10 Most Memorable Dragon Ball Z Moments

And so we have finally come to the top spot in your countdown of the most memorable moments in Dragon Ball Z history. Before we get to the big reveal, we’d like to thank all of the fans who participated in this countdown. It’s been a fun ride down nostalgia lane. Plus, it gave me an awesome excuse to just sit in my office and watch Dragon Ball Z for “work.”

So, how has this countdown been for you? Do you agree with the rankings? If not, comment below on how you would have arranged the list.

Remember, starting with Dragon Ball Z – Level 1.1, you can relive these great moments newly restored in HD on Blu-ray from the original 16mm film.

#1 – It’s Over 9000!!!!

By now, I’m guessing that more than a few of you have figured out what landed in the top spot. Need a hint? IT’S OVER 9000! Yes, indeed. The meme of all memes captured the top spot in your ranking of the most memorable moments in DBZ history. Which, when you think about it, has a sort of symmetry since “IT’S OVER 9000!” is one of the most memorable memes in meme history. Any time a meme gets so big that Oprah becomes embarrassingly involved (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about), then it must be a pretty memorable moment. Think about it. This was the first time the arrogant Saiyans began to conceive that the lowly peasant Kakarot might turn out to be a formidable opponent. It was pretty awesome to see Vegeta smash that scouter, and the look of shock and disbelief on Napa’s face was unforgettable. We already knew how much of a badass Goku was, but the Saiyans had no idea what they were up against. Up until that point, they expected to breeze through the eradication of every living thing on Earth without dirtying their hands. Finding out that Goku’s power level is “OVER 9000!” was the beginning of the end for them. It was, in essence, Goku throwing down the gauntlet and getting ready for the battle of a lifetime. It was the death toll for Napa and the beginning of Vegeta’s agonizing, humbling journey. For the fans, it was the start of an outrageous and amazing ride that would come to define our generation. For realz.

#2 – Father-Son Kamehameha to Defeat Cell

We now find ourselves at number two on your countdown of the most memorable moments of Dragon Ball Z. The rankings on this list were determined solely by fan voting, and it’s been really cool to see what things stood out to you all – and what events weren’t quite significant enough to make the list. Without further ado, here we go!

Cell was a bad guy. A historically evil bad guy. Perhaps one of the worst bad guys in the long and sordid history of bad guys. He had a creepy voice, leveled entire cities for fun, and even ate a couple of androids. These are things you just don’t do unless you are really and truly a very bad guy. Cell was so bad, in fact, that he provoked a Super Saiyan 2 ascension from one of the kindest – and most peaceful – good guys of all time. But it doesn’t stop there. Cell was such an evil bastard that no single good guy – not even a SSJ2 – could defeat him alone. Motivation was not the issue. Cell destroyed Goku, crushed Android 16’s disembodied head like a grape, and fully intended to destroy planet Earth and everything on it. Even still, Gohan lacked the strength to destroy Cell on his own. Sounds pretty hopeless, huh? Not so fast! This was DBZ, after all. This was a world of hope and inspiration. This was a world where the good guys always win. No matter what. And so, as Gohan – one arm severely damaged – bravely faced Cell, we knew in our hearts that he would find a way to emerge victorious. We knew that he would not face the monster alone. Enter Goku, the fallen father, returned from the Other World to lend his Ki to the mother of all Kamehameha Waves. Next Vegeta arrives in a flurry of goosebumps, providing the momentary distraction needed for Goku and Gohan to unleash hell on the greatest enemy they had ever faced. Kids and grownups alike leapt to their feet, cheering wildly and basking in the glow of a victory the likes of which the world had never seen. Fathers and sons across the globe stopped to reflect on the precious bond they would always share. The power of good struck a blow from which the forces of evil have never fully recovered. A simple series of animated cells broadcast on cable television captured all of our imaginations that day so long ago. It made us believe in all that is good and honorable and virtuous in our world – and we’re better off for having witnessed it. We’re better off for having grown up with Dragon Ball Z.

#3 – Goku Turns Super Saiyan for the First Time

As the countdown inches ever closer to your choice for the most memorable moment in DBZ history, we’d like to give a shout out to all the fans who took the time to vote. It’s been an absolute blast re-watching old episodes and geeking out over a show that clearly means so much to us all. You fine folks out there on the interwebs made this nostalgic trip possible, and for that, we thank you. But enough with the sappy sentimentality – let us now proceed to the awesome! Anyone who’s ever had a best friend knows exactly why Goku’s first Super Saiyan ascension comes in at number three on the countdown. These two great warriors have a long history together. Back in the OG Dragon Ball days, they grew up together, trained together under Master Roshi, and even competed against each other in epic battles waged during the World Martial Arts Tournament. These inseparable sparring partners became a duo for the ages, ranking right up there with Calvin and Hobbes, Butch and Sundance, Michael Knight and Kitt, or even Ponch and Jon. Goku never embarked on an adventure without Krillin by his side. Even as the enemies grew stronger to the point where Krillin was clearly outmatched, the bald brawler refused to abandon his friend. It takes a lot of courage to march into battle when you know you’ll likely die, but Krillin never backed down. (Granted, he spent a good deal of time hiding behind rocks, but that’s neither here nor there.) At the end of the day, Krillin and Goku knew they could always count on each other, and that is a special bond to share with someone. It was that very bond that sparked Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation in the wake of Krillin’s death at the heinous hands of Frieza. You could see the disbelief and pain in Goku’s face as he watched poor Krillin explode in the sky over a crumbling Namek. You could see the rage pulsing through his body as his veins bulged and his hair began to flicker between black and gold. You could hear the agony in his scream as his ascension threatened to destroy his body. But most of all, you got a strange and intoxicating sense of excitement because you knew – deep down in your soul – that Goku was about to become a Super Saiyan, and Frieza was gonna get what he had coming– an out-of-this-world @ss whooping. All for the love of poor, dead Krillin.

#4 – Gohan Turns Super Saiyan 2 in Battle Against Perfect Cell

The excitement builds as we move toward what you voted as the all-time most memorable moment in Dragon Ball Z history! Coming in at number four is the ascension of Gohan to Super Saiyan 2! From the very beginning of DBZ, there were hints at the power lurking within the young Saiyan. (Just ask Raditz.) Thanks, in part, to Piccolo’s training, Gohan grew stronger and stronger with each battle; however, there always seemed to be something holding the boy back. Perhaps it was the fact that his father was the greatest warrior the world had ever seen. Those are big shoes to fill, and to be perfectly honest, there is no urgent need to grow stronger when you know good old dad will always have your back. Or maybe it was ChiChi’s influence that kept Gohan from unlocking his potential. It’s no secret she preferred that her son follow the path of a scholar – not a warrior. Or maybe it was just the boy’s inherently peaceful nature. Gohan never seemed to relish a good fight in the same way Goku did, and he certainly never possessed the violent rage or cutthroat nature of Vegeta. Whatever the cause of Gohan’s reluctance to unleash the beast, it all vanishes after Perfect Cell cruelly murders Android 16. This is a goose bump moment if ever there was one. The fallen Android’s speech is beautiful and moving. It’s one of the most somberly inspirational moments in the entire series. And Gohan’s reaction to the Android’s plea – forget about it. Anime doesn’t get any better. This is the passing of the baton from one great warrior to the next. This is the dawn of the age of a new hero. This is the awakening of Gohan!

#5 – Watching Dragon Ball Z on Toonami for the First Time

Everyone loves cartoons – unless they’re evil or dead or were born without a sense of humor. This universal fondness for animation landed “watching DBZ on Toonami for the first time” at number five on your list of the greatest moments in DBZ history. Who among us never basked in the glow of a welcoming television, snack in hand, free at least from the confines of school, eagerly awaiting the airing of a favorite cartoon? My bet would be no one. Any child subjected to such a tragic, cartoon-less upbringing wouldn’t even be reading this post. Because we all know that people who grow up without cartoons end up living in caves with their imaginary pet – and only friend – Sprinkles the cave troll. The rest of us were lucky enough to come home one day and find Dragon Ball Z, arguably the greatest anime in history, right in the middle of our living rooms! Oh, what jubilation! How our worlds were changed the first time we saw a Kamehameha Wave or a Super Saiyan transformation! DBZ introduced us to new worlds. It fueled our imaginations. It became our friend. A good friend that we raced home from school to visit – or recorded on VHS tapes that we hoarded like precious treasures. DBZ and Toonami introduced Goku and the Z-Fighters to America. They introduced anime to America. The magic of those glorious days gone by, the hours spent watching DBZ, are a special gift that should never be forgotten. Judging by the results of the vote, you never will.

#6 – Vegeta’s Final Explosion Against Majin Buu

Few things are more compelling in the world of entertainment than those rare, defining moments where a notoriously evil character achieves redemption through a staggering act of self-sacrifice. Which brings us to number six on the Top Ten Moments in DBZ History countdown: Vegeta’s heroic suicide attack on Majin Buu! Let’s be honest, Vegeta is a bad guy at heart. He hates Earth. He hates humans. He hates anyone weaker than him. He hates anyone stronger than him. He hates just about everything except kicking someone’s ass. And that’s exactly why we love him. Vegeta is the perfect foil to Goku the golden boy. He is the James Dean of DBZ. A little mysterious, a little dangerous, and a whole lot of awesome. That’s why it tears us up so much when he hugs Trunks for the first – and last – time before making the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of a world he’s begrudgingly grown to love – or maybe just tolerate. Regardless, as he warmly embraces his son, blood streaming down his face, you start to wonder if maybe there are a few tears mixed in with that blood. Or maybe Vegeta just cries blood. Wouldn’t be a total shock. (Just as it’s no shock to see Krillin hiding behind a rock as another great warrior marches into a battle he cannot win.) Kami bless you Vegeta. We know you probably hate gratitude, but we’re appreciative none-the-less.

#7 – Goku Turns Super Saiyan 3 for the First Time

Remember your childhood? It probably went something like this: First, Buu’s like, “Why you go down? You no play?” And Goku’s all cool and says, “This Is what is known as a Super Saiyan that has ascended past a Super Saiyan!” But Babidi ain’t having it; He’s all, “You’ve changed your hair, so what?” Then Goku starts to power up again, and Piccolo’s like, “OMG! Has he really found a way to surpass an ascended Saiyan!?” And Krillin’s says, “No way. He’s tripping.” And then Goku goes, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” And King Kai’s all, “OH NOES!” And Goku’s still going, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” And now Babidi’s starting to get nervous, so he starts screaming! And Goku keeps yelling, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” And Babidi’s like, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” And then buildings starting crumbling and the whole world is shaking and Seán Schemmel is running out of breath! Then there’s a flash of light and Goku’s says, “This is what I call a Super Saiyan 3!” And everyone cheers and history is made and your mom comes into the room and says it’s time to do your homework. Epic.

#8 – Goku and Vegeta’s First Fight

It’s Saiyan vs. Saiyan in the greatest showdown since Rocky went toe-to-toe with Apollo. Vegeta is royalty, a violent and cruel Saiyan prince hell-bent on world domination. Goku, on the other hand, is the All American Alien! Never mind that he’s from another planet, this honorable warrior has bailed out humanity more times than Yamcha’s been dumped. The brutal first battle between Goku and Vegeta sets the tone for the entire series. Unbelievable action, bone-crushing violence, and jaw-dropping conclusions!

This is why you love DBZ.

#9 – Trunks’s First Appearance

Frieza is alive and stronger than ever! Goku is nowhere to be found! Humanity is surely doomed! Not so fast, frightened Earthlings. A mysterious stranger from the future, Trunks, is about to make a killer entrance into the world of DBZ. This sword-wielding Saiyan straight slices up the competition in one of the biggest OMG moments in the history of the series. Frieza is a dangerous foe, no doubt, but looking at Trunk wrong could get you killed!

And that’s just #9 on the list.

#10 – Goku and Piccolo Go to Driving School

So a Super Saiyan and a Namekian walk into the Department of Motor Vehicles… That’s right; we’re kicking off the top ten most memorable moments in Dragon Ball Z history with some classic filler! Thanks again to all those who voted on ourDragon Ball Z poll.
Old school fans from the Toonami era will no doubt remember this utterly ridiculous episode where ChiChi forces Goku to get his driver’s license! How does Piccolo get dragged into the madness? We’re not really sure, and neither is he. All we can say for certain is that it’s funny – really, really funny – to watch super warriors try to parallel park. Oh yeah, make sure and check out the “fresh threads” our heroes are sporting. 90’s much?

What are some of your other favorite “filler” episodes?

Oh, and congrats to Fred Flintstone and the Fresh Prince of Namek for making the list.