Note: This post is constantly updated as new podcasts come out. Please feel free to suggest ones we've missed!
Narrowing the best true crime podcasts for 2021 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 ... while maintaining the greatest respect for the victims of violent crimes.
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 2020 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 (Making a Murderer, etc.) you won’t want to miss these gripping docu-podcasts.
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. In our first podcast, one of the most famous nearly-unsolved-but-for-a-genealogy-website ...
1. Man in the Window
Many of us sat fascinated watching Joseph DeAngelo being hauled into court in 2019, finally charged as the Golden State Killer. In this podcast Paige St. John walks you through the stunning details of his crimes, his escape from justice over decades, and the clues that finally sent him to prison. A terrific listen for those fans of Michelle McNamara's ground-breaking book, "I'll be Gone in the Dark" (Amazon affiliate link)
“In Man in the Window, Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter has uncovered never before revealed details about the man who would eventually become one of California’s most deadly serial killers. From Wondery and the LA Times comes a new series that traces his path of devastation through his victims’ eyes.” - Show Notes
The hook: This series takes a fascinating look at the early life and development of this deranged rapist and killer. It also delves into the effect a single man can have on countless lives and an entire community.
2. Uncover: The Village
Canadian serial killer?? ... But they're so nice! Not this one. The rampant homophobia in the 70's allowed Bruce McArthur's crimes in Toronto's gay community to go undetected for decades.
"For eight years, Toronto's Gay Village worried a serial killer was operating in its midst. Men had been disappearing from the neighbourhood, but police insisted there was no evidence of foul play. It wasn't until January, 2018, that police finally arrested Bruce McArthur for the murders of eight men.
This case has now set off a chain reaction: Police are now re-opening more than a two dozen cold case murders from the Village, dating back to 1975. To a time when it was safer to stay in the closet than come out. Journalist Justin Ling covered the story, from the disappearances to the arrest, and now he's going back to shed a light on these long-forgotten unsolved murders." (website)
The hook: It's infuriating to listen to crimes against gay men go completely unpunished. Until people started looking closer at the flower pots in his landscaping business. Yeah. Ewww.
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. The Dating Game Killer
"Hollywood & Crime’s new six-part series The Dating Game Killer uncovers the twisted secret life of one of America’s most prolific serial killers.
When Rodney Alcala appeared as a contestant on the popular TV show, The Dating Game, he was a diagnosed sociopath and convicted child molester. He held jobs as a typesetter at a prominent newspaper and a counselor at an idyllic summer camp. How did this predatory monster fool producers, employers, prison psychiatrists, and parole boards alike – all while committing heinous crimes from coast to coast?. (show notes)
The hook: It's like watching a car accident ... you can't stop listening as his twisted story unfolds .. how he is let out of mental hospitals and sexual deviancy charges again and again.
Listen to the first episode here.
5. Uncover: The Cat Lady Case
Yes, more Canadian bad guys. In this CBC docu-series a ring of con artists fool vulnerable seniors into coming into the woods and living in a picturesque "seniors retreat". The lonely and abandoned seniors traded their old age pensions for rent in the deluxe accommodations pictured above. They got away with it for years, until someone started asking .. "Where's Joan?"
"In 1998, 77-year-old Joan Lawrence disappeared from her Muskoka town. All police could find were her cats, many shot dead with a hunting rifle. The case remains unsolved, but unsealed documents and new witnesses are shedding a light on one of cottage country's darkest crimes." (website)
The hook: It's shocking to think of someone stealing money from a old lady, but the show also tackles a messier question ... why didn't she leave?
6. Your Own Backyard
Your Own Backyard is a podcast exploring the disappearance of Kristin Smart, a student at Cal Poly. On May 25, 1996, Kristin Smart was last seen walking back to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University at 2 a.m. Now 24 years later, the case is still unsolved.
Host Chris Lambert brings the disappearance of Smart back into the spotlight with new interviews from family members, tracing the steps of her said-to-be-killer and uncovering new evidence."
The hook: There's something heroic about a journalist who won't allow an unsolved murder to fade into oblivion.
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.
8. Once Upon a Crime
Once Upon a Crime specializes in weird and fascinating true crime themes each week. From the Curse of Superman to children who killed their parents. Highly addictive!
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. You know you want to fall asleep to them!
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 years. 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.
Swindled is a true crime podcast about white collar criminals, con artists, and corporate evil.
Money truly is the root of all evil.
Swindled is a podcast that utilizes narrative storytelling, archival audio, and immersive soundscapes to tell true stories of white-collar criminals, con artists, and corporate evil.
The anonymous host, using “A Concerned Citizen” as his moniker, recounts tales of real life, financially motivated crimes including embezzlements, frauds, Ponzi schemes, environmental disasters, corporate negligence, corruption, and more. (Description from website).
Listen to Season 3, Ep 12 - The Revenger:
A middle school dropout embraces his role as "the most hated man on the Internet" after creating a notorious "revenge porn" website called Is Anyone Up. (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.
14. Small Town Dicks
Small Town Dicks is a podcast about the big-time crime that’s happening in Small Town, USA. Each episode features the detectives who broke the case in their small town, and includes assets like jailhouse phone calls, suspect interviews and 9-1-1 calls. The show is anchored by veteran, identical-twin detectives Dan and Dave, and hosted by actress, Yeardley Smith.
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.
15. 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?
Morbid: A True Crime Podcast is filled with the funny banter between two best friends, Ash and Alaina, as they tackle a new case every week. They cover serial killers, unsolved mysteries, spooky history, paranormal happenings, conspiracy theories and anything that sends chills down your spine and gets your mind working overtime.
"We pride ourselves on thorough and accurate research but we also throw some humor in (respectfully of course) to lighten some of the subjects, since they can get very heavy. Come on it and join us, weirdo. You are welcome here, as long as you lock the windows at night because….Fresh Air Is For Dead People." (Website)
The hook: Funny and macabre. With a website that makes you shiver (well done, btw). Check these guy out.
Listen to their episode on JonBenet Ramsey here.
17. 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).
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18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. FBI Retired Case File Review
FBI Retired Case File Review - A retired FBI agent interviews other retired FBI agents on their most high-profile cases to help the public understand a little bit more about one of the United States' most secretive organizations.
The hook: This show really cracks open the FBI and allows you to peek behind the scenes. Each ep brings more stories from every area of the country. Terrific show.
Listen to the podcast here.
❤ 21. Don't Miss these Golden Oldies
Here are some shows from previous years that are required listening for true crime afficianadas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Dark (Season 1: 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.
- Lore - 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.
- Criminal - 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.
** 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.