The 10 best true crime podcasts to kill your free time

best true crime podcasts

The best true crime podcasts are dark, shocking, illuminating, and - to the surprise of some who might not be familiar with the scene - often very funny. Think of them as a non-visual counterpart to the best documentaries on Netflix; investigative peeks into amazing true stories you've probably never even heard about before. But, as the genre continues to grow in size and number, it can be difficult to uncover the true gems on any of the going podcast platforms and stores. Luckily, we've done all that hard work for you well in advance.

Below, you'll find a curated selection of the best true crime podcasts available to listen and enjoy right now, from deep dives into devious doctors, to musings on the makings of a modern cult, it’s all here. Unless otherwise mentioned, these true crime podcasts can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever else you prefer to hear your adverts for pre-prepared meal kits or socks that hug your feet. So settle down, lock your doors, and ready yourself for the 10 best true crime podcasts to listen to right now.

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10. The Teacher’s Pet

Are spoilers still spoilers if it’s real life? This is surely a 21st century existential dilemma. I’ll err on the fact that they are and merely point you in the direction of the spectacular multi-part series from The Australian, The Teacher’s Pet. Investigative journalist Hedley Thomas presents this tour-de-force of a documentary series, uncovering the details around the disappearance of Lynette Dawson who went missing - *cough* - from her family home in Australia in 1982. 

If you’re already screaming ‘the husband did it’ then you’re not new to true crime but the stories around Lynette’s famous rugby player husband Chris Dawson are devastating. The interviews and desperation of Lynette’s family and friends for justice after 37 years makes The Teacher’s Pet a raw and occasionally frustrating journey, but consider this your new Making a Murderer-style obsession.

9. My Favorite Murder

If you’ve ever heard anyone wish friends farewell with the vaguely sinister-sounding “stay sexy and don’t get murdered,” don’t panic, you’ve just found yourself next to some Murderinos, the collective name for fans of MFM. Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff started off recording their thoughts on their favourite crimes in an LA loft in 2016 and have since spawned a veritable true crime phenomenon. Now the pair have their own podcast network and still get together for two episodes a week to deliver their thoughts on all manner of crimes and reader supplied ‘Hometown’ murders. 

With their frank attitude towards mental health and hilarious rapport, the duo perfectly balance the darkness of the subject matter with a healthy dollop of humour. This isn’t where to go to find the forensically precise version of events - there’s a weekly ‘Corrections Corner’ slot - but if you want to feel like you’re listening to your friends chat murder in the pub, this is the best true crime podcast for you. It’s time to sit crooked and talk straight.

8. Criminal

One of the most satisfying things about Criminal - other than host Phoebe Judge’s ultra-soothing tones - is it’s glorious conciseness. We all know life is short and if true crime is to be believed, much shorter for some than others. These 20 to 30 minute self-contained stories then are miniature pieces of disturbing art to fit perfectly into your commute. 

From stories about prized poodles being stolen to murder most foul or even shark repellent, every episode is a new journey into the truth being stranger than fiction. True crime podcasts can sometimes feel a little samey but Judge always finds fresh voices to bring new perspective to uniquely human stories. It doesn’t matter if you start at the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle (you monster), Criminal will always surprise you.

7. Real Crime Profile

Ticking the trained professionals box nicely, Wondery’s Real Crime Profile is presented by retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente, ex-New Scotland Yard criminal behavioural analyst Laura Richards, and Criminal Minds casting director Lisa Zambetti. This is an ongoing weekly pod and perfect for fans of true crime TV as the trio delve deeper into the cases made popular by shows such as Making a Murderer, Evil Genius, The Staircase, and Escape at Dannemora. 

Not content with one episode per show though, the team focus on one element of each case for each episode, making sure that the story centres around the victim, and consistently deliver intelligent, knowledgeable conversation. If you want a gore-soaked gloves-and-mask-on dissection of your new crime obsession, this is essential post Netflix binge listening.

6. Uncover: Escaping NXIVM

If I was describing these podcasts like Friends episodes, this would be ‘The One With the Allison Mack Sex Cult’. Yep, the Smallville actress, now you’re interested. Uncover: Escaping NXIVM (pronounced Nexiom) is an eight part podcast series that tells the inside story of Sarah Edmondson, an actress who joined the multi-level-marketing scheme and self help organisation only to discover some seriously questionable activities at work. Can anyone else smell Kool-Aid? 

The especially interesting element here is that Edmondson is an old school friend of CBC journalist presenter Josh Bloch, making the tale all the more honest and unique. The story of NXIVM is an incredible one as Bloch investigates cult - wait, I mean multi-level-marketing company - leader Keith Raniere, whose power over women appears frankly super villainous. And, if the first season isn’t enough, Uncover has now moved onto a fascinating new case as Ian Hanomamsing and Johanna Wagstaffe look into the bombing of Canadian Pacific Flight 21 in 1965.

5. The Last Podcast on the Left

If you want to be that person on the bus desperately trying to cram your fist in your mouth to stop yourself from laughing at absolute depravity, then The Last Podcast on the Left is for you. Host Ben Kissel, researcher Marcus Parks, and comedian Henry Zebrowski now have more than 350 episodes under their blood-spattered belts but don’t let that put you off. Wherever your interest in true crime lies, it’s here. 

Whether it’s serial killers, cults, or the paranormal, if it’s weird or disturbing, you can guarantee these three can educate you on the matter, and make you feel exceptionally guilty for wanting to laugh about it. It’s important to note though that while Zebrowski’s brand of humour is an infectious strain of madness, meticulous research from Parks means you’re going to know far more about the horrors at work than your nightmares might like. The multi-part episodes on true crime’s grisly ‘Heavy Hitters’ such as H.H Holmes or Jeffrey Dahmer are unmissable journeys into the evil that men (and women) do.

4. Dr. Death

Not one to listen to before you or any loved ones head into hospital, this multi-part podcast from Wondery looks into the horrific crimes of the titular Dr. Christopher Duntsch. Medical journalist Laura Beil dissects the actions of this neurosurgeon whom patients trusted to rid them of their back pain only to leave them maimed or even worse. 

Somehow the depravity here seems even worse than the other crimes on this list. This is butchery lurking in the assumed safety of the operating room. It's also worth noting that Dr. Death is not for the squeamish. Surgical procedure descriptions come thick and fast, pouring into your ears with squirm-inducing physicality. These are situations we all understand and know, making every word and description a ghastly journey into murderous medical malpractice.

3. West Cork

This is the only entry on this list not available on all podcast services. West Cork is an Audible Original offering, making it freely available only if you have a membership through Amazon. If you haven’t already used your free trial though, this 13 part documentary is a brilliant excuse to sign up. Might I recommend I’ll Be Gone in the Dark as your free audiobook at the same time? 

Anyway, West Cork is an utterly compelling investigation into the mysterious murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Ireland in 1996. What’s astonishing here isn’t just the access to the inhabitants of West Cork and the twists and turns at work, but the many quotables from the man whom many believe to be the murderer. Much like Serial, your inner guilt-ometer will be a swinging metronome as this tangled web unravels. Prepare to lose eight hours in a very short space of time. 

2. Someone Knows Something

Cold cases are fascinating and it’s easy to see why. These are unfinished stories, jigsaws with only one vital piece still to slot into place. And yet they don’t often make for good watching or listening. We like endings where villains are brought to justice and everyone lives happily ever after. Thus it’s all the more surprising to listen to Someone Knows Something, where CBC’s David Rigden spends a season at a time investigating a cold case, and realise that the story itself is what matters here. 

Rigden’s gentle narration and interview technique is compelling. Each of the five seasons now available is packed with an evocative sense of place, with true heartbreaking insight into those left behind after brutal crimes. Understandably, this isn’t always an easy experience but Someone Knows Something is a an essential listen that brings home the tragedy that others on this list might leave  untouched.

1. Serial

We can probably blame - or thank - Serial host Sarah Koenig for this entire list of the best true crime podcasts. If it wasn’t for the astonishing success of the first season of Serial, our thirst for piping devastatingly good documentaries into our heads might not be quite as strong. Koenig breaks down the still in contention case against Adnan Syed, the then-teenager convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Koenig’s in-depth breakdown of the case, access to Syed himself, and investigations into the evidence and inconsistencies surrounding the investigation make for ludicrously compelling listening. 

The 12 episodes that make up season 1 are now true crime podcast royalty for very good reason. Season 2 of Serial departed murder investigations as it followed the story of Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier captured by the Taliban, but has now returned to its roots for season 3 where each episode covers an individual criminal case.