It's been 32 long years since we last saw our heroes on the big screen in Return of the Jedi. But on Dec. 18, one of the most famous franchises -- if not THE most famous franchise -- in movie history is returning to theaters in the much-anticipated next chapter of their story with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Over the next 20 weeks, we will celebrate the franchise by looking back and ranking the best, the worst, the weirdest, and the most amusing moments in Star Wars history.
In the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope, the spaceship Tantive IV is being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer near Tatooine.
The scene is jaw-dropping, as laser beams are fired back and forth, but the look of the spaceships and the showcase of power set the stage for one of the greatest series in motion picture history. It also establishes this as a film franchise full of awesomely designed modes of transportation.The vehicles of Star Wars, whether on land or in space, provided a unique look that influenced future science fiction films and kids of all ages. In celebration of that spirit, I decided to rank the 50 vehicles from all the Star Wars films from worst to best.
Do you agree? Tell us what you think in the comments.
50. V-Wing Fighter
This is an escort vehicle that provided support to the Emperor’s shuttle in Episode III. It's an interesting design, and combines a few different existing styles, but was eventually succeeded by the more well-known TIE fighter. It appeared on screen, but if I had a police lineup with Star Wars vehicles, I probably wouldn't be able to point it out.
49. Coruscant Air Taxi
Why haven’t convertible taxis caught on? This is a nice way for diplomats to enjoy the open air as they travel to and from a town where ambassadors are frequently targeted. Well, at the very least it looks comfortable.
48. ATT Battle Tank
The floating battle tanks that somehow got destroyed by the glowing balls of the Gungan. It’s strange that tanks in all previous films had legs and walked toward their target but this one floats. Anyway, who cares, it was a center point to a battle that Star Wars fans wish had never happened.
47. Naboo N-1 Starfighter
The Naboo N-1 Starfighter’s slick design in bright yellow might be the Italian sports car of the Star Wars Universe. It looks like it was made of fiberglass and definitely continued the CGI look into Episode I, eliminating the “bucket of bolts,” pile-of-junk feel of the Millennium Falcon. It looks slick, absolutely, but remains a symbol of the unwelcome departure the first three episodes took from the worn design approach. This is the epitome of the slick CGI designs many fans loathe about the prequels.
46. Vulture Droid
The starships/droids that Anakin fought when he was a kid and against which, somehow, through autopilot and a lot of dumb luck, saved the day in Episode I. If you blinked, you probably missed them, and by that time you probably didn’t care.
45. Soulless One
The forgettable, not particularly inspired starship of General Grievous that, while it does have a somewhat cool name, is not very exciting at all. It's the type of design that could've popped up in a random videogame or B-level sci-fi flick. Do you remember it from Episode III? Neither did I.
44. Republic Cruiser
The ship that Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan take to meet with the trade federation. The ship mainly stays parked in Episode I and isn’t that compelling to look at. It does have a nice paint job, though, and features a few design cues that look vaguely like the Millennium Falcon.
43. Naboo Royal Starship
Most likely made with the same material from Flight of the Navigator, the Naboo Royal Starship is all flash, no substance. It provides luxury and class in the way that only CGI can, and makes one wonder how luxury went from the slick silver look of the Royal Starship to the junky yet resilient Tantive IV. It does have a mild Blackbird vibe, though. I wonder what the escape pods from this ship would look like. Wait, scratch that. Never mind.
42. Republic Attack Gunship
Starships that look like Blackhawk helicopters without the propeller blades. With a forgettable design, the Republic Attack Gunships' main highlight was carrying Yoda to fight in Episode II with an open door.
41. Republic Attack Cruiser
A predecessor to the Star Destroyer, the Republic Attack Cruiser shows a similar design and focus on ship-to-ship combat. It wasn’t seen much in Episode III, and its only appearance (not including in animated form) is largely forgettable. It's basically a steppingstone to the Star Destroyer we know and love.
40. Solar Sailer
While denying all physics, the Solar Sailer was Count Dooku’s parachute ship that somehow worked in space. Science! Even though Count Dooku wasn't the most compelling of villains in the Star Wars Universe, at least he confused us all by leaving in this weird contraption.
39. Gungan Bongo Submarine
A submarine that looks a lot like a stingray, this vehicle isn’t great when it comes to firepower but makes up for it by having streamers on the end that look like a tail. It provides an unneeded scene in which Jar Jar talks constantly and everyone in the premiere audience started to have a bad feeling about why Episode I might not have been worth staying up to midnight for.
38. Flash Speeder
Basically, if BMW decided to make the X-34 Landspeeder and attach a gun to it, it would look like this. Polished and probably very expensive, the Flash Speeder doesn’t look like it has much more functionality to offer than the X-34. Who knows? Maybe it has a camera in the dashboard that turns on when you go in reverse, or a touchscreen radio. Good if you have a little cash to spend.
37. Gian Speeder
Very similar to the Flash Speeder, but this time the guns are located on the sides and not the back. Basically fulfills the same role but more for when you think you might be chasing people than if people are chasing you. There's a speeder for every kind of chase scene!
36. Trade Federation Battleship
Basically a letter C with a dot inside it (aka the "Death Donut"). A neat space station design, but not terribly practical. You never see it in a fight, and it basically looks like it would be murder if you’re on one end and have to meet someone on the other. Maybe a space jump across the gap? You probably wouldn’t even bother.
35. Sith Speeder
Doesn’t the Sith Speeder look like the training-wheels-level speeder you’d give to the person who was afraid to ride the Speeder Bike? And watching Darth Maul, the villain everyone was the most excited about in the first episode, get on that sad-looking machine was so disappointing. He had a double lightsaber but he couldn’t hitch a ride on something cooler?
34. Trade Federation Landing Ships
These small ships with huge wingspans held the droids used to fight the Gungan in Episode I. As a transport ship they have an interesting design, since the cargo is held in the wings. The downside: They were a main player in the worst battle scene in Star Wars history.
33. ETA-2 Jedi Starfighter
Basically a pod with two long guns (that kind of look like a track for the pod) with two wings. Comes in a variety of colors. The design on this seems pretty uninspired, as it looks similar to the Delta-7, just with more firepower.
32. Delta-7 Jedi Starfighter
Having the same pointy look as Imperial Starships, the Delta-7 Jedi Starfighter doesn’t stand out against the rest of the individual starfighters in Episodes I through III. The slick aerodynamics allow one to think that Obi-Wan should be able to maneuver easily, both in space and on a planet, yet the overall design doesn’t offer much excitement or enthusiasm.
31. Sebulba’s Podracer
The design of two rubber bands to big engines seems to be standard for podracers. And Sebulba’s racer, one that typically wins, would have a lot more clout if he didn’t cheat all the time. What am I saying? This is just the villain’s spaceship in a lackluster scene from a movie we all probably wish hadn't happened. Though we do dig the V-style engines.
30. Anakin’s Podracer
Built in secret, though it seems almost impossible that anything this big could be made in secret, Anakin Skywalker's podracer was a winner all the way. While the podracing tournament became a main story piece of Star Wars Episode I, plus a subsequent videogame that followed, the Wacky Races style of the race combined with the loose gags that accompanied it make my reaction to this ship more of a frustrated shaking of the head than the thrilling white-knuckle experience that Lucas wanted.
29. General Grievous’ Tsmeu-6 Wheel Bike
A motorcycle that looks to have more functionality than it needs, this is the main vehicle of General Grievous. Its design of a big wheel seems questionable from both an agility and a speed point of view (Obi-Wan’s ability to catch up to him on a Boga reinforces this theory). It was later made into a vehicle for the people of South Park called the IT.
28. AT-TE Walker
Not as impressive as the AT-AT or AT-ST, the AT-TE is a bug-looking tank. Basically, it's like a huge metal turtle. Although the firepower of the vehicle is impressive, the lack of time on-screen and lack of mobility make the AT-TE the least impressive in the AT series.
27. Tantive IV
A diplomatic ship that was the focal point of Star Wars: A New Hope. Princess Leia used her status to steal plans of the Death Star, which set everything in motion. Plus the fact that the ship had great escape pods that can make it all the way down to the nearby planet really proved useful. While the ship doesn't last long in A New Hope, its role in the destruction of the Death Star will always be remembered.
26. Cloud Car
Probably the most thought-provoking vehicles in Empire Strikes Back. Does only one person drive, and if so what do the people in the other car do? Do they navigate, and if so, shouldn’t they be in the same car?
25. Sith Infiltrator
The best vehicle from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the Sith Infiltrator’s sleek design looked like a more spherical version of Vader’s TIE Advanced Fighter from the back with a X-Wing fighter's profile at the front. It's like a UFO, except you just know those aliens are going to come down and kill everyone. Also, the Imperial Guard-red interior made for a rather intimidating entrance for Darth Maul as he landed on Tatooine.
The B-Wing might be the strangest design of all. Not the best for going in small places but excellent if you’re one of those pilots who don’t like moving much. It’s either brilliant or crazy, but it is definitely perplexing.
23. Escape Pod
Probably the best way to get away from the Empire if you’re a droid. The escape pod doesn’t offer much comfort in terms of room, but it can get you safely onto any nearby planet with its four thrusters. There’s also a fancier version that will take you further away if you want to go to Dagobah.
22. Y-Wing Fighter
The older model relative to the A-Wing and X-Wing starfighters, the Y-Wing is typically used for bombing missions and ship-to-ship fights. It's probably not your first choice in a dogfight, but hey, it’s better than nothing.
21. GR-75 Medium Transport
An excellent way to leave any planet, this clam-like design exhibits a lot of detail on the surface while leaving a lot to the imagination in terms of how the inside truly looks. Also, the breadth of the ship showcases its ability to take large quantities of items long distances. Basically a U-Haul for Star Wars, or a flying submarine.
20. Mon Calamari Star Cruiser
A beautiful white interior, an impressive shield generator, and an ion cannon highlight the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser. Although probably not the ship you’d want to take into a trap, it can certainly provide enough strength to get out of a jam and complete the mission. Unlike an Imperial Star Destroyer, the Star Cruiser has more curves to its design. The outcome is an impressive multifunctional ship that added to one of the most exciting parts of Return of the Jedi.
19. AT-ST Walker
More mobile than its cousin the AT-AT, the AT-ST walker could typically go where a larger, quadripedal build could not. Its design is probably more suitable for the icy planet of Hoth, though, than Endor — since it seems like they were destroyed by every booby trap the Ewoks created for them. Yet the animal image of the design, complete with eye holes, gave a face to the vehicle, an aspect of engineering that people have responded to in cars as well.
18. The Khetanna
It’s not only a luxury sail barge but exactly the type of luxury sail barge that you’d find on Tatooine. The Khetanna combines the exoticism of a boat on Halong Bay with the rust and desolation of the desert planet. Without even knowing much about Jabba the Hutt, it’s exactly the type of ship you wanted him to be in.
17. TIE Bomber
Larger and less maneuverable than the TIE fighter, the TIE bomber made up for for its bulky size with the ability to drop bombs. Yet, sadly, we only get to see it do that once in Empire Strikes Back. Also the fact that these were in fights in which bombing definitely was a questionable strategy made one wonder. So, in a way, if you ran out of TIE fighters and you're in a space battle, you were stuck with one of these. Good luck.
16. A-Wing Fighter
A starship with an emphasis on speed, the A-Wing gets in and out fast. While not as impressive in its firepower or design as the X-Wing, the speed-focused A-Wing has a couple of laser cannon on its side and is an improvement made by the Rebel Alliance between Star Wars and Return of the Jedi to strengthen their squadrons.
Fast is the key for these snowspeeders, as they definitely look to not have the strength to withstand much. Yet, as the terrain speeds by, it’s difficult not to want to try out one of these speedsters, dodging blasts while circling the legs of an AT-AT. With a pilot up front and a gunner in the back, the Snowspeeders are the F-15 of the Star Wars universe. Watch out, though, because, just as in Top Gun, it’s pretty easy to lose your Goose.
14. Imperial Shuttle
The Imperial Shuttle is a smart design that not only provides class in travel but also saves in space in parking lots, as its wings conveniently fold upward (plus, it had really nice lights located on the wings so you can see them while flying at night). While the front did look a little like a dustbuster, the overall design was fit for an Emperor or Darth, as it definitely had both an imposing look and a kind of luxury that separated it from the typical TIE fighter.
13. Super Star Destroyer
A bigger, badass version of the Imperial Star Destroyer in the same arrowhead shape. They seem to always have Imperial Star Destroyers by them in battle, so, basically, if you see one you’re in a lot of trouble. The dreadnought size of the destroyer as well as the added lights give the Super Star Destroyer a more modern, technological feel than the Imperial Star Destroyer, and made it a fitting flagship for the Imperial fleet.
Sturdy, strong, and looking like a piece of art by Richard Serra, the Sandcrawler’s rust and durable design are very much influenced by the desert environment of Tatooine. It acts as a homebase for the Jawas as well as a vehicle in which to collect and sell droids. The pedrail wheels, the only wheels of their kind on a vehicle in Star Wars, display the weight of such a massive structure. Its imposing profile and mechanical look fit perfectly with the types of land vehicles encountered on Tatooine as well as the environment of such a desolate area.
11. TIE Interceptor
Take the typical TIE fighter and make it more awesome by putting points at the end. This, combined with a slicker, more aggressive design, showcase that, in the time between Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, the Empire spent a lot of time with its engineers and designers, perfecting their starship capabilities (it probably gets better mileage as well). Nice to know industrial design is a focus for the Empire.
10. TIE Advanced x1
The personal TIE Fighter of Darth Vader. Like a typical TIE Fighter but faster, more agile, and with a greater amount of firepower. The bent hexagonal panels on the side give the design a more aggressive, intimidating look. The only reason the TIE Advanced is so low on the list is that Darth Vader needed an escort in protecting the Death Star. If you have the best starship in the fleet plus you’re a Sith Lord, you should be able to be on your own.
9. X-34 Landspeeder
The Star Wars vehicle that you’d like to take for a Sunday drive, this speedy landcruiser flew over the sandy terrain so fast you wish it had a radio. This was the first land vehicle, with the exception of the Sandcrawler, that the audience encountered in Star Wars, and it set the stage for the industrial type of cruisers that inhabited the Star Wars universe.
8. Speeder Bike
The coolest vehicles in Return of the Jedi, speeder bikes brought the thrill of the chase in a way of which podracers could only dream (and did it a few decades earlier, to boot). The land of Endor provided the perfect terrain, full of trees and hazards, to really show off the velocity of what may be the most fun vehicle in all the Star Wars universe. The Speeder Bike chase scene is still one of the most exciting chases in all of science fiction, and worth watching again.
7. Death Star
Intimidating and iconic, the Death Star is the starship with the ability to destroy planets and a suitable headquarters to the all-powerful Empire. What’s most amazing about the Death Star is the details that went into each canal and crevice of the craft, with gun outposts that guard the surface as well as a concave weapon in the image of an eye, with unimaginable power. The presence of the Death Star in both Star Wars and Return of the Jedi showcases the looming power the Empire has over the universe as well as the emphasis on the strength and control of the Dark Side.
6. AT-AT Walkers
Stepping their way over the planet Hoth, the AT-AT Walkers were the sci-fi tanks we’d always wanted. Sure, vehicles with wheels tend to run faster, but ones with legs are so much cooler! Plus, the animal look of the walkers (inspired by an extinct species of hornless rhinoceros) as they slowly crept to their destination foretold an impending doom that was impossible not to be impressed by. The curious thing about the walkers is, why are they invulnerable to blasters when they’re moving but, if you trip them, they can be destroyed? Also, why were they so big? Did they carry anything in their bodies? Regardless, the seemingly endless herd of AT-ATs treading through the snow to the rebel base is always an iconic image in the Star Wars universe and a highlight of the second movie.
5. Imperial Star Destroyer
The gigantic Imperial Star Destroyer immediately opened the eyes of the audience of A New Hope and displayed the power of the Empire (it actually takes a full 12 seconds to show the entire ship as it passes above the camera). But as Han Solo proved, its radar system leaves a bit to be desired, and it does dump a lot of trash. As a show of strength, though, its firepower and ability to act as a hive to a swarm of TIE fighters showcase its role as a key weapon for the Empire.
4. X-Wing Fighter
Versatile, fast, and strong, with excellent firepower and the help of a droid, the X-Wing starfighter is the greatest weapon of the Rebel Alliance. As a counterpoint to the Empire’s TIE fighters, X-Wings displayed a more agile design, with the ability to open their wings and go into attack mode. The World War II dogfight feel of the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter battle in A New Hope has been replicated frequently in videogames and makes it one of the best battle scenes in all of the Star Wars movies.
3. TIE Fighter
A simple design of a ball cockpit in between two hexagonal panels emblazoned itself in our imaginations, and later spawned many variations, including the TIE Bomber, the TIE Advanced, and the TIE Interceptor. Imposing yet easy to destroy, TIE fighters came out in swarms, attacking from all angles. They have a similar design to the Slave One, in which the pilot gets an up-front view of the action, but the tendency to crash makes one question the agility of the fighter.
2. Slave I
The greatest ship for the best supporting role in the Star Wars universe: Boba Fett. The design is genius, as Slave One puts the captain right in the forefront with the ability to shoot directly at its enemy while standing, looking at him. It’s a perfect one-man ship for a warrior or bounty hunter. Plus, it has enough room in the cargo hold to carry someone if they’re frozen in carbonite.
1. Millennium Falcon
Other than having perpetual trouble with light speed, the Millennium Falcon is the coolest bucket of bolts in Star Wars. It’s the fastest thing in the galaxy, and acts both like a junky car you’re working on in the garage and as the speedster you always wanted to take out on a drive. Also, having destroyed one Death Star and provided an assist on another, the Falcon is the best card game prize ever. The livability of the Falcon, its firepower, and its agility are unmatched, and you can learn lightsaber skills inside or let a Wookiee beat you at chess. It’s easily the best ship in the galaxy and, arguably, all of science fiction.
That's our list! What did you think? What's your favorite Star Wars vehicle? Let us know in the comments!
Previously in 20 Weeks of Star Wars..