The biggest hurdle to finding the best podcasts is that there's just so many of them. At last count, there were approximately 4,328 podcasts available for every single person on Earth, so it’s no wonder you sometimes struggle to choose one to listen to.
With the best podcasting microphones now so affordable, that number’s only likely to grow — and with podcasts out there on everything from current affairs to condiments, there’s something to suit every taste.
We’ve picked out 30 brilliant podcasts to please even the most demanding ears, whether you’re into celebrity interviews, true crime, quirky facts, or listening to people talk about death. And if you need help picking out the best podcast apps to listen to them on, we've got you covered there, too.
The best podcasts right now
If you love sausages, it’s best not to delve too far into how they’re made, but Song Exploder proves that the exact opposite is true of your favourite tunes. Each episode is based around a particular song, with the artist revealing what went into its creation. REM, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica and Carly Rae Jepson have appeared over the years, but the episode on Semisonic’s Closing Time is an unexpected delight.
The Adam Buxton Podcast
Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish shot to fame on Channel 4 in the late 1990s — and while Joe now hangs out in Hollywood, making movies and drawing doodles with Tom Cruise, Adam’s long-running interview podcast has built up some significant star caché of its own.
Paul McCartney, Jeff Goldblum and Brian Eno have all appeared since it launched in 2015, but it's Dr Buckles’ disarming approach to his subjects that makes this an essential listen.
Athletico Mince is nominally a football podcast, but you won’t hear any transfer speculation or analysis of the weekend’s results here. If you’re not a fan of the beautiful game, a lot of the characters that pop up regularly — Peter Beardsley and his wife’s eggs, Steve McLaren and his pet snake, Roy Hodgson and his Warhammer habit — won’t mean a lot to you, but the situations Bob Mortimer and his co-host Andy Dawson put them in are so surreal you’ll be too busy laughing to care.
It’s a classic dinner party question: what would you eat for your last meal? Off Menu removes the implied expiry that comes with that question and transports its guests to their dream restaurant, asking them to choose their favourite starter, main course, side dish, dessert and drink. But with top comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster as the podcast’s joint maître d's, it’s much more entertaining than just listening to somebody order their dinner.
The Athletic Football Tactics Podcast
There are hundreds of podcasts out there that’ll go over the latest football action for you, but none do it in quite the same way as The Athletic Football Tactics Podcast.
Each week, tactics guru Michael Cox and data bod Tom Worville get nerdy about something topical from the world of football, whether it’s in-depth analysis of a particular player’s game, explaining the development of positions, or analysing tactical trends — and they do it all without getting too bogged down in numbers and jargon.
The first series of Serial, in which host Sarah Koenig delved into a 1999 murder case involving an 18-year-old student and her ex-boyfriend, took the world by storm when it was released in 2014 and it’s not lost any of its one-more-episode appeal all these years later.
While the subsequent seasons haven’t been such cultural phenomena, it’s arguably responsible for helping to make podcasts as popular as they are today. A real hall-of-famer.
My Dad Wrote a Porno
Most people would be horrified to learn one of their parents had been writing erotic novels in the shed. But when Jamie Morton’s dad sent him the first of his Belinda Blinked books it was too good not to share with the rest of the world and the hilarious My Dad Wrote a Porno was born.
Now onto its sixth series, Porno has spawned live shows, an HBO special and counts Elijah Wood, Daisy Ridley and Emma Thompson among its legion of fans.
Grounded with Louis Theroux
A new TV documentary from Louis Theroux is always an event, but when he found himself stuck at home during lockdown, like everybody else, Louis took the opportunity to try something new.
Recorded over Zoom, Grounded’s 20 episodes feature interviews with an eclectic range of guests, from Troy Deeney to Miriam Margoyles. Of course, there are a million other interview podcasts out there, but Louis has a real knack for getting people to open up in ways others can’t.
My Favourite Murder
Podcasts and true crime go together like Bonnie and Clyde, Reggie and Ronnie Kray, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You could probably do a whole life sentence and not manage to listen to every one available, but My Favourite Murder is the best of the bunch.
Comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other about crimes that have caught their eye, but it’s the tangents and verbal detours the pair take that set it apart.
There are some podcasts that just wouldn’t work in any other format and Griefcast feels like one of those. With death still a taboo subject for many people, host Cariad Lloyd invites celebrities to share their stories of bereavement — and while it’s still not quite a laughing matter, the fact that her guests are often fellow comedians and writers means the chats are never totally downbeat.
The Audio Long Read
It’s not always easy to find time to sit down and catch up with all the latest news from around the world, particularly if that time comes behind the wheel of a car.
Reading is just behind juggling on the list of things you shouldn’t do while driving, but listening to The Guardian’s Audio Long Read, which basically just converts written articles into audio versions of between about 25 and 50 minutes, is very much an approved way to pass the time.
Ever wondered how your favourite films go from being a load of words on a page to the finished article you see up on the screen?
Script Apart speaks to the writers of some of cinema’s biggest hits to discover the origin stories behind movies such as Terminator 2, Speed and Die Hard. Film buffs will love it, but you don’t need to be a wannabe screenwriter to get something out of it — the stories themselves are compelling enough.
The Blindboy Podcast
You might know Blindboy Boatclub as the chap who wears a carrier bag over his face like a Mexican wrestling mask. Or as one half of comedy band The Rubberbandits, whose song Horse Outside has been viewed more than 21 million times on YouTube.
Even if you don’t know him at all, his podcast is an unashamedly eclectic mix of interviews and wide-ranging monologues on pretty much any topic that takes his fancy — and pretty much every one is absolutely fascinating.
You’re Wrong About
The internet is full of information that’s slightly inaccurate, not quite right, and just plain wrong, but a lot of it ends up getting repeated as gospel; You’re Wrong About aims to buck that trend.
Each episode, hosts Mike Hobbes and Sarah Marshall take an event, person or phenomenon from history and take a fresh look at it with the benefit of hindsight, reassessing and reevaluating them to show that the public perception of things is often a little skewed. You’d be amazed at how many things you’re wrong about.
Stuff You Should Know
SYSK is one of the longest-running podcasts in the world — and it’s not hard to see why.
Over the past 13 years it has covered everything from how Rasputin died to how Faraday cages work, with hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant doing a brilliant job of putting everything in layman’s terms, so you can pass off their extensive research as your own. With close to 1500 episodes available there’s also plenty to keep you going.
This American Life
This American Life started as a weekly radio show across the pond, but its listenership grew massively when it became a podcast in 2006.
These days, nearly 3 million people download each episode, and with such a range of fascinating stories to tell — from the tale of two babies switched at birth in a Wisconsin hospital to last year’s Pulitzer-winning episode about the US immigration system — it’s easy to see why.
No Such Thing As A Fish
What happens if you take popular BBC quiz show QI, remove the host and the guests, and put it out as a podcast rather than on TV? You get No Such Thing As A Fish.
In each episode, the show’s researchers get together to share the best bit of trivia each has learned that week. It has the same whimsical tone as the show and will leave you overflowing with quirky nuggets of trivia that you can deploy whenever there’s a lull in conversation around the dinner table.
A one-off block of just five episodes, 1619 is more like a documentary mini-series than the usual weekly shows most people expect a podcast to be.
The title refers to the year slaves first arrived in the USA from Africa, with each episode examining the effect slavery has had on the States ever since, whether it’s democratically, economically or culturally. An ear-opening listen.
99% Invisible is a podcast about how the world works. The focus is on architecture and design, but the approach is pretty broad, so one week host Roman Mars can be talking about Nazi fonts or the complexities of dealing with radioactive waste, and the next he’ll be discussing skateboarding or how to make a raccoon-proof bin. 99% Invisible is surprising, fascinating and 100% unmissable.
Switched On Pop
It can be pretty baffling how some songs are so popular, but personal tastes aside, Switched On Pop started out explaining what makes a song a hit and why some are so difficult to get out of your head.
It’s branched out a bit more now, with hosts Nate Sloan (a musicologist) and Charlie Harding (a songwriter) tackling the renaissance of female rappers, how TikTok has changed music, and why Prince was ahead of his time.
It’s almost impossible to flick through TV channels these days without stumbling across somebody knocking up a pan-fried quail with parsley foam — and while food and cookery hasn’t quite conquered podcasting like it has television, The Sporkful is a must for anyone who likes eating.
That’s not to say you have to be handy with a wok to enjoy it: recent episodes have covered the invention of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and which pasta shape is really the best.
‘Ear hustle’ is prison slang for eavesdropping — and that’s pretty much what this podcast does.
It’s recorded and produced entirely inside San Quentin State Prison in California and gives voices to individual inmates, shining a light on what it’s like to spend your life behind bars. Not only is Ear Hustle utterly fascinating but it also gives a voice to a section of society that is almost never allowed one.
How Did This Get Made?
Ever got to the end credits of a really awful movie and wondered exactly what the makers were thinking when they were filming it? HDTGM knows the feeling.
Each episode takes a generally derided film and invites a guest to pick it apart with the three hosts, all of whom had a part to play in the best bad movie of all time: The Room. Other stinkers that have had the HDTGM treatment include Battlefield Earth, Super Mario Bros and the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast
Interview podcasts can be impossible to listen to if you find the host irritating (see WTF with Marc Maron), so while Richard Herring isn’t to everybody’s taste, the calibre of guest that he has on RHLSTP — and the fact that so many of them come back for more — usually makes it worth sticking with.
Herring doesn’t try to be too chummy with his interviewees, which can occasionally make things awkward, but more often than not results in much more interesting conversations than the usual beige chat-show fodder.
Kayvan Novak’s prank call show had been on hiatus for nearly a decade, which seems to be just long enough for some people to forget what legendary characters such as Terry Tibbs, Brain Badonde and George Agdgdgwngo sound like on the other end of the phone.
A podcast feels like exactly the right format for Fonejacker to make its return, particularly in these short episodes that never outstay their welcome. The only problem is likely to be how much it makes you laugh out loud in public.
It feels like there’s a watchalong podcast for pretty much every TV show these days, but it’s no coincidence that the best one accompanies one of the best series of all time: The Sopranos.
Hosted by key cast members Michael Imperioli (aka Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (aka Bobby Baccalà), both of whom are rewatching the show for the first time, you couldn’t ask for a better insight. Just be warned: the podcast episodes tend to go on for far longer than the ones they’re talking about.
The Adventure Podcast
Most of us have spent the past 18 months unable to satisfy any feelings of wanderlust. If you’re still looking to vicariously scratch that itch via your ears, The Adventure Podcast might be just the ticket.
Each episode is a conversation with somebody intrepid, from Robert Swan, the first person to reach both the North and South Pole on foot (and in an era before GPS), to endurance cyclist Vedangi Kulkarni, who started off cycling around the U.K. and ended up going around the whole world. Just downloading it is enough for us.
The Totally Football Show with James Richardson
There are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to offer you their (often unsolicited) opinions on the weekend’s football results, but you’d be much better off popping AC Jimbo (of Channel 4’s Football Italia fame) and his regular cast of expert guests on The Totally Football Show into your ears.
Three episodes a week cover all aspects of the Premier League and beyond, with various equally informative offshoots that take care of other leagues and competitions in more depth. If nothing else, it’s almost worth tuning in for the puns alone.
10 Things That Scare Me
Listening to 10 Things That Scare Me can feel a bit like eavesdropping on a person’s most private thoughts, but therein lies its appeal.
Each episode usually lasts between five and 10 minutes and features an individual — sometimes well known, but not always — outlining the 10 things that they’re most afraid of. Some are horrifying. Others are just downright weird. But they’re all completely honest in a way that feels very unusual in our social media-obsessed world.
Saying that a podcast is brilliant at putting you to sleep wouldn’t normally be a ringing endorsement, but when that’s exactly its intention, it’s impossible to come up with any higher praise.
Put together with input from meditation and slumber experts, host Tom Jones (not that one) and a team of velvet-voiced narrators take turns to read stories and regale you with snooze-inducing monologues, while soothing soundscapes help send you off to the land of nod.
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