Years of me playing the various Dragon Ball Z video games and watching the many different animes have given me the qualifications to make this list. Listen, I know no matter what I choose for this list there will be people disagreeing with me. That’s okay; we all don’t have to agree on the same thing. We all have different tastes, and we all experiences Dragon Ball in unique ways.
Before this list could properly start, I’m going to layout some ground rules. I’m only including fights in canon material, or canon-adjacent. What do I mean by canon-adjacent? I mean the movies Battle of Gods and Resurrection F. Both are movies that were adapted into Dragon Ball Super. There are some major differences between Super and the films. All of Super is supposed to be canon, however, I think the fights in the movies are better than what was shown in Super. Since Battle of Gods and Resurrection F are still short of canon, I will include the fights from those movies instead of the anime’s version.
Since I’m not including any fights from the original movies on this list, here is a quick honorable mention of the battles in the non-canon films. Honorable mentions go to: Goku Vs. Cooler (Cooler’s Revenge), Z Warriors Vs. Broly (Legendary Super Saiyan Broly), Gohan Vs. Bojack (Bojack Unbound), Goku Vs. Janemba (Fusion Reborn), and Z Warriors Vs. Hirudegarn (Wrath of the Dragon). Phew, okay no more stalling. Here are the 30 Most Epic Dragon Ball Fights, Officially Ranked.
I was having a hard time deciding to include this fight from Dragon Ball Super or not. Anilaza is robotic monster that is a fusion between four warriors from Universe three. He fights against the main characters towards the end of Super. For the most part, the fight isn’t terribly exciting. It isn’t until there’s an epic beam struggle between Anilaza and the remaining heroes from Universe Seven when the fight becomes one of the show’s best. The image of the remaining five leads combining their strengths to push back Anilaza is one of the highlights of Dragon Ball Super.
The first major fight in Dragon Ball Z, the fight with Raditz, is what sets off the events of the whole show. For its importance to the show, it deserves a spot on this list.
Despite its importance, it is actually pretty slow match. Goku and Piccolo team up for the first time to face off against Raditz, featuring one of the few times that the heroes actual fight an opponent as a team rather than one-on-one. The match is mostly one-sided, with Raditz kicking their butts. It ends gloriously when Piccolo uses his Makankosappo to pierce Raditz’s torso.
A fight that is more brutal than epic, this fight stands out among the franchise’s more extravagant matches. Videl was a then-recent addition to the cast. She proved to be very likable, which is what makes her match with Spopovich so hard to watch. Their fight takes place early in the Majin Buu Saga, during the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai. Videl at first seemed to be better than Spopovich. Eventually Spopovich revealed his true strength, and pummels Videl. It isn’t a flashy fight at all, nonetheless it leaves an impact.
The original Dragon Ball show is pretty old at this point. Some of the animation doesn’t hold up, and there is some questionable characterization.
That said, there are still some note-worthy fights from the original show, many of which I would argue are just as epic as Z’s and Super’s. Goku versus the mercenary Taopaipai was the first time that Goku was completely outmatched. Taopaipai was more skilled than Goku in almost every way, and their fight shows it. The actual fight isn’t as fast, or as bombastic as later fights would become. Nevertheless it is still a very suspenseful match.
Goku’s fight with Majin Buu isn’t as engaging as the later fights in the Majin Buu saga, but it does contain the reveal of Super Saiyan 3, and that was a great moment in Dragon Ball Z. Majin Buu at that point in the series seemed indestructible, so it was very cathartic to witness Goku go Super Saiyan 3 and properly wallop Buu. It has a lame end when Goku simply chooses to leave. The image of Goku turning Super Saiyan 3 is more than enough to place this match on this list, however.
Although Cell was introduced weaker than most of the cast, his ability to absorb very quickly turned him into a serious threat. Upon absorbing Android 17, Cell was able to defeat both Piccolo and 16 without much trouble at all. All the while, Vegeta was finishing up his stint in the Room of Spirit and Time, ready to confront Cell.
In confronting Cell, the two have a proper Dragon Ball Z brawl. Where Vegeta initially managed to overpower Cell, his hubris got the better of him and he bought time for Cell to become Perfect. From there, the newly complete Cell utterly dominated Vegeta, shattering his pride into pieces.
One of the more unorthodox and unpredictable matches in the original Dragon Ball, Goku versus Tien fight at the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai is one of the best. This is the only time that Tien ever manages to meet Goku equally in terms of power, debatably even surpassing him.
It is in this fight Tien was able to show off some of the crazier moves within the franchise, which includes growing extra arms. The match surprisingly ends with Goku losing on a technicality. Despite how anticlimactic it ends, Goku versus Tien is one of the most memorable fights in the series.
This is actually a personal favorite of mine from Dragon Ball Z. Android 16 is a mostly passive character. Other than his desire to end Goku, he mostly sits around and takes in nature. When Cell arrives to absorb Androids 17 and 18, 16 finally steps in to put in him in his place. It is a quick fight with a lot of great moments. From Android 16 launching his fist like rocket, to 16 slamming Cell onto the ground so hard it creates a crater. It ends beautifully with Android 16 unleashing Hell Flash onto Cell.
This is a fight that deserves to be on this list for the many cool moments it gives Vegeta. After Goku succumb to his heart virus, Android 19 was ready to finish him off. Vegeta then arrives to save his rival, and reveals to everyone that he has become a Super Saiyan like Goku.
He proceeds to thrash Android 19, ultimately ending the android with his signature Big Bang Attack. It is a pretty simple match, full of great Vegeta one-liners and amazing character moments. Vegeta turning into a Super Saiyan is one of the character’s best scenes ever.
It can't be understated just how important Battle of Gods was for the franchise. After years of stagnation, Dragon Ball was back in an action packed movie that not only saw Goku gain a new form, but had his fight against a being of nearly incomprehensible power.
It is established before the fight that Beerus, the God of Destruction, is blatantly the strongest character our heroes have faced yet, effortlessly defeating Ultimate Gohan, Majin Buu, and the rest of the supporting cast. The fight between him and Goku even actually ends with Goku losing, something that never happens in a Dragon Ball movie.
The fights against Frieza, in general, are something of an endurance match. Even in the manga, these battles go on quite long, but they're arguably all the better for it, allowing the main participants to all get a moment to shine. Krillin nearly decapitates Frieza in his second form, Gohan leads the charge while a stone faced Vegeta refuses to fight, Piccolo saves the day rather heroically, and Vegeta stands up to Frieza in his final form in a moment that very well could have concluded Vegeta's arc in a satisfying manner.
Caulifla and Kale are Saiyans from Universe Six. They proved to be some of the more memorable characters introduce in the Universal Survival Arc in Dragon Ball Super. During their fight with Goku, they fused with the Potara earrings and became Kefla.
Kefla proved to be too powerful, forcing Goku to trigger Ultra Instinct for the second time. From there, their match shifts into higher gear in an episode that arguably has the best animation in the entire Tournament of Power. Concentrating all his energy into a single blast, Goku surfs on Kefla's ki and knocks her out with a truly stellar Kamehameha.
What makes Kid Buu such a fitting final antagonist for the original series isn't the fact that he's the strongest (far from it, rather,) but that he's so inexplicably dangerous. Despite being weaker than every form of Super Buu, and arguably even a Super Saiyan 3 Goku, Kid Buu does not tire out and his only goal is chaos.
As a result, Kid Buu is an enemy who cannot be predicted. This results in a fantastic fight where Goku pushes himself on every level just to keep up. The anime even shows off what is arguably the best piece of filler in the series as a Super Saiyan 2 Goku fights off Kid Buu while the Kaioshin planet breaks around them.
With the Ginyu Force dangerously close to arriving on Namek, Vegeta forces both Krillin and Gohan into an alliance, desperately hoping that their combined strengths will keep them alive long enough for Goku to arrive. While Vegeta is able to dispatch of Guldo, his fight against Recoome doesn't go nearly as well.
Recoome eviscerates Vegeta in one of the most brutal displays of power in the entire series, leaving Krillin and Gohan to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, neither can compete with the mercenary's might as Recoome methodically makes easy work out of the two remaining heroes.
Vegeta's fight with Android 18 is a best of both worlds situation. If you love Vegeta, it's him putting up an incredible fight against an opponent who he is significantly weaker than. If you hate Vegeta, it's hit getting demolished for his hubris, ending the battle broken, battered, and humiliated.
This is a fight that thrives on impact. Even in the manga, it's easy to see just how much damage Android 18 is doing. No matter how hard Vegeta tries, he cannot tire her out, leaving himself beyond exhausted by the fight's end. It's a brutal battle with some stellar choreography that puts Vegeta back in his place.
It's hard to believe Goku only fights twice in the Cell arc, but his final fight against Perfect Cell stands out as one of the finest battles in the entire series. In many respects a swan song dedicated to Son Goku. Almost every single major technique in Goku's repertoire— save for the Kaioken and Genki Dama— make an impressive appearance.
Unfortunately, the anime adaptation of the fight suffers from some poor animation, but the heart of the battle is there. This was meant to be Goku's last major fight in the series, and it shows. Toriyama honored his main character as best he could, having Goku forfeit in a move that was both surprising and appropriate.
Goku's fight with Demon King Piccolo is arguably the moment when Dragon Ball finally starts to transition into its more Dragon Ball Z centric qualities. Piccolo is an antagonist unlike any other before. He is not a joke; he is not a gag; and he is more than willing to take a life.
His final battle against Goku sees him holding Tien hostage, blowing up most of a city, and breaking just about every limb in Goku's body. The only reason Goku wins is because Piccolo underestimated him. With one final push, Goku launches himself into the air, piercing through Demon King Piccolo once and for all (or so he thought.)
There is a genuine brutality to the fight against Nappa. Not only does Yamcha lose his life mere moments before the fight begins, Nappa goes on to force Chaozu to self-destruct, Tien Shinhan to give up his life with a Kikoho, and Piccolo to step in the way of a blast directed at Gohan. By the time Goku arrives, virtually every single member of the supporting cast is in the dust. This is a slow, methodical fight, but it's one that shows off how dangerous the Saiyans are. There's never a dull moment when Nappa in on-screen.
Vegetto's fight with Fused Zamasu is arguably the first "good" fight in Dragon Ball Super. If nothing else, it's the first fight in the series to really show off what Super's animation was capable of. While the fight itself falls on the short side, there is quite a lot of fanfare with Vegetto's return. He absolutely thrashes Zamasu, and, were it not for his enemy's immortality, he would have secured an easy victory. It's a fight that's just as fun to watch as it is to read, a rarity for Dragon Ball Super.
Goku turning into a Super Saiyan on Namek is arguably the single most defining moment in all of Dragon Ball. After an entire arc of wondering who the Super Saiyan was, fans finally get to see Goku trigger the transformation. While it's an incredible moment, it's only bolstered by what precedes and succeeds it.
The build up to Goku turning Super Saiyan is an outstanding fight that shows Goku at his most creative, pushing himself against Frieza as he tries to outsmart the dictator. He's outmatched, unfortunately, but the transformation allows him to turn the tables, bringing Frieza's reign of terror to a pitiful end.
Goku's fight with Piccolo Junior brings the original Dragon Ball to a close (kind of,) and finally sees Goku winning a Tenkaichi Budokai. While the win itself is enough to make the fight a highlight of the series, the choreography is some of Toriyama's best, combining hand to hand action with mesmerizing Ki attacks. Goku's foot based Kamehameha is arguably the most creative use of the technique in the entire series, and there's quite like Goku knocking Piccolo out of the arena with a well timed use of flight.
At its core, Dragon Ball is a story about Son Goku so, naturally, most of the series is going to focus on him. The majority of fights center around Goku, and rightfully so: he's the protagonist. That said, every now and again, the supporting cast get the chance to show off just how formidable they are.
In Piccolo's final fight in the original series, he squares off against Android 17. While the battle falls on the short side (as most fights do after this point in the series,) it's nothing short of amazing. The anime's adaptation is absolutely stunning, as well, breathing life into one of Toriyama's heaviest battles in the manga.
Dragon Ball Super overall has proven to be somewhat divisive. I’m sure most people liked Super; if it wasn’t popular, then it wouldn’t have crashed as many streaming sites as it did. However, many fans felt the series was more superficial, especially considering how iconic Z is.
With that said, the final fight between Goku and Jiren in Super is simply amazing. The animation is breathtaking, the stakes were high, and the heroes won with genuine teamwork rather than having Goku do all the legwork. This fight proves Super has the capabilities to have moments that can match, and even surpass Z.
Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are showing their ages at this point. The animation quality was always inconsistent in both shows, and now it looks dated. The newer fights in Super and Broly may have better quality, yet they can never match what made the first fight between Goku and Vegeta so special.
From the choreography to the animation, the fight was hitting all the marks. The fight showed both fighters to be equals, and turns Vegeta into a bonafide fan favorite. There’s a reason why Dragon Ball revolves on Goku and Vegeta, and this fight is the reason.