In the world of Dragon Ball Z, memorable villains are a dime a dozen.
There are teenage androids, the bio-mechanical Cell, the bubble-gum-goop monstrosity Buu, and, of course, the illustrious tyrant Frieza. In fact, there is absolutely no shortage of fan favorite enemies and rivals who are just as iconic as Goku's spiked hair and gi.
However, to go even further beyond this bunch of ruffians, there's an entire army's worth of lesser-known enemies who deserve at least a little more recognition for their cruel deeds.
Pulling from the Dragon Ball Z series and its movies, we're going through everything from under-appreciated henchmen, underestimated masterminds, and even a few characters who have received little development or dedication, but still managed to live a bone-chilling impression from their evil.
Keep the Dragon Balls nearby in case you wind up in the Other World, because here's our list of the 15 Most Underrated Dragon Ball Z Villains.
The big, fat, and evil pink blob before Majin Buu came into the picture was Dodoria. He was one of the most recognizable of Frieza’s main retainers, striking fear into the heart of good-natured children (and Namekians) across the cosmos.
His visual appeal alone is enough to cement him as one of the most memorable villains, with the sickening pink skin and protruding spikes around his corpulent frame making him instantly recognizable.
Exceedingly cruel, Dodoria delighted in the torture of his victims. Worse yet, his callousness was backed by considerable power, so even those who could muster up the courage to challenge him found themselves at the wrong end of a ki blast.
Dodoria and his malicious attacks against the Namekians were chilling to watch, especially when he murdered Dende’s brother Cargo without hesitation.
While Zarbon may have been more popular thanks to his dashing looks and monstrous transformation, Dodoria was the muscle that could be relied upon, with no personal vanity getting in the way. Well, except for his knack for underestimating his foes, but then again, with strength and malice like his, who could blame him?
14 Dr. Gero
Dr. Gero deserves and demands more respect than he gets. For one, he’s had a long-standing hatred of Goku since the Saiyan’s youth, way back during the days of Dragon Ball. This hatred was so great that, decades later, he was finally able to enact a plan to get revenge on the spiky-haired doofus by unleashing a series of awesome creations.
Unfortunately, this was where he got overshadowed. Androids 16, 17, 18 (not so much 19), and Cell are so incredibly powerful and unique in terms of personality, abilities, and looks that it’s easy to forget the one who brought them life.
Even crazier is that this old man, who turned himself into an android, was able to create artificial beings more powerful than Frieza. It’s an absolutely wild thought that a human was able to craft such devastatingly strong beings, especially considering how humans are often the low-tier in terms of power and success in the series.
Yet, there was Dr. Gero: the creator of untold calamities, a mere human.
Raditz-- despite his brief appearance-- is one of the most important figures in the series, and is often sadly overlooked.
It’s not hard to see why Raditz would be cast aside, especially when compared to Nappa and Vegeta. Even when looking ahead to villains like Cell, Raditz doesn’t seem like anything more than a minor blip on the radar.
However, this is all wrong. Raditz is a critical component of the Dragon Ball Z mythos and sets the events of the entire series in motion.
He introduces the concept of Saiyans, causes the Z-fighters to train, discovers Gohan’s potential, and, by mentioning the Dragon Balls, sets off a chain reaction that culminates in the showdown against Frieza. This leads to Goku’s ability to become a Super Saiyan and his eventual development of the powers needed to stop future threats.
Couple this with the fact that, if it weren’t for a lot of luck, Raditz would have killed both Piccolo and Goku, dooming the Earth with no one to stop him, as he was the strongest man on the planet, by far.
All this time, Raditz has been treated like an amateur opening act, when he’s really been the show runner.
In a saga with painfully boring villains, Dabura stood out. Appearing similar to the common interpretation of the Devil, Dabura’s demonic features set him apart from the wimpy Babidi and the rest of his forgettable henchmen.
He was the King of the Demon Realm before being put under Babidi’s spell, which forced him to obey the small wizard’s commands. Interestingly, he still retained enough of his mind to question Babidi’s orders like a true advisor, never fully becoming a slave.
Even after being ingested by the gluttonous Majin Buu, Dabura is still fun to watch, especially when he is sent to Heaven because it would be that much more of a punishment. There, he undergoes a drastic personality change, essentially reforming, leading to some solid comedy.
That said, with so much unexplored ground concerning the potential of his character, he remains as intriguing as ever, practically begging to be revisited as a main villain without a spell holding him or his plans back.
11 Android 13
While the rest of Dr. Gero’s evil creations have long earned their place among the highest ranks of memorable DBZ villains, Android 13 deserves another chance at consideration to sit amongst his peers in glory.
Hailing from the painfully sub-par film that carries his name, alongside the questionable-at-best Androids 14 and 15, it’s easy to let 13 slip by the wayside.
Where 14 and 15 were bizarrely-dressed and one-track minded adversaries, Android 13 demonstrated the ability to think and adapt more than any of his brethren, aside from perhaps Cell.
Because of this, Android 13 was rational enough to improvise. Sensing his defeat after 14 and 15 were destroyed, and lacking other options, he conceived to incorporate his fallen allies' mechanical components into his own design in order to transform into Super Android 13, becoming a considerable adversary that far overpowered much of the Z-crew.
Again, while it’s true that this robot hick was far less memorable than the core Android threats, credit must be given where credit is due. Android 13’s on-the-spot thinking and improvisation, along with his genuine interest in continuing his long-dead creator’s crusade certainly deserves this credit.
10 Garlic, Jr.
While Garlic Jr. is the star of the awesome movie Dead Zone, he’s also the star of the most boring filler: the Garlic Jr. Saga.
This fact alone has long since sullied the appreciation that Garlic Jr. clamors for, and it’s hard to disagree with his detractors.
That said, it would be wise to look beyond the criticisms and consider the significant positives about the character, despite how obfuscated they are. First off, while his goal of world domination is as generic as it gets, at least his reasoning is a change of pace from typical DBZ villains.
His father competed for the throne of Kami, and lost. Before being locked away in a Phantom Zone knock-off for starting a war, he recruited his son to take revenge for him, and Garlic does his best, with a seemingly never-ending group of goons to help.
Another point worth considering is that, unlike every other DBZ villain who aimed for it, he was successfully granted eternal life by Shenron.
So regardless of whether you find his miniscule stature or drawn-out saga to be boring and obnoxious, at the very least he deserves some respect for accomplishing something Frieza never could.
9 Shorty And Scarface
While awaiting the arrival of the dreaded Nappa and Vegeta, the Earth’s Special Forces were trained by Kami and Mr. Popo in order to prepare them for their most dangerous battles yet.
Part of this process involved sending Yamcha, Krillin, Tien, and Chiaotzu back in time to the apparent height of the Saiyan empire, and pitting them against two long-since-past soldiers, Shorty and Scarface, in the middle of a war-torn city.
Once the two make their move, it's made painfully clear that they outclass the Z-fighters at nearly every turn.
Aside from their power, however, it's their vague background that causes the most intrigue, and it's a curiosity that is sadly never satisfied. Who were they? Was this the middle of the war against the Tuffles? If Man of Steel can get a Krypton prequel, can't Shorty and Scarface at least get something?
While there are far greater and more memorable villains in the series, this taste of the ruthless Saiyans at their height leaves a worthwhile impression, and at least some modicum of respect should be granted to Shorty and Scarface because of it.
While Wrath of the Dragon is an outstanding film in the franchise, the main villain is not the selling point. This is a shame, as Hirudegarn is an oddity worth a second look.
On the planet Conuts, the natives stored all of their hatred into a massive edifice in order to relieve their personal lives. An apocalyptic cult got word of this and cast a spell on the object, igniting the coagulated hatred and bringing the monstrous statue to life. Thus was the birth of Hirudegarn.
Inescapably violent and powerful, he was unleashed on Earth by the cult’s last survivor Hoi, with the Z-fighters and their new ally Tapion as the last line of defense.
What makes Hirudegarn unique, aside the look of his two forms, is that, despite his size, he’s incredibly fast and is only able to be physically hit when he makes himself solid the instant he attacks.
This makes for a far more dangerous and frustrating fight than against the regenerative abilities of Cell or Buu. Hirudegarn, being the incarnation of hatred, manages to make the most of his destructive abilities and utterly lays waste to the city, pushing every hero to their absolute limitations.
7 Raiti And Zaacro
In their quest for the Dragon Balls, the spacefaring Bulma, Gohan, and Krillin end up on a planet that they believe to be Namek, their main destination.
Here, two malevolent, shape-shifting aliens took the forms of Namekians, and led the crew on an adventure through castles and caves, where they confronted giants and massive snakes, all in the name of the Namekian Dragon Balls.
However, the entire quest was one enormous illusion produced by the villainous Raiti and Zaacro, who reveal their true, hideous forms after trying to steal the team’s spaceship as a way off the dilapidated world.
These two creatures exhibited exceptional illusory powers, and their creepy appearances, attention to detail within the illusions, and evil intent make for memorable and distressingly intriguing villains.
Although they certainly don’t deserve to be fleshed out or appear again, this single time was enough to show-off their eerie powers and disturbing presence, remaining one of the more memorable filler enemies throughout the series.
Like Raditz, Nappa is a quickly forgotten Saiyan villain, despite his unending internet fame for boisterously clamoring to know what the scouter said about Goku’s battle prowess.
Considering how highly Vegeta’s fame and importance soared after his introduction, the giant, bald Saiyan never stood a chance. Or did he?
Nappa seems to be the main workhorse of the Saiyan duo. Stopping at an alien planet before reaching Earth, Vegeta practically sits back while the big baldy simply raises two fingers, screams, and disintegrates an army.
Upon getting to Earth, Nappa does the same thing to an entire city, while also finding time to destroy naval fleets and fighter jets. Also, during the actual battle for Earth, who does the majority of the work? Why, Nappa, of course.
Nappa grows the Saibamen, destroys Tien’s arm, kills Piccolo, and survives a self-destruct attack by Chiaotzu, all while Vegeta hangs back.
Sure, Vegeta was his superior and far more powerful, but Nappa deserves at least a pat on the back for successfully accomplishing so much before finally getting betrayed by the Saiyan Prince.
5 Turles And The Crusher Corps.
While Tree of Might isn’t one of the best DBZ films, it has its share of memorable moments. Its villains, however, haven’t had the same sticking power, which is too bad, because they’re an odd fruit from a familiar tree.
Turles and his Crusher Corps. are renegade space pirates, who are implied to have broken away from Frieza’s army. Their goal is to seek out planets where they can grow the Tree of Might and eat its fruit, granting them enormous power.
To solidify their renegade nature and crazy ambitions further, the idea of overthrowing Frieza is briefly talked about, but it’s not their priority. Think about that: the Crusher Corps. are so confident about essentially becoming gods that overthrowing the worst tyrant in the cosmos is on their backburner.
Unique plot and goals aside, they also had an interesting collection of character designs, such as the Tekkaman-like Cacao and the fact that Turles bore a near identical look to Goku.
As a whole, the Corps. managed to be a worthwhile addition to the villain pantheon, even if only because of their renegade nature.
Poor Guldo is the outsider of the lovable Ginyu Force. Weak, squat, and fat, this rotund, four-eyed alien was the butt of joke after joke from the rest of his teammates.
They should’ve showed him more respect, however, since the unassuming Guldo possessed a power that none of them could possibly fathom or compare against: the ability to freeze time.
Yes, the weakest Ginyu Force soldier was able to literally freeze time and use his adept telekinetic powers as he saw fit.
This guy nearly killed off Krillin and Gohan with ease and, it’s not too far a stretch that he could have finished off just about anyone given the chance (and support from his team.)
But no, the inept Burter, Jeice, Recoome, and Ginyu just thought it best to put Guldo down and tell jokes at his expense.
That’s funny, because it sure seemed like they could’ve used his help while they were getting the tar kicked out of them and being brutally executed one at a time.
Frieza is the posterboy of Dragon Ball Z villainy. Vain, powerful, and filled to the brim with transformations, his impact on the series was indelible. However, do you know who’s cooler than Frieza? His brother, Cooler.
Cooler was the older, more serious of the two, and had a huge problem with Frieza’s showiness, declaring him to be “too soft.” Where Frieza toyed with his food, Cooler would eat and be done with it.
Upon hearing that Frieza was killed, Cooler decided to take revenge, but not for his brother’s sake. Claiming that he would have killed the tyrant himself if Goku hadn’t, Cooler wanted to avenge his noble bloodline for being dirtied by the Saiyan ape. He nearly succeeded in this endeavor, too, mortally wounding Goku almost immediately upon reaching Earth.
He wasn’t just more powerful than Frieza, either. He could also admit when he’d made a mistake. When he is eventually killed, he realizes that it was his fault that Goku was alive in the first place, as he had let the infant’s capsule fly by unharmed long ago, suddenly realizing that he was the one who was “too soft” all along.
You’ve gotta admit, that takes guts.
Janemba isn’t necessarily the most original design (if anything, he’s a combination of Buu and Cell) and lacks any real personality, but his antics, aspirations, and abilities set him apart.
Born from an accident in Other World, he wastes no time in taking control of the realm and rewriting its laws. Where Cell wanted to kill Goku, and Frieza wanted to reign forever with immortality, Janemba imprisoned people in jelly beans and awakened Earth’s dead.
His battle skills were unique, too, with teleportation and dimensional manipulation, along with a sword so sharp that it sent slicing rays across the battlefield, laying waste to Goku, even in his Super Saiyan 3 form.
In fact, Janemba was so powerful that it took the god-like, fused form of Gogeta to put an end to his mischievous reign, an honor that no one else can claim.
His strength, carefree mischief, and self-contained goals of chaotic disturbances in the after life are more than enough to grant him some appreciation.
1 Dr. Wheelo
Dr. Wheelo, a notorious scientist, was reduced to no more than a brain and sealed within a glacier. His partner, Dr. Kochin, freed him with the Dragon Balls, and the two set their sights on decimating the world that shunned them, while also aiming to implant Wheelo’s brain into Goku’s body.
Despite being a brain, what truly sets Wheelo apart is that he lacks an over-the-top personality. He’s a genuinely evil human being, even when compared to the similar Dr. Gero. Where Gero was a traditional mad scientist, Wheelo was a calculating, controlled, inquisitive and thoroughly callous individual.
Much like Cooler, he was smart enough to not let emotions get the better of him, such as when he detected Gohan’s ever-growing rage, and ordered Kochin to stop his antagonizing.
His defining feature, though, is that he is believable. He’s not an alien, monster, or bio-weapon. Instead, he’s an angry scientist with the means to accomplish his selfish goals, with no morality to stop him from doing exactly that.
In short, he’s an eerily real threat in a show about space monkeys shooting energy from their hands, and this is a scary thing.
Can you think of any other Dragon Ball Z villains who are surprisingly underrated? Tell us about them in the comments!