The 1990s were an interesting time, filled with the arrival of many types of music and a unique expression of individuality. When talking about some of the best songs of the time, well frankly it’s not that simple to narrow down to one comprehensive list. There are so many factors that go into such a decision, and there are too many subgenres of alternative that were so immensely important to the music scene of the time. So instead of a comprehensive list, I’ve divided it into multiple top tens.

General Alternative
Much of the ’90s was filled with all kinds of new branches of music being brought into the mainstream. This top ten is for those particular songs and bands that don’t fit the bill for any particular sub-genre.

10. “Buddy Holly” by Weezer. Geek rock at their finest, Buddy Holly was a huge breakout hit for the group and is still widely known.

9. “Shine” by Collective Soul. Considered post-grunge, Collective Soul didn’t really fit the bill for most of the 1990s music with their unique sound. However, Shine made it into the mainstream and hit number eleven on Billboard’s hot 100 list in 1994.

8. “Loser” by Beck. The ’90s were filled with self-deprecation, and Beck’s song embodied so much of that cynicism shared by us all.

7. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. Still the hallmark song of many graduations, proms, and nostalgic gatherings, this is still one of the pop-punk band’s most well known hits.

6. “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum. This was a one-hit wonder, but nonetheless it was played widely throughout the ’90s and still brings a hoard of nostalgia for everyone hearing it still. Plus it’s one of my personal favorites.

5. “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. An international success by all means, this mix of funk and rap-rock is still by far one of the most requested songs that the band plays.

4. “Losing My Religion” by REM. Utilized in so many soundtracks of the time, it’s still one of the most widely known songs that plays on the radio.

3. “What I Got” by Sublime. The ska-punk band was one of the token groups of the ’90s, and this song was particularly big for the group, still widely played by stoners, nostalgia-trippers, and party bugs alike.

2. “Wonderwall” by Oasis. One of the biggest songs of the 1990s, it captured the 1990s sense of bitter cynicism and alone-ness, as well as it being one of the most widely covered songs to this day.

1. “One” by U2. Alternative legends, U2 released a number of songs that reached the top charts, but One continues to be legendary and exceeds the rest of their top hits of the 1990s. Plus, Bono is alternative god.

The early 1990s brought the influx of grunge bands, hailing from Seattle (mostly) and bringing with them the arrival of flannel, greasy hair, and amazing music that is still widely respected today.

10. “Everything Zen” by Bush. Though a group hailing from England, Bush were widely regarded as grunge throughout the 1990s. Though they had a number of hits through the time, Everything Zen managed to be one of the biggest.

9. “Tomorrow” by Silverchair. A group from Australia, they were the first group since INXS to reach the charts in America. Though they were very young at the time of the album’s release, it became a huge hit.

8. “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. Done by some of the most well-known grunge artists of the time, Hunger Strike had no choice but to be a hit. Though it’s the only song of Temple of the Dog that was popular, it’s still widely known and loved.

7. “No Rain” by Blind Melon. The group’s only real hit before lead singer Shannon Hoon’s death, it is considered one of the biggest grunge songs of the ’90s.

6. “Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone. The group comprised of a few members that later went to Pearl Jam, this song was a grunge staple.

5. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. A crucial group of the ’90s, Black Hole Sun was a particular favorite that made the group a household name.

4. “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots. Although not often listed along with the top grunge bands of the ’90s, STP proved to have tons of top hits, but this particular one ended up being one of their most widely known.

3. “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. This haunting tune is still widely regarded as one of the best songs of the ’90s, and put Pearl Jam on the list as legends.

2. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Often labeled the quintessential grunge anthem, there is no doubt that it is one of the most influential songs of the 90s, and still today as one of the songs that defined a generation.

1. “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains. Now hear me out. Alice in Chains were around before Nirvana, they were more well known first, and they reached national fame before them. This one might be highly debated, but Alice in Chains laid the road for Nirvana to walk on in the first place.

Female-driven Alternative
Chicks were amazing in the 1990s, and what with Lilith Fair and the popularity of girl-power, there is no denying that the ladies of the 90s deserve their own place to shine.

10. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. Although it may be argued that No Doubt was more pop than alternative, per se, there is no doubt (see what I did there?) that they marked an era.

9. “Nothing Compares 2U” by Sinead O’Connor. Also a little bit more pop than alternative, this song was still defining of alternative ladies.

8. “Celebrity Skin” by Hole. Though Courtney love is well known for being married to Kurt Cobain, her band was absolutely very grunge and had their own respect throughout the ’90s.

7. “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. Euro-pop was a huge alternative sub-genre of the time, and the Cardigans cemented their place as legends of the one-hit wonder scene.

6. “Joey” by Concrete Blonde. This alt-rock group still has a large cult-following, but they are most well-known for their top 20 song Joey.

5. “6 Underground” by the Sneaker Pimps. Considered trip-hop, shoegaze, and garage, this song defined the chill movement of the 1990s.

4. “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos. Tori is still widely revered by her cult following, but this particular song managed to be her breakthrough hit into the mainstream.

3. “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. Though this was her only real hit, it’s still one of the defining hits of the era. It was incredibly controversial with the video, but it’s stuck around as one of the best.

2. “Stupid Girl” by Garbage. Though Garbage had a number of hits at the time, Stupid Girl happened to be one of the major ones that made them a household name.

1. “Zombie” by The Cranberries. This Irish rock group managed to embed themselves as a well-known group of the ’90s, and made themselves into legends with a number of hits. However, Zombie proved to be an international success and a defining song of chick alternative rock.

Dark Alternative
Dark music of the 1990s tended to take a very mainstream turn. While goth music was popular in the 1980s, the 90s ended up taking it to a different turn.

10. “Join Me in Death” by HIM. While we often associate HIM with the early-2000s movement, they were actually able to find more popularity in the 90s.

9. “Sober” by Tool. Tool still has a ton of popularity and had a great number of hits, Sober was one of the biggest known songs that’s still popular today.

8. “Mother” by Danzig. A great number of hits came to this group throughout their entire career, but none were quite so big as Mother. Danzig are a dark metal group that hit peak popularity with this single.

7. “Shock the Monkey” by Coal Chamber. While Coal Chamber had a few other hits before the Peter Gabriel cover, this was the one that sent them into the TRL rankings. And another personal favorite.

6. “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction. A cult staple in the dark underground scene, this was the song that made Jane’s Addiction a household name.

5. “1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins. Though they’ve had a number of hits throughout their career, 1979 is one that was iconic of the dark alternative movement.

4. “Dragula” by Rob Zombie. The most well-known song of his solo career, this is one of the iconic moments in bringing dark alternative to the mainstream scene.

3. “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Though they reached popularity in the late 1980s, this hit spawned a lot of their success. The S&M themes in the video brought a lot of attention to them and made it popular in the darker communities.

2. “Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” by Type O Negative. A stable of the gothic metal community, this song took them to mainstream fame and is still a classic in every dark alternative situation.

1. “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. During the 1990s, Marilyn Manson became a household name through his shock-rock antics. This song in particular was one that everyone sang throughout the decade and remains one of the most popular anthems of the day.

The late ’90s brought with it a new hybrid of metal that included rap elements and, essentially, whatever else they felt like adding. And what’s more alternative than mixing genres?

10. “Southtown” by POD. This song was a staple at the time, though they didn’t have that much success afterword.

9. “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine. This group reached a good deal of fame during the decade, and this particular song was one of the nu-metal classics. Rage also brought with them a huge influx of political awareness that had been missing in the genres they catered to.

8. “Last Resort” by Papa Roach. Though not necessarily one of the quintessential songs of the sub-genre and more one of the pop-punk genre, it was still one of the hits considered for the time.

7. “Sugar” by System of a Down. Wildly popular at the time, it was an essential song for nu-metal and manages to still be a classic from the decade. They continued to have a number of similarly themed hits throughout the 2000s.

6. “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed. Famous for the “ooh-wa-ah-ah-ah” noise, Disturbed made their presence known as a nu-metal success.

5. “In the End” by Linkin Park. Iconic for the sub-genre, Linkin Park marked their claim to infamy with this hit. They continued to have a number of hits throughout the next few years as well.

4. “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit. Known for being paired with KoRn and a number of other bands on the Family Values tour and Woodstock of the ’90s, this was the song that catapulted them into fame.

3. “My Own Summer (Shove It)” by the Deftones. Though they had a number of other hits throughout the time, they were well known for this hit that made it onto the charts and made them a household staple of the decade.

2. “Wait and Bleed” by Slipknot. This Iowan band had a large bout of success starting in the 1990s, and their unique brand of individual sounds fused with metal made them an alternative staple. This song, in particular, launched a lot of their success and the hits that followed.

1. “Got the Life” by KoRn. The iconic nu-metal legends, they cemented their legacy earlier on in the 1990s with other hits like ‘Blind,’ but Got the Life remains one of their most well-known and was even the most requested TRL song, which is when the show had to begin retiring videos. The epitome of nu-metal alt becoming mainstream in the 1990s.

And there we have it, broken down into a few of the most prolific sub-genres of alternative in the 1990s, these five lists comprise a comprehensive list of the most well-known and legendary songs of the decade.