Disclaimer: This article contains discussions of rape and abuse.
True stories provide some of the most common bases for limited shows. Streaming services and networks have long relied on gripping and compelling real-life cases, dramatizing them and giving audiences addictive limited series they can’t stop watching.
Recent shows like Hulu Under the banner of heaven and HBO Landscapers are prime examples of the success of true story limited series. Networks like HBO and FX have produced some of the best and most compelling limited series based on real-life cases, but almost every streamer and network has at least one major entry in this reliable and seemingly persistent genre.
A very English scandal
Stream on Amazon
Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw deliver career-best performances in Stephen Frears’ comedy-drama limited series A very English scandal. Based on the real-life Jeremy Thorpe scandal, the plot concerns the trial and subsequent acquittal of MP Jeremy Thorpe for his supposed role in the plot to murder his ex-lover, Norman Scott.
Sharp and sour, A very English scandal perfectly dramatizes the strange event. Grant and Whishaw are at the top of their game, adding an extra touch of flair to a story that’s almost too soapy to believe. Like the best shows based on real life, A very English scandal honors its inspiration while adding enough dramatic elements to make it entertaining.
Stream on Hulu
Hulu’s The stall tells the real-life story of doomed entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, played by Oscar-nominated Amanda Seyfried, and her disgraced healthcare company, Theranos. The show follows his rise to power, from the creation of Theranos to his fall from grace after the public discovery of his fraud.
Amanda Seyfried received her first Emmy nomination and is a favorite for her brilliant and unsettling portrayal of Holmes. The show accurately translates the story to the screen, crafting a complex yet addictive plot that delves deeper into one of tech’s most compelling and reprehensible characters.
Stream on Netflix
Inspired by Memoirs Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, Housemaid stars Margaret Qualley in her breakthrough role. The plot concerns a young mother who, after escaping from an abusive relationship, gets a job cleaning houses to support her daughter.
Housemaid is one of the best shows on Netflix, universally critically acclaimed for its truthful and raw portrayal of financial hardship. Qualley’s performance is outstanding, with the young actress finding new ways to explore her character’s psyche while remaining captivating and engaging. Housemaid isn’t always a pleasant viewing experience, but it’s ultimately rewarding, ending on a hopeful and uplifting note.
The People Vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
Stream on FX
The infamous murder trial of disgraced running back OJ Simpson is the basis for the first season of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series American crime history. The ten episodes chronicle the highly publicized trial and the key players involved, including Simpson, his defense team and members of the prosecution.
The People Vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story received universal accolades and an impressive 22 Emmy Award nominations. Captivating and addictive, the show will have viewers on the edge of their seats and unable to stop. The sensationalism surrounding the real-life case only enhances the series’ drama but never stops it from exploring serious themes like race relations, sexism, and prejudice with nuance and respect.
Escape to Dannemora
Stream on Showtime
Ben Stiller is currently enjoying considerable success thanks to Breakup, one of the best new shows of 2022 so far. However, he had already marked the spirits in the television landscape thanks to the limited series Escape to Dannemora. Starring Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette and Paul Dano, the story is based on the 2015 escape from Clinton Correctional Facility.
Thanks to the superb performances of the cast, Escape to Dannemora successfully explores the relationships that led to the infamous event. It neither condemns nor excuses them; instead, it lets the audience judge for themselves, portraying the characters as flawed human beings pushed to their limit. Escape to Dannemora only lasts seven episodes, which means fans can binge in a day.
Stream on Netflix
Based on the article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” and the following book A false reportby Netflix Unbelievable stars Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever. The plot follows a series of rapes in Washington and Colorado, centering on the story of Marie, a young woman accused of lying about the rape, and the two detectives who begin to investigate the case.
Difficult and sometimes upsetting, Unbelievable might be difficult for fans to sit down. However, the story is vital, especially in today’s world, where violence against women is so common and often goes unpunished. By focusing on the victims and their stories, Unbelievable eschews the cliches of the true-crime genre, resulting in harrowing yet powerful drama.
Feud: Bette and Joan
Stream on Hulu
From the camper spirit of Ryan Murphy comes Feud: Bette and Joan, a dramatization of the divine feud between Golden Age Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The show, which stars Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, focuses on filming the only movie they did together, What happened to Baby Jane?
Wickedly funny but visibly tragic, Quarrel does an admirable job of portraying these two larger than life divas. Sarandon and Lange are at the top of their game, but the show succeeds thanks to its obvious love for Davis and Crawford. Even portraying them at their worst, Quarrel never judgmental, instead celebrating both actresses as the icons they are. Quarrel will return for a second season, although it will be difficult to top the first.
When they see us
Stream on Netflix
Based on the events of the Central Park Jogger Case in 1989, When they see us follows a group of five young black and Latino men falsely accused and prosecuted for the rape of a white woman in New York City. The show explores the case and its impact on the lives of the suspects and their families.
Skillfully handling his thorny subject with nuance and intelligence, When they see us manages to tell his story with respect and without evading any delicate details. A textbook case of racial profiling and discrimination, When they see us gives the five young men a voice in a matter where they originally did not have one, reframing the event from a new perspective.
Band of brothers
Stream on HBO Max
Arguably the most iconic HBO miniseries of the early 2000s, Band of brothers tells the story of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division through many of the most significant events of World War II.
The show features a massive cast of actors, many of whom would become major stars in later years. Intense and brutal, Band of brothers does not hesitate to depict the horrors of war. It finds hope in the lighter moments of camaraderie, but ultimately serves as a poignant portrait of the sacrifices of millions during wartime.
Stream on HBO Max
HBO Chernobyl is the perfect miniseries to binge on for a weekend. Starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson, the show follows the events leading up to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the aftermath of the event, including the Soviet Union’s cleanup efforts and attempts to locate those responsible for the accident.
Chernobyl received critical acclaim. The spectacle is tense and horrifying, depicting the immediate and chaotic aftermath of the accident with stark realism. Chernobyl also offers insight into the inner workings of the Soviet Union and its infamous government, doing its best to fill in the gaps in a story that remains inconclusive to this day.
NEXT: 9 Perfectly Streamed True Crime TV Shows, According To Ranker