One thing that’s easy for podcast fans to forget: There are people who don’t listen to podcasts. For the newly initiated, it’s hard to figure out where to look first. No fear: we’ve gathered a few of our favorite film-related shows. Some are hundreds of episodes deep into their runs, so we’ve also provided some good places to start. Enjoy.
Black List Table Reads
Scripted podcasts come in all kinds; sci-fi, alternate history, period piece, and superhero shows only beginning to crack the list. Franklin Leonard and the team behind the Black List Table Reads have found a way to combine the appeal of those shows with the script-based hook of the site that gives the show its name. Producing feature-length scripts with an impressive roster of actors, the show has evolved to become something more than a table read — what the show proudly describes as “ear movies.” And in keeping with the site’s focus, periodic interviews conducted by Leonard himself ensure that the writers behind these works get their due.
Black Men Can’t Jump (in Hollywood)
Comedians and movie talk are almost always a satisfying mix. What the team behind Black Men Can’t Jump brings is a living room-banter feel to discussions that go beyond the basic parsing of plot or characters. The overarching topic of diversity in Hollywood is a entertaining way to engage with how the opportunities have evolved over time. Jonathan Braylock, James III, and Jerah Milligan recognize that not everything discussed is destined for the pantheon, but each offers something valuable to consider. (Plus, they have the best movie ratings system this side of “two thumbs up.”)
Though their tangent-heavy discussions almost always veer from the film at hand, few movie discussion podcasts have as much momentum as Blank Check, the ongoing series co-hosted by David Sims and Griffin Newman. Diving into the careers of directors whose meteoric rises have provided the proverbial “blank check” to pursue their passions unimpeded, these discussions have tackled the likes of James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, and The Wachowskis. It’s a Blank Check-patented blend of plot summary and microscopic career analysis — and some healthy box office chatter for good measure — that makes these multi-part series as addictive as they are insightful. (Also of note: both iterations of their annual Blankie Awards are some of the best year-in-review shows you’ll find in the film podcast world.)
Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period
Comedians W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery each have impressive TV resumes. (Bell is the host of CNN’s “United Shades of America” and Avery is a writer on “Last Week Tonight.”) But it’s this partnership that’s the pride of Denzealots everywhere. Going through Denzel Washington’s filmography title by title not only gives a helpful overview of the last few decades of a career, it has also become a way to talk about the different ways that American culture has changed. From the shifting nature of Denzel’s career choices to the wide range of guests who have come on the show to share their personal Top 5, the ongoing series is a testament to the effect that one man’s career can have on many lives.
Fighting in the War Room
Like many shows on this list, calling “Fighting in the War Room” simply a film podcast is selling it a bit short. FitWR has long mined some of their most insightful discussions from areas outside film, with spirited debates on video games, television, and politics. However, the talks are rooted in a strong understanding of what makes for good storytelling, regardless of the screen it’s shown on. Co-hosts Katey Rich, Matt Patches, Da7e Gonzales and (full disclosure, IndieWire’s own) David Ehrlich rarely agree on what’s most worthy of your media consumption energy, but that’s part of the alchemy that’s made this show valuable for so long.
Where to Start: any Quarter Quell, 111 – Animated Animals and 10 Cloverfield Lane Allegiance
After a dozen years and over 600 episodes, Filmspotting has done what lasting shows do best: create a subculture. There’s a time-tested Filmspotting shorthand woven into the history of past disagreements over new and beloved films, from current co-hosts Josh Larsen and Adam Kempenaar, through Larsen’s predecessors. The Massacre Theatre section never fails to deliver cringeworthy delights and each week’s Top 5 segment brings with it a fresh way to highlight under-appreciated classics. With the ever-expanding roster of guest hosts and spinoff shows (Filmspotting: SVU and The Next Picture Show also deserve your subscription), Filmspotting has been a film appreciation primer for cinephiles and casual fans alike for over a decade.
I Was There Too
Film history is rarely told by those on the fringes, but that’s what keeps Matt Gourley’s show so entertaining. Hearing firsthand accounts from the set of some of the most beloved films of all time truly come to life when relayed by those who had an audience-eye view of these movies unfolding. Some anecdotes have lead to major changes in these individual’s lives, but those people who never really experienced such seismic shifts still find plenty of fascinating to bits to bring to these interviews. It’s a series of conversations with cast and crew members that feels the most directed at fans because the interview subjects are ones, too.
Aisha Harris’ interview show goes beyond commentary by directly engaging with the individuals who are actively shaping the changing state of representation in today’s entertainment. These conversations, many of which revolve around inclusion-based filmmaking decisions, stretch from racial diversity to LGBTQ visibility to the ongoing plague of whitewashing. Harris brings a thoughtful approach to talks with directors, writers, editors, performers, and activists who recognize the challenges and necessity of the work. (For more insight from Harris, check out Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race and the aforementioned Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period.)
Where to Start: 2016 in Review, “(A)sexual” Star and Director David Jay and Angela Tucker
The best podcasts are driven by curiosity. While many of the stories that Amy Nicholson includes for her MTV show have their roots in movies, what really stands out is the genuine interest she has in these subjects that often exist on the outskirts of the industry. The secret passions of Hollywood actors and the unsung below-the-line heroes make for some of the most engaging interview subjects. Come for the unexpected intro anecdotes, stay for the candid discussions on everything from cat-wrangling to Shakespeare’s recreational habits.
Karina Longworth’s ongoing investigation into the undiscovered corners of Hollywood history is one of podcasting’s most thorough cultural resources. Her collections of recurring series (her current features on the tragic histories of Hollywood’s “dead blondes” is an eerie window into the commodification of actresses within the studio system) are as richly thematic as they are thoroughly researched. Whether enjoyed in these collections or as one-off curiosities, Longworth’s insights go beyond critical analysis and into an understanding of how developments in one era of this industry reverberate throughout the others. The result is a helpful compendium of film recommendations and a greater understanding of how the film business has transformed, enriched, and ruined so many lives.