Dragon Ball Z was blessed with a host of interesting characters and also boasted a compelling science-fiction inspired narrative, but everyone knows that what fans really tuned in for was the epic fight sequences. Featuring some of the most stylish and intense action the world of anime has ever seen, Dragon Ball Z contains a number of bouts that deservedly became instant classics.
And while some of these battles were short and sweet, others would take place over a stunning amount of episodes and would feature twists, turns and transformations galore. Some even stretched the limits of viewers’ patience as a few minutes in-story became multiple episodes in real time. This list charts the most lengthy of these fights, ranging from memorable three-episode clashes to the double-digit marathons that would forever be etched into anime history.
The entries here don’t have to be on-screen for every moment of their entire episode count but do have to feature somewhere in each episode, even if just briefly. These fights also have to be continuous, so no running off for a few episodes to take a Senzu Bean and coming back later for Round Two. Lastly, training bouts between allies don’t count. Here are The Longest Fights In Dragon Ball Z By Number Of Episodes!
15 Trunks vs. Perfect Cell (3 episodes)
With Vegeta getting his way and Cell reaching his Perfect form, the time-traveling Trunks was forced to do battle with an enemy far out of his league. Nevertheless, the youngster bravely stepped up to the plate, having recently improved his Super Saiyan form in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
Unfortunately, the hero’s regular blonde-haired power is lacking and so Trunks proudly reveals a new transformation that he had kept hidden from his father so as not to make him feel outdone. Trunks’ beefed-up Super Saiyan Third Grade form is certainly strong – perhaps even tough enough to take down Cell – but the additional muscle weight reduces his speed so greatly, Cell still comes out on top.
Trunks soon realized that he hadn’t surpassed his father after all; Vegeta had known that a balance of strength and speed was needed to beat Cell and that bulking up came at too high a price.
14 Goku vs. Captain Ginyu (3 episodes)
As a precursor to Goku’s battle with Frieza, our hero is forced to take down the leader of the goofy band of henchmen known as the Ginyu Force. From the off, it’s clear that Goku has the advantage, with his high-gravity training ensuring Captain Ginyu is no match for his power, speed or fighting ability.
Unbeknownst to Goku however, Ginyu has an ace up his sleeve: his Body Change technique. On the edge of defeat, the villain swaps bodies with Goku, leaving the Saiyan in Ginyu’s own beaten-up vessel.
Unfortunately for Ginyu, he is unable to utilize the full power of a Saiyan’s body, thus giving Krillin, Gohan and Vegeta a chance to deal with him. Ginyu spies another opportunity to use the Body Swap – this time on Vegeta – and attempts the technique but the quick-thinking Goku manages to toss a frog into the crossfire, leaving the villain in amphibian form.
13 World Martial Arts Tournament Battle Royal (3 episodes)
The World Martial Arts Tournament didn’t feature in Dragon Ball Z anywhere near as much as it did in the original Dragon Ball series, but one did take place shortly before the appearance of Majin Buu and the final five-person Battle Royal is the longest match featured.
After many of the tournament’s competitors leave to deal with Babidi, it is decided that the final five combatants will compete together in order to select a victor. Two fodder characters are swiftly dispatched leaving Hercule, Android 18 and Mighty Mask (Goten and Trunks in disguise) remaining in a three-person scrap for the prize.
When 18 realizes Mighty Mask’s true identity, she exposes their deception and the youngsters are subsequently disqualified, leaving only the Android and Hercule in the ring. Of course, 18 is competing solely for the cash and is happy to lay down and take the loss once the reigning champion agrees to compensate her handsomely.
12 Vegeta vs. Majin Buu (3 episodes)
This battle may not have been one of Dragon Ball Z’s longest, but it did provide one of the series’ most emotive moments when Vegeta hugs his son Trunks and heads off to sacrifice himself in an attempt to take down Buu. Tragically, the villain would actually survive the blast, meaning that Vegeta gave his life in vain.
After being possessed by the Majin curse and killing innocent spectators at the World Martial Arts Tournament, Vegeta’s sacrifice represents the final stage in the Saiyan Prince’s character development as he finally learns to accept the bonds he has made on Earth and repents for his crimes.
The fight itself wasn’t too shabby either, with Vegeta’s serious, pride-filled personality contrasting excellently with Buu’s childish and playful fighting style – something that only intensifies the Saiyan’s anger.
11 Piccolo, Gohan and Krillin vs. Garlic Jr. (3 episodes)
As the only true filler fight on this list, Piccolo, Gohan and Krillin’s clash with Garlic Jr. is also the lengthiest non-canon battle in the Dragon Ball Z series. And while it’s by no means a classic, this filler arc did allow some supporting characters to get their moment in the spotlight by actually taking on and defeating a main villain without the aid of Goku.
Garlic Jr. had unleashed the Black Water Mist, bringing many of the Z-Fighters under his sway. Although the team manage to negate the effects of the Mist, Garlic Jr. succeeds in using the Makyo Star to bulk himself up and only Gohan has enough energy left to face him.
Gohan doesn’t defeat Garlic Jr. directly but he does conspire to destroy the source of the villain’s power, the Makyo Star, thus saving the day without the help of his father or friends and furthering the idea that this kid is something special.
10 Goku vs. Majin Vegeta (4 episodes)
It was the fight fans had been demanding ever since the conclusion of the Saiyan Saga and Babidi was happy to supply it. Recognizing that Vegeta still harboured an inner rage and a desire to revert back to his Saiyan roots, the wizard imbued a Majin curse upon him, resulting in Vegeta destroying part of the World Martial Arts Tournament stadium.
Goku is disgusted by this callous act and the two retreat to the desert to duke it out for a respectable number of episodes in a real slug-fest of a battle. Both in their Super Saiyan 2 forms, the fighters are evenly matched but the battle doesn’t end conclusively since the duo are interrupted by the reanimation of Majin Buu.
Vegeta brings the fight to an end, knocking Goku out with a surprise blow so he could take Buu on alone.
9 Vegeta vs. Cell (4 episodes)
With Cell in his penultimate form and Vegeta recently returned from a stint in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, this duel was sure to be a belter. It didn’t disappoint and Vegeta quickly took control of the bout.
Recognizing it was against the ropes, Cell decided to exploit Vegeta’s one weakness: his arrogance. Convinced that the only way he could really test his new found power was to allow Cell to reach his final form, Vegeta quickly finds himself in opposition to the more sensible Trunks who wishes to finish the Android off as soon as possible.
Of course, Vegeta gets his way, Cell attains his Perfect form and the Saiyan is quickly humbled by the villain’s new power, proving that pride certainly does come before a fall.
8 Goku vs. Cell (4 episodes)
With Cell representing Goku’s greatest challenge since Frieza, you might expect this climactic bout from the Cell Games to have lasted longer. But Akira Toriyama was about the deliver an almighty curveball when Goku forfeited the battle, declaring himself unable to win, and elected his son Gohan to take on the Bio-Android instead.
Nevertheless, Goku’s fight with Cell is still an exciting duel and seeing the protagonist in his fully-powered Super Saiyan mode (achieved in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber) for the first time is a treat indeed. The action is frantic, acting as the perfect opener for the Cell Games, and the fact that the two fighters seem equally matched in terms of strength really ramps up the tension. Goku’s use of strategy in the fight also showcases a new side to the usually gung-ho Saiyan.
7 Vegito vs. Super Buu (4 episodes)
When Vegeta finally put his pride to one side and fused with fellow Saiyan Goku to fight Buu, the resulting confrontation was given a good amount of episodes to showcase this exciting new combination. Vegito was clearly in a different class and would surely have had the beating of Buu if the protagonists didn’t have to worry about their friends who were trapped inside the villain.
Indeed, the introduction of Buu led to some wacky clashes in Dragon Ball Z. At one point, Vegito even ends up fighting Buu whilst in the form of a piece of candy. This puts a somewhat ridiculous spin on an otherwise exciting fight and fans wouldn’t see Vegito in canon material again until the Saiyan duo attempted to take out Zamasu in Dragon Ball Super.
6 Piccolo, Tien, Krillin, Chaotzu and Gohan vs. Nappa (5 episodes)
It’s testament to Nappa’s strength that the combined forces of Piccolo, Tien, Krillin, Chaotzu and Gohan couldn’t take him out. Both Tien and Chaotzu meet their demise against the villain, with the latter famously attempting to pull off a kamikaze self-destruct technique which ultimately failed.
Packing even more of an emotional punch, however, is Piccolo’s death. The previously evil Demon King bonded with Goku’s son during their training sessions and with Gohan in mortal peril, Piccolo selflessly takes Nappa’s attack with his own body.
The battle experiences a short lull in the episode "Nappa’s Revenge" but the Z-Fighters do use the episode to hatch a plan, meaning the fight isn’t completely brought to a halt.
Of course, once Goku arrived, he would take Nappa down relatively easily which immediately showcased the Saiyan’s strength after training with King Kai. Unfortunately, his arrival came too late for Tien, Chaotzu and Piccolo who would have to make the long journey down Snake Way.
5 Goku, Gohan, and Krillin (and Yajirobe) vs. Vegeta (6 episodes)
Goku does the heavy lifting in this battle, taking on fellow Saiyan Vegeta in what is arguably the first great battle in Dragon Ball Z. But in true Shonen style, he needs the help of his friends and family to finish the job.
The protagonist’s Kaio-Ken technique leaves Vegeta down but not out and the villain unleashes his Great Ape transformation in response. The normally cowardly Yajirobe manages to cut off the Ape’s tail, reverting Vegeta back to his regular form but Goku is still unable to move, leaving only Krillin and Gohan in the fight.
The duo use Goku’s Spirit Bomb energy but still Vegeta fights on and it’s only when Gohan inadvertently transforms into a Great Ape himself that the Prince of Saiyans is finally dealt with for good.
4 Goku, Vegeta, and Majin Buu vs. Kid Buu (8 episodes)
Both the final battle of the Buu saga and the final fight in the entirety of Dragon Ball Z, this entry sees Goku and Vegeta team up against Kid Buu on the planet of the Kai. And with Buu’s various forms having already survived clashes with more or less every Z-Fighter in the show, only one option remained: a Spirit Bomb of epic proportions.
While our protagonist gathers the requisite energy to perform the technique (with the aid of Hercule), Vegeta goes head to head with the villain knowing full well he’s outmatched in every way. Happily, the child-like Majin Buu re-emerges and subsequently buys Goku a little extra time to build his attack.
Perhaps one of the most emotional moments in this fight is Vegeta’s long-awaited admission that Goku has truly surpassed him and the fact that the Saiyan Prince is willing to act as a distraction is testament to his significant character development.
3 Z-Fighters vs. Frieza (10 episodes)
Of all the characters that would eventually take down Frieza, it was never going to be Piccolo, Gohan, Krillin or previous baddie Vegeta but the quartet still had a lengthy battle against the tyrant. With Frieza in his second form, Gohan and Krillin are hopelessly outmatched, with the latter even getting impaled on one of the villain’s horns.
Luckily, a recently-fused Piccolo arrived, wishing to take on Frieza alone and the Namekian quickly gained the upper hand. The situation reverses, however, when Frieza’s third form is revealed and Piccolo soon becomes fodder, leaving Gohan to pick up the slack. The young Saiyan gets some nice shots in and once again, his latent ability is hinted at here but ultimately, Frieza’s new form is step too far for the supporting characters.
Vegeta dips in and out of this fight, sometimes attacking, sometimes too scared to move. He eventually resorts to asking Krillin to bring him near death and for Dende to revive him in order to activate his Saiyan genes.
2 Gohan vs. Cell (11 episodes)
The true finale to the Cell saga saw Goku’s son Gohan take on a fully-powered Cell in his perfect form and the battle finally demonstrated the young half-Saiyan’s long-hinted hidden power as he became the first to achieve the Super Saiyan 2 form.
The bout features a number of great moments. For example, Gohan’s rage after the death of Android 16 leads to him exhibiting a previously-unseen mean streak, resulting in Android 18 being brutally kicked out of Cell’s stomach. And of course, the epic Kamehameha battle that closes the fight is a definite highlight, made even more emotional by the touching father and son team-up.
In the anime version of this fight, the assembled Z-Fighters gather around Cell during the final struggle to deliver Ki attacks of their own, all in the vague hope of weakening him enough to allow Gohan’s one-handed Kamehameha to win the day.
1 Goku vs. Frieza (20 episodes)
It had to be didn’t it. The most famous fight in Dragon Ball history took place on the planet Namek between Earth’s adopted Saiyan Goku and the intergalactic criminal tyrant, Frieza. Goku was heading towards defeat until the death of his best friend, Krillin, sparked the golden-haired Super Saiyan transformation that would give him the power to win the battle and escape the exploding planet.
The Goku and Frieza battle is infamously lengthy, with the anime series hugely elongating scenes from the manga to eke out tension. Out of the twenty episodes to feature the battle, nearly half take place within the same five minute period which should give some idea as to the fight’s slow pace.
Regardless of how long it lasted, Goku vs. Frieza was an epic in every sense of the world and is rightly remembered as one of the greatest anime battles of all time.
Dragon Ball Super continues June 10th on Adult Swim.