The future of music

40 Best-Selling Albums of All Time

September 27, 2023
best-selling albums of all time

Discovering the best-selling albums gives insight into the soundtrack of generations.

If you’ve ever wondered which records have captivated the world’s heart and wallet the most, you’re in the right place.

Let’s journey through these iconic milestones in music history.

1. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Released in 1982 by Epic Records, produced by Quincy Jones, and written by Jackson, it features a mix of pop, R&B, funk, and rock songs. 

Thriller includes some of Jackson’s most iconic tracks such as “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and the title track “Thriller”.

The album was a massive commercial success, becoming the best-selling album of all time with an estimated 70 million copies sold worldwide. 

It also won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, and the album’s music videos revolutionized the music industry with their cinematic production and choreography.

2. “Back in Black” by AC/DC

Back in Black is the seventh studio album by the Australian rock band AC/DC, released in 1980. 

It is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 50 million copies sold worldwide. 

The album was a tribute to the band’s former lead singer, Bon Scott, who had died earlier that year. 

The band recruited new lead singer Brian Johnson and continued to create music that would become a classic.

3. “The Bodyguard (soundtrack)” by Whitney Houston

The album was released in November 1992, and it went on to become one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, with over 45 million copies sold worldwide. 

The album features several hit singles, including Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. 

Other popular tracks include “I Have Nothing”, “Run to You”, and “Queen of the Night”.

The album also features contributions from other artists, such as Kenny G, Curtis Stigers, and Lisa Stansfield.

4. “The Dark Side of The Moon” by Pink Floyd

The album’s themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, explored through the use of innovative studio techniques and elaborate instrumental compositions. 

The Dark Side of the Moon is widely regarded as a masterpiece of progressive rock, and its success helped cement Pink Floyd’s status as one of the most influential and enduring bands in music history.

5. “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” by Eagles

Released in 1976, the album features the band’s biggest hits from their early years, including “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Desperado”, “Already Gone”, “One of These Nights”, and “Best of My Love”.

The album was a huge commercial success, becoming the best-selling album of the 20th century in the United States with over 44 million copies sold worldwide. 

It spent a total of 460 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and has been certified 38x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

6. “Hotel California” by Eagles

Hotel California was produced by Bill Szymczyk and recorded at the Criteria and Record Plant studios in Miami and Los Angeles, respectively.

The album features hit songs such as the title track “Hotel California”, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978, and “New Kid in Town”, which won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices. 

Other popular songs from the album include “Life in the Fast Lane”, “Wasted Time”, and “Victim of Love”.

7. “Come On Over” by Shania Twain

Come On Over features 16 tracks, including hits such as “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”, and “You’re Still the One”. 

The album was a massive commercial success, selling over 40 million copies worldwide, and becoming the best-selling album by a female artist and the best-selling country music album.

The album received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Twain’s songwriting, vocals, and the album’s blend of genres.

8. “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac

The album was recorded in California in 1976 and was produced by the band along with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut. 

Rumours feature the classic lineup of Fleetwood Mac, consisting of Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. 

The album is known for its emotional themes of love, heartbreak, and betrayal, which were inspired by the tumultuous personal relationships between the band members at the time.

9. “Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack” by Bee Gees

Released in 1977, Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack is the soundtrack album to the film of the same name, which stars John Travolta. 

The album features music by the Bee Gees as well as other artists such as KC and the Sunshine Band, Tavares, and Yvonne Elliman.

The Bee Gees’ songs on the album became huge hits, including “Stayin’ Alive”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, and “Night Fever”.

10. “Led Zeppelin IV” by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin IV was a critical and commercial success, reaching number two on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and selling over 37 million copies worldwide. It has been certified 23 times platinum in the US alone. 

The album features a mix of blues-inspired rock and hard rock, along with some acoustic and folk elements. 

The album’s iconic cover art, designed by artist Barrington Colby Momson, features the four symbols that represent each band member and has become a cultural touchstone.

The album features some of Led Zeppelin’s most iconic tracks, including “Stairway to Heaven”, which is often considered among the greatest rock songs.

11. “Bad” by Michael Jackson

The album was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 35 million copies worldwide. 

It received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Jackson’s vocal performance and the album’s production. 

The album was produced by Quincy Jones and Jackson and features some of Jackson’s most well-known hits, including “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, and the title track “Bad”.

12. “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf

The album was produced by Todd Rundgren and Jim Steinman, with Steinman writing all of the songs. 

The album features a unique blend of hard rock and operatic vocals and was inspired by Steinman’s love of 1960s rock and roll, as well as classical music. 

The album’s title track, “Bat Out of Hell”, is a seven-minute epic that has become one of Meat Loaf’s signature songs.

13. “Jagged Little Pill” by Alanis Morissette

The album is considered to be a landmark release in the alternative rock genre, as it blends elements of pop, rock, and folk music, and features confessional lyrics that deal with themes of love, anger, and self-discovery.

The album was produced by Glen Ballard and recorded in Los Angeles, California. 

It features the hit singles “You Oughta Know”, “Hand in My Pocket”, and “Ironic”, which helped to propel the album to commercial success.

14. “Falling Into You” by Celine Dion

Released in 1996 by Columbia Records, the album is known for its pop and soft rock sound and features a variety of ballads and upbeat tracks. 

It was a commercial success, reaching the top of the charts in many countries and selling over 32 million copies worldwide.

The album includes the hit singles “Because You Loved Me”, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, and “All by Myself”. 

15. “21” by Adele

The album features a blend of genres such as pop, soul, and blues, and its themes revolve around heartbreak, love, and relationships. 

It was a commercial success, topping the charts in over 30 countries and becoming the best-selling album of 2011 and 2012. 

The album also won several awards, including six Grammy Awards, and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the year. 

The lead single, “Rolling in the Deep”, became a worldwide hit and won four Grammy Awards.

16. “1” by The Beatles

It was released in 2000, nearly 30 years after the band’s breakup, and quickly became a bestseller, topping charts all over the world.

What made 1 particularly unique was that it was the first time that all of The Beatles’ number one hits were compiled onto a single album. 

The 27 tracks spanned the band’s entire career, from “Love Me Do” in 1962 to “The Long and Winding Road” in 1970.

17. “Metallica” by Metallica

The album’s hit singles include “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, and “Nothing Else Matters”, which helped propel Metallica into mainstream popularity. 

The band’s frontman James Hetfield’s emotionally charged lyrics and raw vocals, coupled with Kirk Hammett’s searing guitar solos and Lars Ulrich’s powerful drumming, created a hard-hitting and emotionally intense album that resonated with fans across the world. 

Metallica remains among the most critically acclaimed and best-selling albums of all time, solidifying Metallica’s place as one of the greatest rock bands in history.

18. “Let’s Talk About Love” by Celine Dion

It was produced by David Foster, who had worked with Dion on her previous album, Falling into You

The album features a mix of pop ballads and uptempo dance tracks.

It includes Dion’s signature power ballads such as “The Reason”, “Immortality”, and “My Heart Will Go On”, which was the theme song for the movie “Titanic” and became one of Dion’s most successful and iconic songs.

19. “Legend” by Bob Marley & The Wailers

It was released by Island Records on May 8, 1984, and features some of Marley’s most iconic and influential songs.

The album includes 14 tracks, which were hand-picked by Marley’s wife, Rita, and Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell. 

The songs were chosen to represent the breadth and depth of Marley’s work, from his early ska and rocksteady roots to his later, more political and spiritual music. 

Some of the most popular tracks on the album include “One Love”, “No Woman No Cry”, “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Stir It Up”, and “Redemption Song”.

20. “The Immaculate Collection” by Madonna

The album is a compilation of 15 of Madonna’s biggest hits from the 1980s, along with two new tracks that perfectly encapsulate her eclectic style and fearless creativity.

From the early days of “Holiday” and “Lucky Star” to the provocative and controversial “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl”, the album takes listeners on a journey through Madonna’s chart-topping career. 

It also features some of her most legendary and timeless songs, including “Vogue,” “Papa Don’t Preach”, and “Express Yourself”. 

The Immaculate Collection was an instant commercial success, topping the charts in many countries and selling over 30 million copies worldwide.

21. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles

Released in 1969, Abbey Road was a commercial success, reaching the top of the charts in both the UK and the US, and selling millions of copies worldwide. 

Its impact on popular culture and music cannot be overstated, and it has been recognized as a major influence on countless musicians across multiple music genres.

The album features 17 tracks, including the classic opening song “Come Together,” which remains one of the band’s most recognizable and enduring tracks.

22. “Dangerous” by Michael Jackson

Dangerous was a commercial success, selling over 30 million copies worldwide and earning numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. 

One of the standout tracks on the album is “Black or White”, which features a guitar solo by Slash and a memorable music video that became a cultural touchstone of the 1990s. 

The song’s message of racial equality and unity resonated with audiences around the world and helped to cement Jackson’s reputation as a cultural icon and advocate for social justice.

23. “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns N’ Roses

The album features a raw, aggressive sound that combined elements of hard rock, heavy metal, and punk rock, creating a sound that was both groundbreaking and irresistible. 

The album’s themes often centered around drugs, sex, and violence, reflecting the band’s experiences growing up in the rough-and-tumble streets of Los Angeles.

However, despite the often controversial subject matter, the band’s music was also characterized by a sense of vulnerability and introspection, with songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” showcasing a softer, more melodic side of the band.

24. “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

Released in 1984, the album became one of Springsteen’s most successful and popular works, spawning several hit singles and solidifying his reputation as one of the most important voices in rock music. 

The title track, “Born in the U.S.A.” became an anthem for the working class and a symbol of American pride and patriotism, despite its lyrics being a critique of the Vietnam War and the mistreatment of veterans upon their return home.

25. “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits

Brothers in Arms was notable for its groundbreaking use of digital technology, with the album being one of the first to be recorded and mixed entirely in digital format.

This allowed for a level of clarity and precision in the sound that was previously unheard of in rock music.

The album’s themes often centered around war, love, and the complexities of the human experience.

The title track, “Brothers in Arms”, is a haunting tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in World War II.

26. “Supernatural” by Santana

The album features a wide variety of musical styles, blending elements of rock, Latin, blues, and pop to create a sound that was both eclectic and accessible. 

It also features collaborations with several popular musicians, including Rob Thomas, Lauryn Hill, and Dave Matthews, among others. 

The album’s success was due in large part to its hit singles, including “Smooth”, featuring Rob Thomas on vocals, which became one of the biggest hits of the late 1990s.

27. “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones

The album has been certified diamond in the United States, meaning it has sold over 10 million copies in the US, and it has sold over 28 million copies worldwide. 

The album features a blend of jazz, country, folk, and pop influences, and it was produced by Arif Mardin.

The album includes the hit single “Don’t Know Why”, which reached number 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. 

The album also includes other popular tracks such as “Come Away with Me”, “Feelin’ the Same Way”, and “Turn Me On”.

28. “Music Box” by Mariah Carey

Music Box was Mariah Carey’s third studio album and marked a shift in her sound towards a more pop-oriented and ballad-heavy approach. 

The album features production from Carey herself and Walter Afanasieff, who had previously worked on Carey’s hit ballads “Vision of Love” and “Love Takes Time”.

The album’s lead single, “Dreamlover” was a commercial success, reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming one of Carey’s signature songs. 

The album’s second single, “Hero” also reached number one on the Hot 100 and became a popular ballad, often played at graduations and other ceremonies.

29. “The Eminem Show” by Eminem

The album’s theme rolls around Eminem’s personal struggles, as well as his criticisms of American society and politics.

The album also includes controversial lyrics about celebrities, such as Christina Aguilera and Moby, and sparked a public feud between Eminem and Moby.

The Eminem Show has been certified diamond in the United States, and it sold over 27 million copies worldwide. 

The album is widely regarded as one of Eminem’s best works and a landmark album in the rap genre.

30. “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears

…Baby One More Time was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and remaining in the top 10 for several months.

The album has been certified 14x platinum in the United States, meaning it has sold over 14 million copies, and it has sold over 26 million copies worldwide.

The album’s success helped establish Spears as a pop icon and a leading figure in the teen pop genre.

31. “Nevermind” by Nirvana

Nevermind was a groundbreaking album that changed the face of rock music. 

Its raw and stripped-down sound, combined with the catchy hooks and anthemic choruses, helped define the grunge movement and set the template for alternative rock in the 1990s.

The album’s lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, became an instant classic and an anthem for disaffected youth around the world. 

Its iconic opening riff and Cobain’s distinctive vocals helped propel the song to the top of the charts and made it an enduring cultural touchstone.

32. “No Jacket Required” by Phil Collins

No Jacket Required was a commercial and critical success, reaching number one on both the US Billboard 200 chart and the UK Albums chart. 

The album won three Grammy Awards in 1986, including Album of the Year, has been certified diamond in the United States, and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.

The album’s themes center around love and relationships, with Collins’ signature blend of heartfelt ballads and upbeat, catchy pop-rock tracks.

33. “The Marshall Mathers LP” by Eminem

The Marshall Mathers LP is a lyrical powerhouse that displays the explosive talent and raw energy of one of the most influential rappers of all timeEminem

Released in 2000, the album is a tour-de-force of rap, hip-hop, and pop influences, woven together in a tapestry of intense beats, catchy hooks, and incisive lyrics.

 From the explosive opening track “Kill You” to the searing social commentary of “The Way I Am”, The Marshall Mathers LP is a gut-wrenching exploration of Eminem’s personal struggles with fame, addiction, and relationships.

34. “Hybrid Theory” by Linkin Park

Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. 

Released in 2000, Hybrid Theory was a commercial and critical success, reaching number two on the US Billboard 200 chart and receiving multiple Grammy nominations. 

The album’s hit singles, such as “Crawling”, “One Step Closer”, and “In the End”, are still regarded as classics of the early 2000s, with their mix of heavy guitars, electronic beats, and rap-infused vocals creating a unique and unforgettable sound.

35. “Slippery When Wet” by Bon Jovi

If you’re looking for a bestselling album that captures the spirit of the 1980s and the power of hard rock and heavy metal, then Slippery When Wet is a must-listen. 

From its anthemic hit singles to its driving energy and unforgettable hooks, it’s an album that continues to inspire and resonate with fans of all generations.

It was also nominated for multiple Grammy Awards and won Best Hard Rock Performance for the song “Livin’ on a Prayer”.

36. “Tapestry” by Carole King

From its soaring melodies to its intimate and personal lyrics, this album is a true masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

Released in 1971, Tapestry was an instant hit, catapulting Carole King to stardom and becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. 

The album’s themes of love, heartbreak, and self-discovery spoke to a generation of listeners, capturing the spirit of the early 1970s and setting the stage for a new era of singer-songwriter music.

37. “Faith” by George Michael

One of the key strengths of Faith is George Michael’s songwriting.

His lyrics are introspective and personal, exploring themes of love, loss, and self-discovery with a raw and honest intensity that resonates with listeners today.

In addition to its musical and lyrical strengths, Faith also broke new ground in terms of fashion and style. 

George Michael’s iconic leather jacket and shades became a defining image of the 1980s, and his music videos for songs like “Faith” and “Father Figure” set a new standard for visual style and artistry.

38. “Millennium” by Backstreet Boys

From the opening track “Larger Than Life”, with its bombastic beats and triumphant vocals, to the soaring ballad “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”, the album captures the full range of emotions and experiences that defined the late 90s and early 2000s.

But what sets Millennium apart from other boy band albums of the era is its impeccable production and musicianship. 

The album’s producers, including Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, crafted a sound that was both cutting-edge and timeless, blending electronic beats and synth hooks with live instruments and the Backstreet Boys’ iconic harmonies.

39. “Spice” by Spice Girls

Spice is not just an album – it’s a cultural phenomenon that captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people around the world in the mid-1990s.

Released in 1996, this debut album by British girl group the Spice Girls became an instant classic, selling over 23 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. 

But Spice is more than just a collection of hit singles – it’s a statement of empowerment and inclusivity that resonated with fans, making it among the best-selling albums.

40. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a best-selling album that has earned its place in music history as a true masterpiece of 70s rock. 

Its timeless melodies, soulful lyrics, and powerful storytelling continue to inspire and delight fans of all ages, cementing Elton John’s place as one of the greatest musical artists of all time. 

The album features several hit songs, including the title track, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Candle in the Wind”, and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”. 

Wrapping Up Our List of the Best-Selling Albums

The best-selling albums of all time are a testament to the power of music to captivate and inspire audiences around the world. 

From Michael Jackson’s Thriller to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, these albums have become cultural touchstones and continue to influence and shape the sound of popular music. 

Whether it’s rock, pop, or hip-hop, these albums have transcended genre and time to become beloved classics that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

You may also like: Best-Selling Music Artists of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

view profile

best saxophone players
Previous Story

45 Best Saxophone Players Ever (Top Jazz Saxophonists)

dutch rappers
Next Story

25 Best Dutch Rappers of All Time

Latest from Entertainment & Playlists