20 Best 80s Rock Bands of All Time

Best 80s Rock Bands

There is no denying that the 1980s were a difficult era. Big business, large world events, and, of course, big hair distinguished the decade. One of the most important things is the Best 80s Rock Bands.

The music of the 1980s has had a significant historical impact and substantially affected rock music forms. The music of the 1980s influenced the evolution of music, propelling rock songs from the classic rock style of the 1960s and 1970s to the modern rock styles of the 1990s and today.

And, while countless rock bands formed in the 1980s greatly impacted music culture, we have compiled a list of the best 20 rock bands of the 1980s.

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Criteria for Selecting the Best 80s Rock Bands

Here are the criteria we used in selecting the best 80s Rock bands:

Musical Innovation

The extent to which the band brought innovation to the genre, introduced new sounds or pushed the boundaries of musical conventions.

Bands like Skid Row introduced a blend of post-punk and alternative rock, contributing to the evolution of the rock landscape.

Commercial Success

The band’s chart performance, album sales, and overall popularity during the 80s.

Bon Jovi achieved massive commercial success with hit albums like “Slippery When Wet” and chart-topping singles, becoming global rock icons.

Cultural Impact

The band influenced pop culture, fashion, and the broader music scene beyond the 80s.

Poison defined the new wave sound and impacted fashion and music video aesthetics.

Stage Presence and Performances

The band’s ability to deliver captivating live performances, stage presence, and showmanship.

Ratt’s electrifying live performances, especially at events like Live Aid, showcased their legendary stage presence.

Longevity and Legacy

The enduring relevance of the band’s music, continued influence on later generations, and any reunions or special events post the 80s.

Guns N’ Roses’ continued success and reunion tours demonstrate their lasting legacy in rock music.

Genre Influence

The band’s impact on defining or reshaping a particular subgenre of rock during the 80s.

Metallica’s contribution to thrash metal made them genre pioneers, influencing countless metal bands.

Songwriting and Musical Skills

The quality of songwriting, musicianship, and technical skills exhibited by the band members.

Sonic Youth, known for their complex compositions and virtuoso performances, showcased high musical skill levels.

Best 80s Rock Bands of All Time

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses, formed in 1985, is the apex of 1980s heavy metal music bands. Axl Rose was the main singer, Slash was the lead guitarist, Izzy Stradlin was the rhythm guitarist, Duff McKagan was the bassist, and Steven Adler was the drummer.

Guns N’ Roses arose from the ashes of two other bands, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. It swept onto the music scene with all the disobedience of Elvis Presley in the 1950s and the immorality of Led Zeppelin in the 1970s, earning them the moniker “the world’s most dangerous band.


Metallica, the notorious thrash heavy metal band, arrived on the scene in 1981. Lars Ulrich put out an ad that said, “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head, and Iron Maiden,” and the rest is history.

Metallica formed one of the world’s biggest rock bands by combining punk rock and early 1980s British metal tactics with James Hetfield.

Van Halen

Van Halen was already one of the most successful rock bands at the start of the 1980s decade.

Despite making quite a splash when they debuted in the late 1970s, Van Halen created its history through excellent work during the 1980s, generating a definitive classic rock legacy that is tough to refute.

Van Halen was formed in 1984 by Eddie Van Halen and his brother, Alex Van Halen. The group also included David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony. However, David Lee Roth left the band in 1985, and Sammy Hagar took his place.


It was formed in 1984 in Hollywood, California, and has since become one of America’s best glam metal bands, sometimes known as “hair bands.”

Warrant was eventually signed by Columbia Records in 1988, and their debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, was released in 1989.

With power songs like “Heaven” and “Sometimes She Cries,” Warrant demonstrated to fans that they could bring both the rock and the love.

Bon Jovi

In 1983, singers Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Phil X, and Hugh McDonald formed the rock band Bon Jovi in New Jersey.

While they recorded two albums in 1984 and 1985 and began to build a reputation for themselves, the 1986 classic Slippery When Wet launched Bon Jovi into rock band history.


Although Aerosmith may be seen on almost any decade’s list of greatest rock bands, the band had to fight back in the 1980s to become the superstars they are today.

Aerosmith dominated the rock music in the 1970s but experienced a brief slump in the early 1980s. In 1986, however, Aerosmith collaborated with hip-hop stars Run-D.M.C. to rework the classic “Walk This Way.”

Aerosmith gained an altogether new following once the video debuted on MTV. Aerosmith returned to form with the release of Permanent Vacation in 1987.

With singles like “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and “Rag Doll,” Aerosmith staked their grip on 1980s rock music.

Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe, like many other fantastic rock bands of the 1980s, formed in Los Angeles in 1981.

They thrived on the MTV generation as one of their day’s classic glam metal/hair metal bands. Mötley Crüe‘s album Dr. Feelgood became an anthem for revolutionary rockers worldwide, thanks to lead singer Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee driving the band to success.

With their pleasure-seeking playboy attitudes, Mötley Crüe personifies the 1980s lifestyle. Esquire magazine says, “The only thing louder than Mötley Crüe’s music was the band’s partying.


Whitesnake‘s initial members, David Coverdale, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, Neil Murray, Dave Dowle, and Brian Johnston, formed the band in London in 1978 and knew how to embrace opportunities and make the most of them.

Their self-titled album, released in 1987, was regarded as their most notable triumph, with hits such as “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love” charting on Billboard.

Z Z Top

If rock bands in the 1980s were famed for their flowing hair, ZZ Top had them in beard form. Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill (until Hill died in 2021) were the renowned rock band Z Z Top. They have been recognized by their iconic whiskers since 1969.

ZZ Top was at its peak in the 1980s. Eliminator, their eighth album, was released in 1983 and includes the songs “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Legs.”

ZZ Top‘s blues-rock roots were smoothly melded with the more popular music styles of the moment on Eliminator. Z.Z. Like many of their contemporaries, Top recognized MTV’s enormous potential and capitalized on it.

The Cars

The Cars were formed in 1977 in Boston by Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, and David Robinson.

Throughout the 1980s, fans were influenced by the combination of vocals and synthesizer keyboards.

The Cars put as much effort and time into their music videos as they did into their albums and songs. Notably, the song “You Might Think” won Video of the Year at MTV’s first Video Music Awards in 1984.

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Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Dave Lombardo, and Tom Araya founded the thrash/heavy metal band Slayer in Huntington Park, California 1981.

Their history as one of the most important and influential metal bands continues today. Slayer’s music was more frantic, overtly satanic, and downright frightening compared to other metal bands of the 1980s.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, formed in 1983 in Los Angeles, are much more than a 1980s rock band. Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante create musical mayhem by fusing hard rock, punk rock, funk, and hip hop.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers launched their self-titled debut album in 1984 and quickly established a sizable fan base. Even though the Red Hot Chilli Peppers did not achieve economic success until later in their career, music fans cannot dispute their influence on music in the 1980s.

Some regard them as impulsive and offensive, while others view them as the epitome of what a rocker should be; no one can deny that the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are icons in 1980s rock band history.


Like several other bands on our list, Ratt emerged in the Los Angeles heavy metal scene in the 1980s.

The founding Ratt members, Stephen Pearcy, Chris Hager, Tim Garcia, and Bob Eisenberg, reduced the band’s initial name of Mickey Ratt to Ratt and began recording in 1981.

Ratt released many albums in the early 1980s, including Ratt E.P., Out of the Cellar, and Invasion of Your Privacy. Invasion of Your Privacy was the more commercially successful album, with songs like “Round & Round” on radio stations and fans’ playlists.

Ratt, defined as hard metal with a melody, became one of the 1980s’ quintessential rock acts.

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Sonic Youth

Founded in New York City in 1981 by Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Lee Ranaldo, they cut their teeth on the gritty NYC underground rock scene before becoming popular by the decade’s end.

Sonic Youth released their debut album EVOL in 1986, followed by Sister in 1987. Both albums catapulted Sonic Youth to national prominence.

They pushed the sounds of the underground movement to a national scale while maintaining their individuality without the help of major labels.


The Journey was created in 1973 by Neal Schon, Ross Valory, George Tickner, Prairie Prince, and Gregg Rolie, but the band did not acquire icon status until the 1980s when lead singer Steve Perry joined.

They released their album Escape in July 1981, which included famous hits like “Who’s Crying Now” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.

The Bangles

The males with flowing hair were not the only ones rocking out in the 1980s. The Bangles, a rockstar girl band, peaked in the late 1980s.

The Bangles, founded in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, by Susanna Hoffs and the power sister combo Vicki and Debbi Peters, provided some much-needed estrogen to the testosterone party of the 1980s.

Before settling on The Bangles, the original ladies considered names like Colours and The Bangs. The Bangles’ success began when their smash single “Manic Monday” hit the airways.

Skid Row

Skid Row, founded in 1986 in New Jersey by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, rocked alongside the greatest of them in the 1980s. However, when Sebastian Bach joined the band in early 1987, the band exploded into superstardom.

Skid Row‘s self-titled album, released in 1989, catapulted them to rapid popularity as a heavy metal/glam metal band.

With rocking tunes like “18 and Life” and “I Remember You,” Skid Row built a fan base that would stick with them for the following decade.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The legendary American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was formed in 1976 by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Stan Lynch, and Ron Blair.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played and crooned their way into rock history, described as a blend of Southern and heartland rock.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ingratiated themselves in the imaginations of 1980s rock fans with their Alice in Wonderland motif and weird cake-eating sequence.

The Go-Go’s

The Go-Go’s, billed as “the most successful female rock band of all time” on their website, were revolutionary rock icons in the 1980s.

Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Margot Olavarria, and Elissa Bello created rock history as founding members.

Their record Beauty and the Beat remains the first and only album written and performed entirely by women to reach the top of the charts.


It was founded in 1983 by Bret Michaels, Matt Smith, Bobby Dall, and Rikki Rockett and was initially titled Paris in Pennsylvania.

Poison, a glam rock metal band with messes and messes of hair, released their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged, in 1986.

While some critics saw Poison as a makeup-wearing, big-haired rock band with little to no talent at the time, American youth disagreed.


What defined the sound of 80s rock music?

The sound of 80s rock music was characterized by various genres, including glam metal, new wave, post-punk, and hard rock.

Why are these particular bands considered the best of the 80s?

These bands are considered the best of the 80s due to their significant impact on the rock music landscape.

How did MTV influence the popularity of 80s rock bands?

The rise of MTV in the 1980s played a role in the success of many rock bands. The visual medium provided a platform for artists to showcase their music through music videos, contributing to the image-driven nature of the era.

What was the role of iconic frontmen in 80s rock bands?

Iconic frontmen, such as Freddie Mercury (Queen), Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses), and Bono (U2), played a crucial role in defining the image and charisma of their respective bands.

What is the lasting legacy of these 80s rock bands?

The lasting legacy of these 80s rock bands lies in their enduring influence on subsequent generations of musicians.


These amazing rock bands act like a kind of musical time capsule, capturing the feelings of a time marked by new ideas, a spirit of rebellion, and a lot of creative energy. They made music that filled stadiums with powerful choruses and created thoughtful, deep songs.

Each of these bands played a big role in making the music scene of the 1980s what it was. Their impact is still felt today, inspiring fans of rock music worldwide.

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