The overall structure of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise is relatively complex. There are several iterations of the main canon series (both manga and anime), but also a lot of additional materials, such as movies, OVAs, games, and whatnot. Most of this additional content is, to be honest, not canon so you don’t have to worry about it, but with some of the recent movies becoming canon, people have become more confused and that is what inspired this article.
In this article, we are going to explain which Dragon Ball movies are canon and which are not. And while there are some whose status is clear, there are some Dragon Ball movies whose status is not so clear. Namely, these movies don’t actually contradict any canon storyline and could actually fit within the canon quite well, but this has either not been confirmed by anyone, or there haven’t been any proper references to these events.
Dragon Ball movies that are canon
In this section, we are simply going to list all the Dragon Ball movies that have been confirmed as canon works. They are:
1. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013)
Boo’s threat has been stopped, and peace has returned to Earth. But, Beerus, the god of destruction, wakes up from a long sleep of 39 years and decides to go in search of the divine Super Saiyan, an overpowered warrior who should offer him a fight to his measure, that’s what the Oracle Fish predicts to Beerus.
Beerus then begins his quest with the surviving Saiyans of Earth. He then meets Son Goku at the northern Kaioh, who offers the god of destruction a fight, but is then beaten with disconcerting ease. Goku being of no help in his quest, Beerus then heads for Earth in the hope of finding this divine Super Saiyan.
2. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (2015)
Two soldiers, Sorbet and Tagoma, from the army of Frieza, the former tyrant having been defeated by Son Goku on Namek, set out in search of the Dragon Balls on Earth, in order to resuscitate him. Once resuscitated, Frieza’s only goal is to get revenge on Son Goku.
He is informed that Goku has greatly gained in power and managed to defeat Boo. Frieza decides to train for four months, claiming to be able to surpass him in this period of time.
3. Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2018)
The beginning of the film traces the past of Goku, Vegeta, and Broly on the planet Vegeta. King Cold visits the Saiyans, accompanied by his son Freeza and his army, announces that he is retiring, and leaves his empire to his son. King Vegeta discovers that Broly, the son of a warrior named Paragus, is more powerful than him.
Viewing his great power as an affront, he dispatched Broly to an inhospitable asteroid named Vampa. Paragus, accompanied by a Saiyan, flees, goes in search of his son on this planet, and ends up finding him. To allow him and his son to survive, he has no choice but to kill his companion.
4. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (2022)
While on Beerus’ planet, Goku and Vegeta continue training and improving their skills under Whis, now assisted by Broly to help control his anger. Meanwhile, on Earth, the resurrected Red Ribbon Army, led by Magenta and Carmine, recruits Dr. Hedo, Dr. Gero’s grandson, to exact revenge on Piccolo and Gohan.
Under Hedo’s tutelage, the Red Ribbon Army creates two new androids, Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, to appear in public as superheroes. The Red Ribbon Army uses Gamma 2 to attack Piccolo, who loses the fight and is seemingly killed, but he tracks Gamma 2 to the Red Ribbon Army’s base. There, Piccolo discovers that Magenta and Hedo are working on a new android called Cell Max, a new model of their old enemy Cell.
To get Gohan to fight her, Magenta decides to kidnap his daughter Pan. After learning that she has been kidnapped, Gohan drops out of college and confronts the base with Piccolo, who used the Dragon Balls to achieve a new form called “Orange Piccolo.” Gohan unleashes his potentially raging form, battling and overpowering Gamma 1, while Piccolo battles Gamma 2 with his orange form.
After their second fight, Piccolo overpowers Gamma 2, who then stops the fight between Gohan and Gamma 1. After a turnaround, Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 help Gohan and Piccolo save Pan. Hedo attempts to assassinate Magenta, but before he dies, Magenta activates Cell Max and releases him as a giant Kaiju-type monster.
Gohan, Piccolo, Gamma 1 & 2 now with Goten (who managed to crack Cell Max’s skull), Trunks, Android 18, and Krillin battle Cell Max. Gamma 2 sacrifices himself to injure Cell Max and destroys his left forearm. Piccolo battles Cell Max until he is seemingly killed in his giant form, causing Gohan to transform into a new, angry form, further increasing his power.
With his new form, Gohan destroys Cell’s brain with the special beam cannon while Piccolo restrains him. After the fight, Gamma 1 and Dr. Hedo join Capsule Corp. In a post-credits scene, Vegeta wins against Goku on Beerus’ planet.
These four movies are definitely canon, as has been confirmed both in- and out-of-universe. In the next section, we are going to explain why a few other movies could also be part of the canon, although that hasn’t been confirmed.
Dragon Ball movies that are possibly canon
As we have said, there are several Dragon Ball movies whose canon status hasn’t been confirmed, but that could – based on their plots and timelines – fit within the larger Dragon Ball canon. In this section, we are going to give you an overview of these movies with some additional explanations; the movies not found anywhere in this article are definitely not canon.
1. Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone (1989)
Garlic Junior, a demon like Piccolo, returns from another dimension to enslave the planet. Desiring to reunite the seven crystal balls, he takes off Son Gohan (wearing a hat with Su Shinchu). Son Goku and Piccolo will team up to fight this new enemy.
Joined by the Almighty, they enter Garlic’s palace. While the Almighty fights against Garlic, the others go to free Son Gohan. Then they come back to lend a hand to the Almighty. But Garlic, who has achieved immortality, keeps getting up and decides to end them by throwing them into an inter-dimensional breach he has created. Fortunately, Son Gohan gets angry at the right time.
Explanation: This movie is considered by some people to be canon because it fits into the overall canon without contradicting any of the events. The timeline fits and the story doesn’t really contradict anything that has been established in the canon. This has been underscored by the fact that Garlic Jr. appeared once again, but only in an anime-only filler arc and not in the canon.
2. Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge (1991)
Cooler is on the trail of Son Goku, the last descendant of the Saiyans. He arrives on Earth not to avenge Frieza, his brother, but to avenge the humiliation suffered by his family due to the fact that Frieza was defeated by a simple Saiyan, with his henchmen, the most powerful of them called Sauzer.
Four men are with him. As time went on, Son Gohan, Krillin, Son Goku, and Piccolo who faced them, were all almost finished by Cooler. Son Gohan went to the Karin Tower to bring senzus to his father who was badly injured with a burn on his back. Piccolo had almost disappeared from the battle because of Cooler. Son Goku was finally recovered and set out in search of Cooler.
His men took it upon themselves to kill him, but he proved too powerful for them the instant Cooler appeared. The fatal fight began. It was first in favor of Son Goku, then Cooler, in bad shape, transformed into his final form and took the upper hand over his opponent who was, unfortunately, no match for him.
After the correction that was inflicted on him, thinking back to his friends, Son Goku still finds the strength to get up, releases his anger, and transforms into a Super Saiyan. When the alien triggers his Death ball, Son Goku manages to control the giant ball and then sends it back to Cooler who crashes with the energy ball on the Sun.
Explanation: Cooler’s Revenge is also a movie whose canon status is possible due to it not contradicting any of the canon stories. Fans argue that it could easily fit in three-year period between Goku’s return to Earth and the arrival of the Androids, but there is one main issue – neither Frieza nor King Cold have ever mentioned Cooler, and since he’s a supposed member of their family, it doesn’t sound plausible. This is what undermines its canon status.
3. Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound (1993)
The story begins when the Cell Game is barely over. A very special new Tenkaichi Budokai is organized by a billionaire. This tournament is intergalactic. Extraterrestrials arrive to participate in this exceptional match. But the latter are eliminated by a gang of thugs led by Bojack, thus taking their places in the tournament.
Krillin then confronts Zangya, the chief’s subordinate, but is beaten. Trunks fights Gokua the Swordsman and defeats him with no problem but is surprised by Bojack. One of the finalists was beaten by Bido and Son Gohan faced off against Bujin the illusionist. Piccolo, Yamcha, Ten Shin Han, and even Vegeta are no match for the four thugs and Son Gohan is forced to face them alone.
Explanation: This movie could very well be canon as not only does it fit the timeline, a lot of elements from the movie have later been confirmed as canon elements, although the movie itself hasn’t. The movie could easily have taken place after the Cell Games, with Goku and King Kai dead while Gohan still learns how to master Super Saiyan 2, which would fit the timeline. If you’re wondering about Future Trunks, the English dub explains his presence offhand; he is a time-traveling warrior visiting his friends in the main timeline after restoring peace in his own era.
4. Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon (1995)
The story takes place sometime after Boo’s death. Son Gohan and Videl bear the nicknames of intergalactic warriors and bring peace and justice. One day, an old man, Hoi, threatens to kill himself if we don’t help him.
He actually wants help to free his friend Tapion locked in a music box. No Saiyan can open it: even Son Gohan and Son Goku fail. Only the dragon Shenron can open this famous box using his magical powers. A soft melody is then resounded and from the music box, springs, in the middle of strange celestial phenomena, Tapion, a lonely young man who appears before the eyes of Son Goku and his friends playing the ocarina.
Then, without saying thank you to his benefactors who allowed him to get out of his prison, he goes alone. The young Trunks is dazzled by this hero and decides to find him to bring him food.
Explanation: This was the most likely candidate for canon status among all the movies until the canon status of Dragon Ball GT was revoked. Namely, the movie introduced us to Goku’s Dragon Fist technique, a technique that resurfaced in GT on multiple occasions, which confirmed the movie’s canon status. The timeline also fit: it was set shortly after the defeat of Kid Buu as Earth and the Z Fighters enjoy a period of peace. But, with GT‘s status now in doubt, the movie’s canon status is also debatable.