8 Memorable True-Crime TV Movies

arrow - left
arrow - right
True Crime Documentaries
SMALL SACRIFICES - Ryan O'Neal, Farrah Fawcett
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Small Sacrifices (ABC, 1989)

Former Charlie’s Angel Farrah Fawcett showed her devilish side as Diane Downs, the divorced postal worker who shot her three children in May 1983 (killing one of them), claiming they were the victims of a carjacking. Fawcett’s real-life on-again-off-again partner Ryan O’Neal played Downs’ married lover.

A FAMILY TORN APART - Neil Patrick Harris, Johnny Galecki
RHI Entertainment/Everett Collection

A Family Torn Apart (NBC, 1993)

How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris and The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki played deranged adopted brothers in this TV movie inspired by the book based on the true story of Larry and Michael David Swartz, whose growing hate for their strict adoptive parents culminated in Larry stabbing Ma and Pa Swartz to death in 1984.

I Know My First Name Is Steven - Luke Edwards
NBC/Getty Images

I Know My First Name Is Steven (NBC, 1989)

Look closely and you’ll see the real-life Steven Stayner playing a cop in this Emmy-nominated retelling of his 1972 kidnapping. Stayner (played by Corin Nemec) was walking home from school when he was tricked into taking a ride with a friend of child molester Kenneth Parnell. Stayner lived with Parnell (who renamed the boy Dennis) until 1980, when he escaped with fellow victim Timothy White. The two-part film’s title is a direct quote from Stayner’s police statement.

The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, Dean Cain, Tracy Middendorf
Ken Jacques/USA Network

The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story (USA, 2004)

Ex-Superman Dean Cain proved to be a dead ringer for Scott Peterson, the Modesto, California man who killed his pregnant wife, Laci, and then reported her missing on Christmas Eve 2002. Four months later, Peterson was arrested outside the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla. In his possession: approximately $15,000 in cash, several changes of clothing, a double-edged dagger and Viagra.

The Amy Fisher Story - JOHN ANTHONY DENISON, DREW BARRYMORE
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

The Amy Fisher Story (ABC, 1993)

A crime so-not-nice that they filmed it twice!

Seventeen-year-old Amy Fisher’s botched 1992 attempted murder of lover Joey Buttafuoco’s wife, Mary Jo, inspired several TV films—two of which aired on the same night in 1993. The highest rated of the pair starred Drew Barrymore as “The Long Island Lolita” and was told from Amy’s point of view.

CASUALTIES OF LOVE: THE LONG ISLAND LOLITA STORY - Jack Scalia, Alyssa Milano
Columbia TriStar Domestic Television/Everett Collection

Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story (CBS, 1993)

The other Amy Fisher movie featured Alyssa Milano as the attempted murderer and depicted Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s side of the story.

The Deliberate Stranger - Mark Harmon
Lorimar Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The Deliberate Stranger (NBC, 1986)

NCIS lawman Mark Harmon killed as serial murderer Ted Bundy in this two-parter based on journalist Richard W. Larsen’s book. Seriously, even Bundy’s actual defense lawyer, Polly Nelson, was impressed.

Drew Peterson: Untouchable - Rob Lowe, Kaley Cuoco
Michael Yarish/A&E Televison

Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime, 2002)

Rob Lowe’s mustache did the acting as Drew Peterson, the ex-police sergeant who was charged with murdering his third wife (and staging it as a suicide) after his fourth bride (played by The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco) mysteriously disappeared.

1 of

If there’s one thing you can count on, it is that a headline-grabbing crime will eventually inspire an attention-getting miniseries or TV movie—sometimes, even more than one!

In honor of Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber, which stars Paul Bettany as mail terrorist Ted Kaczynski (and Jane Lynch as Janet Reno!), we’ve culled together some of the most unforgettable such dramas. Swipe through the gallery above to see the list.

Roush Review: 'Manhunt: Unabomber' Is An Explosive DramaSee Also

Roush Review: 'Manhunt: Unabomber' Is An Explosive Drama

Discovery's eight-hour limited series, starring Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany, is a psychologically acute and suspenseful drama, profiling two obsessive personalities on both sides of the law.