39 Best Podcasts (2022): True Crime, Culture, Science, Fiction
Podcasts are to radio as streaming services are to television, and we are lucky enough to be living through the golden age of both. You can find a podcast about almost anything these days, but with great choice comes great mediocrity—you might need a helping hand to find the best podcasts worthy of your ear. Our expertly curated list will entertain and educate you, whether you’re doing the dishes, working out, commuting, or lazing in the bath.
For more advice, check out our guide on how to listen to more podcasts, the best podcasts for kids, and if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, read our recommendations on the gear you need to start a podcast.
Table of Contents
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Sneak a peek behind the curtain, as this podcast follows the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, the tech startup that promised to disrupt blood testing but disintegrated in the face of whistleblowers, inaccurate results, and fraudulent claims. John Carreyrou’s reporting broke the scandal, and his book Bad Blood also spawned another interesting podcast. But The Dropout is a refreshingly clear recounting of the sordid tale, with season two tackling the trial.
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Beautifully paced and always convivial, Reply All drags you down internet rabbit holes to investigate long-forgotten songs, phone scammers, hacked Snapchat accounts, and Team Fortress 2 bots. The show suffered something of a scandal and accusations of hypocrisy for reporting on a toxic and racist workplace, which led to long-term host PJ Vogt and producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni leaving. Luckily, Emmanuel Dzotsi stepped in and Alex Goldman remained—it’s still an expertly crafted and endlessly inventive podcast with something to say.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
Painstakingly researched, this podcast dives deep into the world of sound to explain everything from those sounds you always hear in movie trailers to car engines, choral music to the Netflix intro, and way beyond. Learn how iconic sounds were created, why certain sounds make us feel the way they do, and how sound enriches our lives in myriad ways.
Other Great Tech Podcasts:
- WIRED’s Gadget Lab: Want to catch up on the week’s top tech news? Listen to our very own podcast hosted by senior writer Lauren Goode and senior editor Michael Calore.
- The Lazarus Heist: This captivating investigation starts with the Sony hacks, digging into the involvement of North Korean hackers, and moves on to a billion-dollar cyber theft.
The Last Days of August
Jon Ronson is a master storyteller who brings an inquisitive, empathetic, and slightly neurotic intelligence to bear on fascinating tales no one has told. Following on from The Butterfly Effect (only on Audible), which delves into the collision of tech with the pornography industry, The Last Days of August investigates the untimely death of porn performer August Ames. All of Ronson’s other podcasts are equally excellent (we recommend Things Fell Apart and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed), but this is a great place to start.
It’s a testament to the tumultuous times we live in that the prospect of a wide-reaching far-right plot intent on bringing down the democratic government is a description that could fit many nations right now. But Day X is a sobering look at the neo-Nazi specter in modern-day Germany, its possible infiltration of police and government, and a plan involving a military officer and a faked refugee identity.
This eclectic mix of quirky stories sees Malcolm Gladwell tackle misunderstood events and rarely discussed ideas, veering from subjects like Toyota’s car recall to underhand throwing basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, and even the firebombing of Tokyo at the end of World War II. Gladwell freely mixes research and opinion and enjoys challenging conventional views, but every episode contains fascinating facts and captivating stories you likely have never heard before.
Other Great Society Podcasts:
- Missing Richard Simmons: Ebullient fitness guru Richard Simmons used to be everywhere, and this podcast charts an investigative reporter’s attempts to find out why he disappeared.
- The Moth: This podcast offers random folks the chance to tell deeply personal stories to a crowd of strangers and reinforces just how weird and wonderful humans are.
- The Trojan Horse Affair: This tale unpacks the British scandal over an alleged attempt by Islamist extremists to take over a Birmingham school and radicalize the students.
Sounds Like a Cult
Fanatical fringe groups have never been so prevalent, and there’s something more than a little cultish about celebrity stans, multilevel marketing, and marathon runners—just three of the subjects this lighthearted podcast unpacks. The hosts—writer and linguist Amanda Montell and documentary filmmaker and comedian Isabela Medina-Maté—are witty and irreverent, so this is always a fun listen.
Brutally honest comedians with chemistry, Kid Fury and Crissle West recap and review all the latest pop culture news and give their harsh opinions on everything. Insightful, funny, challenging, and refreshingly different from the podcast pack, these sprawling conversations run for a couple of hours, covering recent events and frequently touching on social justice, mental health, race, and sexual identity.
Like eavesdropping on conversations between relatable besties, Forever35 started as a physical self-care podcast but expanded to discuss mental health, relationships, and any other topic that appeals to LA-based writers Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer. They go from chatting about serums and creams to seasonal affective disorder and how to deal with a new stepmother as an adult—but always in a fun, inclusive, and down-to-earth way.
Other Great Culture Podcasts:
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard: Now a Spotify exclusive, this often funny and always insightful podcast seeks out human truths and sometimes finds them.
- Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: Ably hosted by author David Barr Kirtley, this sci-fi fantasy extravaganza digs into fascinating topics with the help of accomplished guests like Neil Gaiman, Brent Spiner, and Steven Pinker.
- Welcome to Our Show: A warming dose of nostalgia and comfort for New Girl fans as Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone, and Lamorne Morris rewatch the show together.
- The Allusionist: If you are interested in words, this witty but accessible show will delight you as it unpacks the evolution of slang, explains euphemisms, and generally celebrates language.
Soothing and soporific host Phoebe Judge unravels captivating stories with reverence in this polished production about the spectrum of crime. Criminals, victims, lawyers, police, historians, and others whose lives have been altered by crime voice their stories as Judge carefully avoids the sensational and exploitative by respectfully teasing out the heart of each subject.
Give this compelling mystery five minutes and you’ll be hooked. The talented host, Brian Reed, investigates a small town in Alabama at the behest of eccentric horologist John B. McLemore, who claims the son of a wealthy family has gotten away with murder. The script, pacing, editing, music—basically everything about this production is perfect.
Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen
Murder may dominate this genre, but there are other fascinating stories worth telling in the world of crime, like this one, which is about a scammer posing as a Hollywood mogul. This weird, compelling, investigative podcast unwinds a deeply satisfying twisty tale that’s mercifully free of blood and violence. The second season, Wild Boys, tells a completely new story.
Other Great True Crime Podcasts:
- The Clearing: The families of serial killers often seek obscurity (understandably), but that means we never hear their stories. That’s something this podcast about April Balascio, daughter of American serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards, rectifies.
- The Trials of Frank Carson: Police and prosecutors go after the defense attorney who has been beating them in court for years, sparking accusations of conspiracy and one of the longest trials in US history.
- Sweet Bobby: This British catfishing tale charts successful radio presenter Kirat’s relationship with handsome cardiologist Bobby, and things get impossibly weird.
- Dr. Death: This gripping podcast focuses on incompetent or psychopathic (maybe both) ex-surgeon Christopher Duntsch and exposes terrifying institutional failures.
- Crimetown: A forensic examination of organized crime in American cities, this slick podcast comes from the supremely talented makers of The Jinx.
- Hunting Warhead: A journalist, a hacker, and some detectives go after a chilling child abuse ring led by a criminal known as Warhead in this tactfully told and thorough podcast.
The worlds of wellness and weight loss are awash with questionable products and advice, so a podcast to debunk fads and junk science with reasoned argument and research is welcome. It’s more fun than it sounds, thanks to the entertaining hosts, and there’s even a fascinating episode on the popular idiom “snake oil” that recounts the history of health scams.
An absorbing deep dive into human behavior with the help of psychologists, sociologists, and other experts, Hidden Brain is densely packed with informative nuggets. The host, NPR’s accomplished science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, skillfully renders complex ideas accessible and offers us all more insight into the inner workings of our minds.
The Infinite Monkey Cage
This whimsical show, hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, poses questions like “Does time exist?”—which are then debated by a diverse panel of three guests, usually a mix of experts and entertainers. Definitive answers are in short supply, but it’s always articulate, enthusiastic, and thought-provoking.
Other Great Science Podcasts:
- Science Rules!: Bill Nye, the science guy, teams up with science writer Corey Powell to question experts on all sorts of interesting science-related topics.
- Stuff You Should Know: Prizing knowledge for its own sake and provoking healthy curiosity, this podcast is comical, charming, and full of interesting conversational nuggets.
This Planet Money spin-off delivers digestible, fast-paced, well-told stories on business and the economy that tackle disparate topics like TikTok marketing, opioid nasal sprays, and ticket scalpers. Each enlightening episode comes in under 10 minutes and serves as a quick primer that will leave you feeling well informed.
Promising to delve into the “hidden side of everything,” this long-running, data-driven show is hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of the Freakonomics books, and it regularly features economist Steven Levitt. It’s a clever mix of economics and pop culture that flows easily and balances entertainment with education, presenting both sides of debates while consulting relevant guests.
If you long to understand the economy better, this topical show, hosted by David Beckworth of the Mercatus Center, interrogates a diverse field of economists, professionals, and academics to bring you invaluable insights. It is serious stuff on macroeconomics and monetary policy, but the conversations do a solid job unpacking complex topics.
Other Great Economics Podcasts:
- Planet Money: This top-notch podcast has entertaining, digestible, and relatable stories about the economy, unraveling everything from health care to income taxes.
- EconTalk: This no-frills show sees economist Russ Roberts engage in sprawling conversations with writers and academics on a range of economics topics.
Best Celebrity Interview Podcasts
The Adam Buxton Podcast
Consummate conversationalist Adam Buxton is always witty and well prepared, and he has interviewed so many interesting people in his long-running show, from Charlie Brooker to Jeff Goldblum. Ostensibly rambling, Buxton skillfully pulls fascinating insights from his interview subjects, bouncing between personal lives, work, and popular culture with seeming ease.
Life Is Short With Justin Long
Likable actor Justin Long and his brother Christian host this enthusiastic, sprawling, gentle interview show where they chat with guests like Zack Snyder, Kristen Bell, and Billy Crudup. The siblings get sidetracked by nostalgic reminiscences and occasional bickering, which sort of makes the show, but they are always generous and kind to their guests.
Charming and goofy, this conversational show stars Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, and they always have a surprise celebrity guest, like Ryan Reynolds or Reese Witherspoon. It is warm, gentle, easy listening, and often laugh-out-loud funny, but don’t expect challenging questions or bared souls.
Other Great Celebrity Interview Podcasts:
- WTF With Marc Maron: Self-deprecating, sardonic, supremely skilled interviewer Marc Maron interviews some of the world’s most famous people, from Barack Obama to Paul McCartney.
- Grounded With Louis Theroux: A soothingly gentle facade belies Louis Theroux’s ability to draw fascinating insights from his subjects with tact and humor.
Epic rivalries and long-anticipated showdowns are a massive part of the enduring appeal of sports, so this slick production focuses on them. Rivalries like Federer vs. Nadal in tennis and Tyson vs. Holyfield in boxing are explained in a few episodes apiece by host Dan Rubenstein, who digs into their backgrounds to understand why some face-offs get so highly charged.
The Bill Simmons Podcast
This hugely popular sports podcast features fast-paced roundtable conversations with athletes and celebrities that usually focus on the NFL or NBA. Unfiltered opinions, witty remarks, and encyclopedic sports knowledge collide, but this is enthusiastic and accessible enough for casual sports fans to enjoy.
Primarily focused on baseball, this long-running podcast sometimes covers other sports and often meanders off into comical conversations. Guests offer amusing anecdotes, but the chemistry between hosts Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur, who can debate endlessly about any old nonsense, is what makes this show so special.
Other Great Sports Podcasts:
- Undr the Cosh: Open and honest banter from ex-professional football (soccer) players, as they talk to current pros and recount hilarious on- and off-pitch anecdotes.
- Around the NFL: This funny, fast-paced look at the National Football League runs through all the latest football news, blending anecdotes and analysis.
- 32 Thoughts: A slickly produced, insightful dive into all the latest hockey news and controversy from knowledgable hosts who bounce off each other.
How Did This Get Made?
We have all asked this of a movie at some point, but hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas invite guest creatives to have heated and hilarious chats about some of the worst films ever. Movies that are so bad they are entertaining, from Face/Off to Junior to The Room, are dissected and thoroughly ridiculed.
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review
Respected film critic Mark Kermode has an infectious love of movies and an incredible depth of knowledge about the world of film, and Simon Mayo is a highly skilled, veteran radio presenter. Together they discuss the latest movies, interview top-tier directors and actors, and invite views from their listeners.
You Must Remember This
Diving into Hollywood myths to investigate and uncover the truth about infamous secrets, scandals, and legends from Tinseltown is a compelling premise for a show, and talented creator and host Karina Longworth makes the most of it. The “Dead Blondes” series, which includes Marilyn Monroe, the run on Manson, and the “Frances Farmer” episode, are among the best.
Other Great Movie Podcasts:
- The Rewatchables: Bill Simmons and a rotating cast of cohosts discuss and analyze beloved movies and dig up interesting nuggets of trivia.
- Lights Camera Barstool: Reviews, interviews, rankings, and accessible chats about the movies with pop culture debates on random questions thrown in.
- Black Men Can’t Jump [in Hollywood]: This comedic movie review podcast highlights films featuring actors of color and analyzes them in depth, with an eye on race and diversity.
Horror fans will enjoy reliving the last gruesome moments of various corpses that have landed at the mysterious Roth-Lobdow Institute in this deliciously creepy and occasionally gross chiller. Wonderful narration from Lee Pace, acting from the likes of Denis O’Hare, Missi Pyle, and RuPaul, and clever sound design combine to make for a memorably thrilling ride that you just know is going to end badly.
Hello From the Magic Tavern
Thoroughly absurd, this fantasy improv-comedy show is the brainchild of Chicago comedian Arnie Niekamp, who falls through a portal at a Burger King and ends up in the magical world of Foon. The role-playing game and fantasy references come thick and fast, guests play bizarre characters of their own creation, and loyal listeners are rewarded with silly long-running gags and rich lore.
We Fix Space Junk
Short and sweet episodes of this sci-fi comedy-drama fit neatly into gaps in your day and whisk you away to a nightmare corporate dystopia in a galaxy fraught with evil artificial intelligence and monstrous aliens. Struggling repair technician Kilner gets stuck with a rich murder suspect and her polar opposite, Samantha Trapp, after accidentally smuggling her across the galaxy in this polished show with a distinct 1980s feel.
Other Great Fiction Podcasts:
- The Bright Sessions: The therapy sessions of mysterious psychologist Dr. Bright, bookended by voice notes, form intriguing short episodes, as all of her patients seem to have special abilities.
- Welcome to Night Vale: This pioneering creepy show is presented as a community radio broadcast from a desert town beset by paranormal and supernatural happenings.
Striving for utopia has led to the development of some fascinating communities over the years, and season one of Nice Try! delves into their history, tries to understand the idealism that drove them, and why these communities ultimately failed. Season two moves on to lifestyle technology, from doorbells to vacuums, all designed to help us realize a personal utopia in the ideal home.
The modern world was shaped by some of the ideas that drove revolutions, and this deeply researched series runs through the English Civil War, American, French, Haitian, and Russian revolutions, Simon Bolivar’s liberation of South America, and more. The writing is concise, the narration is engaging, and host Mike Duncan does a fantastic job contextualizing revolutionary events and characters.
The Memory Palace
An ephemeral, dreamy, emotional quality elevates these tales of seemingly random moments from the past, expertly told by the eloquent Nate DiMeo and backed by wonderful sound design. These distilled stories serve as historical snapshots of rarely discussed events, and it’s hard to think of another podcast as artful and poignant as this one.
Other Great History Podcasts:
- Something True: Enjoy utterly bizarre true stories, as every episode of this podcast explores a unique but seemingly forgotten historical footnote.
- Lore: Spooky and witty, this classic podcast plumbs history to uncover horrifying folklore, mythology, and pseudoscience.
- Medieval Death Trip: An enthusiastic and well-researched look at medieval times, this podcast offers a witty analysis of the primary texts left behind.
A Hotdog Is a Sandwich
Whatever side of the titular, age-old debate you stand on (I’m with the British Sandwich Association), this fast-paced, often funny show will suck you in as it poses tough food-related questions and then debates them. Chefs Josh Scherer and Nicole Enayati decide whether American cheese is really cheese, if Popeye’s and In-N-Out are overrated, and what the best pasta shape is.
If your love of food extends to an interest in the history and science of everything from the humble potato to a soothing cup of tea to the ever polarizing licorice, then this podcast is for you. Knowledgeable cohosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley talk to experts and serve up a feast of delicious bite-sized facts that surprise and delight.
The Dave Chang Show
Celebrity chef Dave Chang, whom you may know from his Netflix show Ugly Delicious, talks mostly about food, guilty pleasures, and the creative process with other chefs and restaurateurs. There is plenty here to satisfy foodies, but some of the funniest moments come when the show covers other random topics, like the perfect email sign-off or wearing shoes indoors.
Other Great Food Podcasts:
- Out To Lunch With Jay Rayner: This podcast seats you at a top restaurant to eavesdrop on consummate food critic Jay Rayner with a celebrity guest at the next table.
- The Sporkful: You can learn a lot about people and culture through food, and this podcast proves it by serving up delectable bite-sized insights.
Wolf and Owl
Comedians and friends Tom Davis (the Wolf) and Romesh Ranganathan (the Owl) chat aimlessly and expertly poke fun at each other for around an hour. It’s often nostalgic, sometimes offers decent advice for listeners, and is always warmhearted and laugh-out-loud funny.
Why Won’t You Date Me? With Nicole Byer
Perennially single stand-up comedian Nicole Byer is every bit as charming and funny here as in Netflix’s Nailed It baking show, but this podcast delves into some adult subjects. Byer is disarmingly open about her insecurities and struggles and seamlessly stirs in vulgar humor. She is very charismatic and hosts hilarious conversations with guest comedians.
Ostensibly a football (soccer) podcast, this surreal show is brought to life by lovable British comedy legend Bob Mortimer, with support from sidekick Andy Dawson. Tall tales about real footballers, complete with strange voices and fictional personalities, are mixed with songs, daft inside jokes, and rambling conversations. You don’t really need to know anything about soccer to enjoy it.
Other Great Comedy Podcasts:
- Locked Together: Only on Audible, this show features lockdown chats between comedian pals like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost or Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan.
- Fake Doctors, Real Friends: Rewatching Scrubs with Zach Braff and Donald Faison is a joyous experience that’s every bit as entertaining, poignant, and silly as the TV show.
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