The 30 Best Rock Bands Of All Time

Developing a definitive ‘best of all time’ list requires a densely thorough thought process, one which must take into account both subjective and objective angles when constructing a list of this type. As it pertains to rock bands, there are several grey areas as far as who or what is even considered to be “rock.” In the case of this list, the bands chosen and considered are from major sub-genres of rock, be it classic rock, blues-rock, hard-rock, heavy metal, alt-rock or punk.

Greatest Rock Bands

To keep matters streamlined the bands included in this list are all bands, not individual artists or solo rock acts (i.e. Elton John, Neil Diamond, etc.). With that in mind the main criteria for this list is focused on rock groups whose musical work has remained timeless over the years and is predominantly still relevant within the modern music industry.

30. Aerosmith

Bringing grit and biting rock anthems throughout the 70s and up to the early 90s, the Massachusetts rock band is largely regarded as a prime example of true rock n’ roll stardom and prowess. From hits “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Crazy,” and “Walk This Way,” Aerosmith members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton broke musical barriers and concocted a legacy that few acts have even attempted to achieve.

While the band is currently on their final farewell tour, the love and respect for their music has not gone away. The band is currently seeing a massive surge from younger generations specifically on social media platforms like TikTok.

29. ZZ-Top

Coining the powerful Texas blues rock shuffle, ZZ-Top were one of the first rock acts to intentionally marry aspects of Texas blues and rock n’ roll together throughout the early 70s and up until the early 2000s. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are largely regarded as one of the best rhythm sections in rock music, and with numerous multi-platinum records and hit singles such as “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “La Grange,” and “Sharp Dressed Man” the band’s signature blues-rock pounce is irrefutably just as catchy as it ever was.

ZZ-Top are no longer active and making music after founding member Dusty Hill passed away in 2021. The remaining members are still alive and active within the scene today.

28. TOOL

TOOL is often characterized as being one of the most obscure, sophisticated and celebrated acts in rock. Having a progressive metal foundation, the Los Angeles group hasn’t done themselves any favors in terms of marketing towards the wider public, but they’ve found success in the excellence of their unique songwriting and provoking imagery. The four piece consisting of Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor formed in 1990 and have since gone on to be an arena selling, multi platinum and Grammy award winning act.

While the band is currently active and touring, their latest record 2019’s Fear Inoculum happened to be the groups first studio album in over 13 years. Hopefully fans won’t have to wait longer for the band’s next musical endeavor, but if they do it’ll likely follow in the steps of Fear Inoculum and be a number 1 charting album.

27. Oasis

Defining an era of rock in the 90s and early 2000s music scenes, Oasis are essential to the modern rock story and the U.K.’s own musical legacy. Brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher helped to pioneer “Britpop” with Oasis’s unique spin on traditional classic rock songwriting, which can be heard in their multiplatinum hits “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

Despite the group disbanding in 2009 their influence has stretched far and beyond the rock genre, with massive acts from the likes of Coldplay to Arctic Monkeys citing them as a direct influence.

26. KISS

Much of the rock genre and live concert industry wouldn’t be what it is today if not for KISS. Forming in 1973 in New York City, band members Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss pioneered many of the theatrics and explosive live performances that bands have adopted to this today. From pyrotechnics to levitating drums and a lore surrounding the band and its members, KISS were masters of branding and cultivating a loyal fanbase.

Combined with their Anthemic stadium stompers “Detroit Rock City,” “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Love Gun” it’s no wonder KISS have had one of the most successful careers within rock. The band only recently played their final show in December 2023, at New York’s own Madison Square Garden. However, they’ve since announce they’ll continue performing but in the form of digital avatars

25. Radiohead

One of rock music’s most eclectic and highly regarded experimental groups, Radiohead emerged from the late eighties and have since helped shape “art-rock,” and furthermore what it means to be considered a rock act within the modern music industry. With albums like The Bends, OK Computer and In Rainbows, Radiohead have established a discography that’s nearly timeless front to back.

Original members Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway are still actively performing together and producing music. Most recently in 2019 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

24. Journey

“Hit-makers” would be another word that best describes the American rock band, Journey. Forming in 1973 in San Fransisco, Journey has become a staple in rock and pop-culture with their endlessly catchy radio anthems like “Don’t Stop Believe In,” “Faithfully” and “Any Way You Want It.”

Despite the the band seeing it’s prime songwriting output peak in the early 80s, Journey’s music has gone on to remain timeless through a multitude of generations of fans and modern acts. The band’s core lineup during the 80’s included Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, and Steve Smith, all of whom contributed to the band’s iconic multiplatinum records Departure, Escape and Frontiers.

23. Nirvana

Spearheading the 90s “grunge” movement and shaping much of what modern hard rock and punk is today, Nirvana are as monumental an act as they were touted when they first broke out in the Seattle music scene in 1987. While the band broke up after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, their multiplatinum records and notable hit singles such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Heart Shaped Box” and “Come As You Are” have attracted a new generation of listeners over the years.

Members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic are still participants within the modern rock scene, with Grohl actively performing and writing with Foo Fighters, and most recently both Grohl and Novoselic accepted the lifetime acheivement award at the 2023 Grammys honoring Nirvana.

22. Cream

With one of the shortest spanning careers in the genre, Cream’s legacy is quite disproportionate when compared to the overall impact they’ve had on rock as a whole. Throughout 1966 to 1968 Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce were laying the groundwork for many of rock’s most iconic sub-genres from blues rock to psychedelic rock to early heavy metal. The band’s experimentation in the studio would lead to hit singles and now household anthems like “Sunshine Of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Strange Brew.”

Cream would also become the first act to release a double album that would go platinum with Wheels of Fire in 1968. Ever since then the band has played a key part in getting many generation into the seductive brilliance of the electric guitar, and moreover the power of rock n’ roll.

21. Heart

Ann and Nancy Wilson changed the face of rock throughout the 70s. Amalgamating elements of early rock n’ roll, folk and hard rock, the Wilson sisters were a key pillar in developing what sonic directions were possible within rock music. Getting their footing in 1975, the band’s debut record Dreamboat Annie proved the group capable of writing chart topping hit singles like “Crazy On You,” which would be a stepping stone to the band’s seminal and multi-platinum record Little Queen in 1977.

Acknowledging their stature and legacy in rock, Heart we’re inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. The band is currently still active and they’ve only recently announced a massive North American tour for 2024.

20. Guns N’ Roses

If there’s one band that best fits the description of “sex, drugs, and rock n’roll” it has to be Guns n’ Roses. Taking over LA’s Sunset Strip in 1985, the hard rock outfit have since grown to become the kings of hard rock anthems. With their multiplatinum albums Appetite For Destruction and Use You Illusion I & II they’ve generated millions of record sales and a mass of adoring fans. With a discography that’s rather short in comparison to other’s on this list, GNR are a prime example of songwriting, musicianship and attitude being the driving force for a band’s success.

While the band’s founding lineup is no longer together, original members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff Mckagen reunited in 2015 and have gone on to hold one of the highest grossing tours with their Not In This Lifetime… tour (2016-2019) generating over $584 million.

19. Rage Against The Machine

Emerging from Los Angles in 1991, Rage Against The Machine have since become one of the most popularized aggressive rock acts in history. Both sonically and lyrically the band has never been one to pull any punches, from their bold experimentation between funk, rap and heavy metal genres to using their music as a platform for social and political injustices. RATM are in every essence rock music but in it’s most rebellious and hard hitting form.

Hit songs “Guerrilla Radio,” “Killing In The Name” and “Bulls On Parade” perfectly exemplify this aspect of their music, and furthermore showcase the extent to which RATM’s attitude and demeanor plays to their sound. Members Tom Morello, Zach de la Rocha, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk were recently active and performing in Rage Against The Machine throughout North America. However, only recently the band has alluded that they will no longer be performing together. Interestingly, this comes after a rather successful comeback year for the band, as they had just been inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2023.

18. RUSH

The end all be all of “progressive rock,” RUSH are to this day revered for their ubiquitous influence on progressive music. The band has largely helped shape the idea of concept albums and long form story telling in rock with iconic albums like 2112 and Moving Pictures, and their epic songwriting, most notably on singles like “YYZ” and “Tom Sawyer,” shows their unmatched approach to melodic and catchy songwriting.

Furthermore Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifesome have boasted a musicianship that’s been second to none since the band got its start in 1968. While drummer Neil Peart has since passed away in 2020, the remaining members of RUSH are still alive, though they’re retired from touring and songwriting.

17. Iron Maiden

As one of heavy metal’s most tenured, esteemed and influential bands, Iron Maiden are every bit as important to the foundation of heavy metal as they are to the pillars of modern rock. Coming out of the east London music scene in 1975, Iron Maiden has since gone on to make soaring lead guitars, sporadic galloping riffs and anthemic choruses a staple within the metal sub-genre. From hit singles like “Run To The Hills,” “The Trooper” and “Fear of The Dark” to their horror inspired artwork and stage theatrics, Iron Maiden have become a quintessential part of heavy metal and the greater rock genre.

While the band has seen several lineup changes throughout the years, it’s primary members Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson have remained steadfast on continuing the band’s legacy both in the studio and on the road.

16. U2

Forming in Dublin, Ireland in 1976, U2 have become a household name since their breakout success in the 1980s and beyond. Boasting one of the most profitable tours in history with the U2 360 tour in the early 2000s, the band isn’t short on fans or critically acclaimed records.

Founding members Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton have together created some of the most recognizable alternative rock anthems from “With Or Without You” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to more recent hit singles “Beautiful Day” and “Vertigo.” With albums The Joshua Tree, War and The Unforgettable Fire U2 have cultivated a sound unlike any band from their generation, and they’ve continued to innovate and be a leading example for social activism within rock music and beyond.

15. The Clash

London’s own The Clash were pivotal in developing the roots of punk music and early new wave. Forming in 1976 the group comprising of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon has since gone on to become one the highest selling punk rock bands in history with multiplatinum hits like “I Fought The Law” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”

An aspect that was most admirable about the band and something that’s still relevant today was The Clash’s reluctance against solely profitable practices within the music industry. Rather, The Clash found it more important to voice opinions on social-political issues at the time, which largely would become a theme for the greater punk rock genre.

14. The Doors

The Doors have stood not only as one of rock music’s most important and foundational bands, but they’re without a doubt one of the most iconic and popularized acts to come out of the United States from the 1960s. Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and have since managed to breakthrough the global pop-culture barrier and become one of the most recognizable acts in history.

With hits “Light My Fire,” “The End” and “Riders on the Storm” The Doors showcased their knack for writing melodic, trippy, and often delightfully unsettling songs. Moreover, frontman Jim Morrison single handedly created an allure and mystique to the rock n’ roll lifestyle which has since influenced countless other groups and artists alike. Despite the group ending in the early 1970’s after Morrison’s death, the band’s surviving members Robby Krieger and John Densmore have since seen the band be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 1993 and honored with the lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007.

13. The Who

Giving the first taste of what rock n’ roll music would sound like with a more biting edge and sprinkle of chaos, The Who are largely regarded for spearheading the antics and theatrics associated with loud bombastic “rock” concerts. Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle formed the band in the city of London in 1962, and they’ve since gone on to become one of the highest selling and critically acclaimed rock acts of the rock genre.

With the band’s live shows putting them in a lane of their own, not to mention The Who breaking the 1976 Guinness world record for being the loudest live band, their notable hits like “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Behind Blue Eyes” have solidified them as a one of the most quintessential rock acts in music history.

12. Black Sabbath

The godfather’s of heavy metal, Black Sabbath turned rock music on it’s head in 1969 and have since been embraced as the founders of rock’s most notorious sub-genre. Forming in the industrial town of Birmingham, England, the four piece comprised of Ozzy Osbourne, Tonni Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward would go on to produce a streak of metal’s most defining records and hit songs between 1969 and up until the early 1980s.

With a litany of accolades and a revered status in the metal community, Black Sabbath’s sound and masterful songwriting is undoubtedly timeless. Songs “War Pigs,” “Paranoid” and “N.I.B.” are routinely discovered by new generations of musicians and rock connoisseurs, instilling Black Sabbath as a primary and popular pipeline to the heavy metal sub-genre. To this day there are few metal bands that come even close to wielding a stature and legacy akin to Black Sabbath’s, further proving the band’s timelessness and importance in the greater rock genre.

11. Fleetwood Mac

Formed in the U.K. in 1967, Fleetwood Mac were an amalgamation of the U.K.’s and U.S.’s finest songwriters and musicians. Known for blending aspects of folk music and a more stripped down approach to rock songwriting, the band hit its stride after vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham joined the band in 1974, and soon after saw the release of the band’s now diamond certified and critically acclaimed album Rumors.

To this day Fleetwood Mac’s music resonates with a plethora of generations, both young and old, while hit singles “Landslide,” “Dreams” and “The Chain” continue to serve as a masterclass in songwriting and rock music production. Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie were the band’s key and most consistent members throughout the band’s active years, and after the death of Christine McVie in 2022 the band has since dismissed the idea of touring again.

10. AC/DC

Encapsulating the sheer power of hard rock, AC/DC are Australia’s own hard rock outfit and one of rock music’s most successful and influential bands. Forming in 1973, the group began making waves after brothers Malcom and Angus Young recruited vocalist Bon Scott. From 1975 to 1979 the band would release numerous highly praised rock records including Let There Be Rock, Powerage and Highway To Hell.

Following the death of Bon Scott in 1979, the band found an even greater second wind with their new found frontman, Brian Johnson, who made his debut with the 1980 diamond certified record Back In Black. With hits “Back In Black,” “Thunderstruck” and “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC have continued to draw hordes of listeners with their knack for pure electrifying rock n’ roll songwriting, above all else. Beyond their album sales and wide reaching influence, AC/DC are revered to this day for holding onto the same tenacious attitude and rock style throughout the last 50 years, whilst maintaining a consistent fanbase and an overwhelming critical response within rock. The band remains active, performing and releasing studio albums with its current lineup featuring Angus Young, Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Stevie Young and Cliff Williams.

9. Metallica

Without question Metallica is the most influential, financially successful, and moreover universally praised metal band of all time. Boasting a streak of impeccable records throughout the 80s and early 90s, it’s no wonder Metallica have become the gargantuan figures they are today within the rock and heavy metal spaces.

After getting it’s start in 1981, Metallica’s own James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo along with former members Cliff Burton, Dave Mustaine and Jason Newsted have contributed significantly to the shape and sound of modern rock and metal. With albums Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets and …And Justice For All Metallica built a legacy that’s largely regarded as unmatched in heavy metal to this day. Furthermore, the trajectory and global popularity Metallica saw after the release of their 1991 self-titled album, otherwise known to as “The Black Album,” has yet to be seen by any band within hard rock or heavy metal to this day. Songs such as “Enter Sandman” “One” and “Master of Puppets” have been cemented as a masterclass in metal songwriting, and they’re routinely seen as gateway into aggressive music for many listeners.

8. The Eagles

Combining elements of old school rock, country and folk music, The Eagles have played a pivotal role in defining the classic rock genre, and in doing so they’re largely attributed as being America’s greatest rock n’ roll band. Key members Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Glenn Frey and Don Fedder formed in Los Angeles of 1971 and have since gone on to become one of the highest selling rock groups in history with notable hits including “Hotel California,” “Take It Easy” and “Life In The Fast Lane.”

The band is recognized for their incredible musicianship pertaining to the guitar and melodic songwriting. The band’s multiplatinum record Hotel California still manages to find itself in the hands of aspiring guitarists and rock connoisseurs, many of whom credit it as the end all be all of classic rock music.

7. Van Halen

Shaping the sound and image of LA’s Sunset Strip rock scene, Van Halen are not only regarded as the primary influence to many of LA’s biggest rock acts, but the band itself is one of the most popularized groups to come out of the 1980s. Founded by brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, the band began to make waves in 1978 with the release of their self-titled album, Van Halen. Since then, few bands have ever made as bewildering and impactful of a first impression as Van Halen did with their debut studio album.

David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony, Alex Van Halen and most notably guitarist Eddie Van Halen revolutionized the sound of rock with the release of their first record. For the remainder of the 80s and up until the nineties with vocalist Sammy Hagar, Van Halen were a dominating force in the rock scene. With hits “Panama,” “Jump,” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” Van Halen breached the pop culture sphere and to this day their sound and legacy still resonates in nearly every corner of modern rock music.

6. The Rolling Stones

As one of rock’s longest running acts, The Rolling Stones are still making waves and churning out new music 60 plus years later. Forming in 1962, The Stones were at the forefront of the British rock invasion in the early 60s. However, unlike many other groups from their era the Rolling Stones have managed to evolve with the coming decades and changing music industry.

The surviving members of the band Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have continued to carry the band’s legacy into present day performing in front of new generations and repurposing hit songs “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Paint It, Black” across other mediums, most notably film. The fact that The Rolling Stones are still one of the most popular active rock acts in the world showcases them as one of the most unprecedented and unrivaled rock bands in history.

5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience

There are few musicians who have singlehandedly revolutionized an instrument and genre of music like Jimi Hendrix did. Forming in 1966, the trio known as The Jimi Hendrix Experience would go on to pioneer the sound, image and mystique that’s largely still attributed with rock music and the electric guitar today. Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell joined forces to concoct a electrifying blues centric and provocative sonic ambiance that’s resulted in world renown hits “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe” and “Foxy Lady” to name a few.

While Hendrix was the key player behind the band’s success and hit singles, Redding and Mitchell were the glue and rhythm section needed to bring such remarkable songs to life. Despite having a short lived career of only four years, the impact and influence The Jimi Hendrix Experience had on rock music only adds to the bewildering nature of its legacy.

4. Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd are among the most profound and important bands in music history, let alone rock music. Finding their footing early on in 1965 with founder Syd Barrett, the band would hit its full stride after the exit of Barrett in 1968 and with the additi0on of core members Roger Waters, David Gilmore, Richard Wright and Nick Mason. With albums Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall, Pink Floyd have grown to become one of the highest selling and most praised musical acts in history.

While the band’s surviving members David Gilmore and Roger Waters are both still actively touring and performing Pink Floyd’s music (though under different names) the band’s music and messaging is as present as it ever was in today’s world.

3. Queen

If their performance at Live Aid in 1985 hinted at anything, it’s that Queen were destined to be one of rock music’s all time greatest bands. Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon cut their teeth in the London music in 1970 and they’ve since grown to become one of the most internationally successful and beloved bands.

Known for their quirky and dynamic approach to rock songwriting, Queen have written some of the most recognizable and influential hits in rock music with songs “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are The Champions” and “Under Pressure” to name a few. The band’s frontman Freddie Mercury singlehandedly shaped much of the choreographed antics and attitude used by rock and pop icons today. Furthermore, Mercury’s unmatched vocal talents and stage persona are often seen as the gold standard for the rock genre. While Mercury passed away in 1991, Brian May and Roger Taylor have continued on with the band’s legacy and are actively performing with the band across the globe.

2. The Beatles

It’s hard to put a finger on any other band or artist that has singlehandedly changed the music industry quite like the Beatles did. Forming in 1960, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are to this day one of the most beloved acts in modern music, let alone rock music.

As pioneers of not only early rock but also the recording and production process of rock music, it’s no surprise that the Beatles are still held in such high regard to this day. With multiplatinum albums such as Please Please Me, Abby Road, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles helped to lead the charge for rock music and many of its famed sub-genres like pop-rock and even psychedelic-rock. To put it simply, The Beatles changed music forever and their legacy and world wide adoration is far from dwindling.

1. Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is so often referred to as the rock band. Forming in 1968, members John Bonham, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones had a oneness together that no other four piece rock outfit has come even close to matching.

Throughout their discography Led Zeppelin were able to hone a sound and cultivate an audience that has since shaped the entirety of rock as we know it today. Known for epics like “Stairway to Heaven,” “No Quarter” and “Kashmir,” as well as straight forward anthemic hits like “Immigrant Song” and “Good Times Bad Times,” Zeppelin’s prestige with their musicianship and songwriting was what ultimately set them apart from other similar rock acts of their era. While the band discontinued after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, their music and stature has continued to be revered by nearly every generation of rock artists and fans to come after them.

The Top Selling Rock Bands Of All Time

Unlike the previous list, the following list is purely objective and ranked by the number of albums sold by a given rock band. The data shown below is based on the RIAA’s list of the highest grossing artists (albums sold) to date.

5. Pink Floyd

75 million albums sold

Highest selling album: The Wall, 23 million units.

4. AC/DC

75 million albums sold

Highest selling album: Back In Black, 25 million units.

3. Led Zeppelin

112.5 million albums sold

Highest selling album: Led Zeppelin IV, 24 million units

2. The Eagles

120 million albums sold

Highest selling album: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), 38 million units

1. The Beatles

183 million albums sold

Highest selling album: The Beatles (white album), 24 million units.

Bottom Line

The best rock bands of all time have managed to remain relevant throughout their active years and beyond. This could be in the form of new generations sharing the same monumental praise and sense of awe of a particular band, or it could be seen in a modern act channeling one of these legendary bands through their own music. Whichever way, the rock bands listed above have undoubtedly created timeless art and are therefore considered to be the best in the genre.