With so many true crime shows out there, there’s surely a bit of something for every palate. From international conspiracies to horror podcasts about murders that rocked small towns, it’s all there.
Not all of the best podcasts are created equal, however. From low-quality audio to poor research to, well, just about anything else, the true-crime podcast gamut is wide.
Trying to wade through to find the best of the best can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to the genre, but worry not as we’ve done it for you.
This article has a full list of the best true crime podcasts you need to listen to. This will help you stay on track and be aware of crimes that could befall you.
What is True a Crime?
True crime is a nonfiction literary, podcast, and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.
The crimes most commonly include murder; about 40 percent focus on tales of serial killers. True crime comes in many forms, such as books, films, podcasts, and television shows.
Many works in this genre recount high-profile, sensational crimes such as the JonBenét Ramsey killing, the O. J. Simpson murder case, and the Pamela Smart murder, while others are devoted to more obscure slayings.
True crime works can impact the crimes they cover and the audience who consumes it. The genre is often criticized for being insensitive to the victims and their families and is described by some as trash culture.
Also, true crime set off the great longform podcast boom—from Serial to S-Town—and in 2022, it continues to be the most addictive podcast genre; bringing all the mystery, drama, and primal fear of a Law & Order episode directly into our ears.
While there’s no shortage of true crime series on TV, there is something particularly riveting about a suspenseful whodunit unfolding in audio form, like a modern-day ghost story.
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Why do People Listen to True Crime Podcasts?
Everywhere you turn these days, it seems like there’s a new—and wildly successful—book, podcast, or show devoted to a crime.
Investigation Discovery, a hit from when it debuted in 2008, continues to top the ratings (and even throws its own true crime convention, IDCon).
From Serial and Dr. Death to In the Dark and Atlanta Monster, there’s no shortage of true crime podcasts.
The genre is so huge that Netflix—whose offerings in this arena include The Keepers, Evil Genius, Wild Wild Country, Making a Murderer, The Staircase, and many more—even created a parody true crime series (American Vandal).
Which raises the question: Why are we so obsessed with true crime? Here’s what the experts have to say.
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1. Because Being Obsessed With True Crime Is Normal (To A Point)
First things first: There’s nothing weird about being true crime obsessed. “It says that we’re normal and we’re healthy,” Dr. Michael Mantell, former chief psychologist of the San Diego Police Department, told NPR in 2009.
“I think our interest in crime serves a number of different healthy psychological purposes.” Of course, there are limits: “If all you do is read about crime and … all you do is talk about it and you have posters of it, and you have newspaper article clippings in your desk drawer, I’d be concerned,” he said.
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2. Because Evil Fascinates Us
The true crime genre gives people a glimpse into the minds of people who have committed what forensic psychologist Dr. Paul G. Mattiuzzi calls “a most fundamental taboo and also, perhaps, a most fundamental human impulse”—murder.
“In every case,” he writes, “there is an assessment to be made about the enormity of evil involved.”
This fascination with good versus evil, according to Mantell, has existed forever; Dr. Elizabeth Rutha, a licensed clinical psychologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, told AHC Health News that our fascination begins when we’re young.
Even as kids, we’re drawn to the tension between good and evil, and true crime embodies our fascination with that dynamic.
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3. Because It Helps Us Feel Prepared
According to Megan Boorsma in Elon Law Review, studies of true crime have shown that people tend to focus on threats to their own wellbeing.
Others have noted that women in particular seem to love true crime, and psychologists believe it’s because they’re getting tips about how to increase their chances of survival if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
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4. Because We’re Glad We’re Not The Victim
Psychologists say one of the main reasons we’re obsessed with true crime is because it gives us an opportunity to feel relieved that we’re not the victim.
Tamron Hall, host of ID’s Deadline: Crime, identified that sense of reprieve at ID’s IDCon in 2017.
“I think all of you guys watch our shows and say, ‘But for the grace of God, this could happen to me’ … This could happen to anyone we know,” she said
5. Because We’re Glad We’re Not The Perpetrator
On the other hand, watching true crime also provides an opportunity to feel empathy, Mantell said: “It allows us to feel our compassion, not only a compassion for the victim, but sometimes compassions for the perpetrator.”
6. Because The Storytelling Is Good—And Comforting.
Ask Investigation Discovery’s hosts why people love true crime, and most of them will mention one thing: storytelling.
“For thousands of years, people have gathered around the fire and said, ‘Tell me a story,’” Lt. Joe Kenda, former detective and host of Homicide Hunter, told Mental Floss in 2017.
“If you tell it well, they’ll ask you tell another one. If you can tell a story about real people involved in real things that draws their interest more than something some Hollywood scriptwriter made up that always has the same components and the same ending.”
7. Because We’re Trying to Solve the Mystery
Humans like puzzles, and true crime shows and podcasts get our brains going.
“By following an investigation on TV,” Bonn writes, “people can play armchair detective and see if they can figure out ‘whodunit’ before law enforcement authorities catch the actual perpetrator.”
Because It Gives Us an Adrenaline Rush
“People … receive a jolt of adrenaline as a reward for witnessing terrible deeds,” Bonn writes.
“If you doubt the addictive power of adrenaline, think of the thrill-seeking child who will ride a roller coaster over and over until he or she becomes physically ill.
The euphoric effect of true crime on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters or natural disasters.”
10 Best True Crime Podcasts
True crime podcasts are why podcasts initially experienced such a boom. When Serial Season 1 dropped, suddenly everyone was an investigative reporter, part time detective, and aspiring legal counsel.
There’s something special about investing in a true crime podcast binge. You’re not just on the edge of your seat, you feel like you’re a part of the story.
The story feels like it’s unfolding in real time, and it’s doing so right in front of you and for you
Here are “10 0f the best true crime podcasts”
In 2016 Casefile started as a side project telling 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 derived from the podcast’s name.
Casefile is an award-winning true-crime podcast 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 includes ratings for each episode.
2. Tom Brown’s Body
It’s 2016 in the panhandle town of Canadian, Texas and a popular teenage boy has gone missing. Then, it’s 2018, and his bones are found beneath a tree outside of town.
Now, it’s a few years later, and still no arrests have been made, but every suspicion possible has been raised. Tom Brown’s Body follows this remarkable, haunting, and continuing story.
3. Paper Ghosts
Investigative journalist and true crime author M. William Phelps delves deep into the long cold case of 4 missing girls from the 1970’s in closely connected New England towns.
This pod doesn’t just reveal the story of these cases, but also new information about how these cases may be connected, as well.
4. Son of a Hitman
Legendary Man and man of the people Woody Harrelson has a storied career, but he also had a storied childhood.
You may have heard (and subsequently gasped when you found out) 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.
No true crime list is complete without the OG.
Serial takes on a new complicated crime every season, and they’re currently rolling out their fourth, 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 certainly as stellar and scintillating.
6. Generation Why
New to true crime? Start here! Generation Why has been going strong for nearly 10 years now and the strength is in their 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 this year where they share their theories and discuss their opinions on all things true crime.
7. Morning Cup of Murder
So, you want something that’s like The Daily but gives you instead a daily dose of dastardly deeds? Look no further than Morning Cup of Murder.
Short, digestible, and easy to get into when you’re getting ready in the morning or when you’re waiting for your other favorite true crime pod to come out during the week.
8. American Scandal
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 more, American Scandal is a great place to find deep dives into all different kinds of crime.
9. Up and Vanished
If you love the investigative stuff, 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 in the process puts forth a pretty compelling podcast.
10. Someone Knows Something
But, how do cases go cold? And when they do, how does it affect the loved ones of those who are missing and gone?
Someone Knows Something aims to answer those questions and more as host David Rigden speaks to the friends and families of the victims of these heinous and mysterious acts.
And so, in a weird way, these true crime stories—as horrific as they are—end up being comforting.
“While living in a world where there is rapid social, political, economic, and technological change,” Andrist said, “true crime comforts people by assuring them that their long-held ideas about how the world works are still useful.”
Casefile True Crime podcast is the number one podcast on true crime in 2021 and is said to be “engaging, well-researched” and “isn’t exploitative.” The podcast offers extensive insight into several cases, while also dealing with sensitive subjects very well.
The first true crime magazine, True Detective, was published in 1924
Serial. As one of the earliest true crime podcasts, Serial richly deserves the title of “an audio game changer.” After catapulting to success in 2014, the Peabody Award winning podcast remains as prominent as ever.
2014. In 2014, the true crime podcast Serial was released
Unlike your favourite legal drama series that’s fictitious even though it resembles real-life law, true crime podcasts are based on real people and real cases. This means a core legal principle applies: a person is innocent until proven guilty.
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