True crime is one of the most popular genres today, as evidenced by the incredible number of books, TV shows, documentaries, and podcasts dedicated to it.
It’s a type of nonfiction literature that explores the details of an actual crime. Some call it exploitative because of its capacity to harm the victims and people involved; others consider it a study of human behavior, examining well-established facts in a journalistic fashion.
Popular True Crime Podcasts
Podcasts are the newest entry point for the true crime obsession. Not only does the audio component engage the listener’s imagination, but it also makes it easier for newcomers to get into the genre. It avoids the gory visuals, which often turn some people away.
With so many true crime podcasts popping up, it’s difficult to decide which one to listen to first, but I’ve rounded up some of the most intriguing options out there so you can decide for yourself.
Serial is an investigative journalism podcast that tells a nonfiction crime story over multiple episodes. Narrated by journalist Sarah Koenig, it became a pop culture phenomenon that helped podcasting get to where it is today.
Part of what makes it so memorable is its revival of the serialized, week-by-week format usually used on the radio. This format allowed the podcast to dive into deeper narratives about flawed investigations, possible miscarriages of justice, and raw emotions.
2. My Favorite Murder
My Favorite Murder is a true crime comedy podcast hosted by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. They release episodes bi-weekly, with a host telling one story and the other providing commentary.
The podcasts often discuss problematic themes seen in true crime such as sexual abuse, religion, victims’ rights, and mental illness. The hosts add on to these by injecting their own relevant personal experiences and anecdotes.
3. The Murder Squad
The Murder Squad is a collaboration between retired cold-case investigator Paul Holes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen. Both are experienced in true crime, with Holes contributing to the Golden State Killer’s arrest, and Jensen helping finish the book that raised awareness to the GSK in the first place.
The podcast was initially launched to help solve cold cases by asking the audience to pitch in, and in fact, their efforts have already led to an arrest in a 40-year-old cold case.
Criminal is a bi-monthly podcast featuring interviews with people who have committed crimes, are victims of crimes, or fall somewhere in between. It was one of true crime’s first hits when it comes to podcasts, debuting nine months earlier than Serial.
It takes an all-inclusive approach to the crimes it discusses. Not only does it discuss the crime itself, but also the motivations, cultural workings, and other undercurrents present within it.
5. The Dropout
The Dropout follows one of modern society’s most controversial scandals—Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. It documents Holmes’ journey from dropping out of Stanford, to founding a $9 billion company, and being indicted on 11 counts of fraud.
The podcast interviews former employees, investors, and patients, and includes snippets of deposition tapes to paint a full picture of the case.
6. Slow Burn
Slow Burn is a narrative podcast that examines some of America’s most infamous crimes. Leaning more into the political, it has covered cases such as the Watergate scandal, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G’s public feud.
It takes each case and analyzes it in old and new directions, giving listeners a deeper understanding of the political implications of each.
7. Real Crime Profile
Real Crime Profile is hosted by a trio of true crime experts: retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente, ex-New Scotland Yard criminal behavioral analyst Laura Richards, and Criminal Minds casting director Lisa Zambetti.
This weekly podcast studies real-life crimes that have gained public attention from shows such as Tiger King, Mindhunter, and Leaving Neverland. Not content with the broad details, the hosts focus on one element of a case per episode, providing listeners with a truly in-depth analysis of each.
8. Dr. Death
Dr. Death is a podcast that focuses on appalling cases of medical malpractice. Medical journalist Laura Beil dissects the actions of doctors who maim, cheat, or even kill the patients put in their care.
It’s a study on how terrifying it is to entrust your life to another person, especially one whose profession is to keep you healthy—but doesn’t. It’s currently in its third season, having already tackled infamous doctors such as Christopher Duntsch, Farid Fata, and Paolo Macchiarini.
Disappearances is a podcast that takes a closer look at history’s most well-documented missing persons cases—something that host Sarah Turney is intimate with.
Her sister Alissa disappeared in 2001, and the case was only solved two decades later after Turney shared details of it on social media. Her first-hand experience gives her a unique perspective on each case, including the impact that the victim’s absence has on those they leave behind.
10. In the Dark
In the Dark is a podcast famous for its rigorous, journalistic reports which are delivered in a non-sensationalist way. Each season reexamines a high-profile case through meticulous data-diving in an attempt to understand every side of the crime, including at what point law enforcement failed.
It is also known for its real-world impact on the cases it tackles. Because of its reporting, Curtis Flowers, a man wrongly convicted for murder, was finally freed and all charges against him were dropped.
Undisclosed is a podcast dedicated to exploring wrongful convictions and the unfair criminal justice system in the United States. Each season focuses on one particular case, bringing new evidence that questions its investigation, trial, and verdict.
It’s also known for its impressive track record in investigating these cases. So far, 14 of the cases it’s reviewed have been remedied, with ten of the defendants exonerated.
What Is the Fascination with True Crime?
Our society’s current fixation with all things true crime is astonishing. Perhaps mainstream media has desensitized us to the horrors of death and violence, or maybe we’re just interested in learning more about human behavior and how extreme it can be.
Many people treat this genre like soul food—digging deep into the gory details of a crime seems to give them catharsis. More accurately, it gives them a point of focus for learning more about humanity, justice, and good vs. evil.
Whatever the case, this genre has no signs of fading anytime soon. Authors and filmmakers have responded to this phenomenon, happy to satisfy the true-crime cravings of listeners, readers, and viewers with content based on real-life headlines.