Even with a plethora of entertainment at our fingertips, podcasts remain one of the most popular and effective forms of communicative storytelling on the planet. As podcasts remain popular, true crime podcasts stand out as one of the medium’s most popular genres. The best true crime podcasts thrill listeners who want to inject a little excitement into their lives without facing any actual danger.
All of this crystallized around the first season of Serial, which transformed everyone who listened to it into an investigative reporter, part-time detective, or aspiring lawyer. Since then, that kind of amateur detective work has only become more common, and the internet has provided a safe space for people to speculate without directly harming those involved.
With so many true crime shows out there, there’s something that’s just right for whatever your tastes might be. From international conspiracies to horror podcasts about murders that rocked small towns, the true-crime genre contains multitudes.
Not all of the best podcasts are created equal, though. From low-quality audio to poor research to, well, just about everything else, the true-crime podcasts can be everything from excellent to unlistenable. Trying to wade through it all to find the best of the best can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to the genre, which is why we’ve decided to find the best podcasts for you. These podcasts will chill you to your core, or titillate you with horrors that are all too real.
My Favorite Murder
True crime can be a heavy genre. Even for those who want to engage with the type of depressing and morbid material that exists within true crime, it’s important to lighten the mood sometimes. This is why black comedies are so popular in television, and it’s why a podcast like My Favorite Murder has been able to carve out a strong niche audience since its inception in 2016. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstock are the two witty hosts who infuse their true crime retellings with personal anecdotes and jokes that sizzle and enhance the chilling tales of grotesque crimes on the other side of the microphone.
Casefile started in 2016 as a small project designed to tell the stories of the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt (the Wanda Beach Murders). The host of this true-crime podcast is unknown, but he’s affectionately known as “Casey” to fans, who gave him the nickname based on the name of the show. Casefile is an award-winning show that dives deep into the circumstances, investigations, and trials of both solved and unsolved cases from all over the world. Wondering where to start? This Google sheet has handy ratings for each episode.
Tom Brown’s Body
It was 2016 in the panhandle town of Canadian, Texas when a popular teenage boy went missing. In 2018, his bones were found beneath a tree outside of town. This podcast picks up a few years later, and no arrests have been made, but every suspicion possible has been raised. Tom Brown’s Body follows this remarkable, haunting, and continuing story. While it doesn’t post regularly, it’s worth listening back and eagerly awaiting any updates that may come.
Investigative journalist and true crime author M. William Phelps delves deep into the long-cold case of four missing girls who disappeared in the 1970s from closely connected New England towns. This pod doesn’t just reveal the story of these cases; it also unveils new information about how they may be connected.
Son of a Hitman
Legendary man of the people Woody Harrelson has a storied acting career, but he also had a storied childhood. You may have heard (and probably gasped when you did) that Woody Harrelson’s father was Charles Harrelson, a murderer who may or may not have been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Son of a Hitman explores that history, and includes fascinating connection to the actor we all know and love.
No true crime list is complete without the OG. Serial takes on a new complicated crime every season, but it’s tough to beat the original deep dive into the case for and against Adnan Sayed. The subsequent seasons, while maybe not as sensational, are no less stellar and scintillating. Serial has become such a phenomenon, in fact, that it’s launched an entire studio’s worth of other podcasts.
New to true crime? Start here! Generation Why has been going strong for nearly 10 years now, and the strength is in its great hosting. Aaron Hebel and Justin Evans have deeply honed their craft over the years and have an enormous stockpile of episodes for you to dive into where they share their theories and discuss their opinions on all things true crime.
Morning Cup of Murder
So you want something that’s like The Daily but also gives you a once-a-day dose of dastardly deeds? Look no further than Morning Cup of Murder. This show is short, digestible, and easy to get into when you’re getting ready in the morning or waiting for your other favorite true crime pod to come out during the week.
Wait, murder isn’t the only crime! American Scandal takes on different stories every season, but it’s one of the most deeply researched and informative crime podcasts on the market right now. Whether you want to dig into the Iran Contra affair, Enron’s crash, steroids in baseball, or some other controversy from America’s past, American Scandal is a great place to find deep dives into all different kinds of crime, and the intricate webs that are often weaved around them.
Up and Vanished
If you love deep investigative work, definitely check out Up and Vanished. Atlanta filmmaker Payne Lindsey looks into the lesser-known cold cases of Tara Grinstead and Kristal Reisinger in its first two seasons, respectively. Lindsey aims to shine a light on these cases, and he’s managed to create a pretty compelling podcast in the process. In the third season, Lindsey dives into the case of a missing indigenous woman, and shines a light on the plight of indigenous women more generally.
Someone Knows Something
How do cases go cold? And when they do, how does that affect the loved ones of those who are missing? Someone Knows Something aims to answer those questions and more as host David Rigden speaks to the friends and families of the victims of heinous crimes and mysterious acts. It’s one of the more personal true crime podcasts out there, and it’s all the better for it.
From BBC Radio, Fake Heiress is a closer look at the crimes of Anna Delvey. In 2013, “Delvey” moved to New York from Germany and made her way into celebrity society as a young socialite pretending to be a German heiress. Inventing Anna brought this story to an even greater audience, but if you want to learn even more, Fake Heiress will give you all the shocking details.
Hunting Ghislane/The Followers
A timely podcast (and perhaps some of the heavier material on our list), Hunting Ghislane asks and answers a lot of the lingering questions surrounding Ghislane Maxwell, daughter of a disgraced billionaire and partner to Jeffrey Epstein. Reporter John Sweeney investigates where Maxwell came from, who she came to be, and the criminal charges she’s been convicted of in the early episodes of this podcast before switching over to true stalking stories.
Leah Sottile has become a go-to podcaster on the subject of right-wing extremism, but Burn Wild sees him tackling the opposite end of the political spectrum. In examining left-win ecoterrorism, the show tells the story of two fringe environmentalists on the run. Ultimately, though, the podcast is about the line between rational action in response to climate change and out-and-out terrorism.
Not your typical story of murder and betrayal, but Sympathy Pains is fascinating nonetheless. Telling the story of Sarah Delashmit, the podcast chronicles her many fabricated stories of medical maladies, all of which seem designed to ingratiate her deeper and deeper into the emotional lives of those around her. It’s all a little messed up, but that’s precisely why it’s so interesting.
When a journalist and private investigator heads down to Texas to meet a man named Tim Miller, things get a little strange. Miller has gained fame for saving people in the area as a search and rescuer. As Miller quickly reveals, though, he believes he’s finally solved the decades-old murder of his own daughter. Miller’s hunger for revenge is the show’s driving force, but we get to see all of that through the eyes of an outside observer.
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