The increased threat of bacterial resistance against conventional antibiotics has warranted the need for development of membrane targeting antibacterial agents. Several self-assembled cationic amphiphiles with different supramolecular structures have been reported in recent years for potent antibacterial activity with increased specificity. In this study, we describe the self-assembly and antibacterial activity of four lower generation poly(aryl ether)-based amphiphilic dendrimers (AD-1, AD-2, AD-3, and AD-4) containing terminal amine (PAMAM-based), ester, and hydrazide functional groups with varied hydrophobicity. Among the four dendrimers under study, the amine-terminated dendrimer (AD-1) displayed potent antibacterial activity. The ratio of surface cationic charge to hydrophobicity had a significant effect on the antibacterial activity, where AD-3 dendrimer with increased surface cationic charges exhibited a higher minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) than AD-1. AD-2 (ester terminated) and AD-4 (hydrazide terminated) dendrimers did not show any bactericidal activity. The amphiphilic dendrimer-bacteria interactions, further validated by binding studies, also showed significant changes in bacterial morphology, effective membrane permeation, and depolarization by AD-1 in comparison with AD-3. Molecular dynamics simulations of AD-1 and AD-3 on bacterial membrane patches further corroborated the experimental findings. The structural conformation of AD-1 dendrimer facilitated increased membrane interaction compared to AD-3 dendrimer. AD-1 also displayed selectivity to bacterial membranes over fibroblast cells (4× MIC), corroborating the significance of an optimal hydrophobicity for potent antibacterial activity with no cytotoxicity. The self-assembled (poly(aryl ether)-PAMAM-based) dendrimer (AD-1) also exhibited potent antibacterial activity in comparison with conventional higher generation dendrimers, establishing the implication of self-assembly for bactericidal activity. Moreover, the detailed mechanistic study reveals that optimal tuning of the hydrophobicity of amphiphilic dendrimers plays a crucial role in membrane disruption of bacteria. We believe that this study will provide valuable insights into the design strategies of amphiphilic dendrimers as antibacterial agents for efficient membrane disruption. © 2019 American Chemical Society.