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100 Best Hard Rock Bands of the '80s and '90s

Hair Metal Reigned Supreme

Hair Metal Reigned Supreme

Distorted guitars and aggressive vocals give hard rock its signature sound. In the '70s, bands such as Budgie, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple developed a darker sound that would soon open the door to the hard rock era. In the '80s, the hard rock movement became all the rage. Many bands started to release albums that blended heavy metal elements with catchy rock hooks. While heavy metal had an edgy-raw sound, the hard rock sound was slicker and more danceable. The hard rock era was punctuated by singers with exceptional vocal ranges and guitarists with flawless techniques. In fact, a large number of these guitar players later released instrumental rock albums displaying their dexterous fret work. The shred scene gained new ground in the ‘80s, paving the way for a new breed of technical guitar players.

Many hard rock bands of this era were heavily influenced by the early hard rock that emerged in the '60s and continued through to the '70s. While only a few hard rock bands from the '80s survived the alternative/grunge barrage of the '90s, many hard rock bands reunited to tour and release albums post 2000.

While the hard rock scene has had its ups and downs, the phenomenon is here to stay. The list below showcases a diverse number of hard rock bands. If you are passionate about hard rock, then you will definitely have something to say. Feel free to share your thoughts or recommendations in the comments section.

Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  1. Judas Priest
  2. AC/DC
  3. Black Sabbath
  4. Aerosmith
  5. Iron Maiden
  6. Van Halen
  7. Mr. Big
  8. Guns N’ Roses
  9. Kiss
  10. Motorhead

The Hard Rock Scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s

Many bands in the "lipstick and leather" era were known for showcasing singers with incredible vocal ranges. These singers were often backed by melodic instrumentation. Indeed, high-pitched vocalists ruled in the '80s and '90s. The strong rhythm section added a dynamic crunch, while the piercing guitar solos took songs soaring to new heights. Hard rock became insanely popular with rock music enthusiasts in the '80s and '90s. Post 2000, a new wave of hard rock bands emerged. These bands are blending other genres with hard rock in order to further diversify the musical landscape. While only a few hard rock bands in the '80s and '90s managed to strike record deals with major recording companies, many indie and small time hard rock bands found cult followings. While hard rock grew in prominence in the '80s, the grunge revolution of the '90s led to the downfall of the genre.

Best Hard Rock Bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s #11—20

11. Def Leppard

12. Bon Jovi

13. Y&T

14. Scorpions

15. Europe

16. Damn Yankees

17. Accept

18. Saxon

19. Bad English

20. Foreigner

Melodic Hard Rock Bands of the ‘80s

High-pitched voices and anthem-like choruses became the signature sound of '80s hard rock. Melodic hard rock bands gained attention worldwide, especially in Japan. The hard rock market in Japan is one of the biggest global markets. Since the '80s, a large number of hard rock bands, melodic rock bands, AOR bands, and glam metal bands have been touring in Japan and Southeast Asia.

Best Hard Rock Bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s #21—40

21. Triumph

22. Boston

23. UFO

24. Nazareth

25. Bad Company

26. Michael Schenker Group

27. Whitesnake

28. Quiet Riot

29. Extreme

30. April Wine

31. Uriah Heep

32. Cinderella

33. Molly Hatchet

34. Nelson

35. Autograph

36. Twisted Sister

37. Rainbow

38. Vandenberg

39. Loverboy

40. Gamma

How Record Companies Cashed In on Hard Rock Phenomenon

Record companies were quick to capitalize on the popularity of hard rock in the '80s and '90s. As the commercial viability of hard rock grew in the mid-'80s, many record labels started releasing "Greatest Hits" and "Best of" compilations of hard rock bands. Compilation CDs became excessively popular in the '80s and early '90s. Compilation discs of hard rock love songs and power ballads became incredibly popular during this era. Bootleg albums have become collectibles. Hard rock enthusiasts are willing to pay insane amounts of money to get their hands on bootlegs from this era.

Best ‘80s and ‘90s Hard Rock Bands #41—60

41. Survivor

42. Dokken

43. Hanoi Rocks

44. Slaughter

45. Grim Reaper

46. Loudness

47. Tora Tora

48. Poison

49. Great White

50. White Lion

51. Danger Danger

52. Tesla

53. Baton Rogue

54. Lordi

55. Saigon Kick

56. Firehouse

57. Dangerous Toys

58. Salty Dog

59. Vinnie Vincent Invasion

60. Night Ranger

Best Hard Rock Acts of the ‘80s and ‘90s #61—80

61. Thunder

62. Winger

63. Stryper

64. L.A. Guns

65. Giant

66. Tyketto

67. Kix

68. Steelheart

69. Ennuf Z’ Nuff

70. W.A.S.P.

71. Tora Tora

72. Motley Crue

73. ZZ Top

74. Ratt

75. Helix

76. Golden Earring

77. TNT

78. Skid Row

79. Whitecross

80. Steeler

Hard Rock Best Bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s #81—100

81. BulletBoys

82. Vixen

83. Danzig

84. Faster Pussycat

85. Lynch Mob

86. Shotgun Messiah

87. Blue Murder

88. Trixter

89. King Cobra

90. Wrathchild

91. Hurricane

92. Babylon A.D.

93. Junkyard

94. House of Lords

95. SouthGang

96. Roxy Blue

97. Love/Hate

98. Fastway

99. Bang Tango

100. Rockhead

Other Notable Hard Rock Bands and Artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  • Gun
  • Femme Fatale
  • Moxy
  • Lee Aaron
  • Third Degree
  • Krokus
  • Shy
  • Coney Hatch
  • Dio
  • Fortune
  • Ezo
  • The Rods
  • Mad Max
  • Cold Sweat
  • Manilla Road
  • Pride
  • Leatherwolf
  • Rush
  • Asiana
  • 38 Special
  • Thin Lizzy
  • Karo
  • Badlands
  • Stone Fury
  • Alice Cooper
  • Magnum
  • Jagged Edge
  • Heart
  • Bad Steve
  • Kingdom Come
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Journey
  • Fighter
  • Xenon
  • TKO
  • Kick Axe
  • Fiona
  • Sinner
  • Blind Date
  • Lady Sabre
  • Treat
  • Fifth Angel
  • Bow Wow
  • LoudLion
  • Ez’ Livin
  • Samson
  • ASAP
  • Madison
  • Icon
  • Savatage
  • Ice Tiger
  • Warlock
  • Riot
  • Bangalore Choir
  • Eyes
  • Pretty Maids
  • Defcon
  • Lion
  • Rock Goddess
  • Blackfoot
  • Circus of Power
  • Jetboy
  • White Widdow
  • Britny Fox
  • Tygers of Pan Tang
  • Madam X
  • Fatum
  • Killer Dwarfs
  • Poison Dollys
  • Mama’s Boys
  • Girlschool
  • Nitro
  • Zebra
  • Casanova
  • Giuffria
  • Hericane Alice
  • Picture
  • Shogun
  • Phantom Blue
  • Asia
  • Lizzy Borden
  • Bonfire
  • Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Novella
  • London
  • Keel
  • Cutty Sark
  • The Dogs D’Amour
  • Chastain
  • Black N’ Blue
  • Saga
  • Ace Frehley
  • Tublatanka
  • Rage N’ Rox
  • Raging Slab
  • Vain
  • REO Speedwagon
  • O’Dette
  • Farcry
  • Tokyo Blade
  • Alcatrazz
  • Lillian Axe
  • Bittersweet
  • Agent Steel
  • Rose Tattoo
  • Jaded Heart
  • Rough Cutt
  • After Hours
  • Syren
  • Oney
  • Pariah

© 2015 Ansel Pereira


kin on May 17, 2020:


Bird on May 10, 2020:

Guns N Roses are you serious they made two great albums

aoihfdbv on April 06, 2020:


DeAngelo Spencer on November 26, 2019:

I love rock music it has a strong message

Rob Rodarme on November 09, 2019:

RUSH is under "Other Notable Bands"??? You mean the band that inspired countless bands and musicians and have the most loyal of loyal fans across the Globe...3 of the best musicians on the planet in 1 band..

Jason from United States on July 20, 2019:

I'm glad to see you mentioned Lee Aaron and Saxon, two of my favorite bands, only behind Iron Maiden. Great band choices.