Narrowing the best true crime podcasts for 2019 was no easy feat. Since the success of Serial, the genre has exploded with enough chilling, binge-worthy podcasts to satisfy newbies and true crime junkies alike.
This article has ranked the best of the best to give you lots of choices to download this year.
So how did we decide?
In order to make the cut for our list, podcasts had to meet the following criteria:
Unique take on events (the “hook”) **
** It’s not enough to read a wikipedia page out loud. The podcasts on our list are all podcasting rockstars, laying out the horrifying (and sometimes hilarious) takes on true crime events.
Here are the categories of our winners. Scroll through them all or click to jump down directly:
Some are old and some are new, but all of these podcasts deserve a place on your 2019 listening bucket list.
True Crime Documentaries
If you’re looking for a true crime investigation podcast that takes an in depth look into a single story … you won’t want to miss these gripping shows.
As each episode unfolds, we follow along with a journalist as they try making sense of the story … challenging the facts, (re)interviewing the subjects and investigating a shocking true crime. In several shows, new facts are uncovered which has lead to breakthroughs in the case.
This deep dive format also allows us to see the often complex world that is the backdrop for these crimes; racial tensions in Atlanta, online dating fantasy and deception, and in our first suggestion … the secret, disturbing world of medical crime …
1. Dr. Death
In Dr. Death, journalist Laura Beil explores the unimaginable-yet-true story of a psychotic doctor who continued to operate on (and butcher) his patients during delicate spinal operations. The real bad guy in this series is a toss up between the incompetent surgeon, and the medical establishment which tried to save face rather than save lives.
“We’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital. We trust the system. Dr. Christopher Duntsch was a neurosurgeon who radiated confidence. He claimed he was the best in Dallas. If you had back pain, and had tried everything else, Dr. Duntsch could give you the spine surgery that would take your pain away. But soon his patients started to experience complications. And all they had to protect them was a system ill equipped to stop the madness.” – Show Notes
The hook: Medical crimes aren’t the usual fare for true crime documentaries. During this active case and court drama, the behind the scene interviews are both shocking and heartbreaking.
2. Up and Vanished (Season One)
Up and Vanished has now moved beyond season one, but we recommend starting here to get to know the host and rhythm of the episodes. In this season, filmmaker Payne Lindsey looks at a missing person’s case that remained a cold case for many years … and helps solve the case as tips start pouring in.
Season 1 of Up and Vanished explored the 2005 disappearance of beauty queen and high school teacher Tara Grinstead in Ocilla, Georgia. The cold case was the largest case file in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s history, with no arrests in 11 years. The podcast quickly drew attention, both in South Georgia and nationwide. As the people of Ocilla began talking about the case again, new leads and stories emerged. (website)
The hook: This is a classic case of a cold case being solved thanks to the work of an investigative journalist who kept digging to uncover the truth.
Listen to the trailer here.
3. Atlanta Monster
This case originated in the “golden age” of serial killers back in the 70’s and early 80s. A manhunt, an FBI profile, and the famous splash off a bridge. Although considered one of the “classic” serial killer stories, there are some intriguing questions which linger long after the case was closed.
Atlanta is a city which has often ignored crimes against African Americans, and poor people in general. The mistrust between the neighborhood and the police. The disbelief that a small, soft spoken black man could be a sexual predator and murderer. Rumours about the KKK and his work for the CIA. Add in the politics between law enforcement agencies, and you get the complicated mess that was the Atlanta Child Murders investigation.
The Atlanta Monster podcast tells the story of one of the city’s darkest secrets, The Atlanta Child Murders. Nearly 40 years after these horrific crimes, many questions still remain. Host Payne Lindsey aims to find truth and provide closure, reexamining the disappearance and murder of over 25 African American children and young adults. (from website)
The hook: Adding new information to a case-you-thought-you-knew is irresistible for us true crime junkies. There is more to this story than we were told.
Listen to the first episode here.
4. Dirty John
Like Serial, Dirty John is a popular fixture in true crime podcast “best of” lists. This is a cautionary tale about finding love on the internet and the masks some people wear to hide who they really are.
It asks an unsettling question … do you ever really know someone? And worse, how do you stop the psychotic con man … married to your mom?
Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times. (show notes)
The hook: This story has a handsome internet catfish who escalates into a psychotic murderer. You will keep asking … WHY did she take him back??
Listen to the first episode here.
5. Someone Knows Something [CBC, Canada]
Host David Ridgen explores a local unsolved mystery each season, with frequent updates as new information comes in from the public. Season one featured the disappearance of a little boy on a family trip to the lake.
Small town tragedies have a way of hanging around, soaking into the fabric of the community, defining its residents for generations to come.
Because everyone knows everyone, everyone is affected.
And no matter how opaque the mystery, how closely guarded the secret, someone knows something.
In Arnprior, Ontario, a little boy vanished without a trace.
Adrien McNaughton was five years old, small for his age, unable to tie his own shoes.
And one day in June, while on a fishing trip with his father and siblings, he wandered into the woods and was never heard from again. (website)
In this intimate podcast you are taken into little Adrian’s world, the murky depths of the lake and the theories behind what … and who … might have happened to him.
The hook: This quiet, eerie Canadian true crime investigation has haunting on-scene taping and poignant live interviews.
6. In the Dark (Season One: Child Abduction)
In the Dark is an award-winning podcast that took a deep dive into one of the first ground breaking cases of child abduction in the United States.
Child abductions are rare crimes. And they’re typically solved. For 27 years, the investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota yielded no answers. In the most comprehensive reporting on this case, APM Reports and reporter Madeleine Baran reveal how law enforcement mishandled one of the most notorious child abductions in the country and how those failures fueled national anxiety about stranger danger, led to the nation’s sex-offender registries and raise questions about crime-solving effectiveness and accountability. (website)
The hook: Though an older true crime case, it was pivotal in changing federal laws and our attitudes towards missing and murdered children. And, it poses maybe a bigger question … about the sexual predators in our midst and how we possibly manage the dangers, even today.
Listen to episode here.
True Crime Stories [Weekly Series]
True crime weekly stories are the opposite of the deep dive investigations. What they lose in depth (although some episodes can be upwards of two hours), they gain in variety. Arson, child sex rings, murder-for-hire … these shows tackle a new fascinating case each week.
7. Sword and Scale
Sword and Scale is probably the most gut-wrenching, terrifying true crime podcast in existence. It is required listening for all true crime fans.
It is not for the faint of heart.
NOTE: Although the series underwent a bit of drama, and has a new host, we recommend you start at the beginning or the series with host Mike Boudet. This is the “classic” Sword and Scale.
He gives us an unflinching look into the abyss of human nature. What makes the show so powerful is the source material, 911 calls, police interviews, courtroom tapes and most chilling … the confessions. All stories of everyday people, who commit the most evil of acts.
As the show’s motto claims … the worst monsters are real.
Sword and Scale is an internet radio show and website covering the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it. The show and website were launched January 1st, 2014 and feature stories of murder, abduction, rape and even more bizarre forms of crime. It’s the purest form of true-crime where nothing is off the table. Everything from 911 calls to court testimony, interviews with victims and sometimes with perpetrators give listeners a 360 degree look at the entire story. Told from the narrator’s point of view, Sword and Scale goes beyond the news clips and the sensationalist headlines to give listeners the whole story and deeper insight into the cases it covers than any other medium. (website)
The hook: It’s the stark and lengthy confession recordings, often from the killers themselves, that makes this series both horrifying and compelling.
Listen to the latest episodes here.
Criminal launched January of 2014, and is an award-winning mainstay in the true crime podcast world.
A true crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive. -Vulture
The hook: Hailed as “the thinking person’s true crime podcast” host Phoebe Judge tackles a wide range of topics. Deeply interesting veteran podcast.
Listen to a podcast episode “Witness“, featuring an interview with the head of WITSEC (witness protection).
9. Forensic Files Podcast
This podcast is an audio version of the popular crime tv show. It’s sheer volume is staggering, as the longest running true crime show on television. The podcast episodes are short, easy to digest at 30 minutes, and span the entire genre of forensics and true crime.
Forensic Files® is a pioneer in the field of fact-based, high-tech, dramatic storytelling. This series of television programs delves into the world of forensic science, profiling intriguing crimes, accidents, and outbreaks of disease from around the world.
Follow coroners, medical examiners, physicians, emergency medical and law enforcement personnel, the press and legal experts as they seek solutions to puzzling, often baffling cases whose riddles are ultimately solved by forensic detection.
True-crime buffs will love the engrossing blend of detail, mystery, and medical investigation. Forensic Files® puts a new spin on the “whodunit” genre. (website)
The hook: It’s the voice. Peter Thomas! The longest running true crime television show becomes an easy to listen to podcast.
Watch full episodes here.
10. Casefile [Australian True Crime]
Casefile, with its characteristic Aussie narrator, has been awarded the “best of” list on iTunes for 2016, 2017 and 2018. He covers both Australian true crime stories, as well as stories from around the world.
Casefile True Crime Podcast, or simply Casefile, is a weekly true crime themed podcast that first aired in Australia in January 2016 and hosted by an Australian man who remains anonymous. The series deals with solved or cold criminal cases, often related to well-known murders and serial crimes. (Wikipedia)
The hook: Also a great voice, with an Australian twist. This show is easy to listen to, and covers international cases you may not have come across.
Listen to the podcast here.
11. Court Junkie
Imagine being wrongfully convicted for a crime you didn’t commit, or imagine your child’s killer is still on the loose even though there’s enough evidence for an arrest. I want to help shine light on the injustices of our judicial system. I delve into court documents, attend trials, and interview those close to the case to help me tell their stories. – (podcast website)
The hook: It’s a completely different angle to focus on the court appearances and legal developments in the story.
Listen to Episode 1: The Daycare Work Murder Trial.
Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares. Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. (website).
Listen to Episode 8:
When the authorities entered a building in Chicago’s south side in 1895, they weren’t prepared for what they found. Above and below the neighborhood pharmacy was a seemingly never-ending maze of doors and rooms. What those hallways and staircases led to, however, was beyond disturbing. (Listen here)
13. Serial Killer
The Serial Killer Podcast (TSK) is the podcast dedicated to exploring the serial killer phenomenon. The hosts explore the topic with a research-based approach and the production value is really high. They spend a lot of time on the backstories of the killers, exploring the potential medical and behavioural causes of their dysfunctional behaviour.
It is easily one of the best in the category.
The hook: This duo presents a thorough deep dive into the research and psychology behind the crimes. If you are interested in forensic psychology, you’ll love this podcast.
True Crime Comedy Podcast
Although it seems hard to believe, true crime can be funny. The bleakness and sheer unbelievable nature of the crimes, in the right hands, is ripe material for comedy and commentary.
14. The Last Podcast on the Left
While not all-true-crime-all-the-time (the “Donner Party” episodes are laugh out loud funny), this podcast is dark, irreverent and hilarious. The show covers all things horror, and there is frequently an overlap with true crime.
Last Podcast on the Left barrels headlong into all things horror — as hosts Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski cover dark subjects spanning Jeffrey Dahmer, werewolves, Jonestown, iconic hauntings, the history of war crimes, and more. Whether it’s cults, killers, or cryptid encounters, Last Podcast on the Left laughs into the abyss that is the dark side of humanity. (website)
The hook: It’s the complete no holds barred approach to their conversations that are so entertaining. They are also not just reading off a script. Hilarious, adult humour.
Have a listen to Episode 326: Richard Kuklinski, Hitman for Hire … or serial killer?
15. My Favourite Murder
My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who came out in droves this spring for the sold-out nationwide tour. (website)
Praise for the show notes how it normalizes an interest in true crime amongst listeners who previously considered themselves morbid or odd, discussing the sense of isolation and compartmentalization that often arises in those with outlying but healthy interests. Likewise noted is the predominance of female listeners which is consistent with data showing true crime fans are predominantly female.[Wiki]
The hook: The chemistry between the hosts and their innocent, hilarious exploration of the stories makes this show a guilty pleasure for any listener.
To listen to the podcast click here.
Pre-order their new book by clicking below (affiliate link).
16. Wine & Crime
Wine & Crime proves that you can ACTUALLY laugh out loud in your car.
Join three childhood friends as they chug wine, chat true crime, and unleash their worst Minnesota accents! (website)
The hook: Like the Last Podcast to the Left, this is all about the chemistry between the hosts and hilarious wine-filled conversation about the crimes.
Listen to Ep92: Eastern European Serial Killers: This week, the gals head east to check out some gory stories from the Motherland. Cases include a spritely set of Ukrainian maniacs, a killer addicted to both sex and socks, and a seriously sick teacher with a thing for his students. (from the website)
True Crime TV Show Companion
When true crime on media like Netflix or HBO gains popularity, there are still plenty of issues to discuss … about the case … AND about the television series itself. These tv show companions are helmed by experts in their fields, shining new light on the investigation, how it was filmed and presented on television, the strength of the evidence and what didn’t make it into the show.
17. Real Crime Profile
Real Crime Profile is a stellar example of a companion podcast, adding additional layers to the story because of the hosts’ criminal justice background and training. This is required listening for anyone interested in the reality behind many of the true crime documentaries found on television.
Join Jim Clemente (Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent/Profiler), Laura Richards (criminal behavioral analyst, former New Scotland Yard) and Lisa Zambetti (Casting director for CBS’ Criminal Minds) as they profile behavior from real criminal cases. (website)
The hook: Listening to a case being dissected by experts in the field is addictive to say the least. This is pure “insider” crack.
Listen to the podcast here.
18. You Can’t Make This Up
True crime on Netflix has exploded with the popularity of Making a Murderer, The Staircase and The Keepers. This podcast is different each week, exploring all the most popular shows on Netflix with the people who created them.
While not a strictly true crime podcast, many episodes go behind-the-scenes with the creators of your favourite true crime documentaries on Netflix. It’s fascinating to hear the origin stories behind the shows … as well as the challenges with interviews, locations and characters involved in telling the story.
Dig into the real stories behind Netflix Original true stories– how our filmmakers got access, what ended up on the cutting room floor, and even the impact a Netflix show can have on the real lives of its subjects. (website)
The hook: Every episode is different and each one has access to amazing guest interviews.
Listen to Making a Murderer Part 2 episode here: Viewers have been anxiously awaiting the return of Making A Murderer since the first ten episodes came out in 2015. And on Friday, October 19th, Part Two is finally launching on Netflix. In anticipation of the new episodes, we sat down with Making A Murderer creators and directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos.
19. Marcia Clark Investigates
In Marcia Clark Investigates, famed prosecutor and defense attorney Marcia Clark delves into some of the most controversial homicides in America. These are cases that have shocked and captivated the public, but have outcomes that are either unresolved, or leave more questions than answers. Now, Marcia will speak with experts, review the facts, and use her own expertise to shed new light on cases which have been left in the darkness. (website)
The hook: Listening to Marcia Clark give a “behind the scenes” account of the cases, including the parallels to her own casework in the past is fascinating stuff.
Listen to the podcast here.
** As new podcasts come out we will update this list. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook at the top of the page.