8 Podcasts About True Crime to Listen to Right Now

6:30 AM 8/18/2018

by Omar Sanchez

Podcasts from 'S-Town' to 'Disgraceland' are delivering addictive listens right to your phone, no research required.

In 2021, it is estimated that the U.S. population will be listening to 15 billion hours of podcasts a year, according to the data gathering website Statista. That number would be a jump from just 4 billion in 2014. 

The podcast boom coincides with the nation's continued thirst for true crime. TV networks and streamers like FX, NBC and Netflix have capitalized on the obsession with hit shows like the American Crime Story series, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders and Making a Murderer, respectively. Meanwhile, the true-crime podcast world has increased exponentially since hit podcasts like Serial and S-Town first made it to iPhones and car radios. Add to that the fact that there are conventions, like CrimeCon, held specifically for true-crime fans and podcasters from around the world to come together to share their stories.

The Hollywood Reporter has compiled a list of eight such podcasts that will point any prospective true-crime listener to the right one based on their interests. 

  • '30 for 30 Podcasts: BIKRAM'

    For the sports fan

    True-crime podcasts don’t need the label of "true crime" to dig into criminal culture, and that’s why the Bikram Yoga series on 30 for 30 Podcasts is on this list.

    ESPN has stretched beyond just sports broadcasting and into social commentary of sports culture for a while now. Many may know the 30 for 30 doc series featuring episodes detailing the Duke lacrosse team rape scandal, the fall of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky after being charged with child sex abuse and the ESPN Films series on O.J. Simpson that won the Academy Award for best documentary. 30 for 30 Podcasts started in 2017 with episodic narratives featuring of some of the most complicated and controversial issues in the sports industry, one of them being Bikram Yoga.

    In season 3, reporter Julia Lowrie Henderson and host Jody Avirgan chronicled the complicated history of this hot yoga craze that had its beginnings in Los Angeles. The five-episode installment delves into the guru behind Bikram, Bikram Choudhury, and how he used his power to coerce women into bed with him. In 2013, there were two lawsuits brought against Choudhury accusing him of rape. The podcast has conversations with ex-Bikram followers who experienced his manipulation firsthand. The stunning revelations along with the ongoing conversation on whether Bikram Yoga should be separate from the man who popularized it will leave listeners from any background satisfied.

    Episodes: 5

    Approximate length of episodes: 40 minutes

  • 'Atlanta Monster'

    For the historian

    Between the years of 1979-81, at least 25 children and 28 people overall were killed in the city of Atlanta in a string of related murders. While there was a guilty verdict in connection to several of those murders, the true story behind the horrific trend wasn’t talked about in depth and to a mass audience until Atlanta Monster. The podcast series by Atlanta-based music video director Payne Lindsey under HowStuffWorks and Tenderfoot TV took off early this year and became popular among podcast listeners.

    Like other true-crime podcasts, Lindsey not only describes the crime’s circumstances but also the effect it had on the nation, including what it meant for the racial tensions in Georgia at the time. 

    Episodes: 10, with several bonus episodes.

    Approximate length of episodes: 45 minutes

  • 'Criminal'

    For the commuter

    Criminal caters to the true-crime fanatics that prefer a quick rundown of various crimes rather than a road-trip length deep-dive on just one. The podcast, based out of Durham, North Carolina, aims with each episode to paint a picture of a specific crime with creative writing and sound design as its color palette. There's no case Criminal can't touch, so it should offer a little something for everyone. 

    In 2017, Time Magazine named Criminal one of the top 50 podcasts to listen to.

    Episodes: 90+

    Approximate length of episodes: 30 minutes

  • 'Dirty John'

    For the romantic

    This soon-to-be Bravo (and Oxygen) series was actually first a news feature turned true-crime podcast. 

    The story was first covered by the Los Angeles Times. It initially seems to follow a woman named Debra Newell and her family grappling with her tumultuous marriage to a doctor named John Meehan, but as the episodes go further into their story and how they got to know each other, a world of deceit is unveiled, pointing to the possibility that John may not really be who he says he is.

    The podcast features revealing interviews with Newell's family and crime experts. This, along with ongoing commentary from Debra herself, puts the listener right into the action as if they were witnessing it unravel live. 

    Episodes: 7, with an aftershow-style live podcast at the end.

    Approximate length of episodes: 50 minutes

  • 'Disgraceland'

    For the music lover

    Starting in 2017, Disgraceland brings together the entertainment industry and true crime by talking about the famous crimes associated to the music world. Episodes have dug into the potentially murderous death of Jerry Lee Lewis’ fifth wife and Marvin Gaye’s murder at the hands of his own father. Season 2 is ongoing, with one of the latest episode surrounding The Beatles’ John Lennon.

    Episodes: 15+

    Approximate length of episodes: 30 minutes 

  • 'My Favorite Murder'

    For the comedy fan

    My Favorite Murder takes a lighter tone to the true-crime genre. The podcast is hosted by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark and involves them picking crimes often submitted by listeners. After they talk about the crime at hand, the two hosts often bring up the humorous aspects of the crime world, attempting to soften the anxiety of murder itself. It was recently announced that the duo would be launching their own podcast network with the help of parent company Stitcher titled Exactly Right.

    “I think that’s what’s cool about our podcast — [listeners] respect our opinions, they like to think about our ideas. We’re able to steer these ideas into making them professional podcasts,” Hardstark told business magazine Fast Company.

    Episodes: 100+

    Approximate length of episodes: 90 minutes, with 30-minute minisodes.

  • 'S-Town'

    For the road trip

    This now-famed podcast started as one thing (true crime) and turned into something nobody could have imagined. Not even host Brian Reed, who appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon because of the podcast's success.

    The early 2017 phenomenon chronicles the relationship of This American Life staffer Reed with lonesome horologist John, who tipped Reed to an unsolved murder in John’s hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. Reed’s correspondence with John and the podcast’s soliloquies on love and life’s purpose made the podcast a must-listen, breaking download records to the tune of 10 million in the first four days of its release. S-Town offers social commentary front to back, wrapping up with a final, touching episode reflecting on the journey.

    Episodes: 7

    Approximate length of episodes: 50 minutes 

  • 'Serial'

    For the die-hard podcast fan

    Under the helm of This American Life’s Sarah Koenig, the Serial podcast series takes a step further in the true-crime genre by using their own investigative journalism to try and decipher one particular case per season. The podcast's use of opposing voices adds tension and leaves the listener at the edge of their seat wondering who is telling the truth, especially in season one's investigation into the 1999 murder of a high school student in Baltimore, Maryland.

    In 2015, it was reported that the podcast would be adapted for television. The subject of season one, Adnan Syed, will also be the subject of an upcoming HBO documentary, The Case Against Adnan Syed.

    Episodes: 12 in season one, 11 in season two

    Approximate length of episodes: 40 minutes