You really have to give credit for the Dragon Ball franchise for its longevity. The original series and Z together ran for 10 years in Japan, and the latter was brought to American TV in 1996 and has enjoyed monumental success across multiple generations of viewers. Before the new series, Dragon Ball Super, fans had nearly 20 years before any new canonical material was released, but miraculously it remained as popular as ever despite this. Aside from the various TV series, Dragon Ball has released many movies, TV specials, and OVAs to varying reception from fans. Although none of the movies are official canon, that has never stopped fans from analyzing their favorite characters and discussing which movie is best or worst.
The criteria for judging is numerous and include the heroes who get to fight, how strong and powerfil the villains are, and how the movies in general stand the test of time against fresher content, among other things.There are a lot of films to choose from and they cover every major part in the series. If you’re a fan of a particular story arc, there is at least one movie out there that will allow you to see your favorite characters go a little crazy with their powers.
With that said, here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) Dragon Ball Movies, Ranked.
18 Worst: Dead Zone
The first movie under the Dragon Ball Z series, Dead Zone holds a place in many fans' memories because it was the first movie that many of them saw. Nostalgia only goes so far ,though, and while this movie does have some good fight sequences, it is brought down by a lack of strong villains and a plot that is bare bones in retrospect.
Garlic Jr, the lead bad, is not very compelling and his henchmen are even less so. The movie clearly takes place before Raditz arrives, and when looking back at the fight between Goku/Piccolo vs Garlic, it looks and feels like a less thrilling version of Goku/Piccolo vs Raditz.
The villain’s power ranking is very low, as Goku and Piccolo are able to topple him once they removed the weighted clothing, and only Garlic’s immortality can save him.
Infant Gohan is also a negative, as it’s much more entertaining to see him in the movies and specials when he’s older. Dead Zone coasts on nostalgia but, as far as content goes, there are much better movies to see.
17 Best: Super Android 13
Taking place sometime after the death of Dr Gero, Super Android 13 is a side story in the popular Android Saga that reveals the evil doctor’s supercomputer had created 3 secret androids: the titular villain, as well as Android 14 and 15.
This movie is a shorter one but maximizes its minutes with a steady pace that never drags on. It also includes some good fights against worthy enemies. The long fight sequence is essentially a 3 on 3 battle with the Androids taking on Goku, Trunks, and Vegeta.
The flow and dynamics of the fight eventually lead to a Goku pairing off with 13, while Trunks and Vegeta isolate and destroy 14 and 15, respectively. Piccolo also joins the battle later on.
When the other two Androids fall, 13 fuses their power into himself and thus begins the climactic battle of the movie. Super Android 13 is exactly what a Dragon Ball movie should be: a fun, action packed adventure that adds to ethos of the franchise.
16 Worst: The Tree Of Might
The third of the Dragon Ball Z movies is The Tree of Might. If we were to try to place it in the timeline, it would perhaps be take place before the Frieza Saga.
The plot of this one starts with a forest fire and Gohan and Krillin rescuing various forest animals, including a baby dragon named Icarus, who later makes several appearances.
Unfortunately, the movie is dominated by Icarus-- he gets way too much screen time here that should have been focused elsewhere. The villains are a group of Saiyans led by Turles, who has the exact same character model as Goku, only with darker skin.
The plot involves the villains trying to plant a special tree on the planet that will absorb all of its energy. Whoever eats the fruit of the tree once the energy is absorbed will become incredibly powerful.
Overall, the movie has lackluster villains that could have used more development, and an ending that feels rushed and tacked on. The Tree of Might feels like a lot of missed opportunity.
15 Best: Bardock - The Father Of Goku
Bardock - The Father of Goku was the first Dragon Ball Z TV special. It focuses on Bardock, a character whose place in the cannon is questionable. However, the movie gives some solid backstory and insight into Saiyan society.
Bardock is a low-level Saiyan warrior who serves under Frieza. He leads his own small team of warriors and his new son, Goku, is thought to be the one who will destroy all life on Earth once he gets there. However, after nearly exterminating all life on Planet Kanassa, he is given a vision of destruction of the Saiyan race and Goku’s true destiny as their savior.
Bardock’s team is destroyed on Frieza’s orders and he fights back valiantly, taking out many of t Frieza’s minions. In the end, Bardock is easily overwhelmed by Frieza but has one last vision of his son’s future. He dies knowing that he got Goku away safely before Frieza could destroy the planet.
This special has an excellent story that really adds some depth to the mysterious Saiyan race. It was also well received by fans overall. Although the movie isn’t officially canon, Bardock as a character does exist in the manga.
14 Worst: The Path To Power
The Path to Power is a unique offering that was made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the original Dragon Ball series. The movie is a very abridged telling of the original series, which is exactly why it is one of the worst movies.
Condensing a 153 episodes into an 80 minute movie will inherently leave out a lot of content, but The Path to Power omits some of the very best things. There is no Krillin, Mercenary Tao, nor Emperor Pilaf and his minions. There are also various cosmetic changes to many characters.
It is unclear who this movie is supposed to target. Dedicated fans already saw the series and know the detailed story, while new or casual fans who watched it would have missed out on a lot of key parts.
The Path to Power isn’t so much bad as it is a totally unnecessary, as it neither enhances the story nor does it work as a good introduction or summary of the series.
13 Best: Fusion Reborn
One of the benefits of having non-canon material in a series is that the creators have a chance to go a little nuts with the content, and no movie does this more or better than Fusion Reborn, which doesn't take itself too seriously.
Fusion Reborn is crazy from the get-go. The story begins with a demon in Otherworld that is guarding a soul cleansing machine. When it blows up, it releases all of the evil and transforms the demon into a powerful villain named Janemba.
There are several things that stand out here, most famously is how truly strange and alien the setting and characters are. Janemba can manipulate matter and his attacks include punching through portals and summoning mini versions of Goku.
The border between dimensions is down, so there are some bizarre villains like Hitler and Dracula on Earth, and we get the first appearance of Gogeta, the fusion dance counterpart to Vegito.
This only scratches the surface of the unique and bizarre movie, but it is an entertaining ride that shows what strange wonders can happen when the makers of Dragon Ball are off the leash.
12 Worst: Curse Of The Blood Rubies
This is the oldest entry on the list, and the very first Dragon Ball movie, as it was released back in 1986. Back then, the manga was not nearly as popular as it went on to be, and the movie was used in part as a promotional tool for it.
Blood Rubies is basically episodes 1-8 of the anime series, but doesn’t include Pilaf, Mai, Shu, or various other characters. Instead, we get King Gurumes, who is under a curse that makes his appetite insatiable.
The charm of the series is still somewhat present, but some of humor is absent, as is some of the character development. For example, some of Goku’s noble traits, such as his bravery when he saves Turtle or his innocent persona, are absent.
Bulma has bigger role and it is her who defeats the villain in the end. That may be an interesting change, but overall the movie has some of the same problems Path to Power does-- it’s a retelling of a story that was already good to begin with.
11 Best: Cooler's Revenge
Movie villain Cooler, Frieza’s older brother, is the first enemy to make two movie appearances, and both are solid entries in the franchise. Cooler's Revenge is his first appearance and shows him as a strong, driven character, but with more maturity and honor than his sadistic little brother.
Cooler has the power to match and even surpass Frieza. In fact, one of the more memorable moments from the movie is when Cooler hits Goku with a single blast and knocks him out for nearly the entire movie. Cooler’s henchmen, especially Salza, are also formidable fighters who push the team to the limit.
Goku eventually makes a dramatic appearance after recovering from Cooler’s blast and the fight is far from over. Cooler's Revenge does an excellent job of building tension and staging a dramatic final battle, pushing Goku and the Z fighters to bring out their very best.
Certainly one of the better movies, Cooler’s Revenge is one that can always be revisited since it never loses its flare.
10 Worst: The World's Strongest
As the second movie in the Z series, World’s Strongest focuses on a mad scientist named Dr Kochin who wants to gather the Dragon Balls and wish back his master, Dr Wheelo and his lab from an icy prison.
The movie starts off with Gohan and Oolong searching for the Dragon Balls. Kochin manages to get them before they do, though, which results in the lab being raised and Gohan, Oolong, and Piccolo being attacked by Bio-men (who look exactly like Saibamen from the series).
The most memorable scene is Gohan’s daydreaming montage about Piccolo. Gohan is still a kid and Piccolo is very much a father to him, much more than Goku, and the song praises Piccolo’s strength and Gohan’s dream to become a great scholar. It’s amusing, and the movie is an improvement over the first, but it lacks in the villain department.
Also, while Goku’s 2-on-1 fight with Kishime and Ebifurya is entertaining, there are no other memorable action scenes. While World' Strongest isn’t terrible, most of the other movies are a lot better.
9 Best: Resurrection 'F'
As the fifteenth Dragon Ball movie, Resurrection 'F' is a fan favorite. It is even supervised by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, which means that is is considered a part of the official storyline.
In the beginning, members of Frieza's army head to Earth in order to obtain Dragon Balls to wish for Frieza's revival. Once revived, Frieza decides to seek revenge against Goku and his friends. However, he soon learns that Goku has beaten Maji Buu and decides to train. Eventually, Frieza returns to Earth and Bulma gets word of his arrival.
Unfortunately, both Goku and Vegeta are away training so Gohan, Piccolo, Master Roshi, Krillin, and Tien are left to face off against Frieza. Things look bad for the Z fighters, but Bulma is eventually able to contact Goku and let him know what's going on. Both he and Vegeta head back to Earth and beat Frieza to within an inch of his life.
Overall, the story is both thrilling and shocking. Frieza is a deadly villain, but Goku is an even more powerful hero. Resurrection 'F' succeeds in both the villain and story department.
10. Worst: Lord Slug
Aside from Piccolo, Namekians tend to be both boring and underwhelming. The Namek Saga has always been unpopular, and in Lord Slug, we get a derivative plot of a Namekian villain named Lord Slug who wants to invade and destroy Earth.
This is the last movie before characters start going Super Saiyan, but we do get a precursor to it with Goku’s fight with Slug. The last battle has a lot of action, but everything else feels like a knock off of things in the series.
Slug’s two henchmen leven ook exactly like Frieza’s henchmen, Zarbon and Dodoria. Slug himself is also derivative of King Piccolo back when he was evil. The reveal of Slug being a Super Namekian does little to enhance his character, and even though we always know that the heroes will prevail, it’s hard to suspend disbelief in this one.
Slug is a boring, one-note evil villain that has been done better before. Watching the original story with King Piccolo is better use of your time.
8 Best: The History Of Trunks
The History of Trunks is the second TV special in the Z series. It explores the alternate timelines that center around the Androids. In the series, the timeline mixing starts with the Android Saga and the arrival of them, Cell, and Trunks.
Assuming that there are no timeline changes, Goku actually dies of heart disease in this alternate reality, which would have led to the deaths of all of the Z fighters except Gohan and the near destruction of the world at the hands of Android 17 and 18.
This future is bleak, and Gohan trains Trunks. What really stands out here, though, is the overall dark tone of the movie. The Androids are absolutely ruthless and the fights are brutal, with Gohan loosing an arm and later being killed on screen by the Androids.
Trunks trains and fights hard, but is ultimately defenseless against the Androids. The heroes must either die or retreat, which is a rare occurrence in a Dragon Ball special. This future is visited one more time in Dragon Ball Super during the Zamasu arc.
7 Worst: Yo! Son Goku And His Friends Return!!
One of the more uneventful entries on the list, Yo! Son Goku And His Friends Return!! is the second Dragon Ball OVA, taking place two years after the defeat of Majin Buu.
For most of the characters, the most action they get in the movie is eating at the elaborate banquet that Mr. Satan sets up outside of his hotel. The plot picks up, though, when Vegeta’s younger brother, Tarble, who is not nearly as strong as his brother or Saiyan brethren, asks for help with two warriors who are part of the remnants of Frieza’s army named Abo and Kado.
The Frieza arc was long ago, and the Z fighters are much stronger than they were back then, so Abo and Kado are a joke on the power scale. Even their fusion is one of the weakest fusions we’ve ever seen.
Trunks and Goten, the two youngest members of the Z team fight, fuse, and eventually defeat them. However, they are shown mercy and allowed to eat with the rest at the end. Overall, this was a pretty pointless adventure.
6 Best: Battle Of Gods
Premiering worldwide in 2013, Battle of Gods was the first new Dragon Ball movie in 17 years. The premier was a big deal because we knew that a new Dragon Ball series overseen by series creator Akira Toriyama was on the horizon, and that this would be fans' introduction to the new material.
Fans generally disliked GT, so their worry was perhaps justified, but Battle of Gods put those fears to rest. Battle of Gods introduces a new tier of power, which includes God power as well as a new level of Super Saiyan Transformation.
We are also introduced to Beerus, the God of Destruction and his Angel overseer, Whis. Beerus wakes up and is informed that the powerful Frieza has been defeated by a Super Saiyan. Beerus then tracks him down and the rest is an action packed movie that excels as both a nostalgic trip and an introduction to the new series.
This movie has it all: epic battles, great animation, excellent characters, and the new Super Saiyan Blue form that had fans hooked immediately.
6. Worst: Broly - Second Coming
The first Broly movie is arguably the most popular Dragon Ball movie, and Broly is certainly one of the more iconic characters in the series despite never being a part of the serie' canon.
However, some good things are best left untouched, as every time we’ve seen Broly he has progressively gotten worse, starting with Broly - The Second Coming. Broly’s second coming takes place after Goku is dead and Gohan has already adopted his superhero persona.
Broly somehow survives complete obliteration and is now imprisoned in ice. He is awoken by Goten’s crying, as per his post traumatic stress from childhood, and the fight is on.
The plot of this movie is not well planned, as Gohan only shows up halfway through and Goku is wished back by accident to assist with vanquishing the Legendary Super Saiyan again.
They also force in a subplot about a village sacrificing a girl to a monster in the mountains that feels out of place. Overall, the movie feels unnecessary and it doesn't improve on the first Broly movie.
5 Best: Bojack Unbound
Goku’s death in the series has wide reaching consequences. Not only did it put Gohan in the position of being Earth’s main defender, but it also unleashed a band of aliens warriors focused on taking out the planet.
The plot is familiar and welcome, as a rich benefactor arranges a tournament to have warriors from around the galaxy compete. The tournaments have always been a strong suit of Dragon Ball, and this is no different.
The winners of the first fights are transported to other areas and fight a group of powerful green-skinned fighters who are led by the titular Bojack. Goku’s death somehow causes whatever sealed Bojack and his team away to break, releasing them to wreak havoc once again.
This movie has possibly the most, and best, fighting scenes. Most of the Z fighters are in the mix and the villains are strong and compelling. Another great thing about the movie is that it’s one of the times where Gohan shines in the protagonist role.
Bojack himself could use a bit more personality, but aside from that this movie has no weaknesses.
4 Worst: Bio-Broly
Not satisfied with one unnecessary movie about Broly in Second Coming, the creators of Dragon Ball came up with what is possibly their worst idea ever: Bio-Broly.
The protagonists of the movie are Trunks and Goten, with Goku and Gohan missing entirely. Broly is still alive but when he finally emerges, heis doused in acid that turns him into a stupid looking Swamp Thing creature.
The only good thing in Bio-Broly is Android 18, as it is her first major movie appearance. It really can’t be overstated how ridiculous the character of Bio-Broly is, and it’s hard to believe that the same franchise that produced some of the best movies gave this mess a green light.
Almost all of our favorite characters are missing, the villain is awful, and the plot is stupid. This is the worst animated Dragon Ball movie and it should be avoided at all cost.
3 Best: Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan
When Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan first came out it was instantly the coolest thing in the world for Dragon Ball fans. Broly is a figure of prophecy in Saiyan culture who embodies the most powerful, destructive force in the universe.
After breaking free of his controlling father, Broly goes on a mindless rampage on a scale that the franchise had not seen before. Everything about this movie works-- Broly’s design is everything we like about Toriyama’s art, the power that Broly wields is unreal, and we truly believe that he might actually kill everyone.
The two subsequent Broly movies seriously damaged his overall image, but the fact that he has two sequels is testament to how popular he is. The character Kale in Super is a clear homage to him as well.
Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan is responsible for getting a lot of western fans into Dragon Ball, and its artwork and fights are influential to this day.
2 Worst: Dragonball Evolution
Hollywood getting their hands on rights to foreign franchises is almost never a good thing, and Dragonball Evolution is a prime example. There is almost nothing faithful to the source material here and none of the characters are anything like their animated counterparts.
The movie takes place during the original series and Piccolo is the villain, only instead of being a ruthless demigod, he comes off soft. Master Roshi is much younger and doesn’t have the same resonance as the man who taught Goku everything that he knows about martial arts.
Bulma, Yamcha, and everyone else are equally off and various shades of useless. The story makes no sense, the effects are poor, and the performances are as dull as the script..
Akira Toriyama stated: “I had put Dragon Ball behind me, but seeing ... that live-action film ticked me off." What more can you say when the creator of Dragon Ball hates it. At least it inspired Toriyama to work on new material.
1 Best: The Return Of Cooler
As the first direct sequel in the movie franchise, Return of Cooler starts as a giant planet attaches itself to Planet Namek and starts to drain its energy. Robots then begin to enslave the Namekians and the heroes arrive to save them. However, Cooler, now a cyborg called Meta Cooler, shows up and the action is on.
Gohan, Piccolo, and Krillin take on the robots, while Goku fights Cooler. Once Goku goes Super Saiyan, the action really takes off with both fighters bringing out new moves. Cooler is not even able to regenerate.
When Goku is about to be killed, Vegeta comes out of nowhere to make the save. This is a big moment, as it is Vegeta’s first appearance in a movie and he typically didn't involve himself in group fights with the Z team before this. It sets the standard for the team ups in the future and really establishes Vegeta as part of the group.
Return of Cooler has great action and pacing, a story that is both fun and interesting, and a tone that is clearly inspired by the hit movie Akira. Plus, it includes Cooler, who is an awesome villain.
What do you think? What is your favorite (and least favorite) Dragon Ball movie? Sound off in the comments!