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 crimes from a range of different perspectives. Yet, as this rundown of the best true-crime podcasts of 2021 shows, 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.

01
of 13

A Fascinating Podcast for Unsolved Crime Fans: Atlanta Monster

Atlanta Monster podcast
What We Like
  • Deeply immersive recreation of the era and context.

  • The examination of society, race, and class.

  • High production quality.

What We Don't Like
  • Ads that open each episode.

  • The narration can be a bit heavy-handed.

Made by the Up and Vanished producers, 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 case's unanswered questions with a cool, dispassionate eye. What distinguishes this podcast is its extensive use of testimony from experts and residents and its attention to detail in recreating the late '70s and early '80s, mostly via the medium of music from the era.

02
of 13

Best True-Crime Podcast of a Cold Case: West Cork

West Cork podcast
What We Like
  • A comprehensive inquiry into the case.

  • Its use of multiple sources and points of view.

  • The podcast is now free.

What We Don't Like
  • Tends to focus more on the suspect than the victim.

  • Can be tedious.

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, the podcast examines the unanswered questions surrounding du Plantier's violent murder. In addition, West Cork offers a probing psychological study of the main suspect and an exposé of how the police botched the original investigation. Initially, it was available only on Audible and required a subscription; now, the podcast is free and available on other sources.

03
of 13

Best Crime Podcast for Variety: Criminal

Criminal podcast
What We Like
  • Crimes are reconstructed in absorbing detail.

  • Each episode focuses on a new crime.

  • Some episodes are more lighthearted.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't explore a particular crime in depth.

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

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 initially launched in 2014, each episode focuses on a new crime, individual, or story. One 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, North Carolina.

04
of 13

A True-Crime Podcast for Fans of The Wire: Crimetown

Crimetown podcast
What We Like
  • Puts crime in a broad political and economic context.

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

  • Entertaining.

  • Excellent production.

What We Don't Like
  • May not appeal to those who aren't interested in the cities.

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

05
of 13

A True-Crime Podcast That Tackles Flawed Investigations: In the Dark

In the Dark podcast
What We Like
  • Careful investigations of investigations.

  • Information is well-organized and detailed.

What We Don't Like
  • Focus is on the conduct of investigators, not the crimes.

The recipient of a Peabody Award, In the Dark is another true-crime podcast that spends each season focused on a single unexplained crime. Investigative reporter Madeleine Baran hosts it, 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. The 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.

 

06
of 13

Best Podcast for White-Collar Crime: Swindled

Swindled podcast
What We Like
  • Insight into outlandish scams and corporate injustices.

  • Covers crimes not discussed in many other podcasts.

  • Uses narrative storytelling and archival audio.

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, and bribery. Hosted by the anonymous "Concerned Citizen," the podcast's 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.

07
of 13

A True-Crime Podcast With A Humorous Twist: My Favorite Murder

My Favorite Murder podcast
What We Like
  • Hosts keep the topic from being depressing.

  • The comedic angle is a refreshing change.

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

  • Discussing violent murders in a chatty way seems odd.

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.

08
of 13

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

Heaven's Gate podcast
What We Like
  • Unique subject matter handled thoughtfully.

  • More a study of fringe religious groups than crime.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as crime-focused as some true-crime fans prefer.

  • Disruptive ads.

Heaven's Gate is a crime podcast exploring the religious 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 events leading up to the suicide, making it as much a sociological study of fringe religious groups as a crime podcast.

09
of 13

A Crime Podcast for Armchair Psychologists: Dirty John

Dirty John podcast
What We Like
  • Forensic examination of John's psychology.

  • Thoroughly researched.

  • Remastered for 2021

What We Don't Like
  • Slow, disjointed pace.

  • 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. All episodes focus on the relationship between divorcée Debra Newell and John Meehan, who met via an online dating site. In the beginning, John comes across as the perfect man, yet as the podcast gradually reveals, he isn't quite all that he seems. This 2018 classic has been remastered for 2021.

10
of 13

Another Cold Case Podcast for Armchair Sleuths: Someone Knows Something

Someone Knows Something podcast
What We Like
  • Compelling cases.

  • Well-constructed sense of mystery.

  • Careful revelation of new details on each case.

What We Don't Like
  • Not satisfying for listeners who like a clear resolution.

  • Slow-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. For example, in one 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.

11
of 13

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

Sword and Scale podcast
What We Like
  • Unflinching examination of extreme human behavior.

  • Subject material is very dark.

  • Describes cases without salaciousness.

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

  • Relies 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 another looks at the 2014 killing of Ramsay Scrivo, whose own mother was found guilty of his murder. The cases are disturbing, but host Mike Boudet narrates them in a calm, matter-of-fact way, without resorting to salaciousness.

12
of 13

Unsettling Murder Stories for Horror Enthusiasts: Casefile

Casefile podcast
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 and often distressing ambiance.

  • Can get overly detailed.

First appearing in 2016, Casefile True Crime (or just Casefile) 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, the episodes are stretched into two or three parts, enabling listeners to lose themselves in the recreated events.

13
of 13

A Crime Podcast Heavy With Drama: Unsolved Murders

Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories podcast
What We Like
  • Well-paced episodes, suspense, and characterization.

  • Uses actors to recreate important scenes.

  • Wide range of cases.

What We Don't Like
  • Tone of the podcast can sometimes be melodramatic.

  • 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 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. With the podcast using actors to recreate important scenes rather than witnesses or experts, the dramatic reconstructions distinguish it from many other podcasts.

Was this page helpful?