Some of these podcasts challenge what you think you already know. Others have a dreamlike presentation that transcends reality and does what no other medium can. The best of our list of most interesting podcasts do all of the above.
To share the love, we’ve put together the beginnings of a continuously updated list of the most interesting podcasts of all time.
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Four friends stranded on a deserted tropical island exercise their wits by digging into the secret library of classic and eclectic vinyl records and discussing the most unusual concept albums of the 20th century and beyond. With Marooned Tunes, fans of rock and pop music will enjoy learning more about the tunes and artists they love. Admirers of Gilligan’s Island and Land of The Lost will take pleasure in the Easter Egg hunt. Both will savor the soothing sounds of ocean waves, exotic birds, and breezes through palm tree branches. It’s like a hammock nap for your soul.
Marooned Tunes comes in at number 35 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Stuff To Blow Your Mind comes in at number 34 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
The New York Public Library’s Library Talks brings together some of America and the world’s most interesting thinkers, artists, and educators. In each episode, you’re invited to eavesdrop in on a discussion or lecture that will bend your mind and expand your thinking. Learn about queer life in New York before the Stonewall riots, unpack Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s baggage and deconstruct Frankenstein, and learn about a Chinese poet from the 8th century. You’re guaranteed to find a long list of winners in its episode back catalog.
The New York Public Library Podcast comes in at number 33 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
From the near assassination of Napoleon Bonaparte on Christmas Eve in 1800 to the Black Widow, who killed 11 of her male suitors, Footnoting History is an intriguing collection of non-fiction stories and tidbits told by several investigative hosts. If you’re a storybook enthusiast, you’ll enjoy this diverse grouping of audible tales, which span dozens of episodes dating back to 2013.
Footnoting History comes in at number 32 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If you love music, you’ll dig Sodajerker On Songwriting. Its hosts, Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor are a songwriting team from Liverpool in the UK who started a podcast to talk to some of the most successful musicians around the world about how they write songs. From Ben Gibbard and Martha Wainwright, to Mann & Weil and PJ Morton, the pair invite you to listen in on some inspiring chinwags.
Sodajerker On Songwriting comes in at number 31 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If you have a fascination for all things espionage, Spycast is for you. If you don’t have a fascination for all things espionage, but love a good story, Spycast is for you. Brought to us by the historians at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, host Dr. Houghton gives his listeners a compelling insight into the international spy world, dating back decades. With special guest interviewees from the CIA and other top spy organizations from around the world, each episode is more intriguing than the last, even though for us common folk they often trigger more questions than they answer.
Spycast comes in at number 30 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Radio Diaries tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary life. The show is a patchwork of genuine human stories, covering all areas of American life and beyond. Incorporating first-person accounts from those at the centre of the events covered, the show often pays homage to the quietest voices with the most resounding accounts of life, unique events that have occurred, and the human relationships that have formed through society’s history.
Radio Diaries comes in at number 29 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Fans of true crime, mystery, and the supernatural will be deeply satisfied, as will anyone who wants a funny cozy experience with two best friends, bringing you “Southern, sass and raunch.” A Paranormal Chicks goes the extra mile to “creep it real” when they tell you about Lake Ronkonkoma’s Indigenous princess, the haunted costume shop of Modesto, The Broomstick Killer, and more. This podcast’s loyal and enthusiastic following has gone as far as to get tattoos of the Paranormal Chicks’ show art, proving this is a show to live and die for.
A Paranormal Chicks comes in at number 28 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen ran for 20 years for artists, creatives, culture junkies, and rogues. The Peabody Award-winning show dispensed pop culture news and updates and interviewed dozens of guests from Chinua Achebe to Neil Young. This evergreen exploration of creativity no longer publishes new episodes, but it’s still a worthwhile exploration of creativity.
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen comes in at number 27 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Produced and distributed by Wisconsin Public Radio, To the Best of Our Knowledge is a riveting podcast that delves into all things science, culture, society, art, personal development and everything in between. From Yosemite rock climbers to the history of psychedelic drugs, each episode delves into a new subject area, with expert guests and interviewees along for the ride.
To the Best of Our Knowledge comes in at number 26 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Witness History presents “the story of our times told by the people who were there.” Brought to the world by the BBC, a prolific podcasting network, what I loved most about the show is that the episodes are short and to the point. Witness History does a great job of finding genuinely interesting stories, and they don’t beat around the bush. To get a sense for whether you’ll like the show, listen to the episode, Hypnotising Saddam’s Son.
Witness comes in at number 25 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
In each episode of his show, Between the Liner Notes, host Matthew Billy would take his listeners on a new journey through the history of music. Interviewing guests who played a role in how the music industry and its stars and hits came to be, the show will be all-consuming for anyone with an ear and a heart for music and its nostalgic origin stories.
Between the Liner Notes comes in at number 24 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
The more I listen to the Sidedoor podcast, the more it grows on me. Produced and released by the Smithsonian Institution, host Lizzie Peabody delves into the museum’s vast catalogue of over 155 million treasures. With the help of biologists, zoologists, artists, astrophysicists, and more, she shows us stories that can’t be found anywhere else.
Smithsonian Sidedoor comes in at number 23 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
The Infinite Monkey Cage is a radio show broadcast by the BBC since 2009. Each episode has been released as a podcast for the world beyond the UK to enjoy; and enjoy they have. The show’s uniqueness comes from its perfect blend of humor and science, which combine to give you “lol” and “aha!” moments throughout each new installment.
The Infinite Monkey Cage comes in at number 22 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Elemental Women productions brings out the best in theatre, arts, and discourse. Their podcast, Unusual Women, is no exception. Episodes about Hedy Lamarr, Shirley Chisolm, Madonna Thunderhawk, and many more historic figures from all walks of life have stories to make you want to be a better person. The show appears to be on hiatus but hopefully will return soon.
Unusual Women comes in at number 21 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Hosted by David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, The Axe Files is a CNN show dedicated to politics. Interviewing political luminaries and key players in every episode, Axelrod’s goal is to go beyond the “soundbites” of everyday political reporting and become the conduit between the public and the people in charge of the farm.
The Axe Files with David Axelrod comes in at number 20 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
From the biggest myths about birth control to the scientific truths and impacts of climate change, Science Vs. is a regular science variety show hosted by Wendy Zukerman in partnership with Gimlet Media. If you want to learn about real-world science that probably affects you from a millennial host who knows how to unpack and deliver her complex subject matter to a Gen Y/Z audience, this Spotify-original podcast should be in your queue.
Science Vs comes in at number 19 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
In 99% Invisible, host Roman Mars takes an interesting topic you’ve probably never thought much about and crams as much information about it as he can into a podcast episode that runs for less than 30 minutes. Focussing on how design is enmeshed with virtually every aspect of our lives, generally without us even noticing it, you’re guaranteed to learn something new in every episode.
99% Invisible comes in at number 18 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Produced by Slate Group, Slow Burn spends each season investigating the depths of a divisive and influential event in 20th Century American history. Watergate, the Clinton scandal, The L.A. Riots, and now, Roe V. Wade are just some topics this show explores. You’ll examine what you think you know and unpack a lot more perspective. Slow Burn is a must-listen for anyone interested in big historical events that affect the lives of all citizens.
Slow Burn comes in at number 17 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
How to Be Amazing With Michael Ian Black was a show that will teach you how to be amazing. Well, probably not. But if it fails to achieve that, at the very least, it will inspire you to try. Billed as a performing arts show, Michael Ian Black interviewed a wide variety of creative people for over a hundred episodes before finally putting the show on hiatus in 2019. You can still experience Michael Ian Black’s amazing interviews on Audible or Amazon music, and some of the episodes are on the podcast’s website.
How to Be Amazing With Michael Ian Black comes in at number 16 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If you’ve listened to a few shows on the NPR network, you know they’re the often-imitated standard of the podcasting medium. Their top-rated science show, Invisibilia, is no exception. For over seven years, this show has explored “the intangible forces that shape human behavior—things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions.” Explore theories about power, how to become Batman, French McDonald’s, and more.
Invisibilia comes in at number 15 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Easily one of the finest examples of what audio storytelling can be, u+1f60c is a rare gem among podcasts. Creator James T. Green releases new episodes rarely, but when he does, they are dreamlike experiences that carry you to new understanding. He describes this podcast as “an audio zine, scraps of documentary that isn’t allergic to rhythm.” If this sounds like an acquired taste to you, try the episode PMHx, which aired on BBC Radio’s Shortcuts and is the most narratively traditional piece in his big colorful audio quilt.
u+1f60c comes in at number 14 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Snap Judgment is cinematic radio bliss. From WNYC, the makers of the podcasts Radiolab, Freakonomics Radio, Note To Self, Invisibilia, and more, Snap Judgment combines funky beats and pace-setting backing tracks with real-world stories. Each episode invites you into a new world, absorbs you, and releases you at the end, a little stronger.
Snap Judgment comes in at number 13 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Is it storytelling? Is it an audio experiment? Is it that weird dream you keep having but can’t figure out? Is it a puzzle? Ross Sutherland’s Imaginary Advice is like finding a beat-up book in an unexpected place and discovering it was written and published just for you. No two episodes are alike, but they make a story about loneliness and perseverance. Don’t miss this unforgettable and surprising experience.
Imaginary Advice comes in at number 12 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
NPR’s TED Radio Hour is backed by and based on the nonprofit educational organisation TED. This show condenses thousands of original TED talks (technology, education, and design, get it?) into an amalgamation of common ideas, themes, and topics. Learn more about saving the ocean, how memory works, bail, apologies, play, beauty, migration, and more. If you love that feeling of your mind being bent, prodded, and expanded, you’ll love tuning in here.
TED Radio Hour comes in at number 11 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
The podcast that explores the hidden side of everything — that’s the tagline for Freakonomics Radio, the podcast spinoff of the much-famed 2005 book, Freakonomics, by economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. As podcast hosts, the two authors apply their same unique approach of bringing economic theory to a range of different subject matter, which makes for equally compelling listening as it did reading. Your cognitive biases won’t know what hit them. Start with Episode 262, This Is Your Brain On Podcasts, to learn why podcasts are so interesting.
Freakonomics Radio comes in at number 10 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If you enjoy investigative journalism podcasts like Serial, S-Town, or Nice White Parents, you will love Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s. This hard-hitting exposé of America’s favorite restaurant chain and its attempts to innovate past the bun will have you rethink everything you know about a quick meal. Actually, no, that’s not true. This show, by relentless, award-pending journalist Brian Thompson is as if the model for investigative journalism podcasts became sentient, got up, and wandered across America in search of meaning. You will never be able to listen to traditional podcasts the same way again.
Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s? comes in at number 9 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant don’t each have the best jobs on the planet, they must be in the running for a podium finish. Having pumped out episode upon episode of content for the Stuff You Should Know podcast, they now travel the world entertaining and educating their loyal listeners. SYSK is a never ending catalogue of interesting yarns spun by two regular dudes who read a lot, talk a lot, and teach a lot. There’s not a topic left that they haven’t mulled and bantered over, and your best bet is to trawl through the library and pick out those that interest you most.
Stuff You Should Know comes in at number 8 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Please, do your mind a favor and treat it to the listening delights of The Memory Palace. Each episode is a short vignette delivered by Nate DiMeo, an undeniable podcasting talent. With a sound composition that elevates the drama of the stories he tells, DiMeo takes his listeners on a journey into the human stories that shape the past, present, and future world we inhabit. Each episode stands alone, and the podcast doesn’t have to be consumed in a particular order. The Memory Palace is a deserved place-getter on this list and should be one of the next podcasts you devour.
The Memory Palace comes in at number 7 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
When you picture a professional stage magician, what do you imagine first? There’s a whole lot about professional magic performers that many folks don’t know. Host Kayla Drescher’s Shezam! opens up a treasure trove of information about how the world of performing magic is, and how it can be better. Interviews with performers show little-known magic history, challenges such as performing stage magic for the visually impaired, and how to make magic safer for performers and audiences, while maintaining the thrill.
Shezam! comes in at number 6 as one of our countdown of most interesting podcasts.
Chris Gethard’s comedy skills are keen from shows like Broad City, and movies like Don’t Think Twice. He surprised thousands when he made hilarious, intelligent comedy from his struggle with suicidal ideation. Now, Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People is his experiment with not being to hang up on an anonymous caller. They talk about serial killers, brain surgery, falling in love, selling bibles, and more. Part philosophy, part therapy, part rollercoaster ride, Gethard’s created a podcast you can’t afford to miss.
Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People comes in at number 5 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
If you remember mix tapes or enjoy interesting found-audio creations, this is for you. History buffs will love this as much as audio experimentalists. Centuries of Sound is a monthly audio mix for every year in the history of recorded sound. This podcast starts with 1860 and continues to the present day, with special rough preview mixes of contemporary years. Accompanying blog posts provide context and “radio mix” episodes include interviews with special guests. This show will expand your definition of what recorded audio exists, why, and how it’s effective then and now.
Centuries of Sound comes in at number 4 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
Radiolab is freaking good; this highly rated, two-time Peabody Award-winning radio show is “designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.” If the content alone wasn’t interesting enough, how this show uses sound to present its topic will make you listen again and again. If you haven’t already heard it, listen to their episode Colors. Then, devour the follow-up, Rippin’ The Rainbow An Even Newer One. These episodes, about how humans typically perceive color and what they do with that information, use a choir to illustrate sound, both visible and invisible to the human eye. You’ll be able to hear how a mantis shrimp sees color. Radiolab is, in many ways, a standard-bearer for what podcasts can be.
Radiolab comes in at number 3 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
“Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction” — that’s the tagline for Lore, a show about the world’s weird and wonderful folklore. Focusing on the mysterious and darker side of our human history, in each new bi-weekly episode host Aaron Mahnke draws his listeners into new and uncharted worlds where, as is promised, the truth turns out to be more frightening than fiction.
Lore comes in at number 2 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
In what order do you listen to a podcast? How does information build on what we already know or take it apart? Where do we fit into the universe? Neutrinowatch is about the disordered order of things and trying to make sense of one’s place in the universe. There are about eight episodes, but each has changed a little bit each day for several years. The Almanac relies on how the universe moves. A Song A Day is- you guessed it. Waves are episodes where audio elements ebb and flow like tides. You’ll question your own sense of perception and learn something new at the same time, with room for more the next day. Start with Episode 0, This Is Neutrinowatch, to get the gist, and then let go of what you think a podcast can be.
Neutrinowatch comes in at number 1 as one of our most interesting podcasts.
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