We love true crime here at Marie Claire, but there are some things a Lifetime TV movie just cannot capture. Because they’re often easier to produce than a TV show, podcasts are the new frontier of this genre, allowing listeners to go deep on cases, form their own theories, and occasionally even help out the investigators in real-time. The best true crime podcasts are ones that ultimately say something about society in general, and those are the ones rounded up below.
Here are 20 of the best true crime podcasts currently on. Most of them came out in 2019, though a few wrapped up their most recent seasons last year. Either way, there’s plenty to binge-listen to on your next long road trip or train ride or just, you know, Sunday.
This one is almost like a reverse-engineered crime: It begins when 40-year-old April Balascio realized that her father, Edward Wayne Edwards, was actually a murderer. Then, follow her journey from that realization to her call to a police detective, to the emotional upheaval that such a revelation causes a person.
From Wondery and the L.A. Times—the team that brought us one of the greatest true crime podcasts of all time, Dirty John—comes this series on the man who would come to be known as the Golden State Killer, one of the most prolific serial killers in California history. Though finally brought to justice recently after decades at large, this podcast sets out to answer deeper questions about the case, like why did it take so long for police to catch him? And who was he targeting? And most importantly, how can we make sure this never happens again?
This podcast will blow your mind. Created in partnership with the Moscow Project, an initiative from the Center for American Progress that aims to investigate President Trump's ties to Russia, this series takes listeners through everything we know so far about the president and the Kremlin. Some of it you know, some of it will shock you, and all of it—especially when it's laid out like this—points a very disturbed finger at what the president knows, and who might be manipulating him.
On its face, this podcast investigates the case of four bodies that were found in a couple barrels in the woods of New Hampshire. But then it goes way further, looking at the forensic technologies used to figure out who put the bodies there, and how they could have repercussions on the way crimes are solved—and who's found guilty—that extend far beyond these murders.
Who would break into someone's house, take a well-regarded couple hostage for nearly a day alongside their young son and housekeeper, and then murder them? This podcast tries to get to the bottom of that very real, horrific scenario, and follows the police on a winding journey to try to figure out what happened, why it happened, and who would do such a thing.
This addictive podcast from journalist Neil Strauss follows the disappearance of Adea Shabani, a beautiful aspiring actress from Los Angeles who got into her boyfriend’s truck one day and never came back. But if that makes it sound like you already know what happened, strap in: There are twists and turns here that you’ll never see coming.
Writer Jon Ronson is no stranger to getting disgraced online: He wrote an entire nonfiction book about people who were “dragged,” as it were, called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. But not all of those stories end as sadly as the one this podcast is about: After making what was perceived as a homophobic comment on Twitter, porn actress August Ames received massive backlash. In a matter of hours, she had killed herself. Like all true crime podcasts, though, the story doesn’t end there, and Ronson talks to fellow porn actors, shady LA wheelers and dealers, and even Ames' family to try to figure out what really drove her to suicide.
Released as a companion to the TNT show I Am the Night, "Root of Evil" explores a very intriguing theory about the killer behind the infamous Black Dahlia murder of 1947, when an actress named Elizabeth Short was found brutally dismembered at the side of the road. The story is told from a family member of the alleged killer, so you know it’s juicy.
Less true crime and more deep dive into news stories both obscure and mainstream that occasionally intersect with true crime, this award-winning podcast by Al Letson is dedicated to the nitty gritty process of investigative reporting. You’ll learn a lot and sometimes get really freaked out about what goes on in the world.
This podcast—from the creators of the excellent other podcast Atlanta Monster and the producers of Up and Vanished (which also appears on this list)—follows the perennially creepy, still unsolved murders of the Zodiac Killer, who wreaked havoc in the Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s and who is probably not Ted Cruz’s father.
Don’t listen to this one at night: Sword and Scale delves into some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. We’re talking people eating each other, real-life dismemberment, and grisly murders. While that may seem gratuitous, there is value in looking directly at the darkest parts of human nature in order to better appreciate the light.
I love these guys! Billy Jensen is an investigative journalist, Paul Holes is a retired investigator, and together they are Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad. In each episode, the pair attempts to solve cold cases using everything from brand new tech to old fashioned know-how. And listeners play an important role here, calling in to offer their own tips and theories along the way. You can be an investigator, too!
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the two hilarious women behind this hit podcast with a major cult following (fans call themselves "Murderinos"). Each episode, they select a different real-life murder and chat about the circumstances around it, ranging from the mega-famous cases to the ones you’ve never heard about before. Also, they are very funny, so if you aren’t okay with irreverence around serious topics, you might want to skip this one.
Hosted by an anonymous Australian, this gloomy podcast goes over in excruciatingly researched detail the play-by-plays of murder cases. I once listened to it while driving alone at night and had to immediately call my mom and have her talk about cats just so I didn’t feel like I was going to get axed myself—that’s how scary it is.
This podcast comes from the creators of the addictive and jaw-dropping HBO docuseries The Jinx, but its first season has more in common with The Sopranos in that it’s all about the way organized crime has shaped the history and culture of different American cities. Season two narrows that concept down further, following the saga of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who may or may not have been involved in everything from wire fraud to murder-for-hire.
One of the lovelier podcasts in the true crime genre, Criminal takes an almost Radiolab approach to the cases it presents each episode, looking at not just the crimes themselves but the motivations, cultural workings, and almost poetic undercurrents present in each one. It’s a surprising and addictive listen, and with years of back catalog, there’s much to explore.
Major scandals are like a trainwreck: You can’t really look away. Whether it’s a celebrity, a politician, or an entire corporation brought down by errors, lies, crimes, and misbehavior, scandal is as American as apple pie. This podcast from Wondery goes deep on some of the biggest ones to ever make headlines—the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Iran Contra Affair, steroid use among athletes—exploring why they happened and who took the fall.
Host Robin Warder picks a new missing person each episode and talks about their lives, their last known whereabouts, and where….the trail went cold. It’s basically that classic, long-running television show Unsolved Mysteries, but for your ears.
So this NPR show isn’t strictly true crime, though sometimes it veers in that direction. Rather, it takes something buzzy from today’s news—say, vaccinations—and contextualizes it in history. When did we start getting vaccinated? Why? Whose idea was it to attempt herd immunity, and keep those who didn’t agree away from some of the sections of society where they might pose a risk? This podcast will tell you.