True crime podcasts have had their renaissance in the last five years. Many titles are sprouting from the genre, which makes looking for the best true crime podcasts a long quest.
Compared with other media, podcasts are low-maintenance to consume. They’re like music: hit play and do whatever you want. This makes the true-crime genre a perfect match for boring weeknights. You can play along as an investigator with its hosts or simply listen to them like you would a friend (with very specific interests).
Inside This Article
- What Are True Crime Podcasts?
- 20 Best True Crime Podcasts
- Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder
- Deep Cover: The Drug Wars
- Death of a Starlet
- The Orange Tree
- What Happened to Annie?
- Bear Brook
- Someone Knows Something
- Paper Ghosts
- Dirty John
- Bad People
- British Scandal
- Up and Vanished
- Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo
- Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen
- Son of a Hitman
- Fake Heiress
- My Favorite Murder
- Final Word
A podcast is a series of audio files that discuss specific topics and niches. It can have one host or several and can run for as many seasons as it wants to.
In a nutshell, podcasting is like radio broadcasting in the age of streaming. However, there are still stark differences between podcasts and radio shows especially when it comes to theme, length, and serialization.
Podcasts have more creative freedom than radio shows. Most podcasts can be produced independently, where hosts scour for brand deals themselves—an easier feat all thanks to the internet. Thus, a podcast is more accessible to people than a radio show.
Podcasting can cover a lot of ground. There are horror podcast shows, science podcasts, and even YouTube podcasts. Most of these are free to listen to and on-demand. Their production levels vary, as it depends on whether they operate under a podcast distribution company or not.
Either way, most active podcasts release an episode a week. Some podcasts release one a month or have a sporadic upload schedule depending on their season. Whichever the case may be, listeners can access these episodes whenever and wherever they want.
How about podcasts that have run their course? Most of these are still alive online in one form or another. Think of it as a TV series that finished five years ago: those episodes are still accessible to you, whether from a streaming service or cable.
As mentioned above, podcasting has sprouted many niches throughout the years. What was once clear-drawn lines are now wiped gray. The sports genre can cross with science and vloggers can give you life advice.
A popular and still growing niche in podcasting is true crime podcasts. There are now over a hundred of these online, each with a grueling mystery that may or may not have a conclusion.
While many may think that the best true crime podcasts cast the same spell over and over again, many listeners argue the opposite. The best true crime podcasts do not recycle the same format—they dictate it.
When they do use a common format, they add their unique perspective. How you understand a mystery is key in explaining it: the best true crime podcasts do their research. Through this, they add nuance in their discussions, reeling people in on the whodunit of it all.
It is easy to think of true crime podcasting as one thing: it starts with a passionate conspiracy theorist who has spent too much time on online forums. The podcast discusses an ’80s mystery Netflix has discussed far too much of. It then ends with a long conclusion that leads to the same unanswered question.
There are podcasts like these, but these are not the hallmarks of the best true crime podcasts. Exploring the latter, this list breaks down the 20 best true crime podcasts you can listen to today.
One of the best true crime podcasts, Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder, uncovers the heinous crimes that lead to the death of a famous British investigator.
Due to the nature of his job, Morgan had access to the secrets of the Metropolitan Police Service. This knowledge became his downfall, as many believe that his death by ax-murder was concocted by the service themselves.
Hosted by Peter Jukes (author) and Alistair Morgan (Daniel’s brother), this podcast looks into this theory and many more. Daniel Morgan’s death was brought about by many institutions, and the hosts untangle them one by one.
From a phone-hacking scandal to an ax murder—this case remains unsolved after three decades. Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder fills in the gaps that hopefully create a fuller story.
Not all of the best true crime podcasts have dark endings. While Believed tells the story of a doctor who has done monstrous things, it does have a conclusion many have heard of already. However, knowing bits of the story is not enough. This podcast gets into the nitty-gritty of Larry Nassar’s case—the former doctor of the USA gymnastics team.
For years, Nassar was a trusted asset of the team. It was not until 2016 that stories of his misconduct and sexual abuse came to light. Believed dives deep into the stories of the women he has wronged. This podcast is not for the faint of heart because hosts Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith are unafraid to discuss the details of Nassar’s actions.
Believed is one of the best true crime podcasts because it sheds light on the victims of this issue. Born in the 21st century, Nassar’s misconduct is very real in modern times. By discussing these in detail, Wells and Smith raise awareness of taboo issues: sexual abuse and power tripping.
Nassar’s victims have won their case—and there are hundreds of them—but Believed knows that there is still work to be done.
If you’re more interested in true crime podcasts that have the high-energy chase of movies, Deep Cover: The Drug Wars is for you. Listen to the riveting stories of an FBI agent as he follows a criminal motorcycle gang across the country. The catch? It is his first time going undercover.
Deep Cover: The Drug Wars pulls the curtain on the life of agents. While they may be seen as movie tropes, this podcast reveals the truth behind it all. The FBI agent on this podcast lived as his character for many years, reaching the nooks and crannies of the drug trade.
He faces chaos, mayhem, and the possible U.S. invasion.
Hollywood is where dreams—and dreamers—can come to die. Such is the case for many lured into the vivacious L.A. lifestyle, unaware of the dark underbelly of it all.
Dorothy Stratten lived the high life with prominent men of the ’80s. Living as a Playboy Playmate, she had access to the most luxurious affairs. She was the definition of girl-next-door, and everyone was bewitched by her sweet demureness.
Her fate was cut short when she was found dead inside one of her houses’ rooms. She was only 20 years old, ready to open the next chapter of her life and career.
Death of A Starlet is a podcast shedding light on her murder. It is a relatively short listen, spanning only six episodes. Hosted by Tracy Pattin and Josh Lucas, this is one of the best true crime podcasts you can listen to.
Learn about Stratten’s hopes and dreams, as well as her connections to Hollywood’s most powerful men: Hugh Hefner, Peter Bogdonovich, and Paul Snider.
Hosts Tinu Thomas and Haley Butler were journalism students when the vile murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave took place. They all studied at the University of Texas (UT), with Thomas and Butler living near the crime scene.
The Orange Tree is a condo complex in UT. Cave went there the day of her death to visit a friend: Colton Pitonyak, a business student at the same university. She was with him to celebrate getting a new job. Cave never arrived for her first day.
As one of the best true crime podcasts, The Orange Tree reels you in its plot-twisted story. Pitonyak was definitely a person of interest in this investigation, fleeing to Mexico after his night out with Cave. However, another person joins the mix: another student, Laura Hall.
When Swedish musician Annie Borjesson died in 2005, authorities were quick to rule it as self-inflicted harm. The 30-year-old was found lifeless along Prestwick beach in Scotland, by a dog and his walker.
While investigators think they have cracked the code, Borjesson’s family knows Annie all too well. Her death remains shrouded by mystery to them—her items reveal an intention to go about her day-to-day life. Annie had her passport with her and was supposed to fly out of Prestwick the day she died.
An award-winning series, What Happened to Annie is one of the best true crime podcasts. It investigates the fate of Annie Borjesson and questions its possible unlawful conclusion. Her family believes that she was murdered, and this six-episode podcast unpacks this belief one by one.
Gruesome is not enough to describe the crimes committed in New Hampshire Park decades ago. When four unidentified people were found in Bear Brook State Park, investigators worked tirelessly on the case.
It has been years since these people have seen the light of day. Found inside barrels, they have been victims of an unknown serial killer in the area. The Bear Brook crime was so well-planned that it has been talked about and theorized by many web-sleuths to this day.
In fact, amateurs have been trying to crack this case for almost as long as the police. This is in the hopes of bringing justice and peace to the wronged people of Bear Brook.
What makes Bear Brook one of the best true crime podcasts is its storytelling. It explores the narrative of a heinous crime without romanticizing or sensationalizing it. This podcast does its job in good faith, pushing the needle closer and closer to a satisfying conclusion.
As of 2021, there is a suspect in this case. Moreover, more than half of the found people have been identified. Many credit the Bear Brook case for being a cornerstone of investigative excellence: the first to use genetic genealogy.
On the topic of not over sensationalizing crimes, Someone Knows Something works with victims’ family members in presenting their cases.
Hosted by writer-filmmaker David Ridgen, this podcast is in its sixth season. Over the years it has explored many cold cases, starting with Adrien McNaughton’s and its most recent addition: Donald Izzett Jr’s.
Like Bear Brook, Someone Knows Something is careful with its portrayal of its subject matter. Having the victims’ families join Ridgen makes for a more earnest discussion of the cases. As a bonus, Ridgen himself is a masterful storyteller, having written award-winning pieces in his career.
The cold cases discussed on this podcast are hard-hitting and real. Its latest season looks into the death of Donald Izzett Jr. His mother reveals the last phone call she had with her son who was on a road trip before his line went silent.
Another well-reviewed season involves the mysterious deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee—teenagers found in the Mississippi River. Their fate was in the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, and no one from the group was ever convicted for their crimes. Ridgen and Moore’s brother visited the scene of the crime and sought justice.
These are all documented in one of the best true crime podcasts: Someone Knows Something.
Join host M. William Phelps in uncovering small-town crimes with big-town consequences. Now with two seasons, Paper Ghosts investigates the two crimes committed in America’s more quiet states: New England and Ohio.
In the first season, Phelps investigates the story of four girls who went missing years apart from each other. While their cases may look different, perspective sheds light on a pattern. More than one person has been arrested for this crime, so there is something sketchy there.
In season two, Phelps looks into a farmhouse fire that took the lives of the four people who lived there during the 4th of July weekend. Thus, many factors came into play in discussing a suspect for this case. A fire may not have caused it, and Phelps takes you in for the ride.
Discuss documents, listen to audiotapes, and unlock your critical thinking with Paper Ghosts. M. Williams Phelps is a renowned true-crime author for a reason, and you will be more than interested to hear what he has to say.
Come back to the land of California with Dirty John. Join L.A. Times writer Christopher Goffard in unpacking the life of Debra Newell.
In less than 20 episodes, Goffard unveils Newell’s life as a wife and a divorcee. When she meets John Meehan, a devious love story unfolds. Meehan is a con-man, and Newell fell for his tricks.
As Debra’s family warns her of the new man in her life, she fights for her pristine and intense relationship. She believed that Meehan was everything he said he was: a caring doctor, an attentive husband, and a socially aware citizen.
Things go awry, and Newell undertakes a new fight: one that has her and her family’s welfare on the line.
Dirty John looks into the story of a high-balling interior designer and her doomed love story. However, unlike other best true crime podcasts on this list, Dirty John presents closure. Newell lives to tell the tale. Her story can help many in escaping domestic abuse and in detecting its first signs.
When one imagines a title from the best true crime podcasts, Serial might be the first to come to mind. Affiliated with the New York Times, this podcast is hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig.
Serial blazed the trail for many of the best true crime podcasts on this list. Coming out in 2014, Serial was ahead of its time, recounting one true crime story each season. Koenig, with all of her investigative prowess, runs down all of the story’s details. She is listeners’ guiding light in an otherwise gruelingly dark tunnel.
Listening to Serial gives you a perspective on the American justice system, too. When Koenig discusses a case, she exposes the biases and flaws of its parts.
In the first season, for example, Koenig tells the story of Adnan Syed. He is famously known for the death of fellow high school student, Hae Min Lee. As a case from 1999, factors of this case might have been overlooked. Syed’s sentencing was also controversial, and Koenig runs it down for her listeners.
Serial is a dauntless podcast led by a razor-sharp storyteller. It has eclipsed its genre, reeling in even those who are not fans of the genre. Serial is podcasting arriving at its truest form: storytelling.
In history, people discuss crimes under the lens of who is “good” and “bad.” In Bad People, hosts Dr. Julia Shaw and Sofie Hagen vie for more nuance. As a criminal psychologist and a comedian respectively, they dive deeper into history’s most sensationalized crime sprees.
In each episode of Bad People, they unveil the method to the madness. Even the best true crime podcasts can be guilty of bias and click-bait. Bad People is careful in brushing its strokes; it wants listeners to understand the complexity that goes into committing crimes.
Heinous criminal acts should never be given a free pass. What Shaw and Hagen do is unpack crimes that continue to intrigue and terrify. By doing this, they reveal the driving force of these stories—human beings.
Self-explanatory, British Scandal is a true-crime podcast that examines Britain’s modern-day scandals, particularly those of people in power.
As one of the world’s most powerful forces, Britain’s elite control more than just their immediate surroundings. Thus, when their scandals are revealed, gossip spreads beyond Britain. An example of this is the Salisbury Poisonings, which is the first episode of the entire series.
British scandals can overthrow governments and create more imbalances across the globe. This is the sacrifice that comes with chasing power. Still, like Bad People, British Scandal wants to strip away these stories’ allure.
These scandals are done, spread, and made by human beings. Their motivations are unclear. In this gray area, Alice Levine (comedian) and Matt Forde (political advisor) come in. Together, they unpack those at the heart of each British Scandal. If you live for the drama, this is one of the best true crime podcasts you can listen to.
Contrasting British Scandal is Payne Lindsey’s Up and Vanished. The former looks at crimes with global reparations, while the latter is a testament to the power of amateur web-sleuthing.
Lindsey was around 20 when he began Up and Vanished, and the podcast has since skyrocketed in popularity. Other than help from a private investigator here and there, Lindsey runs this podcast alone. The first season of Up and Vanished is what made it into one of the best true crime podcasts. Here, Lindsey unpacks the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a Georgia high school teacher and former beauty queen.
Guided by his unique filmmaking skills, Lindsey makes for an exciting host. He reels listeners in every step of the way, though many do question his ‘sensationalized’ treatment of the matter.
Whatever one’s opinion may be, Up and Vanished pushes these small-town cases forward. Grinstead’s case was somewhat solved during the first season’s run, with Ryan Alexander Duke confessing as the offender.
True crime podcasting, evidenced by Up and Vanished, can be an effective gateway to raising awareness. Such was the case for Tara Grinstead, and host Connie Walker hopes the same for Cleo, a young girl from the biggest indigenous tribe in North America—Cree.
Cleo went missing in the 1970s. She was last seen in Saskatchewan by her family, who are yet to know what really happened to their Cleo. As of this podcast, all they could do was speculate: Cleo was stolen and killed trying to find her way home. She might as well be in the United States, where her abductors fled after their crimes.
However, these are mere speculations from her family, which were also displaced due to government programs in the 70s. In Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo, these members reunite looking for the truth. Guiding them through is Walker, who is Cree herself.
Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo reaches new heights in the world of the best true crime podcasts. It uses the genre to push a very important discussion forward: the systemic oppression of indigenous tribes across North America.
Cleo Nicotine Semaganis was young when she was taken. She was robbed of a future with her Cree family, as they were with her. Walker makes sense of this story and achieves what she set out to do. She finds out what happens to Cleo.
Crime, as discussed in this article, is not always a cold-cased murder story. Investigations are always running after culprits, but these may not always be murderers. Sometimes, the people caught up in crimes had no choice. Other times, they start the madness themselves.
Criminal is one of the best true crime podcasts with nuance. It follows investigative techniques and leads listeners into the world of true crime. This podcast thrives on the hunt, revealing how, where, and when to start looking.
Like other titles on this list, Criminal highlights less popular true crime cases. However, it discusses them in vivid detail; latching on to each description with a vigor for the truth.
Crime, for Criminal, is complex. This is a podcast that lives to tell its tales.
Hollywood seems to be the perfect place for cons, as seen in titles like Death of a Starlet and Dirty John. However, the city of angels does not show signs of living down its reputation.
Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen is a true-crime podcast that explores a prominent Hollywood scam. Set in modern times, Chameleon investigates the mysterious calls Hollywood workers have been receiving for the past six years. These calls provide job opportunities: big-time roles that can jumpstart their career.
When they join the recruitment process, they are sent to meet their studio executives. These hopefuls land in Jakarta, scammed, alone, and having to find their way back home.
Hosted by journalists Josh Dean and Vanessa Grigoariadis, Chameleon questions the motives of this Hollywood Scammer. What are they getting out of sending make-up artists, stuntmen, cameramen (and more) out of the country? Who is at the heart of this scam? Where do these calls lead?
Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen is one of the best true crime podcasts because of its relevance. This quest is happening in real-time, and people can watch it unfold before their eyes.
Woody Harrelson is one of Hollywood’s rugged “bad boys,” but did you know that he was also the son of a hitman?
Produced by Spotify Studios and hosted by journalist Jason Cavanagh, Son of a Hitman investigates Charles Harrelson’s crimes in real time. Charles’s reputation precedes him; his life has been shrouded in nay-say and gossip. In this podcast, the truth is unveiled. Moreover, it is expanded, with Cavanagh discovering new evidence with his listeners.
Son of a Hitman is one of the best true crime podcasts you can listen to. Its questions are relevant, and the Harrelson family is more than willing to cooperate with its mission.
This is a short listen, too, running for only 10 episodes.
Go across the coast and discover the crimes of Anna Delvey, a con-woman who cheated her way into a lavish life.
Join journalists Vicky Baker and Chloe Moss as they discuss how Delvey pulled off one of the more elaborate scams of the 21st century. Tricking New York elites is no small feat, but Delvey managed to create a life out of it, parading as a German socialite.
This story is so riveting that it has its own Netflix special underway. While waiting for it, however, one should give Fake Heiress a listen. This is a documentary that explores each detail of Delvey’s case: from the court hearings to her Instagram posts.
Irreverent, bold, and vivacious, My Favorite Murder has listeners laughing at hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s conversations.
In each episode, they discuss their favorite life-threatening crime/s. They go into its players, circumstances, and conclusions. These can be cult classic cold cases or small-town acts that go undiscussed by the general public.
My Favorite Murder is one of the best true crime podcasts to take a life of its own. Dedicated listeners call themselves the Murderinos, excited to hear of crime sprees committed around their area.
Unlike other podcasts on this list, this title tends to present its stories in a comedic light. Not everyone will be a fan of this treatment, but it seems like Kilgariff and Hardstark are doing just fine themselves.
The best true crime podcasts explore the complexity of human beings. However, they also do not acquit the offenders of the crimes. These podcasts must strike a balance with a clear goal in mind.
Such is the case for all 20 best true crime podcasts on this list. Their nature and treatment are different—some comedic, others investigative, while most are nuanced—but they are all done with care and good faith.
Weekends can make for very boring nights. However, with the best true crime podcasts, you can spice up your evenings in an instant: Sherlocking matters in your own hands.