Despite all the horrors criminals perpetrate, despite how terrifying a real gangster, mobster or murderer truly can be, one thing is certain: when it comes to movies, we as a people love crime. There is something intrinsically interesting about getting into the heads of degenerates as they break the law and seek ways to avoid getting caught.
It’s no surprise then that True Crime stories are some of the most well-received films. Some are well remembered, while others are unjustly forgotten. With a new generation of viewers, there’s some real value to be gained by looking back and thinking about just what is still worth watching.
No matter how many times I see “GoodFellas,” it remains one of my favorites. I don’t mean to suggest it was underrated in its time either—ratings for the film are superb overall. But today, over twenty years later, new audiences may not have heard of the movie much less seen it. For that reason, I list it first.
“GoodFellas” is not the original story about working for the mob (others existed before it), but it is based on the biography of Henry Hill, a former mobster who is eventually forced to turn in his friends and bosses to save himself and his wife. Of course, there’s much more to the story than that. “GoodFellas” gives some excellent insight into what it was like to be a Mafioso, both the good and the bad.
“Heavenly Creatures” (1994)
Our next film is perhaps a little stranger. Based on a well-known murder in 1954 known as the Parker-Hulme murder case, the story follows Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme as they conspire to commit (and then naturally follow through) murder. Their target is Pauline’s mother.
While this is another film that received praise, it was actually a New Zealand film, which isn’t surprising considering the original murder took place in New Zealand. And although the center of the origin story is murder, the film focuses much more on the development of the two protagonists’ relationship as things slowly get worse.
“In Cold Blood” (1967)
One of the biggest challenges in keeping good movies alive is the huge difference in production value between now and then. This is certainly true for “In Cold Blood,” with its fiftieth birthday just around the corner. The entire film is black and white, so it definitely has that old movie look to it. But make no mistake: the use of black and white is entirely intentional.
Like “GoodFellas,” this film is based on a book that was written about true events—in this case, the murder of the Clutter family. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock conspire to rob the Clutters’ house, but their crime instead escalates into a quadruple murder which leads them to flee the country. Their eventual return leads to their arrest and conviction, but not before some very dramatic interrogations.
Contributor: Caroline loves true crime stories, whether they’re depicted on screen or through audio alone. As an entertainment enthusiast and internet security specialist, the minds of criminals fascinate her. If you’re interested in some of her other works, check out Secure Thoughts or Culture Coverage.