AC/DC is a band that needs little introduction. Formed in Australia in 1973, these rockers have been reliably churning out powerful, hard-hitting, and riff-based music for decades. In this article, I’m going to provide a list of the best AC/DC albums, which will be ranked from WORST to BEST. So sit back, relax, and get ready to bust out the pitchforks over my rankings.
AC/DC Albums Ranked (Worst to Best)
16. Rock or Bust (2015)
If you’re a fan of AC/DC, there is no truly bad release by the Aussie rockers. They have mostly stuck to their original style of driving rock ‘n’ roll music for nearly fifty years. That being said, on Rock or Bust, the turmoil and drama surrounding the band definitely shows.
The declining health of longtime guitarist Malcolm Young led to his departure from the group in 2014, and Phil Rudd’s highly publicized arrest brought unwanted controversy to the band. Some songs sound tired and forced, and the album lacks the memorable anthems that other AC/DC albums are built upon.
Favorite Song on Rock or Bust: “Rock or Bust,” the opener and title track of this release, delivers a fine reiteration of the band’s longtime mission statement. Unfortunately, the momentum is quickly lost as most of the tracks on the album blend into each other, but this song is a must-hear for any fan of the group.
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15. Black Ice (2008)
Another fairly lackluster release in the catalogue, 2008’s Black Ice is essentially AC/DC on autopilot. For one, the album is too long. And especially after 2000’s excellent Stiff Upper Lip, this follow-up simply couldn’t measure up to expectations after such a long break in between albums.
There are still some classic AC/DC tracks included, such as opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train,” and “War Machine.” The album is also notable for being Malcolm Young’s last release with the group before his retirement and untimely death.
Favorite Song on Black Ice: “War Machine” is the track on Black Ice which evokes the sound of AC/DC when they were young and hungry to rock. Listening to the track, it is puzzling as to why this was not released as a single.
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14. Blow Up Your Video (1987)
After a string of decreasingly successful albums in the 1980s, AC/DC tried their hand at capitalizing on the newfound interest in the band after doing the soundtrack to 1986’s Maximum Overdrive.
As a result, the album is a bit overproduced and commercial for the Aussie legends. It sounds like a band that’s unsure of which direction to take. There are still some classic tracks to be found here, but a good chunk of filler as well.
Favorite Song on Blow Up Your Video: “Meanstreak,” while not released as a single, provides a hard-hitting classic AC/DC sound for the group. While the band typically only still performs opener “Heatseeker” in concert nowadays, “Meanstreak” is an overlooked gem that deserves to be revived before the band retires.
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13. The Razors Edge (1991)
This was a comeback album of sorts for the group. Hits like “Money Talks” and “Thunderstruck” propelled the band back into heavy radio and MTV rotation, introducing the band’s music to a new generation of fans for the 1990’s. It’s also notable for being the first album to feature drummer Chris Slade, who provides a classic backbeat throughout the album.
Favorite Song on The Razors Edge: “Thunderstruck,” while an obvious choice, is simply the finest cut here. This is an anthem that even non-fans tend to appreciate. The unique opening riff is powerful enough to get any rock fan pumped.
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12. Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
This is a raw tour-de-force that properly introduces the band to the new millennium. “Stiff Upper Lip,” “Damned,” and “Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” all stick out as obvious modern classics in the band’s discography. The production value adds to the pub-band style of this album.
Favorite Song on Stiff Upper Lip: “Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” is the type of raw stadium anthem we’ve come to expect from the boys in AC/DC. This song evokes a classic AC/DC feel.
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11. Power Up (2020)
Even the most ardent AC/DC fan didn’t expect the band to drop one of their most consistent releases this late in the game. Many assumed the band was done after vocalist Brian Johnson’s health issues and the death of Malcolm Young. But here, Angus and the boys return with a modern classic.
Songs like “Shot in the Dark,” “Through the Mists of Time,” and “No Man’s Land” all see the band treading through familiar ground with a ferocity not seen since the band’s earlier days.
Favorite Song on Power Up: “Kick You When You’re Down” is an aptly titled rocker that any AC/DC fan should adore. This track proves that age is just a number, because any fan would assume this was a much younger band.
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10. Fly on the Wall (1985)
Despite declining album sales and attendance figures, AC/DC soldiered on in the mid-80’s with one of their most overlooked releases. Drummer Simon Wright’s powerful drum sound makes it seem like AC/DC are playing right there in your living room when you blast this one on the stereo. The production style also showcases some of Brian Johnson’s finest vocals.
Favorite Song on Fly on the Wall: “Sink the Pink” is AC/DC at their most unabashedly sexually explicit, and it puts a smile on my face. No intellectual posturing whatsoever here. This is just a great rock song about having a rock ‘n’ roll time.
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9. Ballbreaker (1995)
Another overlooked entry, Ballbreaker is a standout for its raw, unrelenting production style. Noted producer Rick Rubin underscores this great collection of AC/DC doing what they do best. If 1991’s Razors Edge was slightly overproduced in comparison, this brings AC/DC back to their trademark bar band feel.
Favorite Song on Ballbreaker: “Hail Caesar” is relatively uncharted territory for the band, especially following the party anthems of The Razors Edge. This song is a relatively mature social commentary on the current political climate, and it’s a classic rocker as well.
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8. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1981)
Originally released in the UK and Australia in 1976, this one didn’t make its way over stateside until 1981. Here we have our first entry in the list featuring the late, great Bon Scott on vocals.
While songs like “Big Balls” demonstrate some of the juvenile nature that AC/DC are known for, classics like the title track and “Problem Child” represent AC/DC at their best. Young, hungry, and ready to rock, this is a worthy addition to your vinyl collection.
Favorite Song on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: “Problem Child” is a classic Bon Scott-era anthem, showcasing a young band who was dedicated to taking over the world. It is easily the best cut on this record.
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7. For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981)
Following up 1980’s classic Back in Black was no easy task, but AC/DC came up to bat with one of their finest. The last album to feature production by Mutt Lange, this one actually takes a darker tone than its predecessor.
The production is comparatively stripped down, and songs like “Night of the Long Knives” and the classic title track showcase AC/DC’s mastery of groove. These are slower-paced cuts that don’t sacrifice anything in the way of rocking.
Favorite Song on For Those About to Rock We Salute You: “Night of the Long Knives” is one of the most interesting songs in the catalogue. The subject matter isn’t typical for the band, but it’s a slow and brooding rocker.
6. Flick of the Switch (1983)
After a string of massive successes, AC/DC wanted to strip down their style even more so than on their previous release. Flick of the Switch is the rawest AC/DC album since Brian Johnson took over vocal duties. The band desired to catch the pub-rock feel of their earlier days, and they succeeded. While this album is often overlooked due to its lack of radio hits, the songwriting is stellar.
“Guns for Hire,” “Flick of the Switch,” and “Nervous Shakedown” are some of the band’s heaviest hitters, and there’s really not a bad track on here. This is the last album to feature drummer Phil Rudd until Ballbreaker, and he gives a powerful performance on the skins.
Favorite Song on Flick of the Switch: “Nervous Shakedown” is AC/DC showcasing an almost punk rock energy. It pummels the listener with its high voltage rock ‘n’ roll, and the raw production adds to this all-out attack on the ears.
5. High Voltage (1976)
AC/DC’s first internationally released album, this one makes the mission statement clear from the beginning. Bon Scott has a playful, sinister feel to his vocals, and simply oozes swagger. Angus and Malcolm display some of the finest riff-writing in rock. While not as strong as some other albums of the era, songs like “TNT,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer,” and the title track are timeless anthems.
Favorite Song on High Voltage: “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” is one of the finest openers to any album in hard rock history. This song accurately and often humorously depicts the outlaw lifestyle of a rockstar-in-training trying to make it in the mid-70’s. There is a realness to this sound that’s hard to replicate.
4. Let There Be Rock (1978)
This entry in the AC/DC catalogue is noteworthy for its relative variation. We have the title track in all its glory, one of the band’s longest and finest songs. There’s “Whole Lotta Rosie,” an ode to plus-size women everywhere. There are also some short and punchy classic rockers like “Dog Eat Dog” and “Bad Dog Boogie.” This is an essential release.
Favorite Song on Let There Be Rock: “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be” might not be the popular fan favorite here, but to me it’s a near-perfect rock ‘n’ roll song. Bon Scott sings with such feel and such passion, you really believe the man when he says he doesn’t mind being in hell.
3. Back in Black (1980)
One of the best-selling albums of all-time, alongside works by The Eagles and Michael Jackson. This is the album that turned AC/DC into full-fledged rockstars. After Bon Scott’s death in early 1980, few fans thought the band could fill his massive shoes. Instead, the Young brothers defied all odds and hired the perfect replacement in Brian Johnson.
Even if you aren’t a fan of AC/DC, you’ve likely heard many of these classics. The title track, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and “Hells Bells” are all well-known stadium anthems.
Favorite Song on Back in Black: “Shoot to Thrill” is the standout track for me. Described by the band as a tribute to Bon Scott, this song is an eternal party anthem, and a heavy driving rocker as well.
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2. Powerage (1978)
Powerage displays AC/DC at their most mature and possibly at their heaviest as well. This album has lyrics that deal with working class life, making it unique in the AC/DC catalogue. There is an overall darker tone to the lyrics, musicianship, and general feel of the album, making it a favorite for AC/DC diehards but likely not the best introduction for first time listeners. Still, it is an undeniable classic and easily one of the top AC/DC albums ever made.
Favorite Song on Powerage: “Down Payment Blues” is one of the unsung masterpieces of AC/DC. This heavy rocker describes the life of a working class Australian, a rarity for the AC/DC catalogue. Bon Scott delivers his vocals with biting wit and desperation.
1. Highway to Hell (1979)
The first album to feature Mutt Lange on production and the final outing with Bon Scott on vocals, Highway to Hell is AC/DC at their very best. The clear and crisp production adds an aura of professionalism to these rocking tunes.
Forsaking the relative seriousness of Powerage, this album showcases endless anthems about life on the road, sexual promiscuity, and rock ‘n’ roll itself. The one-two-three-four punch of the title track, into “Girls Got Rhythm,” into “Walk All Over You,” into “Touch Too Much” is about as good as rock ‘n’ roll gets.
Favorite Song on Highway to Hell: “Night Prowler” is my personal favorite AC/DC song. This is AC/DC taking a slow groove and making it heavy, brooding, and downright evil. Although the song was later made infamous by the Nightstalker killings of 1985, it is still a classic track. This is the perfect way to end the Bon Scott era of the band.
I hope you enjoyed my rundown of the best AC/DC albums ranked in order from worst to best. While some albums are certainly better than others, if you’re listening to an AC/DC album, you know you’re going to get some solid riffs and a good time. These Australian legends have been keeping the flame alive for decades and I hope they get at least a few more albums under their belt.