Over the past decade, few criminal cases have captivated the public’s attention quite like the saga surrounding the Murdaugh family. Once a prominent family in the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Murdaughs have been plagued by scandal since early 2019, when Paul Murdaugh — the son of successful personal injury lawyer Alex Murdaugh — was involved in a boating accident that resulted in the death of his friend, Mallory Beach. Two years later, in June 2021, 22-year-old Paul and his mother Maggie Murdaugh were murdered, a crime for which Alex was charged in July 2022. The lengthy investigation led to the discovery of other alleged felonies, including a hitman suicide scheme, defrauding the dead, and corruption.
Given the many shocking twists in the Murdaugh case, it’s no surprise that the disgraced family has become a favorite topic on the true-crime documentary circuit, with everyone from ABC’s 20/20 to HBO Max offering their take. (Though Mandy Matney deserves credit for bringing the story to a wider audience with the Murdaugh Murders Podcast.) Each of these documentaries provides new insight into the case, but the latest, Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, benefits from opportune timing: It arrives at the tail end of Alex Murdaugh’s trial, which has been live streamed on Court TV since January 23.
Whether the Murdaugh Murders Netflix docuseries is your first introduction to the family or you’ve been following Alex Murdaugh’s trial live every day, these five docs will provide everything you need to know about the headline-making case:
Streaming on Hulu
Released in January 2022 — six months before Alex was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of weapons possession — 20/20: Fall of the House of Murdaugh is the first documentary to bring together the case’s many loose threads and suspicious details. The two-hour special features an interview with Renee and Philip Beach, the parents of Mallory Beach, who sued the Murdaughs for their daughter’s wrongful death. (The suit was recently settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars.) Notably, it also includes an exclusive interview with Alex’s brothers, Randy and John Marvin Murdaugh, who, at the time, were the first family members to speak publicly since Maggie and Paul’s murder.
For viewers unfamiliar with Mandy’s podcast (the journalist appears as a talking head in the special), Fall of the House of Mudaugh serves as an introduction to the cases of Stephen Smith, whose suspicious 2015 death has been linked to the Murdaughs, and Gloria Satterfield, the family’s housekeeper. Smith’s death has not yet been solved, but authorities re-opened the case based on information gathered during their investigation of Maggie and Paul’s murder. Satterfield fell and died while working in the Murdaughs’ home in 2018, and her sons and siblings detail Alex’s efforts to avoid paying out the agreed-upon settlement after her death.
Streaming on Discovery+
Like Fall of the House of Murdaugh, Investigation Discovery’s Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty aims to explore the “complex labyrinth of corruption” surrounding the once-powerful family. Murdaugh Murders begins with the 2019 boat crash, laying out the timeline of the evening with never-before-seen footage of the teens on the boat, police audio, and crime scene photos.
The two episodes that follow bring viewers closer to the present-day, as investigative journalists and community members react to Maggie and Paul’s murder and developments in the case, including Alex’s claim that he was shot in the head on a rural road near his Hampton County, South Carolina home in September 2021. One week later, police revealed Alex allegedly paid an associate to kill him in the roadside shooting so his son, Buster Murdoch, would receive a $10 million insurance payout.
At the time both the 20/20 special and Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty were released, Alex had been arrested on charges related to the Satterfield settlement and the suicide-for-hire plot, but he had not yet been charged with the murders of his son and wife. (ID’s three-part docuseries was released in June 2022, one month before Alex’s indictment.) As a result, both docs are left to speculate about his involvement in the double homicide — but any lingering questions are answered by the projects that followed.
Streaming on HBO Max
Produced by the team behind the Gwen Shamblin docuseries The Way Down, Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty (released November 2022) puts a highbrow finish on the sordid tale. Across three episodes, directors Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan lay out the key details of the case through in-depth interviews with those affected, including Mallory’s boyfriend Anthony Cook, who was on the boat at the time of the crash.
But Low Country doesn’t just offer a newsmagazine-style look at the Murdaughs’ fall from grace: It goes to great lengths to explain their decades of influence in the region, and how the family used that privilege to bend the law to suit their interests. With this perspective in mind, the HBO Max docuseries makes for a fascinating examination of how one family’s self-interest wreaked havoc on the greater community, before turning back around on itself.
Streaming on NBC.com (and coming soon to Peacock)
American Greed’s two-part exploration of the Murdaugh case, which aired in December 2022, serves as a nice complement to Low Country. Because this is CNBC, these two episodes take a deeper dive into Alex’s shady financial dealings, specifically allegations that he stole millions of dollars from his clients. (A series of August 2022 indictments indicate he may have stolen nearly $8.8 million.) While the reenactments are definitely cheesy, “The Decline of a Dynasty” and “A Legacy of Fraud” serves as an adequate primer on the 99 charges Alex is facing at his 2023 trial, which, when combined, could lead to a sentence of close to 1,000 years in prison if convicted.
Streaming on Netflix February 22
In terms of its title and structure, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal may be the least creative of the bunch. The three-part Netflix docuseries follows a similar format to the projects that came before it: Episode 1 centers on the boat crash, while Episodes 2 and 3 detail the double homicide and Alex’s failed murder/suicide plot. Along the way, directors Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst (LuLaRich) explore the Murdaughs’ expansive web of lies, including allegations that Buster was involved in Smith’s 2015 death.
However, Murdaugh Murders differentiates itself with a deep slate of interview subjects. For the first time, Morgan Doughty (Paul’s longtime girlfriend), Miley Altman, and Connor Cook discuss what they witnessed on the boat the night of Mallory Beach’s death, and those with additional information about the many crimes connected to the prominent family speak out. Their candid testimony serves as a reminder that the Murdaugh case is more than just a salacious true-crime story: It’s an ongoing tragedy that, due to one family’s all-consuming greed, has claimed countless innocent lives.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, Netflix, 20/20: Fall of the House of Murdaugh, American Greed, Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty, Alex Murdaugh