13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous ’90s Punk Bands

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Punk, also called punk rock, first came onto the scene during the 1970s. With the sound changing over time, the underground punk scene fused with heavy metal to create the grunge era.

The essence of punk rock stems from doing the unexpected and having the musical freedom to enter mainstream popularity in the music scene. But, it was the 90s that saw punk begin to mix with pop to lead the way for pop punk bands to take over, and we see this in a lot of the bands and songs below.

We have listed 13 of the greatest and most famous ‘90s punk bands who have done exactly that. Read on to learn about them!

1. Green Day 

Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool make up the iconic punk band Green Day. The group has been creating timeless songs and touring the world since 1987, after starting in the East Bay of California.

The 1990s holds the breakthrough success for Green Day. In 1991, their album Kerplunk put them on the map in the punk rock scene. After signing a record deal, Dookie, their second studio album, reach the #1 spot on the charts.

MTV constantly played the videos for “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around,” as the album sold over 10 million copies in the United States alone. 

Dookie won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Alternative Album. That same year, Green Day got nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards. After the release of Insomniac, the band got nominated for Favorite Artist, Favorite Hard Rock Artist, and Favorite Alternative Artist.

2. Blink-182 

Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, and Matt Skiba formed Blink-182 in 1992 in Poway, San Diego, California.

The 1990s marked the infancy stage of the band, but they broke into the mainstream music stream in 1995 when they hired the same manager as the Offspring.

The group’s third studio album, released in 1999, was the turning point of their success. With the release of Enema of the State, the group became a punk rock sensation. Still popular today are the songs “All the Small Things,” “Adam’s Song,” and “What’s My Age Again?” which became #1 hits in 1999. 

MTV and TRL overloaded their network with these three top songs, which led to the album selling over 15 million copies worldwide.

3. Sum 41 

Formed in Ajax, Ontario, Sum 41 started in 1996. The band’s first name was Kaspir before changing their name to Supernova while on a nationwide tour. Then they remembered that they had changed their name on the 41st day of summer vacation. This idea led to the third and final name change to Sum 41.

The band recorded their first-ever demo on compact cassette tapes to send to various record companies around the country, and in 1999, Sum 41 signed with Island Records, which jumpstarted their career.

Soon after, they released their debut album, All Killer, No Filler, to critical acclaim. Their best song ever came from the album. “Fat Lip” topped Billboard‘s Modern Rock Tracks chart and helped Sum 41 achieve commercial success.

4. Sublime 

From their start in Long Beach, California, in 1988, Sublime fused reggae rock music and ska-punk together to become one of the greatest punk groups of the ’90s.

In 1995, Sublime headlined Vans Warped Tour. Unfortunately, they got asked to leave to tour due to their actions and behavior. However, this led to the group producing new studio material and taking their music seriously.

Their self-titled album included “What I Got,” which climbed to #1 on the Modern Rock Chart. This album went 5x platinum in 1999. It also featured the band’s other iconic songs, “Santeria” and “Wrong Way.”

Sublime disbanded when Brad Nowell, the guitarist, and vocalist, passed away in 1996.

5. Weezer 

Up next, we have the legendary band Weezer who formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. The group’s current members include Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Scott Shriner, and Brian Bell. 

In 1994, Weezer released their first studio album. The top singles from the Blue Album remain some of their biggest songs to this day, including “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Undone—The Sweater Song.” But their song “Paperface” (above) is clearly a very punk rock song!

The group took a break from writing and performing in 1997 after two dedicated fans passed away in a car accident after attending their concert. However, the band stuck together during their hiatus and returned to the music scene in April 2000 and has continued producing hits ever since.

6. The Offspring 

Alongside the bands Green Day and Rancid, the Offspring is known for bringing punk music to mainstream radio.

In 1995, the band gained so much popularity that they got the opportunity to tour with Weezer, Quicksand, and No Use for a Name.

Some of the Offspring’s hit singles from the ‘90s are “Gone Away,” “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” and “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid.” These songs shaped their sound as a band.

Over the years, the Offspring has stayed true to its roots while changing as they grow. They have gone on to sell over 40 million records worldwide, making them one of the greatest-selling ’90s punk bands.

7. New Found Glory 

Consisting of Jordan Pundik, Ian Grushka, Chad Gilbert, and Cyrus Bolooki, New Found Glory was formed in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1997.

Their debut album Nothing Gold Can Stay, was released in 1999, and “Hit or Miss” from the album reached #15 on the Alternative Songs Chart. However, their breakthrough came with Sticks and Stones and the album’s song “My Friends Over You.”

New Found Glory was considered the forerunner of the pop-punk genre, coming in during the second wave of the punk movement. Their style influenced many future pop-punk bands following them.

8. Rancid 

Former members of the band Operation Ivy, Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong, created Rancid in 1991 in Berkeley, California. They’re recognized as one of the bands who helped revive punk rock during the ’90s in the US.

A breakthrough success for the band occurred after their second album, Let’s Go, was released in 1994. It reached 97 on the Top 200 Billboard chart.

The year after, Rancid dropped …And Out Come the Wolves, considered their best work yet. It featured their hit songs “Ruby Soho,” “Roots Radicals,” and “Time Bomb.” MTV helped bring their career to mainstream TV when they broadcasted these throughout the decade.

9. Bad Religion 

Greg Graffin, Jay Ziskrout, Brett Gurewitz, and Jay Bentley created Bad Religion in 1980; they were still high school students in Los Angeles, California.

In 1993, the band signed with Atlantic Records. With the rise of grunge and alternative music, Bad Religion had the perfect opportunity to break into mainstream popularity.

“American Jesus” and “Struck a Nerve” from their seventh studio album, Recipe for Hate, got them to #14 on the Billboard Heatseeker’s chart. Between 1993 and 1998, Bad Religion found the most success in their career.

Despite a drop in popularity towards the end of the 1990s, Bad Religion had a resurgence in the 2010s.

10. Lit 

The band Lit got formed in 1988 in Orange County, California. After being a band for over a decade, their album, A Place in the Sun (1999), became their most popular. It featured the band’s greatest hits, “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Zip-Lock,” and “Miserable.”

“My Own Worst Enemy” was at the top of the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks for 11 straight weeks. In 1999, they received a Billboard Music Award for the same song. 

This album was certified Gold in Canada and Platinum in the United States. These certifications led to them performing at Vans Warped Tour and Woodstock in 1999.

11. NOFX 

Eric Melvin and Mike Burkett created NOFX with Erik Sandin and El Hefe in 1983 Los Angeles, California. With a diverse blend of skate punk, hardcore, punk rock, and ska punk, the group created songs—sometimes humorous—on various social issues.

In 1994, NOFX joined the punk scene with their fifth album, Punk in Drublic, which landed #12 on the Heatseekers chart. Three years later, the band released So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes. This album returned them to the fast punk scene with the track “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite.”

Aside from having sold more than 8 million records all over the world, NOFX holds the record for the second-longest punk song. “The Decline” (1999) is an 18-minute and 23-second song.

12. Less Than Jake 

From Gainsville, Florida, Less Than Jake is a ska punk band formed in 1992. Their members are known for playing underrated instruments, including the trombone and saxophone.

After their first album, Pezcore, was released in 1995, the band signed with Capital Records. They then released their next album, Losing Streak, featuring some of their top songs, including “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts” and “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore.”

Between 1997 and 1998, the band performed at Vans Warped Tour and the Ska Against Racism Tour. This exposure to the music scene allowed them to reach #39 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks after the release of their album Hello Rockview in 1998.

13. The Suicide Machines 

With the original lineup consisting of Jason Navarro, Dan Lukacinsky, Jason Brake, and Stefan Rairigh, the Suicide Machines formed in 1991. Their style was a blend of hardcore, punk rock, and ska that called to many punk fans.

Their debut album in 1996 was a success, landing at #32 on the Heatseekers chart, but it was their second album, Battle Hymns (1998), that’s considered their best; it peaked at #3 on the same chart.

With extensive tours, the Suicide Machines gained a large fan base, and their success in the ’90s continued into the 2000s up to this day.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Punk Bands of the 1990s

The ‘90s will always be the decade associated with the punk genre. It’s the time when it broke barriers by introducing the genre to mainstream TV and radio.

The punk bands above inspired many music groups that followed, and their timeless classics still play in popular culture on the radio and on movie soundtracks to this day.

The list, however, is far from complete. If we left off a band you believe should be on it, let us know and we’ll add them!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.