5 of the Top True Crime Podcasts
- Crime Junkie
- Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo
- Happy Face
- My Favorite Murder
The best true crime podcasts combine incisive reporting and analysis with a deep sense of the humanity and tragedy they are reporting on. Long a popular genre in books and TV, true crime has thrived in the newer medium of podcasts. Below are five of the best.
No list of true crime podcasts would be complete without mentioning “Serial,” one of the true crime podcasting pioneers and still one of the best. Winner of a Peabody Award, “Serial” set a world record for ongoing podcasts when its first two seasons were downloaded more than 340 million times by September 2018. Its first two seasons focused on a single case each while in the third season, the hosts were given full access to a courthouse in Cleveland. Host Sarah Koenig is a journalist and a former producer for the popular radio and TV show “This American Life.”
In contrast to the season arcs of “Serial,” “Crime Junkie” explores one case per episode. Rolling Stone describes the approach of one of the hosts, Ashley Flowers, as empathetic and nonexploitative, and along with her childhood friend Brit Prawat, she delivers stories that range from those set in their own Midwestern backyard to more prominent cases, such as a 1970s coverup of a deadly IUD and the murder of Laci Peterson.
Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo
Reporting on crime often happens at the intersection of complex social issues, and the “Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo” podcast illuminates the larger plight of indigenous girls and women by focusing on one little girl who vanished from her Saskatchewan First Nations community in the 1970s. Cleo was taken by her biological family by social services, was adopted out to a white family, and was later rumored to have been murdered while hitchhiking. The podcast is hosted by award-winning indigenous journalist Connie Walker.
Washington State writer, Emmy nominee, and podcast host Melissa Moore has a unique perspective on true crime. Her father was the so-called “Happy Face” killer, a truck driver who murdered eight and possibly many more women in the 1990s. The 12-episode true crime podcast follows the effects on Moore of learning about her father as a teenager and how the trauma has marked her life.
My Favorite Murder
While it may seem strange or even callous to host a comedy true crime podcast, Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff aim for a compassionate approach to their subjects while discussing their own anxieties around crime and the phenomenon of the fascination with true crime itself. The podcasts generally focus on a single crime, but the duo also releases shorter episodes that discuss reader-submitted stories. A 2017 The Atlantic article examined the podcast’s role in providing support for listeners with mental health issues and how the podcast functions to exercise rather than increase the fears of its listeners.
Both fiction and nonfiction crime stories are enormously popular in various mediums, and many people end up pursuing a career in law or criminal justice as a result of interest in these stories. The above true crime podcasts are just a sampling of some of the best the genre has to offer, but they are a great start and offer a range of different approaches to the topic for the enthusiastic listener.