Purple Rain is regularly ranked among the best albums in music history. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the second-best album of the 1980s and 76th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2007, the editors of Vanity Fair labeled it the best soundtrack of all time and Tempo magazine named it the greatest album of the 1980s. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #2 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s" behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.  The album was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States."

The RIAA lists it as having gone platinum 13 times over. To date, it has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth best-selling soundtrack album of all time.