It’s been a long time since Goku started his search for the Dragon Balls, a journey that captured the hearts and minds of American audiences since the ‘90s. The opening theme song may be enough to transport you back to childhood, seated in front of the television, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, awaiting which threat Goku would have to overcome to protect the universe.
Childhoods have been created in the Dragon Ball franchise, from the Namek Saga to the Frieza and Saiyan Saga, and is one of the most recognized anime series. With so many mind-boggling moments throughout the Dragon Ball series, it’s hard to pick a favorite, let alone the best Dragon Ball Z episodes of all time.
To help, we’ve ranked the 12 best Dragon Ball Z episodes—in no particular order. So sit back, relax, and revisit the good ol’ days with some of the greatest Ka-me-ha-me-haaaa! Moments. Make sure you can explore the Dragon Ball Z box and all of its glory to really immerse yourself in the DBZ universe.
#1 Transformed at Last
First up on the Dragon Ball Z episode list is “Transformed at Last.” The episode opens on Goku and Frieza in a heavy battle—until Goku releases his spirit bomb. Suddenly, Planet Namek and its encompassing area start to break up as a result. Goku and his allies celebrate Frieza’s defeat and embark to track down Bulma—Goku’s longest friend—before heading home.
Unfortunately, the happy feelings don’t last for long.
Frieza appears out of nowhere and fires off a death beam in Goku’s direction. Piccolo ends up taking the hit of the beam, sacrificing himself to save his friend.
It’s then that Goku’s rage begins to boil, causing him to transform into the legend that is the Super Saiyan.
What makes this episode epic: A legendary battle among mortal foes culminates in an honorable sacrifice and the unlocking of Goku’s dormant Saiyan powers.
#2 Final Atonement
During this Majin Buu saga episode, Vegeta, the prince of the fallen Saiyan race, needs more time to get his strength back after his battle with Majin Buu, and he gets it thanks to Trunks, who attacks their enemy. In another battle, Piccolo slices Babadi in half, leaving him for dead.
In a slight change of character, Vegeta knows he has to do something to alter the course of the battle, deciding to sacrifice himself to defeat Majin Buu.
After telling Piccolo, Trunks, and Goten to escape to safety, Vegeta sets off an explosion, killing himself and Buu and cementing his fate—an eternity in Hell where his soul will be cleansed of all evil.
What makes this episode epic: Vegeta, known for his selfishness and malicious killings of innocents, nobly changes face, sacrificing himself for the lives of his loved ones.
#3 Goku is Ginyu and Ginyu is Goku
Guru, who is the Grand Elder Namekian, faces off with Frieza. Knowing that they need more time to find the Dragon Balls, Guru telepathically tells Nail to do what he can for Gohan and Krillin by drawing Frieza further away.
In another battle, Captain Ginyu realizes he doesn’t have the strength to beat Goku. After powering up and stabbing himself in the chest, he uses the body switch technique to take Goku’s body. Goku, who is now in Ginyu’s body, does what he can to catch up to Jeice and Ginyu, who are in Goku’s body.
What makes this episode epic: Mind-blowing battles and a body-switch technique that alters the course of Goku’s fate for episodes to come.
#4 Namek’s Explosion… Goku’s End?
In one of the best Dragon Ball Z episodes, Goku tries to escape Namek by flying to Frieza’s spaceship. But, when Goku goes to start the engine, he finds that the ship is wrecked beyond repair and barely escapes the falling vessel before it falls into a pool of lava.
As a result, Goku is killed as the planet explodes.
King Kai and Yamcha are devastated, but Bulma is unconcerned, knowing they can revive Goku with the power of the Namekian Dragon Balls—until they realize this can only be done by returning to the site of Goku’s death, where they will most certainly die from a lack of oxygen.
What makes this episode epic: In a legendary climax, Goku’s fate appears to be sealed, igniting an outpouring of anguish and sorrow from his allies, who wonder, is this really the end?
#5 The End of Vegeta
Gohan, Krillin, and Piccolo watch as Vegeta takes hit after hit from Frieza in an epic battle. When Goku finally shows up, Frieza immediately recognizes him as the son of Bardock, who was the last Saiyan to challenge him.
But Goku isn’t swayed by Frieza at all and starts to confront him, moving closer and closer. Taken back, Frieza decides to take a drastic next step and blasts Vegeta in retaliation. With his last few breaths, Vegeta pleads with Goku to finish Frieza and show no mercy.
What makes this episode epic: Vegeta’s origin story is revealed in his last breathes in an eye-opening telling of extortion and murder, thus prompting Goku to avenge Vegeta and put an end to Freiza once and for all.
#6 Goku’s New Power
As an unknown spaceship descends onto Namek in this Namek Saga episode, the Ginyu Force watches in disbelief and confusion. It’s Goku who finally walks off the spaceship and moves toward a lifeless Gohan laying on the battlefield.
Later, Recoome begins to feel more confident as the Scouter shows that Goku’s power levels are only at 5,000. Not deterred and still strong enough, Goku hits Recoome with a powerful blow that knocks him unconscious.
Through all of this, Vegeta notices that Goku released some of his power when he attacked Recoome, making Vegeta suspicious that Goku is now a Super Saiyan.
What makes this episode epic: A new chapter unfolds as Goku embraces his ancient powers and unleashes them on his unsuspecting enemies.
#7 The Mysterious Youth
Frieza survives the epic events that occurred on Planet Namek and is on a path of vengeance, journeying toward earth where the Z fighters await his arrival. Unknown to his allies, however, is that Frieza is still struggling with the traumatic visions and memories of his battle with Goku.
Recalling more flashbacks from the destruction of Planet Namek, the episode shows how Frieza was clinging to life before being snatched up by King Cold.
Frieza ends up getting a new body that’s even stronger than before and orders several soldiers to hunt down and kill any allies of Goku. But Trunks quickly defeat them before they cause any serious damage.
What makes this episode epic: A new character emerges out of the fray, setting course to defend earth from Frieza at all costs.
#8 Explosion of Anger
Now a Super Saiyan, Goku proceeds to the next stage of his ongoing battles with Frieza. As a precautionary measure, he orders Gohan and Piccolo to find Bulma and leave the planet.
Frieza notices that they’re trying to leave, but before he can do any damage, Goku intercepts him. What follows next is a lesson in what a Super Saiyan is capable of, as Goku gives Frieza the worst beating he’s ever had.
What makes this episode epic: Goku’s Saiyan powers come to full fruition to dominate Frieza and alter the course of history.
#9 Vegeta’s Pride
At the World Martial Arts Tournament, Goku is accompanied by Gohan and the Supreme Kai as they try to plead with Majin Vegeta. The Supreme Kai tries to intervene between Goku and Vegeta, but Goku threatens him, forcing him to back down.
Goku’s desire to move to another fighting location is granted by Babidi, but Vegeta is also ordered to kill the Supreme Kai. Vowing to never lose any of his Saiyan pride, Vegeta does everything he can to deny the request from Babidi.
After this, the battle is almost ready to begin. However, Gohan and the Supreme Kai travel to Babidi’s ship in a desperate attempt to stop the hatching of Buu.
What makes this episode epic: Vegeta reveals his disregard for innocent life, prompting a chilling battle between Goku and Vegeta in an arena like no other.
#10 Goku vs Vegeta
In one of the earliest episodes, the first battle between epic rivals Goku and Vegeta takes place. Goku requests to have the battle move to a location that’s more remote, and he tells Gohan and Krillin to go back to Game House.
Vegeta is surprised when Goku powers up to Kaio-ken x2, which makes him raise his own power level to be equal. As the battle goes on, Vegeta starts to take a commanding position. Recognizing this, Goku realizes that if he has any chance of winning, he will have to power up even more.
What makes this episode epic: The feud between Goku and Vegeta begins. It’s then that Goku establishes himself as a worthy and powerful opponent.
#11 The Long Awaited Fight
Goku and Vegeta are set to finally face off against each other in their Super Saiyan forms after spending the previous episode preparing for the battle. It’s a high-flown, heroic, and extravagant battle in which both Goku and Vegeta take multiple hits.
Back on Babidi’s spaceship, the Supreme Kai and Gohan fight off the henchmen as they make their way to the lower level. Once they make it, they find Majin Buu enclosed in the giant egg.
What makes this episode epic: Action-packed and dynamic, this episode sets the scene for many epic battles to come.
#12 Mighty Blast of Rage
Grand Elder Guru realizes that it’s his time to die again. However, this time it’s due to natural causes. Knowing this, he gives his powers to the next Eldest Namek, Moori. Back on Planet Namek, Frieza is cut to pieces by his own energy disc, but he’s not ready to give up quite yet.
Frieza believes that he’s the most powerful being there is and fires an energy beam at Goku using the last bit of strength he has. Seeing it at the last second, Goku is able to avoid a direct hit and fires back at Frieza.
His beam is too strong for Frieza and Goku succeeds in eliminating him once and for all, avenging all the people across the universe that had been hurt in the past. Goku then flies off to try and figure out a way to get off Planet Namek before it’s obliterated.
What makes this episode epic: Goku finally avenges Vegeta and those hurt by Frieza’s regime in one final mind-bending blow.
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IMDB. Dragon Ball Z. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0214341/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt
Screen Rant. Dragon Ball Z: The 10 Best Episodes, According to IMDB. https://screenrant.com/dragon-ball-z-best-episodes-imdb/
Episode Ninja. The Best Episodes of Dragon Ball Z. https://episode.ninja/series/dragon-ball-z
Dragon Ball Wiki. Mighty Blast of Rage. https://dragonball.fandom.com/wiki/Mighty_Blast_of_Rage