The 25 Most Memorable 'This American Life' Episodes

Voting Rules
Vote up the most essential 'TAL' episodes.

No matter how big or small, everyone has a story to tell, and no podcast quite captures them like This American Life. Hosted by Ira Glass, this thoughtful, deep-diving series examines a variety of subjects, from summer camp to Wall Street. With so many episodes to choose from, how do you know where to start? This list has all the best This American Life podcast episodes from over the years. 

Stories featured on This American Life episode list are funny, charming, and sometimes, quite terrifying. Depending on your taste, you're bound to find an episode that piques your interest. Want to learn more about breakups, mystery, or the evangelistic movement? This American Life has got you covered. Some episodes are dedicated to telling one individual story. Others feature a smorgasbord of several topics that will keep you engaged the entire hour. Either way, it's a fantastic way to spend 60 minutes of your afternoon. You'll certainly feel more informed after listening to an episode or two! 

Keep reading to find out the best This American Life episodes. Learn more about the contents of each episode, or if you're already a fan, vote up the episodes you enjoyed the most. 

  • 1
    4 VOTES

    Episode 528 - "The Radio Drama Episode"

    Episode 528 - "The Radio Drama Episode"
    Photo: playability_de / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    For Episode 528, this podcast pulls out all the stops. It features nearly 50 members of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Opera House, including singers, actors, dancers, and musicians. If you want to hear journalism become musical theatre, and musical theatre become opera, you're in the right place. Seriously, you've never heard anything quite like this. 

    4 votes
  • 2
    13 VOTES

    Episode 545 - "If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS"

    Episode 545 - "If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS"
    Photo: Marcie Casas / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    This episode is very relevant in our digital age. It's all about how we choose to communicate online, and how many feel safer expressing anger from behind a computer screen. But at what point does the rage go too far? Things as simple as an optical illusion posted on the Internet can evoke pages and pages of comments, sparking fights and conflict. How do we re-calibrate our digital selves to be kinder? 

    13 votes
  • 3
    3 VOTES

    Episode 464 - "Invisible Made Visible"

    Episode 464 - "Invisible Made Visible"
    Photo: TED Conference / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Episode 464 is so special because it was originally done live on stage and beamed into movie theaters. The second half was a visual endeavor, literally making the invisible art of radio visible. The episode features a particularly charming story from Tig Notaro, who talks about his repeat encounters with 80s pop star Taylor Dayne. This well-rounded episode has something for everyone. 

    3 votes
  • 4
    12 VOTES

    Episode 636 - "I Thought It Would Be Easier"

    Episode 636 - "I Thought It Would Be Easier"
    Photo: Golden-Brown / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Progress isn't an easy thing. Especially when it comes to politics. This eye-opener of an episode analyzes stories of politicians from both sides of the coin. One year into Trump's presidency, some of the politicians found themselves struggling to live up to their promises. Regardless of your political opinions, there's something to be learned from this in-depth investigation. 

    12 votes
  • 5
    6 VOTES

    Episode 355 - "The Giant Pool of Money"

    Episode 355 - "The Giant Pool of Money"
    Photo: free pictures of money / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Produced in conjunction with NPR Radio, this episode of TAL is from the 2008 housing crisis. Despite that, some of its message still rings true today. It's never too late to learn more about bank loans, Wall Street, and the Great Depression. This informative episode delivers in terms of information, and will make you more conscious of national economics. It's not the most fun episode on this list, but this knowledge could definitely come in handy. 

    6 votes
  • 6
    2 VOTES

    Episode 589 - "No Coincidence, No Story"

    Episode 589 - "No Coincidence, No Story"
    Photo: ICMA Photos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0

    So many things in life can just be chalked up to sheer coincidence. So much so, that This American Life asked their listeners to send in their own coincidence stories. They ended up getting over 1,300 submissions! This episode features some of the most uncanny coincidences you've ever heard. From childhood best friends to grandmothers to lovers, everyone featured in this episode can remember a time when things just seemingly worked out. You won't believe some of the connections these people made.

    2 votes