American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing is the Most Netflix Documentary This Year

Netflix decided on Thursday night when it realized I hadn’t watched American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing to push a notification to my phone that it was available. I knew how I’d be spending my working day on Friday. This is the kind of documentary I knew could turn into a pleasant watch or a disaster because of how little new information it may offer.

I had already seen The Murders Before the Marathon a few weeks ago and while that covers the triple homicide possibly related to this terrorist attack, the first episode was largely about the bombing. American Manhunt had the disadvantage of me being a day removed from watching Missing Kenley, a new favorite of mine. I want to be a harsh yet fair critic of these documentaries. 

Only a few minutes into American Manhunt, I pretty much knew what I was getting. This was another Waco: American Apocalypse in every way possible. Let’s discuss.

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing is the most Netflix documentary there is

Netflix’s true crime documentaries have a certain flair and flash to them. It doesn’t matter what language it is. It’s a working formula. I tend to like many of the documentaries they put out but rarely really love any because of how predictable they are. Many of the newer documentaries Netflix has done also cover well-known cases. What I got from The Murders Before the Marathon was a deeper dive into a much lesser known part of the Tsarnaev Brothers. This was a Hulu documentary which means it took a few more risks. American Manhunt doesn’t take any.

If you’ve seen Waco: American Apocalypse about the Branch Davidians you’ll know exactly what to expect from this. They tell a story many of us already know but wisely skip over some of the nonsense we don’t need. Not all that much is brought up about the Tsarnaev Brothers other than a few points about their backgrounds. What I really liked about The Murders Before the Marathon was how it focused so much on Tamerlan and why he felt like he needed to kill. Dzhokhar wasn’t in that documentary much because he wasn’t allegedly involved in the triple murder. I thought American Manhunt could’ve gone a little more into his life. All we get are friends talking about how they never would have thought he’d do something like this and then other people saying he was lying about his good grades and selling drugs.

There was plenty of good to come from American Manhunt. We see a ton of footage. From the moment the bombings go off through the death of Tamerlan to the capture of Dzhokhar, there’s footage of it all.

Conveniently, Netflix released the documentary almost 10 years to the day after the bombing took place. They did the same with the Waco documentary but around the 30th anniversary. It’s probably what we’ll see plenty of as they continue to churn these out.

American Manhunt was a good yet not great documentary. It grazed the surface of everything I wanted to learn about the two brothers, their families, and even the victims. The focus in this documentary was the literal manhunt. Unfortunately, I felt like viewers who don’t know more about their background might feel like something was missing.

I would recommend American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing to fans of documentaries like this. You’ll especially like it if you enjoy people being introduced with large text on either side of their head and their backs turned to the screen. Literally everyone they have talk on camera is introduced this way. If that’s your thing, you’re going to love it!

Overall Score: 8 out of 10

This was good for what it was. You won’t learn much but seeing the footage and hearing from the law enforcement that took them down gave a one-of-a-kind perspective.

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