With the upcoming release of Dragon Ball Z: The Revival of F, It's time again to look back to the series that arguably is one of the most influential and popular manga/anime franchises. A while ago, we looked at the sagas that made up the main series from worst to best. This time, we'll be rating the 19 official theatrical released films to see which one is the best.
With the exception of Battle of Gods, all the current films are officially non-canon with the series, considered to be alternate reality stories. Most of them were also designed to be shown as double or even triple bills with other Toei films such as Dragon Ball's sister series Dr Slump.
This one was actually a lot harder to rate as many of the movies were very similar to each other and with most of them being under an hour long, many didn't have enough time to flesh out their plots.
Also I know this is obvious, but spoilers ahead.
The Evil Alien Demon Lord Piccolo has returned and is trying to collect the Dragon Balls so he can gain eternal youth. Can Whitku stop him in time?
You knew this was going to be last and there is very little I can add that hasn't already been said. The plot is horrible, the whitewashing was unacceptable and the action was poor. Basically the quintessential example of how not to adapt a foreign piece of work.
Here's something though, am I the only one who thinks that Goku and Chi Chi in this films were originally going to be Gohan and Videl? Many of the weird changes such as Goku going to High School or Chi chi wearing Videl's costume make a lot more sense if that was the case.
18. Curse of the Blood Rubies (The Legend of Shen Long)
Penny has escaped enslavement and has found help with the Dragon Ball Gang to free her people from the monstrous wrath of Gurumes.
The first of the Dragon Ball movies and the first of the original movie trilogy, it's sadly the worst of the animated films. The main problem with the film is that more than 70% of the movies short 50 minute run is a simple recap of the events of the Pilaf saga, meaning that its own plot doesn't have any time to breathe or be explained properly.
One of these for example, is what exactly the Blood Rubies actually do. The film seems to suggest that the rubies are cursed and deteriorate everything around them. But if that is the case, why didn't they turn the kingdom into a waste land years ago given how close to the surface they were? Also why are the rubies cursed to begin with given that nobody seem too knew about them until Gurumes and his minions discovered them?
17. Dead Zone (Return My Gohan!!)
Garlic Jr. seeks revenge for the imprisonment of his father and complete his plan to become the God of Earth.
This is one of the shortest films in the series and that isn't a good thing. Like Blood Rubies before it, the film has very little time to go to any detail and as such, feels amazingly shallow and honestly, it is not that much fun to watch.
Not helping is that the film feels odd tonally. It seems to try to be both the more comedic and adventure type of film the early Dragon Ball Manga was, while also being the more serious and action thrill ride of most of the Dragon Ball Z era. As result, it fails on both accounts.
Then you have the weird scene were the four year old Gohan gets drunk and begins to hallucinate:
On a more positive note, this is the only film to receive two abridged versions by the crew of Team Four Star:
16. Mystical Adventure (Mystical Great Adventure)
Terror! The Empress has been kidnapped! While at the same time, Goku is training for the tournament. Will these two plots connect?
On the plus side, it's interesting to see Blue being treated as a good guy in this film, trying to warn Emperor Chiaotzu about the conspiracy, only to be murdered by Tao Pai Pai.
Sadly though, this, like Blood Rubies spends far too much time repeating what happened in the original manga. Even doing an abridged repeat of the Dr. Slump crossover, expect when it was first done, it was charming and funny (except for the scene where for some reason, Toei made the only openly gay character into a pedophile), but here it feels out of place and forced.
Not the best way to end the original movie trilogy.
15. Super Android 13! (Extreme Battle!! The Three Great Super Saiyans)
Dr. Gero maybe dead, but his androids have awakened and are on a single mission, to kill Goku.
One of the biggest problems with this film is that the villains are amazingly dull, with no personalities to speak of. This is odd given that the Android siblings in the series are two of the most interesting characters to watch. Really, the only defining feature of 13 is his trucker hat, and he loses that pretty early on.
There is also a massive plot hole in the film. If Gero had already created three perfect androids that would willingly obey him, why on earth did he think activating the two disloyal ones instead was a bright idea? He could have easily waited until they were ready. It's not like Goku was going anywhere.
14. Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (Burn Up!! A Close, Intense, Super-Fierce Battle)
Kakarotto! Kakarotto!! Kakarotto!!!
Why is Broly so popular? He's annoying as hell. Constantly whining about Goku as well as he suffered greatly from a trope writers seem to fall back on. If you can't think of a new and interesting story, fall back on redoing a popular storyline/character, but bigger and with less character development. Star Trek Voyager did this with the Borg, Star Wars did it with the Sun Crusher and let's be grateful that Marvel hasn't done anything similar.
In this case, remember the drama and development when Goku achieved the legend and became the Legendary Super Saiyan, often considered one of the series' most memorable and greatest moments. Well it turns out, the "real" legendary Super Saiyan is some guy we've never heard about, has no personality and is even stronger!
Ignoring Broly, the first half of the movie is actually quite well done and it was great to see super Roshi again, even if it was just for a joke. However, Broly and his constant yelling of "Kakarotto!" ruins the film for me.
13. Lord Slug (Super Saiyan Son Goku)
The Super Saiyan is born… kind of… sort of… not really.
First of all, Goku actually never goes Super Saiyan in this film, only reaching what is officially called False Super Saiyan. I realize that the animators likely didn't have any way of knowing what the final design would be. But even so, it's kind of like going to see the premier of the Young Justice movie, only to find out it's actually The Batman movie.
But even if it was the actual Super Saiyan form's debut, it would have been a bad introduction as it would be on-screen for about two minutes tops and then get out-classed by the Kaio-Ken. Not the best promotion.
The film itself is rather poor with the action being fine but nothing to write home about. But worse, the plot is way too similar to the previous film, to the point the film just feels lazy.
12. The Return of Cooler (Clash!! 10,000,000,000 Powerful Warriors)
Cooler has enslaved the Namekian race and the only heroes that can stop him are the Z fighters.
Cooler above all of the movie villains, suffers the most from being a simple carbon copy of a series villain. Even Slug had some things that made him slightly different to King Piccolo. I also find his motivations very unclear. Why does he want to consume the universe now with the Big Gete Star given his entire life's work is selling planets to wealthy and powerful races?
Action wise, the fight with the single Mecha Cooler vs Goku and Vegeta is fine (where on earth did Vegeta come from anyway?) and it was nice to see the two working together to beat the real threat. The reveal of the army of Mecha Coolers was also done well so I can't say the film is bad. Just not the best.
11. Cooler's Revenge (The Incredible Mightiest vs. Mightiest)
Cooler wants revenge on Goku for killing his brother and is not going to stop, no matter what.
Again, what exactly is Cooler's motivation? He seemed to care very little about Freeza in the flashback but seems to care a great deal in the present. What gives?
The only real explanation I can think of is that he secretly feels guilty about unwittingly causing his brother's death and is on a quest of revenge to try to resolve himself of blame.
Cooler, like Broly, is another case of trying to one up the series. But unlike Broly, he at least doesn't whine with every bit of dialogue and his 5th form at least looks cool.
But overall, an average and forgettable movie in the series.
10. Broly – Second Coming (The Dangerous Duo! Super Warriors Never Rest)
Broly has survived his fate with death and has found himself on Earth. Can Earth survive the wrath of Broly with no Goku?
Given my rant about Broly earlier, you're probably surprised about Second Coming being as high as it is (and probably going to be even more shocked about where Bio Broly is). However, Broly in this film isn't as annoying as he was in his debut and he does become threatening at some points.
This is also the first movie to feature Videl who I've always found to be cool. I just like the idea that she sees this massive brick of a man raging bloody murder and goes, "Yeah, I can take him."
Also for some reason, I don't find Goten and Trunks annoying in the films. I think it's because they are far more reserved and they don't annoyingly show boat to the same level as they did in the anime filler.
9. The World's Strongest (The World's Strongest Guy)
Who is strongest, Roshi, Goku, Piccolo… Krillin?
Like Dead Zone, the film has an odd music scene with Gohan, however at least with this film, it actually makes sense for the character to be thinking of traveling with Piccolo then… whatever that was in Dead Zone.
Another positive is that this is the last time Roshi would be useful and competent, sadly becoming nothing but comic relief after this point.
As for the film itself, it's alright. Admittedly, it's nice to see a bad guy that isn't clearly based off another villain (can't say the same about his henchmen though). But overall, an average film.
Also, here is its abridged version:
8. Bojack Unbound (Galaxy at the Brink!! The Super Incredible Guy)
It's tournament time again and this time it's the Tenkaichi Dai Budokai, a tournament were earthlings challenge fighters from the corners of the universe. But something is not quite right with these fighters.
I really like the first half of this film with the tournament. I always like those parts in the series so it was nice to see a new spin on them in this film.
The second half on the other hand feels very generic, nothing we haven't seen before. Not helped is that the villains look very generic as well.
Mr. Satan sadly drags parts of the film down as he is still in his insufferable state as he was in the Cell games, though at least he isn't as bad as Broly.
Overall, it's good, but falls flat at the end.
7. Fusion Reborn (Fusion Reborn!! Gokū and Vegeta)
When a lazy Oni accidentally absorbs gallons of evilness, he becomes the Janemba, a spirit of evil and unwittingly brings the dead back to life.
Hitler vs. Dragon Ball, if that doesn't sell tickets then I don't know what will. As a little trivia note, the Nazis in this film had the Swastikas replaced with large, black Xs. This is actually a reference to Charlie Chaplin's classic The Great Dictator, you know the film the USA decided to punish him for by the FBI falsely accusing him of being a communist and kicking him out of the country.
The film is a lot of fun, with Pikkon having to save the day by throwing insults at a bubble, the old villains coming back, the Nazis getting their arses kicked by Trunks and Goten and the final fight with Veku then later Gogeta.
Overall, a fun film.
6. The Path to Power (The Path to Ultimate Strength)
In this retelling, The Dragon Ball Gang have to collect the Dragon Balls before the powerful Red Ribbon Army can get their hands on them.
This is an interesting case, like Blood Rubies and Mystical Adventure, the film is going through a story we've already seen. But it works here because it does it in a different way and isn't just an exact replica of what we've seen.
It is also the first film to be longer than 55 minutes which really does help to give a lot more time to pace itself and allow deeper development to characters.
This film also has one of the dumbest dub changes in the movies. For some reason, they decided to change a kiss between Bulma and Yamcha into dialogue. I find this dumb because it completely changes the scene, undermines the whole romance between Bulma & Yamcha and is completely odd given how they would freely show child murder and genocide on the show.
This is why I stick with the Japanese original.
5. The Tree of Might (Super Showdown for the Whole Earth)
A Saiyan has planted the Tree of Might, a tree that sucks the life of a planet and allows who ever eats its fruit to gain its magnificent power.
Turles is obviously an evil Goku and I should accuse him of being a rip off like Cooler and Slug. Well your right, his design is a bit much. However, his personality is unlike any other villain we had up to that point with the possible exception of Tao Pai Pai. He's cunning and smart (something Vegeta lacked) and though evil, is very restrained as well as being quite intimidating.
This is a good one and a good recommendation for people who are new to anime.
Also, why do people hate Icarus so much? I can see why some might find him a nuisance at times, but he is nowhere as bad as other characters like Broly and early Satan.
4. Battle of Gods (God and God)
The God of Destruction has awakened, only to find that his target, Freeza has already been destroyed by Goku. Will the God destroy the Earth?
Battle of Gods was a fun ride and a nice film to see after years of only the occasional OVA or TV special. It does feel however like it was merely teasing us with plot and new ideas, seeing if the audience was still there. Though that's not bad by any means, I can see why that could be annoying for others.
I like how the villain isn't actually very antagonistic, more curious and seems like the type of person who has never needed to really care about anyone else until Super Saiyan God Goku appeared.
That leads to one of the only flaws with the movie. The Super Saiyan God looks very unimpressive, looking more like a controlled form of the Kaio-Ken rather than being anything truly godly.
The Pilaf gang subplot was unnecessary to the overall story, but was enjoyable and I was happy to see them again given how little we saw of them in the Dragon Ball Z era. I hope there appearance means that we'll also get other minor characters get major roles, specifically Launch who also appeared very little in DBZ era as well, despite being one of the most enjoyable parts of the Dragon Ball era (why was she cut out?).
3. Wrath of the Dragon (Dragon Fist Explosion!! If Gokū Can't Do It, Who Will)
Tapion, a mysterious warrior awakens out from a music box as the city is attacked by half of a giant monster.
As I said in the Second Coming, Trunks and Goten are nowhere near as annoying in the films as they were in the manga or the series. This is a good thing given how much of a big role Trunks has in this film and because of that, you can completely understand why Trunks befriends Tapion.
Think about it. Tapion is a super powered loner who internalizes his emotions. Sounds familiar? Basically, Tapion is a surrogate Vegeta except someone who seems more open and given how Trunks talks to him, someone who he thinks won't leave him.
As for the film itself, it is really fun to watch and it definitely one to check out. It changes things up with the large monster Hirudegarn and how for most of the film, we literally only see its bottom half. Goku's final attack with the Dragon Fist is also impressive to watch.
2. Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle (Same title)
Goku and Krillin are ready to train! However Roshi won't train them until they retrieve the Sleeping Princess in the Devil Castle.
This was the second in the original Dragon Ball movie trilogy and by far the best of the three. It quickly does away with all the stuff from the series and goes into its own plot, which if you can't guess from the title is a play on Sleeping Beauty though sadly, the film's villain Lucifer is nowhere near as impressive as Maleficent.
Speaking of which, Lucifer is interesting in that the way he is beaten subverts what would become the norm. defeating him with sheer dumb luck rather than the usual top trumps approach. Funny thing is that we never see Lucifer's true power at all in the film, as he had no need given that he could easily beat the DB gang using his weakest form.
The movie is very quickly paced which works in its favour and ultimately the best of all the five films based in the Dragon Ball era of the series.
Which leads us to the best of all the films (as of this article's publishing)…
1. Bio Broly (Super Warrior Defeat!! I'm The One Who'll Win)
Broly has been reborn via the power of cloning, but something has gone wrong. Meanwhile, Android 18, as well as Trunks and Goten seek the money Satan owes her.
Many of you are going to hate this choice as many fans don't like this film. I respect that, but I'm going to be truly honest because this is my favourite of the Dragon Ball films and I don't really understand the hate for this film.
First of all, as you may have guessed, I'm not the biggest fan of Satan until he befriends Boo, so seeing him in utter misery in this film as well as him being absolutely frightened of Android 18 was satisfying. Another thing is that I like how they connected this film with Second Coming, it was clever and was honestly not the type of detail you would expect from a Dragon Ball movie.
I also like Trunks in this one as he has the perfect mix of science know how and streets smarts, but never turning into an adult in a kid's body as can usually happen. I also vastly prefer Bio-Broly over original Broly because he looks creepy, is very intimidating and doesn't whine constantly.