The 13 Best True Crime Podcasts of 2021

If you're fascinated by the heinous acts of others, listen to these

True crime podcasts have come a long way since Serial broke records in 2014, branching out to cover a range of crimes from a range of different perspectives. Yet, as this rundown of the best true crime podcasts of 2021 will show, for all their wide varieties, the best all have one thing in common: they explore our society, psychologies, and relationships just as much as crime itself.

These podcasts are free unless marked (there is only one that isn't free).

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A Fascinating Podcast for Unsolved Crime Fans: Atlanta Monster

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Atlanta Monster is as much a doc about the late '70s and early '80s as it is a true crime podcast.
What We Like
  • The deeply immersive recreation of the era and context.

  • The examination of society, race, and class.

  • High production quality.

What We Don't Like
  • The ads that open each episode, although these can easily be skipped.

  • There's sometimes a long wait between episodes.

  • The narration can be a bit heavy-handed.

Made by the same producers as Up and Vanished, Atlanta Monster documents the Atlanta Child Murders, a spate of killings and disappearances that gripped the city between 1979 and 1981. The podcast is hosted by documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey, who examines the unanswered questions of the case with a cool, dispassionate eye. What distinguishes it is not only its extensive use of testimony from experts and residents but also its attention-to-detail in recreating the late '70s/early '80s, mostly via the medium of music from the era.

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Best True Crime Podcast of a Cold Case: West Cork

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West Cork offers true crime fans a probing insight into the psychological makeup of its main suspect.
What We Like
  • The very comprehensive inquiry into the case.

  • Its use of multiple sources and points of view.

What We Don't Like
  • It isn't free.

  • It requires a subscription to Amazon's Audible service (although there's a free trial).

  • Tends to focus more on the suspect than the victim.

A cold-case podcast in the vein of Serial and Atlanta Monster, the 13 episodes of West Cork focus on the unsolved 1996 murder of French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Hosted by investigative journalist Sam Bungey and TV producer Jennifer Forde, it examines the unanswered questions surrounding du Plantier's violent murder and offers a probing psychological study of the main suspect, as well as an exposé of how the original investigation was botched by the police.

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Best Crime Podcast for Variety: Criminal

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Criminal's period-hopping reconstructions arguably make it the most educational true crime podcast.
What We Like
  • Crimes and their backgrounds are reconstructed in absorbing detail, strengthened by interviews with experts and witnesses.

  • Each episode focuses on a new crime.

  • Some episodes are more light-hearted.

What We Don't Like
  • The wide variety of subjects may not be satisfying to anyone who wants to explore a particular crime in more depth.

  • Ads in the middle of the stories can interrupt their flow.

  • Judge's delivery can turn off some listeners.

For those who want to immerse themselves in different crimes and contexts with each new installment, Criminal is probably the best true crime podcast available for free streaming. Hosted by award-winning journalist Phoebe Judge and originally launched in 2014, each episode focuses on a new crime, individual, or story. One recent show, for example, enters the murderous world of the 'It Girl' of New York's Gilded Age, Evelyn Nesbit, while another features interviews with the "Parents of Murdered Children" support group in Durham, NC.

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A True Crime Podcast for Fans of The Wire: Crimetown

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Crimetown is the perfect podcast for those who take a more structural, environmental view of crime.
What We Like
  • The ability to put crime in a wider political and economic context.

  • The focus on one city's corruption at a time.

What We Don't Like
  • May not appeal to those who don't have much interest in the cities covered.

  • Season 2 is exclusively on Spotify.

Coming from the creators of HBO's The Jinx, Crimetown is a true crime podcast with an original, wide-lensed angle. It doesn't look at specific crimes but rather the "crime culture" of specific towns, which provides the focus for each season. The first series analyzed crime in Providence, Rhode Island, where corrupt mayors were no less criminal than mob bosses. Hosted (and produced) by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling, its gritty portrait of crime within a single city makes it the podcast, non-fiction equivalent of The Wire.

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A True Crime Podcast that Tackles Flawed Investigations: In the Dark

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In the Dark exposes flaws and holes in criminal investigations.
What We Like
  • Its careful investigations of investigations.

  • Information is well-organized and detailed.

What We Don't Like
  • Its focus on the conduct of investigations may not be satisfying to those more interested in the crimes themselves.

The recipient of a Peabody Award, In the Dark is another true crime podcast that spends each season focused on a single unexplained crime. It's hosted by investigative reporter Madeleine Baran, and it very much takes an investigative approach to its crimes, which in both seasons relate as much to failures of law and justice as to the ugliness of crime. Its latest season examines why the same suspect has faced trial for a quadruple murder six times, using multiple witnesses and careful narration to provide a vivid picture of the respective crimes.


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Best Podcast for White-Collar Crime: Swindled

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Swindled's look into everyday corporate crime makes it one of the truest crime podcasts.
What We Like
  • Its engrossing insight into some of the most outlandish scams and corporate injustices in recent history.

  • Covers crimes not discussed in many other podcasts.

  • Uses narrative storytelling, archival audio, and immersive soundscapes to tell its stories.

What We Don't Like
  • Sometimes lacks a human angle.

  • Monotone delivery.

In contrast to true crime podcasts about murders and disappearances, Swindled is a podcast that focuses on white-collar crime, such as fraud, insider trading, bribery, and so on. Hosted by the anonymous "Concerned Citizen," its attraction lies largely in its ability to penetrate below the surface of corporate America, using steely narration and archive recordings to expose corruption in a highly gripping way.

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A True Crime Podcast with A Humorous Twist: My Favorite Murder

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My Favorite Murder will come as comic relief to anyone jaded by the persistent darkness of many true crime podcasts.
What We Like
  • The relatable and amusing hosts, whose banter prevents the subject matter from being too affecting or depressing.

  • The comedic angle is a refreshing change from the usual grimdark true crime podcasts.

What We Don't Like
  • The colorful language, which may be too frequent and strong for some.

  • Discussing violent murders in a laid-back, chatty way can seem a little odd at times.

For anyone who worries that listening to dark crime podcasts may become overwhelming after one too many gruesome homicides, My Favorite Murder is a recommended antidote. It's a comedy true crime podcast hosted by writers/comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, who spend each episode nonchalantly looking at one or two murder cases while interspersing their irreverent and conversational brand of humor.

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A Podcast Exploring America's Largest Ever Mass Suicide: Heaven's Gate

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Heaven's Gate provides a vivid portrayal of the circumstances that can lead people to extreme acts.
What We Like
  • The unique subject matter, which is handled in a thoughtful and respectful way despite its extremity.

  • It's more of a sociological study of fringe religious groups than a crime podcast.

What We Don't Like
  • May not be as crime-focused as some true crime fans would like.

  • Disruptive ads.

Heaven's Gate is a crime podcast exploring the religious millenarian cult of the same name, which saw 39 of its members commit the United States' largest ever mass suicide in March 1997. Hosted by Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment fame, it offers a thorough history of the cult and the events leading up to the suicide, making it as much a sociological study of fringe religious groups as a crime podcast.

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A Crime Podcast for Armchair Psychologists: Dirty John

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Dirty John reveals the pieces of its disturbing puzzle in a slow, tantalizing way.
What We Like
  • The almost forensic examination of John's behavior and psychology.

  • Thoroughly researched.

What We Don't Like
  • The slower, disjointed pace may not be entirely appreciated by those who want crime podcasts to unfold quickly.

  • The bare bones production values.

  • Works better as a written feature than a podcast.

Hosted by the LA Times' Christopher Goffard, Dirty John is an ideal true crime podcast for those who like their crime stories to double as philosophical examinations of human psychology and the nature of relationships. Its seven episodes all focus on the relationship between divorcée Debra Newell and John Meehan, who met via an online dating site. To begin with, John comes across as the 'perfect' man, yet as the podcast gradually reveals, he isn't quite all that he seems… 

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Another Cold Case Podcast for Armchair Sleuths: Someone Knows Something

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Always searching for that missing clue or piece of information, Someone Knows Something has a knack for amplifying the 'mysteriousness' of true crimes.
What We Like
  • Compelling cases.

  • The well-constructed sense of mystery.

  • The careful unfolding and revelation of new details on each case.

What We Don't Like
  • May not be satisfying for listeners who like a clear resolution to their stories.

  • Episodes can be months apart.

  • Slower-paced.

Hosted and directed by filmmaker David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something is a true crime podcast that spends each of its seasons investigating a single cold case. In the latest season, Ridgen examines the case of Kerrie Brown, a 15-year-old who disappeared from a house party in Thompson, Manitoba. Her body was found two days later. Ridgen goes to Thompson to speak with family members, witnesses, and suspects. What he found there might help the case move forward.

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A True Crime Podcast on the Extreme End of the Spectrum: Sword and Scale

Sword and Scale
Sword and Scale: a true crime podcast, or a true horror podcast?.
What We Like
  • The unflinching ability to examine the most extreme examples of human behavior.

  • Subject material is DARK.

  • Describes cases without salaciousness.

What We Don't Like
  • The episodes may be too heavy and dark for repeated listening.

  • Relies too heavily on audio clips.

  • Host injects too much of his own opinions into the story.

True crime podcasts generally aren't lighthearted affairs at the best of times, but the horrific cases featured on Sword and Scale are enough to make even the most hardened crime fans shudder in disgust. One recent episode examines the brutal Maddie Clifton case, while the hundredth episode of the podcast looked at the 2014 killing of Ramsay Scrivo, whose own mother was found guilty of his murder. Such disturbing cases are typical, but host Mike Boudet narrates them in a calm, matter-of-fact way, without resorting to salaciousness.

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Unsettling Murder Stories for Horror Enthusiasts: Casefile

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Casefile is another true crime podcast at the horror end of the spectrum.
What We Like
  • The podcast's worldwide focus.

  • The fast narrative momentum of episodes.

  • The eerie background music.

What We Don't Like
  • The unnerving, often distressing ambiance may be a little too dark to handle in frequent doses.

  • Can get overly detailed.

First appearing in 2016, Casefile True Crime (or just Casefile for short) is an Australian podcast that focuses on the grislier end of the crime spectrum. Hosted by "Anonymous," the eerie background music helps to create a haunting atmosphere in which each episode's tale of murder or violent crime is evocatively spun. Every episode focuses on a single crime, although in some special cases these are stretched into two- or three-parters, enabling listeners to really lose themselves in the recreated events.

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A Crime Podcast Heavy with Drama: Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories

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Unsolved Murders uses acted reconstructions to heighten the drama of its episodes.
What We Like
  • The episodes are well-paced, building characterisation and creating suspense while still moving quickly.

  • Uses actors to recreate important scenes.

  • Wide range of cases.

What We Don't Like
  • The tone of the podcast can sometimes be a touch melodramatic and overemotional.

  • Some may find the ensemble cast distracting.

  • An abundance of ads.

Launched in 2016 and produced by Parcast, Unsolved Murders is one of the longest-running and most successful of the post-Serial crime podcasts, and with good reason. Each episode deals with a different unsolved murder, moving from one town or country to the next and covering a broad range of murders and situations. What distinguishes it from many other podcasts are the dramatic reconstructions, with the podcast using actors to recreate important scenes rather than witnesses or experts.

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