These were the most popular shows, episodes and creators on Apple Podcasts in 2021

Apple Podcasts has shared annual rankings and charts that cover this year’s best and most popular podcasts shows, individual episodes, networks and creators.

Apple's marketing image for the Best of 2021 charts on Apple Podcasts
Image credit: Apple


  • Apple’s editorial teams have chosen the best podcasts of 2021
  • The list only includes the content found on Apple Podcasts
  • You can browse the new charts on Apple Podcasts

Introducing Apple Podcasts Best of 2021

Apple’s criteria for picking the best podcast shows of 2021 includes requirements like:

  • Exceptional content
  • Unique ability to engage audiences
  • Innovation in production, presentation, sound design

This year’s winners provided listeners with “a powerful sense of connection in a challenging and uncertain time,” reads a press release published on the Apple Newsroom.

Best Show of the Year is “A Slight Change of Plans” with Maya Shankar from Pushkin Industries which revolves around stories about all sorts of change. One of the episodes discusses how Tiffany Haddish navigated the foster care system and discovered that she had a rare gift that would change her life. Another one focuses on John Elder Robison, who underwent experimental brain treatment to try and increase his emotional sensitivity.

Meanwhile, from WBUR and Futuro Studios, “Anything for Selena” with queer Chicana journalist Maria Garcia has been named Newcomer of the Year. The show explores what it means to belong through her relationship with artist Selena Quintanilla.

Apple Podcasts: The best shows of 2021

The following ten shows on Apple Podcasts defined 2021, according to Apple’s editors:

  1. “A Kids Book About: The Podcast” with Matthew Winner, for taking a thoughtful, friendly and considered approach to explaining the big things in life—fear, failure and divorce, for instance—but also activism, sharing and money, to kids.
  2. “Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain,” for making listeners feel as though they’re her best friend, helping them through doubt and sadness with her unique frankness, keen observations and genuine affection.
  3. “Good Inside with Dr. Becky,” for Becky Kennedy’s calming, validating voice to parents everywhere, acknowledging that if this time (and parenting generally) feels hard, that’s because it is.
  4. “Las Culturistas with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang” from Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network, for a joyfully escapist experience that takes listeners on a quirky, hilarious and unforgettable journey into the beating heart of culture.
  5. “Pantsuit Politics” with Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, for offering a unique approach to the news and politics through grace-filled conversations that unpack the valid, complicated, hard differences that persist in this moment.
  6. “Teenager Therapy” with Gael Aitor, Kayla Suarez, Mark Hugo and Thomas Pham, for reminding everyone that direct, vulnerable conversations among friends—no matter the issue—is the best medicine.
  7. “The Experiment” from The Atlantic and WNYC Studios with Julia Longoria, for elucidating the notion that countries—like people—are unfinished works in progress, and facilitating a dialogue about what it means to be a citizen.
  8. “The Midnight Miracle” from Luminary with Talib Kweli, yasiin bey and Dave Chappelle, for a completely original experience that transports listeners into the room with remarkable energy from its hosts and very special guests
  9. “This Land” from Crooked Media with Rebecca Nagle, for investigating and explaining the experiences of Native Americans to recontextualize America’s understanding of its own history.
  10. “U Up?” with Jordana Abraham and Jared Fried, for exploring the very real—often hilarious—concerns of trying to find a partner, with banter that keeps listeners coming back no matter their relationship status.

Apple Podcasts: The Best episodes of 2021

Aside from the best shows, Apple’s editorial team has selected the following episodes as being the most popular in 2021:

  1. “A Friendly Ghost Story,” about a painful, personal ghosting experience that explores the complexity of human relationships, from “Invisibilia” with Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse by NPR.
  2. “Bubba Wallace,” from Club Shay Shay by FOX Sports, which sees host Shannon Sharpe and Bubba Wallace, a Daytona 500 runner-up and the first African American driver to win Rookie of the Year in a NASCAR series, discuss the intersection of sports, politics, entertainment and humanity.
  3. “Glorious Basterds,” about a chance encounter with Paul Rudd at a movie theater that causes a formerly devout Jehovah’s Witness to rethink her future and embark on a new life, from “Storytime with Seth Rogen” by Earwolf.
  4. “How Do I Love Someone?” a nonfiction rom-com about love during the pandemic, from “WILD” with Megan Tan by LAist Studios and KPCC.
  5. “My Parents, Ellen and Tom,” a clear-eyed gem of an episode that sees host Ian Coss examine divorce by interviewing his parents about how and why their marriage ended without anger or recrimination, from “Forever is a Long Time.”
  6. “The Body Mass Index,” about the complicated history of the BMI and the “obesity epidemic,” from “Maintenance Phase” with Michael Hobbes.
  7. “The People in the Neighborhood,” which examines the murder of George Floyd through the neighbors who bore witness to it, from “Still Processing” with Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris by the New York Times.
  8. “The Symphony,” a mesmerizing, lyrical trip featuring Kevin Hart, Questlove, Mo Amer, Bill Burr, Pras, Michelle Wolf and Jon Stewart, from “The Midnight Miracle” with Talib Kweli, yasiin bey and Dave Chappelle, by Luminary.
  9. “The Unwritten Rules of Black TV,” which traces the cyclical, uneven history of Black representation on television, from “The Experiment” with Hannah Giorgis by The Atlantic and WNYC Studios.
  10. “This Strange Story,” about people who were completely cut off from the world when 9/11 happened and how they processed it, from “9/12” with Dan Taberski by Wondery and Pineapple Street Studios.

Apple Podcasts: 2021 charts

The Cupertino company also created the following charts to recognize the most popular new shows, free channels and individual shows and channels with subscriptions that launched in the US in 2021.

Top new shows

  1. “We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle”
  2. “Mommy Doomsday” with Keith Morrison from Dateline NBC
  3. “The Apology Line” with Marissa Bridge from Wondery
  4. “Dr. Death Season 3: Miracle Man” with Laura Beil from Wondery
  5. “Murdaugh Murders” with Mandy Matney
  6. “O.C. Swingers” with Justine Harman
  7. “The Ezra Klein Show” from New York Times Opinion
  8. “Suspect” with Eric Benson and Matthew Shaer from Wondery and Campside Media
  9. “Dark History” with Bailey Sarian
  10. “Unraveled” with Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen from discovery+

Top free channels

  1. audiochuck
  2. The New York Times
  3. iHeartPodcast Network
  4. Dateline NBC
  5. Barstool Sports
  6. ABC News
  7. ESPN
  8. Exactly Right
  9. Crooked Media
  10. TED Audio Collective

Top subscriptions

Individual shows

  1. “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter” with John Carreyrou
  2. “The Just Enough Family” with Ariel Levy
  3. “U Up?” with Jordana Abraham and Jared Freid
    “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross
  4. “The Handoff” with Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo
  5. “How I Built This” with Guy Raz
  6. “Chameleon” with Josh Dean, Vanessa Grigoriadis and Trevor Aaronson
  7. “Diet Starts Tomorrow” with Aleen Dreksler and Sami Sage
  8. “Planet Money” with Amanda Aronczyk, Erika Beras, Mary Childs, Jacob Goldstein, Sarah Gonzalez, Alexi
  9. Horowitz-Ghazi and Kenny Malone
  10. “Swindled” with A Concerned Citizen


  1. Wondery
  2. Luminary
  3. Sword and Scale
  4. Tenderfoot TV
  5. QCODE
  6. Pushkin Industries
  7. Imperative Entertainment
  8. Radiotopia
  9. Realm
  10. The Athletic

You can browse these charts at

Original podcasts are an effective way to secure return listeners. Apple knows this so it recently launched its very first original, standalone show which tells the tale of one Tony Hathaway, a prolific bank robber that managed to take a lot of money in just a single year.