Based on the popular Japanese manga, Dragon Ball was one of the most popular cartoons for kids growing up in the 90s. It sparked a number of iterations, such as Dragon Ball Z. Not only is the show responsible for a number of lines that have made it to the cultural zeitgeist (Kamehameha, anyone?), but it is also responsible for creating some of the most memorable villains in modern television history.
Though not all of the villains are memorable for good reasons. There are some who weren’t evil enough, and others who left fans scratching their heads and wondering why the character existed in the first place. Here’s a list of villains that were beloved by the fans, as well as a few that made for some cringe-worthy moments.
10 See More Of: Cooler
The older brother of Frieza, Cooler was first introduced in the 1991 movie Dragon Ball: Cooler’s Revenge. In it, Cooler had one goal in mind – avenge his brother’s death. Though he appeared to be more powerful than his younger brother, Cooler was bested by Goku, only to be resurrected and beaten for good by the Saiyan a second time.
With his calculating personality, sinister looks, and a demeanor that commands respect, this villain is considered a popular villain despite not technically being part of the original Dragon Ball canon. Additionally, Cooler has fans still wanting to see more of him in future Dragon Ball installments.
9 Too Much Of: The Pilaf Gang
Comprised by Emperor Pilaf and his two henchmen Shu and Mai, this trio’s main goal is to rule the world. But the best-laid plans of an emperor and his henchmen don’t always work out, because the group ends up penniless and somehow turned into children just before Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods.
However, both the adult versions and the kid versions of this trio have been far less effective as villains than others on this list. Not only are they more comic relief than villains, but there are also many times that they end up helping their rivals rather than hurting them – like in Dragon Ball Super when the gang ends up helping a badly beaten Goku.
8 See More Of: Ginyu Force
Though the Ginyu Force is a team of five villains, they are a package deal. This group of ancient villains was hired by Frieza and tasked with retrieving the Dragon Balls and following Frieza’s orders to kill. The Ginyu Force – diminutive Guldo, flamboyant Jeice, juggernaut Burter, and the goofy Recoome – are led by Captain Ginyu. Despite their collective ruthlessness, the group also operates by a code of honor.
Additionally, their relationship with Frieza was one of mutual respect rather than one of subordinates and leader. Many fans enjoyed watching the group’s irreverent banter, their iconic poses, and each of their memorable defeats at the hands of Vegeta.
7 Too Much Of: Cell
This insect-looking android took several other forms, among them Perfect Cell and Imperfect Cell. No matter what version he was, his lust for power was everpresent. Cell was thought to be the ideal warrior because his abilities aligned with Goku, Piccolo, Frieza, and more. Cell’s different forms act in different ways – in his imperfect form, the android is able to walk upright, yet his features are underdeveloped.
As Perfect Cell (which he achieves after taking in another android), this villain is tall, fully formed, and ready to continue his evolution. Despite his continued longing to level up, this villain’s arc could have been better. Part of what made a villain successful in this universe was their connection to the other fighters – like how Vegeta’s obsession with Goku fueled him. Cell lacked that relationship, and so his arc lacked tension.
6 See More Of: Beerus
Beerus, God of Destruction, proved himself to be a formidable foe in the film Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. Not only does Beerus look like a hairless cat, but his desire to destroy things while also groom himself extensively and sleep for long periods of time added to the cat-like nature.
However, Beerus has a hair-trigger when it comes to rage, seemingly having a fit over smaller matters. This rage no doubt made him more power, as he bested Super Saiyan 3 Goku with ease in the movie. Many fans enjoyed the addition of this god and felt that his humor and abilities made the film more entertaining.
5 Too Much Of: Baby
This villain, who was both a baby in appearance and temperament, had one goal in mind – destroy the Saiyans at all costs and avenge the extermination of his race. His single-mindedness makes him a formidable villain at first, and he ends up possessing Vegeta.
With this merging, Baby was able to successfully restore his planet and restore the Tuffle race. Baby was as much led by pride as he was by the desire to avenge his people. However, many fans found his storyline to be contrived, as its not the first time in the Dragon Ball universe that a villain has possessed or absorbed another character.
4 See More Of: Frieza
A villain that needs no introduction, this former ruler of the universe simply commands attention. With his ruthless demeanor and tremendous power, Frieza is the most enduring villain of the entire franchise. Part of what made Frieza a fan favorite is his eloquent manner, dark humor, and brutality as he dispatches his foes with ease.
Despite his ruthlessness when it comes to his enemies, Frieza has proven to be almost kind to those who worship him or work for him, such as the Ginyu Force. Additionally, many believe that Frieza is the perfect enemy for Goku, and that is evident by the number of times the two characters have done battle.
3 Too Much Of: Androids 17 and 18
Like the Ginyu Force and the Pilaf Gang, Androids 17 and 18 are a package deal. These twins were created to carry out Dr. Gero’s revenge against Goku, but it doesn’t take long for Android 17 to kill his creator. Though they are billed as mysterious villains, these two young-minded ‘droids are more like rebels who want to shake things up just to see change rather than characters that are motivated by a singular purpose. While great characters, it was clear they weren’t effective villains.
However, it is worth noting that Androids 17 and 18 are gifted with far more power than Goku and his crew, a fact that has likely kept them in play for so long.
2 See More Of: Majin Buu
Like Cell, this rose-colored villain takes many forms. But whether he’s Kid Buu, Innocent Buu, or Xeno Majin Buu, this fan-favorite has consistently been a chaos agent throughout the entire series. Though he eventually joins the Z-Fighters, his off the wall story arcs and intense sweet tooth made for some very entertaining moments. Additionally, Majin Buu was so powerful that he was feared by many, including King Cold.
Perhaps it was because of his ability to absorb the evil of mankind, or it was the fact that he had so many forms that it was hard to keep track.
1 Too Much Of: Syn Shenron
This shadow dragon was formidable. His appearance is terrifying – with his giant fleshy horns, his humanoid appearance, and the various spikes that cover his body, it’s no wonder he was introduced as a villain.
He is a powerful force, potentially the most powerful shadow dragon, especially after leveling up to Omega Shenron once he takes the Dragon Balls of the other shadow dragons. However, his neurotic behavior and his anxious pleas to Goku to spare his life from the Universal Spirit Bomb left fans scratching their heads. By the end of the arc, we were ok with seeing him go.
Dragon Ball has a large roster of villains, but which bad guys did we want to see more of, & which ones stayed around for too long?