10 Best Albums Of The 1990s

What is the best album of the 1990s? Thousands of you voted, and the results are in - see the full top 10 here.

Ultimate Guitar

The 1990s was a magical time for music.

While big business beamed commercials at us from an ever-growing fleet of cable-connected TVs, music and the counter-culture rebelled with all the energy of the early punk movement.

Perhaps it's ironic that the best-loved records achieved their fame through major record labels, but whatever the medium, it was an inspiring time.

Most of us will remember the 1990s one way or another; either as an adult and seeing these bands for themselves, or as a kid and seeing them through the commercial lens of TV. Either way, we all remember the rush of seeing real underground music breaking through - and there were plenty of surprises from genres we didn't expect as the decade wore on.

On Wednesday we asked you to nominate and vote for your favorite albums of the 1990s. Thousands of you took part, and now the results are in.

Who released the best album of the 1990s? Read on to find out.

10. Nirvana "Nevermind" (1991)

Nirvana purists might find "Nevermind" too clean-cut and polished, but there's no denying it sparked a revolution. It knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts, and peeled the lid on a world of underground rock waiting to be discovered by the mainstream.

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9. Green Day "Dookie" (1994)

Their early fans branded Green Day as sell outs when they signed to Reprise Records for "Dookie", but the resulting record didn't skimp on punk integrity. It was fast, exciting, young, and the perfect antidote to increasingly commercial times.

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8. Megadeth "Rust In Peace" (1990)

Dave Mustaine had already made his name as part of the Metallica lineup, but it took this album - their fourth LP - to break Megadeth into the metal mainstream. It also marked the first time they got through an album recording without firing the producer before the end.

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7. Radiohead "OK Computer" (1997)

One of music's great ironies could be how Thom Yorke warns against our technological future on a bed of cutting-edge electronic production. Almost every inch of this record is cold, frightening and bleak - a set of emotions that few could emulate again, including Radiohead themselves.

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6. Alice In Chains "Dirt" (1992)

It's a wonder this album was ever finished. Singer Layne Staley would shoot heroin in front of everyone in the studio, then get mad when people told his to clean up; two other members battled drink problems, and Jerry Cantrell suffered from depression following the death of his mother and best friend. "I was going through a tough time, everyone was, but that's what made the album stronger and more intense," he later said.

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5. Tool "Aenima" (1996)

To think an album as experimental and dark as this went to number 2 on the Billboard chart is incredible. The recording might be looser and fuzzier than later releases, but that's part of why many Tool fans still adore it.

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4. Pearl Jam "Ten" (1991)

"Ten" may have been as instrumental in bringing alt-rock to the masses as Nirvana's breakthrough with "Nevermind". Most of the songs started as instrumental jams, with singer Eddie Vedder adding lyrics about his experience of depression and homelessness later.

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3. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (1991

On prior album "Mother's Milk", the band felt restricted by its producer Michael Beinhorn who pushed for Anthony Kiedis to sing radio-friendly lyrics. With this album, producer Rick Rubin took them to an old mansion and encouraged them to be themselves. The result was an honest, authentic record that stands out as one of their best

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2. Rage Against The Machine "Rage Against The Machine" (1992)

If the burning monk on the cover didn't signal the political motivation behind this record, Zach De La Rocha's fiery vocals certainly did. They had a rare anger and urgency that commanded attention, and Tom Morello's experimental guitar taught a whole generation that their studio equipment could do things they had never imagined.

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1. Metallica "Metallica" A.K.A. "The Black Album" (1991)

Metallica's fifth album took a step away from their fast thrash metal roots, but it was hard to complain when their new sound was so beautifully timeless. To date, it is the best-selling album of the SoundScan era with over 30 million units sold.

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That's the end of your top 10 albums of the 1990s. Which one is your personal favorite, and what would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

469 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Oh, the lack of Siamese Dream... how disturbing. Anyways, I know it was a poll, so bitching about it makes no sense. The list is pretty good though.
    "Who released the best album of the 2000s?" C'mon guys...
    It would take exactly one extra read-through to notice a mistake that big. They wouldn't even need to hire an editor, just make it a habit to double-check the article with an extra read-through.
    I don't think that's UG's policy, given the amount of typos in almost every single article
    Not bad, but it's mostly just exceedingly commercial stuff. I don't deny that the Black Album was great, but Number 1 from the 90s? Doubtful. Also, I hate to be the one hipster in the room, but Neutral Milk Hotel, My Bloody Valentine, Dream Theater, Sonic Youth, and Soundgarden get nowhere near the respect they deserve.
    Any one calling you a hipster because of the bands you listed needs to be slapped.
    NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL. FUCK YES. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is easily top 5. See also: Failure - Fantastic Planet
    it IS #1, regardless of what anyone's opinion of its "artistic merit" it is still the number one selling album of the Soundscan era (in 1991 they changed the method in which record sales were tracked to be more accurate referred to as the beginning of the soundscan era). No other album since '90 till today has sold that many copies. That album was a milestone in what any band could achieve as well as being wildly popular immediately upon its release and even up until today- still inspiring countless kids to pick up a guitar, bass, or drums. Its a flawless album, and just because the songs are good, structured very well and have memorable melodies does not make it uncool compared to their early stuff.
    mikel123 - re-read what the list is titled: "10 best albums of the 1990's" best refers to quality. "most popular" refers to sales. Best means that people think it's a great album, not that tons of people like it. As for the later portion of what you said, the album is far from "flawless", in fact, I can't find a single aspect of the album that I think was done well at all. Their early stuff is clearly better. I was inspired by Iron Maiden, Pantera, and Death to pick up a guitar. The Black Album actually served as a detriment to my inspiration as a musician.
    Darth Wader
    Pretty good list, though #9 & #10 are my favorites. Here is my top 50: 1. Green Day: Dookie 2. Nirvana: Nevermind 3. Red Hot Chili Peppers: BloodSugarSexMagik 4. Pearl Jam: Ten 5. Weezer: Blue Album 6. Rage Against The Machine: S/T 7. Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness 8. The Beastie Boys: Ill Communication 9. Nirvana: In Utero 10. Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary 11. Radiohead: OK Computer 12. Blink 182: Enema Of The State 13. R.E.M.: Automatic For The People 14. Metallica: The Black Album 15. Counting Crows: August & Everything After 16. Alice In Chains: Dirt 17. STP: Core 18. Soundgarden: Superunknown 19. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream 20. No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom 21. Guns N Rose: Use Your Illusion I & II 22. Foo Fighters: The Colour & The Shape 23. NIN: The Downward Spiral 24. Live: Throwing Copper 25. Sublime: S/T 26. Presidents Of The United States Of America: S/T 27. Pearl Jam: Vs. 28. Garbage: S/T 29. Ben Folds Five: Whatever And Ever Amen 30. Reel Big Fish: Turn The Radio Off 31. U2: Actung Baby 32. The Cure: Wish 33. Foo Fighters: S/T 34. Beck: Mellow Gold 35. Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger 36. STP: Purple 37. Collective Soul: Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid 38. DC Talk: Jesus Freak 39. Nirvana: Unplugged In NY 40. Oasis: (Whats The Story) Morning Glory? 41. Goo Goo Dolls: Dizzy Up The Girl 42. Green Day: Nimrod 43. Bush: Sixteen Stone 44. Weezer: Pinkerton 45. Hole: Live Through This 46. Blink 182: Dude Ranch 47. R.E.M.: Out Of Time 48. Soul Asylum: Grave Dancers Union 49. Judgment Night Soundtrack 50. Radiohead: Pablo Honey
    You've put way too much thought into this..
    Brilliant list. I only wish I could tame my ADHD for long enough to sit and consider my favorite albums. There is no way I will ever learn to sweep.
    Darth Wader
    In my haste, I forgot to add Rancid's ...And Out Come The Wolves, which was one of my favorites.
    dude you need Pantera and Megadeth -_- otherwise very very well thought out, although it's mainly ALL alternative.
    wow. your clearly not a real music fan... i don't think i could name 50 albums of the 90s, but i'd consider that a good thing. You've probably got a massive music collection of cds right??
    "Clearly not a real music fan..." yet names 50 albums. PLEASE elaborate. Second thought, don't.
    Your logic suggests that the less music you listen to, the more of a fan you are? So do you only listen to one song or something? You've got it backwards dumbass...
    YOU are not a real music fan. Seriously, that comment proves it. I will back that up with impeccable logic from my own brain tubes dudes, ****ing come at me bitch. FUCKING BITCH!
    Insanity ninja
    Bro, umad. Edit: Back on topic, that list is great. I counted 43 out of 50 of those albums in my collection. And I'm still not sure why I don't have a hard copy of Siamese Dream. TO AMAZON!
    Great list, and I love that you're the first one here to include Automatic for the people! And it's nice that you include live albums too! Only criticism I have is that you apperantly included Pablo Honey from Radiohead, but not The Bends. Seriously, how can you desclude an album with "Fake plastic trees", "Planet Telex", and "Street spirit", for an album with only had two truly memorable songs, "Creep", and "Blowout"? IMHO, almost all songs on The Bends (discluding "Sulk", and "Bones") are better than "Creep".
    Darth Wader
    I actually have to agree with you. I like The Bends much better than Pablo Honey. But I proofread my list like Ultimate Guitar (which is to say I did not haha). The Bends is a great CD.
    Use your illusion I and II were probably the best of all imo rust in peace should be way higher though
    IMO, Pantera is too big of an influence on todays music not to deserve a spot. CFH or VDOP, doesnt matter which. Other than that, Ill crank it up & jam any of those albums, besides radio head.
    Pantera's 90s albums are some of the worst they ever made, and some of the worst in the entirety of Metal. It doesn't matter how much influence they had on all the crappy wannabe-Metal trends that have popped up since then, they don't deserve any spot.
    I've seen worst lists.
    Yup, Where the **** is spice girls first album ? "Ill tell you what want, what you really really want, so tell me what you want, what you really want, i wanna ha i wanna ha i wanna ha!"
    Not a bad list, again it's very tough to pick a top 10 and not have people freak out but I think this is a decent list
    Use your Illusion?
    Watch out, dude, you're going to get -25 in a couple of minutes by anti-GNR hipsters.
    So people who think GNR sucks are hipsters? Call me a hipster but Buckethead is by far the best musician to come out of GNR, and one of two good ones, the other being Bumblefoot.
    yeah right and chinese democracy was their best album, paul mccartney's dead and breaking dawn should win the oscar for best film...
    The black album?? Excuse me while I go throw up
    Don't mind it, UG's lists are just an infinite circlejerk of 10 bands. In fact, the only reason Led Zeppelin or Hendrix aren't on this list is because they had already broke up/died around the 90's.
    lol wouldn't it have been funny if they were like "#5 is Led Zeppelin's entire discography remastered in the early 90's and #4 is Jimi Hendrix's Greatest Hits Reissue" ahh good ol UG would find a way to piss people of someway.
    Yeah I was scrolling through the list thinking "thank God the black album isn't on this" then I scrolled one further... I'm a metallica fan it's not like I'm hating on them for the sake of it but it was no way the best album of the 90s.
    Go screw yourself, while you're at it. Whether you like it or not, it's one of the most popular modern Metal albums to date.
    It might be popular, but that does not make it a good album
    okay, in terms of "metal" whats not good about it? The Black Album is concerned a "flawless" modern metal classic by literally everyone in the music business. But I guess we should just take your opinion for it instead. I'm not saying you should like it. I am saying you should RESPECT it.
    link no1
    I like the Black Album...Then again I don't shit my pants and hide under the bed if something is a little different.
    I feel like responding to EVERYONE in this group of responses - Michaelleo93 - I agree, Black Album is terrible. crazysam23_Atax - argumentum ad populem is the height of hypocrisy in music opinions. After all, Nicki Minaj is massively popular. Justin Bieber is massively popular... does that make any of their music good? Similarly, Metallica (the album) may be popular, but that is no indication of quality. Burkz - the summarized version of what I said, so I agree. SIEGE312 - I'd take St. Anger over Black Album any day. St. Anger is bad, sure, but it didn't actively ruin the metal scene. Black Album made bands sell out, it made bands split up, it made bands stay in the underground their entire careers. St. Anger just made people laugh and think "what are they thinking?". We knew EXACTLY what Metallica was thinking with Black Album "how can we get more money?" GenerationKILL - I'm a musician. I think it's a horrible album. Therefore, not "literally everyone" in the music business considers it a classic. You're saying I should respect it, but I can never respect that album, for the reasons I stated above, namely that it actively tried to "kill the metal". So many Thrash bands split up in the 90's. Why? Because they refused to sell out. third(eye - Agreed. link no1 - first of all, it's the principle of the thing. Secondly, it's different, but it's also bad. People hated the fact that Metallica became bad, not the fact that they became different.
    My lord. You're blaming Metallica for making bands split up, for making bands sell out, for making bands stay in the underground, and for actively trying to "kill the metal"? Wow. You sure give them a lot of credit! Hell, I'd actually be pretty impressed if they set out to do all those things and were successful. It would just show how silly and completely flaky all the other bands and fans were. "The principle of the thing" is changing your sound and how you write and produce songs. Some call it evolution. Others call it selling out. I say "who the hell cares?" If you like the album, cool, if you don't, also cool. But I think you're reading WAAAYYYYY too deeply into what they were doing.
    These "Top __of the __" lists bring out a lot of people who think their opinion IS fact.
    I see where you're comin from qrEE. While I don't agree that it was a catalyst on that great a scale, I think it was a contributing factor that changed a lot. Just saying there were plenty of sell-out bands that were branded metal in the 80's too, just as there is today, that's just a byproduct of the music industry.
    "Considered flawless by literally everyone in the music business"? WHOA, there Bronco. That is so completely untrue and over generalized that it actually gave me an instant migraine.
    Second Rate
    Generation KILL, get off of your high horse there, fella. How many songs off of the Black Album can you remember that aren't called Unforgiven, Enter Sandman, Sad But True, or Nothing Else Matters. When was the last time you said to yourself "man... Of Wolf and Man was really a great song"? I'd be willing to bet it wasn't any time in recent memory.
    @burkz then what does it make it? if millions upon millions loved it and continue to buy it. how is it not good? please explain..... i mean i can't stand Michael jackson's thriller or anything about it but i still understand that my opinion doesn't have squat to do with wether or not it is in fact good or bad! Furthermore if it is possible to make a bad album "popular" then why aren't more bands selling 90 million plus copies of one single album??? just a little food for thought.....
    That's true, but it's still a great album. I think the black album is hated on because the bar was set so high by Metallica's old albums that anything short of perfect would be considered a disappointment.
    Popularity isn't an indicator of how good something is. Take Justin Bieber for example. Highly popular, and definitely not a contender for the "best" anything. That aside, Rust In Peace is as good as, if not better than anything Metallica have ever done, and should be above The Black Album. Rust In Peace is arguably the best thrash album of all time.
    Metallica adapted to and capitalized upon "Grunge/Alterantive", whilst remaining a little more Metal than most, and produced a classic album and stayed afloat in the midst of change. Alice In Chains started as a Metal band and became a Grunge/Alternative band and both sides of the coin were brilliant. That being said the Black Album loses to the revolutionaries of the 90s such as NIRVANA, oasis, and Radiohead, simply because those bands made something NEW, HONEST, and GROUNDBREAKING instead of ADAPTING to the current scene to stay afloat.
    Jane's Addiction-Ritual de lo Habitual MM-Antichrist Superstar NIN-Downward Spiral RHCP-Blood Sugar White Zobmbie-Astrocreep 2000 Pantera-Far Beyond Driven Prodigy-The fat of the land Alice In Chains-Alice In Chains
    For me. - Dirt - Ten - Nevermind - Superunknown - Ok Computer - RATM - The Bends - Weezer(blue album) - The colour and the shape - There is nothing left to lose - Showbiz
    Even when people vote on these things, it's always the same albums. And ****ing LOL at the Black Album being number one.
    It's missing Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. Pretty good list though.
    I think it would've been cool to see Silverchair on there too. BUT, there's only 10 spots on the list. Seems they would make it on a top 25 list.
    I`d say that Korn`s debut album should be somewhere on that list. The did something fresh and inspired people to think differently.
    I need some nails and I need some pumpkins. Why, you ask? The Downward Spiral, The Fragile, Siamese Dream, and Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
    Meloncollie and the infinite sadness - the smashing pumpkins That should've been there. So many hits. Awesome riffs. Fun to hear and fun to play along to.
    If we are going with albums that were top and real popular/high selling, I'd like to see added - Smashing Pumpkins (preferably Dreams, Mellon Collie would be good too) - Oasis (Morning Glory or Def Maybe) - Third Eye Blind Self-Titled - Soundgarden's SuperUnknown All records that were huge for me in the 90's... growing up in that era was sweet.
    Symphony X - The Divine Wings of Tragedy Blind Guardian - Nightfall In Middle Earth Porcupine Tree - Sky Moves Sideways Cynic - Focus Dream Theater - Images and Words Primus - Sailing the Seas of Cheese Stratovarius - Visions Sonata Arctica - Ecliptica Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F#A# Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness In no particular order. I can excuse most of these not being in here since they're not popular like the stuff that was included, but no Smashing Pumpkins? I can't understand that. One of the first things that comes to my head when people talk about the 90s is Smashing Pumpkins.
    Here are some fantastic 90's albums that deserve to be on these lists but usually never make it, so if anyone is interested check them out. (Also Tool's Aenima should be higher on this list) Melvins- Lysol, Stoner Witch, Houdini, and Bullhead Death- Human Neurosis- Through Silver in Blood Dillinger Escape Plan- Calculating Infinity Quicksand- Slip Sleep- Holy Mountain Meshuggah- Chaosphere
    You're gonna get voted down to hell dude. I totally agree with your list but unfortunately when it comes to extreme forms of metal, people just sneer.
    Why are there 4 Melvins albums on your list, but only one Death album? Death released 5 albums in the 90's, and all of them are deserving of a spot in the top ten best. Of course, I'd only go with one (Symbolic), but that's only out of fairness to other bands.
    Yeah I love Death and Human is my favorite, but you're right, they all deserve mentioning. I personally like the Melvins more than Death though. And the Melvins released 9 albums and a few EPs in the 90's so I could have picked more haha
    you're not allowed to put underground bands on here
    They're not "underground." In fact they're very respected for what thy've done and popular in their style.
    Thank you sir. I'm going to go back under my rock, at least I have good music down there haha
    Definitely Maybe all day!
    or Morning Glory deserved a place!
    I know Liam and Noel are both up their own a** and everything but I think this site does have a bit of an ignorance when it comes to oasis, seriously their first two album are outstanding I bet most who downvote these have never listened to them all way through.
    Oasis have proved to last and will probably last forever due to greats lyrics - and then coming up with music to enhance those. Lars Ulrich / Metallica: he rented a studio here in Copenhagen just to practice drum playing!
    I feel like Black Album Shouldn't be on the list. I realize this whole thing is based on user votes but compared to albums like Nevermind (by the way, how the HELL did that end up at number 10???) and Ten it didn't have nearly as much of an effect. Plus the 90s are described as a time for new genres, new bands, and innovation. And Metallica had already established themselves very well in the 80s. ...and no Smashing Pumpkins? AGAIN!? I will not rest until they get on one of these lists.
    My list would be something like this: 1. Social Distortion- Social Distortion 2. NOFX- Punk in Drublic (without NOFX social and distortion a lot of bands on the list now wouldve sounded quite a bit different I think) 3.Smashing Pumpkins-Mellon Collie and infinite sadness 4.RATM-RATM 5.Sublime-40Oz to freedom 6. The Bouncing Souls- Hopeless Romantic 7.Rancid-Out come the wolves 8.Tiger Army-Tiger Army 9. Millencollin-Life on a plate 10. AFI- Black Sails in the sunset Pretty singleminded list I know, but that's what opinions are for... I just think that a lot of bands on the UG list are amazing, but they were inspired by some of these bands, and I just felt they needed a little bit more recognizion and FUCK how could I forget: Catch 22- Keasbey nights, make that my number 4 or something
    HELL YES DUDE, I would swap Manical Laughter with Hopeless Romantic and Answer That And Stay Fashionable with Black Sails in The Sunset but still awesome. I tried throwing Keasbey Nights on this list but it got downvoted instantly. Close minded people on here.
    ATASF is a great album, but I think Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes is actually my favorite.
    My top 10 albums: 1. Rage Against The Machine - Self-titled 2. Tool - Aenima 3. Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come 4. Sublime - Self-titled 5. Nirvana - Nevermind 6. Propagandhi - How to Clean Everything 7. AFI - Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes 8. Megadeth - Rust In Peace 9. In Flames - Colony 10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik ...Would also shout out to Rage Against The Machine, and Sublime, bc I would also have added in The Battle of Los Angeles and 40 oz. to Freedom too if I had another spot, followed by blink-182's Enema of the State, AFI again with Black Sails in the Sunset, and Dr. Dre's The Chronic.
    Btw I was nvr quite a Rancid fan or SP fan. And Hopeless Romantic is ok, just not a fan either lol. Nvr heard of Tiger Army
    I cant believe theres someone on UG who actually likes all of this awesome music!!!
    emmm where is "refused - the shape of punk to come" ? and im missing definitely maybe too
    We're on UG. You're rarely going to hear about the real good stuff on here. I'm in the process of finding a new site that lets you hear about bands like Refused and more abstract music (that's also good.) This site is great for the tabs though.
    This is a great list.... I would have placed Nirvana "In Utero " instead of Nevermind... And what about Janes Addiction s Ritual De Lo Habitual? That album was killer!
    Where's Images & Words from Dream Theater??it's a magical album..with hi-skilled player..sh0uld be there..
    Pretty good list but so much is missing and I know it's pointless to argue about these UG lists... but The Black Album as #1 is insane. It was a great commercial breakthrough and a decent album but as far as quality it's not even in the same league as the best albums of the 90's. Here are a few off of the top of my head that got left out: Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream Soundgarden - Superunknown Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss Faith No More - Angel Dust