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Fascinating Missing Persons Shows That You Don't Want To Miss
From Forensic Files to Cold Justice, unleash your inner detective with these shows you can watch after Found.
Missing persons shows have intrigued armchair detectives for decades. When we watch a TV show centered on solving a murder, we know the person is dead. But a missing persons case adds an extra layer of mystery, giving us all the more reason to watch.
The latest drama series, Found — premiering on Oct. 3 on NBC — brings new life to the genre by focusing specifically on the longshot cases, typically involving persons of color, that are often overlooked and forgotten. The main character, Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton), and her team of sleuths draw us in as we follow the surprising twists and turns of their investigations.
Since the pull of crime-solving never gets old, we came up with 7 missing persons shows to binge-watch right now.
Ask any true crime fan for their favorite show, and Forensic Files will likely be at the top of the list. The influential docuseries aired from 1996 to 2011 and paved the road for a slew of future shows featuring fact-based forensic evidence to solve cases. Each episode focuses on a different scientist, and there is always a sense of satisfaction and relief when the research results lead to convictions or exonerations. Not every true crime profiled in the series involves a missing person, but the most thrilling (and creepiest) episodes do (check out Cereal Killer and Church Disappearance). Stream all 14 seasons of the original series on Peacock.
Unsolved Mysteries is the OG of documentary crime series, first airing in 1987, well before the modern true crime boom. Unlike Forensic Files, many cold cases remained unsolved, leaving viewers to ponder worst-case (or best-case) scenarios long after the episodes ended. The series covered a lot of ground, from UFOs to bank robbers, and especially shined when it focused on vanishings. Through interviews with family and friends of the missing, viewers genuinely resonate with the stories and empathize with their pain and grief. Though Unsolved Mysteries was rebooted in 2020, the ‘90s original, narrated by the legendary Robert Stack, is the best place to start.
Cold Case Files
The title alone tips off viewers to the theme of this riveting series. Cold Case Files investigates real-life unsolved disappearances and murders from long ago. Narrated by Bill Kurtis, the documentary scrutinizes each old crime and vanishing and introduces new evidence and modern forensic technology in the hopes of finding breakthroughs. Watching along, we feel like we’re also part of the investigative team. First airing from 1999 to 2002, the show has been rebooted three times, most recently in 2021, but nothing beats the haunting original. Stream the first five seasons on Peacock.
Dateline: Secrets Uncovered
For more than twenty-five years, we’ve been watching NBC’s Dateline and then staying up late thinking about all the ways we would have cracked the case. Dateline: Secrets Uncovered looks back on some of the country’s most mysterious vanishings (among other crimes) and brings us into the action through interviews with investigators and people there at the time. Viewers take a deep dive into high-profile disappearances like Laci Peterson. We also learn about lesser-known cases, from a Utah college student who vanished from an airport to a California case that took 30 years to solve.
Fans of urban cop dramas know that “missing persons” cases make the most spellbinding plotlines. In episodes like Pink Cloud and The Forgotten, Chicago P.D.’s crack team of investigators tackles the topic in its signature down-and-dirty way. Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) is a controversial leader who often bends the rules to nab criminals and solve the city’s most heinous crimes. The series from Dick Wolf (Law & Order) is part of the One Chicago universe on NBC, and just like its two sister shows, Chicago Fire and Chicago Med, really brings the action.
Dick Wolf (Law & Order) is a master at realistic drama, but in 2013 he tested the waters of true crime with Cold Justice. The original series followed former Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and Vegas crime lab investigator Yolanda McClary as they dug into cold cases in small towns across the country. With the Oxygen revival (2017 to 2022), Siegler casts a wider net, tackling some of the most puzzling cases in the county, including a missing persons case that dates back almost half-a-century. Expect even more suspense and intrigue when Season 7 premieres in 2024 on Oxygen.