The finest fictional vehicles
For us regular folk the epitome of an uber-cool ride is... well, it's probably a DeLorean isn't it? Or a spruced-up Honda Civic with a dropped suspension. But for sci-fi characters, the sky's the limit. Quite literally. Why burn rubber when you can jet across the universe in a great hulking craft that's probably going where no man has gone before? Movies, TV shows, and games have brought to life a whole host of colourful, bizarrely-shaped craft that get the job done and then some. Here's 25 of the absolute best spaceships to ever grace the screen.
25. Discovery one
The movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: First off, it's elegant. Look at that design, at how form and function combine to make something that looks futuristic and awesome and at the same time completely functional. The crew bulb at one end, the engines at the other, the dish in the middle, it's just a simple, graceful, cool-looking design. Shame about the sentient AI with a murderous streak.
24. SA-23E Mitchell-Hyundyne Starfury
The show: Babylon 5
Why it's a damn fine vessel: It was the first ship developed in sci-fi TV to explore how Newtonian physics might actually be used in the design of a space fighter craft. But really, just look at it. It's a kick ass little ship and you'd think twice about taking it on. Extremely agile, it was heavily armed and later versions just increased its great all-round abilities and versatility.
23. Slave 1
The movie/show: Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Another design classic from that galaxy far, far away, Slave I looks completely unlike anything else in the Star Wars universe - rather appropriate for its loner owner, Boba Fett. (Yes, we know that Jango Fett had it first, but Boba made it his own.) There's an element of Art Deco to its curves, complemented by an impressive array of weapons and the downright weird design choice of making it fly upright. It also comes with a roomy cargo hold and a big windscreen that gives you a good chance of spotting sneaky smugglers.
22. The Event Horizon
The movie: Event Horizon (1997)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: It's a Hell cathedral, in space. What, you want more? Okay, well first, it's a nice functional design that smartly evokes the sort of interstellar ships we've seen a lot before. Secondly, that functionality has had CRAZY rubbed all over it. And, possibly, meat. The thing looks, internally, like a cathedral and a butchers shop got very drunk and did stuff to one another, and that frankly demented design work helps the movie along immensely.
21. Red Dwarf
The show: Red Dwarf
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Thanks to the scoop on the front of the ship - which collects hydrogen from space and converts it into fuel - Red Dwarf can theoretically keep going forever. It's already been traveling for more than 3,000,200 years, and has survived a radiation leak, being turned into a planetoid by Kryten's nanobots and a highly-corrosive micro-organism. Also, the onboard AI computer Holly has gone a bit... peculiar after spending 3,000,000 years alone.
20. The Gunstar
The movie: The Last Starfighter (1984)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: There are two answers to this; the first is Death Blossom! The second is that the Gunstar isn't just a cool, functional looking ship (HUGE engines attached to about 8,000 guns and a cockpit) it's also one of the first CGI ships in the movies. The Death Blossom, even now, is just an amazingly great moment and so much of that comes from how fallible the ship is. It's incredibly tough, it's just not indestructible.
The movie: Independence Day (1996)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: The main mother of a horde of alien crafts, this is an absolutely epic invader that casts a considerable shadow over Earth's landmarks. Its size is so jaw-dropping massive due to its proximity to the planet, which is a neat perspective trick by the aliens for making it look even more foreboding. Still, it's proper lethal, trashing humanity's measly fleet with a laser.
18. The USCSS Nostromo
The movie: Alien (1979)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: This is the space-faring equivalent of a gigantic Mack truck dragging its haul across the country. It's a $42-million-dollar space tug. Is the Nostromo a sleek, clean and top-of-the-market craft? No, not even remotely. It's a piece of shit that's due an MOT and has likely done way more trips around the Zeta 2 Reticuli system than it should have. While it might not be as elegant as other Weyland starfreighters, it's a tough ship that'll always get the job done.
17. SSV Normandy
The game: Mass Effect
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Launched as the SR-1 in 2183 by the Systems Alliance, blown up by aliens and rebuilt by the paramilitary group Cerberus, then taken back by the Alliance and retrofitted, by the year 2186 this is the sleekest, fastest ship in anyone's fleet. A Tantalus drive core is cutting edge stealth technology meaning the ship is fast and quiet and can travel faster than light for longer than similar-sized vessels. It's also sleek and pointy and crackles with energy when it initiates a mass relay jump.
16. SHADO Interceptors
The show: UFO
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Because it's like an angry sports car, that can travel through space and has a missile for a nose. Some of the UFO vehicle designs were a bit wacky, but the interceptors looked absolutely brilliant. Also deploying the pilots down a slide was just top. I can only hope at least one went "Wheeeee!" every time they were scrambled.
15. Klingon Bird-Of-Prey
The movie / show: Star Trek - various
Why it's a damn fine vessel: A versatile warship that can cause maximum devastation with minimum crew; used at various points as a scout, raider and patrol ship, and able to cause lots of damage thanks to its generally high-level firepower. It made its first appearance in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, where in early drafts of the script it was a Romulan vessel. Although the enemies changed race, the Romulan feather-like hull plating was kept, as was its cloaking device, making it the first Klingon ship to boast such technology, although it wasn't until the sixth film that the ship was able to fire while cloaked.
14. The Defiant
The show / movie: Deep Space Nine, First Contact (1996)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Surely the toughest ship the Federation has ever built. Armed to the teeth with phase cannons and quantum torpedoes as well as the more commonly seen phasers. The ship's ablative armour offers protection even when the shields fail. And on top of all that, it has a cloaking device. The Federation may not make a habit of building warships, but the Defiant proves it is more than capable of doing so if required.
13. Engineer ship
The movie: Alien (1979), Prometheus (2012), Alien: Covenant (2017)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: A truly alien-looking alien ship that looked mightily creepy and mysterious and cavernous when we first saw it back in 1979. Even in 2012, in Prometheus, when we first learned it was in fact an Engineer ship it still looked iconic and wonderfully weird. But the design is not random. It's all part of the none-too-subtle Freudian imagery Ridley Scott and concept artist HR Giger inserted into the first Alien movie: the ship is in the shape of a pair of woman's legs splayed apart.
12. Colonial Viper
The show: Battlestar Galactica
Why it's a damn fine vessel: This is arguably the definitive space fighter design in sci-fi. It manages that because, like a lot of the other ships on this list, it combines functionality with looking flat-out cool. Even in the original series, the Viper looked like a warhorse, a sturdy, solid ship that could take a beating and hand out a worse one. The fact that it launched in the coolest method imaginable, had the ability to reverse thrust on a dime and, as the reboot shows, is insanely manoeuvrable, is just a bonus. Not just a design classic, the Viper is a pilot's best friend; rough, tough, and ready to go.
11. The Liberator
The show: Blake's 7
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Probably the most advanced ship in the galaxy, the Liberator is significantly faster than the ships of the Federation and is equipped with neutron blaster cannons. The hull is covered in herculanium, a material which is impervious to almost all forms of weaponry. The ship also has a teleport, which is highly sought-after by the Federation. Its such an advanced ship that its a target for just about everyone, including the extremely intelligent race that built it. It was eventually destroyed by a cloud of corrosive micro-organisms.
10. Eagle Transporter
The show: Space: 1999
Why it's a damn fine vessel: The fact that something that's basically the sci-fi equivalent of a minibus has reached so high in a list full of nippy warships and battle cruisers says more about the iconic brilliance of the design than I ever could. It looks both practical and strangely cool, blending curves and corners in a way that really shouldn't work, but does.
9. Star Destroyers
The movies / show: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Star Wars Rebels
Why it's a damn fine vessel: The name's probably the big giveaway: there's no hyperbole there, the Star Destroyers really can obliterate entire star systems with their heavy fire power or stamp out rebellions on hostile planets. Another ILM-designed ship on the list, the dagger-shaped vessels are as much a threat for the 72 TIE Fighters and dozens of AT-ATs and AT-STs as they can carry as much as their own onboard weapons (turbolasers, ion cannons, and tractor beams).
The movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: It's great because, even nearly 40 years on, it still does what it was designed to do: make us go Wow! Designed by Ralph McQuarrie (most famous for his Star Wars preproduction art) and built by Greg Jein, it was inspired by an oil refinery at night that Spielberg saw while in India. To be honest, it looks more like a Cathedral at Christmas, and there's certainly something almost like a religious experience taking place at the climax of the movie. It's got one hell of a bass on its sound system as well. You wouldn't want one as a neighbour.
The movie / show: Serenity (2005) and Firefly
Why it's a damn fine vessel: She may look like a plucked parrot and lack the sleek design and elegant stylings of other ships on this list, but the Serenity is still as loveable as a fluffy wee kitten. Perhaps it's because her crew all talk about her as though she's alive. Perhaps it's because she seems to make sense, not only visually but practically; you can understand easily which bits of her do what, and her interiors reek of realism. Or perhaps it's because she's just as much a part of the crew as the crew themselves.
6. TIE Fighters
The show / movies: Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: In a film franchise packed with iconic ships, the TIE (Twin Ion Engine) Fighter remains one of the most iconic, with its hexagonal wing design and spherical cockpit. The TIE Fighter has great speed and manoeuvrability, which is great, but the downside of this is, well, its a bit disposable - along with the lackeys who fly them on behalf of the Empire.
5. The TARDIS
The show: Doctor Who
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Where to begin? Bigger on the inside, can go anywhere in time and space and can camouflage itself when it arrives (well, in theory). The interior has regular makeovers (from retro-60s sci-fi, to mock-Star Wars, to gothic revival, organic oceanic, junk yard and beyond) and even timber-clad secondary control rooms but the flight deck has always contained the iconic hexagon central console and some form of moving time rotor. The real beauty of the TARDIS is that it's quirky and unique.
4. X-Wing Starfighters
The movies: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: The Rebel Alliances fighter of choice (you can keep your Y-Wings, B-Wings and A-Wings), the X-Wing is simplicity in motion. Elegant straight lines echo the basic structure of an Earth aeroplane, while the moveable S-foils that give the craft its name help make really cool toy replicas. Theres also room for your R2 unit, and they seem mercifully resistant to rust (one was submerged in a bog on Dagobah, but emerged fully flight-worthy).
3. Battlestar Galactica
The show: Battlestar Galactica
Why it's a damn fine vessel: A warhorse of a ship, Galactica is a military grade aircraft carrier equivalent. The classic series design was so iconic, the new series modified it only subtly and intelligently. More than 1,400 metres long, the Galactica, at its peak, could carry four squadrons of 20 Vipers, launched from the Flight Pops on either side of the main ship. It was also built with siege situations in mind, and if fully equipped and fully functioning, it could maintain a crew of at least 2,800 for several years. It even had battery back-up power.
2. USS Enterprise NCC-1701
The shows / movies: Star Trek - The Original Series, Star Trek - The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: This ship is such a cultural icon that NASA renamed its first space shuttle Enterprise (rather than the less catchy Constitution) after it received thousands of letters lobbying for the change. As well as warp drive technology, the ship boasts 14 science labs, an observation deck and weaponry including phasers and photon torpedoes. It had many upgrades and at least two refits and, by the time it was destroyed, it had become the most celebrated starship of its time. (And I'm counting all the different versions NX-01, NCC-1701, NCC-1701-A to J, etc as one here, otherwise there would be enough different Enterprises to fill half the countdown).
1. The Millennium Falcon
The movie: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Why it's a damn fine vessel: Look at it! The coolest ship in the galaxy is made up of numerous design elements that shouldn't really work - wilful asymmetry, a visible cockpit, a satellite dish (?!) - but when they come together its like poetry in a spaceship. It's fast (can your vehicle do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, whatever that actually means?), highly manoeuvrable in both asteroid fields and Death Stars, and comes with some excellent user modifications, such as removable floorboards that create a convenient hiding place when you're being chased by the law. The ship can also be used as currency when gambling.