Podcasts are hitting different in 2020.
After coronavirus forced all of us into quarantine and the entertainment industry at large into indefinite hiatus, podcasting found new relevance. Offering entertainment, companionship, and basically the only new content that can be responsibly created while social distancing, in a lot of ways podcasts have been the salve we all needed throughout the pandemic.
But with so many new ones coming out on a daily basis — thanks in part to the bored celebs who see it as a way to stay relevant right now — it’s hard to know what’s worth a listen. Well we’ve got you covered, with a range of the best podcasts to come out in 2020, from true crime, social issues, comedy, and even fiction.
Numbered in no particular order, some of these best podcasts listed began before 2020 but recently launched new seasons or exceptional mini-series, while others are entirely new releases that only just entered the ring. Regardless, each is worth giving a shot and could even become your new favorite podcast. (: Some of these best podcasts are still in the process of releasing episodes as of the publication of this article, and our opinions reflect only what’s been released so far.)
1. Forgotten: Women of Juarez
Topics: True crime, women’s rights, Mexico, border politics, corruption
What it’s about: For as much true crime podcasts as there are out there, there are also countless victims who never get the media attention they deserve. Forgotten: Women of Juarez aims to correct that for the hundreds of women who lived in the border city of Juarez, Mexico before either going missing or being brutally murdered. From the police to the media, the horrifying injustices happening to these often working-class young women get so overlooked that you have to wonder whether it’s purposeful. Journalists Mónica Ortiz Uribe and Oz Woloshyn show incomparable bravery in their hunt for the truth, exploring every possible theory, from serial killer, to trafficking, to old-fashioned police corruption. As riveting as it is crucial, they risk life and limb for this investigation, fighting to ensure these women’s stories finally get heard and remembered.
2. Nice White Parents
Topics: Education, racial inequality, segregation
What it’s about: [From our ] “Nice White Parents, released on July 30, is a five-part limited series from the team that redefined podcasting . Instead of complex true-crime cases, however, Nice White Parents puts a different criminal on trial: the white liberalism that has helped perpetuate the segregation of public schools in America for decades under the guise of progressive ideals. This American Life producer Chana Joffe-Walt tells the story through an on-the-ground investigation into the School for International Studies (SIS), a New York City public school that was predominantly serving students of color. That is, until a flood of white parents who couldn’t get their kids into preferred white schools instead decided to enroll them there, causing it to become a battleground of racial tensions and inequalities. It’s a story that comes from a personal place for Joffe-Walt. She began reporting on it after shopping around for schools as a new parent herself, only to discover she was part of a larger history of white parents who have shaped our public school education system into what it is today — which is to say, a system that overwhelming and repeatedly fails students of color.”
Topics: Sex, relationships, intimacy, society, science
What it’s about: [From our roundup] “A lot of the sex and relationship podcasts out there follow the conversational, interview, or call-in advice format. But Embodied stands out for bringing the polished structure and intellectual rigor of scripted public radio — like Radiolab — to the topics of sex and the bodies that have it. Host Anita Rao dives into topics like porn from unique angles, such as its ethical concerns, lesser-known erotica formats, art projects inspired by porn, and even a conversation with her parents on whether they watch it. Embodied brings analytical journalism into the space without ever losing sight of the humanity at the core of any discussion around sex.”
4. Lolita Podcast
Topics: Feminism, women and girls, sexual assault, sex culture, society, arts
What it’s about: The influence of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita can’t be overstated. From fashion to music to film to sexual expression itself, the novel’s impact on society far exceeds literary circles, affecting the mainstream in ways you may not even be aware of. You don’t need to have read Lolita — a cautionary tale about a predator grooming, kidnapping, and repeatedly raping a child — to be riveted by the podcast, which is more focused on tracing its ripple effects on the zeitgeist. Comedian, podcaster, and writer Jamie Loftus wrestles with this tangled nexus of significance in a society that perpetually sexualizes young girls. Weaving in her own personal experiences and analysis with expert interviews and source materials, Loftus leaves no stone unturned — no matter how uncomfortable. Diving headfirst into a minefield of impossible yet crucial questions, Lolita Podcast delivers nuanced perspectives that only unfurl more layers of complexity rather than offering easy answers.
5. Hidden Djinn
Topics: Mythology, Muslim cultures, oral storytelling, the supernatural
What it’s about: [From our roundup] “American audiences rarely hear about the djinn, which is our loss since they’re one of the most fascinating creatures of ancient mythologies still believed in to this day. As host Rabia Chaudry tells it, to the many billions of people from Islamic cultures around the world, the djinn are a powerful race of beings we’ve been living alongside for centuries. Our closest American equivalent would be ghosts, but that comparison fails to capture the magnitude of the djinn, who are as diverse in character and type as human beings and an ever-present element of day-to-day life. By delving into the lore, Chaudry teaches listeners not only of their existence lore but of the people and cultures they’re inextricably connected to.”
6. Last Podcast on the Left: JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald – The Assassination
Topics: Conspiracy, politics, CIA, true-crime
Why it’s great: Another podcast that isn’t new, but that released stellar multi-part series that can be considered new seasons of their own. In particular, their deep dive on the JFK assassination is one of the most definitive sources on exactly what happened, addressing all the conspiracy theories and culminating in the gag positing what they believe really happened. It’s a poignant topic for 2020, getting into the psychology of why people love conspiracy theories and why the real answers are often much less satisfying than any of that. [From our roundup] “Last Podcast on the Left is a rag-tag team of comedians who became true crime podcasting monoliths through heavily researched deep dives into all things serial killers, cults, conspiracies, and the ‘spooky gooky.’ [Covering] true crime with cavalier and often flat out revolting gross-out humor which either is or is not for you. Admittedly an acquired taste, there’s no denying that Last Podcast on the Left goes places few other true crime podcasts would touch with a 10-foot pole (maybe for good reason) — and they’ve been doing it for longer than really anyone else on this list. While you shouldn’t take anything hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, or Marcus Parks say too seriously, they take their jobs very seriously with their own brand of rigor.”
7. Last Day, Season 2
Topics: Suicide, mental health, social issues, society
What it’s about: Last Day is all about tackling the taboos that are killing us. Last season, that was the opioid epidemic. Season 2 dives into even more uncertain waters by wrestling with the topic of rising suicide rates and mental health concerns. Host Stephanie Wittels Wachs shows no fear and all the thoughtful care in the world while handling an issue that often feels impossible to talk about in the right way. With first-hand accounts of attempted-suicide survivors to mental health experts, the show asks the impossible questions we desperately need to try to answer if we want to find solutions. [To repeat the show’s disclaimer: “If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or feeling hopeless, it’s important to talk to someone about it now. Contact one of the resources below for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor anytime. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, Crisis Text line: Text ‘Connect’ to 741-741, The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386.”]
8. There Are No Girls on the Internet
Topics: Tech, web culture, society, feminism, racism, discrimination.
What it’s about: [From our ] “There Are No Girls on the Internet is an essential listen that amplifies the marginalized voices who shape the internet and explorations of being a woman online. Because, listen, we love Reply All as much as anyone, but a show about the internet hosted by two white dudes is bound to leave out some crucial perspectives. Host Bridget Todd gives the under-recognized women who build and experience technology a much-needed spotlight, both through interviews as well as her own critical analysis in There Are No Girls on the Internet. For example, one recent episode was about Nandini Jammi, the Indian-American woman who wasn’t getting credit for co-founding the Sleeping Giants tech startup. Meanwhile another explores Missy Elliot as a digital pioneer who doesn’t get credit for her innovations.
9. Binge Mode: Marvel
Topics: Pop culture, fantasy, science fiction, film, comic books
What it’s about: [From our roundup] “Binge Mode changed the game for podcasting and fan discourse alike, elevating both with serious analysis, DEEP (deep) research, and silly headcanon. The wildly popular Ringer podcast hosted by Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion first began as a deep dive into every episode and chapter of Game of Thrones, only to then tackle the entire Harry Potter and Star Wars universes. Now they’re exploring the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, right before Concepcion departs to start a new adventure with the Pod Save America team. You come to Binge Mode first for its perfect balance of critique and fandom, but you stay for the unmatched chemistry, banter, and friendship. Like Rubin is wont to do, you might even find yourself shedding a tear at the thought of this heartfelt formula changing, but we’re sure whatever comes next for Binge Mode and its maesters won’t disappoint.”
Dr. Death, Season 2
Topics: True crime, murder, cancer, medical malpractice
What it’s about: Fans of Dr. Death Season 1 know what they’re in for with Season 2. Host Laura Beil brings back the hit Wondery true crime podcast with a whole new case of egregious malpractice and systemic failures from the medical community. This time, she digs into Farid Fata, who was believed to be one of the top cancer doctors in the country. From victims to employees of Fata, the show paints a devastating picture that’s as hard to believe as it is enraging.
10. Bad Faith
Topics: Progressive American politics
What it’s about: During the 2020 presidential primary, Briahna Joy Gray, Bernie Sanders’ former national press secretary, became a preferred target for centrist democrats — especially in the media. In Bad Faith, she gets to speak for herself, with interviews that tackle the nitty gritty of progressive politics. You might’ve heard of the pretty viral Episode 10, which featured a contentious debate with philosopher Noam Chomsky. Unfortunately, that and many other of its best episodes are behind a paywall — which might feel a bit out of sync with the overall anti-capitalist message, but ultimately labor isn’t free. Regardless, the free episodes offer equally crucial discussions and perspectives.
11. Today, Explained: The Trump Years
Topics: American politics, Donald Trump, current events
What it’s about: So much has happened in the last four years that it’s impossible to remember it all. But despite Joe Biden winning the 2020 presidential election, it is absolutely crucial that we make sure we don’t forget any of it. Aside from the litany of scandals, the Trump administration left behind long-lasting political emergencies we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.
Topics: Government conspiracy, CIA, psychological torture
What it’s about: In a world where conspiracy theories have turned into mass hallucinations, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that some conspiracies turn out to be true. That’s the case with MKULTRA, a CIA mind control experiment carried out during the Cold War. The CBC’s Michelle Shephard uncovers the unbelievable details of how the American government allowed psychiatric patients from Montreal to be used like lab rats in experiments that combined psychological torture and administering LSD to unwitting participants. Aside from tackling the history of the case, Brainwashed also covers the trauma of survivors of MKULTRA and the families who all but lost their loved ones to it.
Topics: Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, prison reform, society
What it’s about: Sierra Leonean poet Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. and the people he interviews don’t offer easy answers about how to resist the global machine of white supremacy. But that’s the point: Resistance is a daily fight against both the small and enormous battles of reckoning with anti-Black hatred. Interviewing everyone from activists to the single Black man who lives in a nearly all-white Nebraskan town, Tejan-Thomas Jr. shows the many different faces of what the struggle for justice and liberty looks like.
14. Even the Rich
Topics: Gossip, wealth, pop culture, corruption, royalty
What it’s about: In 2020, the last thing we want to hear about are rich people — right? Wondery’s new series proves that theory wrong by revealing the seedy underbelly of the most fabulously wealthy, from the Murdochs to Princess Diana and American royalty Beyoncé. Like the podcast version of Netflix’s Selling Sunset, it’s the hate-listen we all need in 2020.
15. Stories with Sapphire
Topics: Oral storytelling, supernatural, paranormal, fiction
What it’s about: Podcasts have an inherent connection to oral storytelling, that ancient tradition of telling tales around a fire, which human beings have been doing since our beginning. Stories with Sapphire is one of the latest, greatest additions to the pantheon of storytelling monoliths, akin to Glynn Washington’s Spooked on NPR. Hosted by the dulcet-toned Sapphire Sandalo, each episode follows a three-act structure with a mixture of real first-hand accounts of the supernatural, narrated re-enactments, poems, and urban legends. As a Filipino American, Sandalo often weaves in her own familial and cultural history with the supernatural, offering a refreshingly international perspective that other podcasts of this ilk don’t always take into account.
16. The Michelle Obama Podcast
Topics: Society, culture, Inspiration, family, work, life, politics
What it’s about: Do you really need a better sell than “Michelle Obama talks for an hour” to listen to this? You shouldn’t. It’s Michelle Obama’s podcast. She’s an inspiration with a hell of a story, incomparable talents, incredible arm muscles, and that commanding yet comforting voice we need to get through this hell year.
16. Intercepted: American Mythology
Topics: American politics, Donald Trump, the presidency, democracy
What it’s about: Similar to Today, Explained’s Trump series from Vox, the Intercept’s retrospective on the Trump years offers an uncompromising look back. But crucially, host Jeremy Scahil digs into not only the Trump years themselves, but how his presidency was anything but a fluke in American politics. Decades of American exceptionalism and mythologizing led to Trump as an embodiment of that corrosive cultural narrative.
17. How To Save the Planet
Topics: Climate change, society, science
What it’s about: Gimlet’s newest podcast comes in hot with a title that makes a supposedly impossible promise. But actually what makes How To Save the Planet great is precisely how it breaks down a seemingly insurmountable issue into digestible questions, conversations, and explanations. From disaster prep to the Green New Deal and even talking about climate change with the denier in your family, journalist Alex Blumberg and marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson guide a crucial search for solutions.
18. History Becomes Her
Topics: Feminism, women’s rights, gender equality, history, current events, inspiration
What it’s about: [From our ] “Our shameless self-plug, is a Mashable podcast that asks today’s biggest heroines about the women from the past who inspired them. Hosted by reporter Rachel Thompson, it’s an amalgamation and celebration of history makers, whether past or present. Season 1 kicks off with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the reporters behind the New York Times‘ Harvey Weinstein investigation that helped spark mainstream momentum behind the Me Too movement.”
19. Dissect, Season 6: Lemonade
Topics: Music, Beyoncé, pop, hip-hop, Black culture, feminism
What it’s about: Cole Cuchna’s Dissect is one of the best longstanding in-depth music analysis podcasts around. Add a 14-part deep dive into every aspect of Beyoncé’s Lemonade and new co-host Titi Shodiya, and you’ve got a certified hit. There is so much to unpack with this seminal album, and the series leaves no stone unturned, analyzing the visual components alongside the lyrical and musical complexities.
20. Selena: A Star Dies in Texas
Topics: True crime, assassination, celebrity, culture
What it’s about: [From our ] “Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s tragic end came right at the cusp of her meteoric rise, a tale immortalized by a young Jennifer Lopez in the 1997 film Selena. But that movie, and her stardom, only captures a sliver of what was lost on the fatal day when a close friend and fan shot the 23-year-old girl dead. While the Vault Studio’s podcast is only on its third episode as of this article’s publication, we can already definitively say it’s one of the best recent additions to the genre. With gripping audio from the day and interviews with friends and family, it paints a more detailed and immediate picture of the person behind this infamous case of superstardom that should have been.”
21. Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein
Topics: Sexual assault, criminal justice, true crime, Me Too
What it’s about: [From our ] “This is the factual deep-dive into Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes that you needed to make some sense of it all. To be honest, an investigation from ABC News’ Mark Remillard will never satisfy the (understandably) widespread belief that turned ‘Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself’ into a rallying cry. But Truth and Lies does a thorough, fact-based, gripping breakdown of how Jeffrey Epstein became an influential financier, how he built his sickening empire of sex-trafficked underage girls, the criminally suspicious sweetheart deal he was given by prosecutors during his first trial, then finally how he was put behind bars. With accounts from survivors, lawyers, authorities, and workers in Epstein’s orbit, it brings both clarity and the personal trauma he left in his wake into sharp relief.”
22. Dead Eyes
Topics: Show business, celebrity, Hollywood, art
Why it’s great: Dead Eyes is simultaneously one of the most bingable yet cringe listens of 2020. For the past 20 years, actor and comedian Connor Ratliff has been obsessing over the one time beloved Academy-award winning actor Tom Hanks fired him from a small role on the show Band of Brothers, allegedly because Ratliff had “dead eyes.” The podcast is the pinnacle of petty self-indulgence as Ratliff tries to get to the bottom of what this meant and how it almost made him want to quit acting altogether. Ultimately, though, what Dead Eyes is really about is the impossibility of show business as a profession, as he brings on guests ranging from Jon Hamm, Bobby Moynihan, and D’arcy Carden — all showing how the path to success is filled with soul-crushing angst. Extremely self-aware, it’s a warts-and-all kind of journey, as petty as it is relatable.
23. You’re Wrong About: D.C. Sniper
Topics: True-crime, domestic violence, history, murder
Why it’s great: While not new, this podcast got a serious bump in 2020, in no small part thanks to its countless phenomenal multi-part series released this year, like those about Princess Diana and the D.C. Sniper. It was hard to pick a “best” of the ones from this year, but we suggest you start with this one. [From our ] “You’re Wrong About does heavily researched re-investigations of the major news stories, figures, and moral panics that we got completely wrong. It’s doing God’s work by correcting the record on everything we misremember or misunderstood in our collective cultural memory. While not exclusively about women, a common theme that has emerged on the podcast is that, as a society, we judge women unfairly or completely disregard their perspectives. Each week, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes debunk popular myths, misconceptions, and mischaracterizations of figures like Tonya Harding and Marie Antoinette, or topics like sex trafficking and events like the O.J. Simpson trial. Maligned or forgotten women are a near-constant feature of these riveting deep dives. For example, I bet you didn’t know the D.C. Sniper is actually a story about domestic violence.”
24. Do No Harm
Topics: True crime, child abuse, failures of the legal system, Child Protective Services
What it’s about: It’s hard to keep track of all the broken processes in our legal system, and Do No Harm shines a spotlight on one that’s rarely talked about and hard to wrap your mind around. NBC News reporter Mike Hixenbaugh tells the six-part story of how the Bright family got torn apart by Child Protective Services and others in charge of protecting children from abusive parents. After seeking medical attention for their infant son’s accident, the Bright parents find themselves in a Kafka-esque nightmare of bureaucracy and trauma that doesn’t seem at all concerned with protecting kids from trauma.
25. The Sneak, Season 2: Murders at Whiskey Creek
Topics: True crime, murder, scams
Why it’s great: [From our ] “I loved both seasons of The Sneak, a true crime podcast from USA Today that tells stories that intersect with sports. And if you like to run, I’m assuming there’s a decent chance you also like sports, so this is a great option. The second season dives deep into the story of Murph the Surf, a legendary jewel thief, surfer, con-man, and convicted murderer. It’s a wildly entertaining story but also one that makes certain not to glorify horrific crime. You’ll finish the show and wish there were more.”
Topics: History, society, racism, politics, New Orleans
What it’s about: No matter how much you think you know about Hurricane Katrina, Floodlines reveals how America has only reached the surface of reckoning with this deep national wound. Through interviews with survivors and reporting that addresses the media misinformation and government incompetence around the catastrophe, host Vann R. Newkirk II shows how the real storm that devastated New Orleans was the same one that’s been brewing in America for centuries.
Systemic racism is at the heart of understanding what happened, with issues that not only trace back to this country’s past but also its near-future. Floodlines was released prior the country-wide protests ignited by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But we’re seeing the same issues repeat once again, with many media reports focusing on pockets of looting rather than the unconscionable suffering of Black people, authorities victim-blaming them for their own oppression, and the total failure of the government to protect and care about the lives of its own people.
27. Dating Game Killer
Topics: True crime, murder, serial killer
What it’s about: [From our ] “For true crime obsessives, it’s hard to come by any prolific American serial killer that hasn’t been covered to death (excuse the pun). But with Rodney Alcala, the serial murder of countless young women and girls across the country, it becomes evident that there’s no shortage of monsters left to unmask. Most chillingly, despite being caught and imprisoned various times for his crimes, Alcala still got onto a popular ’70s dating show, winning the affections of the female contestants by using the same charm that beguiled his victims. From the folks who brought you Dirty John and Dr. Death, Wondery once again tells the gripping true crime tale of a psychopath who leaves a trail of bodies in the wake of his insatiable ego.”
28. Why Won’t You Date Me?
Topics: Dating, life, friendship, comedy
What it’s about: [From our roundup] If hanging out with Nicole Byer, comedian and host of Nailed It!, doesn’t send you instantly to a better mental space — we don’t know what will. Her new podcast launched in 2020 was intended to be more wholesale focused on her dating life. But then the pandemic hit. That didn’t stop her from still having one of the best Just Vibing style podcasts with various other hilarious guests. At the end of each episode, Byer asks said guest if they would date her and our answer is YES GOD PLEASE YES!
29. The Missionary
Topics: True crime, religion, racism, white saviors, white supremacy
What it’s about: You probably vaguely recall last year about a white American missionary who allegedly disguised herself as a doctor while running a charity for Ugandan children. About a hundred kids in her charity’s care died. The Missionary is an essential deep dive into the story of Renee Bach, with interviews from other missionaries, Renee herself, volunteers who worked with her, local health officials, and most importantly the Ugandan families who lost the loved ones after entrusting them to her care. Is she a serial killer, some white lady with one of the worst cases of the white savior complex, or actually misunderstood? While the show avoids any certain conclusions, Bach isn’t the only one put under the microscope. Her story raises important questions about the white supremacist underpinnings of most missionary work, too.
Topics: Police brutality, social injustice, true crime, grief
What it’s about: (From our roundup) Somebody is a gut-wrenching reminder of the struggle for survival, answers, and basic personhood that Black Americans face. As yet another — Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting — launches an overdue criminal investigation, Shapearl Wells’ story dives into the complicated, conflicting, and sickening realities of grieving a loved one killed by a nation’s broken systems. Her son, Courtney Wells, was found shot outside a Chicago police station, and the explanation for how it happened is inconsistent at best. As a mother tirelessly investigating her own son’s death, Wells also captures the exasperation of having to justify the worth of his life to the public — the double-edged sword of forcing people to care so you can get answers. This limited series is heart-wrenchingly personal yet culturally resonant. It’s a must-listen for all who don’t face the lived experience of this ever-present fear and threat.
31. Rabbit Hole
Topics: The internet, the alt-right, YouTube, technology, society
What it’s about: I know, I know. The Gray Lady hasn’t been seen as a publication that’s especially hip to internet culture. But with Rabbit Hole, host Kevin Roose, a New York Times reporter, paints an impressively comprehensive, complex, clear, and compelling portrait of how the internet fuels this era of political and cultural chaos. From the alt-right’s rise from the ashes of gamergate, to Pewdiepie finally going on record about his endless controversies, and even interviews with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on the platform’s role in radicalizing viewers, Roose brings all the big guns you’d expect from the Times into the digital age.
32. The Officer’s Wife
Topics: True Crime, murder, marriage
What it’s about: [From our ] “In The Officer’s Wife, what at first seems like a typical (if still horrifying) true crime tale of a marriage gone awry surprises with a jaw-dropping twist. Another recent contribution from Vault Studios, this is all about the case of Jessica Boynton. Wife to a police officer named Matthew in Georgia, she was found with a gunshot wound to the head from his service weapon, which he claims was self-inflicted. But both physical evidence and a very undeniable witness suggest otherwise. We won’t spoil anything here, but rest assured that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill case of a husband accused of murdering his wife.”
33. Slow Burn Season 4: David Duke
Topics: History, politics, society, white supremacy, racism
What it’s about: Podcast listeners will know Slow Burn is pretty much a guaranteed hit by now. The latest season of the podcast known for re-examining key moments from recent American politics is now turning to one of the most relevant topics of the current moment: white supremacy. Slate’s Josh Levin hosts this journey into understanding how former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke became normalized through his election into local Louisiana government. Maybe — just maybe — if we reckon with that recent past, we can learn something about how and why we allowed white supremacist sympathizers to run the White House.
34. Oh, Hello: the P’dcast
Topics: Humor, comedy, interviews, Princess Diana’s death
What it’s about: Dear celebrities: Instead of “helping” through video montages showing solidarity from within your mansions, do what John Mulaney and Nick Kroll did instead. Cure your boredom by making a podcast that’s actually useful and brings some much-needed laughter into our lives. Oh, Hello forgoes any sponsorship to instead encourage listeners to donate to COVID-19 relief charities. If you’re unfamiliar, the comedy podcast is based on a running bit the two comedians brought to Broadway and then Netflix. In the podcast version, their elderly New Yorker alter egos Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland “investigate” Princess Di’s death by asking famous people who have nothing to do with the event to speak to it. Guests range from podcasting legends Ira Glass and Sarah Koening to Actual British Person John Oliver.
35. Down the Hill: The Delphi Murders
Topics: True crime, murder, small town America
What it’s about: [From our ] “This podcast on the notorious Delphi murders is a thoroughly reported investigation into an infamous double murder, made eerier by social media footage of the perpetrator captured by one of the victims. A few years ago, the murder of two teenage friends Abby and Libby in Delphi, Indiana gained notoriety because of a Snapchat video one of them took. By all appearances, it seems to be of their killer, right before he murdered them. The podcast’s namesake comes from the infamous audio clip the police released, with the man instructing the girls to go ‘down the hill.’ Despite all this bone-chilling evidence, though, the murderer remains at large. CNN reporters Barbara MacDonald and Drew Iden go deep on the case, with extended interviews from those closest to the open case — from family members to friends and investigators. Even if you’ve heard it covered before, their on-the-ground reporting in Delphi provides a real sense of the small town that never recovered from the tragedy, making the widespread belief that the murder is a local even more unsettling.”
36. It Was Simple: The Betty Broderick Murders
Topics: True crime, famous murders, women’s history
What it’s about: While younger folks may be less familiar, to others the Betty Broderick murders became something of a punchline. Playing out like a Lifetime movie, it’s the perfect embodiment of the ex-wife scorned trope: a woman pushed to the edge who murders her ex-husband and new, younger wife in the bed she used to sleep in. But the Betty Broderick case is also about much more than that, with a new Los Angeles Times podcast digging into how she was in many ways a product of the rigid gender roles imposed on women at the time.
The world told Betty that her life’s goal should revolve around becoming the perfect, obedient housewife. But in a society where that’s your only value, a divorce can lead to a dangerous loss of self-worth and identity. Don’t get us wrong: This podcast is not an all-out Broderick apologist. It also spends ample time giving the perspectives of the victims, and reckoning with the lives lost because of her abhorrent crime.
WATCH: From makeup to true crime: A look inside the weird world of YouTube mashups
37. Phoebe Reads a Mystery
Topics: Murder mystery, books read aloud, narrative ASMR
What it’s about: We here at Mashable are unapologetic Phoebe Judge stans. If, like us, you fell in love with her ASMR-esque voice that inspires calm even while she’s describing violent crimes in her podcast Criminal, you’ll love this new one too. Throw Agatha Christie into the mix, and you’ve got one of the best new podcasts to fall asleep to or enjoy while otherwise relaxing. Phoebe Reads a Mystery is exactly what it sounds like, and so far she’s taking listeners through Christie’s The Murder on the Links through daily episodes that average about 20 minutes each.
38. Wind of Change
Topics: Culture, CIA conspiracy, music, history, Cold War
What it’s about: Most Americans (especially younger ones) probably don’t remember the 1990 rock ballad “Wind of Change” by the German band Scorpions. But by every metric, it left an unforgettable mark on the world. This well-sourced investigation from host Patrick Radden Keefe goes as far to suggest that its huge cultural impact during the Cold War was actually by the American government’s design. The New Yorker staff writer works tirelessly to verify a rumor that the song — which became a #1 hit and still holds records as one of the best-selling singles worldwide — was actually written by the CIA in a covert culture propaganda operation. The funniest part is that, if that’s true, writing a song with a catchy hook was one of the most effective tactics in the U. S. government’s battle against the Soviet Union.
Topics: Fictional storytelling, folklore, myth, horror, cults, teen drama
What it’s about: Even if you’re not usually a fan of fictional storytelling podcasts (like me), you need to give Borrasca a try. This magical realism-like scary story revolves around a string of disappearances in a small Missouri town with dark secrets and traditions. You follow the journey of Sam Walker across two different timelines. After his sister Whitney goes missing, he and his teen friends try to solve the mystery of various disappearances and their potential connection to local legends. But that story is framed as a story he’s telling his parole officer after what he uncovered led to severe drug addiction and prison time.
40. Dying for Sex
Topics: Sex, life, death, love, friendship, cancer, happiness, grief
What it’s about: Most people think sex and disease couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to one another. But Dying for Sex is all about host Nikki Boyer’s best friend Molly telling her story of wild sexual exploration after she was diagnosed with terminal Stage IV breast cancer. While mostly told through conversational retellings of said escapades, there’s also re-enacted journal entries and text exchanges — and even interviews with some of the people on the receiving end of her sexual journey. It’s a podcast that’s full of life and love, which goes hand-in-hand with the frank discussions around dealing with the realities of death.
41. Chasing Cosby
Topics: True crime, sexual assault, celebrity, the Me Too movement
What it’s about: (From our Best True Crime Podcasts of All Time roundup) Continuing the Los Angeles Times’ record for stellar true crime podcast investigations, Chasing Cosby is an excruciating look at what it takes to bring down a beloved monster, both as a victim and a journalist. It stands out thanks to the sheer doggedness of reporter and host Nicki Weisensee Egan, who has been fighting tooth and nail to tell these survivors’ stories since 2005. No one listened then, and there is a spine-tingling power in hearing their personal accounts and courage of enduring the decades-long battle to put their seemingly untouchable attacker behind bars.
42. Conviction, Season 2: Satanic Panic
Topics: True crime, moral panic, criminal justice, wrongful conviction
What it’s about: [From our roundup] The cleverly-named Conviction isn’t just about wrongful convictions, though of course there’s plenty of those in both Seasons 1 and 2. It also tackles our own convictions, the questionable morals and psychological underpinnings behind not only the system but our own personal need for justice. In the first season, reporter Saki Knafo follows Bronx private detective John Quinney in his tireless pursuit to rectify the biggest wrongful conviction case of his storied career. The second season dives into the Satanic Panic, America’s most bizarre modern example of a witch hunt that put many innocent people behind bars. The podcast focuses on a (now grown-up) young son, whose damning testimony sent his own father to prison for allegedly running a satanic cult leader.
43. You Must Remember This: Polly Platt the Invisible Woman
Topics: Hollywood history, women’s issues, feminism, celebrity, culture
What it’s about: Karina Longworth, one of the best storytellers and reporters to grace podcasting, is back with another season exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. This time it’s to tell the story of Polly Platt, who died in 2011 but left behind a long and highly influential film career that (surprise, surprise) the world failed to give her full credit for while she was alive. Overcoming a litany of personal tragedies and rampant sexism in Hollywood throughout the ’70s-’90s, Platt was the woman you’ve never heard of behind some of the most acclaimed films from those eras. Her moment in the spotlight is long overdue, but Longworth does an incredible job making up for lost time through extensive research, interviews with those closest to Platt, and even readings from her unpublished memoirs.
Topics: Paranormal, conspiracy, aliens, mysterious deaths
What it’s about: True crime fans will recognize host Ashley Flowers from her wildly popular podcast Crime Junkie. Supernatural mimics that format almost to a T, but allows Flowers to investigate the more surreal and out-of-this-world cases and events that don’t fit the Crime Junkie oeuvre. There are no neat answers here, but you’ll be enthralled by her storytelling on everything from the inexplicable deaths of nine young Russian teens on a hiking trail (aka the Dyatloz Pass case) and allegedly leaked documents from the U.S. government’s top-secret task force on the 1947 Roswell crash. The FBI has called out documents related to the so-called Majestic 12 task force as fake.
45. Joe Exotic: Tiger King
Topics: True-crime, animal abuse
What it’s about: [From our ] “This one’s for all you cool cats and kittens who cannot get enough of the bizarre world revealed by Netflix’s Tiger King documentary. Releasing before Netflix turned Joe Exotic into a household name, the podcast from reporter Justin Long goes more in-depth than the documentary dared to. We’ve already that the show omitted, but if you’re still hankering for details and can’t get those lingering questions out of your head, this is the listen for you.”