The 25 most iconic sci-fi spaceships, as chosen by a Hollywood VFX designer

15. USS Cygnus

The movie: The Black Hole (1979)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: The Robert McCall designed Cygnus plays the part of the “Haunted house in space” perfectly in this 1979 Disney movie. Looking more like the Eiffel Tower than a traditional spaceship, the vehicle even featured enormous greenhouses and baroque dining rooms.

14. The USCSS Nostromo

The movie: Alien (1979)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: The original “Truckers in space” movie also gave us the most beautifully ugly space truck – the Nostromo. Named after the Joseph Conrad novel, this towing vessel was originally painted a bright yellow. Early camera tests show it in this rather garish livery, before it was dressed down to a more typical science fiction standard hull-grey.

13. USS Reliant (NCC-1864)

The movie: Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: This ship was the first time as a kid that I saw an alternate take on the Starfleet ship configuration and ever since I have appreciated this kind of “world building” in episodic science fiction storytelling. The Reliant was the perfect aesthetic opponent for Kirk’s original Enterprise.

12. USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A)

The movie: Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: Every Star Trek fan has their preferred version of the iconic Enterprise, but for me, this is the one that takes the cake. Probably the most recognisable star ship ever put to screen, this update on the classic original added just the right amount of fresh detail to make a timeless design take on another level of credibility as a real-life vessel.

11. Colonial Shuttle

The show: Battlestar Galactica Original Series (1978)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: This ship was the first time I’d seen a shuttle craft in a science fiction setting that looked like it could actually haul a useful amount of cargo/freight. It was quite a bit bigger than the fighters that usually escorted it and it just feels so real-world and believable in scale. Compare and contrast to the Star Trek shuttles that were around in the same era!

10. The Narcissus

The movie: Alien (1979)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: The Nostromo shuttle doubled up as life boat for the crew. The effect of the engines firing at the end of the movie was achieved by lifting the ship into the studio roof, tipping on its end and blasting hundreds of gallons of water through the exhausts past some very bright lights.

9. Aires Lunar Lander

The movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: The Aires shuttle was designed using speculative NASA plans for future travel systems and was based on what a hypothetical a scaled-up version of the Apollo era Lunar Landers might eventually become. It seemed a very realistic proposition when it was designed back in 1968.

8. The Liberator

The show: Blake's 7 (1978)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: The Liberator was the alien ship found and appropriated by Roj Blake and his gang of outlaws in the BBC TV series Blake's Seven. Probably the biggest mistake the show made was destroying this beautiful craft, as the replacement ship Scorpio never got the same love from fans of the show. Always mysterious, the Liberator had a self healing hull, seemingly infinite wardrobes and enough food on board for a single man to last a thousand years.

7. Thunderfighter

The show: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

Why it's a damn fine vessel: This ship was designed by the legendary Ralph Mcquarrie (who famously designed most of the original Star Wars). It was actually a repurposed design from an original rejected design for the Colonial Viper from the original 1980s Battlestar Galactica TV show.

6. Slave 1

The movie: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Why it's a damn fine vessel: This iconic bounty hunter's ship was originally inspired by the ball shaped street lights outside the ILM model building shop in Marin County. The iconic engine sound of the ship was designed by the legendary Ben Burtt by combining the horn of his car with trumpets.

Click 'Next Page' to see the top 5 entries in our countdown of the best sci-fi spaceships.   

Jack Shepherd
Senior Entertainment Editor

I'm the Senior Entertainment Editor here at GamesRadar+, bringing you all the latest movie and TV news, reviews, and features. Plus I look after the Total Film and SFX sections and socials media channels. I used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film

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