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The 25 greatest starships of the last 25 years

Contributed by
Jun 6, 2019

Here at SYFY WIRE, it’s no secret that we enjoy celebrating the things that we love. Sometimes that takes the form of unranked lists. To us, that’s love.

Join us as our entire staff celebrates anything and everything in genre through our series of “25 Greatest from the last 25 years” lists. They are all unranked, because all of the people, movies, shows, comics, props (and so on) have equal standing for us.

Getting around the galaxy may not seem easy, but when you're at the controls of the right ship, it'll always be a blast (yes, that's a starship pun). From ships that are the size of small countries to small, maneuverable starfighters, this is one of the most common and necessary parts of science fiction storytelling.

It's now time to look to the last 25 years for our favorite ships, vessels, and transports that can send us off on an adventure through space and time and fight off hordes of alien enemies.

Asgard Mothership – Stargate: SG-1

The Bilskirnir-class ship, or just an Asgard Mothership if you don't want to sound like you're having a stroke while saying it, looks quite like a hammer. Wait. Hammer. Asgard. Ohhhhhh, we get it now! Like Thor's Hammer? Like the name of their Supreme Commander? Ah-ha! I wonder if any captain of a Bilskirnir ever said "It's hammer time" when going into battle. Anyway, these ships have powerful defensive systems and engines that can rocket the crew across a galaxy in minutes, and it just looks awesome.

The Arwing – Star Fox

Do a barrel roll! One of the best ships in gaming, the Awring is so cool you don't even  have to be an anthropomorphic pilot to enjoy it. Equally maneuverable in outer space and along a rocky and watery terrain, the only thing the Arwing is desperately missing is a way to mute incoming transmissions from Slippy. DOES THAT FROG EVER SHUT UP?!


The Bebop – Cowboy Bebop

Honestly, every ship on Cowboy Bebop would be a blast to take a ride in, from Spike's Swordfish II to Faye's Red Tail. But while those are fun for a skirmish or two, flying around the Solar System in the Bebop would be the real journey. This is a pretty Spartan vessel, but it has everything you absolutely need in it: a spacious living room, a great place to eat some bell peppers and beef (with or without the beef), etc. It's also the perfect place to find the next bounty to claim. Whatever you do, don't open the old fridge in the storage room. Seriously, just don't.

The Betty – Alien: Resurrection

Look, we love our dated old ships that somehow have stuck around for a long time. The Betty is a big behemoth that looks like it's been through some sh*t, even before we see what happens to it and its crew during the events of Alien: Resurrection. Probably the best part of this ship is the classic World War II-style emblem emblazoned on the side, a sign that really shows its age.

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The Carrier – The Authority

Who wouldn’t want to fly around in a ship that looks like a giant, angry, gaping maw with insect legs coming out the back of it? If you really want to get away, this is a shiftship, capable of flying across universes in the multiverse thanks to its ability to shift into "The Bleed" between them. A wholly unique and also at least partially sentient ship, it would let you see all the worlds of the DCU – just make sure the Monitors don't catch you using it, as it's technically stolen (like most great ships, honestly).

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Cylon Basestar – Battlestar Galactica

These ships, which look quite like six-pointed stars, are, like the Cylons and their smaller ships, actually biomechanical – parts of these ships are living, organic material. If flying inside a living thing makes you go "ew," we get it, but their high-powered offensive weaponry and their ability to heal from damage (see, the living thing has an advantage), not to mention their cool name-based design, still make these awesome to experience. Don't even get us started on the stylish interiors.

The Defiant – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

While most Starfleet ships seen for the first 30-odd years of Star Trek history looked and acted much like the Enterprise, the Defiant changed the game. The ship looked a bit like the detached dish section on its own, and had another major difference: It was a full-on warship, the first designed after the Federation came across the Borg. This isn't a ship for long voyages of exploration – it doesn't have anything fancy like the holodeck or large gardens. But if you’re looking to get in a fight with an extraterrestrial power, you're in great shape in the Defiant with its cloaking device, quantum torpedos and advanced shields and armor.

The Discovery - Star Trek: Discovery

Two words: spore drive. Not only is the USS Discovery a gorgeous looking ship, it’s also the fastest ship in the fleet thanks to a drive that can ride the mycelial network. It turns out that fungus holds the universe together, and Paul Stamets can use that to place this starship wherever he wants. Well, mostly…it does get them into trouble (and sometimes puts them in a mirror universe), but for the most part, the spore drive often saves the day. It does it with style too, as the saucer section of the ship turns and twists to make it happen.


The Enterprise - Star Trek Beyond, Star Trek: Discovery

When it comes to boldly going where no one has gone before, there's no ship we'd rather be on than the USS Enterprise. This ship has been redesigned several times over the decades (including a gorgeous one in 2009 and another for Discovery) but every time, the ship with the giant disk and the glowing warp engines inspires generation after generation to seek out and explore. 


The Event Horizon – Event Horizon

While this ship is extremely cool, with the long neck holding up a grim-looking main body, we'd not recommend going anywhere near it. It is, after all, possessed by an evil entity, meaning this ship will bring you horrors and nightmares directly out of your own fears and thoughts. You board this thing, you're probably going to wind up killing your friends and dead on your own. Like its namesake around a black hole, let's just steer clear of this ship.


Galactica – Battlestar Galactica

If you're traveling, staying awake for 130 hours and essentially panicking every 33 minutes that the remains of humanity might be eliminated from the galaxy … there's no better ship to do it in than the Galactica. This ship is a home, a battleship, an aircraft carrier, all in one. It's a ship known for survival – and keeping others alive, no more noble a quest for a vessel. If you start hearing "All Along the Watchtower," don't freak out … it just means you're special.

The Ghost – Star Wars Rebels

Without question, the coolest ships in the galaxy far, far away are always made by the Corellian Engineering Corporation. And while we love the Falcon, and it technically qualifies thanks to its inclusion in the Sequel Trilogy, the brand-new Ghost edges it out. It's swift and maneuverable, can be stealthy when it needs to, and carries multiple laser cannons that can be fired nicely by Jedi, Twi'leks, and Lasat alike. An extra vessel, the Phantom, can dock, fly on its own as a shuttle, starfighter, and even has its own hyperdrive. If you're on the Ghost, you're family. Whether you're fighting the Empire in the earliest days of the Rebellion or supporting the Rogue One squad in the Battle of Scarif, having the Ghost at your command or at your side will always increase your chances of survival.

The Heart of Gold – Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Its design is up for debate. Its Infinite Improbability Drive is extremely dangerous to use (or rather, it could be, or not). While the GPPs might malfunction every once in a while, every good ship needs some kind of slightly sarcastic, surly AI on board, and Marvin the Paranoid Android fits that bill better than just about any ever conceived. Not a lot of ships out there were co-designed by a shade of blue, either.

Mothership – Independence Day

If you're looking for sheer power, then the ID4 Mothership is here for you. At about 600 km long, capable of holding 83 City Destroyer ships, it allows you to invade – or destroy – a planet with pretty relative ease. Sure, it's somehow still susceptible to nuclear weapons and human computer viruses, but if you go for sheer shock and awe, you should be in good shape.


The Milano – Guardians of the Galaxy

The ship Star-Lord, um, "borrowed" from the Ravagers (permanently) is a great, middle-of-the-road starship. It can handle itself in battle, has enough room for a good-sized crew and has enough customizations to make any captain happy. Plus, its sound system is perfect for piloting along to whatever awesome mixes you might have compiled. Just don’t bring a blacklight on board. Trust us.

The Millennium Falcon (Lando Edition) - Solo: A Star Wars Story

We had countless adventures in the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy before Solo: A Star Wars Story, but this particular prequel let us travel aboard out favorite Star Wars ship when Lando was it’s owner. The difference? It was a lot more comfortable. It almost felt like one giant lounge, complete with a wet bar and a cape closet. Lando doesn’t do anything without style, and his take on the classic freighter certainly reflected that. While we were happy to see our old baby back to the way we know and love her at the end the film, a tiny bit of us may miss Lando’s flying casino.


Moya – Farscape

Third time's a charm for another living ship, this time a Leviathan Transport named MoyaMoya doesn't have any weapons, or much to speak of in the way of defenses, but the design, much like a long, giant, ancient squid, is visually appealing. The Starburst faster-than-light drive can take you anywhere you want to go in minutes, and hey, you even have the chance of getting a second ship for free if she has a child! Cute!

The Normandy SR-2 – Mass Effect 2

This sleek vessel, with its long, winged design, has everything you need for you and your complement of human and alien crews to investigate and fight the Reaper threat. Easily upgradable and customizable, the Normandy SR-2 can be outfitted to work for you, equipped to survive even the most dangerous of suicide missions. Having your own awesome AI, EDI, on board, always helps, too. If it has one weakness, its in its mineral scanner, but really, you don’t have to spend that much time using it.


Planet Express Ship - Futurama

A bright green ship that looks like a luxury streamliner on the outside and mostly a total dump on the inside, "Old Bessie" still manages to get the job done – for the most part. It flies by moving the universe around it with a dark matter engine, has its own Lion's den (seriously), and as a bonus, has a computer that's been voiced by both voice-acting legend Maurice LeMarche and sci-fi legend Sigourney Weaver. Just be careful of dimensional drift, all right, you racing hoodlums?

Quinjet – The Avengers/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Sure, Iron Man can fly and Thor can take the Rainbow Bridge anywhere in the universe, but what happens when Black Widow needs to get into battle or a whole team needs to arrive quickly? The Quinjet. In the MCU, it was designed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. transport before the Avengers took one on for themselves, the vertical take-off and landing jet just plain (or is it just "plane"?) looks cool. With room for several superheroes, it sure is convenient. While it might not be interstellar just yet, it's a great ship to have at your command when Earth-bound. Just, um, don't jump out the back without a parachute unless you've had super soldier serum first, OK?

The Rocinante – The Expanse

This Corvette-class Martian Navy ship is certainly unique-looking, with a long, cylindrical style not seen in a lot of the other ships on this list – you might say it "looks like a big chisel with an upside-down coffee cup on the back," for example. The versatility of the Roci is what makes it so desirable – it can hold a complement of dozens of Navy officers or be run by a capable crew as few as four people. It’s the only ship named after a literary character's horse on our list, and the blue lighting throughout just seems to make everyone look so much sexier.

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The Rocketship Tree – Saga

Who needs to build an intergalactic vessel when you can just grow one? The planet Cleave used to have a Rocketship Forest, a whole forest of trees that also happen to be rocketships (and sentient). These are probably the most beautiful vessels of the last 25 years, reaching up toward the sky with multiple spires, looking like they're pointing the way to adventure. While they may be virtually extinct, a ride in one of these, as well as the bond you can form with it, would be amazing.

Serenity – Firefly

In the grand tradition of a ship flown by a roguish captain that doesn't look like much and needs constant work to keep it together, the Serenity, a Firefly class vessel (which explains the name of the show and the movie that followed nicely) is just the vessel you need for your frontier, slightly outlaw, smuggler life. The design is new, but the obvious nod to the Millennium Falcon in the captain loving the ship despite it constantly being called a piece of junk is a nice homage. Honestly, the only way we'd want the Serenity is if we got the entire crew to fly around with it and help us explore every nook and cranny of the 'verse.


The TARDIS – Doctor Who

It may look like a simple blue police box, but it’s bigger on the inside. The Time And Relative Dimension In Space is a vehicle capable of not just transporting you across vast distances in the Universe, but also across all of time. The travel options in the TARDIS are quite literally infinite. We hear you get to decorate it yourself (and find the swimming pool), too.


TIE Fighters – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, Rebels

Sienar Fleet Systems sure know how to make a starfighter. The TIE may be the primary small fighter of the evil Empire and the First Order that succeeded them, but it's still an easy fan favorite. Whether you're checking out the classic model, with its many variants like the new TIE striker or TIE defender as seen in Rogue One and Rebels, or the new striking black and red models employed by the First Order, this ship, known for its speed and maneuverability (but not its durability) is always awesome. As great as they look in action, the sound is the real distinction of the TIE – famously created by the combination of an elephant wail and a car on wet pavement, if you hear a TIE flying by, you know exactly what craft is overhead.

Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which starships either created or rebooted or famous in the last 25 years you’d put on your list!

Make sure to check out the rest of our 25 greatest lists here.

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