50 binge-worthy podcasts

Written by:
August 28, 2020
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50 binge-worthy podcasts

Millions of people across the country are stuck at home with nowhere to go, and that means there’s some extra time to fill. Lots and lots of extra time. Enter the mighty podcast, which has come a long way since its inception 16 years ago. What was once something of a niche medium has exploded in the last few years. In fact, recent studies concluded that there are now over 850,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million episodes from which to choose.

With the onslaught of podcasting, there’s naturally come a greater amount of quality and variety alike. Production values are higher, writing is sharper, and the landscape is seemingly limitless in scope. Meanwhile, despite the proliferation of advertising, the majority of podcasts are untethered from executive oversight and corporate constraint. That means they run on their terms for as long as they want.

It all makes for a genuinely exciting scene, and a wildly diverse one at that. Picking up where the golden age of radio drama left off, fiction and role-playing podcasts have redefined the art of modern storytelling. On the flip side of that coin are long-form interview podcasts, where guests are no longer confined by time or FCC regulations. Then there is the slew of true crime and investigative reporting podcasts, many of which now stand at the forefront of contemporary journalism. Shows like “Serial” and “Ear Hustle” don’t just deliver a great binge, they might very well change one’s perspective on America’s justice system.

One might wonder: What makes a podcast binge-worthy? The answer usually boils down to consistent storytelling. Whether real or imagined, great stories still retain their power to both entertain and educate. At the very least, they help pass the time during self-quarantine. To ensure results, Stacker compiled a list of podcasts that are both binge-worthy and binge-able. While they all range in content and scope, they have one thing in common: fascinating stories that keep listeners coming back for more.

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1 / 50
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You're Wrong About

- Produced by: Michael Hobbes, Sarah Marshall
- Episode count: 74

Journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall peel back the curtain on modern history through the lens of hard data. Listeners receive a starkly different perspective than what the media first reported. Witty banter and occasional digressions keep the atmosphere light.

2 / 50
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Amicus

- Produced by: Slate
- Episode count: 162

Since 2014, host Dahlia Lithwick has covered America’s legal system from a progressive angle. Given the rapidly shifting nature of the current political landscape, virtually every episode is a must-listen. This is law from the top down, and it’s fascinating.

3 / 50
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Behind the Bastards

- Produced by: iHeartRadio
- Episode count: 202

History is chock full of "inglourious basterds" and this gripping podcast tries to cover each one. Going well beyond headlines, it takes a deep dive into everyone from Hitler to Saddam Hussein to a number of lesser-known villains. Host Robert Evans injects a deft comedic touch.

4 / 50
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The Clearing

- Produced by: Pineapple Street Media, Gimlet
- Episode count: 11

In 2009, April Balascio informed the police that her father was likely a serial killer named Edward Wayne Edwards. So goes this harrowing true-crime podcast, which grapples with Balascio’s past and her present alike. Start from the beginning and don’t skip an episode.

5 / 50
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Murder in Oregon

- Produced by: iHeartRadio
- Episode count: 12

The question of who killed corrections officer Michael Francke looms over this true-crime podcast. Francke’s own brother and reporter Phil Stanford remain convinced that the wrong man was charged with the crime. Their decades-long investigation goes from Oregon’s criminal underworld to the top of its political establishment.

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6 / 50
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The Murder Squad

- Produced by: Exactly Right Media
- Episode count: 43

Retired investigator Paul Holes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen team up to solve a number of cold homicide cases. In addition to using both modern technology and conventional methods, the hosts encourage listener participation. Thanks to a listener named Jessi, they recently helped solve a 40-year-old cold case.

7 / 50
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FiveThirtyEight Politics

- Produced by: FiveThirtyEight, 538, ESPN, Nate Silver
- Episode count: 199+

Website FiveThirtyEight takes a strict data-based approach toward politics, economics, and sports. The site’s political podcast makes for essential listening in today’s current climate. Each episode explores current events in terms of what they mean both now and further down the road.

8 / 50
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The Adventure Zone

- Produced by: Maximum Fun
- Episode count: 115

Based upon popular role-playing games, this podcast invites listeners into “The Adventure Zone.” Join the McElroy family as they solve puzzles, seek fortune, and slay enemies. No matter how intense the journey, a warm and comedic tone persists.

9 / 50
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Sawbones

- Produced by: Maximum Fun
- Episode count: 314

Elsewhere in the Maximum Fun universe, Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin take a marital tour of misguided medicine. Equal parts entertaining and educational, the podcast explores various medical mishaps throughout history. Naturally, they cover the coronavirus.

10 / 50
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The McElroy Brothers Will Be in Trolls World Tour

- Produced by: The McElroy Brothers
- Episode count: 9

Follow podcast legends the McElroy Brothers as they try to score roles in the “Trolls World Tour” movie. Do they succeed? The only way to find out is to listen...or to check their IMDb credits.

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11 / 50
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The Magnus Archives

- Produced by: The Rusty Quill
- Episode count: 160

Spanning four years and five seasons, this weekly horror fiction podcast dives into the archives of the Magnus Institute. Individual stories and serial plots come to life with help from new head archivist Jonathan Sims and guest actors. Expect a vivid journey of supernatural and esoteric proportions.

12 / 50
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DRILLED

- Produced by: Critical Frequency
- Episode count: 34

American journalist Amy Westervelt investigates the history of climate denial, from its corporate-funded creation to its spread across the world. Through interviews and research, she uncovers one of the modern era’s most destructive propaganda campaigns. It’s a podcast too important to miss.

13 / 50
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Flash Forward

- Produced by: Rose Eveleth
- Episode count: 106

Named one of the best podcasts by a number of major publications, “Flash Forward” examines future possibilities from multiple angles. Host Rose Eveleth doesn’t just conjure a brave new world, but accounts for bureaucratic variables and other minutiae. Tune in to find out if sex robots will come with a warranty, or what diplomacy would look like if humans couldn’t lie.

14 / 50
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Wolf 359

- Produced by: Kinda Evil Genius Productions
- Episode count: 61

Culling from the golden age of radio drama, this once-legendary podcast takes place aboard the U.S.S. Hephaestus space station. Follow the dysfunctional crew as it grapples with various life-and-death scenarios while exploring the outer reaches of the universe. There’s more to this mission than first meets the ear.

15 / 50
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Badvertising

- Produced by: Lunar Light Studio
- Episode count: 31

Welcome to the world’s worst advertising firm, where three clueless friends generate ad campaigns for well-known products and brands. With help from these self-appointed executives, viral failure is all but guaranteed. Winner of Best Comedy Podcast at the 2019 Discover Pods Awards, “Badvertising” is the perfect remedy for America’s overly corporate culture.

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16 / 50
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Oh No, Ross and Carrie!

- Produced by: Maximum Fun
- Episode count: 246

Like amateur X-Files agents, Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy take their fascination with spiritualism and fringe science to glorious extremes. They don't just look into various religions and movements, but even sign up on occasion. Listeners tag along for the ride.

17 / 50
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Hello From the Magic Tavern

- Produced by: Earwolf
- Episode count: 263

Fusing improvised comedy with role-playing fantasy, this long-running podcast is set in the magical world of Foon. Hosts Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore interview exotic beings from across the land while keeping an eye out for the Dark Evil Lord. Start from the first episode to reap the full experience.

18 / 50
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Mission to Zyxx

- Produced by: Maximum Fun
- Episode count: 78

Here’s another podcast that sets improvised comedy against an imaginary backdrop. Each episode welcomes a guest inhabitant to the Zyxx Quadrant and introduces them to a recurring crew. Space-themed hilarity ensues.

19 / 50
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Lovett or Leave It

- Produced by: Crooked Media
- Episode count: 143

Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett is joined by a rotating panel of celebrities, journalists, and politicians to discuss current affairs. While the podcast does take a critical approach toward political analysis, a fun-loving vibe persists. Some episodes are taped before a live audience.

20 / 50
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The Penumbra Podcast

- Produced by: Sophie Takagi Kaner, Kevin Vibert
- Episode count: 89

In the spirit of classic radio drama, this podcast celebrates the timeless art of storytelling. Each listener becomes a traveler as they enter an exotic world, meeting all sorts of creatures and characters. Adventure awaits.

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21 / 50
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The Anthropocene Reviewed

- Produced by: WNYC Studios, Complexly
- Episode count: 27

Targeting the current geological age, author and host John Green grades various phenomena on a five-star scale. Subjects range from hot-dog-eating contests to video games to infectious diseases. Anthropocentrism is the recurring motif and Green mostly sticks to it.

22 / 50
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Last Podcast on the Left

- Produced by: The Last Podcast Network
- Episode count: 508

An opening theme of serial-killer soundbites and horror tropes sets the stage for this award-winning podcast. As disturbing as the content might be, there’s plenty of comic relief to go around. The show has spawned live tours, a spin-off podcast for Adult Swim, and a recent book.

23 / 50
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Reply All

- Produced by: Gimlet Media
- Episode count: 159

With help from both listeners and guests, hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman attempt to solve the internet’s most compelling mysteries. Some of their journeys go down rabbit holes that must be heard to be believed. Start all the way back at the beginning and don’t miss a single investigative report.

24 / 50
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Hollywood Handbook

- Produced by: Earwolf
- Episode count: 336

TV veterans Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements cover all things Hollywood from their unique and absurdist perspective. What began as sketch-like comedy in 2013 has since evolved into a looser format, with an emphasis on celebrity interviews and unplanned segments. This podcast is a fixture on various “best of” lists from publications such as Vulture and Paste.

25 / 50
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Mabel

- Produced by: Becca de la Rosa, Mabel Martin
- Episode count: 47

Like a classic gothic novel, this gripping horror podcast unfolds one chapter at a time. Fully-realized characters and eerie music bring the story, about a strange house and its buried secrets, to life. Irish writer Becca de la Rosa and the mysterious Mabel Martin provide the voices.

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26 / 50
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Crazy/Genius

- Produced by: The Atlantic
- Episode count: 24

Overpopulation and the technological age have brought about a slew of novel questions and quandaries. This hyper-intelligent podcast aims to provide clarity, if not answers. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson hosts.

27 / 50
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The Dream

- Produced by: Little Everywhere, Witness Docs
- Episode count: 21

Investigative reporter Natasha Del Toro wades through capitalist schemes in search of a true bottom line. Season one tackled multi-level marketing, and season two takes on the wellness industry. Look out, Goop!

28 / 50
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Archive 81

- Produced by: Dead Signals
- Episode count: 35

Borrowing from the “found footage” genre, this fiction podcast explores horror of both the external and subconscious variety. Each season features a talented ensemble cast and uses various narrative devices, while sparing no gruesome detail. The result is true storytelling in its rawest and most untethered form.

29 / 50
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Dimension 20

- Produced by: CH Media
- Episode count: 17

Calling all DnD fans! This podcast from game master Brennan Lee Mulligan delivers a wild ride with a retro twist. Don’t forget to watch Mulligan’s adjoining play show on YouTube.

30 / 50
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Greater Boston

- Produced by: Alexander Danner, Jeff Van Dreason
- Episode count: 38

Fact and fiction collide on this utterly unique audio dramedy. Set in the Boston metro area, it opens with the bizarre death of Leon Stamatis. Actual Bostionians offer soundbites as a complex and quirky narrative unfolds.

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31 / 50
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We're Alive

- Produced by: PodcastOne
- Episode count: 160

Set in Los Angeles during the zombie apocalypse, this audio drama follows a group of survivors. Featuring comprehensive scripts and high production values, it initially ran from 2009 to 2014. Two spin-offs would follow, respectively titled “We’re Alive: Lockdown” and “We’re Alive: Goldrush.”

32 / 50
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Dirty John

- Produced by: Wondery, Los Angeles Times
- Episode count: 6

One of the most influential true-crime podcasts of all time centers on John Michael Meehan, also known as Dirty John. He seems like the perfect man to newlywed Debra Newell, but her family members suspect otherwise. Downloaded over 33 million times, it spawned a TV show of the same name.

33 / 50
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S-Town

- Produced by: This American Life
- Episode count: 7

This American Life was still riding high off the success of “Serial” when this popular follow-up debuted. It plunges listeners into the heart of a mystery before taking an unexpected detour. What emerges is an insightful portrait of Woodstock, Alabama and its most eccentric resident.

34 / 50
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Zero Hours

- Produced by: Story Short Productions
- Episode count: 7

Seven loosely-interconnected episodes grapple with the apocalypse on scales both big and small. In the spirit of books or films like “Cloud Atlas,” the story straddles multiple countries, centuries, and characters. It comes from creators Sarah Shachat, Gabriel Urbina, and Zach Valenti, who remain at the forefront of modern audio drama.

35 / 50
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Your Own Backyard

- Produced by: Chris Lambert
- Episode count: 7

The 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart is at the heart of this true-crime podcast. Plunging headfirst into a still-active case, indie folk artist turned journalist Chris Lambert reexamines all the major angles and players. Will this 24-year-old mystery finally be solved?

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36 / 50
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The Weeds

- Produced by: Vox Media
- Episode count: 413

Get into the weeds on politics and policy with this exhaustive podcast from Vox Media. Host Matthew Yglesias and a slate of recurring guests go beyond the headlines in their probe of major issues. Topics include health care, immigration policy, housing, and more.

37 / 50
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The Way I Heard It

- Produced by: Mike Rowe
- Episode count: 153

It’s all too easy to binge this podcast from Mike Rowe, which delivers taut mysteries in comparatively short intervals. Each story is based on fact and then colored by personal perspectives and opposing takes. Rowe isn’t wrong—it’s just the way he heard it.

38 / 50
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Variant: The Podcast

- Produced by: Variant
- Episode count: 25

A veritable hub for fanboys and fangirls alike, this weekly podcast provides breaking coverage of the latest in geek news. Hosts Arris Quinones and Tim Connolly talk movies, comic books, superheros, real-world events, and whatever else they have on the mind. Each episode is filmed for YouTube.

39 / 50
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The Solid Verbal

- Produced by: Ty Hildenbrandt, Dan Rubenstein, Wondery
- Episode count: 50

One of the longest-running sports podcasts has been churning out episodes since 2008. American college football is the name of the game, and hosts Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein have plenty to say about it. Should certain world events postpone the upcoming football season, there are still trends to analyze and throwback games to revisit.

40 / 50
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In the Dark

- Produced by: American Public Media
- Episode count: 32

Fans of “Serial” will find their latest obsession with this true-crime podcast from APM. Season one covered the botched investigation into one of the country’s most notorious child abductions. Season two tells the story of Curtis Flowers, a potentially-innocent man who’s been tried six times for the same quadruple homicide.

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41 / 50
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How I Built This

- Produced by: NPR
- Episode count: 211

Ever wonder how some of the world’s most successful companies and movements came to be? This podcast lifts the veil to reveal stories of failure, more failure, and eventual triumph. No two visionaries are exactly the same, nor are any two narratives.

42 / 50
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Jocko Podcast

- Produced by: Jocko Willink, Echo Charles
- Episode count: 222

For a regular dose of uncompromising inspiration, look no further than this popular podcast. Retired U.S. Navy SEAL and co-host Jocko Willink seeks motivation through discipline and success through struggle. If his guests don’t feel the same way, they will by the time they leave.

43 / 50
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Code Switch

- Produced by: NPR
- Episode count: 213

America’s living history of racism continues to impact all aspects of modern society. Taking a no-holds-barred approach, this podcast addresses the subject as it relates to politics and pop culture and everything in between. Every single listener is part of the story.

44 / 50
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Serial

- Produced by: WBEZ Chicago
- Episode count: 32

Join host Sarah Koenig as she examines the criminal justice system by way of her engrossing, yet approachable exposés. Season one investigated the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and captured the true-crime zeitgest in the process. For the few who haven’t tuned in yet, now is the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.

45 / 50
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Worldly

- Produced by: Vox Media
- Episode count: 146

It’s a great big world out there, and one that seems increasingly hard to follow. This weekly international podcast helps make sense of global affairs, both domestic and abroad. Rather than regurgitate headlines, each episode provides much-needed context and analysis.

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46 / 50
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The Big Loop

- Produced by: QPR
- Episode count: 12

Established podcaster Paul Bae (of “The Black Tapes”) is the man behind this compulsively listenable anthology series. Each self-contained episode tells the story of finite beings in an infinite universe. Jump in at any point for a tale of something strange and wonderful.

47 / 50
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Wooden Overcoats

- Produced by: Wooden Overcoats
- Episode count: 46

The ongoing rivalry between two funeral directors lays the groundwork for this hilarious audio sitcom. Rudyard Funn and his miserable sister square off against the seemingly perfect Eric Chapman. Sharp writing and an excellent cast are just two among numerous reasons to binge.

48 / 50
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Rabbits

- Produced by: Terry Miles
- Episode count: 16

Putting a faux-documentary twist on the sci-fi mystery genre, this podcast ran for a full season back in 2017. It follows narrator Carly Parker as she searches for a missing friend, only to find herself in the midst of a bizarre reality game. She soon discovers that nothing is what it seems.

49 / 50
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99% Invisible

- Produced by: Roman Mars
- Episode count: 422

Radiotopia co-founder Roman Mars reaps incredible backstory out of infrastructure, architecture, and design. While all three remain fundamental to history and civilization, most humans take them for granted. Well, not anymore.

50 / 50
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Ear Hustle

- Produced by: Ear Hustle, Radiotopia
- Episode count: 48

One of the most binge-worthy podcasts is also one of the most important. Winner of numerous major awards, it takes listeners behind the scenes of the American prison system. Life on the inside is only the beginning, and post-incarceration stories prove just as harrowing.

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