75 of the best free podcasts you need to listen to this year

Daniella Scott
·13-min read
Photo credit: iprogressman - Getty Images
Photo credit: iprogressman - Getty Images

Podcasts are the new black. Fact. But as with anything good, they come with their difficulties; the pain of coming to the end of a series only to find it was the final one, or the struggle of trying to find a new one that scratches the right itch. Well, luckily the Cosmopolitan team are really into podcasts and I am really into obsessive list making...

Here's our ultimate list of the best (and free) podcasts you need to listen to, as compiled by Cosmopolitan's very own podcast-junkies.

TRUE CRIME & REAL STORIES

Your Own Backyard

The podcast follows journalist Chris Lambert as he investigates the disappearance of Kristen Smart back in 1996. Arrests have been made as a result of the podcast.

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The Thing About Pam

This podcast charts the dramatic and stranger-than-fiction story of the murder of Betsy Faria, whose husband found her stabbed to death in their home in Missouri back in December 2011. It's one of iTunes' most downloaded podcasts ever. It's so popular in fact, that NBC recently commissioned a six-part series based on the podcast, starring Renée Zellweger.

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Bad Batch

Dr Death host Laura Beil returns for this six-part Wondery podcast which investigates a stem cell company run by a charismatic CEO that seems to leave patients with more problems than it solves.

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Guru: The Dark Side of Enlightenment

Host Mark Stroud explores the terrifying case of wellness guru James Arthur Ray and the fatal consequences of the practices he employed at his retreats.

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It Was Simple

If you got pretty obsessed with the second season of Netflix's hit series Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, then you need to listen to This is Simple. The podcast takes an in-depth look at the case of Betty Broderick who was convicted of the murder of her ex-husband Dan and his new wife Linda.

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Killer Role

A bit of a slow burn, this podcast begins on a film set where a budding young actor is impressing everyone with her talent and performance. But, as it turns out she isn't quite what or who she seems.

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No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached explores the horrifying story of one man's attempt to kill his wife by sabotaging her parachute. As the case is unpicked so much more about the man in question, Emile Cilliers, and the case that rocked the UK comes to light.

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The Wonderland Murders

The Wonderland Murders investigates the brutal murder of four people in their home in the Hollywood Hills back in 1981.

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Bunga Bunga

You may not know a lot about former Italian prime minister Silvio Burlusconi, but his rise to power from multi-millionaire real estate mogul to the most prominent figure in Italian politics is quite the scandalous tale.

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American Scandal

Featuring compelling (and somehow not cheesy) reenactments American Scandal tells the stories behind the most dramatic and terrifying scandals the US has ever seen.

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Serial

The first series follows the true story of the murder of student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her boyfriend, Adnan Syed.

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Dirty John

The story of how successful interior designer Debra Newell was allegedly swindled and manipulated by her new boyfriend, conman John Meehan.

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Doctor Death

Explores the terrifying career of Christopher Duntsch, a successful neurosurgeon who seriously injured 31 patients and killed two during surgery.

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Teacher's Pet

The Australian’s Hedley Thomas investigates the cold case of Lyn and Chris Dawson, who seem to live a fairytale life until Lyn went missing in 1982.

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Up And Vanished

An investigative podcast that tries to solve cold cases. Two arrests were made as a result of season one.

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The Dropout

This podcast gets inside the rise and fall of Theranos, the tech company founded by Elizabeth Holmes that was eventually outed as one of the biggest hoaxes in tech history.

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The Shrink Next Door

From the creators of Dirty John and Dr Death, this show tells the true story of a successful therapist who wasn’t all he seemed.

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Over My Dead Body

The story of Dan Markel and Wendi Adelson, successful attorneys and a happily married couple whose lives seemed perfect, until everything began to tear at the seams...

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The Dream

This podcast investigates the inner workings on multi-level marketing or pyramid schemes.

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Swindled

Each episode unpacks a different case of corporate greed or a complicated con, hosted by the mysterious “concerned citizen”.

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COMEDY

IRL UK

Journalists Anna Lewis and Rhiannon Evans dig into the best Real Life stories, from obscene aubergines to the magic pen of sex (whatever that is).

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Your Mum

Cosmo's very own beauty contributor Keeks Reid, co-hosts this hilarious show with Charlotte Grant-West, all about their mums: Mauves and Les. From questioning what drugs they've taken, to discussing s.e.x, no subject is off limits and you're guaranteed a belly laugh.

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My Dad Wrote A Porno

Friends Jamie, James and Alice get together once a week for Jamie to read aloud from the erotic fiction written by his dad (pen name: Rocky Flinstone).

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Dear Joan and Jericha

Agony aunts’ Joan and Jericha (Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine) dole out judgemental, offensive and very much satirical ‘advice’ to typically explicit AF questions.

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How Did This Get Made?

Three friends, Paul, June and Jason discuss the worst films ever made with hilarious commentary.

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Ear Biscuits

Hosts of YouTube show Good Mythical Morning, Rhett and Link, have brutally honest, comedy chats about everything from pop culture to their childhoods.

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RHLSTP

Comedian Richard Herring heads to theatres around the country to chat with comedy and entertainment legends like Dawn French and David Mitchell.

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No Such Thing As A Fish

The writers of QI have discussions about what they’d learned that week. Prime example: there is no such thing as a sexy ceiling fan.

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Ja'miezing

Featuring Chris Lilley's private school girl character Ja'mie King, Ja'maizing will follow Ja'mie on her new career as an influencer and self-proclaimed "Sydney's own Gen Z icon."

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NEWS & CURRENT AFFAIRS

The Daily

New York Times Journalist Michael Barbaro dissects a different news topic for 30 minutes each day, from how Weinstein kept his assaults secret for so long, to the making of Boris Johnson.

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Jacob Halwley: On Drugs

Comedian Jacob Hawley investigates addiction and drug culture across the UK, from comedy clubs to chemsex.

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TBD With Tina brown

Legendary journalist and author, Tina Brown, discusses social and political issues with politicians, founders and directors.

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Caliphate

New York Times Middle East reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, interviews ex members of Al Qaeda over 8 parts.

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Call Your Girlfriend

This podcast is designed for best friends living out their friendship long distance. Best mates Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow discuss everything from our attitudes to death to butt dials.

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Reasons To Be Cheerful With Ed Miliband And Geoff Lloyd

Ed and Geoff discuss chat social issues and ideas with some of the best brains going, from academics to political experts.

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SEX & RELATIONSHIPS

All The Way With...

Nosy AF about other people's love and sex lives? Cosmopolitan's own Sex & Relationships Editor Paisley, and Deputy Beauty Editor Laura, are joined each week by a unique guest who shares their intimate stories...

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Authentic Sex with Juliet Allen

Hosted by Australian sexologist Juliet Allen, this podcast explores all things sex and relationships. Featuring expertise from Allen herself and interviews with other sex and relationship experts.

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Call Her Daddy

Two friends, Alexandra and Sofia discuss relationships, sex and life’s embarrassing quirks, answering listeners queries with no limits on explicit detail.

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Guys We F***ed

Two stand up comedians, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, get together every Friday to discuss sexual taboos, kinks and to chat with sexual revolutionaries.

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Dolly Alderton’s Love Stories

Journalist and author of Everything I know about Love, Dolly Alderton, interviews celebrities, academic and others from Sharon Horgan to Lily Allen asking them about their most defining relationships.

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Where Should We Begin?

Couples therapist, Esther Perel lets us listen in to sessions with real couples as they open up about everything from lack of sex to the difficulty of building a relationship that was born out of an affair.

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Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage, a famed American advice columnist answers listeners’ questions on love, sex and politics, bringing in relevant guests for discussion. Prime example: a 76 year-old woman asks, ‘is everyone is polyamorous?’

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Unexpected Fluids

This is a podcast about all the unexpected, sloppy and messy things that can go wrong in sex. Rejoice!

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SOCIETY & CULTURE

Gastropod

With a delicious two episodes every week Gastropod explores the science and history of our favourite food along with some other more exciting dishes and flavours.

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This is Actually Happening

This is Actually Happening explores the effects and consequences of some very strange events. From the person who woke up in a morgue to the person whose mother left a cult, the podcast looks into exactly what happened next.

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Power: The Maxwells

Investigative journalist and podcast host Tara Palmeri digs into the history of the Maxwell family, looking at how the death of media tycoon Robert Maxwell affected the life of his daughter Ghislaine Maxwell.

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Even The Rich: The Kardashians

Even The Rich looks into some of the richest and most powerful dynasties society has ever seen, from the Murdochs to The House of Versace. This particular series looks into the perhaps the most infamous reality TV family of all time; The Kardashians. Episode one takes a deep dive into the work of Kris Jenner, and how she fought tooth and nail to make her family famous.

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The Guardian Long Read Podcast

The podcast version of the Guardian’s long-read stories. From the dodgy business of crystals to why do people hate vegans?

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Getting Curious

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness explores things he is curious about, with information and advice from very wise experts. Sure, the titles are catchy and fun (“How can we twerk on climate change”), but you’ll learn lots.

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Song Exploder

Musicians from Bon Iver to Robyn take apart their songs to discuss how they were written.

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Reply All

This podcast explores how to survive the modern technological world. From investigating Snapchat hackers to how a shy, queer Canadian woman accidentally invented a toxic hate group online.

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The Anthropocene Reviewed

Author of Paper Towns, John Green, reviews things like ‘the taco bell breakfast menu’ or ‘love at first sight’.

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99% Invisible

This podcast is all about design and architecture and it sheds light on why the things around us are the way they are, so we can come to understand their impact on us, from water fountains to disaster aversion systems.

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Articles Of Interest

This is a spin-off project from 99% invisible, exploring a different facet of fashion in each episode. Highlights include, why faux pockets are a feminist issue and how punk gave a voice to the voiceless.

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Every Little Thing

Host Flora Lichtman asks new questions each week to get to the bottom of life’s nichest mysteries, from who names nail polishes to whether twins can communicate in utero.

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In the Limelight

Two Vanity Fair journalists explore the ups and downs of pop culture, celebrity and entertainment, with lots of Royals content.

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FEMINISM & CAREERS

The Guilty Feminist

Comedian Deborah Frances White invites guests on her show to discuss their feminist insecurities, introduced with the line, “I’m a feminist but…"

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In Good Company

A podcast of interviews, ideas and advice for working women from the founder of Women Who, Otegha Uwagba.

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The High Low

Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes discuss the week’s news and pop culture, from the rise and fall of Victoria’s Secret to Instagram removing the ‘like’ button.

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Stuff Mom Never Told You

Hosts Anney and Samantha explore everything from fangirls to time management to understand what feminism and being a woman means today.

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Popaganda

Hosted by Carmen Rios, this podcast explores pop culture from a feminist angle, investigating everything from ‘Puffragettes’, the women on a mission to end the drug war, to the impact of The Spice Girls 20 years later.

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Girlboss Radio

Career Queen, Sophia Amoruso interviews a different female trailblazer each week, to get their stories and advice about making it big in business.

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The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes

Entrepreneur and former professional football player, Lewis Howes, interviews ‘the greats’ of various industries, from Sophia Bush to Kobe Bryant.

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The Gurls Talk Podcast

Host Adwoa Aboah speaks to different fascinating guests each episode, from Team GB Paralympian Hollie Arnold to Black Lives Matter ambassador Janaya Future Khan, as they talk through issues, share their stories and discuss important topics.

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BEAUTY & WELLNESS

Beauty From The Heart

Makeup artist, Rose Gallagher, is known as one of the most positive voices in the beauty industry (seriously, Instagram even put her on their positivity index) and her podcast is just as uplifting. Each week Rose is joined by a different guest from the beauty industry for a meaningful conversation about their personal journeys and experiences. Recent guests include Jamie Genevieve and Juno Dawson.

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Full Coverage

Hosts professional make-up artist, Harriet Hadfield and make-up addict Lindsey Kelk discuss the latest news from the make-up industry.

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Fat Mascara

Beauty editors Jessica Matlin and Jennifer Goldstein discuss all things beauty in this weekly podcast, with interviews from industry experts like plastic surgeons, perfumers and nail technicians.

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Breaking Beauty

Two longtime beauty editors Jill Dunn and Carlene Higgins interview beauty founders about the origins of breakthrough beauty products.

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Happy Place

Presenter Fearne Cotton interviews a whole host of amazing guests, from Hilary Clinton to Maisie Williams on what happiness means to them.

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The Hilarious World of Depression

This totally uplifting podcast smashes through the stigma of depression by inviting comedians to talk through their experiences of it. It’s equal parts hysterical and therapeutic.

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CELEBRITY & INTERVIEWS

Office Ladies

The Office co-stars and now best friends, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (Pam and Angela) host this ultimate Office watch-along, breaking down a new episode of the iconic series every week.

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WTF With Marc Maron

Marc Maron, aka Sam from GLOW interviews comedians, writers, actors, directors among others in candid and extremely funny conversations.

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Off Menu With James Acaster and Ed Gamble

Celebrity guests to the show like The Street’s Mike Skinner and Jess Phillips MP order ‘off menu’ picking their dream starter, main, dessert, side and drink.

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David Tennant Does A Podcast With…

As the name suggests, every episode features an interview with a different celebrity. It seems that being pretty famous yourself helps get some big names from the door, guests include Ian McKellen and Tina Fey.

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George Ezra & Friends

Unfailingly likeable George interviews musicians about their work; the highs of creating and the struggles of being in the industry. The Elton John episode is truly exceptional.

Listen here.

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