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No one needs to watch Netflix’s Depp v. Heard – check out these true-crime gems instead

Published Aug 21st, 2023 8:17PM EDT
Depp v Heard on Netflix
Image: Netflix

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“Could hardly be more pointless.” “Disjointed.” “Frustratingly shallow.” These are just some of the assessments from critics of the divisive new Netflix true-crime docuseries Depp v Heard — a revisiting of last year’s tawdry, closely-followed court battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that’s dominating the streaming giant at the moment.

We say “divisive” because responses to this limited series from director Emma Cooper seem to cut across pretty familiar but nevertheless divergent lines. To many critics, though, Depp v Heard is a completely unnecessary retelling of a courtroom drama I know I wish I’d never heard the messy details of in the first place.

As a reminder of how the whole saga got started, which the 3-part Depp v Heard also does a good job explaining: Heard published an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” who’s speaking up against “sexual violence.” Without naming her ex-husband Depp, he and his team pounced on the piece with a defamation lawsuit that, predictably, turned into a frenzied media spectacle.

Depp v Heard on NetflixImage source: Netflix

Skip Depp v Heard, and watch these Netflix true-crime releases instead

Cooper was apparently keen to show what happens when when “the court of public opinion,” according to Netflix, “starts to overshadow reality.” Using 200 hours of live-streamed trial coverage from both the news media as well as social media, testimony from Depp and Heard is presented side-by-side.

Even though the series is currently the #1 TV show on Netflix in the US, here’s what I’d recommend watching on Netflix instead of Depp v Heard on Netflix if you’re a fan of true-crime content. The following four titles include a mix of both series and feature-length true-crime documentaries, none of which will disgust you the way Depp v Heard will (in my opinion). Without further ado, here we go — in no particular order:

Capturing the Killer Nurse

This Netflix documentary tells the real-life story of events that were dramatized in the recent Jessica Chastain-led Netflix movie The Good Nurse, about a nurse who kills helpless patients in the hospitals where he works.

Capturing the Killer Nurse on Netflix
Dr. Steven Marcus in Netflix’s “Capturing the Killer Nurse.” Image source: Netflix

From the official Netflix synopsis: “Charlie Cullen was an experienced registered nurse, trusted and beloved by his colleagues at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey. He was also one of history’s most prolific serial killers, with a body count potentially numbering in the hundreds across multiple medical facilities in the Northeast.

“…Using audio from Cullen himself and emotional sit-downs with those closest to the events — including whistle-blower and fellow nurse Amy Loughren, the detectives who cracked the case, author Graeber, and family members of the victims –- the film traces how the truth was initially too shocking for anyone to comprehend, and how Cullen’s horrific actions underscore an even bigger danger still lurking in our healthcare system.”

The Tinder Swindler

I’ve never done the whole online dating thing, so I wasn’t sure at first if this next Netflix title — the 2022 documentary The Tinder Swindler — would hold my interest, but oh boy, was I wrong.

In the extremely capable hands of director Felicity Morris, this roughly two-hour saga follows a series of women who fell in love with a “billionaire” playboy they each met on Tinder. With each of them, the story is the same. Beautiful women, a storybook romance, a handsome suitor with money and a big heart who wants to sweep them off their feet. Until, that is, he switches things up once he has his hooks firmly attached to them.

The Tinder Swindler on Netflix
Cecilie Fjellhoy, Ayleen Charlotte, and Pernilla Sjöholm, from Netflix’s “The Tinder Swindler.” Image source: Joshua Wilks/Netflix

I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, but suffice it to say, this love story quickly turns into a deliciously satisfying revenge tale. In fact, The Tinder Swindler probably ranks among the best documentaries that Netflix has to offer. The protagonists are compelling and sympathetic, and the production value here is more on par with a feature film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, compared to what your idea of a dry documentary might otherwise entail. Definitely give The Tinder Swindler a try if you haven’t yet and you’re looking for something new on Netflix to binge.

The Pharmacist

This next true-crime series is actually perfect to watch as a companion to Painkiller, Netflix’s drama about the origin of the opioid epidemic that’s actually its #1 series in the world this week. The Pharmacist is a Netflix limited series that was directed by Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst, and it tells the story of how one man channeled his grief after the loss of his son into a crusade against the power players behind the opioid crisis.

The Pharmacist on Netflix
Dan Schneider in Netflix’s “The Pharmacist.” Image source: Netflix

From Netflix’s official synopsis: “In 1999, after losing his son in a drug-related shooting in New Orleans and lacking answers from police, a small town pharmacist — Dan Schneider — beats the odds when he embarks on a dogged pursuit to find and bring his son’s killer to justice.

“But months later, the ripple effects of his son’s addiction and tragic death would find him again when a troubling number of young, seemingly healthy people begin visiting Dan’s pharmacy with high dose prescriptions for OxyContin. Sensing a crisis long before the opioid epidemic had gained nationwide attention, Dan stakes a mission: Save the lives of other sons and daughters within his community.” 

Lords of Scam

If you love films like American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, then this 2021 French-language Netflix documentary should have no trouble hooking you from the start. Here’s the streamer’s official description for Lords of Scam: “This documentary traces the rise and crash of scammers who conned the EU carbon quota system and pocketed millions before turning on one another.“

I found the shady characters at the center of this scam to be pretty interesting, especially one smooth-talking hustler who wouldn’t be out of place in the Bond or Ocean’s franchises. The trailer below, by the way, isn’t in English, but I’m including it anyway because it gives a good idea of the vibe of the film regardless.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.