Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the 1980s
Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the 1980s

Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the 1980s

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
The sound of hard rock in the 1980s wouldn't be the same without distorted electric guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. As the decade wore on, the genre expanded to include a more raw sound. There were also some bands that melded together punk rock and pop music into what is known as glam metal. Regardless of the hard rock style you were most into, all of these bands rocked until they dropped. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 hard rock artists of the 1980s.

These bands rocked until they dropped. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 hard rock artists of the 1980s.

For this list, we’ve decided to base our choices on record sales, fan appeal and how much the bands came to represent the era.

#10 – Poison

Thanks to rockin’ guitar solos and Bret Michaels’ country twang, Poison became the quintessential poster band for hair metal: they were behind glam metal classics like “Talk Dirty to Me,” but Poison’s biggest hit was the power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Their success continued into the next decade, and today Poison has ten Top 40 singles and 30 million global record sales to their name. Not bad for the band that recorded “Unskinny Bop.”

#9 – Scorpions

The Scorpions built their brand of hard rock and melodic balladry during the ‘80s with Animal Magnetism and Blackout. But, it was 1984’s Love at First Sting and “Rock You Like a Hurricane” that really turned these Germans into “the Ambassadors of Rock.” Their occasional butchering of the English language didn’t even slow them down; in fact, they’ve sold over 100 million albums worldwide.

#8 – Aerosmith

While Aerosmith experienced massive success throughout the 1970s, “The Bad Boys from Boston” reached even greater heights when their 1986 collaboration with hip hoppers Run-D.M.C. revitalized their career. This was quickly followed by the top twenty album Permanent Vacation, which paved the way for the Grammy-winning Pump and maintained the success of their blues-inspired hard rock band in the ‘90s and beyond.

#7 – Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe took the music world by storm with the heavy sound of their first two albums, Too Fast for Love and Shout at the Devil. Fueled by sex, drugs and alcohol, their antics soon earned them the reputation as the “World’s Most Notorious Rock Band” in the 1980s. Before decade’s end, Dr. Feelgood topped the charts, won them rave reviews and became their biggest seller ever.

#6 – Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi shot to fame after “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” took Slippery When Wet to number one. Then, New Jersey’s multiple top tens cemented them as one of the ‘80s’ most famous and successful hard rock bands. With sold-out tours, media appearances galore and sales of 130 million albums under their belts, Bon Jovi continues to stay true to their original sound decades later.

#5 – AC/DC

While AC/DC’s days with Bon Scott produced some of their greatest work, it’s the band’s releases with Brian Johnson that put them on this list. Featuring signature tracks like “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title cut, 1980’s Back in Black became one of history’s best-selling albums. The Aussies further proved they knew how to rock when the next year’s For Those About to Rock We Salute You topped charts for three weeks.

#4 – Ozzy Osbourne

Though many wrote him off after Black Sabbath, Ozzy surprised fans with the top forty success of his solo albums during the ‘80s. Bolstered by some of the decade’s greatest guitarists like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde, Osbourne became an incredible showman whose shocking theatrics increased his fame and solidified his reputation as the “Prince of Darkness.”

#3 – Van Halen

After winning accolades for the ground-breaking rock on their 1978 debut, Van Halen released a plethora of harder and heavier albums in the 1980s. Thanks to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar-playing and the stage presence of David Lee Roth, it was some of their finest work; however, the pinnacle of their success came when their first album with Sammy Hagar, 5150, reached number one and foreshadowed their next three chart-topping albums.

#2 – Def Leppard

After spearheading the New Wave of British Metal in the late-1970s alongside Iron Maiden, Def Leppard set the blueprint for ‘80s hard rock bands with 1983’s Pyromania. Vocal harmonies set among a blend of hard rock, glam metal, arena rock and pop helped them solidify their place as one of the decade’s greatest and most successful bands with 1987’s Hysteria, and today they’re one of the best-selling acts of all time.

#1 – Guns N’ Roses

With mercurial frontman Axl Rose and Slash on guitar, Guns N’ Roses exploded onto the scene with 1987’s fierce and dirty Appetite for Destruction, which became the best-selling debut in American history. Thanks to their raw energy, “the most dangerous band in the world” has also sold over 100 million albums worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame.

Do you agree with our list? Who did you rock out to in the ‘80s? For more top 10s about your favorite artists, be sure to subscribe to
Iron Maiden.
Def Leopard #2...are you kidding me? What they perform barely qualifies as music. Guns And Roses is badly overrated. The Scorpions, Aerosmith, and Van Halen were the bet of this era.
AC/DC was bigger than ever when Back In Black came out in 1980.