25 Years of This American Life

From This American Life host Ira Glass: 

To commemorate our 25th year, I’ve collected a few favorite episodes. It was hard to pick! 

I didn’t expect This American Life to last this long. Early on, when contributors did stories for us, we paid for the rights to rebroadcast their stories for just three years, because surviving longer than that seemed so unlikely. But here we are! With spin-offs! Who knew?

Many of my favorite episodes are when we try something new, something we’ve never heard of any radio show attempting. Like sending a half dozen people to report on a 24-hour diner, or a car dealership for a month. Some of our best stories covered the news, but with such intimate, personal reporting, it didn’t feel like the news at all.

If you’ve never heard our show, any of these episodes is a great place to start (and more than you could ever possibly want to know about us is here). If you do know us, hello there and welcome! If you like this little collection, there are other favorites listed here at our website. And of course you can listen to our entire back catalog of over 700 shows – for absolutely free! – in our archive.

Classic Episodes

513
December 13, 2013

129 Cars

When we decided to record a bunch of car salesmen as they tried to make their monthly sales quota, we had no idea the mayhem and drama we’d capture on tape.

360
July 25, 2008

Switched at Birth

A story whose details are so amazing, it’s hard to believe it’s true. I love how our picture of the mom changes when she finally shows up at the last act.

218
August 9, 2002

Act V

Convicted murderers put on a play about a murder. A group of inmates at a high-security prison stage a production of Hamlet.

339
August 24, 2007

Break-Up

Drenched in feeling, really funny, and – if you’re going through a break-up right now – weirdly comforting. Also: Phil Collins, as you’ve never ever heard him.

165
July 28, 2000

Americans In Paris

I visit David Sedaris in Paris. And Janet McDonald gives a funny, sharp-eyed look at what it’s like to be a Black American ex-pat there.

172
November 17, 2000

24 Hours at the Golden Apple

One day in a Chicago diner, from 5 a.m. till 5 a.m. the next morning. This was our first try at doing a whole episode in one location.

550
March 13, 2015

Three Miles

Chana Joffe-Walt starts this one as a story about two high schools and a girl who freaks out on a class trip, but it ends up being about something so much bigger and more disturbing.

175
January 5, 2001

Babysitting

The third act is my favorite interview I’ve ever done. Full of surprises, my interviewee shows such bemused and impressive grace toward a parent who did him wrong. The rest is great too.

206
March 1, 2002

Somewhere in the Arabian Sea

We did this shortly after 9/11, but it’s more universal than that, a portrait of life on an aircraft carrier. I’m honestly not a good enough writer to convey what’s so special about it. Just listen.

Award Winners

688
Pulitzer Prize

The Out Crowd

Winner of the first Pulitzer ever awarded to a radio show or podcast. For "revelatory, intimate journalism” about President Trump’s 'Remain in Mexico' policy.

600
duPont-Columbia Award

Party in the U.S.A.

Zoe Chace did a spectacular job covering the Republican Party’s gradual embrace of Donald Trump, including this – about a town going nuts over immigration, shocking even hardcore conservatives there.

581
Peabody Award

Anatomy of Doubt

How doubt about an 18-year-old’s story of sexual assault started, spread and took hold of an entire community.

562
Peabody & Polk Awards

The Problem We All Live With

In two episodes, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Chana Joffe-Walt make the case for the effectiveness of school desegregation, and show why it’s so hard to implement.

487
Peabody & duPont-Columbia Awards

Harper High School

We spent five months at a high school where 29 students were shot in one year. In two episodes, we document what it means to live with that much gun violence.

465
Peabody Award

What Happened at Dos Erres

A Guatemalan living in the U.S. got a phone call from a woman who told him that two boys had been abducted during the massacre — and he was one of them.

355
Peabody, duPont-Columbia & Polk

The Giant Pool of Money

A step-by-step explanation of the 2008 housing crisis, where you meet the people who brought down the U.S. economy. This episode of our show spawned NPR’s Planet Money podcast.

310
Peabody Award

Habeas Schmabeas

Jack Hitt starts with two guys who got thrown into Gitmo for telling a joke, and then gives a shockingly entertaining explanation of why depriving Guantanamo prisoners of all rights might be a bad idea.

This is one of my favorite things we did to cover the Iraq War. A vivid and surprisingly funny hour in Baghdad that Nancy Updike wrote the hell out of.

New Favorites

692
January 31, 2020

The Show of Delights

In these dark, combative times, Bim Adewunmi suggested the most radical counterprogramming imaginable: an episode of stories about delight.

597
September 23, 2016

One Last Thing Before I Go

Two perfect stories: One, about a telephone booth a man sets up after a natural disaster, so families can “call” their dead loved ones. And a gorgeous, funny Jonathan Goldstein story.

640
March 2, 2018

Five Women

A very different kind of #metoo story, from Chana Joffe-Walt, about several women who all worked for the same man, their histories, and how they dealt with him

638
February 9, 2018

Rom-Com

I love the weird mission Neil Drumming brought to this show: to find real life stories with the kind of plot points you’d see in romantic comedies.

706
May 29, 2020

A Mess to Be Reckoned With

We listen in as self-taught detective Lissa Yellow Bird cracks a case over the phone, in a series of intense and remarkable calls.

654
August 10, 2018

The Feather Heist

Sean Cole tells the story of a flute player who breaks into a British museum and makes off with a million dollars worth of dead birds.