It may be more than 30 years old as of this writing, but no anime (except maybe One Piece) has succeeded in accomplishing what Dragon Ball has. Not only is Akira Toriyama’s magnum opus a long-running series with many spin-off materials, but it’s practically an institution in the world of anime.
In its decades-long lifespan, the epic adventures and fights of Son Goku have been seen and read in manga, video games, and lots of movies. With more than 20 movies to its name, Dragon Ball has a large enough cinematic franchise that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of James Bond in terms of scale, popularity, and influence. From TV movies to theatrical releases to live-action adaptations, here’s every Dragon Ball movie ever released in chronological order.
The very first Dragon Ball movie also started the series’ trend of setting stories in alternate continuities. Curse of the Blood Rubies (or The Legend of Shenlong) is a condensation of the manga’s introductory arc, where Goku meets the likes of Bulma and Master Roshi for the first time, but with some changes.
A major difference between this movie and the original arc is that the antagonist Emperor Pilaf is replaced with the movie-only character King Gurumes, who never appears in any other Dragon Ball material after his debut.
Often referred to as Sleeping Beauty by fans, the second Dragon Ball movie is essentially a retelling of the classic fairy tale. Only now it has super-powered martial arts and a literal devil named Count Lucifer.
Once again, this is a cinematic retelling of key events in Goku’s life, such as meeting Krillin for the first time and becoming Master Roshi’s student. Clocking in at less than an hour, Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle is a fun, if disposable watch for Dragon Ball completionists.
After completing their year of training under Master Roshi, Goku and Krillin participate in the World Martial Arts Tournament, only to find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that involves a plot against Emperor Chiaotzu and the legendary Dragon Balls.
Compared to the previous movies, Mystical Adventures takes even more liberties with its story by including characters from different arcs and giving them new roles and motivations. This movie also offers alternate versions of certain events in the manga, giving fans something new to look out for here.
Dead Zone is the first movie to bear the Dragon Ball Z name while also serving as its prequel. Here, an alien named Garlic Jr. seeks to avenge his father, who he feels was disgraced when Kami was chosen as God of Earth over the elder Garlic.
Despite a generic plot, the fourth Dragon Ball movie was so popular that Garlic Jr. returned in a full-blown Dragon Ball Z arc. The Garlic Jr. Saga takes place between the Namek and Android Arcs, making Dead Zone the only Dragon Ball movie to be acknowledged by the anime.
When a pair of mad scientists break out of their icy prison, Goku and company have to put a stop to their plans of world domination. Meanwhile, the disembodied brain that is Dr. Urio (or Dr. Wheelo in English dubs) plots to steal the body of the world’s strongest man – i.e. Goku – so that he can escape his current robotic shell.
Notably more action-packed than its predecessors, The World’s Strongest was criticized for its thin plot but praised for its energetic and well-animated fights – a sentiment that would become the series’ staple as time went on.
Also known as Super Battle in the World, the third Dragon Ball Z movie features Turles and his space-pirates when they land on Earth to plant the Tree of Might, which will give them unimaginable power after it drains the planet’s life-force. Obviously, Goku won’t go down without a fight.
Tree of Might presents one of the most intriguing rivalries in all of Dragon Ball, with Turles being Goku’s evil counterpart. Problem is, the necessary backstories can only be found in the guidebooks. Additionally, Tree of Might has the most English dubs among all Dragon Ball media.
Serving as a prequel to the entire Dragon Ball franchise, Bardock – The Father of Goku reveals where and how the rivalry between the Saiyans and Frieza began. After gaining strange premonitions, Bardock realizes that his life’s mission is to protect his son if the Saiyans are to have a chance at stopping Frieza.
Though it was a TV special that aired alongside the Frieza Saga, Bardock’s emotionally-charged prequel proved to be so well-received and popular that Toriyama integrated the formerly anime-only character into the official canon.
The popularity of Dragon Ball was so immense that different countries remade it into live-action features, albeit without legal permission. The first of these attempts came from Korea in the form of the B-grade gem Fight for Victory, Son Goku! or, as the Korean title’s literal English translation reads, Fight Son Goku, Win Son Goku.
It may not have the recognition of its American counterpart, but Fight for Victory, Son Goku! has the twin distinction of being the highest-rated live-action Dragon Ball movie on IMDB while also being the most faithful of the three live-action adaptations.
Earth is once again threatened when the titular Lord Slug, a space pirate intent on wiping out all life on the planet, arrives and is challenged by Goku. Lord Slug is often forgotten due to its incredibly generic plot and its one-dimensional villain, which is saying something when taking every single Dragon Ball installment into account.
The fact that this entry bore a lot of similarities to The Tree of Might didn’t help its case. The fights, however, are just as entertaining as expected of a Dragon Ball movie.
Known as Dragon Ball Z: The Greatest Rivals in different countries, Cooler’s Revenge is the direct follow-up to Goku’s fight with Frieza. The powerful alien Cooler sets a warpath towards Earth to exact violent vengeance on Goku for killing his brother, Frieza.
Though it follows a by-the-numbers revenge plot, Cooler’s Revenge expands the lore behind one of the franchise’s most iconic villains while adding some memorably explosive fights between a vengeful Cooler and Goku. Its impact, however, was somewhat reduced by its sequel The Return of Cooler.
Taiwan is responsible for the second unofficial attempt at bringing Dragon Ball to life, and it’s as fun as any B-movie find can get. The Magic Begins is an almost shot-for-shot remake of Curse of the Blood Rubies with some cosmetic changes, such as renaming the Dragon Balls to Dragon Pearls and calling the antagonist King Horn.
As low-budgeted and overacted as it is, this remake has an undeniable so-bad-it’s-good charm that gives it some ironic appeal – which is still better than anything that the third live-action Dragon Ball movie committed.
Alternatively titled Clash!! 10,000,000,000 Power Warriors, the sequel to Cooler’s Revenge pits Goku and Cooler against each other when Frieza’s brother is resurrected by the ominous Big Gete Star.
Return of Cooler is known for accomplishing some firsts among Dragon Ball movies. Not only is it a direct sequel to a previous entry, but it breaks from the usual formula to introduce grander science-fiction themes while also featuring the cinematic debut of the fan-favorite Vegeta. It’s for these reasons (minus Vegeta) that Cooler’s comeback is polarizing among fans.
Following Dr. Gero’s murder by Androids 17 and 18, Androids 13, 14, and 15 are activated as a fail-safe. The three head out to kill Goku, who is backed up by his usual roster of allies.
Super Android 13! is one of the most straightforward Dragon Ball movies, immediately cutting to the intense fights fans love. This entry also features the series’ first time where Goku, Vegeta, and Future Trunks fight together. Super Android 13! also contains the scene where Goku suffers a groin attack so powerful that it knocks him out of Super Saiyan mode.
The backstory of the android-slaying and time-traveling Future Trunks is revealed in his very own TV special, which takes place in a dark future where Dr. Gero’s powerful Androids successfully subjugated the world.
Notable for sharing the bleakness of The Terminator instead of the adventurous feel of the series, The History of Trunks is praised for its unapologetically grim setting and tone. It may feel different and jarringly depressing when compared to every other Dragon Ball movie or special, and this distinction alone makes it worth seeking out.
Vegeta goes to the planet New Vegeta in the hopes of becoming the king of the last remaining Saiyan survivors. But upon arriving, he discovers their true plans of universal conquest that are being spearheaded by the legendary Saiyan warrior Broly.
Thanks to its compelling story, feature-length run time, breakout villain, and (of course) epic fights, The Legendary Super Saiyan is often considered to be the best Dragon Ball movie. Broly’s recent revival in Dragon Ball Super is a testament to his enduring popularity, even if his Dragon Ball Z sequels didn’t give him the justice he deserved.
After many world-ending fights, Bojack Unbound returns to the series’ roots with a good old-fashioned tournament arc. As per franchise tradition, the tournament is interrupted by evil-doers and it’s up to Gohan and company to save the day.
For the first time in the movie series, Goku isn’t the protagonist after sacrificing himself to stop Cell, with the movie now focusing on his son Gohan. This movie also serves as a throwback, not only because of the tournament arc but because of Toriyama’s direct involvement in story and design, making Bojack Unbound a beloved blast from the past.
Seven years after his defeat, Broly returns with vengeance against Goku in mind. Problem is, Goku’s dead and the legendary Saiyan is forced to face Gohan, Goten, Trunks, and Videl instead.
The first Broly sequel isn’t well-regarded for many reasons, chief among them being the feared Saiyan’s character devolution. From a tragic villain, Broly has been reduced to an angry brute who just wants to murder Goku. The fact that Second Coming is child-friendlier than previous entries doesn’t improve matters, though its sequel makes Broly’s initial return look like a masterpiece.
The finale to the Broly trilogy features Goten, Trunks, Android 18, and Mr. Satan discovering an experiment where Broly’s DNA was used to create bio-warriors. Released less than half a year after Second Coming, Bio-Broly (aka Super-Warrior Defeat!! I’m the One Who’ll Win) is rightfully deemed the worst Dragon Ball movie.
Broly’s characterization is now at its lowest, with the legendary Saiyan reduced to an unintelligible pile of sludge that looks like Swamp Thing. Goten and Trunks’ antics only make things more insufferable, and even fan-favorite Android 18 plus comic relief extraordinaire Mr. Satan can’t save the day.
Living and dead heroes and villains converge in Fusion Reborn, an ambitious crossover that happens after the dim-witted but dangerous Janemba breaks the border between the mortal realm and the afterlife. Loaded with fan-service and spectacular fights, Fusion Reborn is more of a celebration of all things Dragon Ball than a rumination of the plot’s morbid implications.
Fusion Reborn may also be the most notorious Dragon Ball movie around due its inclusion of a character referred to as “The Dictator,” whose scenes were omitted in French, German, and Hebrew cuts of the movie for obvious Nazi-related reasons.
Titled Dragon Fist Explosion!! If Goku Can’t Do It, Who Will? in Japan, Wrath of the Dragon is set after Majin Buu’s defeat. Goku and friends learn that another threat looms in the horizon in the form of the unstoppable Hirudegarn, and they enlist the legendary hero Tapion to save the day.
Despite his dedicated following, Tapion is never seen in Dragon Ball after his debut. This is what keeps the movie from becoming a classic for some fans, despite the stellar fights and Goku’s unexplained yet awesome ability to summon a Kaiju-sized dragon.
Functioning more as a soft reboot, The Path to Power marked the franchise’s 10th anniversary. To commemorate this event, the movie goes back to the beginning by retelling Goku’s origins and his initial battle with the Red Ribbon Army.
The Path to Power is the longest original Dragon Ball movie, and it uses its run time to indulge in a decade’s worth of nostalgia. While the condensed story is literally nothing new and is told considerably better in the anime, The Path to Power is a celebration of Dragon Ball’s simple beginnings.
Hoping to save his dying grandmother, Son Goku Jr. searches for the Dragon Ball so his wish can be granted. Unlike his great-grandfather, Goku Jr. is not a brave fighter but he must become one to succeed.
A Hero’s Legacy isn’t a traditional Dragon Ball story, but it’s regarded as an improvement over the polarizing series it’s a part of: Dragon Ball GT. This is due to it feeling like a proper distillation of what GT attempted but failed to do, making it a forgettable yet sincere and charming watch. This is also the only special that GT spawned.
American anime adaptations don’t have the most stellar of reputations, but none are as infamous as Hollywood’s take on Dragon Ball. Saying Dragonball Evolution disrespected its source material is an understatement, and it deserves its status as the worst thing that Hollywood did to Japan – including the atrocious 1998 Godzilla remake.
Simply put, Evolution Americanized Goku’s story to the point where it felt more like an 80s teen movie than a sprawling battle epic. It was so bad that creator Akira Toriyama came out of semi-retirement to make more Dragon Ball just to undo this movie’s damage.
The peace that Goku and friends have been enjoying is interrupted when the ancient God of Destruction Beerus reawakens. Beerus attacks, in search of the Super Saiyan God, and Goku learns of a new Saiyan form he has to achieve to defeat the god.
Being the first official Dragon Ball movie in a decade, Battle of Gods was regarded as an event. Though it felt more like a lead-in to the new series Dragon Ball Super, the movie was received well by long-time fans who were desperate to wipe away the bad aftertaste that Evolution left.
After his remaining loyalists successfully collect and use the Dragon Balls, Frieza returns stronger than ever in Resurrection ‘F.’ Now in a more powerful form, the alien tyrant attacks Earth with the goal of killing all the Saiyans.
Resurrection ‘F’ is more focused on fan-service and epic clashes when compared to Battle of Gods, which is a given since it centers on the comeback of the franchise’s fan-favorite villain. Loaded with some of the series’ biggest fights, the latest Dragon Ball Z movie is sometimes derided for its conventional plot but is highly lauded for its raw entertainment value.
After surviving Frieza’s attacks, Goku and Vegeta continue to train in case a powerful being challenges them. Their fears are realized through a legendary Super Saiyan named Broly, Frieza’s newfound ally.
The first movie under the Dragon Ball Super banner not only brings back the series’ breakout antagonist but completely rewrites him, giving Broly a new backstory and motivation. The end result is a more fleshed-out and tragic character, who becomes the center of the series’ strongest entry to date. Filled with spectacular fights and surprising amounts of pathos, Broly is simply Dragon Ball at its best.