Dragon Ball Z was a defining aspect of many people's childhoods. We grew up watching Goku and his Z team fight destructive monsters that were seemingly unbeatable, yet the heroes prevailed episode upon episode. Maybe it was due to the power balls, the change in hair colour or the extreme muscle straining, but for whatever reason, the good guys always seemed to be growing in power. Each new 'bad guy' pushed the characters to their limits as they trained and died in the pursuit of power. But who were the most powerful fighters in the series?
Epic battles, bringing characters back from the dead, endless training, comedy, children of great warriors, this show had it all. Who needed coffee in the morning to get you up and excited, when you could just watch Goku bring down bastards with beams while screaming out passionately as he amped up to insane power levels?
This list does not including fusions (as it is simply a combination of two powerful combatants) or characters from the range of movies that were released during the show. And power isn't only measured by strength! Intelligence, tactical ability, potential, sacrifice and influence rank these characters along with their abilities in battle. Also taken into account is the strength of a character at the time of their existence. Sure, by the end of the series they may have been considered weak, but during their reign they were dominant and that deserves respect. Read on, I assure you some of their power levels are over 9,000!
The battle between Frieza and Goku is perhaps the longest, most epic example of the Dragon Ball Z franchise. Frieza's power at the time was unsurpassable until he pushed Goku to the limit and we saw our first glimpse of the Super Saiyan. With four forms, each more powerful than the last, Frieza commands an army in search of the Dragon Balls and kills anyone who posses a threat. This antagonist enjoys toying with weaker opponents, but fears the potential threat of the Super Saiyan. Frieza even goes as far as wiping out planets to ensure the myth of Super Saiyan's does not come true.While defeated by Goku and killed by Future Trunks, there is no doubt that for a period Frieza was the most powerful character in Dragon Ball Z.
9 The Androids
Eventually consumed by Cell to increase his power, the Androids posed a great threat to the heroes of Dragon Ball Z. They were created by the evil scientist Dr. Gero and cannot have their power levels read. This not only adds to their uniqueness, but makes them incredibly hard to size up in combat. Androids 16 (a tall, well built robotic man in the mould of Frankenstein) 17 (male) and 18 (female, pictured) are the most utilized forms and are built with unlimited energy sources, so you better believe that they are incredibly difficult to fight. Vegeta sees this first hand, worn down by 18 and ends the fight with two broken arms. The Androids have a mission to kill Goku and seem to deal with the rest of the fighters with ease. It is only Cell's arrival that diminishes the Androids who are absorbed to create the perfect being.
While fusions may have happened to enhance the power of Piccolo, there is no doubt that he was always a powerful creature. You also need to respect the intelligence of Piccolo who trained Gohan and assisted Goku in many battles. Hailing from Planet Namek and originally an enemy of Goku, Piccolo becomes a member of the Z fighters and mentors the Saiyans in their quest to rid the world of constant threat. When Goku is struck by heart disease, Piccolo picks up the slack and battles the Androids during his absence. His intelligence and tactical approach make him an invaluable member of the team, while Piccolo's regular attempts at sacrifice demonstrate bravery and selflessness in a world of arrogance. Plus, his special beam cannon is a powerful highlight.
While we don't see the true extent of his power, Goten is destined to become a powerful warrior and is far more advanced to what Goku and Gohan were at his age. His fusion with Trunks (Gotenks) demonstrates the potential of his abilities (but that is what happens when you combine two powerful young fighters with distinct bloodlines). While almost identical to his father in appearance, he also shares his attributes and demeanour. He could reach Super Saiyan level at seven years of age, which is an amazing feat considering how long it took others to achieve. This is in part due to his friendship with Trunks, another Saiyan-Human hybrid that serves as the perfect sparring partner. As Dragon Ball Z ends when Goten is 17, and 10 years after the last big threat to the world, we are left with only what could have been.
Frieza was a powerful enemy but Cell was on a completely different level. Initially a creation of Dr. Gero to make the perfect warrior, Cell absorbs the Androids to reach his final form. As he is able to emulate the greatest fighters in the world, there is little that this supervillain cannot do. Despite the Super Saiyan abilities of Goku, Gohan, Trunks and Vegeta, the Z fighters still struggle to contain this dominant beast. The further evolved Cell becomes, the more he transforms from organism to man. Unlike many other villains, Cell identifies weaknesses and manipulates others before demonstrating his undeniable power. He is also one of the few villains who isn't bested by Goku, but instead is murdered by his son.
In our first glimpse of Trunks, we see the sword-wielding mystery man slice Frieza into a thousand pieces before the eyes of the Z fighters. It is soon revealed that he is from the future, and is in fact the son of Vegeta. So not only is he a Super Saiyan, but he has the blood of a prince. He is well-trained by Gohan in the alternate universe, which makes Trunks a powerful warrior and invaluable member of the Z fighters. After spending years in the hyperbolic time chamber Trunks re-appeared more muscular and powers up to a level that seems to defy logic. Unfortunately this level can't be sustained long enough to conquer Cell, but it demonstrates why we've added this purple-haired fighter on the list.
The son of Goku defeats Cell, is trained by Piccolo and trains Trunks and that's just part of his resume. It is safe to say that he is one of the most powerful characters ever introduced into the Dragon Ball series. While his father may be seen as the main protagonist, viewers see Gohan grow from a child into a man and that can't be said for any of the other Z fighters. It is his destruction of Cell that places him so high on this list. Where others fall, Gohan rises and pushed the Super Siayan level to new heights. Krillin, and Vegeta also work to mentor the boy, who demonstrates potential from a young age. Once he learns to harness his rage and utilize its power, few have the ability to stop him in full flight.
Insane, volatile and pink, Buu is the most formidable villain in the DBZ series. He forces the Z fighters to dabble in fusions to stop his unrelenting progress, and is willing to destroy himself in order to destroy the world. Another being with many forms, Buu absorbs our heroes to make himself stronger when faced with a challenge too great (for example, Gohan). This is where we see Vegeta and Goku fuse together and purposefully get absorbed to save their friends, and it is Goku who ends up defeating the villain. Hard to argue that Buu isn't strong when you consider he harnesses energy from the people of Earth. His forms may not be the most intimidating, but Buu doesn't have the thought process or human-like mind of a Cell or Frieza. He just wants to blow shit up, and is strong enough to get what he wants and that makes him a whole new level of powerful.
Despite being destined to live in the shadow of Goku, who was his rival and friend, but also his enemy and yet still an ally, one thing we do know is that Vegeta reaches insane power levels through his sheer determination to be the best warrior he can be. If not for Goku pushing him, it is doubtful Vegeta would have fulfilled his potential as a prince of the Saiyan race. Introduced as a villain, he soon sides with the Z fighters and joins them in battles against the Androids, Cell and Buu. Arrogant, distant and always keen for a challenge, Vegeta allows Earth to become his home. His rage when Cell attacks his son, Trunks, shows us that despite his personality, Vegeta cares for others and is willing to use his unbelievable power for more than just domination. When Vegeta and Goku combine, they are unstoppable.
The main protagonist of the series and the leader of the Z fighters, Goku is the first Saiyan to reach the next level and is regarded as the most powerful warrior in Dragon Ball Z for the majority of the show's length. The father of Gohan may be easy-going and caring, but when a villain threatens his friends and family Goku releases a powerful rage that surprises even the most battle-hardened warriors. Piccolo is initially on a mission to kill Goku, while the Androids are programmed to do the same. Yet despite there constantly being a target on his head, it does not seem to faze the hero at all. His spirit bomb move is perhaps the most powerful attack ever seen in the DBZ universe, and even though he has died on various occasions, he keeps coming back to prove his worth.