Top 10 Hardcore Punk Bands

Honoring the sound, fury, and DIY ethic of some pioneering groups.

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Hardcore punk band Black Flag
Photo: Erica Echenberg/Redferns

Punk failed in its mission to destroy the status quo, but it spawned a harder, faster, and more politically aware subgenre known as hardcore in North America during the early-to-mid-80s. Here, we salute the Top 10 Hardcore Punk Bands and their sound, fury, and DIY ethic which has since influenced newer genres such as thrash metal, alternative rock, and emo.


New Jersey’s Misfits blended fast, thrashy tempos, and horror film imagery in their lyrics and look. Their 1982 debut, Walk Among Us, inadvertently spawned another subgenre, “horror core.”


Fronted by the late Jan Paul Beahm (AKA Darby Crash) and future Nirvana/Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear, Germs released LA’s first DIY punk single, “Forming,” in July 1977.

Bad Religion

Challenging the punk manifesto, Bad Religion incorporated vocal harmonies and (cough) guitar solos into their music, but the Californian band’s 1982 debut, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, still kicks up a mighty thunder.

The Minutemen

Californian trio The Minutemen’s quirky, eclectic punk-pop sound heavily influenced what we now call “alt.rock.” Their third album, Double Nickels On The Dime, remains an essential purchase.

Hüsker Dü

This Minneapolis trio included two ace singer-songwriters in Bob Mould and Grant Hart. They later signed with Warner Bros, but their 1981 debut, Land Speed Record, is still a seething hardcore classic.

Circle Jerks

Prominent LA hardcore quartet Circle Jerks were formed by ex-Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris. On their furious 1980 debut, Group Sex, they romped through 14 tracks in just 16 minutes.

Bad Brains

Led on vocals by HR, Washington DC-based American-American quartet Bad Brains blended spiritual roots reggae with blistering punk rock. Their debut 45, “Pay To Cum,” is still utterly incendiary.

Minor Threat

Also from DC, Minor Threat were fronted by future Fugazi leader and Dischord Records boss Ian MacKaye. Their anti-inebriation anthem, “Straight Edge,” was a whole new philosophy in itself.

Black Flag

Pioneering Southern California hardcore band featuring guitarist Greg Ginn and vocalist Henry Rollins whose catalogue includes nihilistic classics such as 1981’s Damaged.

Dead Kennedys

Formed in the late 1970s, this controversial San Franciscan band’s peerless catalogue includes both timeless 45s (“Holiday In Cambodia”) and albums such as Plastic Surgery Disasters.

Think we’ve missed one of the top 10 hardcore punk bands like New York City hardcore scene legends like Agnostic Front or Cro-Mags? How about d-beat pioneers Discharge, Negative Approach, or Youth Brigade? Tell us your top hardcore punk bands below and start the debate!



  1. Hannah E Cwik

    July 11, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Out Of Order – Punk band in the 1980’s from Chicago:

    Review from the Chicago Reader: OUT OF ORDER
    In the early 80s, when Chicago’s hardcore punk scene was thriving, Out of Order commanded a devoted statewide following of Mohawked and flanneled teenagers who thrashed in counterclockwise circles and screamed out the choruses to burners like “Concerned,” “Cell Block B,” and “Survival of the Fittest.” The quartet had talent to spare, but when the scene fell on hard times, Out of Order did too. Many of the all-ages venues willing to host hardcore at the time were here-today, gone-tomorrow operations, and in 1987, after Metro banned punk shows–skinhead violence had erupted outside the club following a D.O.A. gig–local bookings dried up almost completely. The only way to play, it seemed, was to convince a club you weren’t really that punk. That’s just what Out of Order did, writing a cache of tamer, lamer songs to stay onstage. In 1988, though, the boys pulled a bait and switch at Metro: on the strength of this “improved” material, they booked a show–then played a glorious all-thrash set, wowing their fans and pissing off their hosts. As a gesture it was punk as hell, but inviting the ill will of Joe Shanahan would turn out to be just one nail in their coffin. A record they’d released through the Melrose Park-based label Walkthrufyre ran into distribution problems. Their van blew up, so they couldn’t play outside Chicago either. Finally, in 1990 vocalist Devon Brock, frustrated with the toned-down tunes–he’d never really sung notes and didn’t want to learn–moved to South Dakota to be a writer. Out of Order’s best moments recently have been collected on a 25-song CD, Survival of the Fittest (Victory), which includes early demos of that song, the entire Walkthrufyre album, and a handful of rare live cuts. It opens with infamous Jam Productions bouncer Jolly trying to lecture a crowd: “Of this type of music, there is less and less of it in Chicago. The reason is because when people leave the clubs they act like jagoffs.”

  2. Tommy Beck

    December 16, 2018 at 12:59 am

    With my forty years experience, I agree with this “Top 10.” The best list I’ve read.

  3. Bill

    June 7, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    great list

    • Fred

      May 3, 2020 at 2:45 pm

      Good list. With the level of idiocy nowadays, you can never 100% rule out poptarts like green day featuring, even in lists like this. However, the notable weakness of this list is that it completely ignores the rest of the world. Here, for starters, are some UK ones:

  4. antuqrist

    September 10, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Thrash&grave wave of U.S.S.R. show us- ,,korrozia metalla,, ,,dk,, ,,aspid,, ,,kruger,, ,,kruiz,, ,,kpp,, ,,crownear,, aot. That not badder then florida deathkorr- ,,deicide,, ,,morbid angel,, ,,obituary,, ,,death,,.

  5. Me

    October 7, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Angry Samoans

  6. antuqrist

    October 24, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    I listen ,more, russian punckorr – ,,sektor gaza,, ,,tina,, ,,gr.ob.,, ,,chudo-yudo,, ,,alexandr bashlachov,, ,,yana dyagileva,, a.o. After that my mind take urbanmetl -,,sepultura,, ,,machine head,, ,,marilyn manson,, ,,huskvarn,, ,,korrozia metalla,, ,,hellraiser,,. now more of puncrokers of Russia died (,,sektors gaza -yurii klinskih,, ,,gr.ob. -e.letov,, ,,alexandr bashlachev -too,, ,,yana dyagileva -too,, ,,black obelisk -a.krupnov,, and more others… Sad but true.

  7. elliott

    October 26, 2021 at 10:33 am

    What a bullshit list ! NOFX didnt make it. get fucked

  8. Christian D'Angelo

    November 5, 2021 at 1:05 am

    Flipper rules…still

  9. Jason

    January 29, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    How can anyone leave the bad brains and black market baby off the list?

  10. Vamblin

    February 5, 2023 at 6:52 am

    Dr Know, best crossover hardcore punk thrash, also Rudimentary Peni is epic, I don’t bad religion should even be on a hardcore punk list..also Celllrot honestly is at the top

  11. Federico

    January 7, 2024 at 10:55 pm

    Great list!
    If we talk about punk HC I’ll put in the list DRI and out the Minutemen (probably overall a better “seminal” group). Big Boys, Sucidal Tendencies, Poison Idea and Angry Samoans near this 10.

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