The 25 top-selling rock albums of all time

There are various ways to rate the best-selling rock albums of all time. In this case, we went directly to the source: The Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA). Specifically, tracked certified units sold as of February 2023. In terms of what constitutes a “rock” album, we went with consensus and inclusion of sub-genres of the “rock” category, such as hard rock/heavy metal, pop rock, soft rock, and folk rock.

With all that in mind, here are the 25 best.

‘Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits,’ Simon and Garfunkel (1972), 14 million million certified units

To be clear, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel released several greatest hits to celebrate their time as a legendary pop/folk rock duo. Yet, the first of such records is everything long-time fans, or newcomers to the pair, need to cherish the musical dynamic between the two talents.

While it never gets old hearing the true classics like “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Boxer,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” we shouldn’t forget about underrated gems, such as “I Am a Rock,” “Cecilia,” and “Kathy’s Song.” It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in the United States.

‘Bat Out of Hell,’ Meat Loaf (1977), 14 million

Another 14-times platinum-selling album, and it’s one of the great debut records of all time. While the late Meat Loaf was a true showman with a near-operatic voice, Bat Out of Hell featured an all-star roster of celebrated musicians. Late songwriter Jim Steinman, who also wrote songs for Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler, penned every track on the record. Meanwhile, fellow legend Todd Rundgren produced the record. E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan contributed to an album featuring classic rock gems like the title cut, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

‘Tapestry,’ Carole King (1971), 14 million

It’s the album that proved that a woman could be a strong songwriter. A rather powerful soft-rock record. It set the stage for many renowned female artists, like Barbara Streisand and Tori Amos. Even Taylor Swift gushed over her during King’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction.

Tapestry won four Grammys, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”), and Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”). It also includes timeless classics like “I Feel the Earth Move,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” Tapestry is estimated to have sold roughly 30 million copies.

‘The Beatles 1962-1966,’ The Beatles (1973), 15 million

Otherwise known as the “Red Album.” This is a record of original Beatles’ works, all written and composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, like “Love Me Do,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Yesterday.” Music fans who still have not discovered this stellar collection of Beatles classics will not hear any of the band’s many popular covers of the time. It was released with a companion greatest hits album of later tracks (which we’ll get to in a bit). Both earned renewed popularity when reissued in 1993 in compact disc form.

‘Greatest Hits 1974-1978,’ Steve Miller Band (1978), 15 million

Released in the late 1970s, there are still factions of American high schoolers listening to this collection of Steve Miller’s best. Interestingly enough, only songs from three albums — The Joker (1973), Fly Like an Eagle (1976), and Book of Dreams (1977) — to that point appear on this particular release. With popular tunes like “The Joker,” “Jungle Love,” and “Take the Money and Run,” this greatest hits package has truly stood the test of time and introduced countless ears to the often underrated talent of Miller and his buddies.

‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ Pink Floyd (1973), 15 million

The overall innovation of this listening experience resulted in Pink Floyd becoming an international commercial success, following years of being a quality but still somewhat obscure acid/progressive rock band. The flow of the music, transitioning smoothly from one song to another, makes it truly special. Not to mention the production (Alan Parsons earned a Grammy Award for his engineering work) value that was perhaps the most influential part of the album. Songs like “Time,” “Money,” and “Brain Damage/Eclipse” are all examples of the behind-the-scenes genius of a record that spent a total of 957 weeks on the Billboard charts.

‘Greatest Hits,’ Journey (1998), 15 million

Everything a fan of this arena rock outfit can want is all in one place. Sure, there remain issues within the current makeup of the band, and Steve Perry will likely never perform with them again, but the musical magic is still alive and well, no matter who’s singing or getting along. “Don’t Stop Believin'” has blossomed into a rock anthem, while “Open Arms” is a ballad that still might be played during school dances throughout the United States. In addition, this package includes old-school Journey classics like “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Any Way You Want,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”

‘Metallica,’ Metallica (1991), 16 million

Also known as the “Black Album.” The record broke Metallica to the mainstream masses and officially set them apart from the rest of the heavy/thrash metal heap. Impeccably produced and polished by the famed Bob Rock, the band’s fifth album produced six singles, led by “Enter Sandman,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and even a ballad in “Nothing Else Matters” that blew up on radio and MTV. Though a good chunk of Metallica’s old-school die-hards felt the band sold out, the record debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and spent four straight weeks in that spot. It was the fourth album in U.S. history to chart for at least 550 weeks.

‘Physical Graffiti,’ Led Zeppelin (1975), 16 million

Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio release is also a double album. And it won’t be the last time we hear from the band on the list. Just listen, and it’s understandable why many Led Zeppelin fans think Physical Graffiti is the best of the band’s best. “Trampled Under Foot,” “Kashmir,” “Custard Pie,” “In My Time of Dying,” and “The Wanton Song” might be some of the most recognizable tunes from Physical Graffiti, but tracks like the eerily emotional “Ten Years Gone” and whimsical “Down by the Seaside” make it a thoroughly special record.

‘Jagged Little Pill,’ Alanis Morissette (1992), 16 million

Alanis Morissette went from Canadian pop sensation, singing and dancing in shopping malls, to the driving force in ’90s female angst. Morissette’s first album to be released internationally, Jagged Little Pill introduced her to American audiences, and she became an MTV staple. Morissette wrote all the lyrics, while she and lauded songwriter/producer Glen Ballard composed the music together. Her signature “You Oughta Know,” with Dave Navarro on guitar and Flea on bass, and the campy “Ironic” each were top-10 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100, while the album produced six total singles and sold more than 33 million worldwide.

‘The Beatles 1967-1970,’ The Beatles (1973), 17 million

We previously mentioned the counterpart release to the “Red Album.” Well, here it is — aka the “Blue Album” — and, in addition to The Beatles’ hits from Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band penned by Lennon and McCartney, the “Blue Album” includes music from George Harrison (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) and “Octopus’s Garden” by Ringo Starr. Unlike its companion record, this album reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart in the United States. In the end, it’s usually a matter of preference among Beatles’ fans as to which collection is better. So, why not celebrate both?

‘Greatest Hits,’ Elton John (1974), 17 million

Among all the greatness that Elton John and longtime working partner Bernie Taupin have produced, this still rates as the legendary entertainer’s best-selling record in the U.S. It’s also another collection of classic rock songs that seems that should be owned by anybody who is a fan of Sir Elton or pop/traditional rock in general. The 10-song album covers John’s and Taupin’s work from 1970-75, featuring legendary tracks like “Your Song,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Bennie and the Jets.” Unfortunately, the record is out of print, but John has released several other greatest hits packages in the following years.

‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ Bruce Springsteen (1984), 17 million

Though 1975’s Born to Run made The Boss an established rock star, Born in the U.S.A. is his most iconic album. Solidifying his place among the true entertainment giants of the time — and all time, for that matter. From the seven top-10 singles to the memorable cover art, Born in the U.S.A. is an unforgettable piece of work, even though many still don’t get that this is not a flag-waving, patriotic release. The pop-fueled, MTV-friendly “Dancing in the Dark” sold Springsteen to the mainstream masses, while deeper cuts like “No Surrender,” “Working on the Highway,” and “Bobby Jean” take fans back to his rugged early years.

‘Boston,’ Boston (1976), 17 million

At the time, Boston’s self-titled first release was the best-selling debut album ever. However, it was quite the journey just to get interested in making the innovative and bombastic project, which was the brainchild of MIT-student-turned-rocker Tom Scholz and aided by late Boston voice Brad Delp. Thanks to memorable guitar-driven hits “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Foreplay/Long Time,” the album is estimated to have sold more than 20 million internationally, thanks to those songs that remain staples of classic rock radio on the traditional formats and satellite arena.

‘Appetite for Destruction,’ Guns N’ Roses (1987), 18 million

Back in the summer of 1987, hair/glam metal was filling FM radio and days and nights on MTV. Then came this deliciously raunchy, dirty raw debut from a band of misfits ready to take over the hard rock world by blowing the doors off the mainstream music scene. Complete with Axl Rose’s snarling and searing vocals, Slash’s master moments on the Les Paul, and favorites “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and “Paradise City,” Appetite for Destruction reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It’s a hard-charging, emotional musical journey from start to finish that is still as intense today as it was over 35 years ago.

‘Rumours,’ Fleetwood Mac (1977), 20 million

By the time Rumours came out, Fleetwood Mac was a much different sounding and looking band than its early days of the 1960s. Back then, it was a guitar-driven, blues-fueled outfit that never seemed to achieve its just credit. So, it was the band’s 11th album, and second with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in tow, that sent Fleetwood Mac toward mainstream rock superstardom. The demise of that rock power couple’s relationship provided some emotionally charged classics, such as “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain.” Rumours won a Grammy and remains one of the most celebrated and influential rock records of all time.

‘Cracked Rear View,’ Hootie & the Blowfish (1994), 21 million

Is Hootie alternative rock? Or purveyors of straight-up rock and roll meant to be played in a bar while drinking with your buddies? Regardless, the band knocked it out of the park with Cracked Rear View. Hootie & the Blowfish’s debut sat atop the Billboard 200 on five occasions, thanks to top-10 singles “Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be with You,” and “Let Her Cry.” In the grand scheme of things, the band could never truly duplicate its success with Cracked Rear View, but this album remains a special part of 1990s pop culture.

‘The Wall,’ Pink Floyd (1979), 23 million

Pink Floyd had long been considered a progressive and conceptual rock band, but this album was especially bombastic and grandiose regarding production, content, and animosity within the process. This semi-autobiographical work of bassist Roger Waters alerted listeners that “we don’t need no education” while dealing with personal loss and the growing disdain for rock stardom to the point of reinventing one’s self. The Wall houses Floyd classics like “Comfortably Numb,” Run Like Hell,” and “Hey You.” Not to mention underrated gems in “Mother” and “Nobody Home.” Fellow British musician Bob Geldof played the lead role in the movie version.

‘Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II,’ Billy Joel, (1985), 23 million

The Piano Man’s best from 1973-85. It truly is the definitive collection of Joel classics and an ideal place for new listeners to be introduced to one of the great singer/songwriters of all time. In addition to standout Joel favorites like “Only the Good Die Young,” “She’s Always a Woman,” “My Life,” and “Uptown Girl,” the album includes two previously unreleased tracks: “You’re Only Human (Second Wind) and “The Night is Still Young.” It came out in the mid-1980s when Joel was reaching a new generation of fans, who have since passed down his music to the next one.

‘The Beatles,’ Beatles (1968), 24 million

Nope, we’re not done with The Beatles. The “White Album” is a hodge-podge of musical stylings and genres (folk, ska, avant-garde, to name a few). It wasn’t an easy album for the band to make, and its break-up would soon follow. However, there is plenty of greatness to be found in this legendary double album. “Blackbird,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Dear Prudence,” “Helter Skelter,” “Revolution 1,” and “9.” And those just dent the surface. The “White Album” is not for everybody, and plenty of die-hard Beatles fans can’t fully stomach the project. Yet, it didn’t dim the Fab Four’s legacy.

‘Led Zeppelin IV,’ Led Zeppelin (1971), 24 million

Technically, Led Zeppelin’s celebrated fourth album is untitled but has traditionally been referred to as Led Zeppelin IV. Worldwide, it’s the band’s best-selling album, with more than an estimated 37 million copies sold. The record consists of eight songs, and arguably all but one (no offense to “Four Sticks”) are among the band’s undisputed classics. “Black Dog” is one of the best album openers ever, and “Rock and Roll” keeps the fun going. “Misty Mountain Hop” kicks off Side Two, while the epic “When the Levee Breaks” brings it all home with force. Of course, Led Zeppelin IV is also where we find the band’s most recognizable song in “Stairway to Heaven.”

‘Back in Black,’ AC/DC (1980), 25 million

Following the death of Bon Scott, and with new, cigarette-stained-voiced singer Brian Johnson in tow, AC/DC delivered one of the all-time records amid serious adversity. A tribute to Scott, the record featured a more mature AC/DC sound (thanks to the brilliant production of Robert “Mutt” Lange) but was still an unabashed celebration of the way Scott would have wanted things to go. The title track, “Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill,” and rollicking “You Shook Me All Night Long” are just a few of the highlights from an album that is the epitome of “all killer, no filler.”

‘Hotel California,’ Eagles (1975), 26 million

Hotel California is more than just the legendary title track. It’s arguably the Eagles’ most celebrated studio album and was nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy (which it lost to the aforementioned Rumours). However, “New Kid in Town” won the same award for Best Arrangement of Voices, and the title track took home the Record of the Year Grammy. Not to mention, “Life in the Fast Lane” includes a major contribution from Joe Walsh, who made his Eagles’ debut on this album, and “The Last Resort” is one of the band’s more underrated tracks. The Hotel California album went No. 1 in seven different countries.

‘Thriller,’ Michael Jackson (1982), 34 million

When it comes to international album sales, Thriller reigns supreme, with an estimated 70 million copies sold. In the U.S., it remains No. 2, but still, from start to finish, it is one of the greatest pop-rock records ever released. It arrived when pop radio was still relevant, and MTV was about to explode. With classics like “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and the title cut, Jackson showed that a successful pop song could be even more popular with the right music video. Michael Jackson was a special entertainer well before he released Thriller. However, none of his four previous solo records were released during the MTV era, so this essentially turned him into a worldwide phenom and icon.

‘Their Greatest Hits,’ Eagles (1976), 38 million

Yes, that’s right. When it comes to album sales in the United States, this Eagles’ collection of favorites and timeless classics remains No. 1. Spanning the Eagles’ first four studio albums, it was the first to receive platinum status by the RIAA. The record also spent more than 230 weeks on the Billboard 200, thanks to gems like “Take It Easy,” “Already Gone,” Desperado,” and “One of These Nights.” Its overall success can partially be credited to the Eagles’ overall crossover appeal, spanning the rock and country genres. Those tunes are still played on traditional radio stations to this day.

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