Dragon Ball Z remains one of the most widely loved anime of all time. This is in part due to the various sagas and story arcs throughout the whole series. From Dragon Ball's early arcs to Dragon Ball GT's biggest moments, the series features some of the coolest story arcs in any series ever, full of iconic moments that are hard to forget.
Unsurprisingly, when discussing all of them, issues arise. Which arcs reign supreme? Which are the most entertaining? The following list will include arcs beyond Dragon Ball Z. It will include arcs from every major Dragon Ball series (even Super and GT) in order to definitively rank the best of the best arcs in the entire extended saga.
10 Universe Survival Arc
The final arc of Dragon Ball Super is one of the longest, pivoting around a massive tournament between the many universes of Dragon Ball. While many complained this arc dragged on, what they could not deny is it offered fans countless incredible battles. New characters are introduced. Old ones return. It's simply full of wonderful moments.
Sadly, the problems are pretty noticeable. Much of the saga is ruined by its frankly boring antagonist, Jiren. While many of the side characters are cool and interesting, Jiren is just...not. It is telling that Goku Black is a far more memorable adversary than Jiren, who just feels like a face to get punched. Truly, a disappointing final adversary.
9 The Shadow Dragons Arc
Dragon Ball GT is not fondly regarded and for good reason. It isn't very good. However, the final arc of Dragon Ball GT has arguably one of the highest points in the series, and, on paper, is ingenious.
The heroes attempt to undo the damage from Hell opening up, but can't. They've expended all the energy the Dragon Balls have to offer, which has corrupted the balls into seven evil Dragons. So, what is the only way to make a wish? Fight the Dragon Balls themselves. While this idea isn't utilized to its best, the concept is incredible. It culminates in Dragon Ball GT's ending -- an ending so perfect for the series that you almost forget the disappointment that was the rest of GT.
8 21st World Martial Arts Tournament
This early arc of Dragon Ball might be overlooked in favor of the more high-flying, super-powered arcs to later follow. However, this brief arc offers the best of what early Dragon Ball has to offer: humor. The arc is ridiculous and zany, with one villain being defeated essentially by Krillin remembering he doesn't have a nose...
The highlight of the saga is the battle between Goku and Jackie Chun (AKA, Master Roshi). The fight incorporates some of the best actual martial arts in the whole series. This arc is short but unforgettable.
7 Buu Arc
Buu is the final villain of Dragon Ball Z. The saga has some of the greatest scenes in the whole franchise. Yet, for whatever reason, many fans remember it less fondly than its previous arcs. Why is that?
While there are several great moments in the arc (Majin Vegeta vs. Goku, Goku turning SSJ3, Fusion, Vegeta's sacrifice, the final battle on the Sacred Planet of the Kais), the whole arc feels poorly paced. Plot points don't pan out quite right. Several ideas and concepts, such as fusion, really have little bearing on how the arc wraps up.
But that doesn't mean this arc is bad. In fact, it's terrific, full of many incredible moments. As this is Dragon Ball Z, moments are simply not enough.
6 God of Destruction Beerus Arc
Whether you prefer the Battle of Gods film or the first arc of Dragon Ball Super, there is no denying that Beerus remains one of the coolest additions to Dragon Ball. The God of Destruction Beerus awakens and seeks to find the Super Saiyan God.
The most entertaining part of this arc is how the majority of it is spent trying not to fight. For a series so focused on combat, the change of pace is more than welcome, offering characters a chance to solve problems without using their fists. That said, the final fight between Super Saiyan God Goku and Beerus is nothing short of awesome.
5 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament
The final arc of Dragon Ball takes place after a significant time skip. It follows up on the Demon King Piccolo Arc, while also boasting a truly unique scenario. During one last tournament, Goku needs to confront the spawn of the Demon King, Piccolo Jr (the same Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z) in one final battle to rid the world of the Demon King's evil. In order to do so, Goku has to fight his friends, get married (really), and convince Kami not to kill himself.
The series comes to a head here and it's the last Tournament Arc in Dragon Ball (until Super) to have real stakes and tension. Plus, the final fight with Piccolo is so incredibly brutal and intense. Few fights since match it in terms of sheer intensity.
4 Saiyan Saga
The attack of the Saiyans kicks off the events of Dragon Ball Z. It starts with the arrival of Raditz, which already serves as an incredible moment, and ends with Vegeta and Goku's iconic first brawl.
But while those moments are great, what makes the Saiyan Saga shine is the stuff with the other characters. Tien, Yamcha, and Chiaotzu have some pretty iconic moments here, but the star has to be Piccolo. This is Piccolo's arc, allowing him to grow as a character from the evil villain to basically Gohan's surrogate father. That's truly something.
3 Demon King Piccolo Saga
The Demon King Piccolo Saga marks the point when the series went from hilarious hijinks to serious fighting. It starts with the first intense death in the anime (Krillin) and doesn't let up from there. Piccolo and his minions present a real sinister presence that had, until then, really hadn't been present.
And to put it mildly...Piccolo really wins. The rest of Dragon Ball is spent undoing what Piccolo does, but he accomplishes everything he set out to do. He truly is the first villain in Dragon Ball to feel unstoppable.
2 Namek/Frieza Saga
The Namek and Frieza saga blur together for many fans. While the Namek Arc centers around an incredible hunt for the Dragon Balls featuring three competing factions, the events of the Frieza arc often overshadow Namek. That being said, both are incredible.
Of course, there is the fight with Frieza, which epitomizes the greatness of the series. There are so many emotional moments, including a number of emotional deaths, as well as tons of epic scenes, such as Piccolo and Frieza's fight, Goku turning Super Saiyan, and the final slug-fest over the dying Namek. It's clear to see Toriyama had no intention of continuing the series past Frieza because this really is the finale to end all finales.
Thankfully, he changed his mind.
1 Android/Cell Saga
The Android and Cell Saga remain the definitive arc in Dragon Ball history. It draws from the past while directing the series to its future. It starts with the introduction of Trunks, who remains one of the most memorable characters in all of Dragon Ball. How do they introduce him? Cutting the last arc's villain, Frieza, to bits!
To make things better, the Androids themselves serve as a wonderful throwback to the Red Ribbon Army, giving an old villain a chance to take revenge on Goku. The arcs present several iconic moments for every character -- even minor players like Tien and Krillin. Some of the series's greatest fights take place here; 18 vs Vegeta, Piccolo vs 17, Goku vs Cell...
But undoubtedly it ends on the highest note with Gohan's transformation into Super Saiyan 2 and subsequent beat down of Cell. It is truly the stuff of legends.