There are some pretty interesting statistics surrounding female murderers, and true crime fans will know that there are universally accepted ‘truths’ around them as well.
For instance, a 2019 study from the United Nations estimates that only roughly 10% of murders around the world are committed by women (which is reflected in the statistics per region, as well).
On the other hand, some of these ‘truths’ amongst true crime circles revolve around the women’s modus operandi (usually lowkey, like poison or strangling), and victims (often someone they know).
In these scripted and non-scripted TV shows about female murderers, viewers will see it all: why, who, and how women kill.
While the non-scripted shows will often tell real-life occurrences, the scripted shows are a mix of characters based on real life and those entirely made up.
Let’s get to it!
The best scripted TV shows about female killers
Dark Angel, ITV (2016)
Though only two episodes, ITV’s Dark Angel is a miniseries you won’t want to miss.
It’s adapted from David WIlson’s book “Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer”, which should already give you a good idea what it’s about!
Mary Ann Cotton is indeed touted as this because of her late 19th century conviction for the murder by poisoning of her stepson.
However, she’s believed to have been behind at least a dozen more deaths of her husbands and children for their insurance policies. Dark Angel is a look into her life and methods.
La Mante, TF1 (2017)
Another miniseries is La Mante. This crime series hails from France and in English its title translates to The Mantis.
That title is a reference to the nickname used in the series for the primary serial killer, Jeanne Deber.
However, it’s not Jeanne committing the murders that are terrorizing Paris as she was caught and imprisoned 25 years ago.
Now, a copycat murder is increasing their body count in the city and the police are desperate to catch them – desperate enough to ask for her help under her one condition: that she consult alongside her estranged son, Detective Damien Carrot.
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, Lifetime (2015)
After the 2014 movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax which chronicled the crimes she committed (fictionalized though based on real life events), Lifetime produced the limited series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles to continue the story.
This time, however, it tells the story of what happened after Lizzie’s acquittal for the murder of her father and stepmother.
Even after attempting to start a new life, Lizzie once again falls under suspicion when those around her start dying, causing Detective Charlie Siringo to pick up the investigation again and prove her guilt once and for all.
Candy, Hulu (2022)
Hulu’s Candy is based on the true story of Candy Montgomerey, a Texas housewife and mother in the 1980s who was accused of murdering her neighbor, Betty Gore.
This five-episode miniseries starring Jessica Biel in the title role begins in a suburban town, where Betty’s husband is having trouble reaching her.
We’re left with the impression that Candy is living the perfect life as a wife and mother of two kids.
She forms a friendship with Betty (and, er, a ‘friendship’ with Betty’s husband, too) but the truth slowly comes to light.
The Girl From Plainville, Hulu (2022)
We’ve got another miniseries from Hulu with The Girl from Plainville, which through its 8 episodes tells the truly bizarre and complex case of Michelle Carter’s ‘texting-suicide’ which resulted in the death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.
Viewers are witness to their relationship and the events leading up to Conrad’s death, including the context of the messages that they exchanged about mental health and suicide, as well as Carter’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter.
The series received praise from critics, particularly for the performances of Elle Fanning as Carter, Chloë Sevigny, and Colton Ryan.
The Thing About Pam, NBC (2022)
The real-life case of Pamela Hupp and the murder of Betsy Faria is one that may force viewers to think about the effectiveness of law enforcement and the justice system.
Renée Zellwegger returns to the small screen in the titular role of Pam Hupp, the murder victim’s best friend whose testimony that she was the last to see Betsy alive was crucial in the conviction of Betsy’s husband, Russ.
However, his conviction is overturned and the spotlight turns on Pam as the investigators’ suspicions rise with each change in Pam’s story and as more details of Pam’s life come to light.
The Act, Hulu (2019)
The shocking real life case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the murder of her mother Dee Dee is often a cause of debate amongst true crimers.
While murder is never justifiable, some might argue that Gypsy deserved leniency in her punishment because of what she had to go through under her mother’s so-called ‘care’.
The Act reveals the relationship between mother and the wheelchair-bound daughter, and how Gypsy slowly discovers the secrets behind the Munchausen syndrome by proxy that she had to endure her entire life.
Her rebellion reaches its peak when she seeks the help of her boyfriend and takes it too far.
Damaged, Hungama Play (2018)
If anything, fans of the genre should check out Hungama’s Damaged simply because it is India’s very first psychological drama series with a female serial killer at the forefront.
As the series begins, viewers are immediately faced with the case of a missing person, where police investigations have yielded no results so far.
Soon, however, they discover that this isn’t an isolated incident as other young men have vanished without a trace.
Their prime suspect is Lovina, whose seductive and wily ways have put her into the crosshairs of a ‘ruthless and trigger-happy’ cop.
Killer Women, ABC (2014)
Killer Women, ABC’s American adaptation of the Argentine crime drama Mujeres Asesinas, takes on a different perspective as the previous shows as the series doesn’t focus on just one murderous female.
Instead, we meet a badass former beauty queen, divorced from her abusive politician husband, daughter of a sheriff, and current top-ranking officer of the Texas Rangers: Molly Parker.
Each episode sees her in the pursuit of justice against all-female perpetrators, and she perseveres in the face of the men around her who want to see her fail.
Rellik, BBC One/Cinemax (2017)
The show’s title, Rellik, is a palindrome of ‘killer’ and this unique style is a nod not just to the show’s format but also to the mysterious identity of the killer at the center of the show.
The show’s six episodes unfold the story in reverse order, starting with the suspected killer getting shot and ending at the very beginning of the story where we finally realize who the perpetrator is.
The killer’s modus operandi was acid to the face, and the Detective Chief Inspector at the helm of the investigation has a personal score to settle as a surviving victim.
Killing Eve, BBC America (2018 – 2022)
Killing Eve puts two strong female characters at the center of the show and explores the relationship between the investigator and the object of their pursuit.
The titular Eve Polastri is a British intelligence analyst working for MI5 who is bored with her job and is fired after she oversteps in the investigation of a witness.
However, she’s known for her interest in female assassins and is subsequently hired at the MI6’s undercover division to apprehend Villanelle, an international assassin.
The cat and mouse game leads to a mutual obsession between the two women.
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, TNT (2020)
Including this on the list is already a bit of a spoiler since we set out on the series not knowing who the killer is but hey, it’s still well worth watching!
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is the second season of The Alienist, the period drama mystery series set against the backdrop of late-19th century New York.
The investigative team of Sara Howard, John Moore, and alienist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler reunite once again, this time with Sara at the helm with her own all-female detective agency, as they investigate the case of kidnapped and murdered children.
Bates Motel, A&E (2013 – 2017)
Bates Motel is a psychological horror series that fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (and the novel of the same name it was based on) may be all too familiar with.
Though serving as a prequel to the events in the 1960s film, it’s reimagined in a different town and in a modern-day setting.
The five seasons chronicle the relationship between Norma Bates and her troubled son Norman, which starts out as seemingly just ‘protective’.
However, as Norman’s mental health continues to deteriorate throughout the seasons, it becomes clear that Norma would be willing to cross all boundaries to protect her son – as well as others FROM him.
Why Women Kill, Paramount+ (2019 – 2021)
Anthology series Why Women Kill follows three storylines across varying timelines, but each woman is connected by the theme of infidelity they experienced while living in the same house during their timelines.
Beth Ann is a 1960s housewife with a cheating husband, Simone is a socialite in the 80s who begins her own affair when she discovers her husband’s homosexuality, and Taylor is a bisexual in an open marriage in 2019 who struggles when she and her husband fall in love with the same woman.
Each storyline chronicles the events leading up to a murder committed by each woman.
The best TV show episodes with a female killer
CSI: Miami Season 9 Episode 15: “Blood Lust”, CBS (2002 – 2012)
The Crime Scene Investigation franchise is arguably one of the most popular police procedural franchises in recent times, and CSI: Miami was just one of the spin-offs.
In this season 5 episode entitled “Blood Lust”, Horatio and the team discover the body of a murdered woman in a home’s hurricane shelter and her friend – who survives – is found in a state park.
They begin to suspect that a duo is behind the killings and in the end, discover that it’s the woman of the pair that’s the mastermind behind their operations.
Criminal Minds Season 4 Episode 16: “Pleasure Is My Business”, CBS (2005 – present)
Criminal Minds is yet another procedural drama series that has remained very popular throughout its ongoing 16 seasons!
It focuses on a team of criminal profilers from the FBI who use behavioral science to pinpoint a crime’s perpetrator before they can kill again.
In the episode “Pleasure Is My Business” in season 4, the team profiles the victim pool of corporate executives found in high-end hotels, and narrows the suspect to a call girl with a personal vendetta.
However, the team hits a snag when they discover that their victims’ lawyers are hesitant to provide information on their clients.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 4 Episode 1: “Chameleon”, NBC (1999 – present)
Perhaps one of the longest-running scripted procedurals to date, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit investigates sexually oriented crimes and like the parent series, episodes are loosely based on real-life crimes that were in the media.
The season 4 episode “Chameleon”, the team originally are in pursuit of a paroled man who is killing prostitutes, only to find that he’s been killed by a woman out of self-defense.
However, further evidence slowly points out that she may be involved in many more deaths than just when she was defending herself.
Bones Season 4 Episode 14: “The Hero in the Hold” and Season 5 Episode 21: “The Boy with the Answer”, Fox (2005 – 2017)
In Bones, the investigations focus on forensic anthropology and archaeology, where the team uses human remains to gather clues and solve crimes under the FBI.
The female murderer in question here is The Gravedigger, who they had already encountered back in the second season.
With these two episodes, Bones and Booth (as well as the rest of the team) must face her again in the aftermath when evidence in the case against her goes missing in “The Hero in the Hold”, and then when her trial looms ever closer in “The Boy with the Answer”.
Those Who Kill Season 1 Episode 2: “The Way Home”, Episode 3: “Rocking the Boat” and Episode 4 “Sunday”, A&E (2014)
Those Who Kill is the American adaptation of the Danish series Den som dræber.
Here, homicide detective Catherine Jensen teams up with forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer on her pursuit of serial killers.
One such investigation spans over three episodes, where the first victim is a woman found dead in a dumpster.
They come close to a suspect but hit a dead end when the suspect completes suicide.
Finally, in the last of the three episodes, they discover the identity of the woman behind the killing and her motive for doing it.
The best documentary series about female murderers
Deadly Women, Discovery Channel (2005 – present)
What originally began as a three-part miniseries has now evolved into a 14-season TV show hosted by FBI criminal profiler Candice DeLong.
It focuses solely on murders committed by women, with each episode telling a few different stories but all of them having a unifying theme be it jealousy, revenge, teenage perpetrators, and more.
The details are told through reenactments and interviews from those involved and experts in specific relevant fields.
Recent seasons have also begun to feature photos of the real criminals at the end of the episode.
Killer Women with Piers Morgan, ITV (2016 – 2017)
British journalist Piers Morgan conducts some of the most chilling and fascinating interviews surrounding known cases of murder by notorious female killers.
He travels to speak with friends and family of those involved, both on the side of the killer and the victims, as well as relevant law enforcement officials, with the aim of gaining insight into the justice, or injustice, that was served.
Finally, he dives into the killers’ motives by speaking to the murderous women themselves.
Women Who Kill, Channel 4 (2017)
Like we said, it’s often the case that when a female murderer strikes, it’s against someone they know and could even be someone quite close to them.
Channel 4’s Women Who Kill is a two-episode documentary miniseries that dives into what a woman’s motive might be.
In the first episode, the 3 women at the center kill men in their lives (husband, cousin, and boyfriend); the second episode goes into much rarer cases of women who kill with financial motives.
Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon A Crime, Netflix (2016)
Netflix’s Portuguese-language docuseries is originally titled Elize Matsunaga: Era uma Vez um Crime.
Elize Matsunaga was married to a rich heir of a famous food company, until one day she shot and dismembered him.
Over the 4 episodes of the show, viewers learn more information about the crime that truly shook Brazil to its core through Elize’s first ever interview and the subsequent deep dive into the events surrounding it.
It’s told primarily from her perspective, however, so viewers should be aware that not everything may be as it seems from her story.
Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery, Investigation Discovery (2018)
Jodi Arias is sometimes referred to as the most hated woman in America, and Investigation Discovery’s three-episode miniseries provides some insight as to exactly why that is.
The network describes it as a case that was “almost too stunning to believe”, and the series dives into “one of the most salacious and sensational crimes to rock the nation” with amazing interviews with many who are able to provide insight into Arias’ behavior and personality, and how her trial was handled.
Snapped, Oxygen (2004 – present)
True crime series Snapped has officially spanned over 31 seasons, totaling 571 episodes to date!
The non-fiction series focuses on high profile cases of women who have been accused and apprehended for murder or attempting to commit murder.
In a documentary style, Snapped features interviews with people who were directly involved in the cases, sometimes even with the criminal or their victims themselves.
In some cases, male perpetrators were either at the center of the episode or at least played a part in the woman’s operations.
Murders at the Boarding House, NBC/Oxygen (2021)
The case of Dorothea Puente is, personally, one of the most terrifying that one might hear of, simply because the perpetrator is a seemingly sweet and harmless old woman that anyone could mistake for the neighborly grandmother.
However, the two-part miniseries Murders at the Boarding House proves otherwise, as it details how Puente not only murdered many of her tenants at the boarding house she ran and buried them in the backyard, but also managed to give the police the slip before finally getting caught.
Ken and Barbie Killers: The Lost Murder Tape, Investigation Discovery (2021)
The chilling case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka as detailed in the four-episode series Ken and Barbie Killers: The Lost Murder Tape brings to light information about one of the most notorious killers in Canadian history.
The ‘glamorous’ couple were charged with the killings of three female minors – one of whom was Karla’s own sister.
The details aren’t for the faint of heart, and many continue to be outraged that Karla was allowed to strike a plea deal for a lesser sentence.
Perhaps the scariest part? Karla Homolka has been released from prison and has returned to life as a free woman.