Top 50 Most Iconic Guitar Riffs of All-Time

For the past month or so, I had the chance to compile a revised list of the top 50 most iconic guitar riffs of all-time.

There’s nothing that touches the soul as of much as music does. For fans of all genres of music, there’s also certain song lyric, guitar solo, or guitar riff that captures the moment. That moment in the song is generally what makes it “iconic.”


But, as an avid fan of rock and roll, personally there’s nothing that makes a song more memorable than an iconic guitar riff. On the surface, it may seem like a simple sliding up and down and bending the strings to some. Even the typical music ear would be able to recognize the riff and would then be able to either tell you who the guitarist/band is, or the song title just by hearing it.

To conclude my introduction, that’s how this list was compiled. A close friend of mine who is highly responsible for my wide-ranging music taste, helped me think of hundreds of the most indelible guitar riffs. Then, through a very difficult process, we trimmed the list down to just 50 riffs. After that, in a “process of elimination,” we ranked the riffs into a “Top 50.”

50. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

49. The Scorpions – Rock You Like A Hurricane

48. Aerosmith – Walk This Way

47. Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

46. Smashing Pumpkins – Today

45. Heart – Barracuda

44. Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman

43. Jet – Are You Gonna Be My Girl

42. Boston – More Than A Feeling

41. The Beatles – Day Tripper

40 The Animals – House of The Rising Sun

39. Derek And The Dominos – Layla

38. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

37. Cream – Sunshine of Your Love

36. Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line

35. Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart

34. Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life

33. Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

32. Nirvana – Come As You Are

31. George Thorogood & The Destroyers – Bad To The Bone

30. ZZ Top – La Grange

29. Metallica – Enter Sandman

28. Michael Jackson – Beat It

27. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge

26. AC/DC – Thunderstruck

25. Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven

24. Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child

23. Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger

22. Black Sabbath – Paranoid

21. Eric Clapton – Cocaine

20. Van Halen – Jump

19. Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water

18. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

17. Paul McCartney & The Wings – Band On The Run

16. Kansas – Dust In The Wind

15. Santana – Smooth

14. Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight

13. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man

12. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue

10. Stevie Ray Vaughn – Pride and Joy

9. Blue Oyster Colt – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

8. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

7. Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode

6. The Guess Who – American Woman

5. The Eagles – Hotel California

4. The Rolling Stones – Paint It, Black

3. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze

2. Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

Overall, this was an amazing experience. Being able to relive some of these songs that I haven’t heard in a while. The toughest part as I mentioned before, was thinking “who makes the top 50?” After that, the process was slightly easier.

Approaching this piece, I pretty much was certain about which guitar riffs would be in the “Top 5.” Which made the final process easier. You’re probably thinking of some I may have missed right? More than likely it was discussed at some point throughout this process, but didn’t quite make the “Top 50,” for my list.



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