100 Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s

Updated on September 11, 2019
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over four years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

These legendary '80s bands will truly blow your mind!
These legendary '80s bands will truly blow your mind! | Source

Music evolved significantly in the ‘80s. Rock music gained new ground with an explosion of new subgenres that found their way into the mainstream. A number of rock bands came into prominence in the ‘80s, showcasing a diverse number of musical influences. Bands rooted in the blues rock sound of the ‘70s started experimenting with a heavier sound that would later evolve into heavy metal. Hard rock witnessed a resurgence, showcasing modern metal embellishments. While the sound got heavier, it also diversified, branching into a number of metal subgenres.

The ‘80s were notable for kick-starting the solo careers of many musicians. The decade is also remembered for the emergence of virtuoso guitar players in the shred genre. Certain rock bands that had considerable success in the ‘70s found it difficult to grapple with changing tastes in the ‘80s. While many music purists do not consider the ‘80s to be the best decade for music, the decade showcased some of the finest albums and bands in rock history. While the decade is long gone, the ‘80s have left us with epic memories that we will cherish forever.

The list below showcases a diverse number of ‘80s rock bands from different rock genres. If you're a big fan of that memorable decade, you'll definitely have something to say. Feel free to express your views and opinions in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s

  1. Guns N’ Roses (Hard Rock/Glam Metal)
  2. Queen (Rock)
  3. Metallica (Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal)
  4. AC/DC (Hard Rock)
  5. Bon Jovi (Rock/Hard Rock/Glam Metal)
  6. Foreigner Rock/Hard Rock)
  7. Journey (Rock/Hard Rock)
  8. Motorhead (Heavy Metal/Speed Metal)
  9. R.E.M. (Rock/Alternative Rock)
  10. U2 (Rock)

Music TV in the '80s

Thanks to music television, rock music reached its pinnacle in the ‘80s. MTV, which launched in 1981, showcased a number of mainstream and non-mainstream rock bands. Music videos aired by MTV became all the rage in the ‘80s. AOR bands became hugely successful in this decade. Arena rock, which came into being in the mid '70s, became epic in the ‘80s. Certain rock bands with a more melodic sound extended their reach, drawing in audiences from other genres.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s #11-20

11. Judas Priest (Heavy Metal)

12. Van Halen (Hard Rock)

13. Whitesnake (Hard Rock)

14. Def Leppard (Rock/Hard Rock)

15. REO Speedwagon (Rock/Hard Rock)

16. Megadeth (Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal/Speed Metal)

17. Iron Maiden (Heavy Metal)

18. The Police (Rock)

19. ZZ Top (Rock/Blues Rock)

20. Aerosmith (Rock/Hard Rock)

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden | Source

Hard Rock and Glam Metal in the ‘80s

Glam metal soared to new heights in this decade. Bands associated with the genre had tremendous global success. A number of hair bands of the ‘80s toured extensively and earned quite a reputation for their live performances. The decade was phenomenal for hard rock and glam metal. Record labels were quick to cash in on the success of glam metal bands. A number of major record labels released compilation albums of hair metal and hard rock bands. Power ballads and acoustic rock ballads became the signature sound for many acts during this decade.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s #21-40

21. Motley Crue (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)

22. Dio (Heavy Metal)

23. Poison (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)

24. Dire Straits (Rock)

25. Scorpions (Rock/Hard Rock)

26. Heart (Rock/Hard Rock)

27. Tears For Fears (Pop Rock/New Wave)

28. Quiet Riot (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock/Glam Metal)

29. Survivor (Rock/Hard Rock)

30. Europe (Rock/Hard Rock)

31. Kiss (Rock/Hard Rock)

32. Bauhaus (Gothic Rock)

33. New Order (Rock)

34. Venom (Extreme Metal/Thrash Metal/Speed Metal)

35. The Cure (Rock/Gothic Rock/Post-Punk)

36. Slayer (Thrash Metal)

37. Black Sabbath (Heavy Metal)

38. Bad Brains (Hardcore Punk)

39. Cinderella (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)

40. The Psychedelic Furs (Rock/Post-Punk/New Wave)

KISS | Source

Alternative Rock in the ‘80s

While alternative rock was an underground phenomena in the ‘80s, the movement laid the groundwork for the genre in the ‘90s. The majority of bands associated with the genre released albums independently. While few managed to strike recording contracts with major record labels, many alternative acts released low-budget albums that were sold during live performances at concerts, garnering them cult followings. Certain college radio stations and fanzines promoted the alternative culture in a big way. The underground music movement, which was extensive in the United States of America, soon spread to other parts of the world in the form of jangle pop and indie rock.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s #41-60

41. Anthrax (Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal/Speed Metal)

42. Siouxsie and the Banshees (Rock/Post-Punk/Alternative Rock)

43. Twisted Sister (Heavy Metal)

44. Saxon (Heavy Metal)

45. Dokken (Heavy Metal/Glam Metal)

46. The Smiths (Alternative Rock/Indie Rock)

47. Exodus (Thrash Metal)

48. Husker Du (Rock/Alternative Rock/Punk Rock)

49. Chicago (Rock/Soft Rock)

50. Duran Duran (New Wave)

51. Rush (Progressive Rock)

52. The Replacements (Alternative Rock/Punk Rock)

53. Sepultura (Heavy Metal/Groove Metal)

54. Loverboy (Rock/Hard Rock)

55. A Flock of Seagulls (New Wave)

56. A-ha (Pop Rock)

57. Love and Rockets (Alternative Rock/Gothic Rock)

58. Manowar (Heavy Metal)

59. Napalm Death (Grindcore)

60. Black Flag (Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk)

Heavy Metal in the ‘80s

Thrash metal and speed metal became prevalent in the ‘80s. While both of these extreme subgenres did not garner mainstream success, they influenced a new generation of modern rock musicians. While ‘70s heavy metal was dominated by British bands and acts from the United States, during the ‘80s, heavy metal spread across the globe. Scandinavian heavy metal bands came into prominence with their signature dark and gloomy riffs, inspiring many metal bands to come.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s #61-80

61. Diamond Head (Heavy Metal)

62. The Mekons (Punk Rock/Post-Punk)

63. Primal Scream (Rock/Alternative Rock)

64. The Pogues (Celtic Punk/Folk Punk)

65. Dead Kennedys (Hardcore Punk/Punk Rock)

66. Echo & the Bunnymen (Rock/New Wave)

67. Toto (Rock)

68. Red Hot Chili Peppers (Funk Rock)

69. Testament (Thrash Metal)

70. The Bangles (Pop Rock)

71. D.O.A. (Hardcore Punk/Punk Rock)

72. Sonic Youth (Alternative Rock/Noise Rock)

73. Death Angel (Thrash Metal)

74. Cocteau Twins (Rock/Gothic Rock)

75. Accept (Heavy Metal)

76. Kreator (Thrash Metal)

77. The Ramones (Punk Rock)

78. America (Rock)

79. Pantera (Groove Metal)

80. Suicidal Tendencies (Crossover Thrash/Hardcore Punk)

Punk Rock and Hardcore Punk in the ‘80s

While punk rock flourished throughout the ‘80s, the genre remained firmly rooted in the underground music scene. The New York Hardcore Punk scene garnered a cult following. Pioneering hardcore punk bands played a pivotal role in influencing, shaping, and magnifying the punk sound of later decades. Major record labels took notice of the dominance of hardcore punk in the underground music scene and signed record deals with emerging acts. A number of punk bands that started their careers in the late ‘80s achieved tremendous commercial success in the ‘90s.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘80s #81-100

81. My Bloody Valentine (Rock/Shoegazing)

82. Devo (Rock/New Wave)

83. Killing Joke (Post-Punk/Industrial Rock)

84. Yes (Progressive Rock)

85. Savatage (Heavy Metal)

86. Krokus (Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)

87. Violent Femmes (Folk Punk)

88. Triumph (Hard Rock)

89. Anvil (Heavy Metal/Speed Metal)

90. Dinosaur Jr. (Alternative Rock/Rock)

91. Rolling Stones (Rock)

92. The Cars (Rock/New Wave)

93. Pink Floyd (Psychedelic Rock/Rock)

94. Marillion (Progressive Rock)

95. Simple Minds (Rock/Post-Punk/New Wave)

96. The Clash (Punk Rock)

97. Fleetwood Mac (Rock/Pop Rock)

98. Y&T (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)

99. Asia (Rock/Progressive Rock)

100. Blue Oyster Cult (Rock/Hard Rock)

Other Notable Rock Bands of the ‘80s

  • The Pop Group (Post-Punk)
  • Fields of the Nephilim (Gothic Rock)
  • The Teardrop Explodes (Post-Punk/Neo Psychedelic)
  • Witchfinder General (Heavy Metal)
  • Talk Talk (Art Rock/Post-Punk)
  • Orange Juice (Post Punk)
  • Carcass (Extreme Metal/Death Metal)
  • The Soup Dragons (Alternative Rock)
  • James (Rock/Alternative Rock/Indie)
  • Autograph (Rock/Glam Metal)
  • They Might Be Giants (Alternative Rock/Indie Rock)
  • Cheap Trick (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Bad Company (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Metal Church (Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal)
  • The Feelies (Rock/Post-Punk)
  • Great White (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Extreme Noise Terror (Extreme Metal/Grindcore)
  • The Wedding Present (Indie Rock)
  • Minutemen (Punk Rock)
  • Foghat (Rock/Hard Rock/Blues Rock)
  • Ultravox (New Wave)
  • The Stone Roses (Alternative Rock/Manchester)
  • Possessed (Death Metal/Thrash Metal)
  • Minor Threat (Hardcore Punk)
  • Rainbow (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • The Fall (Post-Punk)
  • Stryper (Christian Metal/Glam Metal)
  • Ratt (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Voivod (Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal/Speed Metal)
  • The Church (Alternative Rock)
  • Boston (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Charged GBH (Street Punk)

  • Overkill (Thrash Metal)
  • Thin Lizzy (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Aztec Camera (New Wave)
  • Warrant (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • The Stone Roses (Rock/Alternative Rock)
  • Sore Throat (Grindcore)
  • The Alan Parsons Project (Rock)
  • W.A.S.P. (Heavy Metal)
  • April Vine (Hard Rock)
  • Big Black (Punk Rock)
  • Mr. Mister (Pop Rock/New Wave)
  • Queensryche (Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal)
  • Orleans (Rock/Soft Rock)
  • Happy Mondays (Rock/Indie Rock/Manchester)
  • The Vandals (Punk Rock/Pop Punk)
  • D.R.I. (Crossover Thrash)
  • Bad Religion (Punk Rock)
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Blues Rock)
  • Starship (Rock)
  • Running Wild (Heavy Metal/Speed Metal)
  • Cockney Rejects (Punk Rock)
  • Ambrosia (Rock)
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain (Alternative Rock/Post-Punk)
  • Wishbone Ash (Hard Rock/Blues Rock)
  • The Pastels (Alternative Rock/Jangle Pop)
  • Misfits (Punk Rock)
  • Skid Row (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Agent Steel (Speed Metal)
  • Talking Heads (New Wave/Post-Punk)
  • Decedents (Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk)
  • Spacemen 3 (Alternative Rock)
  • Double Trouble (Blues Rock)

  • The Go-Betweens (Indie Rock)
  • Helloween (Power Metal)
  • Adolescents (Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk)
  • Living Colour (Rock/Hard Rock/Funk Metal)
  • Guided By Voices (Indie Rock)
  • Agnostic Front (Hardcore Punk/Crossover Thrash)
  • Fear (Hardcore Punk/Punk Rock)
  • Spandau Ballet (New Wave)
  • The Damned (Punk Rock)
  • Smokie (Rock/Pop Rock)
  • Climax Blues Band (Blues Rock)
  • T.S.O.L. (Hardcore Punk/Punk Rock)
  • Social Distortion (Punk Rock)
  • Firefall (Rock/Country Rock)
  • Sham 69 (Punk Rock/Street Punk)
  • The Triffids (Alternative Rock)
  • Savoy Brown (Rock/Blues Rock)
  • Discharge (Hardcore Punk)
  • The Housemartins (Indie Rock)
  • B-52’s (New Wave)
  • The Jam (Punk Rock)
  • Genesis (Art Rock/Progressive Rock)
  • Exile (Rock)
  • Destruction (Thrash Metal)
  • 10.000 Maniacs (Alternative Rock)
  • Ministry (Industrial Metal)
  • Sheriff (Rock)
  • The La’s (Alternative Rock/Rock)
  • Operation Ivy (Ska Punk/Hardcore Punk)
  • Little River Band (Rock)
  • Zebra (Rock/Hard Rock)

  • Circle Jerks (Hardcore Punk)
  • Depeche Mode (New Wave/Electronic Rock)
  • The Stranglers (Punk Rock/New Wave)
  • Joy Division (Rock/Post-Punk)
  • Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (Rock/Soft Rock)
  • The Doobie Brothers (Rock/Country Rock)
  • Subhumans (Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk)
  • Rage (Heavy Metal/Speed Metal)
  • The Exploited (Hardcore Punk)
  • Winger (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • The Cramps (Punk Rock/Psychobilly)
  • Stiff Little Fingers (Punk Rock/Pop Punk)
  • Mike and the Mechanics (Rock)
  • Onslaught (Thrash Metal)
  • Crass (Punk Rock)
  • Player (Rock/Soft Rock)
  • Tesla (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Blondie (Rock)
  • Styx (Hard Rock/Rock)
  • The Adicts (Punk Rock)
  • U.K. Subs (Street Punk/Punk Rock)
  • Exciter (Speed Metal/Thrash Metal)
  • The Flaming Lips (Rock/Alternative Rock)
  • Pulp (Rock/Art Rock)
  • 10 cc (Rock/Art Rock)
  • The Sisters of Mercy (Rock/Gothic Rock)
  • Grave Digger (Heavy Metal/Speed Metal)
  • Kansas (Rock)
  • Camper Van Beethoven (Alternative Rock)
  • NOFX (Punk Rock)
  • The Slits (Post-Punk)

Which Is the Best Rock Band of the ‘80s?

See results

© 2019 Ansel Pereira


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    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Chris Jackson 

      2 months ago

      One can`t just add Trash Metal and Punk bands to the list of "100 Best Rock Bands" before including Yngwie Malmsteen ...

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      You people are clowns some of the bands before Tesla and great white get back in the closet

    • profile image

      Mike mcgerry 

      3 months ago

      Ac/dc, u-2 , def lep, metallica,

      And queen.

      Blk sabbath but they are late 70's

      Arent they?

    • profile image

      Mike McGerry 

      3 months ago

      Metalica, def lep, AC/DC, and blk saboth are tied for 1st place.

      Queen maybe Gun's-n-Roses tied for second.

    • profile image

      Chris Franklin 

      4 months ago

      How in the hell is guns and roses number one in the 80s? no way


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