Top 10 Hardcore Punk Bands

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

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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!

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