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The Most Epic Dragon Ball Z Battles Ranked

Being the most popular action anime in history, "Dragon Ball Z" is loaded with tons of high-octane super fights, some of which are so intense that they can actually raise the hairs on your body. But the action wouldn't even feel half as good if it weren't for Akira Toriyama's nail-biting storylines and the psychologically relatable characters we've all learned to love and cherish throughout the numerous episodes, sagas, and feature-length films of the ever-evolving Dragon Ball universe.

In this article, we'll take you on a trip back in time to revisit the most impactful "Dragon Ball Z" clashes, featuring beloved low- and high-level fighters alike. Some of these precious moments made us jump from our couches and shout at the screen, while others were packed with so much emotion that they made us shed tears of joy and sadness.

So here's our list of the craziest, most epic battles in one of the very few animation series that has the power to glue viewers to screens regardless of their age — "Dragon Ball Z."

"Dragon Ball Z" spoilers ahead!

14. Gohan and Krillin versus Guldo

The arrival of the Ginyu Force is one of the most thrilling yet scary events in the Namek saga. Frieza's mightiest super soldiers control powers never before witnessed by the Z fighters, and with Goku still a long way from Namek, Krillin, Gohan, and Bulma are faced with unimaginable terror on two fronts — Vegeta on one and Frieza and his men on the other. Here, Vegeta finds himself teaming up with Krillin and Gohan, being fully aware that he has no chance of taking on the entire Ginyu Force on his own.

After both parties agree on the first matchup being Krillin and Gohan versus Guldo, Vegeta is told not to intervene no matter what. But even though the Earthlings put up quite a tough fight and manage to outsmart Guldo for most of the battle, his ability to stop time by holding his breath proves too much of a challenge for them and almost costs Krillin his life. Being left with no other choice, Vegeta steps in and deals with Guldo by beheading him and blowing him up. It's an incredibly tense fight that proves to all of us that there is much more to Krillin and Gohan than meets the eye and that as a team, they can be quite dangerous (especially with that double Kamehameha).

13. Team Earth versus Nappa and the Saibamen

Having enjoyed a mostly peaceful life after defeating the toughest villains in the 153 episodes of "Dragon Ball," Goku and his friends turn out to be a little too rusty for an alien invasion in the face of Raditz, Vegeta, Nappa, and their tiny but vicious Saibamen soldiers. Furthermore, Piccolo's intense preparation of Gohan's fighting skills are in vain, as he becomes more of a hindrance than an asset in the fight against the Saibamen (until his rage levels spike to unimaginable heights later on in the fight against the Saiyans). And with Goku still dead after his battle against Raditz, Piccolo, Krillin, Yamcha, Chiaotzu, and Tien Shinhan are left in quite a rough spot.

First to fall is courageous Yamcha, followed by Chiaotzu, whose sacrifice against Nappa goes down as one of the most heartbreaking moments in "DBZ" history. But Chiaotzu is soon reunited with his life-long friend Tien in the afterlife after Tien manages to pull off an unheard-of Kikoho blast with just one functioning arm. The final sacrifice in this astonishing fight is delivered by Piccolo, who helps Gohan to finally awaken his hidden powers, which he uses to furiously take on Nappa himself. Bet the big man didn't see that one coming.

12. Krillin versus second form Frieza

With Piccolo still on his way to join the fight against Frieza and Vegeta choosing to be a spectator in Gohan's torture, the only man willing to take action is none other than Krillin. And it came as quite a surprise to see a massive Destructo Disc zipping towards Frieza, ultimately cutting his tail off (all thanks to Dende, whose healing powers brought Krillin back to life after he was turned to shish kebab by Frieza's horn).

Here we have one of those rare moments where a low-level fighter like Krillin gets to shine against one of the biggest, baddest villains in the "DBZ" universe and even save the life of Goku's son in the process. More impressively, he does all this while buying the team some precious time before the arrival of an extremely powered-up Piccolo. Sadly, none of the next batches of Destructo Discs manage to hit Frieza, and Krillin is ultimately murdered by him after Goku's arrival.

11. Tien Shin Han versus second form Cell

With C16 broken, C18 frightened, Piccolo defeated, and C17 having already been absorbed by Cell — giving him unimaginable power in the process — who would step in to prevent Dr. Gero's creation from reaching his final form? Yes, it was Tien Shinhan, the three-eyed super Earthling who's had fans marveling at his coolness anytime he unleashed his Kikoho attack since the days of "Dragon Ball."

But this time, things are different: Instead of a regular Kikoho, Tien unexpectedly pulls out the ultimate weapon, the Shin Kikoho, which is an attack so strong it can literally kill him. And yet, even with his life force dropping significantly after each hit, Tien keeps at it — making a massive crater in the earth that would serve as Cell's prison cage — until his strength leaves him for good. No wonder this nail-biting scene causes shivers to run down our spines every time we revisit it — a feat undertaken by a man with such low skill in comparison to most other Z fighters is no joke.

10. Goku versus Vegeta (first fight)

Kamehameha versus Gallick Gun!

With Nappa out of the way and most of the Z fighters eliminated (with the exception of Gohan, Krillin, Goku, and the "mighty" Yajirobe), the fight everybody was longing for finally came to fruition ⁠— Earth's Son Goku versus Vegeta, the prince of all Saiyans. This battle of epic proportions shows us the might of Goku's 3x Kaioken technique (an instant and massive boost of speed and strength taught to him by King Kai while training in heaven) and unveils Vegeta's raw ultimate power.

The action-packed spectacle marks the beginning of DBZ's trademark super long fights, culminating in one of Goku's biggest defeats by a rampaging ape Vegeta who ends up being defeated by Goku's son, who is also in ape form. And who would have guessed that this merciless villain would end up becoming one of the most beloved characters, as well as one of Goku's closest, most trusted friends and allies!?

9. Krillin, Piccolo, and Gohan versus Garlic Jr.

What more can a supervillain bent on taking over the world wish for than the absence of the two most powerful protectors of Earth? Indeed, Garlic Jr. chose the best possible moment to emerge from the dead zone and seek his revenge on humanity after being banished by the Z fighters a long time ago. And with Goku and Vegeta absent (somewhere in the depths of space), his plan could have been successful were it not for the courage and resilience of Krillin, Gohan, and Piccolo.

With the Black Water Mist unleashed upon the world, the Z fighters have their hands full not only with Garlic Jr. and his group of supervillains but also with their own friends, who have become vampiric servants to their new lord. Thankfully, after taking care of the smaller fish, Krillin, Gohan, and Piccolo give us the ultimate spectacle by blasting Garlic Jr. back into the dead zone with their combined super attacks. Sadly, being only 10 episodes long, the Garlic Jr. saga is widely underappreciated, but it's still packed with blood-pumping action well-worthy of its place.

8. Vegeta versus Zarbon

After Vegeta's fight against Goku and his effortless defeat of Kiwi and Dodoria ⁠— two of Frieza's men who were once a threat to the Saiyan prince ⁠— his confidence becomes unshakable a little too soon. While he's out searching for the Namekian Dragon Balls, Vegeta crosses paths with none other than his last remaining sidekick, the mysterious Zarbon. Fooled by Zarbon's soft appearance and drunk on his own pride and power, the cocky Saiyan can't wait to dispose of one of the last nuisances standing in his way of gaining eternal life.

But even though Zarbon initially appears to be on the losing side, he has one last card up his sleeve: a monstrous transformation not many knew he was capable of. It's only after Vegeta is badly beaten by Zarbon's true form that he gains the necessary upgrade in power to call for another round and ultimately destroy him. It's a blast of a fight, and the first part will always be remembered as one of Vegeta's most humiliating moments.

7. Z Fighters versus Cell Jr.'s

Unable to stop Cell from reaching his perfect form, the Z fighters are suddenly faced with a new threat ⁠— seven tiny but immensely strong Cell replicas. Side by side, Goku, Trunks, Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, Yamcha, and Tien put up a hell of a fight, showing us what true teamwork looks like. Highlights from this brawl include Piccolo's flying kick and Yamcha's and Tien's powerful double knee attack while defending Goku.

Despite their best efforts, however, the Z fighters ultimately find themselves on the losing end of this fight. But thankfully, their efforts aren't in vain as Gohan ⁠— moved to tears by their suffering ⁠— is able to unlock his hidden inner strength to ultimately crush the Cell Jr.'s to dust and avenge his father and friends. Cell definitely didn't look too happy about this one, and the pain he was to suffer was just about to begin.

6. Piccolo versus second form Frieza

By the time Frieza's second transformation had been completed, Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta realize that their chances of defeating the most evil being in the universe had become almost non-existent. Little did they know, a true Super Namekian was on his way to change the course of the fight in their favor. Like a bolt of lightning — now merged with Namek's most elite fighter, Nail — Piccolo appears, floating in mid-air and blocking Frieza's access to his friends.

In what became known as one of Piccolo's biggest battles, fans were able to see Frieza's might challenged by a worthy opponent for the first time in the Namek saga. Indeed, his crushing knees, kicks, elbows, and ki blasts had the ability to shake up the whole planet unlike anything else thus far. And even though Piccolo's reign over Frieza ended after the monster's third transformation, he did manage to buy some precious time for the arrival of the Super Saiyan that would ultimately take Frieza down for good.

5. Majin Vegeta versus Goku

Even though the Buu saga contains some of the most non-entertaining fights in "DBZ" history, it prides itself with some strong moments worthy of revisiting. Needless to say, the most epic among these is Goku's fight against Vegeta. Unwilling to give up on his dream of defeating Goku, Vegeta decides to sell his heart and soul to the alien wizard Babidi in exchange for an extreme boost in power that he uses in the World Tournament to fight against Goku.

Knowing that the fate of the world is at stake, however, Goku refuses the challenge, urging Vegeta to snap out of it (a poor attempt at persuasion that would end up costing innocent lives at the hands of Vegeta). Realizing that there's no safe way out of this, Goku accepts, marking the beginning of a fight that makes their first encounter look like a child's play in comparison. One memory that often resurfaces in the minds of fans in particular is the moment Vegeta and Goku exchange crushing knee blows — a true moment of sheer epicness.

4. Piccolo versus C-17

In order to stop Cell from attaining his perfect form by absorbing androids C-17 and C-18, Piccolo decides to challenge Android C-17 to a fight to the death. Unaware of the fact that Piccolo is now one with Kami (the God of Earth) and that his power far transcends that of old Piccolo, C-17 accepts. And from here on out, the clash of titans begins. Even though C-17 manages to give Piccolo quite the run for his money, one cannot deny the fact that Piccolo has the upper hand the whole time. It's a true display of Namekian skill that sadly ends up becoming Piccolo's last full-length battle for the rest of the series.

Despite Piccolo's best efforts, C-17 ends up in Cell's belly, anyway, but he does manage to buy the Saiyans some precious time to prepare for what was about to befall them. And boy, did these two make a mess of the poor little island.

3. Gohan versus Perfect Cell

The battle between Gohan and Perfect Cell will be remembered as one of Akira Toriyama's finest creations of boundless action and suspense. With most of the Z fighters defeated and Goku sacrificing himself for his son to unleash his full potential, Gohan becomes the last standing defense against a monstrous force that makes Frieza — the terror of the whole universe — look like a toddler in comparison.

After using his minions to crush Gohan's friends, Cell triggers a force in Gohan nobody up until that point knew resided within him — the Super Saiyan 2 transformation that ultimately turned the tide of the battle. The most epic moment in this fight, however, is its ending, when Gohan and the remaining Z fighters use all the strength left in their bodies to banish Cell to the depths of hell with a blast so massive and powerful it resembles a nuclear bomb.

2. Piccolo versus Imperfect Cell

Piccolo's reunification with Kami gives him the boost he needs to stand against the being who traveled in time with the sole purpose of eliminating Goku and his friends. Having absorbed the life force of countless human beings (a horror that Piccolo witnesses before starting the fight), Cell becomes unimaginably strong — but not strong enough to defeat the new and improved son of Piccolo Daimao, the Namekian demon. 

Even though Cell's attempts at shocking Piccolo with his ability to reproduce and his friends' signature power attacks prove somewhat effective, the one who ends up being shocked is Cell himself. It's a moment that shows Piccolo at his most cool and frightening, so much so that Cell has to escape the scene and find more victims to boost his strength. Indeed, at this moment in time, his power is evidently insufficient to handle the might of Piccolo.

1. Goku versus Frieza

Goku's fight against Frieza's final form is known as the longest fight in the history of anime, stretching for approximately three and a half hours of action-packed screen time. And if you take out the long pauses where the two do nothing but stare at each other (a slightly annoying thing "Dragon Ball Z" is famous for), it truly is an astonishing experience.

This fight gave us Goku's 20x Kaioken technique (even though King Kai warned him against using it), the ultimate Genki Dama (which Frieza is somehow able to survive), and the first-ever Super Saiyan transformation. Among other things, it also cemented Frieza as the most beloved villain of all time, ultimately leaving Toriyama with no other choice but to revive him time after time and even make him one of the key characters in "Dragon Ball Super." How can a being so evil be in such high demand, you ask? Guess we'll never know.