As far as Dragon Ball Z villains go, Goku and the gang have certainly had their hands full in their ten+ collective lifetimes. It’s not an easy task to keep the earth safe from a galaxy or seven of baddies that want to take it over or destroy it or seek pointless vengeance because they have a score to settle or ‘insert reason x why this story needs to be told’, but even when they’ve met their match for the twentieth time and everything seems hopeless, Goku manages to pull a Spirit Bomb out from his torn gi and save the world once again from imminent peril. At least until the next wave of power hungry aliens comes along.
However, not all villains are created equal. You have your greats, the ones that you know are going to be trouble when they walk in. They’re going to give the Z fighters the battle of a lifetime and you’re going to be on the edge of your seat in anticipation. But then there are the ones that you have to sit down and question if the writers were bored, or if they really were just that hungry that they created more food themed characters with no depth or purpose. Either way, our heroes always had something to keep them occupied.
Here we have compiled our list of Dragon Ball Z villains and ranked them from worst to best based on the overall impact they had on the story and how well developed they are as characters (which some of them don’t have much to offer in either department). Some of these were hard to place and could be interchangeable, but overall, we think this list is pretty solid.
So how did we do? Let us know how we did in the comments below!
#31: Hirudegarn (& Hoi)
Hirudegarn could have been cool, honestly, but he lacked any form of character or purpose. That was all given to Hoi, but he's not even that bad of a guy, just the catalyst that pushes the plot along.
#30: Abo & Kado
Abo and Kado are the "fearsome" duo that reigned terror over Gure and Tarble's home. Though they're supposedly as strong as the Ginyu Force, it took little effort from Goten, Trunks, and their fathers to bring them down.
#29: Lord Slug
There's actually nothing that great about Lord Slug. Something something Namek, something something pretentious jerk. In summation, the whole movie was used as a device to make Namek's backstory more relevant after the fact.
So he's Goku Black, right? No?
Turles is a carbon copy of Goku whose goal is to drain the life force of the earth by means of an evil tree that bears fruit that'll make him unstoppable. Sure. Seems legit.
Really, it's not a terrible idea, but his character is written so poorly that it's hard to take him seriously.
#27: Garlic Jr.
Garlic Jr. would have ranked higher in the list, but his only effective role was his movie debut in Dead Zone. Sure, he had an entire arc, but it's overall forgettable. He is, however, the only villain until recently that succeeded in wishing for immortality. Go you, Garlic Jr.
This guy really had the potential to be cool with his ability to teleport through dimensions and portal punch his enemies. He even had a cool, if not a little busy, design. Plus, he is the only enemy to force Goku and Vegeta into the fusion dance. So why is he so low on the list? Because he's Buu. He is essentially a character that was already in the spotlight and the writers weren't ready to let go of the concept.
So he's a space pirate trapped inside the Kai planet because he's dangerous and... what? Outside of some gratuitous shots of sleeveless Trunks and some unique scenery, the only thing that Bojack offers is forcing Gohan to come to terms with Goku's death and keep fighting.
Let's face it: Raditz is the butt of all jokes in the DBZ fandom for a reason. He's not a good villain, but he does make the spark that sets the fire for the entire rest of the series. Without Raditz, we would never have known about the saiyan race, never have explored Namek, and the Z fighters would have been entirely blindsided by the androids and Cell.
#23: Android 19
Android 19 is hardly more than a creepy china doll in oddly styled 1920's clothing, except he's also a murder machine. Literally. While he isn't much in comparison to other villains on the list, Android 19 does provoke an awesome transformation sequence from Vegeta as well as the introduction of the Big Bang Attack, so he's not completely without merit.
#22: Dr. Gero (Android 20)
Gero isn't intimidating, at least not in terms of physicality. What makes Gero somewhat menacing, however, is his mind. Without the creative ingenuity and knowledge of bio-engineering, we would never have been introduced to characters such as Cell and the other androids. Never let it be said that a strong mind can't be deadly.
#21: Android 13
While the movie as a whole isn't all that memorable, Android 13 has gained popularity thanks to Team Four Star's recurring trucker hat jokes. There's no impact on the real story here, but it's a humorous break from the Cell Saga.
#20: King Cold
Having rescued his half-destroyed little boy from the depths of space, King Cold and Frieza show up on Earth to exact their revenge on Goku. Thankfully, Future Trunks makes quick work of the both of them, but not before allowing King Cold to attempt recruiting him to their side. He doesn't really drive a hard bargain and outside of his brief banter, we don't know much about King Cold.
Although Jeice is fast and is by no means a pushover, he is easily the least useful member of the Ginyu Force. He does give the heroes a run for their money, so don't make light of him. His rank on this list is purely because his impact is nearly nonexistent without the other members.
Burter is known for his speed, and damn is he fast! For being the biggest dude in the Ginyu Force, his speed could rival Sonic the Hedgehog (Coincidence they're both blue? We think not!). Paired with Jeice, they're the deadliest duo the galaxy has ever seen... for now.
Overall, Nappa initially comes off as a big dude who is a lot of talk. His size alone is daunting, but his power level is a force to be reckoned with in the beginning of the series. He's a great starter villain, and maybe he could have had more of a role had Vegeta not blown him up.
Dodoria's presence on Namek was essential in showing how mighty Frieza was in comparison to his dastardly henchmen. While he doesn't prove much of a threat on his own, his history with Vegeta was vital to Vegeta's backstory and served it's own purpose in progressing the plot.
He. Can. Freeze. Time. Combined with telekinetic powers, Guldo is a huge problem in a small package. Though he's often viewed as the joke member of the Ginyu Force, his powers place him higher on the list than some of his other comrades. It's a shame we couldn't see more of his potential.
#14: Pilaf Gang
All right, so Pilaf is kind of a gag villain. Still, he, Shuu, and Mai have made enormous contributions to the series as a whole with their comedic relief and childish beliefs of world domination. They're a perfect fit for a series like Dragon Ball, which is what earns them this ranking.
He's beauty. He's grace. He'll punch you in the face, and it's gonna hurt! Zarbon serves as yet another stepping stone for Vegeta's character development, and, also like Dodoria, is there solely to promote how truly terrifying Frieza is. While he wasn't the greatest villain, he wasn't bad either.
Recoome's battle with Vegeta, Krillin, and Gohan on Namek is one of the most memorable moments in its respective saga. Even with their combined efforts, all of the heroes are brought to the edge of death. Thankfully, Goku arrives just in time to take care of the red-headed powerhouse.
The elder brother of Frieza and son of King Cold has come to avenge his fallen family, and he's got some serious tricks up his sleeves in his movies, including drawing powers from the stars. One, in particular, but we'll leave you all to your jokes about it. While Cooler's overall impact in the story hardly matters, his appearance brought a bit of humor and the kind of kickass fights the series was missing between sagas.
Also he's metal? Badass.
#10: Android 18
Finally, a decent female antagonist. Android 18 is not only a breath of fresh air with her cold, witty banter with her brother, but the writing for her is great as well. She's a badass fighter who still loves to go shopping, even manages to fall in love and have an adorable baby girl. Granted, it can be said that she don't need no man (she really doesn't), but there's nothing wrong with using romance to bring forth her remaining humanity.
#9: Android 17
Between him and his sister, 17 is the one you need to worry about. He's reckless, ruthless, and is always on the hunt for the next thrill. His character arc is fascinating and deserved more development, but we do see him transform from a heartless killer into someone that appreciates the second chance at life he's given.
#8: Android 16
Of the trio, Android 16 is probably the least physically threatening despite his size, although he's still a tank. What ranks him so high up on the list is the contribution to Gohan's transformation into Super Saiyan 2. He fell in love with the world, and it's a shame that he never got to experience life from a different, less hostile perspective like his twin companions.
Broly is a fan-favorite despite two thirds of his movies being garbage, but we can't deny that he was bathed in badass in his first appearance. His triggers are questionable at best, but hey, who are we to judge?
#6: Captain Ginyu
Maybe it's unfair to rank Ginyu so high on the list, but you can't deny that his ability to swap bodies and escape the brink of death is a power that is not only abusive, but terrifying. His love of dance and laid back disposition makes you forget that he's the captain of the most elite team of mercenaries in the galaxy.
Our favorite part about Vegeta is that he starts out an angry villain hellbent on immortality so that he can defeat the tyranny of Frieza who has enslaved his remaining people, and turns out to be a pretty upstanding guy with drive, passion, and better parenting skills than Goku will ever have (whoops, we said it). His arc in the series is arguably one of the most defining, setting the tone for the entirety of Dragon Ball Z and its future incarnations for decades after.
Cell's contribution to the Dragon Ball Z series as a whole is hardly comparable to others. So many iconic moments came from his saga, such as the Father-Son Kamehameha, the rise of Vegeta's compassion, Gohan's ascended transformation, the list can go on. As a fighter, his ability to use others' moves comes in handy on occasion, but he begins to lack in personality. Nevertheless, Cell has earned his spot in the top five.
Beerus explodes entire planets if the food he's served isn't pleasing to his pallet. He is the literal God of Destruction and although his cat-like antics can make you forget about it, this purple kitty will make you remember his position in the universe for the rest of your afterlife if you cross him.
Also he and Whis are comedy gold.
With each of Buu's forms, he only grows more and more menacing. Starting off innocent, his high-pitched voice and flabby, pink body catches the Z fighters off guard. All Buu wants is candy. Flash forward a few transformations and absorptions later, and Buu's final form is so deadly and malicious that he can't even properly form words. His communication is solely through generally unimpressed grunts, screams, or putting his fist through someone's face. It's a shame that as he goes through these changes that his character becomes more and more flat, but overall, we feel like Buu is more than deserving of the number two spot on our list.
Frieza is fearsome, cunning, ruthless, and has the best character building in the entire series as far as true villains go. With a handful of transformations, each with their own various horrifying powers, and his cruel smirk, he strikes fear into anyone he graces with his presence. Most notably, Frieza is responsible for the transformation that would spark the whole rest of the series: Goku's ascent to Super Saiyan. Few are the instances that we now see Earth's Warrior without the golden aura of his powers surrounding him, and it's all thanks to this little white and purple ball of hate and malice.
Did we mention that he got his own feature-length revenge movie? Because that happened, and it was awesome!