12 Best True Crime Podcasts You Should Be Listening To
The first thing you have to decide when selecting a true crime podcast is whether you want to delve deeply into one true crime over the course of a season (or even an entire series), or whether you prefer to collect the more topline details of many true crime stories. Whichever you choose, we’ve got you covered.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The standard-bearer for both categories of true-crime podcast, the first season of Serial explored the 1999 murder of Baltimore high school student, Hae Min Lee, including the questionable conviction of Lee’s boyfriend. Its second season upped the international scale, focusing on Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier held captive by the Taliban for five years before the U.S. charged him with desertion. Its third season abandoned its namesake format to explore the American justice system through a weekly cross-section of the cases that pass through Cleveland’s criminal courts. If you love true-crime podcasts, you’ll obsess over these 20 baffling cases that stumped forensic experts.
Missing and Murdered in the Midwest
It’s not that we’re picking on the midwest here. It’s just that the midwest’s combination of “poverty and plains” seems to set the stage. M and M in M is new as of the summer of 2019, but the episodes thus far have brought passionate detail and haunting unanswered questions from stories previously covered in the news. One example is the chilling case of the swimsuit-clad 11-year-old Trudy Appleby, who climbed into a gray sedan 23 years ago and was never seen again.
Southern Fried True Crime
The past two decades have seen a growing interest in what some refer to as true crime that takes place in the swamps, mountains, and suburbs of the South. Based on the enthusiastic reception given to Erica Kelley’s newish Southern Fried True Crime podcast, it seems there’s something inexplicably compelling about the juxtaposition of warm, Southern charm blended with chilling, gothic crime. Kelley humbly characterizes her approach as “layman,” but don’t let that fool you: this podcast is highly detailed and thoroughly researched, and meticulously sourced.
The first season of Crimetown focused on organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island, which seems an unexpected choice, that is, until you have a listen, at which point it might seem odd Providence hasn’t been the setting of more mafia movies. Season 2 focuses on a more obvious choice: Detroit, but delves insightfully into factors that made the Motor City such an ideal backdrop for the drug trade, political scandal, and racial unrest and brings us close to the people who make the stories all the more vivid.
Vast, mysterious, and, at one time, a prison colony for Great Britain, Australia is another geographical hotbed of true crime. The father-son duo behind the Loose Units podcast mines that mystique each week, telling a different story from the father’s tenure on the Sydney police force in the 1980s, focusing on those that were “too surreal, brief, or contentious” to fit into the book by the same name. What might that mean? How about this recent episode, The Real Underbelly, which begins with the discovery of a headless, handless corpse in a park? Don’t miss these gripping true crime books that will keep you up at night.
Criminal, which is a monthly exploration into the psychology and sociology behind criminal behavior, is a great choice for fans of television’s Criminal Minds and Law and Order: Criminal Intent in that it mines the psychology of the criminal mind. However, it doesn’t stop there. Criminal explores not only the minds of criminals but also the minds of victims. For example, a recent episode detailing a 1973 bank robbery turns out to be an insightful exploration of the very first documented case of “Stockholm Syndrome” (in which hostages end up identifying with their captors).
Real Crime Profile
On the other hand, some true-crime podcast junkies are interested primarily in the minds of criminals. For them, there’s Real Crime Profile, a recent addition to the true-crime podcast universe. Hosted by a former FBI criminal profiler and a former Scotland Yard investigator, RC Profile take a deep dive each episode into tantalizingly damaged emotional lives of real-life criminals, many of whom you already have a working familiarity with, such as Steven Avery (whose story inspired the breakout documentary, Making a Murderer) and OJ Simpson.
Up and Vanished
Now, for a true-crime podcast you can truly root for, there’s Up and Vanished, which comes from amateur investigator Payne Lindsey, whose natural and now well-honed investigative skills helped the State of Georgia to solve the cold case of the disappearance of Tara Grinstead. The six-episode first season quickly expanded to more than 24, and Lindsey became a breakout true-crime podcast star with another season “hot on the trail” of the first. While Grinstead’s case was solved, sadly, it looks as if none of these true crime cases ever will be.
The Discovery Channel is still turning true crime into fascinating “small”-screen entertainment, but they’ve also diversified into the true-crime podcast space. Detective mines the stories told by some of the most beloved ID Discovery detectives (Think: Detective Joe Kenda, prolific “Homicide Hunter,”) and turns their stories into delectable audio-candy even without the visual aid of the beautiful actors like Carl Marino who play them. Looking for a little Hollywood glamour to add to your true crime fix? Check out any of these transfixing true crime movies.
Many true crime junkies are addicted, among other things, to seeing justice meted out against the “bad guys.” At first blush, Undisclosed, which focuses on the exoneration of the wrongly accused and convicted, might appear to fly in the face of that. However, there is justice being served here; it’s just that it’s not justice for the victim, per se, or justice against the wrong-doer. Rather, it’s justice against a flawed system that we nevertheless rely upon as better than any alternative. Don’t miss the sequence of episodes about Adnan Syed, the boyfriend of murder victim Hae Min Lee, whose murder case was the focus of the first season of Serial.