Ever since the first Lifetime TV movie, Memories of Murder, aired in 1990, the cable channel has reliably dished up some of the small screen's greatest women-in-peril masterpieces.
These made-for-TV films have to walk a fine line. They can center on murder, addiction, abuse, and injustice, but they can't dial up the violence and they can't deviate too drastically from conventions. Lifetime true stories are especially memorable when they dip into slaying, scandal, and sin. Once in a while, Lifetime's fine line snaps, and the grotesqueness of shoving heavy subject matter into a TV movie mold becomes obvious.
There's no shortage of controversial Lifetime original films ripped from the headlines, like The Craigslist Killer, Prosecuting Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, or even taken from history, such as Lizzie Borden Took an Ax. The channel's best thrillers and rom coms also sport outrageous titles like, Mother, May I Sleep with Danger and I Me Wed.
The best dark Lifetime movies are so diabolically twisted, they'll send you scrambling to gaze upon Heironymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" to lighten the mood.
Hit And Run (1999)
This TV movie does an effective if slightly hokey job of encapsulating the paranoia, dread, and the bell jar-style suffocation that comes with bottling up your guilt and harboring a deep, dark secret.
The star of this film knocks a child off her bike and into a coma in a car accident then flees the scene. This is followed by an unraveling of her entire life.
Locked Away (2010)
Taylin is a pregnant high school senior who seeks advice from her school counselor, Chloe, about the best way to move forward. Taylin's single mom, Sasha, encourages her to set the baby up for adoption. Chloe's idea is a bit more radical, however. It involves kidnapping and killing Taylin and her boyfriend Kevin and keeping the baby to raise as her own.
Carnage ensues and the film dissociates from any shred of human decency most Lifetime movies at least attempt to maintain.
Death Of A Cheerleader (1994)
Death of a Cheerleader, also known as A Friend to Die For, follows a meek character named Angela who is desperate to become a cheerleader and fit in with her high school's cool girls, who run in a gang-style clique called the Larks. Stacey Lockwood is the lead Lark, and she's a real meanie.
Eventually, Angela stabs Stacey to death and Monica, a fringe Lark, takes the heat for the murder. Angela skips along for many months until guilt consumes her and she rediscovers Catholicism. She finally cops to the crime and is sentenced to house arrest until she's 25.
In the grand oeuvre of edgy Lifetime original movies, this one racks up a lot of points, especially with the whole "whoops, I guess I stabbed someone to death" angle.
Sorority Surrogate (2014)
Sorority girl Valerie becomes a surrogate mother for a married couple unable to conceive on their own. When the couple dies in a sketchy car crash, with-child Valerie freaks out until grandma Maureen, mother of the recently deceased husband, offers solace. Granny takes Valerie under her wing and into her home, where she handcuffs the pregnant college student to a bed, planning to kill her and raise the grandkid to her liking. Oh, and it's also pretty clear Maureen killed her son and daughter-in-law so she could single-handedly mold her family's next generation.
When the story gets grisly, it's a good thing there's a handy can of air freshener within reach to function as the world's most potent self-defense weapon.