Ranking the work of The Beatles is a treacherous task. No matter your preference, thanks to the sheer volume of Fab four fanatics in the world, you will likely end up offending millions of people with your pick for the top spot, let alone which record gets the last place wooden spoon. So, we thought we’d rank those records, the illustrious canon of The Beatles, through the most unquestionable criteria around — sales.
That has always been the great thing about The Beatles records; while countless artists have experimental albums or songs that pushed the entire scope of music forward, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr did it all while making piles and piles of cash with the voluminous sales of their singles and albums.
It’s hard to put into words just how imposing the figure of The Beatles is over popular music — the shadow of the four lads from Liverpool has kept much of the music world in comparative darkness for six decades. Primarily cited as one of the forefathers of modern music, the strength of records The Beatles put out across their comparatively short time together is truly impressive and is rightly revered by all.
But while some albums are rightly beloved by the eclectic fanbase of the band, they may not have had the wider commercial success you would expect. Likewise, some of the band’s records sold millions of copies but have since slid down the scale of what is considered their greatest-ever LP. So while the below list is a definitive one, immovable by opinion or preference, it does have its caveats.
As well as noting that some of these records have become gluey with poptastic gunk in time, making them less desirable to the more discerning fan, we should also note that we have only focused on the 13 studio albums of the band — which is up for debate itself. Meaning records like the group’s landmark compilation of number one hits, 1 from 2000 (32 million copies sold) and their reconvening Anthology 1 (over 7 million copies sold) have been removed. We’re using Best Selling Albums as our bible in this feature, informing us that The Beatles have sold over 236 million copies of their albums.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the all-time best-selling Beatles albums.
13. With The Beatles (1963) – 1.1 million copies sold
Even for the global phenomenon of The Beatles, it would seem releasing two albums in one year isn’t always the most lucrative affair. The album With The Beatlesproved that more wasn’t always better. Despite being chock-full of pop hits — what else did you expect? — the record received a limited release in the US and suffered because of it.
However, it’s hard not to view this album with a heavy dose of nostalgia. It is full of the charm and charisma that made The Beatles one of the biggest bands of the moment and began Beatlemania.
With The Beatles – The Beatles
12. Yellow Submarine (1969) – 1.25 million copies sold
We’ve always considered the film soundtrack for Yellow Submarine to be one of the band’s flimsiest affairs, and the sales seem to prove we weren’t the only one. Selling the majority of the albums in America, it would seem by 1969; The Beatles were expected to deliver a lot more than nursery rhyme pop songs.
It’s not just because it was a film soundtrack that the Fab Four didn’t jump on the album, they did a fine job of some others, but aside from the few new songs which will make diehard fans happy, the LP lacks any real punch or direction. If you ever needed to point to the ‘worst’ Beatles album, this is surely it.
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
11. Beatles For Sale (1964) – 1.4 million copies sold
If there is one record which signified a stepping stone in The Beatles’ career, then it is Beatles for Sale. Released in 1964, the album contains flecks of the band the four lads were to become, with songs like ‘I’m A Loser’ and ‘Eight Days A Week’ bringing bountiful brilliance. However, it also contained a few reasons as to why they were desperate to escape their boyband image.
Caught between their chart-topping teeny-bopping pomp and the new artistic direction they were carving out for themselves, the album falls between the cracks and doesn’t match up to the rest of their output. It reflected in their album sales, while half of the world was still catching up to their sound, the other half was ready to move on.
Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
10. Please, Please Me (1963) – 1.7 million copies sold
The album that launched the group’s career is remembered rather fondly by all those who experienced it the first time around and with a saccharine softness by all those who came to it later in life. Please, Please Me is built out of sing-a-log pop anthems and encapsulates everything that made Beatlemania a global affair.
From Argentina to Japan to Denmark and back home to the UK, this record sold everywhere in large numbers. Even China has bought 5,000 copies in recent years. But it was the Uited States that devoured the album en masse, buying up a million copies and confirming the group as the new darlings of rock and roll.
Please, Please Me – The Beatles
9. Help! (1965) – 4.4 million copies sold
It was with Help! that the gravity of the band’s impact began to weigh heavily on the group members. Typified in ‘Help!’ the song Paul McCartney described as Lennon’s plea for help, the record sales also show a huge elevation in standards and expectations, more than doubling the two albums released the previous year.
Help! came at a significant moment for the band and once again highlighted their desire to push forward creatively, still keeping the chart-topping chops they had accrued.
Help! – The Beatles
8. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – 5.4 million copies sold
Once more, the record sales go up and the value of The Beatles as a band jumps once more. A Hard Day’s Night, built from a classic Ringoism, is another reminder of the sheer pop power of the band. This is pure Beatlemania at its finest. The album is comprised of original compositions pushed by the incredibly hooky titular song. Released in 1964, it is perhaps the ultimate distillation of the Fab Four in their pop pomp before they turned their attention to the art of it all.
The album is bursting with huge songs, including ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Tell Me Why’, and ‘If I Fell’, and it harnessed the songwriting partnership of Lennon and McCartney in full force for the first time. The proof was now in the pudding, with over 5 million copies sold.
A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
7. Let It Be (1970) – 6 million copies sold
This entry may surprise people. Let It Be, an album currently the focus of Peter Jackson’s stunning new documentary, didn’t have the bang of sales many expected. Perhaps the combination of the album being the group’s final effort and the sadness that imbued it, alongside the remastering of the songs by Phil Spector, make this LP less desirable than most would expect.
The record has several songs that are worthy of the ultimate Beatles pantheon, including the rocky ‘Get Back’, ‘I, Me, Mine’, ‘Across the Universe’ and, of course, the titular song ‘Let It Be’. It means the LP should certainly be considered among the top echelon of their work, regardless of the comparatively paltry sales.
Let It Be – The Beatles
6. Magical Mystery Tour (1967) – 7 million copies sold
The high volume of sales on this album suggests to us that the record was released at the perfect time — the Summer of Love. Released in July of 1967, the swirling psychedelia of the album meant it was always likely to sell several million copies, and it didn’t disappoint.
The record has more than a few good songs on it, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is the prime candidate, but its placement on this ranking is likely down to clever marketing as opposed to artistic brilliance. Released only as an EP in the UK, it speaks of how little the band were committed to making the record.
Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
5. Revolver (1966) – 7.2 million copies sold
Quickly becoming revered as one of the band’s most artistically credible albums, the fact that Revolver is receiving a brand new release this year suggests just how beloved the record is. In 1966, with The Beatles now exploring a new world of personal songwriting and universal experimentation, Revolver landed with a heavy thud of prowess.
Selling over 7 million copies, with the majority coming from the US, the record was another step toward greatness. The seventh album from the Fab Four sees the group take a huge leap into the unknown and push forward with their desire for musical experimentation. It saw George Harrison once again begin to establish his own songwriting career while Lennon and McCartney were arguably nearing their creative peak.
Not only was the album a serious attempt for artistic purity, but it was also highlighted by the humour and distinct candour The Beatles had brought to all their work. Songs ranging from the hilarious (‘Doctor Robert’) and nostalgic (‘Here, There and Everywhere’) to the hallucinatory (‘Tomorrow Never Knows’) and nihilistic (‘I’m Only Sleeping’) marked The Beatles out as more than just a band; they were now icons.
Revolver – The Beatles
4. Rubber Soul (1966) – 8.6 million copies sold
Revolver may have seen the band nearing their peak. However, they would never have been allowed such freedom if the previous album Rubber Soul hadn’t sold nearly 9 million copies. Featuring tracks like ‘Norwegian Wood’ and ‘Nowhere Man’, the LP is seen as a breakout moment and happens to be George Harrison’s favourite to boot.
“Rubber Soul was my favourite album,” he once revealed. “Even at that time, I think that it was the best one we made,” he added when reflecting on the iconic record in the ’90s. “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music, and everything was blossoming at that time—including us.”
Now, instead of making songs to top the charts, they wanted to make music to express themselves, and they responded by putting their own lives into the music. It was a moment that would change the band forever.
Rubber Soul – The Beatles
3. The White Album (1968) – 14 million copies sold
“What we’re trying to do is rock ‘n roll, ‘with less of your philosorock,’ is what we’re saying to ourselves. And get on with rocking because rockers is what we really are,” said John Lennon in 1968 while recording The White Album, the mammoth double LP can certainly be seen as that. And as the public recovered from the Summer of Love, this dose of realism still connected with an audience now turning their attention to the heavier side of rock and roll.
The album is full of big-hitting Beatles numbers such as ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Savoy Truffle’, ‘Dear Prudence’ and countless other masterpieces. Across a plethora of songs, The Beatles once again proved to be on top of the world despite their inner turmoil. As the group fought tooth and nail in the studio, they were still able to sell millions of copies, including a mammoth 12 million copies in the US alone.
The White Album – The Beatles
2. Abbey Road (1969) – 19.9 million copies sold
The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road has gone on to become a defining moment in the illustrious career of one of the greatest bands to have ever walked the planet and, to this day, continues to be regarded as one of the finest records ever made. It is one of the band’s rockiest records but across 17 individual tracks, (yes, we’re counting ‘The Medley’ as their individual songs), we get to see a distillation of everything that made The Beatles great.
It makes sense then that the record should be one of the best-selling albums of their rich catalogue, with a huge 19 million copies sold. The LP saw the Fab Four incorporating genres such as blues, rock and pop, a record which also makes prominent use of Moog synthesiser, sounds filtered through a Leslie speaker, and tom-tom drums.
It showed a band still desperate to innovate and create, never happy to sit on their creative hands and let them rot idly by. At the time, the group were well aware that this was likely to be their final album, and they arguably saved the best until last.
Abbey Road – The Beatles
1. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – 32 million copies sold
Of course, it was to be expected. The album that was widely regarded as the greatest ever made until a few years ago has sold the most copies of any Beatles album. Dwarfing its nearest competitor with a simply gargantuan 32 million copies sold, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remains at the top of the pile.
The album isn’t just a masterpiece of creation, it also has some of the group’s most memorable songs too. If there was one album which signified the breadth of talent The Beatles had at their disposal, it was Sgt. Pepper. Released in 1967 as part of the band’s new move away from being the Fab Four and heading towards a more conceptualised piece, the album is widely, and quite rightly, seen as Paul McCartney’s best work.
It also signifies the moment the many facets of The Beatles’ success came together at once. The combination of the wonderful connection had with the counterculture movement, the unique viewpoints the band members gave their songs, the indescribable ability to both experiment with new sounds and deliver saleable songs, is what The Beatles were all about.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
What The Beatles album has sold the most?
Sgt Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – 32 million copies sold
Abbey Road (1969) – 19.9 million copies sold
The White Album (1968) – 14 million copies sold
Rubber Soul (1966) – 8.6 million copies sold
Revolver (1966) – 7.2 million copies sold
Magical Mystery Tour (1967) – 7 million copies sold
Let It Be (1970) – 6 million copies sold
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – 5.4 million copies sold
Help! (1965) – 4.4 million copies sold
Please, Please Me (1963) – 1.7 million copies sold
Beatles For Sale (1964) – 1.4 million copies sold
Yellow Submarine (1969) – 1.25 million copies sold
With The Beatles (1963) – 1.1 million copies sold