Dragon Ball remains among the most iconic anime of all time. Perhaps it is most well known, however, for how seemingly in every fight, when the situation looks most dire, a character unveils some new power-up transformation strong enough to pummel the bad guys to a pulp.
Iconic hero Son Goku has had many forms over the years, from Super Saiyan to Giant Ape. However, not all forms are created equal, and some forms are truly more awe-inspiring than others. This list is not a ranking of the most powerful forms, but the most unforgettable. Which transformations left audiences with their jaws on the floor? Which ones left an impact? From Dragon Ball to Z to GT to Super, which Goku forms were the coolest?
11 Base Goku
Let's start with the basic form. Goku, in his base form, is still a force to be reckoned with. He spent all of Dragon Ball, after all, in this form (with a couple of noticeable exceptions). However, in base form, he is at his lowest level of power.
While iconic, Base Goku often discounts this form in order to transform into something far more super.
10 Super Saiyan 2
Gohan's transformation into a Super Saiyan 2 is one of the most iconic moments in Dragon Ball Z history. But by the time Goku entered the form, it had already become old-hat. He only spends one real fight employing the form -- against Majin Vegeta.
However, by the time Goku could transform into Super Saiyan 2, he had already unlocked the power of Super Saiyan 3, making this form obsolete.
9 Golden Great Ape
The Golden Great Ape is a second transformation that appears only in Dragon Ball GT. While Baby Vegeta's Golden Great Ape transformation is more iconic, Goku's was equally important. Goku transforms into the Golden Great Ape when staring into the sight of a full Earth/full moon.
Only when Pan helps Goku regain his senses can he take command of this powerful form, entering into the legendary Super Saiyan 4 form. It's a nice throw-back to the pre-Super Saiyan era of transformations.
8 Ultra Instinct
Ultra Instinct is undeniably the most powerful form Goku has ever taken. However, by the time Goku went Ultra Instinct, many fans felt burned out by all the new forms.
That isn't to say Goku's final battle with Jiren, where he transforms into his Ultra Instinct form, is anything less than stellar. As the ultimate finale of the Universal Survival arc, it is nothing short of epic. But is it more memorable than the prior forms Goku takes? On this list, not so much.
7 Great Ape
The Great Ape form is Goku's first transformation in Dragon Ball, taking place only a dozen episodes in. When Goku's tail is exposed to the light of a Full Moon, he transforms into a gigantic, uncontrollable Ape. With ten times as much strength as usual, he is a destructive, chaotic force.
The Great Ape form is a terrific force to be reckoned with, but Goku is completely unable to control himself during this form. There's a reason Goku doesn't willingly transform into a Great Ape like his rival Vegeta. That and without a tail, you can't transform.
6 Super Saiyan 4
Dragon Ball GT gets a lot of hate from fans for being more than a little silly. However, Goku's Super Saiyan 4 form is arguably one of the coolest things to ever come out of the series.
Unlike every other transformation to this point, Goku's hair remains jet black, but a red coat of fur sprouts all over his body. He goes from his child form to his adult form, sporting an incredibly cool, coarser voice. The only underwhelming part about Super Saiyan 4 Goku, however, is that it is no longer canon.
5 Super Saiyan God
Perhaps the hardest form for a Saiyan to achieve, Goku's Super Saiyan God form allowed him to match the strength of the legendary God of Destruction himself, Beerus. Only achievable thanks to the unification of pure-hearted Saiyans, Goku's sheer strength in this form is enough to bend the fabric of reality to the breaking point. One transformation permanently empowers a Saiyan beyond all prior limitations.
Super Saiyan God form is rarely seen after the initial fight with Beerus but does make a reappearance when Broly comes knocking.
For a while, this was Goku's peak power. The Kaio-Ken technique multiplies the user's power by a given factor, but, in turn, puts an incredible strain on the fighter's body. Most notably, Goku used this technique in his iconic beam struggle with Vegeta during the Saiyan Saga. The coolest part about Kaio-Ken is the incredible strain it puts on the user. Unlike most transformations, its weakness is what makes every fight that employs it all the more incredible.
However, following reaching Kaio-Ken x20 against Frieza, the form was mostly retired in favor of Goku's Super Saiyan form. However, there were periods later on where Goku would employ the Kaio-Ken in conjunction with his Super Saiyan forms.
3 Super Saiyan 3
Super Saiyan 3 is the Goku transformation that literally rocked an entire planet. It is also the point where Goku's forms became increasingly ridiculous. Golden hair? Sure. Lightning bolts around your body? We can handle that.
Losing your eyebrows and growing waist-long hair? Gaining enough power to literally break cities apart?
Super Saiyan 3 remains at once Goku's most ridiculous and incredibly cool transformation. It started a real trend for Goku finding a new transformation every arc or two. And the initial transformation remains arguably the most iconic moment of the entire Buu Saga.
2 Super Saiyan Blue
Super Saiyan Blue -- or Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, if you're not into breathing as you speak -- takes things back to a simpler time. Less complicated than other high-level transformations, Super Saiyan Blue looks much like the Super Saiyan transformation, only with new blue hair.
First used by Goku against Golden Frieza, it immediately became the iconic transformation of Dragon Ball Super. For modern fans, it is the pinnacle. Simple. Powerful. Incredibly cool. Arguably, no other form Goku has ever taken remains as iconic as this one. Except for one...
1 Super Saiyan
The classic. Goku's initial transformation into a Super Saiyan remains for many a high-point of Dragon Ball Z. Frieza pushed Goku a little too far by killing Krillin, which triggered this legendary transformation. At a time where transformations weren't a regular occurrence, the weight of this moment shifted the balance of everything to come in Dragon Ball.
But to make matters more interesting, the Super Saiyan form was played with throughout the entire Android Saga. Goku's decision to make Super Saiyan his base form helped shift Goku's powers to a whole new level, leading to one of the greatest, most iconic fights in the series: Goku vs Cell. Even after his initial transformation, there are several classic moments where Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan fans simply cannot forget, such as when Goku went Super Saiyan in his fight against Cooler, using his aura to resurrect a dying bird.
Undeniably, this is Goku's most iconic form.