When people talk about Dragon Ball, it's usually the heroes who get the spotlight. They are the ones saving the world, who we follow for hundreds of episodes, and who get a lot of the cool moments. There is just no way the franchise would be as huge as it has become if you took out the likes of Goku or Vegeta. But at the same time, heroes are a lot less interesting without competition. That's why every great hero needs a great villain.
Fortunately, the Dragon Ball franchise has had a lot of great villains. For this article we'll be looking across the original Dragon Ball, DBZ, GT, Super, and even the movies to pick out the best of the bunch. This is more about personality than power. Which villains do fans find the most threatening, the coolest, or even the funniest? We'll find out today as we look at Dragon Ball: 15 Best Villains Of All Time.
15 KID BUU
As we said, personality takes precedence over power for these villains, otherwise this list could be comprised of a lot of god-like characters who have all the personality of a jar of mayonnaise. That being said, villains who use their power in creative ways can still make things interesting even if their conversation skills are decidedly lacking. Kid Buu is probably the most direct villain in the entire franchise, never once wasting time to utter a single coherent word. But he lets his actions speak plenty.
Of all the villains who threatened to destroy the Earth, Kid Buu was the first to actually do it. As powerful as Vegeta, Frieza, Cell and so many others were, they always showed the restraint to not vaporize the planet they were currently on. Not Kid Buu, though. He might have been weaker than prior incarnations of Buu, but he immediately demonstrated why he was more dangerous by unleashing chaos across the universe and casually killing entire populations. Kid Buu's maniacal ways made him feel like the pinnacle of villainy, someone who even past antagonists in Hell rooted against. He never had any great speeches or sympathetic backstory, but he was memorable for just being so powerful.
People have strong opinions about Dragon Ball GT (most of them negative), but there's no denying the show did have a few genuinely interesting ideas. One of the bright spots was definitely the introduction of Baby, the longest running villain the series had. At this point in the franchise the Saiyans had become so massively strong that it seemed nothing could compete with them. So what better villain than one who could turn the strength of the Saiyans against them by possessing them?
A lot of people found Super Android 17's power to be ridiculous, and while the evil dragons were a good concept, Omega Shenron had a pretty generic personality. Baby was the standout villain of the entire series not only because of his unique rise to power, but because he actually had a basis for grudge with the Saiyans (they destroyed his entire race). Plus Baby was responsible for us getting what was one of the best things about GT—Super Saiyan 4!
13 CAPTAIN GINYU
The Ginyu Force spent a lot more time being comedic relief than they did being a serious threat to anyone. But that's actually what made them so fun, and popular with the fans. It gets boring when everyone is a grim tyrant who wants to destroy the world. Ginyu and his troops were strong, but they cared more about perfecting their poses than they did about conquering humanity. It made them some of the more endearing villains in the entire franchise.
Captain Ginyu in particular was a great blend of power and humor. He could do something as silly as destroying an entire regiment of his troops for lacking impressive battle poses, but he also unveiled what could be one of the most useful techniques in the franchise in his body swapping ability. It's a shame he didn't put it to better use than becoming a frog, and later Bulma for a while, but he was a welcome change of pace to all the tense standoffs. Plus it was nice to get to see him again in Super, even if his time in the new series proved very short-lived thanks to Vegeta.
12 ANDROIDS 17 AND 18
These are the only villains in the franchise that are purely a package deal. Sure, the Ginyu Force fought as a team, but Captain Ginyu immediately started trying to replace them once they began dying off. Besides, Jeice and his Aussie accent might have been cool, but individually, the other members weren't so great. On the other hand, 17 and 18 are a threat not only as a team, but have even proven powerful when on their own.
Admittedly 17 and 18 are mostly noteworthy here for what they were able to do in the future rather than the main timeline of the show. They were fine in the primary timeline, but based on how strong Vegeta, Goku, and Gohan got in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, it looked inevitable the androids would be defeated. In the alternate future, though, they pretty much brought about the apocalypse. In the timeline of Future Trunks, the androids wiped out almost everyone and left the few survivors living in constant fear. 17 and 18 didn't get as much screen time as a lot of other villains, but they also accomplished so much more before finally being destroyed or rehabilitated.
11 GOKU BLACK
While everyone was excited for the return of Dragon Ball with the premier of Super, maybe expectations were a little too high to start things out. The series had barely begun before fans were already launching into criticisms about other characters taking a backseat to Goku and Vegeta, villains who got defeated too easily, and especially the animation style. But fans who stuck around eventually got rewarded with the introduction of the new and intriguing character Goku Black.
This evil doppelganger of Goku immediately caught people's attention by marking the return of Future Trunks to the franchise. It looked like Trunks' future was going to be fine after Androids 17 and 18, and Cell, were all eliminated, but then Goku Black turned out to be worse than all of them. He revealed new depths of power with his Super Saiyan Rose transformation, and the mystery of his true identity kept fans guessing for months. At this point it's not yet clear how much more of an impact Goku Black will have, but he's already left a strong mark by giving fans a reason to get engaged with Super, and giving the Z Fighters a challenge again.
For all the movies the Dragon Ball franchise has had, the villains honestly are seldom very interesting. There were extreme disappointments like Bio-Broly, and lots of lackluster characters like Android 13. The challenge of getting an audience to care about a totally new character within the time constraints of a movie is a tough task, but occasionally the writers pulled it off. Frieza’s brother Cooler was one such villain.
Because few characters in the franchise can have peaceful relationships with their siblings, Cooler actually seemed to view Frieza as a rival. Cooler even admitted he probably would have killed his brother himself if the Saiyans hadn’t. Just the chance to find out more of the backstory between Frieza’s family already makes Cooler an interesting addition to the franchise, but Cooler further differentiates himself when he shows up in his metal form in his sequel. He probably would have just been destroyed like his brother and father by Trunks if he had been in the TV series, but we still can’t help wishing he could’ve had the chance to display his rivalry with Frieza on screen.
9 SUPER BUU
Some of you will probably dispute having multiple versions of the same character in this topic, but when their personalities are so wildly different, it seems justified. Yeah, Fat Buu, Super Buu, and Kid Buu are all the same person, but can any fan really say they feel the same way about all three iterations? Fat Buu was unique, but also felt way too childish to take seriously as a threat to the characters. So when he finally got taken over by his evil side and became Super Buu, it was like a whole new character.
This leaner, meaner version of Buu showed off his darker ways right away by performing one of the most gruesome kills in the franchise. He liquefied his body and funneled himself down the throat of a bystander until the man exploded from gorging on Buu's bubblegum-like body. Unlike his Kid form though, Super Buu also had a personality. He could be rationalized with enough to sit and wait for a challenger to face him, while also showing the calculated cruelty to do something like transform Chi-Chi into an egg just to smash it. And yet Super Buu was also still childish enough that when he realized he was trapped in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, his first concern was about how he would eat candy. All in all, he was a significant upgrade to Fat Buu.
8 MAJIN VEGETA
Majin Buu isn’t the only one who Babidi’s magic was able to control and alter. Some might dispute whether this was an alternate personality for Vegeta, but we definitely saw Babidi’s mind control could drastically change characters. When Majin Spopovich showed up in the martial arts tournament, people immediately thought of how different he looked and acted from when they previously saw him. And Vegeta also remarked how he let Babidi’s magic take him over to not only raise his power, but to allow himself to tap into his more brutal nature. So Majin Vegeta certainly seems like a separate personality.
Although this incarnation of Vegeta was short-lived, he made a huge impression with his willingness to kill off innocent people after having seemingly settled down and become a hero. His pride, his lust for power, and his jealousy of Goku amplified and became his new personality. And it led to the long-awaited rematch between Goku and Vegeta, which was one of the bright spots of DBZ as it found a new story after Cell. Plus it eventually allowed Vegeta to show a softer side when he finally realized his family and friends mattered more to him than his pride, and he made the ultimate sacrifice against Buu to try and protect them.
After how many years Dragon Ball had been off TV, it was going to take a lot for a new character to catch people's interest again. After DBZ's Majin Buu, plus all the villains in GT, what else could the franchise possibly do to portray someone as a bigger threat? The last movie to come out had introduced Abo and Cado who were treated like total joke characters. The Z fighters were unstoppable and they knew it, so who could stop them?
Battle of Gods answered that question quite quickly when Goku eagerly decided to challenge the newcomer Beerus. The god of destruction showed he lived up to his reputation when he easily dominated a Super Saiyan 3 Goku, proving he was far beyond the power of any of the heroes. And the incredible thing was at the end of the movie, there still wasn't anyone who was a match for him. Even facing a Super Saiyan God Goku, Beerus was holding back on his power. He was the first villain who actually triumphed. And he even showed some good sense in sparing the Earth after he realized how much he liked the food there.
6 PERFECT CELL
Perfect Cell is many people’s pick for the best villain of the franchise, and some might grumble that he’s not being saved for last. But the franchise has had so many good antagonists that trying to put them in any kind of order will always be hugely subjective. Most fans can agree that of the many opponents who showed up in DBZ after Frieza, that Cell was the best of the bunch. Androids 19 and 20 didn’t look very intimidating, and 17 and 18 were powerful and had an interesting backstory, but also didn’t have much going for them besides the bland motive of killing Goku.
Then Cell came along and had a time travel origin, and powers from the show’s strongest fighters, and actually looked like a tough opponent. His Perfect Form gets a lot of attention since everything was building to that form, and it paid off with some really good moments. We got to see Gohan finally unlock his hidden power, and Goku finally encounter a foe he couldn’t beat. And Perfect Cell’s death was arguably the best in the franchise, with a visually spectacular battle of two Kamehamehas where all the Z Fighters got one last moment of glory in helping Gohan prevail.
5 KING PICCOLO
The original Dragon Ball doesn’t get spoken of as much when it comes time to discuss villains because the show didn’t really have super powerful characters by later standards. But in a way, that made a lot of the fights better since the characters had to rely on outsmarting each other and finding counters to techniques instead of just putting on a pair of earrings to suddenly become as powerful as the unstoppable villain. In that regard, King Piccolo was part of a dying breed of villains who managed to be intimidating without his fights relying on people utilizing some deus ex machina power up.
Even among the original Dragon Ball villains, Piccolo was easily the best. His other competitors included lots of enemies who eventually turned friendly like Yamcha and Oolong, villain of the week enemies like Boss Rabbit, and the long running comedic villain Emperor Pilaf. King Piccolo was one of the first you could truly believe was dangerous enough to take over the world, and he kicked off his saga on a strong note when his son Tambourine killed Krillin.
Broly is a controversial villain among the Dragon Ball fan base. Some people consider him overrated since his defining characteristics are being an evil Super Saiyan and his fondness for screaming Kakarot. In a way, he's a lot like Vegeta. But Broly sets himself apart by being the most brutal Super Saiyan in the franchise. Goku, Gohan, and Vegeta all drag out their fights for different reasons, but Broly doesn't play around. He's a powerhouse and he demonstrates it like no other villain when he singlehandedly takes out all the Z Fighters at once.
Broly was so popular that he's also the only villain to get three movies devoted to him. Though admittedly Bio-Broly is probably the worst movie in the franchise, it doesn't detract from the huge impact of The Legendary Super Saiyan. It's hard not to be impressed by someone who can take a point blank Kamehameha and just laugh it off. Of all the movie villains, he's the one that left fans wishing he had gotten a proper saga devoted to him in the TV series.
3 IMPERFECT CELL
Some of you will no doubt critique counting Cell's different forms separately since they're all the same person. But, again, Cell's three forms all have such different personalities that you can't say you like them all equally. Like honestly, does anyone enjoy Semi-Perfect Cell and his voice that sounds like he's got a mouthful of doughnuts? Perfect Cell was cool and confident, but Imperfect Cell is the form that fans always point to as the creepiest villain in the franchise.
Imperfect Cell was Cell's most insect-like and menacing form, and that was something that was lost as his transformations increasingly humanized him. Even beyond his appearance though, Imperfect Cell also had the most predatory personality. He talks about what an honor it is for people to be absorbed by him because they are becoming part of perfection. He feels no remorse in taking anyone's life because in his mind he's turning them into something better. Plenty of villains show amusement at destroying entire worlds, but Imperfect Cell shows an almost sexual pleasure in hunting down each individual life that causes even villains like Androids 17 and 18 to be disgusted by him. His tenure on the show is short, but he left an unnerving impression.
The first villain who fans really connected with in Dragon Ball Z wasn't Goku's brother Raditz or the bald brute Nappa, but the Saiyan Prince Vegeta. His first fight with Goku was arguably one of the best fights in the franchise and immediately had the chemistry for a classic rivalry between the two Saiyans. Goku was happy to see Vegeta spared due to his merciful nature, but fans were happy because they knew they were going to get to see the two clash again in the future.
Though Vegeta wouldn't fully become a hero until after being wished back from life following his death on Namek, his entire conflict with Frieza's forces saw him treading the line between a villain and a good guy. The people he fought were arguably more evil than he was, but Vegeta was also extremely cruel and brutal in dispatching them. His entire time on Namek gave him one of the most interesting runs of any villain because he was like a mercenary, willing to simultaneously fight anyone or work with whoever could help him, but ultimately only loyal to himself.
Could there really be anyone else to save for last? Frieza is the most iconic villain of the franchise. For over a hundred episodes in Dragon Ball Z, Frieza is the most dangerous character in the universe. Everything was building to the big confrontation with him, and he killed longtime characters like Krillin and Vegeta. And once his battle with Goku began, it became the longest fight to ever happen in an anime.
Frieza's impact goes beyond just being one of the franchise's most powerful villains. He's the one who drove Goku to become a Super Saiyan. He has the most developed backstory of any of the villains between his history with planet Vegeta, and his family later being introduced into the series. And he continued to have a presence in GT, and Super, and even the movies. Plus he was the only returning villain smart enough to actually train while he was away, creating what was arguably an even better fight when he came back as Golden Frieza. Like him or not, Frieza set the bar for every villain in the franchise, and as great as some of the others were, none of them redefined Dragon Ball like he did.
Who was your favorite Dragon Ball villain? There are no wrong answers (except maybe Garlic Jr.) so make your case in the comments!