series based on a true crime story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy. Gypsy was an incredibly sickly child since birth and couldn’t even walk. Her mother gave her medication and took care of Gypsy. However, as we soon learn, Gypsy’s illnesses might not even exist.

Her mother lied to Gypsy and various doctors over the years and collected donations for her daughter’s recovery – a daughter who wasn’t even ill but unknowingly poisoned by her mother. When Gypsy found out, a series of events led to her killing Dee Dee and being convicted.

The case is extremely polarizing because one can hardly blame Gypsy for trying to get out of the horrific life she lived. The show is extremely interesting, but if you want to learn more about the real-life case of Dee Dee’s death, make sure to watch the HBO documentary Mommy Dead And Dearest from 2017.

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