16 best Podcasts of 2018 (updated)
It's safe to say we're living in the golden age of podcasting.
As such, the sheer volume of quality audio content out there can feel overwhelming. Between the endless political commentary inspired by the daily nightmare of politics, the consistent post-Serial churn of true crime efforts, and a burgeoning trend of scripted podcasts in the style of radio plays, your choices as a listener are limitless. We're here to help narrow things down.
Here are 16 of the best podcasts of 2018 so far (and a bonus 17th):
Dedicated to dissecting what makes former cult classics so infinitely rewatchable, this film podcast from The Ringer is a dose of nostalgia which will have you digging up your VHS collection. From Moneyball to Clueless, serious and silly films are treated with equal regard setting it apart from more cerebral film podcasts.
Kristen Wiig voices a virtual assistant in this drama which also features Arrested Development's Ali Shawkat and Ethan Hawke. Instead of having a sci-fi sentiment the podcasts focuses on the humans behind voice technology. A moving series for fans of Her and a strong case for more fictional podcasts.
In a time where viral Tweets are metaphorical fish and chip wrappings within a few hours, Keep It looks back at some of the most WTF moments from Kanye's support of the Alt-Right to Scarlett Johansson's whitewashing. Culture critic Ira Madison III is joined each week by comedians who in addition to dissecting weird happenings also interview artists such as, in one memorable episode, Kathy Griffin.
The Guilty Feminist
Comedians Deborah Frances-White and Sofie Hagen address their everyday struggle to live as dedicated feminists. Each episode begins with short stories starting with the words "I'm a feminist, but...", and guests have included British stand-up Shappi Khorsandi, actress Gemma Arterton and presenter Dawn O'Porter.
As the ancient Chinese curse said, we're living through interesting times. The least you can do is keep up with the catastrophes. American political journalist Jacob Weisberg gathers traumatised liberals and non-crazy conservatives for fast-response dissections of the latest development in the Trump White House. Super-informed, super-sobering.
Men in Blazers
Why would you listen to a podcast made for Americans? Because presenters expatriate Brits and NBC men Roger Bennett and Michael Davies' analysis has more insight than some ex-players. Also, you might learn a bit about the NFL — and they sell a scarf that says: "We finished off Blatter".
Following the success of The Daily’s launch last year, which set a new precedent for digestible, high-volume news podcasting, The New York Times released another must-listen.
Hosted by foreign correspondent and terrorism expert Rukmini Callimach, Caliphate offers a fascinating and startlingly up-close exploration of ISIS, illuminating how the Islamic State operates, targets, and radicalizes new recruits. The results are gripping, disturbing and ferociously addictive.
Having released two seasons of the captivating psychological thriller Homecoming in addition to its sizable list of nonfiction shows, Gimlet Media has ramped up its output in 2018. But though its latest scripted show Sandra is an entertaining enough binge-listen, the highlight of the new slate is The Habitat, which follows the true story of a NASA experiment in which six volunteers are sent to live on a “fake planet Mars” in Hawaii.
There they will work as faux-astronauts for one year, gathering data on the realities of life on Mars to allow NASA to prepare for the real thing. As you’d imagine, six people forced to coexist in such close quarters under such unique conditions provokes fascinating drama, which unfolds through the volunteers’ audio diaries.
One of last year’s buzziest podcast success stories was Up and Vanished, which reexamined the cold case of a missing Georgia schoolteacher. Documentarian-turned-podcaster Payne Lindsey and his producing partner Donald Albright return with this podcast produced by Tenderfoot TV and HowStuffWorks to delve into the decades-old case of the Atlanta Child Murders, which saw at least 28 children killed—most of them black boys from poor neighborhoods.
Featuring interviews with law enforcement, Atlanta residents, and with the convicted killer Wayne Williams, Atlanta Monster is a detailed and important examination of a traumatized community, a horrifying crime, and a city’s systematically flawed response to both.
My Favourite Murder
A true-crime podcast listed in the Comedy section may seem a little twisted, but there’s a reason My Favorite Murder is one of the most consistent and long-running mainstays in the Apple Podcast charts.
Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are sharp-tongued, big-hearted avatars for our collective obsession with true crime. As they dig into two different stories each week, the pair effortlessly combine irreverent humor with anempowering perspective that honors the experience of the crimes’ (largely female) victims.
In the immediate post-Trump era last year, political podcasting seemed to be veering dangerously close to saturation point, but while there’s still a limitless supply of Washington-adjacent content for those who want it, things have settled a little in 2018.
If you only listen to one new political series this year, Trump, Inc is a good bet in light of ongoing revelations about the president's business dealings and associates. A joint effort from WNYC and ProPublica, the show explores everything from Trump’s inauguration spending, to his ties to Russia, to his besieged attorney Michael Cohen.
Buffering the Vampire Slayer
You may think there’s nothing left to be said about Joss Whedon’s seminal and beloved Buffy between all the fanworks and scholarly essays that have emerged in the two decades since its debut. You’d be wrong.
Now three seasons in, Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs have built a joyously creative labor of love, obsessing over every beat of Buffy with enthusiasm while also acknowledging the show's blind spots and troubling elements (hi, Xander).
Best of all, each installment ends with a genuinely great original song inspired by that week’s episode; it’s like fan-fiction in musical form, and it’s glorious.
I'll Be Gone In The Dark: The Podcast
In I’ll Be Gone in The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, author Michelle McNamara combines an investigation of one of America’s most notorious unsolved murder sprees with a personal account of how the case came to gradually consume her.
Following McNamara’s sudden death two years ago, the book was posthumously updated and finished by her husband Patton Oswalt, alongside the true crime writer Paul Haynes. The extraordinary circumstances of the book’s publication are spotlighted in this podcast series, which features interviews with McNamara, Oswalt, and a number of other key players.
Dear Franklin Jones
A slew of compelling cult-themed podcasts have emerged over the past year, with Heaven’s Gate and Cults emerging as highlights in 2017. Dear Franklin Jones is a kind of audio-memoir in which producer Jonathan Hirsch digs into his own childhood to solve a mystery.
Growing up, Hirsch’s family were followers of the controversial spiritual teacher Franklin Jones, who developed a substantial following in 1970s and '80s California, but has since been identified by some as an abusive cult leader. Hirsch’s quest for the truth will hook you.
WBEZ Chicago’s follow-up to their 2016 miniseries Making Oprah miniseries is a deep-dive into the origin story of the 44th president, featuring a wealth of new insights for even the most devoted fan.
Featuring interviews with former Obama colleagues, staffers and ultimately the man himself, the show frames Obama’s journey to the White House against the larger backdrop of Chicago, the city that shaped him.
Late Night Whenever with Michelle Buteau
From the producers of the powerhouse Phoebe Robinson-Jessica Williams collaboration 2 Dope Queens, WNYC’s latest is “a late-night talk show for your ears.”
Hosted by comedian and 2DQ regular Michelle Buteau, the show combines stand-up segments and a house band with celebrity guests including Robinson, Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr., and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd.
Man at His Best Podcast (BONUS)
This is Esquire Middle East's weekly look at some of the biggest things that have happened this week in the world of men's lifestyle, including updates from our very own website and magazine.
Each episode we present to you an audible round-up of what's crossed our desks this week. This is where you'll hear about everything, from fashion, lifestyle, cars, tech, culture, random stuff and more. After that, we take a look at one of the bigger features inside that magazine – a behind the scenes if you will. And last but not least, we close out each show with an interview with a man (or sometimes a woman) that best represents the ideals that Esquire knows and loves.
You can also watch it on YouTube, right here.