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The best way(s) to watch Dragon Ball anime shows & movies

Get your super fix with our guide to watching Dragon Ball, from Z to GT and everything in between

Image credit: Toei Animation

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Let’s take a minute to appreciate the scope of Dragon Ball’s success. Inspired by 16th Century novel Journey to the West, Akira Toriyama’s original manga, which ran from 1984 to 1995, has spawned a media empire that includes films, video games, and multiple anime series… which is why we’re here right now.

At its core, Dragon Ball is the story of a young man named Goku and the adventures he faces while trying to become the strongest martial artist in the universe. Along the way, he faces multiple enemies, often turning them into stalwart allies in the process, while creating several tropes that have become common in Shonen anime to this day. Training sequences, tournament arcs, and transformations that unlock new levels of power were all popularized by Dragon Ball.

With so many properties in the mix, it can be confusing to watch Dragon Ball in chronological or release order but, thankfully, most of the run is fairly easy to follow. But what's the best way to do that? Read on...

Where to watch Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball
Image credit: Toei Animation

You're in luck - there are multiple places you can watch Dragon Ball. The series is available on streaming services such as Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Hulu. If you'd like to own it, you can buy the episodes or the home video releases on Amazon.

How to watch Dragon Ball in chronological order

Dragon Ball
Image credit: Toei Animation

While most of the episodes are largely contained within a specific timeline, there are a few deviations, particularly when it comes to later arcs in the manga. The most confusing aspect of the Dragon Ball chronology is the somewhat nebulous relationship most of the films have with the series’ canon.

In fact, the first 17 Dragon Ball films aren’t considered canon at all, though we’re including them in this list because many of them are fun and they have an important place in the fandom. We’ve put these films in the timeline as they best fit, but there is plenty of confusion as to their proper place in a chronological watch order.

If you’re a new fan wanting to experience the show in order or a returning fan eager for a rewatch, here is how to watch Dragon Ball in chronological order.

How to watch Dragon Ball in release order

Dragon Ball
Image credit: Toei Animation

Watching all of the movies and episodes in chronological order can be interesting, but it doesn’t add much to the viewing experience other than making it a messy undertaking. Fortunately, it is much easier to simply watch Goku’s journey in release order, which is how the producers at Toei animation always intended.

Again, we’ve put the TV specials and animated films into this timeline but they are largely considered non-canon. They can be skipped if you want a more streamlined viewing experience.

Here is how to watch Dragon Ball in release order:

  • Dragon Ball, episodes 1-43
  • Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies (1986)
  • Dragon Ball, episodes 43-70
  • Dragon Ball: Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle (1987)
  • Dragon Ball, episodes 71-118
  • Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure (1988)
  • Dragon Ball, episodes 119-153
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 1-11
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Dead Zone (1989)
  • Dragon Ball Z: episodes 12-39
  • Dragon Ball Z: The World’s Strongest (1990)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 40-54
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might (1990) – Note that this film was cut into multiple episodes for the English-language release, accounting for episodes 46-48 of the broadcast.
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 55-63
  • Dragon Ball Z: Bardock – The Father of Goku (1990)
  • Dragon Ball Z: episodes 64-81
  • Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug (1991)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 82-99
  • Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge (1991)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 100-130
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler (1992)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 131-143
  • Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13! (1992)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 144-175
  • Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks (1993)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episode 176
  • Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (1993)
  • Dragon Ball Z episodes 177-189
  • Dragon Ball Z Side Story: True Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans Part 1 (1993) – This is an OVA that retold the story of the video game of the same name.
  • Dragon Ball Z episodes 190-192
  • Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound (1993)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 193-197
  • Dragon Ball Z Side Story: True Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans Part 2 (1993)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 198-220
  • Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming (1994)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 221-232
  • Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly (1994)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 233-258
  • Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn (1995)
  • Dragon Ball Z, episodes 259-270
  • Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon (1995)
  • Dragon Ball Z: episodes 271-291
  • Dragon Ball: The Path to Power (1996)
  • Dragon Ball GT, episodes 1-41
  • Dragon Ball GT: A Hero’s Legacy (1997)
  • Dragon Ball GT, episodes 42-64
  • Dragon Ball: Plan to Eliminate the Super Saiyans (2010) – Note that this was an OVA remake of the original Plan to Eliminate the Super Saiyans video game and was released with the Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 game.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Resurection F (2015)
  • Dragon Ball Super, episodes 1-131
  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2018)
  • Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (2022)

How do I watch Dragon Ball without filler?

Korin and Goku in Dragon Ball DAIMA
Image credit: Toei Animation

Though it has a whole host of pacing issues dating back to the earliest episodes of Dragon Ball, there is surprisingly little filler in the series. If you define 'filler' as content that was added to the anime and didn’t appear in the original manga, only around 12% of the show’s run could be considered filler.

To watch Dragon Ball without any filler, you first should disregard any of the films or TV specials released before 2013’s Battle of Gods.

For Dragon Ball, the filler episodes are:

  • Episodes 30-33
  • Episode 45
  • Episodes 79-83
  • Episodes 127-132
  • Episodes 149-153

Once the show reached Dragon Ball Z, the amount of filler increased slightly. If you want to watch the original Dragon Ball Z broadcast without the filler episodes, you should skip:

  • Episodes 9-10
  • Episodes 12-16
  • Episodes 39-43
  • Episode 100
  • Episode 102
  • Episodes 108-117
  • Episodes 124-125
  • Episodes 170-171
  • Episode 174
  • Episodes 195-199
  • Episodes 202-203
  • Episode 274
  • Episodes 288

While these are the episodes that contain nothing but filler, fans wanting to cut down on filler further should watch Dragon Ball Z Kai, which was first broadcast in 2009. This was a re-edit of the original Dragon Ball Z series, removing as much of the content that wasn’t featured in the manga as possible. This cuts the original episode length in half and is, in our opinion, the best way to experience Dragon Ball Z.

For Dragon Ball Super, you can easily replace the first 27 episodes of the show with the Battle of Gods and Resurrection F movies. However, because the manga and the show differ so dramatically, it is difficult to categorize any other episodes as 'filler' in the traditional sense. After Dragon Ball Super’s conclusion, both the Broly and Super Hero films are considered canon.

So, what about Dragon Ball GT? Again, there is no manga here to guide us on what is filler and what isn’t. The show is still considered canon within the Dragon Ball universe, despite the wide range of inconsistencies and plot holes that it creates. While it is not a well-regarded part of the Dragon Ball franchise, it shouldn’t be classed as filler either.

Is it necessary to watch every Dragon Ball series?

Dragon Ball
Image credit: Toei Animation

The Dragon Ball franchise has had an unusual publication history in English-speaking countries. Many fans outside of Japan got their first introduction to the series with Dragon Ball Z, which showed Goku as an adult with a young son and a wife. Because of this, people might wonder if it is necessary to watch the original Dragon Ball series or subsequent series like Dragon Ball Super or GT.

Picking up the series with Dragon Ball Z is a bit like reading the second book in a trilogy first. It is a self-contained story so you should be able to follow the plot without seeing the original series. However, you do miss a lot of the context and explanation of characters' relationships if you skip the original Dragon Ball anime. We would highly recommend watching both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z if you want the complete story of Akira Toriyama’s manga.

Conversely, neither Dragon Ball Super nor Dragon Ball GT featured much involvement from the original writer. Toriyama only did a few character designs for Dragon Ball GT and was only involved in providing high-level outlines for the story in Dragon Ball Super. However, both are considered canon within the anime. While they should be seen as a continuation of Goku’s story, it is not necessary to watch either Dragon Ball Super or Dragon Ball GT. There are some great moments in these shows but they aren’t required viewing for Dragon Ball fans.

Is there more new Dragon Ball anime coming up?

When Dragon Ball Super ended in 2018, fans weren’t sure if the anime would continue in episodic format or if the franchise would focus on the feature films such as Broly and Super Hero. While the Dragon Ball Super manga has continued even beyond the end of the show, there have been no plans to revive the show.

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That doesn't mean we aren't getting more Dragon Ball, though. At NYCC 2023, Toei Animation announced a brand new Dragon Ball anime series was in the works and due out in Fall 2024. Titled Dragon Ball Daima, the trailer showed de-aged versions of the Dragon Ball cast, including Goku, Vegeta, Bulma, and Master Roshi. It looks like a bit of a goofy, fun adventure and we're here for it, especially since Akira Toriyama is reportedly "heavily involved" in the series' development.

Whether you watch it in release or chronological order, there is plenty of Dragon Ball to keep you going until the next movie is released. From his humble origins chasing after the Dragon Balls with his friends to obtaining the power of the gods, Goku’s journey has inspired countless people around the world, making him one of the most recognizable characters on the planet.

Watch the creators behind Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero talk about the movie, in our recording of their New York Comic Con panel.