When people think of all-female bands, they typically go to the famous pop girl groups like The Pussycat Dolls, Spice Girls, or Destiny’s Child. Though we love those groups, many all-female rock bands often go overlooked due to their pop favorites.
In this guide, we’ll break down the best female rock bands of all time, including their biggest and best hits.
1. The Go-Go’s
Many people consider The Go-Go’s the most successful all-female rock band, and I agree. The group formed in 1978 and became a staple of the “new wave” rock scene.
The Go-Go’s debut album, Beauty and the Beat, hosted several of the band’s most famous songs, such as “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got The Beat.” A Broadway musical called Head Over Heels ran from 2018 to 2019 and used The Go-Go’s music catalog.
2. The Bangles
The Bangles is a pop rock group from Los Angeles, California. The members formed the group in 1981. The group saw quick success, as they managed to catch the attention of legends like Cyndi Lauper and Prince. Prince gave them their first hit as he handed over the song “Manic Monday,” which he wrote.
“Manic Monday” launched The Bangles to number two on the US music charts. They continued the theme with the song “Walk Like An Egyptian,” which also jumped to number two.
3. The Runaways
The Runaways were a group that saw quick success after their start in 1975. The group's original lineup was a trio with Joan Jett on guitar, Micki Steele on bass and singing, and Sandy West on drums. The group cycled through several members over the years, picking up lead guitarist Lita Ford and lead singer Cherie Currie.
The group saw significant success in Japan, where the band was constantly charting. The Runaways’ biggest hit was “Cherry Bomb,” still used today in popular media.
4. The Ronettes
The Ronettes were an American girl group formed in 1957. The group saw great success in the 1960s and 1970s, as they had many hits and even opened for The Beatles in 1966. The founding member, Ronnie Spector, became famous as the face of female rock and roll in the genre's early years.
One of The Ronettes’ hits, “Be My Baby,” was the song that sent them into orbit.
5. Pussy Riot
The Russian feminist group Pussy Riot is famous in the punk scene for its activism and protest performances. The group was formed in 2011 to create public opposition to the nationalist Russian leadership.
The group wears colorful balaclavas to maintain anonymity. Some of the group’s most popular songs are “Putin Zassal” (translates to “Putin is Wetting Himself), “Make America Great Again,” and “My Agenda.”
6. Dum Dum Girls
Lead singer Dee Dee founded Dum Dum Girls in 2008. The name “Dum Dum Girls” comes from the album Dum Dum by alternative rock band The Vaselines and the song “Dum Dum Boys” from punk icon Iggy Pop.
The Dum Dum Girls’ most popular songs are “Coming Down” and “Lord Knows.”
7. Shonen Knife
Shonen Knife is a Japanese pop-punk group formed in 1981 and is still active today. The group is heavily influenced by 1960s girl groups and style, as well as the combination of pop and punk shown by other groups like The White Stripes or The Ramones.
Shonen Knife is well-known for combining complex, dark, rapid punk-pop tones with nonsensical and silly lyrics. Shonen Knife became internationally renowned and was invited to be the opening act for Nirvana by Kurt Cobain himself.
8. Bikini Kill
Bikini Kill was one of the first bands to launch the “riot grrrl” feminist movement. The group was formed in 1990 in Olympia, Washington, the home of the riot grrrl movement.
Despite their many devoted fans, Bikini Kill faced near-constant harassment at their shows by those who opposed the feminist messages of their songs and activism.
L7 is an American grunge band formed in 1985 by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner. Sparks and Gardner were heavily involved in the art-punk scene and quickly became a staple in Echo Park's punk scene.
L7 started before the “riot grrrl” movement, but their songs, actions, and philosophy were similar to the outspoken feminist movement.
Sleater-Kinney is an American indie-rock band formed in 1994. The band’s members are Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Brownstein is also a famous actress for her role in the TV show Portlandia.
The band is famous for activism in the “riot grrrl” feminist movement. Some of Sleater-Kinney’s most popular songs are “Dig Me Out,” “A New Wave,” and “Jumpers.”
11. Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara are an indie rock group from Canada. The duo consists of twin sisters, Tegan Quin and Sara Quin. The group formed in 1998 and is still active today.
The twins both sing and play multiple instruments in their music. Tegan and Sara were nominated for and won a Grammy in 2012 for their live album Get Along.
12. Babes in Toyland
Babes in Toyland were an American alternative rock band originally formed in 1987. The group was founded by singer and guitarist Kat Bjelland, with drummer Lori Barbero and Michelle Leon on bass.
The group saw significant success by releasing the single “Bruise Violet” in 1992. The band was famous for their loud, rowdy shows, which showcased their punk influences.
13. The Shaggs
Listening to the music of The Shaggs, you may wonder why they made it on the list. However, for those in the know, many people love The Shaggs as a band because they are simply inadequate. The band's backstory is interesting, as the group is made up of three sisters: Dot Wiggin, Helen Wiggin, Betty Wiggin, and Rachel Wiggin in later years.
The Wiggin sisters’ father insisted they create a band, despite their lack of technical skill or lessons for any instruments. The result was an unsuccessful initial music career. However, in the early 1970s, Frank Zappa expressed his love for the band on the Dr. Demento talk show. From there, the exciting story gained traction, and people fell in love with the beautifully terrible music of The Shaggs.
14. Slant 6
Slant 6 was an American punk rock band consisting of the musical trio Christina Billotte, Myra Power, and Marge Marshall. Christina Billotte previously performed in the band Autoclave but helped form Slant 6 in 1992 after the Autoclave breakup in 1991.
The group was active for only three years, but in that time, they toured the United States and England and released two albums. Slant 6’s first album, Soda Pop-Rip Off, was critically acclaimed as one of the highlights of the riot grrrl movement.
15. Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls are a famous folk-rock duo, initially from Atlanta, Georgia. The group consists of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who began performing under “Indigo Girls” in 1985.
Both Ray and Saliers are considered icons in the LGBTQIA+ community as they are outspoken advocates for the community. The two women are lesbians and have made a point to uplift the community in any way they can, including performing and participating in political movements.
Fanny was an American rock band that was active and popular in the 1970s. The group was formed in 1969 by sisters June and Jean Millington. The sisters were Filipina-American, as their family moved from the Philippines to California in the United States early in the 1960s.
Music producer Richard Perry signed the group to Reprise Records and envisioned the band as the female Beatles. Though not as successful as The Beatles, Fanny became one of the first-ever all-female rock groups to achieve commercial success, with multiple songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100.
17. Ace of Cups
Ace of Cups is a classic American rock band. The group was originally formed in 1967 during the hippie movement. In June of 1967, Ace of Cups opened for Jimi Hendrix, an amazing honor for the underrated all-female group.
Ace of Cups initially broke up in the 1970s after struggling to see financial success. However, in 2017, the group came back together and produced a studio album, which they had never done as a group in the 1960s.
18. The Pleasure Seekers (or Cradle)
The Pleasure Seekers were a 1960s girl group in the early days of rock and roll. The group was one of the first all-female rock groups to be signed to a major label (Mercury Records in this case).
The group saw success as a touring show group, as they incorporated Motown hits and a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Revue into their performances. In 1969, the group changed into “Cradle,” as the band wanted to change direction and incorporate more original work and fewer covers into their acts.
19. The Pandoras
The Pandoras were a California-based garage punk band active in the 1980s. The California punk underground scene embraced the group as they began performing in the space.
The Pandoras later spawned the group The Muffs, as several members looked towards the latter as a way to explore more of a complex rock sound. Unfortunately, The Pandoras and The Muffs were both cut short, as the front women for each band, Paula Pierce for The Pandoras and Kim Shattuck for The Muffs, passed away.
Isis was a popular 1970s rock band based out of New York. The name comes from the Egyptian goddess of the same name. The band is notable for its use of horn instruments such as the trumpet and trombone.
Music critics and fans frequently praised Isis but never saw much commercial success, leading to the group’s breakup in 1980.
21. Deap Vally
Deap Vally is an American garage rock duo composed of Lindsey Troy as singer and guitarist and Julie Edwards as singer and drummer. The group was formed in sunny California in 2011.
Deap Vally has a strong influence from blues-rock, which show in some of their most popular songs like “Baby I Call Hell,” “Smile More,” and “Royal Jelly.”
Nervosa is a Brazilian death metal band. The group was formed in 2010 by guitarist Prika Amaral and former drummer Fernanda Terra.
Nervosa’s violent thrash metal has been praised by fans, as they tackle dark topics through the lens of a classic death metal band. Their performance of “Death” on YouTube launched the band’s success.
23. The Donnas
The members of The Donnas first became friends in eighth grade and performed as a group at their school. The band has kept the fun-loving spirit of their younger selves as they incorporate playfulness into their punk and metal tracks.
Many people recognize the song “Take It Off” by The Donnas, as it was featured in the Guitar Hero video games.
Kittie is a Canadian band that was formed in 1996. The band is generally categorized as “metal,” though different albums and songs have been classified in genres such as nu metal, death metal, or heavy metal.
Many of the group’s most popular songs today come from their 1999 album Split.
25. Magneta Lane
Magneta Lane was an indie rock band from Canada that formed in 2003. The group consisted of two sisters, Lexi Valentine on vocals and guitar and Nadia King on the drums, and the pair’s high school friend French on the bass.
The band saw some success but disbanded in 2014. The two sisters have since turned to synth and dance-pop as they formed their new venture, “LOLAA.”
26. 7 Year Bitch
7 Year Bitch was an American punk rock band well-known as an activist in the “riot grrrl” feminist movement. The band began performing in 1990, as the misogyny and discrimination in the punk scene began to be called out and feminist opposition began.
Tragically, one of the group’s founding members, Stefanie Sargent, passed away in 1992, right after the release of their first album. After a period where the band contemplated continuing and grieved the loss of their member, a close friend and band member of the punk rock band The Gits, Mia Zapata, was assaulted and murdered.
The onslaught of tragedies propelled the group to rebuild. 7 Year Bitch released a second album titled ¡Viva Zapata! in 1994 that served as a tribute to their friends.
Aldious is a Japanese metal band that was formed in 2008. The founding members, Yoshi and Rami, notably created an independent record label to release music under.
The group enjoys fusing creative, feminine aesthetics with their hard metal sound. Aldious album covers typically depict the members as shining stars. One of the group’s recent albums, Evokell, shows the members drawn in the style of Japanese anime.
28. Super Junky Monkey
Super Junky Monkey is a Japanese funk metal group formed in 1991. The band was notable due to its fusion of many genres. The group took influence from classic funk music, noise rock, hip-hop, rock, and jazz.
Some of Super Junky Monkey’s most popular songs are “Buckin’ The Bolts” and “I Got The Third.”
29. The Mo-Dettes
The Mo-Dettes were a punk band from England formed in 1979. The group was formed by Kate Korris, who previously played for The Slits and The Raincoats, along with Jane Crockford, who previously played bass in Bank of Dresden.
The group recorded several popular covers, such as “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, but their most popular original song was “White Mice.”
KSM was a rock band based out of Los Angeles, California. The group was formed in 2006 and was active until 2010. The group was created as a joint project between The Walt Disney Company and fellow female rock band The Go-Gos.
The group became famous for their cover of Cheap Trick’s hit song “I Want You To Want Me.” KSM’s cover promoted the TV show 10 Things I Hate About You.
31. Sahara Hotnights
Sahara Hotnights is a Swedish rock band that was formed in 1992. The band benefited from two chance events: getting the chance at a studio recording after winning a “Battle of the Bands” competition and a sudden global interest in Swedish rock bands.
One of the band’s most popular songs is “Hot Night Crash,” released in 2004.
BarlowGirl was an American Christian rock band that formed in 1999. The group consisted of sisters Alyssa, Lauran, and Rebecca. The name BarlowGirl refers to the sisters’ last name Barlow.
Vixen is an active American rock band. The group was formed in 1980 by Jan Kuehnemund on lead guitar, Janet Gardner on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Share Ross on bass, and Roxy Petrucci on drums.
Vixen was popular early on in the glam metal scene. “Edge of a Broken Heart” is one of the most well-known glam metal songs.
Autoclave was a Washington, DC-based indie rock group. The band was active for only one year, as members Christina Billotte and Mary Timony left the group to form Slant 6 and Helium, respectively.
The group initially succeeded with their song “I’ll Take You Down.”
35. The Heart Beats
The Heart Beats were an American garage rock band. The group consisted of sisters Linda Sanders and Debbie Sanders, along with their friends Debbie McMellan and Jeannie Foster. The girls formed the group in 1966 when female rock bands were scarce.
The sisters and friends were very young when they started the band, with Debbie Mcmellan, Jean, and Linda at around 12 or 13 years old and Debbie Sanders only ten years old. The group stayed together and played locally until the 1980s.
Top Female Rock Bands, Final Thoughts
From death metal to new wave rock, there are female rock bands for any genre. There are many other female rock bands out there, so limiting it to just this amount was difficult. These groups showcase some of the best talent and progressive activism in the female rock band space.