Punk is dead – long live punk! The genre has gone through many iterations in its 40+ years. Who is and who isn’t punk will always be hotly contested, but here are the 25 greatest punk bands of all time.
Blink-182 brought a polished version of pop-punk into the mainstream.
They hit the big time with a pair of Jr. High-clever titled albums, 1999’s Enema of the State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
Hits like “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” are pop punk staples.
Though they disbanded in 2005, they’ve launched a handful of comebacks since 2009. Lead singer Tom Delonge has teased an album for 2023.
24. Sum 41
One of the best punk rock bands of the 2000s, Sum 41 came onto the scene in the waning years of pop punk.
The Canadian band, best known for their 2001 hit “Fat Lip,” released six albums from 2001-2019, most recently Order in Decline.
Heaven and Hell, their seventh record, is still awaiting a release date.
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23. Against Me!
Who would have thought that one of the greatest punk bands could have come from Florida?
Against Me! hails, in fact, from Tom Petty’s hometown of Gainesville.
Active from 1997-2020, some of their most beloved songs include “Thrash Unreal,” “Black Me Out,” and “333.”
One of the best modern punk bands, unfortunately there are no plans for Against Me! to release any new music in the near future.
Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” is one of the defining moments of early 90s West Coast punk.
The band, which rose from the ashes of Operation Ivy, has released nine albums since 1993, most recently 2017’s Trouble Maker.
Like Blink-182 and Sum 41, Rancid has also been teasing a new album.
Green Day might have had the popularity, but the Offspring had the intelligence. At least when they weren’t writing novelty songs.
The “you gotta keep ’em separated” hook on Offspring’s breakout hit “Come Out and Play” might be the best hook of any song…well, ever.
Their 1994 album Smash included that track, in addition to other massive hits like “Self Esteem” and “Gotta Get Away.”
Offspring also found success with 1998’s Americana, which featured “She’s Got Issues,” “Why Don’t You Get a Job,” “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright.”
They’re certainly one of the best punk bands of the 80s.
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Washington, D.C.’s Fugazi is generally considered to be one of the greatest punk bands.
The quartet, led by former Minor Threat lead singer Ian MacKaye, had the punk aesthetic down perfectly, especially in regard to their harsh criticism of the music industry.
Active from 1996-2002, some of their most popular songs include “Waiting Room,” “Shut the Door,” and “Turnover.”
19. Circle Jerks
When vocalist Keith Morris left Black Flag, he formed the legendary Circle Jerks with Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson.
Though all six of their albums are worthwhile, but their debut, 1980’s Group Sex, is their best. It’s one of the benchmarks of hardcore punk.
18. Green Day
Who is the most famous punk band? Many would say Green Day.
In a lot of ways, Green Day are the poster children for modern punk. Their slacker attitude defined Generation X as much as Nirvana.
They were more hardcore in their earlier days, but they shifted to a slightly more polished sound with classic 1994 album Dookie. “Basket Case,” “Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” and “She” are only a sampling of its big hits.
Unlike many bands of that era, Green Day continued to have success after their initial run.
1997’s decidedly un-punk “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” might be their most well-known track, while 2004 comeback album American Idiot is seen by some as their benchmark.
Who is the most successful punk rock band? That’d likely be Green Day.
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17. Husker Du
St. Paul Minnesota legends Husker Du had two distinct phases, one as a hardcore punk band and one with a more alternative-leaning sound. They excelled at both.
Their debut release, 1983 double album Zen Arcade, was the first punk rock concept album. It often appears on Best Albums of the 80s lists.
Unfortunately, the work of the Minutemen is overshadowed by the tragic death of their leader, D. Boon. He died in a car crash at the height of the band’s popularity in 1985.
Known for their compact songs, they expanded the punk vocabulary by adding jazz, funk, and other influences into their unique brand of hardcore punk.
15. Minor Threat
Before there was Fugazi, there was Minor Threat.
Ian MacKaye’s first band was only together for three years, but their impact was felt on nearly every punk band after them.
Though they were as hardcore as you can get, their songs sometimes had interestingly un-punk messages.
For example, “Straight Edge” actually gave the straight edge movement its name. “Out of Step” covers similar themes.
14. Bad Brains
Bad Brains are one of the quintessential hardcore American punk bands.
Their precision and speed were unparalleled, and their raggae inflections and Rastafarian-influenced lyrics set them apart from their peers.
Active into the 2010s, some of their signature songs include “Sailin’ On,” “Right Brigade,” and “Banned in D.C.”
13. The Replacements
Like Husker Du, Minnesota’s other golden children, the Replacements, started out more hardcore and then transformed into a more alternative sound.
An influence on many bands across many genres, from punk to alternative country, their best-known songs include “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “I’ll Be You,” and “Bastards of Young.”
12. Patti Smith
There’s no doubt that Patti Smith is the Queen of Punk.
Smith’s 1975 debut Horses set the tone and paved the way for the punk aesthetic that followed.
Though not as hardcore as some of the bands that came after, her music still encapsulates the punk aesthetic.
She’s a helluva songwriter to boot.
11. Black Flag
One of the greatest punk bands to come out of the 1970s West Coast scene, Black Flag burst onto the scene with their 1981 album Damaged.
Their classic era in the early and mid-80s was led by singer, songwriter, actor, and cultural icon Henry Rollins.
The first English group on this list of greatest punk bands (believe me, there’ll be more), the Buzzcocks were part of the initial wave of punk in the late 1970s.
Led by singer-songwriters Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, their sound was more expansive than a lot of the more hardcore punk of the late 70s and early 80s.
More than just punk, their pop-punk/power pop inclinations were influential on later groups like Blink-182 and Paramore.
9. Dead Kennedys
The Dead Kennedys hardcore punk sound was propelled by the huge personality of band leader Jello Biafra.
Though hailing from the East Coast, they were more influenced by English punk bands like the Sex Pistols.
Their political, “dangerous” lyrics made them the ire of Christians and right-wing politicians of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
They’re so punk that many of their songs have a warning before you can play them on YouTube for offensive content.
The Misfits were the first band to combine punk rock with influences and imagery from horror films.
Led by legendary songwriter Glenn Danzig, their classic albums include Walk Among Us (1982) and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood (1983)
7. The Damned
One of the very first punk rock artists, the Damned ushered in British punk’s first wave with their 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned.
Like many on this greatest punk bands list, their greatness lies in how their sound progressed.
By Machine Gun Etiquette (1979) and The Black Album (1980), they were already adding elements of psychedelic rock, garage rock, and even prog.
6. Bad Religion
The first SoCal punk band, Bad Religion was able to evolve its sound without sacrificing its hardcore foundation.
More than perhaps any of the other greatest punk bands, Bad Religion epitomizes the punk attitude. Their lyrics are filled with harsh critiques of the media, politics, religion, and society.
Bad Religion performed some of the best punk rock songs, including “American Jesus,” “You,” and “Infected.”
Who is considered the king of punk? That’d be Joey Ramone, the driving force behind the Ramones.
The Ramones were one of the first punk bands of the late 70s era. Their short, reckless songs laid the foundation for all punk created in their wake.
One of the forefathers of punk, the genre wouldn’t exist without the influence of late 60s/early 70s hardcore rockers MC5.
At a time when psychedelic excesses were still rampant, MC5 took rock n’ roll back to its pure, simple roots.
If “Kick Out the Jams” isn’t punk, nothing is.
3. Sex Pistols
Who was the first famous punk band? It’d be hard not to say the Sex Pistols. If anyone knows one punk band, it’s them.
Johnny Rotten (vocals), Paul Cook (drums), Steve Jones (guitar), and Sid Vicious (bass) changed the musical landscape in their short time together.
Their only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, is the quintessential punk album.
2. Iggy and the Stooges
Who is the father of punk rock? The easy (and correct) answer is Iggy Pop.
His band the Stooges, who came from the same Detroit milieu as the MC5 and Alice Cooper, laid the groundwork for the genre.
Without the Stooges, punk wouldn’t exist, period.
Iggy Pop continued making punk-inflected rock in the 70s as the burgeoning genre he created took off.
1. The Clash
Who is the number 1 punk rock band of all time? We say the Clash, the self-proclaimed “Only Band That Matters.”
Like all the greatest punk bands, they started out more reckless and hardcore before expanding their sound.
For the Clash, that included reggae, rockabilly, roots, dub, and many others. More than just a punk group, the Clash basically created their own genre.
The group, led by two incredible songwriters in Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, only released six albums from 1976-1985.
Their creative peak was 1979 double album London Calling, though they found more mainstream success with 1982’s Combat Rock, which included mega-hits “Should I Stay or Should I Go and “Rock the Casbah.”
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