The Best-Selling Albums Of All Time

Remember going to a store and browsing through records, CDs and tapes to find your new favorite album? That feels like such a dated way to consume music but, for decades, it was the only way to do it.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been the authority on U.S. music sales since the 1950s, tracking every new format that comes out and awarding artists its famous certifications of diamond, platinum and gold based on the number of units it sells or streaming listens it earns. We’ve collected the best-selling albums in American history, according to the RIAA — and, sadly, there isn’t a single record since the year 2000 to crack the list, showing the huge dip music sales have taken in the past couple decades.

How many of these classic albums do you have sitting in your old box of CDs?

25. Journey — ‘Greatest Hits’ (1988)

Sales: 15 million units

One thing you’ll notice about this list is there are plenty of greatest hits compilations among the all-time best sellers. Before the days of Spotify playlists, this was the way fans could just hear the most popular songs by their favorite artists packed together in one handy collection. Journey’s 1988 “Greatest Hits” disc is actually the newest such compilation to rank among the top 25. This record featured 15 tracks that were originally released from 1978 to 1986, including iconic hits like “Lights,” “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Faithfully.”

24. Bruce Springsteen — ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ (1984)

Sales: 15 million units

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen had already been releasing acclaimed albums since 1973 and had his first massive hit album with 1975’s “Born to Run” but it was this record that made him a global phenomenon. “Born in the U.S.A.” went 15-times platinum, according to the RIAA, making it easily the best-selling album of his storied career and one of the best-selling non-compilation albums of the 1980s. Out of its 12 songs, seven became top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Dancing in the Dark,” “Glory Days” and the title track.

23. Bob Marley & The Wailers — ‘Legend’ (1984)

Sales: 15 million units

By far the best-selling reggae album ever released, Bob Marley’s “Legend” celebrated its 500th week on the Billboard Top 200 album chart in late 2017. That means it has been consistently selling copies for more than 30 years, popping back onto the chart every so often as new generations discover it. This record is a perfect gateway into Marley’s career and his genre in general, because it’s a compilation of his best songs from his entire career. “Legend” is so celebrated that Rolling Stone ranked it among the top 50 greatest albums ever made.

22. Metallica — ‘Metallica’ (1991)

Sales: 16 million units

There’s only one heavy metal album in history that’s been certified as 16-times platinum by the RIAA and it’s this one. More commonly known as “The Black Album,” Metallica’s self-titled record was the band’s fifth since 1983 and would be its biggest smash by a mile. The lead single, “Enter Sandman,” went platinum and became arguably Metallica’s most popular song ever, thanks partially to a music video that was in heavy rotation on MTV. “Metallica” saw the band shifting to a more commercial sound, which obviously paid off. Other beloved songs from the album include “Nothing Else Matters,” “The Unforgiven” and “Sad But True,” all of which are still played on rock radio today.

21. Led Zeppelin — ‘Physical Graffiti’ (1975)

Sales: 16 million units

The first of several double albums on this list, these more expensive, two-disc records actually have a leg up by RIAA measurements because the group counts each disc in the package as an individual “unit” sold. So, a double album needs only to sell eight million copies to count as 16 million units moved, which is exactly what “Physical Graffiti” did. This classic Led Zeppelin record features the immortal song, “Kashmir,” as well as “Trampled Under Foot,” which was a top-40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1975. In 2001, Britain’s Classic Rock magazine named “Physical Graffiti” the fifth best album in rock history.

20. Various Artists — ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977)

Sales: 16 million units

As you’ve probably noticed with this list, critical acclaim and massive sales typically go hand in hand and this record was no different. “Saturday Night Fever,” a double album that acted as the soundtrack to the hit movie of the same name, is one of several albums on this list to also win the Grammy Award for album of the year when it was released. The album is credited to the Bee Gees as the main artist and it features seven songs by them, including five new ones, but “Saturday Night Fever” also features songs by disco-era icons like Kool & the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band. The album spent 130 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, staying on it until 1980.

19. Alanis Morissette — ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (1995)

Sales: 16 million units

One of the more recent albums to crack the top 25 all-time sellers, “Jagged Little Pill” also won album of the year at the Grammy Awards upon its release. Alanis Morissette was only 21 years old when it was released and she co-wrote every song on it, making it a particularly incredible achievement among the others on this list, as she was previously an unproven artist.  Almost anyone who lived through the ’90s knows at least a few of its songs, including radio staples like “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic,” “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Learn.” It stands as one of the biggest sellers to ever come from a solo woman artist.

18. The Beatles — ‘1967-1970’ (1973)

Sales: 17 million units

One of four acts to have multiple albums in the top 25, The Beatles have the oldest compilation on the list with this 1973 greatest-hits collection. It set a trend for plenty of other top-selling compilations that would follow throughout the ’70s, as we’ll see later in the list. This one included 28 tracks on two discs, spanning the second half of the band’s career, from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” through “Let It Be.” This one sold only slightly better than the companion compilation, “1962-1966,” which was released at the same time.

17. Garth Brooks — ‘No Fences’ (1990)

Sales: 17 million units

“No Fences” turned Garth Brooks into a worldwide phenomenon and helped make country music mainstream, spending more than 200 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. It was the best-selling country album in history for several years after it was released, being certified as 17-times platinum by the RIAA. The record was Brooks’s second and it included beloved hits like “Friends in Low Places,” “The Thunder Rolls” and “Unanswered Prayers,” all of which topped the U.S. country singles chart.

16. Elton John — ‘Greatest Hits’ (1974)

Sales: 17 million units

Another best-of collection that broke sales records in the 1970s was this one from Elton John. This 10-track compilation includes music from the first four years of John’s career, including three cuts from his 1973 smash, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” If you’ve listened to adult contemporary radio at all in the past 40 years, you’ll probably know about every one of the songs in this set, which is exactly the goal of a hits compilation. “Your Song,” “Daniel” and “Rocket Man” are just a few of the highlights that helped this become John’s only diamond-certified album, signifying at least 10 million sales.

15. Boston — ‘Boston’ (1976)

Sales: 17 million units

Widely regarded as one of the greatest debut albums in history, Boston’s self-titled record was a smash with critics and listeners. It went 17-times platinum and most of the songs of its eight-track lineup can still be heard on classic rock radio today. If you scan the dial right now, there’s a solid chance you might hear either “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind” or “Foreplay/Long Time” — which are the first three songs on the album. “Boston” has spent more than 130 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart since its release, most recently charting again in 2015.

14. Various Artists — ‘The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album’ (1992)

Sales: 18 million units

No movie soundtrack has ever sold more copies than the one for 1992’s “The Bodyguard.” Whitney Houston starred in the film as a singer and she provided six of the 13 tracks on the album, including her immortal cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Other artists on the record include Kenny G, Joe Cocker and Aaron Neville, but it was Houston’s contributions that made the record a smash. Like the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” this album also won the Grammy for album of the year.

13. Guns N’ Roses — ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)

Sales: 18 million units

This record from Guns N’ Roses made them A-listers overnight and represented the peak of 1980s hair metal. It was the best-selling debut album in history for several years following its release and remains second on that list today. The album topped the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and spawned several singles that can still be heard on classic rock radio today, like “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.”

12. Shania Twain — ‘Come On Over’ (1997)

Sales: 20 million units

Shania Twain’s third album, “Come On Over,” holds several impressive distinctions in music history. It is the top-selling studio album in country music history, the top-selling album by a woman artist in American history and the top-selling album by any foreign-born solo artist in American history. Twain, a Canadian, lit the country world on fire with this record and its incredible 12 radio singles out of 16 tracks. Songs like “You’re Still the One,” “Love Gets Me Every Time,” “From This Moment On” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” can still be heard on country radio to this day and likely will be forever. It’s one of only 12 albums in history to be certified at least two-times diamond by the RIAA.

11. Fleetwood Mac — ‘Rumours’ (1977)

Sales: 20 million units

Speaking of women breaking sales records, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” holds the honor of being the best-selling album ever by a band with a woman on vocals. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie — along with Lindsey Buckingham, a man — both sang lead vocals on parts of this smash record. “Rumours” was the 11th album in the band’s history but only the second to feature the beloved lineup that included Nicks and Buckingham. The album featured a legendary album cover and immortal songs like “Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain” and “Don’t Stop,” all of which still receive airplay more than 40 years later. It won the Grammy for album of the year and was ranked among the top 30 albums ever made by Rolling Stone.

10. Hootie & The Blowfish — ‘Cracked Rear View’ (1994)

Sales: 21 million units

No debut album has ever sold more copies in America than “Cracked Rear View.” This double diamond album also holds the distinction of being the top-selling studio album of the 1990s. It spawned three tracks that hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including “Only Wanna Be with You” and “Let Her Cry.” Hootie & The Blowfish, led by singer Darius Rucker, would go on to have two other platinum albums in the decade but neither ever approached the massive success of “Cracked Rear View.”

9. Garth Brooks — ‘Double Live’ (1998)

Sales: 21 million units

Garth Brooks is the only individual artist to have two albums in the top 25 sellers and his two-disc collection, “Double Live,” is his most certified ever from the RIAA. This album brought together highlights from his 1996-1998 world tour and included many of his most classic songs, including a nine-minute version of “Friends in Low Places” that featured an extra verse. “Double Live” benefited from its release in November 1998 because, according to the RIAA, 1999 was the biggest year in history for music sales. Despite being more than 20 years old, “Double Live” is the newest album in the top 25 and is the only live album to make the cut.

8. AC/DC — ‘Back in Black’ (1980)

Sales: 22 million units

Like many records on this list, AC/DC’s “Back in Black” simply refuses to die. It has spent a total of 371 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart since its release in 1980, most recently popping back onto the chart in 2019. In total, it has moved more than 22 million units in America, according to the RIAA. “Back in Black” was the first album to feature the band’s new singer, Brian Johnson, following the tragic death of Bon Scott just months before it was recorded, which makes its success even more improbable. Several of the record’s songs, like “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and the title track, can still be heard constantly on classic rock radio.

7. Pink Floyd — ‘The Wall’ (1979)

Sales: 23 million units

Speaking of albums that FM radio still loves, Pink Floyd’s ambitious record, “The Wall,” has several songs that have lived on for 40 years so far, including “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb.” This double album was the English band’s most certified, moving 23 million total units, which equals nearly 12 million sales. Proving the album’s endless appeal, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters took “The Wall” on tour in 2010 and it ended up being the fourth highest-grossing tour in history.

6. Led Zeppelin — ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ (1971)

Sales: 23 million units

Led Zeppelin’s second album on the list was actually untitled, but has become known as “Led Zeppelin IV” because it was the band’s fourth record. Regardless of what you call it, it’s one of the biggest albums in rock history, earning widespread acclaim and massive sales. This album has been played to death by classic rock radio stations, with songs like “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” still getting plenty of airplay nearly 50 years later. In 2001, Britain’s respected Classic Rock magazine named it the best rock album in history.

5. Billy Joel — ‘Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II’ (1985)

Sales: 23 million units

The best-selling compilation album of the 1980s was this double-disc collection from Billy Joel. It spanned the singer-songwriter’s career to that point, including 24 beloved songs from 1973 to 1983 and two new songs recorded just for the set. “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II” would go 23-times platinum and solidify songs like “Piano Man,” “Just the Way You Are” and “Big Shot” into the American standards they’ve become. By comparison, Joel’s 1997 collection, “Greatest Hits Volume III,” “only” sold 1 million copies.

4. The Beatles — ‘The Beatles’ (1968)

Sales: 24 million units

The oldest album to crack the top 25 also represents the most certified album of the 1960s, according to the RIAA. “The Beatles,” aka “The White Album,” is a double album that has sold more than 12 million copies. It was the band’s ninth studio album and would be one of its last as tensions mounted among the members. But the songwriting and production on this top seller is second to none, with Rolling Stone naming it the 10th best album of all time, which is the best placement of any record on this list. Incredibly, “The White Album” saw no singles released from its 30 tracks, meaning it sold strictly on its merits as a full album of work.

3. Eagles — ‘Hotel California’ (1976)

Sales: 26 million units

“Hotel California” may have lost to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” in the running for album of the year at the Grammys, but it won the battle to become the top-selling studio album of the 1970s. This landmark record is also the best-selling non-compilation album in rock history, which puts it atop a hefty pile of hits. The record spawned two chart-topping hits with “New Kid in Town” and the title track; “Life in the Fast Lane” just missed the top 10. All three of those songs are still staples of classic rock radio.

2. Michael Jackson — ‘Thriller’ (1982)

Sales: 33 million units

There are hit albums and then there is Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It’s the best-selling non-compilation album in the history of American music and the race was never even close. This monster record has moved more than 33 million units since its release and has spent a total of 378 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, most recently showing up at No. 188 in August 2019, nearly 40 years after it came out. It produced an amazing seven top-ten hit singles, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and the title track. It was also highly acclaimed as a music collection, earning the Grammy for album of the year and being named the 20th best album ever made by Rolling Stone.

1. Eagles — ‘Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)’ (1976)

Sales: 38 million units

The Eagles are the only act with two albums among the 10 best sellers of all time, let alone two of the top three. This record-shattering compilation includes 10 tracks from the band’s first four albums. If you’ve spent any time listening to FM radio over the past 50 years, there’s a good chance you know every one of this collection’s tracks, from “Take It Easy” to “Desperado” to “Take It to the Limit.” This thing has gone platinum 38 times over and since it’s a single-disc set, that means it has sold 38 million copies in America alone. It’s unlikely any album will ever unseat the Eagles on the list of top-selling albums in history.