100 Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s

Updated on May 21, 2020
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.

Learn the best bands of the 1990s!
Learn the best bands of the 1990s! | Source

The ‘90s witnessed a new awakening in rock music. The glam metal scene, which dominated the ‘80s music industry, faded away as the grunge revolution came to prominence. New alternative genres grew in prominence. The epic sound often associated with mainstream rock bands was now prevalent in non-mainstream acts. While hard rock and heavy metal continued to enjoy mainstream success, it was alternative rock that became the defining musical movement of the ‘90s. The alternative scene became hugely popular and spawned a new era in music.

Top 10 Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s

  1. Nirvana
  2. Alice In Chains
  3. Soundgarden
  4. Green Day
  5. Radiohead
  6. Pearl Jam
  7. R.E.M
  8. Foo Fighters
  9. Red Hot Chili Peppers
  10. Pantera

Alternative Rock Bands and Grunge Bands of the ‘90s

The introduction of alternative rock music genres made pathways for bands that previously had no category. Indeed, alternative rock reigned supreme in this decade. The alternative movement had a global impact that helped a number of acts achieve mainstream success. A number of bands started experimenting by fusing elements of heavy metal and alternative rock, thereby, giving birth to alternative metal. A number of alternative songs made their way onto the mainstream rock charts. A large number of radio stations in the U.S. had a dedicated time slot for alternative music. MTV promoted alt-rock in a big way through various music segments. Alt-rock had arrived. It only grew bigger in the days to come.

Grunge, a subgenre of alternative rock, became exceedingly popular in the ‘90s. The grunge blueprint spread its wings globally and helped a number of bands come to the forefront of the public's attention. The early grunge movement, also referred to as the "Seattle sound," started with the underground music scene in Seattle. Sub Pop, an independent record label started in 1986, helped popularize the grunge movement by signing a number of emerging Seattle bands. Throughout the ‘90s, grunge spread its roots globally, building a strong following among fans. A number of grunge bands achieved commercial success with their albums. Some of the highest selling albums of the ‘90s were by grunge bands. Although the grunge movement faded into oblivion towards the late ‘90s, the subgenre has had a profound influence on modern rock music, post grunge, and nu-metal in particular.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s #11-20

11. Metallica

12. Guns N’ Roses

13. Blink-182

14. Oasis

15. U2

16. Nine Inch Nails

17. Queen

18. Weezer

19. No Doubt

20. The Offspring

Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s

A number of metal subgenres that had developed through the ‘80s garnered a cult following in the ‘90s. Thrash metal bands and speed metal bands had considerable success in the ‘90s. The riff structures and technical sophistication employed by thrash bands and speed metal bands is often regarded as the inspiration for death metal and black metal. The decade witnessed certain metal bands achieve critical acclaim and mainstream success. In the mid-90s, industrial metal came alive with stinging venom. A number of American industrial metal bands had commercial success throughout the decade.

Indie Rock Bands of the ‘90s

The term "indie rock" was assigned to bands and genres that remained underground. Although not many indie rock bands were able to achieve mainstream success in the ‘90s, the underground scene catapulted the indie rock sound to a new level, helping stem one of the biggest musical movements in history. Indie rock bands of the ‘90s played a major role in helping shape the modern indie rock sound. A number of present-day indie bands cite the ‘90s indie scene as path-breaking. These complex songs inspired new musicians to innovate the genre even more.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s #21-40

21. The Wallflowers

22. Rage Against The Machine

23. The Cranberries

24. Slayer

25. My Blood Valentine

26. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

27. Stone Temple Pilots

28. Korn

29. Pavement

30. Anthrax

31. Blur

32. The Smashing Pumpkins

33. The Verve

34. Pixies

35. Bush

36. Jane’s Addiction

37. The Lemonheads

38. The Flaming Lips

39. Goo Goo Dolls

40. Sonic Youth

Hard Rock Bands of the ‘90s

Although the decline of glam metal came with the arrival of alternative rock and grunge in the ‘90s, few bands associated with hard rock and glam metal in the ‘80s continued their success stories into the early ‘90s. A number of hard rock bands reinvented themselves, bringing new sounds to the public's attention, while staying true to the roots of metal. While many hard rock bands adopted a heavier sound, influenced by the grunge scene of the ‘90s, certain bands continued writing melodic albums. Few hard rock bands had considerable success with rock ballads early in the decade. A new wave of hard rock bands came to the forefront of the public's attention, wowing fans with a blend of traditional metal elements combined with non-mainstream influences.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s #41-60

41. Dream Theater

42. Blind Melon

43. Garbage

44. Megadeth

45. Pulp

46. Aerosmith

47. Faith No More

48. Dave Matthews Band

49. Live

50. Tool

51. Silverchair

52. Counting Crows

53. Emperor

54. Creed

55. Hootie & The Blowfish

56. Bon Jovi

57. Incubus

58. Testament

59. Collective Soul

60. Helmet

Post Grunge Rock Bands of the ‘90s

As the popularity of grunge started fading away its influence was still present in the highly distorted guitar parts of late '90s rock. This new wave of bands started being associated with the term "post-grunge," often used as an umbrella term to describe their music. The post-grunge bands of the ‘90s helped pioneer a new sound, which became the signature sound of bands associated with the genre post 2000.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s #61-80

61. Sublime

52. Third Eye Blind

63. AC/DC

64. Our Lady Peace

65. Primus

66. Bad Religion

67. Extreme

68. Scorpions

69. Blues Traveller

70. Van Halen

71. Sepultura

72. The Black Crowes

73. Def Leppard

74. Soul Asylum

75. Candlebox

76. Matchbox 20

77. Skid Row

78. The Cardigans

79. White Zombie

80. Spin Doctors

Punk Rock Bands of the ‘90s

Punk rock arrangements evolved significantly in the ‘90s. With the emergence of independent record labels, a number of bands associated with the punk genre were able to release albums and find a cult following. "Skate punk" subculture gained prominence in the mid-'90s. Suddenly, the subculture broke into the mainstream, defying all norms associated with music. Major record companies started taking keen interest in skate punk and pop punk bands. Punk rock witnessed a phenomenal resurgence, which paved the way for a slick-new commercial pop punk sound.

Rock music in the ‘90s was a diverse amalgamation of musical influences that helped frontier the modern rock sound. The decade is long gone, but you can still see its influence on today's culture.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘90s #81-100

81. Meshuggah

82. 311

83. Mudhoney

84. Fear Factory

85. Barenaked Ladies

86. Sleater-Kinney

87. Mr. Big

88. Limp Bizkit

89. Death

90. Firehouse

91. Ministry

92. Semisonic

93. Motorhead

94. Guided By Voices

95. Napalm Death

96. Opeth

97. Warrant

98. Marylin Manson

99. Everclear

100. Crash Test Dummies

Other Notable Rock Bands of the ‘90s

  • The Breeders
  • Portishead
  • Deftones
  • Blind Guardian
  • Cake
  • The Stone Roses
  • Gin Blossoms
  • Filter
  • Smash Mouth
  • Better Than Ezra
  • Tonic
  • Hole
  • 4 Non Blondes
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Ben Folds Five
  • Carcass
  • Rollins Band
  • The Jesus Lizard
  • In Flames
  • Soul Coughing
  • Judas Priest
  • Sugar Ray
  • Godsmack
  • Queensryche
  • Dokken
  • Built To Spill
  • Unleashed
  • Sebadoh
  • The President of United States of America
  • Fastball
  • Poison
  • Superchunk
  • Iron Maiden
  • Ugly Kid Joe
  • Cannibal Corpse
  • Dismember
  • Ammonia
  • Steelheart
  • Danzig
  • Rush
  • Slaughter
  • Rancid
  • Marcy Playground
  • Suffocation
  • BoDeans
  • Iced Earth
  • New Radicals
  • Wilco
  • Failure
  • Screaming Trees

  • Matthew Good Band
  • Thunder
  • Obituary
  • Social Distortion
  • Danger Danger
  • The Charlatans
  • Belly
  • Deep Blue Something
  • Winger
  • Amorphis
  • Overkill
  • Dio
  • At The Gates
  • Cinderella
  • Entombed
  • Skunk Anansie
  • Kiss
  • Whitesnake
  • Exodus
  • Manowar
  • Cracker
  • Buffalo Tom
  • Vertical Horizon
  • Len
  • Stryper
  • Britny Fox
  • Kula Shaker
  • Grave
  • Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Kix
  • Pariah
  • Kreator
  • L.A. Guns
  • Bolt Thrower
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Destruction
  • Quiet Riot
  • Heloween
  • Corrosion of Conformity
  • The Tea Party
  • Edge of Sanity
  • Sponge
  • Reel Big Fish
  • Paradise Lost
  • Eels
  • Superdrag
  • Dark Tranquility
  • White Lion
  • Motley Crue
  • Therion
  • Saigon Kick
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket

  • Behemoth
  • L7
  • The Folk Implosion
  • Dangerous Toys
  • Nuclear Assault
  • Type O Negative
  • Incantation
  • Shudder To Think
  • Gun
  • Citizen King
  • Trixter
  • Ratt
  • Machine Head
  • Vio-Lence
  • Love/Hate
  • Symphony X
  • Butthole Surfers
  • Archers of Loaf
  • Sense Field
  • W.A.S.P.
  • Rammstein
  • Nine Days
  • Children of Bodom
  • Gamma Ray
  • BulletBoys
  • Divinyls
  • Sacred Reich
  • Carbon Leaf
  • Suede
  • Three Fish
  • Voivod
  • Heart
  • Vixen
  • Jars of Clay
  • Vader
  • Forbidden
  • The Afghan Whigs
  • Lit
  • Blessed Union of Souls
  • Great White
  • Living Colour
  • Tankard
  • World Party
  • Muse
  • Deicide
  • Annihilator
  • Night Ranger
  • Travis
  • Enuff Z’Nuff
  • Primitive Radio Gods

Which is the Best Rock Band of the ‘90s?

See results

© 2019 Ansel Pereira


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    • profile image

      7 days ago

      What about Weezer?

    • profile image

      2 weeks ago

      What about Nomeansno, Nofx, Bad Religion Rancid?? Nirvana is tired! Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam are better bands. Crash Test Dummies, Spin Doctors and Everclear are garbage bands!

    • profile image

      Avid Mr. Big fan 

      2 weeks ago

      Mr. Big is the best!!!

    • profile image

      Jason Peters 

      4 weeks ago




      God Lives Underwater

    • profile image


      6 weeks ago

      Tool at 50?! This list, no good

    • profile image

      Joe Hatch 

      7 weeks ago

      Didn't see Days of the New

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      how is smashing pumpkins 32. they were easily the biggest band of the 90s

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Linkin Park!? You didn't even mention!

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      What about Fuel? Shimmer was a great tune...

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Some omissions that should be on here to varying degrees:

      - Beck

      - Jimmies Chicken Shack

      - Seven Mary Three

      - Local H

      - Brother Cane

      Whats with all the Scandinavian metal and 70’s/80’s bands?

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      I'm glad you at least got down a lot of the significant bands but you're ranking system is so poor. Pantera over bands like U2 or oasis shows a real lack of understanding of the impact, significance and success of such groups

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      Nirvana and Alice and Chains are two of my favorites, but I am really surprised that another one of my favorites, Stone Temple Pilots is missing from this list.

    • profile image

      Scott Cooney 

      7 months ago

      How can Spacehog not even be mentioned???? thats a crime

    • profile image

      Pablo Fernandez 

      8 months ago

      Blink-182 is the best band out of this list.

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      Van Halen

    • profile image


      8 months ago


    • profile image

      Christopher Nowak 

      9 months ago

      I am more of a jazz fan but when I used to run competitively, I listened to TOTO (AFRICA), HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS (DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE?), FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE (STACY'S MOM) and FROZEN GHOST(DREAM COME TRUE).

      Consequently, these are my favourite groups.

      Unfortunately, all of these groups were more popular in other time periods.


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