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The 100 Most Popular Rock Music Genres, Ranked

List RulesVote 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.

  • 1

    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!

  • 2

    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!

  • 3

    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!

  • 4

    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!

  • 5



    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!

  • 6

    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!

  • 7

    Punk Rock


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

    Rank the best punk rock bands here!

  • 8

    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!

  • 9

    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!

  • 10

    Glam Rock


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

    Rank the best glam rock bands here!

  • 11

    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

    Rank the best new wave bands here!

  • 12

    Folk Rock


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

    Rank the best folk rock bands here!

  • 13

    Arena Rock


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

  • 14

    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!

  • 15

    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!

  • 16

    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

    Rank the best pop punk bands here!

  • 17

    Art Rock


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

    Rank the best art rock bands here!

  • 18

    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!

  • 19

    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!

  • 20

    Hair Metal


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

  • 21

    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

    Rank the best indie rock bands here!

  • 22

    Space Rock


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

    Rank the best space rock bands here!

  • 23

    New Wave of British Heavy Metal


    Popular artists: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Satan, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, Savage, Cloven Hoof, Blitzkrieg, Raven

    Rank the best new wave of British heavy metal bands here!

  • 24

    Electronic Rock


    Popular artists: Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, Devo, Garbage, Starset, Pendulum, The Prodigy, Ratatat, The Killers

    Rank the best electronic rock bands here!

  • 25

    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!