The 100 Most Popular Rock Music Genres, Ranked 

Ranker Music
Updated March 16, 2020 6.2k votes 472 voters 4.2k views 100 items

List Rules Vote up the rock subgenres that get your head banging and your fist in the air

Update: Follow Ranker's official New Rock 2020 playlist on Spotify!

The most popular rock genres embody the rollicking, freewheeling spirit of rock ’n’ roll in unique and fascinating ways. Whether it’s the head-banging riffs of metal or the drone of goth rock that makes you want to run and put your eyeliner on, all types of rock music connect with audiences on a personal, visceral level.

Rock music genres have always been fluid, with the best artists mixing and matching and forming new styles by forging ahead and just making the music they want to hear. Artists like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, for instance, took the parts of punk rock and metal that appealed to them most and helped launch the whole grunge rock movement of the early 1990s.

The list of rock genres is as long as the list of musicians willing to pick up a guitar and try something new. Rock music is not necessarily defined by the driving bass lines and pounding drums of thrash metal, just as it is not defined by the synthesizers and drum machines of the new wave. There is a genre of rock music for any music fan. 

So which are the rock genres that best capture the spirit of rock ’n’ roll? Which genres get your heading bobbing to the beat and your fist in the air with devil horns up? Vote below on the best subgenres of rock music.

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Psychedelic Rock

Popular artists: Tame Impala, The Doors, Grateful Dead, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Love, The Byrds, Iron Butterfly, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Rank the best psychedelic rock bands here!

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Progressive Rock

Popular artists: Rush, Dream Theater, Soft Machine, Porcupine Tree, Kansas, Gong, Supertramp, Spock's Beard, Roger Waters, The Nice

Rank the best progressive rock bands here!

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Heavy Metal

Popular artists: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Slipknot, Deep Purple

Rank the best heavy metal bands here!

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Alternative Rock

Popular artists: Beck, Weezer, R.E.M., Foo Fighters, The Cure, Muse, The Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Pixies, The Smiths

Rank the best alternative rock bands here!

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Popular artists: Nirvana, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Everclear, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Melvins, L7

Rank the best grunge bands here!

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Soft Rock

Popular artists: Billy Joel, Air Supply, Hall & Oates, Chicago, Elton John, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Carpenters

Rank the best soft rock bands here!

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Blues Rock

Popular aritsts: Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Muddy Waters, Gary Clark Jr.

Rank the best blues rock bands here!

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Punk Rock

Popular artists: Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Ramones, Misfits, Black Flag, The Stooges, Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Rancid, NOFX

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Space Rock

Popular artists: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Eloy, Ozric Tentacles, Gong, Failure, Porcupine Tree, Farflung, Nektar, Spiritualized

Rank the best space rock bands here!

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Glam Rock

Popular artists: David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Queen, Slade, Sweet, Motley Crue, Poison, The Darkness, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard

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Art Rock

Popular artists: Genesis, Kate Bush, Yes, The Moody Blues, Brian Eno, Electric Light Orchestra, Greg Lake, The Who, Talking Heads, Lou Reed

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Acid Rock

Popular artists: Grateful Dead, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, The Seeds, Grace Slick

Rank the best acid rock bands here!

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Folk Rock

Popular artists: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull

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Pop Punk

Popular artists: Green Day, blink-182, Sum 41, Paramore, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard, All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, The Offspring

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Arena Rock

Popular artists: Journey, Queen, Styx, Europe, Boston, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Kansas, Night Ranger, Survivor

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Roots Rock

Popular artists: John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ry Cooder, Los Lobos, Dire Straits, Tom Petty, Wilco, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chris Isaak, The Doobie Brothers

Rank the best roots rock bands here!

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New Wave

Popular artists: The B-52's, The Human League, Blondie, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Cars, INXS, Culture Club, The Pretenders, Simple Minds

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Alternative Metal

Popular artists: Tool, Korn, Alice in Chains, System of a Down, Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Three Days Grace

Rank the best alternative metal bands here!

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Garage Rock

Popular artists: The White Stripes, The Sonics, MC5, Black Lips, The Kingsmen, The Raconteurs, The Kinks, The Kills, Kings of Leon, FIDLAR

Rank the best garage rock bands here!

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Hair Metal

Popular artists: Whitesnake, Poison, Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Warrant, Dokken, Skid Row, Van Halen

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Experimental Rock

Popular artists: David Bowie, Death Grips, Tom Waits, Björk, Frank Zappa, Throbbing Gristle, Swans, Portishead, The Residents, Nurse with Wound

Rank the best experimental rock bands here!

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Funk Rock

Popular artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, George Clinton, Faith No More, Primus, Lenny Kravitz, Wild Cherry, Bootsy Collins, Dan Reed Network, Grand Funk Railroad

Rank the best funk rock bands here!

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Indie Rock

Popular artists: Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, The Strokes, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, Sonic Youth, The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

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Surf Rock

Popular artists: The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Surfaris, The Bel-Airs, The Lively Ones, Brian Wilson, The Challengers, The Atlantics, The Trashmen

Rank the best surf rock bands here!

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Popular artists: Oasis, Pulp, Blur, Radiohead, Suede, The Stone Roses, Supergrass, Coldplay, Placebo, Cast

Rank the best Britpop bands here!