Which Dragon Ball Movie Has the Best Villain?

With Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball franchise being so enormously popular for decades, the anime series saw many spinoff feature films released concurrently to the respective shows. The original Dragon Ball series received four films, its sequel series Dragon Ball Z got 13 during its initial television run and the revival series Dragon Ball Super has seen three, with a fourth film planned for release in 2022. Each of these films would bring in a particularly formidable opponent for the Z Fighters to face in an epic, if often non-canonical, showdown.

Here are all the best Dragon Ball movie villains per era in the franchise's extensive history, from Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies to Dragon Ball Super: Broly. This excludes television specials, short films and OVAs that were similarly released over the course of the franchise's history.

The Dragon Ball Movies: Count Lucifer

The first Dragon Ball anime film released was 1986's Curse of the Blood Rubies, premiering just ten months after the anime series' premiere. This was followed by Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle in 1987 and Mystical Adventure in 1988. A fourth and final Dragon Ball film, The Path to Power, was released in 1996 to commemorate the original anime's 10th anniversary and would be the last theatrically released Dragon Ball anime film for 17 years.

Three of the four Dragon Ball anime films loosely adapt story arcs directly from the manga, but in radically different ways from the television show. Curse of the Blood Rubies replaces original franchise antagonist Emperor Pilaf with King Gurumes, while Mystical Adventure provides a new twist on the murderous mercenary Tao. The Path to Power similarly condenses the first third of the original series' story, reimagining Goku's fight against the Red Ribbon Army. This makes Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle, complete with Goku and his friends fighting the literal devil, the best villain of the first four films in a fantasy-oriented, supernatural adventure.

Early Dragon Ball Z Movies: Turles

Turles About To Fight Goku

The first anime film to be released as part of DBZ was 1989's Dead Zone, set shortly before the events of the anime. This was followed by The World's Strongest and The Tree of Might, both released in 1990, and 1991's Lord Slug, with the first four DBZ films taking place before Goku mastered the Super Saiyan transformation.

Dead Zone's Garlic Jr. would go on to appear in the anime but was something of a cheap villain, exiled rather than defeated outright due to his immortality. Lord Slug would similarly go out on a technicality in a strange final fight while The World's Strongest's Doctor Wheelo was a bizarre precursor to the anime villain Doctor Gero. The most intriguing early villain is Turles, a dark shadow of the conquering Saiyan Goku could have been who targets Earth in The Tree of Might.

Mid-Dragon Ball Z Movies: Cooler

Cooler Preparing To Fight Goku

The middle-era villains, covering the last years of Gohan's childhood, were often retreads of villains whom the Z Fighters faced in the anime. 1991's Cooler's Revenge and its 1992 direct sequel The Return of Cooler featured Frieza's evil older brother, while 1992's Super Android 13! revealed Dr. Gero created even more killer androids. 1993's Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan introduced an even more imposing Super Saiyan villain while Bojack Unbound, released later that year, featured a similar musclebound opponent from the cosmos.

The thing about many villains' final form during this era is they often shrug off standard blows before Goku gathers enough energy to take them down in a single punch or energy blast. Cooler and Bojack, respectively, are defeated when Goku and Gohan unleash their own transformations to turn the tide of battle. But with Cooler getting two films to develop and explore, he truly is the standout villain of this particular era.

Late-Dragon Ball Z Movies: Janemba

The final DBZ films released concurrently with the anime series -- 1994's Broly: Second Coming and Bio-Broly and 1995's Fusion Reborn and Wrath of the Dragon -- follow Gohan as an adult and feature the return of Goku. As indicated by the title, the first two films conclude the Broly storyline while the latter two feature the new villains Janemba and Hirudegarn, respectively.

The best villain of this entire era -- and potentially of the franchise overall -- is Janemba, the personification of pure evil that surfaces in Hell. Featuring a cool design and fighting style that allows him to project himself and his attacks, both defensively and offensively, Janemba's battle against Super Saiyan 3 Goku in Fusion Reborn is a franchise highlight.

Dragon Ball Super Movies: Broly

While 2013's Battle of Gods and 2015's Resurrection F were both released under the Dragon Ball Z banner, their stories were directly incorporated in both Dragon Ball Super's manga and anime series. 2018's Broly would be the first to bear the Dragon Ball Super banner, reinventing the previously non-canonical antagonist who appeared in the DBZ films.

With Beerus becoming more of a mentor than a legitimate villain and Resurrection F simply bringing back Frieza, the canonical Broly really showcases a new future for the franchise. His reimagining was well received and the fight itself heralded as one of the franchise's best, making this iteration of Broly not only a vast improvement but also a strong candidate for the best villain in any Dragon Ball movie.

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