I never thought I’d live without DiscoveryID and their surplus of true crime dramatizations. But in June we cut the cord, went cable-less, and with it went my surplus of murder stories. I had to find a new way to appease my craving and, to my absolute joy, I stumbled upon something even better – the true crime podcast.
These podcasts remove the commercials and cheesy dramatizations that plague most true crime TV shows, and add in a ton more research, dark humor and grizzly details the FCC would never allow aired. In other words – outside of in depth documentaries and novels, podcasts are the way to go for die-hard true crime fans.
While there are a ton of podcasts to choose from, below are my top 5 true crime podcasts, along with why and great episodes to get you started.
#1: The Generation Why Podcast
Hosts Aaron & Justin of The Generation Why podcast “discuss theories and share their opinions on unsolved murders, controversies, mysteries, conspiracies, & true crime.”
Aaron and Justin walk you through each detail of a case in a very organized way, fully explaining the murder/crime, police investigation, mysteries or unresolved clues, the official outcome, and their own thoughts. This is a great podcast if you like thorough stories, lots of details, and educated assertions. There is no hyperbole and very few jokes. It’s to the point – but somehow it’s far from dry.
To get started, I suggest listening to: The Matthew Hoffman tree surgeon murder.
#2: The Last Podcast on the Left
Hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel and Marcus Parks use humor to run through all the details behind murders, conspiracies, and mysteries “both imagined and real.” (They cover true, real life crime, but also how “imagined” threats, like the ghost cats of the south, result in very real consequences for very real people.)
Each episode is riddled with “bro-humor” jokes, imitations, and jabs at the murderers and criminals, but never at the victims. They describe the motives, methods and reasoning driving each criminal and case, but they also make fun of the wrong-doers constantly – because they don’t deserve respect.
This is a light-hearted, but still incredibly thorough, true crime podcast. I think it’s a great listen for the commute home.
To get started, I suggest listening to: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng Part I: Operation Brownie Pockets (This is the beginning of a 3-part series that I loved).
Host Phoebe Judge covers “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle”. Criminal podcast episodes are short, generally less than 30-minutes, and are narrated by the people affected by the crime themselves. This can range from the perpetrator, to the victim, or most recently to the career of a Chicago courtroom sketch artist. The stories are not focused on every detail, motive, or moment of investigation like the first two podcasts on this list. Instead, the episodes focus on the more poignant aspects of the story, which create often fascinating vignette-like episodes.
To get started, I suggest listening to: Angie
#4: Sword and Scale
This one is good if you don’t mind a host peppering his opinion throughout the story. On Sword and Scale, host Mike Boudet includes 911 calls, court transcripts and his own (often judgmental) opinion to give as “naked” a retelling of the crime and aftermath as possible. He tries very hard to fully expose the perpetrators – whether criminal or members of the justice system – and does not shy away from explaining gory, scary and disturbing details. Mike also includes lots of sources and materials to accompany each podcast on his website, and also plays pretty great music throughout each episode.
To get started, I suggest listening to: Episode 55 – Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell
I didn’t want to include this podcast, because I think everyone has listened to it by now, but it’s too good a series to leave off completely.
Host Sarah Koenig dedicates each season of Serial to a single crime. So far, there are 1.5 seasons, and each covers a controversial case that leaves the viewer trying to desperately decide if the defendant is guilty or not. Sarah tries very hard to create an unbiased story and isn’t afraid to admit when her biases are coming through. She is not a police officer, a lawyer, or a criminal – she’s simply a reporter telling a story, and working tirelessly to determine what actually happened. As a normal person too, you find yourself rooting for Sarah the amateur sleuth and trying to wrap your head around the dizzying details that make up a criminal case alongside her.
Since Season 2 is still underway, I suggest listening to: Season 1 – the case of Adnan Syed