7 Criminally Good True Crime Podcasts
It’s safe to say that one of the most popular genres of podcasts out there is that of true crime. From docu-series on white collar crime to stories of grisly murders and tales of online crime, there really is a lot out there for us armchair detectives to delve into.
With thousands of true crime podcasts released each year, it’s hard to sift through them all.
To help you out, here is a curated selection of 7 true crime pods — some classics and some more recent big hitters!
- Serial by Serial Productions
Serial was many people’s first podcast obsession and to understand why, we need to head back to its first season which unravelled a dark but fascinating story of the murder of popular high-schooler Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, USA back in 1999. Hae’s high school sweetheart Adnan Syed was accused of the murder and is currently serving out a life sentence in prison. Episode by episode, host Sarah Koenig investigated a story full of twists and turns as she spoke to Hae and Adnan’s school friends, those involved with the case and interestingly Adnan Syed too — throughout the season.
The storytelling and style of Serial is so compelling that Season One has been downloaded over 300 million times worldwide after its initial release in 2014. Serial also became the first podcast -ever- to win the prestigious Peabody Award. The podcast has led to a documentary, a huge sub-Reddit, other podcasts and it has even influenced real-world events, bringing the case to prominence and eventually evidence being re-examined — the case is still ongoing in 2022.
You’ll love this if… you like true crime TV documentaries, this is one of the best of its kind for your ears. One word to describe this podcast is: addictive.
Episode pick — You’ve got to start at the beginning — Episode 01 — The Alibi as it is serialised- well it is Serial after all!
2. Criminal by Vox Media
Criminal is all about unusual crime stories ranging from the spooky and creepy to the amusing. The podcast is told from the perspective of a wrongdoer, someone that was a victim or someone that got caught up in a crime. Co-creator and host Phoebe Judge is a great narrator and moves the story along at pace. Some of the stories covered include the story of murdered Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, the mystery of the Buddha of Oakland and the “milk carton” kids of America.
Even though Criminal is a podcast for the ears, each episode has its own beautiful black and white illustration created by Julienne Alexander and it’s a really visually stylish podcast with merch to match.
You’ll love this if… you like short stories. Episodes last from 15 to 40 minutes and each one covers a totally different “criminal” story so you can dive into any episode.
Episode pick — As Criminal specialises in the really unique type of criminal tale, there’s no better start than Triassic Park featuring a tale of thievery in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.
3. The Dropout by ABC Audio
For every well-intentioned entrepreneur, there’s always another one scheming a way to get rich — quick!
The Dropout tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes, a promising young entrepreneur in the area of bio-technology… except… well, she wasn’t! Elizabeth’s startup company Theranos, once valued at $9 billion and supported by high profile backers turned out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. This is a tale of how much you can get away with if you have the right look, background and connections — as Elizabeth did — and is a warning that criminals come in many forms.
You’ll love this if… you love justice being served. Elizabeth was recently found guilty of multiple charges of fraud and other linked crimes.
4. Trafficked by The National Geographic
This is a great interview-based true crime podcast in which the interviewees are all ex-criminals. Host Mariana Van Zeller is an award-winning investigative journalist who isn’t afraid to go deep into the murky criminal underworld and talk to the characters within it. From drug dealers to con artists and even neo-nazis, Mariana is unafraid to poke at her guests’ answers, have a laugh with them at times and most importantly is able to ask the right questions in this series of brilliant interviews.
You’ll love this if… you like an unvarnished style of interviewing and want to hear from real life “gangsters.”
Episode pick — An Outlaw and Oxy: the story of Struggle Jennings highlights the terrifying scale of the ongoing opioid crisis in America.
5. American Hostage by Criminal Content and Amazon
This pod’s in a slightly different style of true crime — it’s a true crime drama! Actor Jon Hamm (Mad Men, Black Mirror) plays the lead role of radio host Fred Heckman who in1977 found himself at the centre of a 63-hour hostage situation. The hostage-taker Tony Kiritsis was a regular listener of Fred’s show on WIBC Indianpolis and had kidnapped his mortgage broker. He insisted Fred interview him live on radio!
This is a tense, thrilling drama and even more so because it actually happened. The show is really well produced ($$$ !) and has a lot of atmosphere.
You’ll love this if… you like your criminal dramas slick and well made. This one gets top marks for quality.
Episode pick — Start at the start with The Man with the Gun
6. The Witness — In his own words by Yellow Path Productions
Based on the book of the same name, The Witness — In his Own Words tells the story of Joseph “Joey” O’Callaghan and how in 2005 he boldly made the move to help convict two drug-lords and as a result became the youngest person in history to go under witness protection in Ireland.
Joey’s story is frank, honest and raw and you hear his story in his own words with only subtle cues and background from the interviewers. From his childhood to how he became embroiled in the world of drugs and how he ended up doing the right thing, Joey doesn’t hold back and this is truly a unique and compelling story of someone that was involved in crime but has tried to turn their life around.
You’ll love this if… you’ve ever wondered how people get caught up in a life of crime.
Episode pick — As this story is told in sequence, start with 01: The Milkman.
7. Sweet Bobby by Tortoise
Image: Sweet Bobby
As we live our lives increasingly online, it’s only natural that criminals have also migrated there. Sweet Bobby is about a woman — Kirat Assi — who had been in a relationship with a man called Bobby for nearly a decade — but- had never met him in person. This story follows a tale of “catfishing” of the most elaborate kind and how someone’s life can be turned completely upside down by an online scammer. It leaves you feeling uneasy and of how vulnerable we all can be online.
You’ll love this if… you enjoyed Catfish: the TV Show.
Episode pick — Get to know Kirat in Episode 01: Sliding Doors.
True crime podcasts really are incredibly absorbing and popular but it’s important to remember that the word “true” means that there are usually real-world victims of one kind or another at the end of all of these tales.
The next curation by The Curated Pod will be all about the dark art of politics!