5 True-Crime Movies to Watch on YouTube Thanksgiving Weekend

A Free Banquet Awaits Online

Whether you need a diversion while dicing potatoes, want a break from a pompous in-law, or are home alone and bored, you’ll enjoy feasting on at least one of these.

Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel

1. The Brandon Teena Story (1998)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want proof the U.S. has made progress on LGBT acceptance over the past 20 years.
Length: 1 hour 28 minutes.
Beautiful and devastating true story of Brandon Teena, a transgender 21-year-old Nebraskan who was raped and murdered by former friends. Hillary Swank won an Academy Award for playing Brandon in the subsequent Hollywood dramatization, Boys Don’t Cry. The documentary version is equally good and features Lorrie Morgan on its soundtrack.
Warning: Could make you afraid to even fly over the Bible Belt.

Eric Roberts and Anne Heche star in the movie

2. Fatal Desire (2006)
Genre: Made-for-TV Lifetime movie
Watch if: You feel like some absorbing lightweight drama.
Length: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Anne Heche portrays a character based on Sharee Miller — a real-life seductress who wielded her flaxen hair and lingerie effectively enough to ruin at least two men’s lives. Eric Roberts plays one of them in the dramatization. Heche and Roberts both do a good job in their roles.
Warning: When you Google “Sharee Miller” afterward, you’re going to be disappointed.

Damien Echols on trial

3. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want to understand why Johnny Depp adopted this cause.
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Disturbing tale of how a rural Arkansas community persecutes a trio of misfits after three small boys turn up dead. One of the accused has to take flak just for liking black clothes. From producer Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper).
Warning: The witch hunt is so upsetting that the tragedy of the homicides kind of slips away.

Farrah Fawcett at peak

4. Small Sacrifices (1989)
Genre: Made for TV movie
Watch if: You like Ann Rule books.
Length: 2 hours 39 minutes.
Dramatization of the story of Diane Downs, a mail carrier who shot her three children when they got in the way of her obsessive love life. Farrah Fawcett had evolved into a good actress by the time she took on the role of Downs. Ryan O’Neal and John Shea co-star. Based on the Ann Rule best seller of the same name.
Warning: Might compel you to check out Charlie’s Angels, the 1970s TV series that made Fawcett and her hair a sensation.

The MacDonalds wed when they were both 20

5. Fatal Vision (1984)
Genre: NBC Made for TV Movie
Watch If: You’re a fan of actor Gary Cole or writer Joe McGinniss.
Length: 3 hours 1 minute (plus commercials).
A time capsule within a time capsule because the movie portrays events from the late 1960s and 1970s — and the version on YouTube features commercials from the original 1984 TV broadcast. The drama, based on Joe McGinniss’ blockbuster book, tells of how Dr. Jeff MacDonald’s status shifts from best and brightest to psychopathic killer of his family in a bloodbath he still blames on hippies.
Warning: A number of respected journalists, including The New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm, believe Fatal Vision is a sham and MacDonald is innocent.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

4 thoughts on “5 True-Crime Movies to Watch on YouTube Thanksgiving Weekend”

  1. Thank you! Excellent selection. Small Sacrifices was possibly one of the first TV mini-series that got me hooked on true crime and encouraged me to seek out the book where I discovered Ann Rule… And the rest is history! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jeanne! I thought “Small Sacrifices” was a cut above most made-for-TV movies of that era. It could have been a Netflix series (except that there was no Netflix back then).

      1. Omg you’re so right! Netflix could remake all those brilliant TV movies/miniseries from the 80s & 90s — Blind Faith, Love Lies & Murder, Cruel Doubt, Before He Wakes, The Two Mrs Grenvilles… Argh! If only I were a TV producer. So glad the rest of the world has finally discovered the wonder that is true-crime.

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