21.2 million people in the UK regularly listen to podcasts. That’s almost one in every three Britons that are into on-demand audio shows.
There are podcasts about nearly every subject you can possibly imagine. From astrophysics to zoology and everything in between. Yet there’s one subject that dominates the medium. More popular than football, music, or movies - true crime thrives inside those little wireless earbuds.
If you’re into your true crime but are yet to dip an audio toe into the vast pool of murderous podcasts out there, perhaps this list of the biggest, most popular pods to listen to, may help get you started.
5. My Favourite Murder
We start with a hugely successful podcast that has its critics but is mostly shrewd enough in tone to answer those that level any vague disapproval at it. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstack’s My Favourite Murder delves deep into unpleasant waters, doing so often with something of a wry smile.
Yet, while laughs may seem incongruous to the subject matter, the two true crime buff hosts are never anything less than respectful to the victims of the case they discuss. In fact, the enthusiastic pair’s witticisms often lend levity to the morbid tales.
4. The Last Podcast on the Left
Our second pick also traverses the treacherous terrain of comedy and the gruesome, tackling not just true crime stories, but all horrible matters. Arguably their finest work comes in their deep dives into serial killers, though.
The Last Podcast on the Left is named after the low-budget ‘70s horror flick of a similar name. While all three hosts, Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski, are capable of spectacular comedic flights of fancy, this is no quick read-through of a Wikipedia article for cheap jokes. Parks’ heavy research pays dividends as listeners learn more than they might’ve thought possible from a podcast. Especially one that’s so funny.
For no-nonsense, no-gimmicks hard crime aural overload, you want Casefile. This Australian podcast has been going for six years. In that time, the producers have released an incredible 200+ episodes, each as well researched and laid out as the last.
Casefile’s biggest strength lies in its presentation. The host is anonymous. There’s no opinion, no laughs, no supposition. Just the cold hard facts about cold hard cases.
The litany of awards and hundreds of millions of downloads are testament to the quality and addictiveness of its simply constructed, but impeccably offered content. This is true crime distilled to its very essence and syringed straight into your temporal lobe.
Now we reach the really big hitters. Criminal may just be the very best true crime podcast out there. There’s an almost tangible quality to the show. It’s so good you can almost touch it. Often copied, never bettered.
What makes it so special are the stories. Anyone can buy a microphone, talk about Ted Bundy for half an hour and release it on iTunes. Podcasts are, after all, one of the most democratic and easy-to-produce mediums. What most people can’t create, however, is content as original as Criminal. The stories are always fascinating and generally unknown.
Presenter Phoebe Judge isn’t just reading out some facts about strange criminal cases, though. She tells a story. Often with a creative flair that can even lean into the philosophical. Every episode you listen to you simply have to tell people about. That’s how consistently inventive, clever, and impressively researched they all are.
Few surprises here as we reach our top spot and reveal what we believe to be the number one true crime podcast out there. It’s Serial.
On its release back in 2014, the debut series of Sarah Koenig’s series not only set the template for true crime podcasts but podcasts in general. It even went beyond that, becoming a true cultural phenomenon. No one ever wants to write or read the term ‘cultural zeitgeist’, but Serial was firmly at the centre of it for some time.
Since 2014’s first run of 12 episodes centering on the 1999 murder of American high school student Hae Min Lee, there have been two further runs. They attract an incredible number of downloads, now nearing the half-billion mark. Not bad for a medium many people dismissed as a passing fad.