35 Best-Selling Albums Of All Time

Before the internet, the only times that you could hear your favorite songs were to catch them on the radio or buy a physical single or album. Because of this, album sales in the past were through the roof and a huge source of income for musicians. Certain records became so popular around the world that they sold tens of millions, with some even reaching over 25 million. Here are the 35 best-selling albums of all time that set the standard in the music industry:

1. Thriller – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (Audio)

Total Sales: 70 Million

It’s hard to imagine that any album will ever be able to top the success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller or even come close. It was an unstoppable hit machine upon its release in 1982, churning out some of the singer’s best songs over the years including Billie Jean, Beat It, and The Girl Is Mine to go along with the title track.

At the time, it also dominated the Grammys, winning more awards for one album than had ever been done before with eight. If you were around in the early 1980s, you knew someone who owned this album if you didn’t own it yourself. That’s how significant it was in pop culture.

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2. Back in Black – AC/DC

AC/DC - Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution (Official Video)

Total Sales: 50 Million

While some rock bands fit nicely into a tight little niche, AC/DC is one that’s seemingly enjoyed by fans of all genres. Your parents like them, your friends like them, and even your grandmas probably like them, too. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Back In Black became the second best-selling album of all time, serving as a great follow-up to Highway To Hell.

Featuring rock classics such as You Shook Me All Night Long, Hells Bells, and many more, this album was universally loved by critics and fans alike. All these years later, many of the tracks are still in heavy rotation on the radio.

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3. The Bodyguard Soundtrack

Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You (Official 4K Video)

Total Sales: 45 Million

There are going to be a few soundtracks on the list, and the best-selling one of them all is the soundtrack to The Bodyguard. The film was released in 1992 and starred Whitney Houston; the album was almost exclusively comprised of her performances. Interestingly enough, critics weren’t a fan of the soundtrack.

Still, all it took in the days before the internet was one hit song to make a soundtrack go platinum many times over. For this one, that track was, of course, I Will Always Love You, which was originally written by the legendary Dolly Parton.

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4. The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – Time (Official Audio)

Total Sales: 45 Million

Pink Floyd is another one of those rock bands that was enjoyed by fans across all genres, particularly those that liked to dabble in some mind-altering substances during the 1970s. They had several successful albums, but none came as close to the pop culture phenomenon that was The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Released in 1973, it spent nearly 1,000 weeks on the Billboard charts. It was a lot more radio-friendly, which helped to boost sales thanks to tracks like Money and Us And Them. Though not released as singles, Brain Damage and The Great Gig In The Sky became fan favorites.

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5. Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) – Eagles

Total Sales: 45 Million

Just like soundtracks, compilation albums for a band’s greatest hits were a great way for the musical acts to sell a lot of copies whilst only producing one or two new tracks. The Eagles were among the first big acts to have a greatest hits album produced, and it was the best-selling album of all time until it was surpassed by Thriller.

Released at the beginning of 1976, it was a fantastic way for fans to only listen to the very best songs including Take It Easy, Withy Woman, and Desperado, just to name a few. Somehow, though, it only peaked at number two on the US Billboard 200.

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6. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf - Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad (PCM Stereo)

Total Sales: 43 Million

Known for having one of the most recognizable and iconic album covers of all time, Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf was seemingly owned by just about every Gen-Xer and Baby Boomer in the United States and United Kingdom. Surprisingly, there were only seven tracks on the entire album, but most of them were pretty long, bringing it to over 46 minutes of runtime.

Side two of the album featured the biggest hits, starting with Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad and Paradise By The Dashboard Light featuring Ellen Foley, which is essentially three different songs. The track remains one of the longest singles to be released for the radio and was actually cut down from its original 27-minute length.

7. Hotel California – Eagles

Hotel California (2013 Remaster)

Total Sales: 42 Million

The year 1976 started off with the Eagles having a massively successful album, and it ended with them releasing another one. Hotel California was released in December of that year, and it was the first album featuring Joe Walsh on guitar. It went on to win a pair of Grammy Awards and sold like hotcakes.

Everyone knows the title track, but there are plenty of other hits that came off of it. Songs like New Kid In Town, The Last Resort, and Life In The Fast Lane all did well, boosting the album’s sales numbers as it reached number one on the charts.

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8. Come On Over – Shania Twain

Shania Twain - From This Moment On

Total Sales: 40 Million

While a bulk of the albums on the list are from the 1970s and 1980s, there are a couple from the 1990s that made their way in. The best-selling album of the decade was Come On Over by Shania Twain, a mashup of country and pop sounds that took North America by storm.

Tracks like You’re Still The One, From This Moment On, and That Don’t Impress Me Much were just a few of the dozen singles released from this powerhouse. This singer became a certified star thanks to this, with the CDs or cassette tapes found in just about every car in Canada and the United States.

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9. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

The Chain (2004 Remaster)

Total Sales: 40 Million

After the success of their self-titled album, Fleetwood Mac set out to achieve more mainstream success. At that point, they had already released 10 albums, but it wasn’t until Rumours was released in 1977 that they were launched into superstardom. Considered a masterpiece at under 40 minutes long, it was a force in the late 1970s.

Several singles were released from it (some of which would become some of the best Fleetwood Mac songs ever), starting with the smash hit Go Your Own Way. The other singles would carry on its success with Dreams, Don’t Stop, and You Make Loving Fun. It is still making money for the band since all of those singles are commonly used in advertising.

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10. Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack

Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 40 Million

We’ve had one soundtrack on the list already to this point, and we now find the second with Saturday Night Fever, which was released in 1977 and rounds out the top 10. The Bee Gees were at the top of their game when the album was released, and they performed several of the tracks on it including Night Fever, How Deep Is Your Love, and, of course, Stayin’ Alive.

There were some non-Bee Gees songs that were popular as well. A Fifth Of Beethoven became a disco staple along with tracks like Boogie Shoes and Disco Inferno. The soundtrack was very much a product of its era but still holds up to this day.

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11. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven (Official Audio)

Total Sales: 37 Million

After their third album was seen as a bit of a disappointment, there were some wondering if Led Zeppelin still had “it” in 1971. Their questions were answered toward the end of the year with the release of Led Zeppelin IV. This is considered by many to be their magnum opus and has been named by some as the greatest classic rock album.

It gets off to a hot start with Black Dog and Rock And Roll then doesn’t let up much from there. Tracks like Misty Mountain Hop and When The Levee Breaks are also headliners, and we won’t forget to mention Stairway To Heaven, the final track on side one.

12. Bad – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - The Way You Make Me Feel (Official Video)

Total Sales: 35 Million

You probably figured out that Michael Jackson’s name would pop up once again after Thriller. Released in 1987, Bad is his second best-selling album, though the title track wasn’t the first single released. That honor belonged to I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, which was met with a modest reaction.

The rest of the tracks on it, however, helped make it a huge success. The Way You Make Me Feel, Dirty Diana, and Smooth Criminal were some of the biggest hits from the album. By the time it was released, the signer hadn’t done a solo global tour, but the Bad Tour wound up grossing him $125 million in revenue.

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13. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette - Hand In My Pocket (Official 4K Music Video)

Total Sales: 33 Million

No matter what type of mood you were in, there was a song on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill just for you. From the angsty post-breakup track You Oughta Know to the infectiously uplifting Hand In My Pocket, this was the Canadian singer’s masterpiece.

Released in 1995, it took home five Grammy Awards, highlighted by its Album of the Year win. Many music critics liked it but weren’t in love with it, but the fans had already made up their minds in determining it a great album from front to back. It was so good, in fact, that a musical was created based on it.

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14. Legend – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Three Little Birds (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 33 Million

Another greatest hits album to make the list, Bob Marley was the biggest name in reggae music history, and this also made him the best-selling. Released in 1984, just three years after his death, Legend (The Best Of Bob Marley & The Wailers) surpassed Metallica for most time spent on the Billboard 200 and finds itself only behind The Dark Side Of The Moon.

The original release of the album contained 14 of the singer’s greatest hits, including No Woman, No Cry, Three Little Birds, and Buffalo Soldier. For those who weren’t able to get their hands on all of his work, this was the perfect way to get the classics.

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15. Dirty Dancing Soundtrack

Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life (Official HD Video)

Total Sales: 32 Million

Another soundtrack to make its way into the list of best-selling albums of all time is Dirty Dancing, which was released in 1987. Unlike the other soundtracks that we’ve seen thus far, though, this wasn’t dominated by just one artist, but rather, a compilation of songs created for or repurposed for the film.

The star of the movie, Patrick Swayze, even got his time to shine as a singer, with She’s Like The Wind being one of the most successful tracks. There were classics like Be My Baby, as well as new hits like Eric Carmen’s Hungry Eyes and (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes that served as the peak of the film’s third act.

16. Falling Into You – Céline Dion

Céline Dion - It's All Coming Back to Me Now (Official Extended Remastered HD Video)

Total Sales: 32 Million

It’s interesting that we’ve only made it to the 16th spot by this point, but we’re already on the third different Canadian female solo act. Some might have thought that Céline Dion would be at the top spot, but she ranks third behind Alanis Morisette and Shania Twain. Still, Falling Into You was wildly successful thanks to hits like Because You Loved Me and It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.

The album was released in March of 1996, though critics were a bit torn. Some mentioned that this changed pop music in the decade while Rolling Stone only gave it 1.5 stars out of 5.

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17. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

With A Little Help From My Friends (Remastered 2009)

Total Sales: 32 Million

We finally get to a studio album released by The Beatles, and it’s perhaps their most famous one, especially when you take the cover into consideration. The psychedelic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in May of 1967 and clocked in at under 40 minutes despite having 13 tracks. Some of them were Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, A Day In The Life, and With A Little Help From My Friends.

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18. Dangerous – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Black Or White (Official Video - Shortened Version)

Total Sales: 32 Million

The final Michael Jackson entry onto the list is the 1991 album Dangerous, which was a far cry from the sound of his previous ones. He was getting away from his Thriller days, and this album was highlighted by songs including Black Or White, Remember The Time, and In The Closet. It would go on to win a pair of American Music Awards and was nominated for four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year.

19. 21 – Adele

Adele - Rolling in the Deep (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 31 Million

If you truly want to grasp how much of an impact the internet has had on album sales, think about this: 21 by Adele is the only album on the entire list that was released after 2002. On the other hand, it’s a testament to how beloved it was by those around the world. For the singer, it was her second album and one that was much more upbeat and radio-friendly.

Highlighted by hits like Rolling In The Deep, Set Fire To The Rain, and Rumour Has It, this was an unwieldy force that performed well at the Grammy Awards. It took home the titles for Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year, cementing the singer’s status as one of the top solo acts in the world.

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20. 1 – The Beatles

The Beatles - Eight Days A Week

Total Sales: 31 Million

If it weren’t for the Eagles having a greatest hits album that was in the top five, you’d probably be surprised to see The Beatles not show up until this late in the list and also have it be a greatest hits album. Their album, 1, was released in 2000 and was the ultimate collection for The Beatles fans. This contains all of the songs that reached number one on the charts in the United Kingdom or the United States.

There are 27 tracks in total, starting out with the first number-one song Love Me Do, originally released in 1962. It then spans the group’s entirety, going all the way to The Long And Winding Road, released in 1970.

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21. Self-titled Album – Metallica

Metallica - The Unforgiven (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 31 Million

Though it’s officially a self-titled album, almost everyone refers to this 1991 Metallica release as “the black album.” It marked a change in the band’s sound, with their original fans pointing to it as perhaps their least favorite while it was easily their most successful in the mainstream to those that hadn’t heard them before.

Metallica was a mainstay on the charts thanks to its opening track Enter Sandman, which was followed by other hits like Nothing Else Matters and Sad But True. It stayed on the charts for more than 550 weeks, becoming the first to do so since The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Next: Our list of the best Metallica songs ever

22. Let’s Talk About Love – Céline Dion

My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme from "Titanic")

Total Sales: 31 Million

Céline Dion makes her second entry onto the list with Let’s Talk About Love, which was her first album following the already-mentioned Falling Into You. Of course, there were some successful songs on it, but there’s one that almost everybody had their eye on. That track is My Heart Will Go On, which was released as part of the Titanic soundtrack (more on that later).

Some of the non-Titanic songs that found success include Tell Him, Be The Man, and The Reason. This was another album that was hated by Rolling Stone as they also gave this one a 1.5-star rating.

23. Abbey Road – The Beatles

The Beatles - Come Together

Total Sales: 31 Million

The “other” big Beatles album that snuck its way onto the list is Abbey Road, which was the beginning of the end for the group and their second to the last album that was released together. Considered by many critics to be the band’s best album, it was a mashup of different styles as each member had their hand in at least one song. From Octopus’s Garden and Here Comes The Sun to The End and Come Together, there’s a little something for all The Beatles fans on this one.

24. Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses

Guns N' Roses - Paradise City (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 30 Million

Few albums get the blood pumping quite like Appetite For Destruction, which starts right off with Welcome To The Jungle and doesn’t let up from there. It was the perfect introduction that was the controlled chaos of Guns N’ Roses on their debut album. 

Also featuring hit songs like Paradise City and Sweet Child O’ Mine, this is considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It’s also one of the most recognizable covers, though it was changed from its unsavory original version.

25. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen - I'm On Fire (Official Video)

Total Sales: 30 Million

Bruce Springsteen remains one the greatest singer and songwriters in United States history, and this was highlighted by his 1984 album Born In The U.S.A. In addition to the title track, it contained memorable hits such as Dancing In The Dark, I’m On Fire, and Glory Days.

This singer has always been a critical favorite, and the album is no exception. It received perfect reviews almost across the board, including the likes of Rolling Stone and Los Angeles Times, two of the more critical review sources.

26. ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits – ABBA

Abba - Waterloo (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 30 Million

On the 25th anniversary of the band becoming globally known for their Eurovision Song Contest victory, ABBA released another one of the greatest hits albums on the list. ABBA Gold was released in 1992 and contained nearly 80 minutes of the band’s select favorites including Dancing Queen, Fernando, and Waterloo, the song that started it all.

There were 19 tracks in all on the original version of this album, making it a must-own for all ABBA fans. The tracks were remastered, as well, giving a bit of extra incentive to get your hands on this record.

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27. Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits

Dire Straits - Walk Of Life (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 30 Million

The Dire Straits are considered one of the greatest British rock bands and had their heyday in the mid-1980s with the release of Brothers In Arms. With an eye-catching cover, the contents of the album were just as good thanks to hits like Money For Nothing and Walk Of Life.

This had a tremendous blend of pop and rock and stuck around at the top of the charts in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Though it didn’t win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, it did still win Best Engineered. Some old-school music reviewers lament that it signified the death of classic rock and ushered in the synth era, but that was being dramatic.

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28. Supernatural – Santana

Santana - Smooth (Stereo) ft. Rob Thomas

Total Sales: 30 Million

Santana, known more for its rock tunes during the 1960s and 1970s found a resurgence at the end of the 1990s with the release of Supernatural. The album featured a multitude of guest artists including Rob Thomas and the Product G&B who sang on the tracks for Smooth and Maria Maria, respectively, the two biggest hits from the album.

In fact, Smooth ended up being one of the biggest hits in radio history with Billboard ranking it as their third most popular song of all time behind The Twist by Chubby Checker and Blinding Lights by The Weeknd.

29. The Immaculate Collection – Madonna

Madonna - Borderline (Official Video) [HD]

Total Sales: 30 Million

As we were highlighting some of the greatest hits albums earlier in the list, you were likely wondering when Madonna would pop up. The wait is over, as her greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection comes in at number 29. This contained 15 of her biggest hits, including Material Girl, Papa Don’t Preach, and Like A Prayer. Unlike most of the other greatest hits albums, though, this contained two brand new songs: Justify My Love and Rescue Me.

30. The Wall – Pink Floyd

Total Sales: 30 Million

If you were asked to name a Pink Floyd album that wasn’t The Dark Side Of The Moon, the answer would probably be The Wall. With that said, it’s not a surprise to see this as their other entry on the list. Released in 1979, it was highlighted by singles including Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2, Run Like Hell, and Comfortably Numb. Three years later, a mind-bending mashup film of live-action and animation of the same name was released with the album’s music accompanying it.

31. Grease Soundtrack

Summer Nights (From “Grease”)

Total Sales: 30 Million

The second (and final) John Travolta film to have its soundtrack on the list is Grease, which featured him singing on some of the tracks. Known for its hits like You’re The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You, and Summer Nights, this soundtrack was destined to become one of the best-selling albums of all time thanks to the success of the musical film.

32. Titanic Soundtrack

An Ocean of Memories

Total Sales: 30 Million

Earlier we mentioned the Céline Dion song My Heart Will Go On, and we find it here at the latter part of the list as part of the soundtrack for the box office-dominating Titanic. Released in 1997, the film and soundtrack were unstoppable. However, the Canadian singer’s song was the only one that actually featured lyrics.

33. Music Box – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey - Dreamlover (Official 4K Video)

Total Sales: 28 Million

With all of her success and chart records, it might be hard to believe that there’s only one Mariah Carey album, and it’s outside of the top 30 on the list. Music Box was her third studio album and proved to be her most successful in terms of sales thanks to the songs Dreamlover, Hero, and Anytime You Need A Friend. It would reach the top of the charts all around the world, including France, Portugal, and Switzerland.

34. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones

Norah Jones - Don't Know Why

Total Sales: 27 Million

If you remember when Norah Jones released Come Away With Me in 2002, you likely remember how you couldn’t get away from it. It seemed like every grocery store, coffee shop, and minivan in the world had the album on repeat, especially the first single released, Don’t Know Why. Going on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, this was unparalleled in its success and is the third youngest album on the list.

Next: The absolute greatest albums from the 2000s

35. The Eminem Show – Eminem

Eminem - Sing For The Moment (Official Music Video)

Total Sales: 27 Million

The second youngest album on the list behind only Adele’s 21, The Eminem Show was the fourth album released by the Detroit-based rapper and hit stores in May 2002. The opening single was a radio favorite in the form of Without Me, and there was no dropoff afterward. Tracks like Superman, Cleanin’ Out My Closet, and Sing For The Moment made it a must-have for rap fans. Almost winning the overall Album of the Year Grammy, it did take home the Best Rap Album Award.

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