If you’re looking for a new listen, I’ve collected my favorite true crime podcasts into this handy guide. (There’s no particular order in each category).
True Crime Heavy Hitters (The Best)
A little bit of everything made it to this top eight list – comedy, longform, crime of the week.
My Favorite Murder: If you’re unfamiliar with MFM it’s okay but also I’m strangely and intensely irritated by that. Smashing together comedy and true crime, the podcast is hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. An absolute hit of a series, these women are playing sold out venues with the kind of attendance I’d expect of a One Direction reunion tour. Between retelling horrific murders Karen and Georgia share anecdotes and shocking personal tidbits that have earned them the adoration of even the cool goth kids from your high school.
Dr. Death: There are two kinds of people who should listen to this: people with a slipped disc who have a masochistic desire to scare themself and pretty much everyone else. Dr. Death is a visceral listen. From podcast powerhouse Wondery, Dr. Death traverses a minefield of ethical violations and straight-up crimes that were perpetrated by neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch. When patients came to him, begging for pain relief, his arrogance resulted in so many travesties that’s it’s mind-boggling how he made it through med school.
Serial (Season 1): An absolute classic, Serial really kicked off this true crime podcast craze. The first season (and the only one worth the binge) covers the 1999 disappearance of high school student Hae Min Lee. Weeks after she vanishes, Hae Min’s classmate and ex, Adnan Syed, is arrested and sentenced. Over the past decade he’s maintained his innocence. Serial thrust the case into the spotlight after the series started in 2014. Ongoing developments have been coming forth since.
The Teacher’s Pet: The same rage and indignation should find you in The Teacher’s Pet as it does in Dr. Death. This isn’t a case of whodunit but how the hell did no one do anything for so long. The true crime series looks at the 36-year-old disappearance of Lyn Dawson and turns a piercing eye toward her husband. A footballer (the Aussie kind) and popular high school teacher, Chris Dawson was a town celebrity with a teenage girlfriend and creepy twin brother. The Teacher’s Pet examines the failings of a school district and police department through this chilling case. (Read more from Emily L. about The Teacher’s Pet.)
Believed: How long can multiple institutions fail hundreds of women and girls? Apparently decades. That’s how long Larry Nassar, an Olympic gymnastics doctor, got away with his crime. And then, those women and girls, rose up to end his spree in what has become the largest case of sexual abuse in US history. Believed speaks with survivors and family members to tell a story of systematic abuse, and the incredible survivors who ended it.
Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo: Missing and Murdered is heartbreaking journalism. During the course of this season a family looks for their sister, who, as a child, was snatched by the government during The Sixties Scoop. Cleo, along with tens of thousands of Indigenous children were pulled from their families, communities and cultures to be placed with white families. The damage was reprehensible and irreversible on a personal and cultural scale.
Casefile: Potentially the most well-researched true crime podcast out there, Casefile is gruesome, gripping and weirdly soothing because goddamn that Australian accent. With new cases every episode, or every few episodes, the anonymous host retells crimes from around the world with precision and empathy.
Small Town Dicks: Get the facts right from the source. Yeardly Smith and Zibby Allen (you know them from at least a hundred things) host this true crime pod with detectives Dave and Dan. Identical twins, Detective Dan was formerly a K9 handler who worked violent crimes. He’s now retired. “Detective” (Sergeant now) Dave worked sex crimes and child abuse. Each episode (with an occasional two parter) the crew breaks down real, often unheard, cases from “Small Town,” America.
Crime Junkie: For those who don’t want the tangents of My Favorite Murder but need less HOLYSHIT than Casefile, Crime Junkie delivers. Told with compassion, hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat cover a variety of cases from well known serial killers to little known disappearances.
Honorable Mentions: Dark Poutine, Someone Knows Something (season 1 & 5), Up and Vanished, I, Survivor → ep. 3 Not Today, Motherf*cker, This American Life → ep. 654 The Feather Heist
I Want to Laugh
- My Favorite Murder
- True Crime Obsessed: There are so many good and not so good true crime docs out and thankfully the team at True Crime Obsessed is here to break them down for us. No film shall go unwatched from The Ted Bundy Tapes to Fyre Fraud. It’s a bit loud, a bit weird and a whole lotta fun. (Plus they hate the word/ethos of “influencer” which is a testament to character in 2019).
- Dumb People Town: The title sums it up pretty perfectly. It’s exclusively stories of dumb people doing dumb things. While not strictly crime, so many of their stories cover illegal activities (and Florida) that I’m saying it’s fair game.
Honorable Mentions: All Killa No Filla, S’laughter, RedHanded, The Dollop → ep. 200 Otto in the Attic
Give Me a Story
- Dr. Death
- The Teacher’s Pet
- The Dropout: Elizabeth Holmes launches Theranos with the promise to revolutionize tech and medicine. She becomes the youngest female self-made billionaire. Everything crashes and burns. Holmes was too good at Steve Jobs cosplay and less great at the not-being-a-pile-of-shit piece.
- American Scandal (Season 1): You can have zero interest in sports and still be pulled in by the first season of American Scandal. A self-taught chemist (yikes) creates the performing enhancing drugs that athletes bet their futures on. Unfortunately for them the FBI is not fond of this scheme.
- Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo
- Serial (Season 1)
Honorable Mentions: In the Dark (season 1), The Lady Vanishes, Over My Dead Body
Not All Victims Are Middle-Class White Women
True crime media has a history of perpetuating the myth that white women are the main victims of violent crimes. But with an epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the US and abroad, it’s important to put a spotlight on their stories as well as those of other marginalized people.
- Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo
- The Breach (season 4): In its most recent season, The Breach covers the unconventional use of protection orders to defend fetuses by a Montana prosecutor. The podcast opens with an overview of the unethical and often racists past of pregnancy laws and drug laws before looking at who’s targeted in Big Horn County, Montana – many of who are poor and/or Native.
- Crime Junkie (a variety of cases are covered, including those about LGBT individuals and people of color)
- The Fall Line: Each episode covers a cold cases from marginalized communities in the Southeast. Hosted by Laurah Norton, a licensed therapist, the team behind The Fall Line (Norton & Brooke Hargrove) work with advisors to identify communities who have often been ignored by the mainstream media.
- Broken Harts: Sarah and Jennifer Hart drove themselves and their six adopted children off of a 100-foot cliff… There is no moment to catch your breath during this series. Broken Harts examines all the places where these children were failed by their adopted parents and the system.
Honorable Mention: This American Life → ep. 657 The Runaways
Can There Please Not Be Murder?
And finally, the category for all of you who for some reason don’t want chronic nightmares.
- American Scandal (Season 1)
- Heist Podcast: Each episode sounds like it could be the plot of a blockbuster. Honestly, there’s no better way to explain this than an episode synopsis. “Writer Tim McAuliffe (The Office, Jimmy Fallon, Last Man on Earth) joins us to cover the totally insane tale of George Bosque, a man who stole 2 million dollars and used it to produce a blockbuster all male porno movie.” So there you go.
- The Dropout
- Swindled: A different kind of evil lives here – smarmy evil. Listen to true stories about white-collar crime, con artists and corporate corruption.
- CYBER: Crime has evolved with technology and CYBER does an excellent job of breaking down data breaches, hacks and the evolving world of cyber security. Every listen makes me feel like I’m very cool and that maybe I’ll be able to figure out why I can’t execute this command in the terminal.
Honorable Mention: Breach, This American Life → ep. 654 The Feather Heist, Last Seen, Reply All → ep. 112 The Prophet & ep. 136 The Founder (might be a titch of murder), Pretender Radio
For Those Wondering, Here Are My Credentials
Is there a podcast that you think should have been up there? Tell me in the comments (let me guess is it LPotL?). Anyway, here’s a list of all of the true crime podcasts* I’ve listened to and thus were contenders:
48 Hours, Accused, All Killa No Filla, And That’s Why We Drink, Atlanta Monster, American Scandal, Australian True Crime, Bear Brook, Believed, Breach, The Breach, Broken Harts, Burner Phone Podcast, Casefile, Cold, Cold Case Files, Crime Junkie, Crime in Sports, Criminal, Cyber, Dark Poutine, Darkweb Diary, Death in Ice Valley, Dirty John, Dr. Death, The Dropout, Dumb People Town, Empty Frames, The Fall Line, Felonious Florida, Forensic Files, Generation Why, Getting Off, Gladiator, Happy Face, Heist Podcast, Hollywood & Crime, Hostage, In the Dark, In Sight, A Killing on the Cape, The Lady Vanishes, The Last Podcast on the Left, Last Seen, To Live & Die In LA, Malicious Life, Martinis & Murder, The Minds of Madness, Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo, Missing Alissa, Missing Maura Murray, Moms & Murder, Monstruo, My Favorite Murder, Murder Squad, Over My Dead Body, Pretender Radio, Power Corrupts, Real Crime Profile, Redhanded, The RFK Tapes, Root of Evil, S-Town, Serial, Serial Killers, S’Laughter, Small Town Dicks, Small Town Murder, Someone Knows Something, S-Town, Stranglers, Survival, Swindled, Sword & Scale, The Teacher’s Pet, Thin Air, Thinking Sideways, True Crime Garage, True Crime Obsessed, True Crime Story Time, True Murder, Unsolved Murders, Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, Up and Vanished, The Vanished, Who the Hell is Hamish?, White Wine True Crime!, Wine & Crime
*plus a bunch of one offs from not elusively crime podcasts