You Can Stream The Best True Crime Series Of All Time Without A Netflix Subscription

By Robert Scucci | Published

True crime documentaries are all the rage these days, but if you really want to take a deep dive into the genre, Forensic Files is the absolute cream of the crop. Across 406 episodes, this documentary series highlights the investigative approach that homicide detectives take while trying to solve violent crimes through the discipline of forensic science. Featuring reenactments, scientific breakdowns, and witness testimonials, Forensic Files is as thorough as it is engaging and will leave you amazed by how the smallest clue can lead to the apprehension and conviction of some of the worst criminals you’ve ever seen. 

Perfect From The First Episode

Perfecting its formula with its inaugural episode, “The Disappearance of Helle Crafts,” Forensic Files first places focus on the crime scene, as well as the inner workings of law enforcement agencies. While forensics experts walk you through the science on a granular level, narrator Peter Thomas breaks it all down in simple terms. This narrative method allows you to get a crash course on how the use of cutting-edge technology is the most important witness of all. 

Each episode of Forensic Files starts out the same and introduces the case to the viewer. Through dramatized reenactments based on police reports, the victims and suspects are established, and then the forensic evidence is folded into the storytelling. 

Not A Whodunit

What sets Forensic Files apart from other true crime series is that it’s not a whodunit, as it’s often clear that the primary person of interest is the guilty party. Instead, the series presents the evidence and expertly breaks it down to trace it back to the perpetrator using the scientific method. While the science is laid out, Thomas’ narration focuses on the key witnesses and their recounting of events in an effort to unpack what could have possibly motivated the crime in question. 

The List Murders

The best way to get you hooked on Forensic Files is to walk you through an episode. Season 1’s “The List Murders” places a strong emphasis on the relationship between art and science while laying out the case of John List, who murdered his wife, mother, and three children before leaving town and assuming a new identity. 18 years later, detectives had no leads and reached out to Frank Bender, a forensic sculptor with a background in criminal profiling.

After building List’s psychological profile with the help of forensic psychologist Richard Walter, Bender was able to create a startlingly accurate artistic rendering of what List would have looked like nearly two decades later. The final sculpted bust even had the same exact haircut and glasses based on the profile, which was then shared on an episode of America’s Most Wanted. This episode of Forensic Files walks viewers through Bender’s entire thought process as he worked off of a single photograph to produce the sculpture, which ultimately led to List’s apprehension and sentencing. 

Solving Real Crimes

If you’re interested in forensic science but don’t know where to start satisfying your curiosity, Forensic Files is an easy-to-digest treasure trove of terminology and testimonials that serve as an excellent primer for the true crime genre. You can stream the documentary series for free on CW, Tubi, Pluto TV, or with a Hulu subscription at the time of this writing.