Some of science fiction’s greatest moments come from a sense of discovery. And nothing creates a greater sense of wonder, or leads to even more amazing moments, than the fictional spaceships that take intrepid bands of heroes careening across the galaxies.
Film, television, and books throughout the decades have created spaceships beyond our wildest imaginations, incorporating pieces of real world technology and using imagination to expand the scope of what was once thought possible. Thanks to science fiction, the ideas for interstellar travel and spaceship design in the real world have gone far beyond what was once thought possible. Countless ideas and prototypes have been made solely due to what has been put forward in fiction.
These are the 15 best spaceships to ever be featured in a fictional story. From sleek fighters to massive freighters, these spaceships are amazing inventions. One rule, while some of these ships may spend most of their time on Earth, they are considered a spaceship as long as they are designed to work in outer space.
15. TARDIS – Doctor Who
It’s the one character that may be more recognizable than The Doctor himself, mostly because it doesn’t change appearances every other year. The advanced technology of the Time Lords led to this sentient space and time travelling vessel. However, The Doctor pilots an obsolete model whose broken shape-changing circuits have left it in the shape of a ‘60s-style London police box. Thankfully, it’s much bigger on the inside. In fact, it seems as if it’s so huge it can never be fully explored.
Best Feature: Yes, travelling through space is awesome, especially since the TARDIS can travel anywhere in moments flat. But time travel is its greatest feature, leading to all types of exciting adventures, both on Earth and throughout the universe.
14. USG Ishimura – Dead Space
Designed to mine and smelt entire planets and moons throughout the galaxy, the USG Ishimura represents the probable future of space travel. This planet-cracker vessel is the first of its kind, almost being a relic by the beginning of the first Dead Space video game. Unfortunately, it’s also the site of a horrifying outbreak of the undead. These Necromorphs roam its halls, making the already dilapidated vessel the most terrifying place in the galaxy.
Best Feature: The planet-cracking tools, of course. All those necromorphs make it memorable, but I wouldn’t want them on my ship.
13. Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder – Thor
You won’t be seeing this in any Marvel films anytime soon, but Thor’s enchanted chariot pulled by the gigantic goats Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder is an awesome addition to the mythology. An original part of the thunder god’s Norse mythology, it’s a mainstay in Marvel Comics. Riding in the chariot, Thor is able to cross space and move between the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil without needing the Bifrost Bridge. A thunder god riding into battle being pulled by two enormous goats flying through space is an impressive sight indeed.
Best Feature: Probably the fact that these are two enormous goats that can travel through space and cross dimensions, just by sheer force of being magical! A perfect blend of old school and new school.
12. Axiom – Wall-E
When humanity ruined the Earth with pollution, there was only one place to turn – outer space. Thankfully, Buy n Large’s enormous spaceship, the Axiom, was able to take all of humanity onboard to live in space forever, or until the Earth recovered. Yes, it may basically be just one giant mall and its travel-everywhere chairs may have made humanity overweight and boneless, but it kept them alive! With a never-ending assortment of robots everywhere and bright gleaming halls, the Axiom actually seems like a pretty amazing place.
Best Feature: A never-ending supply of food makes this the perfect vessel for continuous intergalactic travel. Maybe it will make everyone fat, but it will keep them alive, too.
11. Bubble Ship – Oblivion
Tom Cruise’s science fiction film Oblivion was most memorable for its look and sound, not its story. But the Bubble Ship was definitely one of the film’s greatest features. This sleek and fast reconnaissance vehicle is not only incredibly beautiful, but has moves that would make most of the ships on this list envious. Being able to twist and turn in every direction means that this vehicle is perfectly suited for every terrain, while its Apple-like look is the perfect complement for a beautiful dystopian Earth.
Best Feature: With nearly every piece movable, the Bubble Ship is incredible mobile. Spinning wings, rotating cockpit, and more are all on display in Oblivion’s awesome canyon chase.
10. Star Destroyer – Star Wars
While the Death Star can destroy entire planets, it’s the Star Destroyers that impose The Empire’s authority across the known galaxy. These humongous vessels are much faster than you might guess. Combined with immense firepower, few ships can go head to head with a Star Destroyer. Even more terrifying is that fact that they like to travel in fleets, with a seemingly endless amount of Tie Fighters pouring out of their docks during battles. Bonus points for featuring the even more massive Executor in its ranks, if it gets taken out like a chump during The Battle of Endor.
Best Feature: The sheer intimidation factor. No matter who you are chasing, anyone would be scared out of their mind once they see a Star Destroyer coming after them.
9. The Bebop – Cowboy Bebop
It seems as if The Bebop is always breaking down. Originally a fishing trawler used to bring fish back from the distant seas of Ganymede, The Bebop was converted for use as a transport vessel for its bounty hunter crew comprised of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein. Pieced together from parts old and new, The Bebop is constantly in need of repair, but it always gets the job done. Filled with everything from a living room to Jet’s bonsai garden, this is truly a home for wayward souls looking to make a living anyway possible.
Best Feature: Having the fighter vehicles Hammer Head, Swordfish II, and Red Tail on board mean that the Bebop is not just a transport, but is ready for dangerous interspace dogfights at any moment.
8. Nostromo – Alien
The Nostromo resembles a giant industrial factory floating through the pitch black regions of space. And with good cause. It basically is. While the Weyland-Yutani Corporation vessel’s faster-than-light capabilities mean that it can reach far flung planets for mining, the trip is still incredibly long. Crew members undergo cryogenic sleep to endure the long haul while artificial intelligence “Mother” controls the ship. Inside, it’s all dank corridors and dingy lighting, which is are made all the more terrifying when a deadly alien begins prowling its halls. Get in the escape pod and take off and definitely do not go into the air ducts.
Best Feature: The cryogenic sleep chamber. You may wake up feeling terrible, but you can travel anywhere without aging. Plus, if a member of your crew gets a Xenomorph embryo implanted in him, you can just freeze him and save yourself.
7. Tie Fighter – Star Wars
Tie Fighters have strength in numbers. These short distance fighter vessels can engage single vehicles on their own, but they seem rather fragile and typically explode in a rather spectacular fashion after taking a single hit. But their iconic simple design mixed with instantly recognizable sounds make the Tie Fighters one of the Star Wars series’ greatest vehicles. From the original film’s Death Star run to the overwhelming Battle of Endor, there are few things scarier than seeing dozens of Tie Fighters heading straight toward you.
Best Feature: The seemingly endless variety of crafts. From bombers to interceptors and everything in between, there is a ship for every pilot. They may be expendable, but they’re useful!
6. Slave I – Star Wars
While bounty hunter Boba Fett’s vehicle was only briefly glimpsed in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s incredibly original design helped to burn it in the brains of viewers everywhere. Sitting on its flat bottom and rotating 90 degrees to fly upright, it’s unlike any other vehicle seen previously in fiction. There’s no mistaking Fett’s vehicle for anyone else’s. As shown by Episode II, it’s outfitted with missiles and laser cannons, as well as endless upgrades by Fett. It’s a vessel suited to tracking and engaging bounties across the galaxy.
Best Feature: The look. Yes, it’s been shown to be chockfull of weapons, but the real reason why Slave I became famous is for its original design and unmistakable look.
5. Serenity – Firefly
With a dash of the Millennium Falcon, a dose of Thee Bebop, and a whole lot of Joss Whedon, the Serenity is one of the best spaceships in recent years. Looking like a mix between a firefly bug and a plucked chicken, the Serenity is just as unique as the series it starred in. The Serenity is older than any of its crewmembers and survives because of constant temporary fixes. But it always gets the job done, helping its desperate ragtag crew pull off all manner of illegal schemes across the galaxy.
Best Feature: Its incredibly versatile nature. The Serenity can dodge Reaver ships, engage enemies, and fly inches off terrain for heists at a moment’s notice thanks to its rotating engines.
4. Cheyenne Dropship – Aliens
While it’s only a small part of a much larger fictional world, the Colonial Marines’ Cheyenne Dropship is incredibly memorable. Mostly, it’s because of how believable it seems. It simply screams military vehicle with gun metal paint and aggressive design. Taking the Marines from the confines of the Sulaco spaceship to the deadly surface of LV-426, it’s also a handy rescue vehicle when everything goes to hell. Yes, the Halo series stole this for their own ships. But it cribbed plenty more from Aliens besides the Cheyenne.
Best Feature: Sheer speed. It’ll take seconds flat to get from the Sulaco to the ground. It may be “an express elevator from hell,” but it’ll get your troops deployed and ready for battle in mere moments.
3. X-Wing – Star Wars
The ultimate in dogfighting spaceships, the X-Wing is synonymous with the Rebel Alliance. Like a modern jetfighter with a sci-fi twist, this is one of the many reasons why the Star Wars franchise immediately connected with audiences. It’s memorable, fun, and just plain cool. Creating an iconic X-shaped design is most likely a result of form over function, but the idea of having the ship’s S-foils lock into attack position makes this vehicle seem like it is fully function and working with a sense of internal logic. Plus, having an astromech droid be co-pilot makes it even better, especially if it’s R2-D2.
Best Feature: It’s the perfect fighter ship. Fast, agile, and filled with weapons, X-Wings are so much better than most fighter ships in Star Wars and any other franchise. Nothing better than going into battle with a whole squadron on your tail.
2. USS Enterprise – Star Trek
The beauty of the USS Enterprise is that its design is both simple and original at the same time. Essentially, it’s a stabilized flying saucer with huge engines that make it look completely unlike its inspiration. While the Enterprise is more than capable of engaging in battle, its purpose is exploration. And it shows. While the bridge looks awesome, it’s not some battle-hardened deck filled with joysticks and glowing red buttons. This is a ship that requires hundreds of well-trained, intelligent crewmembers everywhere to make sure it runs smoothly. Throw in the engine room, the holodeck, and the ever-cool captain’s chair (who wouldn’t want to sit in that???), and the Enterprise is the smartest ship in the galaxy.
Best Feature: The constant upgrades. From the original series to the reboot films, the USS Enterprise is continuously being improved. Whether it’s a rebuild within a story or simply an effects upgrade from filmmakers, the Enterprise is always getting better.
1. The Millennium Falcon – Star Wars
This is the end-all-be-all of sci-fi spaceships. Wholly original design? Check. Tons of exciting scenes focused on the vehicle? In spades. Amazing crew? You bet. The Millennium Falcon is the type of spacecraft that anyone would want. It’s not because it’s perfect or has every feature you could dream of wanting, but because the vehicle is just so iconic and cool. Unlike most spaceships featured in science fiction during the time, Lucas made the smart decision to make the vehicles throughout Star Wars vary vastly in quality and age. The Falcon is an old rust bucket that’s constantly giving out at the worst moment possible. But it’s also as tough as they come, surviving abductions by The Empire, a chase through an asteroid field, and two daring escapes from exploding Death Stars. With Han Solo and Chewbacca at the helm, there is no other ship better fit for travelling through a galaxy far, far away.
Best Feature: The turret guns on the top and bottom of the ship. While the Millennium Falcon is better suited for escape than fighting, these manually operated turrets help turn it into a deadly weapon when it comes time to engage the enemy.
Honorable Mentions: The Ark (Transformers), Truth and Reconciliation (Halo), Gunstar (The Last Starfighter), Mothership (Close Encounters), Planet Express (Futurama), Sulaco (Aliens), Bird-of-Prey, (Star Trek), Borg Cube (Star Trek)
Do you have a favorite fictional spaceship? Or think the list should be ordered differently? Let me know in the comments section.