Out of the three Dragon Ball series, as well as the various films and video games, Dragon Ball Z is easily the most popular entry in the franchise. For one thing, it amped up the fighting like crazy, raising the stakes further and further as the action got more and more awesome.
Half the reason the fights got so much better was the villains. Gone were the comedic villains of early Dragon Ball, replaced with powerful alien madmen and crazy mad scientist experiments. It's because of these awesome villains that Dragon Ball Z had some of the best fights of the entire franchise.
That said, they haven't all been great. In fact, some villain fights were just plain lame! Sure, the action and attacks are always awesome, but sometimes the two combatants just don't make for a good fight. Or, maybe the villain wasn't one of the cooler bad guys of the series. Heck, sometimes it's just a boring battle that goes on for far longer than it should.
We're only looking at canon-only fights in Dragon Ball Z and labelling them as a best or a worst of the series. With those rules set, here are the 8 Best Villain Fights (And 7 Worst), Ranked.
15 WORST: YAMCHA VS. SAIBAMEN
Everyone hates Yamcha - it's not exactly a secret. Though he was fun in the original Dragon Ball, in Z he became kind of useless, especially in a fight. Even lamer than Yamcha were the Saibamen, weird little aliens that Vegeta and Nappa for some reason felt the need to use to combat the Z-Fighters. Is it ever really explained why they were needed?
When these two lame fighters were faced against each other, we got one of the shortest, lamest fights in the series. Yamcha managed to temporarily defeat one of the Saibamen before it got back up, clamped onto him and self-destructed. The surprise attacked killed Yamcha, resulting in the memetic crater death scene. The battle only showed how lame Yamcha was, making it one of the worst in the series.
14 BEST: GOKU VS. VEGETA
Who knew that after facing each other as such bitter enemies, Vegeta and Goku would be (in a sense) the best of friends? When Vegeta first showed up in Dragon Ball Z, he was a villain, coming to earth to conquer it for Frieza. He was also portrayed to be much stronger than Goku, both in his base form and in his great ape form. Even after training with King Kai, Goku had no idea if he could beat the Saiyan prince, which is what made their first fight so interesting.
While in his normal form, Goku and Vegeta are almost even, Goku trumping Vegeta's higher power with his Kaioken technique. But, Vegeta gets the upper hand by creating an artificial moon and turning into a great ape. The fighting, the techniques, the animation, the tension, it's all amazing. We truly felt it was the end for Goku in this battle, but thanks to his friends, Vegeta was defeated.
13 WORST: THE GINYU FORCE
Like Vegeta, The Ginyu Force was in the employ of Frieza, though they were much higher ranking. The Ginyu Force was an elite mercenary squad, led by Frieza's righthand man, Captain Ginyu. As grand as this may sound, the Ginyu Force is kind of a joke. Sure, they have some unique and powerful abilities, but every fight they're involved in have better comedic value than anything.
Don't get us wrong, we love the Ginyu Force; they're ridiculous and awesome parodies of Super Sentai-styled characters that love coordinated poses. But, when it comes to their fight scenes in Dragonball Z, they're pretty lame. Each of the lesser members don't last long in their battles with the Z-Fighters and Captain Ginyu himself isn't much better. Though his body-switching power is useful, it didn't end up working for him and just resulted in some tired body switch story cliches.
12 BEST: GOKU VS. FRIEZA
The battle against Frieza was the first time Goku went Super Saiyan, a turning point for the entire Dragon Ball franchise and perhaps the greatest fight in the series. The fight was so epic it lasted over ten episodes, their massive power levels causing storms and destruction on Planet Namek. Frieza even raised the stakes by destroying Namek's core to cause it to explode.
But, we have to talk about the best part of the fight, Goku going Super Saiyan. After Frieza killed Krillen, Goku's anger caused him to transform into the legendary Super Saiyan, and the tide of the battle changes immediately. Goku owns Frieza after going Super Saiyan, even having the decency to give his enemy some energy to survive Namek's destruction. Goku's battle with Frieza was long - perhaps too long - but it's definitely one of the best fights in the series.
11 WORST: GOKU VS. ANDROID 19
Android 19 and Android 20 are definitely some of the least popular villains in the series, and their fights with the heroes are just as unpopular. For example, when Android 19 fights Goku? It was pretty lame.
Let's start by looking at Android 19: he's just so annoying as a villain. He might be strong, but his voice and appearance are pretty irritating. Yet, despite his child-like appearance and demeanor, he was able to almost kill Goku.
Android 19 is pretty strong, but he's not that strong. However, thanks to Goku's heart virus, 19 is able to defeat the Super Saiyan. Seriously, Android 19 basically owns Goku and it's part of what makes the fight so bad; Goku getting his butt whooped so easily.
It's bad enough that this weird-looking robot made Goku look like a total chump, but then he had to go and steal Goku's energy with his nasty energy-draining palm attachments. Good thing Vegeta was there to save him.
10 BEST: TRUNKS VS. CYBORG FRIEZA
Though Goku's fight with Frieza is far superior, Future Trunks' takedown of the intergalactic emperor was also pretty awesome. Prior to this point, Frieza was depicted as being an unstoppable monster, and even against a Super Saiyan he was a worthy adversary. So, when he showed up at the beginning of the Android Saga to take revenge on Goku with his new cybernetic enhancements, one might think he was even stronger.
But no, he was completely wasted by a mysterious Super Saiyan with a sword. Did we say wasted? The more accurate term would be sliced and diced. Though it was short, Trunks' fight against Frieza was awesome. We got to watch most of Trunks' attack arsenal and see him use his awesome sword.
After slicing up Frieza, Future Trunks still had the energy to quickly fight and kill his father, King Cold. Both were quick fights, but awesome ones nonetheless.
9 WORST: DR. GERO
Even stronger than Android 19 is his creator, Dr. Gero, who modified himself to also be an immensely powerful cyborg. Like his creation, Dr. Gero, aka Android 20, has the ability to absorb the energy of others through hand-implants. He and 19 both wreaked havoc on South City before the Z Fighters were able to track them down. However, this old, mustachioed cyborg was able to hold his own and even overpower some of the heroes.
The reason his fights are so lame are because of all his cheap android tricks. His energy absorption ability, endless stamina, power source (which makes him undetectable by having no ki), and laser eyes are all dirty fighting techniques that give him the edge over Z-fighters that are actually stronger than him. That said, he does have one awesome fight moment: his defeat at the hands of his own creations, Androids 17 and 18.
8 BEST: VEGETA VS. ANDROID 18
Android 18 is easily one of the coolest female characters in anime, and one of the best characters in the entire Dragon Ball franchise. This awesome fighter is one of the most dangerous enemies in the series. Like the other Androids, her energy doesn't come from ki and gives her unlimited stamina. Both she and her brother do not get tired, do not run out of energy, and cannot be tracked by other ki-users.
Because of these powerful abilities, her fight with Vegeta is one of the coolest in Dragon Ball Z. Vegeta is, to put it simply, no match for the cyborg. 18 blocks, counterattacks, and overpowers her way to victory, barely taking a scratch from Vegeta. 18 Also manages to break Vegeta's arm with nothing but a roundhouse kick in one of the most iconic moments of the Android Saga. Man, it's a good thing they're on the same side now.
7 WORST: PICCOLO VS. ANDROID 17
Android 17 is just as powerful as his sister, and also armed with unlimited stamina, energy, and speed. In his fight with Piccolo, we find that the two are evenly matched in a lot of ways; Piccolo combats 17's insane energy and speed with his high ki levels, crazy variety of attacks, and regenerative abilities. But, for this very reason, their fight with each other ends up being one of the most boring in the series.
Don't get us wrong, it's a pretty great fight: well-animated, tense, and every hit has weight. However, because the two are so evenly matched, the fight just goes on for too long. It's a war of attrition that ends in a draw of sorts, and it could have ended much sooner. Then again, very few fights in the series come to a draw, so this does make it a bit more interesting. Maybe we should change this to one of the best...
6 BEST: GOHAN VS. PERFECT CELL
By the time the Cell Saga rolled around, Gohan was being set up to replace Goku as the main protagonist of the series. However, fans didn't react well to this and Goku came back as the focus during the last chapters. Gohan's ascension to main character can be seen in the final fight of the Cell Saga as well as the beginning of the Buu Saga. But, we're focusing on the former, Gohan vs. Cell.
This is easily one of the top three fights of the franchise. Gohan is totally awesome once he goes Super Saiyan 2. In fact, Gohan was the first to achieve this form and he used it to completely annihilate Cell. The battle shows just how powerful Gohan can be and ends with the final Kamehameha, the combined power of Gohan and the spirit of his father. Absolutely awesome.
5 WORST: TRUNKS VS. PERFECT CELL
For a guy who came from the future, Trunks isn't the brightest Saiyan in the bunch. Well, maybe he's pretty smart, but not in his first fight against Perfect Cell. While training to push past Super Saiyan, Trunks ascended to the Super Saiyan Third Grade form. This form, as many DBZ may know, increases muscle mass to crazy levels, inflating Trunks' muscles to massive sizes.
Though this form increases strength and stamina output, it has a major downside, speed. By increasing his muscle mass so much, Trunks ended up slowing himself down, a lesson he had to learn the hard way in his fight with Perfect Cell. It's because of Trunks' mistake that Cell toys with him in this battle, easily dodging his attacks and overpowering him.
It's a very disappointing fight from the Super Saiyan who previously defeated Cyborg Frieza and King Cold.
4 BEST: ULTIMATE GOHAN VS. SUPER BUU
Are we ever going to understand the logistics behind "Ultimate Gohan"? Regardless, we sure as heck know how powerful he is. After the Old Kai unlocked his power, Gohan was a powerhouse, taking on Super Buu with crazy power and confidence. When Gohan fought super Buu, it wasn't even a fair fight, Gohan was clearly the better fighter. In fact, the only reason Gohan lost was because Buu used his absorbing abilities to take Gohan's power for himself.
Leading up to that, the battle is completely one-sided. Gohan kicks, punches, grabs, and throws Buu across the battlefield with little effort; blocking, dodging and countering all of his attacks. Gohan straight-up opens a can of whoop on Buu, showing no mercy and beating the alien monster to a pulp.
3 WORST: GOTENKS VS. SUPER BUU
Fusion is a powerful tool used by the Z-Fighters to take on a foe that cannot be handled by one warrior alone. The first time fusion is used - specifically the fusion dance - it's between Trunks and Goten so that they can defeat Majin Buu. Together, they form Gotenks - an insanely annoying, arrogant, and powerful fighter. Gotenks has enough power go toe-to-toe with Super Buu, though the fight isn't all that great.
Well, maybe that's not the best way to word it. The fight iss hilarious, but it's just not an actual good battle. Something about the combination of the two young Saiyans personalities caused the resulting fusion to be incredibly arrogant and overconfident. Gotenks incorporates some weird and downright comical fighting moves into his fight with Buu, amping things up by going Super Saiyan 3, which uses up all of the fusion's time limit.
2 BEST: VEGITO VS. SUPER BUU
Though Gohan seemed like he was strong enough to take on Buu, he was absorbed by a sneak attack that resulted in Buu gaining all of Gohan's power. Because of this massive power increase, along with the power of Goten and Trunks, Buu became even more of dangerous enemy, requiring a different type of fusion to take him on. Goku and Vegeta used the Potara earrings to form Vegito, one of the most powerful characters in the franchise.
In this form, their combined power is multiplied by tens of times, and the fight with Buu is insane. Yet again, fusion causes some amount of arrogance, but with Vegito, it takes the form of a cool head in battle. Vegito is powerful enough to counter and match Super Buu in his base form, overpowering the villain when he goes Super Saiyan. Heck, he's even able to counter all of Buu's absorbing attempts, including fighting Buu while in candy form! It's easily one of the most exciting, interesting and unpredictable fights in the series.
1 BEST: GOKU VS. KID BUU
The final villain battle of the Dragon Ball Z franchise occurs between Goku and Kid Buu, and it's easily one of the coolest fights. Unlike previous fights with Super Buu, Kid Buu is not a rational martial artist, more of a chaotic force that attacks without thought or reason. This is what makes the final fight so interesting, Goku must fight against an unpredictable enemy with nothing but skill and power.
Meaning, even if Goku is more powerful than Kid Buu, he can't fight someone who doesn't fight like a trained fighter. What we're trying to say is Goku's fight against Kid Buu is awesome. Goku uses his Super Saiyan 3 form to fight the villain until he's completely out of energy. Thankfully, Vegeta fights Kid Buu to buy time so that Goku can create the biggest spirit bomb of the series, using it to destroy the demonic alien, once and for all.
What's your favorite (and least favorite) villain fight in Dragon Ball? Let us know in the comments!