While punk music was around in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that it became popular. After all, many people were tired of the posh and flimsy sound many 80s hits possessed.
The following groups are some of the best 90s punk bands. I've put my favorite 4 first, but let us know your picks in the comments after.
There might be some debate as to whether Green Day should be called a punk band. Viewing them with a current lens could give you a different impression than what you might think of as “punk”.
However, Green Day was one of the most important groups for pushing punk into the mainstream of the 90s. The group actually has some of the most accomplishments out of any band throughout modern music history.
However, it was the 1994 album, Dookie, that put them on the map as far as mainstream music is concerned. This put Green Day on constant rotation, with the album producing some of the biggest 90s hits.
It’s needless to say that Green Day would become a staple on mainstream media outlets through the 2000s. They defied all expectations when they produced their own rock opera of Tommy proportions.
The Offspring is another group that helped pave the way for punk to become mainstream. Their 1994 album, Smash, became one of the best-selling records of its time.
This group has a very unique sound, largely attributed to Dexter Holland’s distinct vocal style. In a way, this band’s sound has an addictive quality to it, which is partly why they became so successful.
The Offspring was also not opposed to infusing a bit of humor into their brand of punk music. This offered a bit of relief in a music world that was rife with utmost seriousness at the time.
If you’re only vaguely familiar with Blink-182, you might be surprised to find out they started playing in 1992. This is because the group really didn’t find the mainstream until the end of the 90s.
In fact, you really couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a Blink-182 song or reference during 1999-2001. Their brand of seemingly immature yet mature pop punk was just something that everyone could relate to.
From a historical perspective, it took bands like Green Day and The Offspring to lay the pop punk foundation. Once Blink-182 broke into the mainstream, punk music changed forever, with more pop coming to the forefront.
Rancid is definitely one of the biggest names in punk music, though they weren’t exactly mainstream in their success. Sure, they had plenty of hits, but at the same time, weren’t pushed heavily in media.
However, any 90s punk fan will tell you that the album, …And Out Come The Wolves, is a true classic. This album has some of the band’s biggest hits, many of which remain well-known to this day.
In reality, it was the fact that Rancid just had some catchy musicality for a punk band. Mix that in with memorable lyrics delivered in a unique way, and you have yourself a winning combination.
What’s quite surprising is that Rancid is still quite active as a group. With the exception of 1 person, the current lineup still consists of the original members.
Bad Religion is one of the longest-enduring punk bands that is still going strong today. This group actually got its start in 1980 and has since become a very recognizable name in the genre.
Most people know of Bad Religion by association with their singer, Greg Graffin. However, every era of the band has produced hits, largely in relation to the various lineups at any given time.
While a lot of the more popular punk groups are pop punk, Agnostic Front brings East Coast hardcore elements. This gives the band a much more intense sound, often incorporating thrash stylings.
Agnostic Front might not have been extremely popular, but they are one of the most respected in the genre. They are still enjoying a lively career thanks in part due to their reputation.
The Vandals are another important band within 90s punk music, though the group also dates back to 1980. This band was definitely not afraid to be goofy, which helped them gain a greater audience.
Members of this group are also responsible for establishing Kung Fu Records. This record company has given many up-and-coming acts a foundation to release their music over the years.
Australian group, Frenzal Rhomb, might not be the most popular in the United States. However, this group is massively famous around the world.
Frenzal Rhomb has toured with some of the biggest names in the punk genre. Frontman, Jason Whalley, is perhaps the most recognizable member (thanks to his hair) out of all the band’s various lineups.
Even if you aren’t into punk music, you’re probably at least familiar with the famous Misfits logo. This is often seen on shirts, often worn by people who have no idea that it refers to a band.
The Misfits were one of the first bands to introduce horror themes into punk, essentially spawning the horror punk genre. They made a name for themselves in the 70s and 80s but came back in full fashion in 1995.
What’s amazing is that you can still catch the band playing live today. The original lineup, featuring Glenn Danzig, has started to make an emergence again.
NOFX is another group that has been around since the early 1980s. This group made a name for themselves by being humorous and also saying things explicitly and straight up.
Most non-punk fans are at least vaguely familiar with bassist, Fat Mike, who founded Fat Wreck Chords. This record label has been instrumental in launching the careers of many punk bands.
NOFX has certainly had an excellent run. After 40 years, they are hanging up the phone in 2023, so go and see them if you still can.
Punk bands are often a bit lewd and crude, and sometimes they can be quite explicit. Guttermouth is a band that really epitomizes this philosophy, as you might guess from their name.
This band has made a name for themselves by constantly touring and for saying shocking things into the microphone. If you ever attended the Vans Warped Tour in the 90s-00s, you probably caught this group’s performance.
Suicidal Tendencies is a very popular name in the punk genre, which can be recognized by its unique logo. It was not uncommon to see Suicidal Tendencies written on the underside of a hat bill in the 1990s.
As you might guess from their name, this group incorporated more of an aggressive edge into their music. They’ve had a massive family of members throughout the years, including well-known bass player, Thundercat.
Pennywise was another band that rose to prominence as punk rock emerged into the mainstream in the mid-1990s. You can probably guess which Stephen King novel their name comes from.
This group was one of the first bands to really be known as a “skate punk” band. They were even featured in a 1997 SEGA skateboarding game, which was 2 years before Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Speaking of Tony Hawk, the 2nd game of the series is generally considered to have one of the best soundtracks. On that soundtrack, you’ll find a band called, Lagwagon.
Lagwagon is one of the most popular groups on Fat Mike’s (NOFX) Fat Wreck Chords label. The band has a very dedicated underground following, largely because they’ve stayed true to their artistic visions.
Another prominent band within the skate punk subgenre is Millencolin, who comes from Sweden. The band's name literally derives its name from a skateboard trick.
Millencolin's song ‘No Cigar' was featured on the Tony Hawk 2 game, thanks to the commenters on this article for the heads up on that one.
If you’re not into punk, you’re probably more familiar with the Descendents logo of Milo than their actual music. Milo has been seen on countless shirts worn by musicians throughout the years.
Descendents has had a few stints of activity over the years. However, it was in the 1990s that the band really caught on to the mainstream spotlight.
Anti-Flag tosses it back to the political roots of punk music, as you might assume from the band’s name. Most punk fans likely associate this band with current punk as they are still quite active today.
However, it was in the late 1990s that Anti-Flag started to gain traction within the genre’s larger audiences. Their most well-known hit, Die For The Government, comes from their 1996 debut album of the same title.
Propagandhi is one of the few Canadian punk bands known worldwide amongst punk audiences. This group used music as a platform to speak out against current issues.
Non-punk fans might be familiar with this group through the involvement of John K. Samson. He would go on to form the indie-rock band, The Weakerthans, which has its own massive underground acclaim.
No Use For A Name
Most bands tend to have a hard time deciding on a name for their project. No Use For A Name is quite clever in this regard.
This band had quite an evolution over the years, aided by the various lineups that the band consisted of. No Use For A Name began to make a name for itself in the mid-1990s when punk became mainstream.
Less Than Jake
Less Than Jake is a pretty recognizable name amongst the many punk bands that existed in the 90s. Part of this is the fact that the band has had moderate success well into the 2000s.
This group has a distinct blend of punk and ska elements, which grabbed the audience’s attention through relentless touring. The band’s drummer eventually co-founded the famous record label, Fueled By Ramen.
Punk is quite diverse and you might not ordinarily think that the rockabilly imagery would fit into the genre. Social Distortion proved that the rockabilly aesthetic perfectly fits into punk if you have the right attitude.
The name Mike Ness is well-known amongst punk fans, and he’s written some of the greatest punk songs ever. Songs like Ball And Chain gave Social Distortion mainstream success at the beginning of the decade.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
You’re probably well aware by now that punk music often contains its fair share of humor. If you need a good dose of punk humor, be sure to listen to Me First And The Gimme Gimmes.
This group is essentially a group of punk all-stars who record cover versions of famous songs in punk stylings. Goofy outfits are often par for the course, which only adds to the hilarity.
Reel Big Fish
Purists would likely scoff at the idea of a ska band being mentioned amongst punk bands. However, ska did play an important role in the formation of punk, which is why they go so well together.
Ska has had several periods of popularity, with the 1990s being one of those decades. Reel Big Fish was one of the bands at the forefront of this musical movement.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
When speaking of ska, you really cannot overlook The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Many people consider this band responsible for blending ska and punk into one coherent sound.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are perhaps the most successful ska band of all time. Their 1997 album, Let’s Face It, remains a classic from that time period.
If you aren’t familiar with Good Riddance, you’d probably assume they took their name from the Green Day song. However, Good Riddance actually formed in the late 1980s, which pre-dates the hit song by a handful of years.
This group has a fast and aggressive edge to its brand of punk. They are also one of the best-known groups to have released albums on the Fat Wreck Chords record label.
Compared to other groups and their successes, Pulley is a bit more of an underground punk band. Pulley formed in 1994 during the beginning of the 90s heyday of mainstream punk music.
You might not believe it, but an MLB pitcher plays a prominent role in this band. Scott Radinsky actually had cancer in 1994, which forced him to take a break from baseball.
It’s not often that somebody has a successful career in 2 vastly different fields of expertise. Basketball superstar Michael Jordan even had a hard time being a professional at 2 different things.
It’s almost hard to imagine playing and coaching baseball and fronting a touring punk band simultaneously.
While massively popular, MxPx is a bit of an odd bird as far as the punk genre is concerned. Most punk bands are quite vulgar in different manners of speaking.
MxPx, on the other hand, is one of the few Christian punk bands to really have a mainstream following. This distinction has allowed them to chart on the Billboard charts numerous times.
Top 90s Punk Bands, Final Thoughts
Those were the best 90s punk bands. Most people associate punk music with a simplistic style of musicality, where attitude matters more than anything. While that may be true for the most part, the punk genre itself is quite diverse.
It was these bands of the 90s that really showed the world that any kind of punk band can exist. That is perhaps why so many people are drawn to it, rooting their sense of individuality in the genre.