The Dragon Ball Z Movie That Introduced ’90s Kids to Hard Rock

One of the early Dragon Ball Z films more than just continued the adventures of Goku, it introduced a generation to hard rock classics.

While the English dub of Dragon Ball Z by Funimation had its own soundtrack, rather than the original Japanese version, several of the Dragon Ball Z films went even further by including licensed songs for Goku and the Z Fighters to battle to in their (mostly) non-canon adventures. The Funimation dub of the 1991 film Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge, in particular, boasted a surprising amount of licensed songs from established bands that may have introduced younger audiences to them years earlier than they would’ve if it weren’t from Dragon Ball Z.

Released on home video in North America by Funimation in 2002, Cooler’s Revenge is the fifth Dragon Ball Z movie and is set shortly after the events of the Frieza Saga, though nothing that happens is considered canon to the rest of the franchise. After learning his younger brother Frieza was killed by Goku on Namek, Cooler hunts him down to Earth to avenge him. Catching Goku and company while they’re on a camping trip, Cooler and his elite fighting force ambush the Z Fighters, with Goku eventually transforming into a Super Saiyan and blasting the interstellar tyrant directly into the sun while Piccolo dispatches the Cooler Force.

The Funimation dub of Cooler’s Revenge contained twelve licensed songs on its soundtrack from seven different bands: American Pearl, Breaking Point, Deftones, Disturbed, Drowning Pool, Dust for Life, and Finger Eleven. Impressively, the home video release came at a time when bands like these were arguably at their commercial peak, though no especially popular singles were licensed for the soundtrack. This followed Funimation including licensed rock music for the soundtrack of the fourth DBZ film, Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug, and the television specials Dragon Ball Z: Bardock – The Father of Goku and Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks.

Following the success of Cooler’s Revenge, Funimation would continue using licensed music in future DBZ film dubs, including Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan. Funimation would go as far as to include a soundtrack compilation for The Legendary Super Saiyan, which included a whopping nineteen licensed songs, albeit from slightly more obscure bands than those on Cooler’s Revenge. The last major Funimation DBZ dub to have licensed music was the tenth film, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming, including five songs by the band I.O.N. While other English-language dubs would have rock-inspired soundtracks, they would be composed by Bruce Faulconer, Evan Jones, Mark Menza, Nathan Johnson, and Dave Moran.

Targeting the audience of Dragon Ball Z in North America at the time presumably being adolescents and teenagers, the inclusion of music from bands like Deftones and Disturbed may have very well been the first time some of the younger fans heard this type of music. By Dragon Ball GT, the Funimation dub would lean more into rap and industrial music, and Dragon Ball Super would retain the original Japanese soundtrack for its Funimation release, leaving the spat of DBZ films released in the early 2000s as a point of curiosity in the franchise’s localization history that brought a surprising amount of rocking tunes to the masses as Goku battled some of his most memorable opponents.

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