What was the greatest chart album of all time?

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The approach taken to decide the greatest chart success of an album is similar to that for the greatest song. First all the scores are added up, then they are adjusted to remove any systematic bias that comes from the fact that more charts are available for recent periods. Of course albums didn't exist before 1947 so our charts only start in 1950. Notice that this list does not indicate the albums with the highest total sales (which cannot be known) but rather the albums with the most success in the charts. Once the album's adjusted scores are reviewed it is clear that some of them stand out as runaway successes. Here is the final list, the biggest album hits of all time:

# Artist Album Title Year
1 The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967
2 Michael Jackson Thriller 1982
3 The Beatles Abbey Road 1969
4 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 1977
5 Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever 1978
6 The Beatles Revolver 1966
7 Dire Straits Brothers In Arms 1985
8 Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA 1984
9 Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon 1973
10 The Beatles The Beatles (The White Album) 1968
11 Pink Floyd The Wall 1979
12 U2 The Joshua Tree 1987
13 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water 1970
14 The Beatles Rubber Soul 1965
15 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 2 1969
16 Santana Supernatural 1999
17 Eagles Hotel California 1976
18 Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 1995
19 U2 Rattle & Hum 1988
20 Original Soundtrack Grease: The Original Soundtrack 1978
21 Led Zeppelin Four Symbols (Led Zeppelin 4) 1971
22 Paul Simon Graceland 1986
23 Leonard Bernstein West Side Story 1962
24 Madonna True Blue 1986
25 Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman 1988
26 Whitney Houston The Bodyguard 1993
27 Celine Dion Falling Into You 1996
28 Nirvana Nevermind 1991
29 Neil Young Harvest 1972
30 Eminem The Eminem Show 2002
31 Green Day American Idiot 2004
32 Miles Davis Kind of Blue 1959
33 Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love 1997
34 Coldplay X & Y 2005
35 Madonna Like A Prayer 1989
36 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here 1975
37 REM Automatic For The People 1992
38 Phil Collins No Jacket Required 1985
39 Prince Purple Rain 1984
40 Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 1985
41 U2 How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 2004
42 Phil Collins ... But Seriously 1989
43 Sinead O'Connor I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got 1990
44 AC/DC Back In Black 1980
45 The Police Synchronicity 1983
46 Celine Dion & James Horner Titanic 1998
47 Michael Jackson Bad 1987
48 Stevie Wonder Songs In The Key Of Life 1976
49 Eric Clapton Unplugged 1992
50 Norah Jones Come Away With Me 2002
51 U2 Achtung Baby 1991
52 The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers 1971
53 The Fugees The Score 1996
54 Abba Gold, Greatest Hits 1992
55 Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 1986
56 Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? 1995
57 Spice Girls Spice 1996
58 Supertramp Breakfast In America 1979
59 The Doors The Doors 1967
60 Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2000
61 Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy 1973
62 Metallica Metallica 1991
63 Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
64 The Prodigy The Fat Of The Land 1997
65 Shania Twain Come On Over 1998
66 The Beatles 1 2000
67 Celine Dion All The Way... A Decade Of Songs 1999
68 Richard Rodgers The Sound Of Music 1965
69 Madonna Ray Of Light 1998
70 The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street 1972
71 John Lennon Double Fantasy 1980
72 Peter Gabriel So 1986
73 Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 1983
74 Madonna Like A Virgin 1984
75 Wings Band On The Run 1974
76 Radiohead OK Computer 1997
77 Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head 2002
78 The Backstreet Boys Millennium 1999
79 Mariah Carey Daydream 1995
80 Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication 1999
81 Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced? 1967
82 Pink Floyd The Division Bell 1994
83 Mariah Carey Music Box 1993
84 Michael Jackson Dangerous 1991
85 Madonna Confessions On A Dance Floor 2005
86 Original Soundtrack Dirty Dancing 1987
87 Metallica Load 1996
88 Bon Jovi Crossroad - The Best Of Bon Jovi 1994
89 U2 All That You Can't Leave Behind 2000
90 Michael Jackson History - Past, Present & Future, Book 1 1995
91 The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed 1969
92 Madonna Music 2000
93 Norah Jones Feels Like Home 2004
94 George Michael Faith 1987
95 Whitney Houston Whitney 1987
96 REM Out Of Time 1991
97 Metallica St Anger 2003
98 Eminem Encore 2004
99 U2 Zooropa 1993
100 Frank Sinatra In the Wee Small Hours 1955
101 Barbra Streisand Guilty 1980
102 Frank Sinatra Songs For Swingin' Lovers 1956
103 Bob Newhart The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart 1960
104 The Beach Boys Pet Sounds 1966
105 Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell 1977
106 Ray Charles Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music 1962
107 John Lennon Imagine 1971
108 Bruce Springsteen Born To Run 1975
109 Thelonious Monk Genius of Modern Music, Vol 2 1951
110 The Beatles A Hard Day's Night 1964
111 Michael Jackson Off The Wall 1979
112 James Blunt Back To Bedlam 2005
113 The Beatles Help! 1965
114 Nirvana Unplugged In New York 1994
115 Carole King Tapestry 1971
116 Original Soundtrack Oklahoma! 1955
117 Linkin Park Meteora 2003
118 Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again 2000
119 Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way 2002
120 Michael Jackson Invincible 2001
121 Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits 1995
122 Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti 1975
123 Santana Abraxas 1970
124 Red Hot Chili Peppers Stadium Arcadium 2006
125 The Beatles The Beatles 1967-1970 1973
126 Elton John Elton John's Greatest Hits 1974
127 Paul McCartney Tug Of War 1982
128 Deep Purple Machine Head 1972
129 No Doubt Tragic Kingdom 1996
130 Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited 1965
131 Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland 1968
132 Queen A Night At The Opera 1975
133 Prince Lovesexy 1988
134 Bob Dylan Blood On The Tracks 1975
135 Coldplay Viva La Vida 2008
136 Britney Spears Baby One More Time 1999
137 Guns n' Roses Appetite For Destruction 1987
138 Bryan Adams So Far So Good 1993
139 Alanis Morissette Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie 1998
140 REM Monster 1994
141 REM New Adventures In Hi-Fi 1996
142 The Cranberries No Need To Argue 1994
143 Original Soundtrack Flashdance 1983
144 Bob Dylan Desire 1976
145 Ricky Martin Ricky Martin 1999
146 Prince Sign 'O' The Times 1987
147 The Verve Urban Hymns 1997
148 Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell II, Back Into Hell 1993
149 The Sex Pistols Never Mind The B******s, Here's The Sex Pistols 1977
150 U2 Pop 1997
151 Bruce Springsteen The Rising 2002
152 Massive Attack Mezzanine 1998
153 The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness 1995
154 Bon Jovi New Jersey 1988
155 The Rolling Stones Tattoo You 1981
156 Dido No Angel 2001
157 Destiny's Child Survivor 2001
158 Robbie Williams Intensive Care 2005
159 Bryan Adams Waking Up The Neighbours 1991
160 Abba Arrival 1976
161 Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill 1998
162 Nirvana In Utero 1993
163 Anastacia Anastacia 2004
164 The Beatles The Beatles 1962-1966 1973
165 The Clash London Calling 1979
166 Elvis Presley Elvis Presley 1956
167 Roxy Music Avalon 1982
168 Evanescence Fallen 2003
169 Dido Life For Rent 2003
170 David Bowie The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars 1972
171 George Harrison All Things Must Pass 1970
172 Frederick Loewe My Fair Lady 1957
173 U2 The Unforgettable Fire 1984
174 The Police Ghost In The Machine 1981
175 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Deja Vu 1970
176 Green Day Dookie 1994
177 Shakira Laundry Service 2002
178 Def Leppard Hysteria 1987
179 Pink Floyd P.U.L.S.E. 1995
180 Bruce Springsteen The River 1980
181 The Rolling Stones Some Girls 1978
182 Phil Collins Face Value 1981
183 Limp Bizkit Chocolate Starfish & The Hot Dog Flavoured Water 2000
184 Spice Girls Spiceworld 1997
185 Shania Twain Up 2002
186 Tina Turner Foreign Affair 1989
187 Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusion II 1991
188 Beyonce Dangerously In Love 2003
189 Madonna The Immaculate Collection 1990
190 Robbie Williams Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits 2004
191 Madonna I'm Breathless 1990
192 Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus Christ Superstar 1971
193 Rick Astley Whenever You Need Somebody 1988
194 Bee Gees Spirits Having Flown 1979
195 Original Soundtrack Top Gun 1986
196 Bon Jovi These Days 1995
197 Moby Play 1999
198 Celine Dion The Colour Of My Love 1994
199 The Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge 1994
200 Radiohead Kid A 2000

The data here was calculated off-line from data version 1.8.0049. The way the scores are adjusted has been slightly refined so the order is different from our previous listings (especially for the lower numbered entries). We believe that this new ordering provides a better estimate of success.

As with all the complex calculations described on the site you can decide to try a different approach. If your analysis shows something interesting tell us about it.

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Previous Comments (newest first)

21 Aug 2014

Is there a top 1000 or 3000 CSV of Album data?

I'd love to see the raw numbers for albums in the same way as they presented for the top 3000 singles. I'd like to combine the two so that album sales contribute to the ranking of singles.

RockGolf

Unfortunately we don't have enough album charts to divide them into the regions and get significant results (statistically)

Update: We have now added some code to deliver a listing of the top 2000 albums in CSV form. See the FAQ: "How is the site is generated?" (the "Different Approach?" section).


9 Sep 2012

cool

I can't believe Lovesexy beat Sign O' the Times ... oh well, it was very successful worldwide even if not in the states, thanks for your list!

You'll note that on Prince's album page they are the other way round, so it depends how you calculate the result (the greatest chart list is less sensative to the source charts that are available).


13 Aug 2009

The Beatles / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Couldn't agree more, the Beatles / "Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is where it supposed to be in the No. 1 slot. That album is responsible for all those other albums that came after. The Beatles were the pioneers, the originators, and the sounds they created changed the world. The Beatles influence goes far beyond music and it's importance will never be equalled.