The 21 greatest binge-worthy podcasts that inform one hell of a narrative

Nice podcasts at all times transport us, however there’s one thing distinctive concerning the restricted collection that evokes an much more ravenous audio binge.

Podcasts are already a perfect storytelling medium, bringing us again to one among humanity’s most historical types of leisure by way of oral traditions. However the constraints of a restricted collection solely improve these qualities that may make podcasts such transportive, binge-worthy experiences.


The very best true crime podcasts of all time

With definitive beginnings, middles, and ends, the limited-series podcast as we outline it’s a contained story informed over 5 or extra episodes. A lot of these on our record produce other seasons tackling completely different topic issues. However we’re highlighting the very best of the very best.

Evidently, the genres of true crime and documentary dominate the limited-series podcasting class (and the medium as an entire, actually). However we have gone out of our method to embody entries from many genres, together with fiction, historical past, tradition, and comedy.

Whether or not you are trying to binge whereas deep cleansing, gaming, taking a shower, commuting, hunkering down for an extended flight or street journey, otherwise you simply want a distraction, we assure these suggestions will do wonders to cross the time.

What it’s or who it is for: An important breakdown of January 6, that includes a variety of views from the individuals who had been there within the lead-up, in the course of the assault, and within the thick of its aftermath.

What it is about: The rebel on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, left many asking the identical query: How may this occur? This eight-parter by Pineapple Studios and Wondery does a wonderful and deeply compelling job of answering that actual query. Hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz deliver a way of humanity to their protection of the parents who had been closest to the historic assault. Interviews vary from the involved relations who warned the FBI concerning the potential violence they had been listening to about to the federal government officers who listened and tried to ship out alarms concerning the home terror risk to even some Trump supporters who attended the rally. In case you assume you have heard all of it relating to this once-in-a-lifetime information story, Will Be Wild will reveal simply how a lot we nonetheless have to find out about what occurred that day — and what it means for the way forward for American democracy.

Size: Eight 40- to 45-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: A jaw-dropping and uniquely private investigation into one of the notorious murders in American historical past.

What it is about: Regardless of being a connoisseur of grisly true crime content material, I’ve by no means encountered something like Root of Evil earlier than. It left this murder-story aficionado each audibly gasping and uncontrollably weeping. Root of Evil is as a lot a firsthand account of devastating generational household trauma as it’s a riveting investigation into the notorious Black Dahlia homicide that rocked Los Angeles in 1947. Sisters Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile take us alongside on their journey to unravel the net of deadly lies and horrifying abuses that has haunted their household for many years. On the heart of all of it is George Hodel; the sisters elevate questions on not solely his personal evil however of what being born into evil means for the harmless folks raised by it. Don’t fret for those who discover the primary couple episodes exhausting to observe; it is all a part of experiencing this disorienting household saga.

Size: Eight 35- to 60-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: Anybody who spends time on the web and needs to know how tech is fueling IRL cultural and political divides.

What it is about: I do know, I do know. The Grey Woman hasn’t sometimes been seen as a publication that is particularly hip to web tradition. However with Rabbit Gap, host Kevin Roose, a New York Occasions reporter, paints an impressively complete, advanced, clear, and compelling portrait of how on-line platforms are fueling this period of political and cultural chaos. From the alt-right’s rise from the ashes of gamergate to PewDiePie lastly occurring document about his infinite controversies — and even interviews with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on the platform’s position in radicalizing customers — Roose brings all the large weapons you’d anticipate from the Occasions into his evaluation on the digital age. Importantly, the podcast highlights how YouTube has been very important to the misinformation infrastructure, which lots of post-Capitol protection of Large Tech underestimated. [Adapted from our Best Podcasts on Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories and Best New Podcasts of 2020 lists]

Size: Seven 30-minute-long episodes

What it’s or who it is for: People who assume fiction podcasts aren’t for them however love surrealist mysteries (with a touch of feminist undertones).

What it is about: No matter you assume you may anticipate from QCODE’s Tender Voice fictional podcast, assume once more. A number of episodes in, we’re nonetheless not fully certain what is going on on, however we all know that it is an absolute journey. That includes a trifecta of British expertise you may most likely acknowledge (Naomi Scott, Olivia Cooke, and Bel Powley), it tells the story of Lydia, who lives what seems to be a perfect life as a result of she at all times listens to Tender Voice, the controlling little dictator inside her head insisting on perfection and conformity. Then, someday, it is gone. We’ll go away it at that, however buckle up for a wild, sapphic, and mind-melting journey greatest listened to with headphones. Do word the disclaimer to start with, which warns of delicate subjects broached that is likely to be triggering to some. [Adapted from our Best New Podcasts of 2021 list]

Size: 10 elements, every about half-hour.

What it’s or who it is for: Those that wish to escape to a unique planet with out getting too distant from residence.

What it is about: At its essence, The Habitat is like if NASA did a season of Large Brother. Six contestants (aka volunteers) elect to take part in an experiment the place they play the a part of a crew of astronauts dwelling on Mars. For a full yr, these six strangers share very shut quarters whereas simulating an area mission that is really stationed on a distant mountain in Hawaii. Host Lynn Levy takes us by way of their experiences utilizing the audio diaries every needed to log each day. It is a mixture of existential contemplations and a few good-old-fashioned actuality TV human drama.

Size: Seven 30-minute episodes (with one bonus episode).

What it’s or who it is for: The folks dwelling for the scammer period of true crime

What it is about: There’s an Anna Delvey-level fraudster on the market whose story you most likely have not heard but however actually ought to. In Season 1 of Chameleon, journalist Josh Dean unravels one of the elaborate, weird, wild, and typically even heartbreaking scams preying upon Hollywood’s most weak staff. Nicknamed the Hollywood Con Queen, the faux big-time producer that this podcast investigates has tricked numerous gig staff like aspiring make-up artists and Hollywood private trainers into taking nonexistent jobs in Indonesia. Whereas this story comprises extra bewildering questions than solutions, it is stuffed with gripping twists, turns, and examinations of energy dynamics embedded into the trade throughout gender, race, and standing. What units this one other than so many different rip-off tales is how cash or wealth does not appear to be the principle aim in any respect. What this fraudster takes from victims is way more private than simply their money, robbing them of not solely their dignity but in addition religion in themselves and their goals.

Size: 10 full-length 30- to 45-minute episodes, with two bonus 30-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: Each American.

What it is about: As all-encompassing as it’s powerfully particular and private, 1619 is the story of contemporary America — and the individuals who constructed it by way of blood, sweat, tears, and hope. It is a model of the story an incredible many people by no means hear, purposefully stored hidden within the margins of U.S. historical past books. However 1619 is not only a podcast concerning the historical past of slavery because the genesis of just about each side of American society and tradition right this moment. By weaving the historic with the private and the poetic, the Pulitzer Prize-winning venture by Nikole Hannah-Jones (alongside different visitor hosts) paints a viscerally fascinating portrait of Black Individuals’ lived expertise — and the simultaneous wrestle, power, oppression, ambition, ache, and humor wanted to outlive. 1619 is a narrative about race and the inequalities embedded right into a system predicated on its conceit. However above all it is a story about us, the folks we had been then and nonetheless are actually.

Size: Six 35- to 45-minute episodes.

8. Harsh Actuality: The Story of Miriam Rivera

What it’s or who it is for: Actuality TV junkies who know that there is way more to early 2000s trash TV than we as soon as thought.

What it is about: You’ll have missed the 2004 actuality TV present There’s One thing About Miriam — however you can’t miss this Wondery collection’ deep dive on its influence. The premise of the present was easy and merciless: Six cis male contestants competed for the affections of the beautiful Miriam Rivera with out understanding she was trans, till the producers revealed the data for optimum dramatic impact. An onslaught of abuse towards Miriam adopted from the general public, media, present contestants, and callous actuality TV producers. Nearly everybody misplaced all human dignity within the course of, besides that’s for the ever-glamorous Miriam, who took all of it in stride whereas by no means shedding sight of her dream to develop into a star.

Because the star of the primary relationship actuality TV present centered on a trans girl, Miriam represented lots of completely different factor to lots of completely different people. For mainstream heteronormative society, she was their earliest (if not first) intimate publicity to a trans particular person. Within the trans neighborhood, she was a double-edged sword of lengthy overdue illustration steeped in a world of transphobia. However what podcast host Hint Lysette so artfully does on this collection is give attention to Miriam not solely as a star or pioneering TV persona, however as a human being. Stuffed with gut-wrenching and sobering confrontations with transmisogyny as a lot as joyous celebrations of her glamorousness, Harsh Actuality is a touching portrait of a lady subjected to a number of the worst that exploitative 2000s TV needed to provide.

Size: Six 40- to 45-minute episodes, with one bonus episode.

What it’s or who it is for: Lovers of the unusual stylings of sketch comedy like The Tim & Eric Present and I Suppose You Ought to Go away with Tim Robinson.

What it is about: This Is Branchburg is an experiment into sketch comedy podcasting from Brendan O’Hare and Cory Snearowski, co-produced by Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric fame). Every 15- to 20-minute episode gives numerous home windows into the lives of fictional residents from a small New Jersey city — like an existential milkman considering being the final of his sort and pining for the great outdated days when folks used to respect that the federal government really helpful eight glasses of milk a day. In the identical manner podcasts like Comedy Bang! Bang! paved a path for improv in comedy podcasting, This Is Branchburg feels prefer it may do the identical for scripted sketch reveals.

Size: 20 episodes, every abbout 15- to 20-minutes.

What it’s or who it is for: Individuals in search of to know the reality about one of the misunderstood nationwide tragedies in our latest historical past.

What it is about: Regardless of how a lot you assume you understand about Hurricane Katrina, Floodlines reveals that America has solely reached the floor of reckoning with this deep nationwide wound. By interviews with survivors and reporting that addresses the media misinformation and authorities incompetence across the disaster, host Vann R. Newkirk II reveals how the storm that devastated New Orleans was a part of the identical one which’s been brewing in America for hundreds of years.

Understanding the forces of systemic racism is on the coronary heart of comprehending what occurred, and the way the ripple impact of these programs fuels a lot of America’s previous, current, and future. Floodlines was launched previous to the country-wide protests ignited by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. However the identical points persist within the information protection of police brutality and protests in opposition to it now(opens in a brand new tab). Like Katrina in 2005, many media experiences give attention to pockets of looting moderately than the unconscionable struggling of Black folks, with authorities victim-blaming them for their very own oppression and the entire failure of the federal government to guard and care concerning the lives of its personal folks. [Adapted from our Best New Podcasts of 2020 list]

Size: Eight 30- to 40-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: True crime lovers who assume they do not like fiction podcasts.

What it is about: Limetown nails the true crime investigative podcast vibe so completely it is simple to get so immersed you really begin believing this audio drama is actual. Fictional reporter Lia Haddock takes you on her perilous journey to resolve what occurred in a small Tennessee city after a mysterious incident years in the past brought on the sudden disappearance of all 300 of its residents. We can’t spoil any extra of this horror podcast’s gripping plot. However belief us after we say this little bit of horror fiction is ideal for individuals who love true crime however often wrestle to get into fictional podcasts. Whereas a second season launched in 2018 (three years after the primary one), the unique story felt most full by itself. [Adapted from our Best Podcasts for Horror Fans roundup]

Size: Six 30- to 40-minute episodes, with some temporary bonus episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: A delightfully different manner of seeing the world’s (seemingly) unanswerable questions.

What it is about: The antithesis of your typical unsolved thriller or conspiracy podcast, The Thriller Present turns mundane instances of the unexplained into riveting, hilarious, and deeply human radio. This American Life veteran Starlee Kine is a fearless mystery-solver in contrast to some other, with evidently infinite quantities of curiosity and dedication to determining probably the most innocuous unexplained phenomenons that preserve her up at night time. Sadly, Gimlet canceled the podcast(opens in a brand new tab) earlier than Season 2 was completed and it stays unclear if it can dwell once more by way of a unique community.

Size: Six 25- to 60-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: Whereas particularly near the guts for Latin Individuals, it is a story for anybody keen on understanding the melting pot that this nation represents.

What it is about: Something for Selena is not simply concerning the beloved Mexican-American singer who was tragically murdered on the top of her profession. Like Selena’s music, this podcast touches on the beating coronary heart of Latin-American identification itself. Host Maria Garcia combines the cultural context behind Selena’s significance to the neighborhood together with her personal private narrative, in search of to know extra about herself by way of the pop star who helped many who straddle a multicultural background really feel so seen. As intimate as it’s all-encompassing, the nine-part collection gives each an English and Spanish model of every episode. [From our Best New Podcasts of 2021 list]

Size: 9 45-minute episodes, with two bonus episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: An unimaginable, deadly tragedy peeled again like layers of an onion to disclose the bigger social ills at play.

What it is about: In 2018, a automotive carrying the six adopted Black kids of a white lesbian couple was discovered crashed on the backside of a cliff on California Freeway 1. Not one of the Hart household, together with the adoptive dad and mom, survived. If that story sounds vaguely acquainted, you most likely watched the fictionalized model of it that was the idea for Atlanta Season 5’s premiere episode. By unraveling the occasions and folks that result in what was later deemed a murder-suicide, the podcast digs into an array of difficult and necessary social points we face right this moment. It depicts the very actual human price of too typically abstracted issues, like identification politics, advantage signaling, America’s damaged foster care system, underreported home abuse in LGBTQ relationships, and even the gorgeous lies we inform on social media to cowl all of it up.

Size: 9 30- to 45-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: Anybody keen on one of many greatest cultural shifts in American society in latest reminiscence.

What it is about: Regardless of the ominous promise to “always remember,” it’s exhausting to recollect precisely how a lot 9/11 modified the U.S. That’s what Pineapple Road Studios’ 9/12 is all about, as host Dan Taberski examines all the brand new realities folks discovered themselves in after the assaults. From The Onion’s wrestle to recalibrate what humor meant post-9/11 to the long-lasting explosion of Islamophobia that traumatized so many in America, there are many issues we have to keep in mind concerning the post-9/11 a long time we’re nonetheless going by way of now. However what issues greater than something is rethinking and re-processing the nationalistic narratives we had been fed for many years. [Adapted from our Best New Podcasts of 2021 list]

Size: Seven 30-45 minute episodes, with a pair bonus episodes.

What it’s and who it is for: For many who assume they know every little thing concerning the Manson murders however are lacking the fascinating Hollywood historical past at its heart.

What it is about: We have seen so many alternative iterations of the notorious 1969 Manson murders, from the numerous film and TV diversifications to a litany of true crime documentaries and books. However with all due respect to As soon as Upon a Time in Hollywood, it is this 12-part podcast collection that provides one of the refreshingly distinctive and revealing takes on Charles Manson. Host Karina Longworth makes use of her unmatched storytelling and journalistic abilities to inform the story of the Manson Household by way of the attitude of Hollywood historical past. Chopping by way of all of the monster mythologizing and aggrandizing bullshit, Longworth will get to the reality of Manson as a fame-hungry grifter with middling musical skills. What’s extra damning, she dives into the California music scene whose stars — like Seashore Boy Dennis Wilson — had been silly sufficient to ask him in. Greater than only a portrait of the person, You Should Bear in mind This will get on the distinctive cultural circumstances behind the tragedy and its long-lasting influence on the glitz and glamour of seemingly untouchable stardom.

Size: Twelve 35- to 60-minute episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: Exposing the disproportionate under-reported crimes and injustices dedicated in opposition to Indigenous girls.

What it is about: Lacking & Murdered threads the road between the deeply private and the all-encompassing. Every season, CBC reporter Connie Walker (a First Nation girl herself) investigates the case of a lacking or murdered indigenous girl in Ontario, Canada. However every sufferer reveals a chasm of household and generational trauma, historic injustices with viscerally ongoing systemic repercussions, and a whole continent’s refusal to reckon with the victims they’d moderately overlook. Each seasons are phenomenal. However the second season’s hunt to search out Cleo Semaganis Nicotine — a younger woman murdered within the Nineteen Seventies, her organic household was informed — crystallized the podcast as one of many best. Lacking & Murdered in the end reveals how the blood is on the palms of all who proceed to profit from the deaths of First Nation folks to at the present time whereas ignoring the untold struggling of those that survived it. [From our Best True Crime Podcasts of All Time list]

Size: Eight 35- to 60-minute episodes, with a pair bonus episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: A singular cross between true crime and medical scandal.

What it is about: In relation to serial killers, we have grown accustomed to simple tales of bogeymen who hunt their victims by way of strategies that really feel completely faraway from on a regular basis life and society. However Dr. Demise is a collection that explores how these tasked with saving lives can wind up taking away extra lives than these notorious criminals. Whereas each season of the present hosted by Laura Beil is gripping, Miracle Man is among the most riveting. It begins with the too-good-to-be-true love story between an NBC reporter and a world-renowned surgeon making unbelievable breakthroughs in medication. What follows is a wild, twisted story that reveals the human price of a person who not solely needs to play God with sufferers’ lives, however who’s seductive sufficient to idiot so many others into believing his myths.

Size: Six 35- to 45-minute episodes, with a pair bonus episodes.

What it’s or who it is for: A must-listen true-crime parody podcast from Onion Public Radio, good for crime and comedy aficionados alike.

What it is about: Leaping on the true-crime podcast success bandwagon (a few of which we have coated right here), A Very Deadly Homicide is a pitch-perfect satire of the phenomenon. This Onion podcast goes after everybody — from self-aggrandizing cold-case solvers like Up and Vanished(opens in a brand new tab)‘s Payne Lindsey to the typically overwrought Larger Image Cultural Evaluation popularized by Serial and S-City and, above all, the deeply uncomfortable query of sufferer exploitation embedded in our obsession with true crime. Like an audio model of Netflix’s equally good American Vandal, A Very Deadly Homicide is a hilarious but essentially harsh look within the mirror.

Size: Seven 10- to 15-minute episodes. There’s a Season 2 fake-out of types, nevertheless it’s mainly only a parody on the phenomenon of second season, born out of nothing however the first story’s success.

What it’s or who it is for: Those that’ve been pulled into the JFK conspiracy theories, or want to perceive the origins of contemporary conspiracy idea tradition.

What it is about: Final Podcast on the Left outdid itself with this deep dive into the 1963 JFK assassination. The five-parter will certainly go down as a definitive supply on the main points, info, and numerous conspiracy theories born from the occasion — and likewise consists of what they imagine to be probably the most compelling idea about what actually occurred. It’s an particularly poignant subject proper now, too, stepping into the psychology of why folks love conspiracy theories and why the actual solutions are sometimes far much less satisfying than any of that.

Final Podcast on the Left is made up of a ragtag workforce of comedians who turned true crime podcasting monoliths by doing closely researched deep dives into all issues serial killers, cults, conspiracies, and the “spooky gooky.” They get pleasure from masking true crime with a cavalier tone that usually veers into flat-out revolting gross-out humor, which both is or will not be for you. Admittedly an acquired style, Final Podcast on the Left goes locations few different true crime podcasts would contact with a 10-foot pole (possibly for good motive) — they usually’ve been doing it for longer than actually anybody else on this record. When you should not take something hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, or Marcus Parks say too critically, they take their jobs very critically with their very own model of rigor.

[Adapted from our Best True Crime Podcasts of All Time and Best New Podcasts of 2020 list]

Size: 5 episodes which are about one to 2 hours every.

What it’s or who it is for: A chilling deep dive into the terrifying energy of a determine who some are calling the primary YouTube cult chief.

What it is about: Although this podcast was launched in 2018, it was a canary within the coal mine spotlighting the ever-thinning line between influencers with on-line “followings” and cult leaders with dangerously devoted followers. The investigative Gizmodo miniseries reveals the sinister facet of Teal Swan, a YouTube wellness guru who has admitted to algorithmically concentrating on folks at their lowest level of suicidal ideation — solely to push her private ideology that, removed from discouraging suicide, typically even encourages it. Whereas Swan’s story continues past what this six-parter covers (her following has solely grown since), it is a vital hear for understanding the gray space between on-line spirituality and harmful misinformation.

Size: Six 35- to 40-minute episodes.

Honorable mentions (or apparent givens)

UPDATE: Could. 16, 2022, 6:10 p.m. EDT This put up was initially printed in April 2020 and up to date in Could 2022.

Originally posted 2022-05-18 09:00:00.