This special is the story of Bardock, a low-class Saiyan warrior. At the outset of the story, his son Kakarot having just been born on Planet Vegeta, is being prepared to be sent to Earth in order to destroy all life on the planet. Meanwhile, Bardock and his crew are on an assignment to exterminate all the life forms of Planet Kanassa. After the planet is seemingly devoid of all other life, Bardock and crew rest up and celebrate their victory until one remaining warrior catches him off guard and decides to give him the "gift" of seeing visions of the future. This gives him the ability to see the destruction of Planet Vegeta, and almost the entire Saiyan race along with it, at the hands of their master, Frieza. He also sees the salvation of the planet Earth through his son Kakarot.
This prediction becomes reality when Frieza decides to destroy the entire Saiyan race. Within Frieza's spaceship, Frieza is being briefed by his top two henchmen, Zarbon and Dodoria, in regards to the occurrences in their routine interplanetary galactic trade and conquering. Recent news reveals that the Saiyans strength constantly grows after each battle. Zarbon informs Frieza that a band of low-class Saiyans had taken over Kanassa in just a few days. Dodoria states that the job to take Kanassa had been in the pool for months and that not even Frieza's elite squadrons could take Kanassa so easily. Frieza, Zarbon and Dodoria contemplate the fate of the Saiyans due to the growing power of the species and decide to take action in order to avoid repercussions, as the Saiyans might pose a great threat to them in the future. Zarbon advises Frieza to eliminate the growing threat before it poses a greater problem. Dodoria and his elite fighters are ordered to eradicate Bardock and his teammates.
Bardock dismisses the visions he had and goes to join his team on Planet Meat, but soon discovers his friends are all dead. Bardock's team was massacred by Frieza's henchman Dodoria and his elites. He battles the ones responsible and defeats them all, but is easily overwhelmed by a single mouth blast from Dodoria. He is left severely injured, but manages to make it back to Planet Vegeta passing his son along the way who has been sent to Earth. Though Bardock attempts to convey the danger that they are all in to the other Saiyans, since he has now realized that Frieza is going to destroy them all, everyone laughs at his claim and Bardock alone begins one final assault against Frieza.
Killing many of his minor soldiers and sending the Final Spirit Cannon to Frieza himself in a bid to avenge all those killed in the tyrant's name, Bardock seems about to change the future. However, Frieza counters this with his Supernova, which kills Bardock, many of his own soldiers, and destroys Planet Vegeta itself, all while uttering a maniacal laugh. As he is dying, Bardock sees one more vision of the future: his son Kakarot facing Frieza. Being assured that Kakarot would be the one to kill Frieza; Bardock gives a small smile as he disintegrates along with the planet. As the planet is on the verge of blowing up, Frieza continues laughing at its destruction, as well as telling Dodoria and Zarbon to watch the "beautiful fireworks". After his demise, Bardock wishes his son, Kakarot, to take care. At the same moment, Kakarot, who is still in the space pod, wakes up.
Elsewhere, having just completed an assignment on a far-off world, Vegeta is informed of his homeworld's destruction. His pride keeps him from expressing his shock and he remains outwardly emotionless. Soon afterward, Kakarot's space pod touches down on Earth, where he is found by an elderly man named Gohan, and giggles happily in the old man's arms. Gohan then decides to care for the boy as his own grandson and renames him Goku. The film ends with a montage of Goku's many heroic deeds on Earth, leading to his battle with Frieza.