What dragon ball movies are canon ? Dragon Ball is among the most successful media franchises of all time, but the canon status of its films is often questioned. The most recent films, 2018’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly and 2022’s Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, are considered canon to the overarching story, but the vast majority of the franchise’s movies are not.
Frequently contradicting details from the main plot, many of the Dragon Ball films are entertaining what-if scenarios rather than direct continuations. There are, however, several films that are canon — or, at least, don’t actively contradict the main story, leaving their canonicity up for debate.
Are the Dragon Ball Movies Canon?
While the four Dragon Ball movies are all non-canon, either retelling or reimagining stories from the manga or anime depicting Goku’s childhood, the first Dragon Ball Z anime film is generally considered canon. 1989’s Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone took place approximately a year before DBZ began with the villainous Garlic, Jr. using the Dragon Balls to gain immortality before being exiled to the eponymous pocket dimension. This placement in canon was further underscored when Garlic, Jr. escaped during an anime-only filler arc, and attempted to exact revenge before being exiled once again.
While the next wave of DBZ films aren’t considered canon, neither 1991’s Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge nor 1993’s Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound directly contradict the main series. With Goku still getting the hang of mastering his Super Saiyan transformation in Cooler’s Revenge, the 1991 film could feasibly take place in the three-year period between Goku’s return to Earth and the arrival of the Androids. However, that neither Frieza nor King Cold have ever mentioned Cooler, a member of their family, puts this in doubt.
Similarly, Bojack Unbound may have taken place just after the Cell Games, with Goku and King Kai dead while Gohan still learns how to master Super Saiyan 2. Future Trunks’ presence is explained offhand in the English dub as the time-traveling warrior visiting his friends in the main timeline after restoring peace in his own era. Similarly, Hercule Satan is already renowned worldwide for taking credit in Cell’s destruction, as the false champion makes his film debut in the 1993 movie.
Are Wrath of the Dragon & Dragon Ball Super: Broly Canon?
Perhaps most intriguing is 1995’s Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon, set shortly after the defeat of Kid Buu, as Earth and the Z Fighters enjoy a period of peace. The film debuted Goku’s special attack, the Dragon Fist, with the technique resurfacing on multiple occasions during Dragon Ball GT, seemingly confirming Wrath of the Dragon as canon.
However, with DBGT’s canonicity apparently revoked by the new anime series Dragon Ball Super, this raises questions about whether Wrath of the Dragon is actually canon. While Wrath of the Dragon does not directly contradict DBZ or Super, Goku has yet to use or refer to the Dragon Fist technique in Super’s manga or anime.
Since 2008’s short film Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!!, Toei Animation appears to have kept the subsequent Dragon Ball movies canon. That film’s introduction of Vegeta’s brother Tarble was acknowledged in Super, while 2013’s Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and 2015’s Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F would both be adapted as the opening story arcs in Super when the anime premiered in 2015.
Even Dragon Ball Super: Broly is canon because it was written by series creator Akira Toriyama, whereas the original Dragon Ball Z: Broly trilogy wasn’t. Additionally, DBS: Broly follows the continuity of the Dragon Ball Super anime as a direct sequel. Should Toei hold to this pattern, the next Dragon Ball Super movie will likely be canon to the main story as well, as Goku and the Z Fighters continue to find new adventures.
Which Dragon Ball Movies Are Canon?
Few anime have reached the monumental success of Dragon Ball, with the work of Akira Toriyama inspiring many people all over the world. Toriyama told the story of Goku, one of the last remaining Saiyans from Planet Vegeta who crash-landed on Earth. Over the years, he goes on to fight multiple enemies, continuously raising his power level every time he defeats someone.
Due to its success, Toei Animation decided to expand the Dragon Ball universe by releasing movies. As of now, the studio has made over 20 Dragon Ball movies that tell many new narratives about the Z Fighters. However, the development and nature of these movies put their canonical status into question.
For most of the movies, Akira Toriyama had no involvement with the production. This allowed Toei Animation to create their own original stories with the Dragon Ball characters, regardless of the original continuity. Therefore, the timeline placement of the Dragon Ball movies can be somewhat confusing, or they simply don’t fit at all.
If you want to watch the relevant films, then here’s a complete list of the canon and non-canon Dragon Ball movies.
Garlic Jr., the alien being who desired immortality in Dead Zone, is an interesting case. That’s because he’s the only character who debuted in a Dragon Ball Z movie to appear in any capacity in the anime. Following Garlic Jr.’s first defeat, he returned as an opponent in the Garlic Jr. Saga, which was a filler storyline.
While some would argue that since he did have a presence in some of the early episodes of the show, he should be counted as canon, there’s one huge problem with that: his story contradicts the timeline of the series. Dead Zone, which took place before Dragon Ball Z began, saw Krillin fighting alongside Gohan, even though Krillin doesn’t meet him for the first time until later. For this reason, whether or not Garlic Jr. exists is debatable, with the consensus among fans being that he was never encountered.
If it’s true that Garlic Jr. isn’t canon, he could be adapted as a villain who gets his hands on the Dragon Balls – just like he does in Dead Zone – and becomes supremely powerful by getting the immortality that eluded Frieza and Vegeta. The anime could make a major adjustment to the power he’d gain from the wish by putting him on Goku’s level.
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