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The 25 Greatest Spaceships of Science Fiction

Sci-Fi Ships


So many discussions of ships in science fiction fall into the same tired debates. Who goes faster, the Millennium Falcon or the USS Enterprise? How big of a planet would the Death Star blow up — and how much would that ship cost, anyway? This slideshow takes things a step further. We talk about the most creative ships of science fiction. Yes, you'll see some familiar names on here, but we hope there will be at least a couple of surprises. Enjoy! [Best Space Movies in the Universe]

NEXT: A luxurious vessel

UNSC Infinity ('Halo' franchise)


The beautiful Infinity base in Halo is not only pretty to look at, but also a useful vessel for getting places. It's equipped with sublight and translight power, and able to avoid enemy attacks with the use of energy shields, according to Halopedia. The crew on board has the latest in entertainment, including a biosphere (said to rival natural parks on Earth) and a bar, called the Full Moon. To communicate with allies across long distances, Infinity even has superluminal communications capabilities. Now, if only there wasn't a war to fight, we could really enjoy a nice vacation on this ship.

NEXT: A machine with hidden depths

TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space)


Pick your favorite Doctor Who — there's probably going to be a TARDIS story in there sometime. This ship appears like a phone booth, but once you get inside the magic really starts to happen. At first glance, TARDIS appears like a mere time-travel machine, whisking characters back to chat with people like artist Vincent Van Gogh. But it's much more innovative than that. It not only can travel through time, but also space. First-time visitors are always surprised at how big the interior is — "It's bigger on the inside", is the famous line — as well as the ability of TARDIS to blend into its surroundings. It can withstand gunfire, falling from great heights or even entering a planet's atmosphere; indeed, it appears the only thing that will easily kill a TARDIS is to have another TARDIS interfering with it nearby.

NEXT: A plucky warrior

Battlestar Galactica (Battlestar Galactica, 2004-09)


In a TV series filled with amazing ships, it's hard to pick just one. But there's something special about the Battlestar Galactica. Sure, it's not a networked ship and yes, it takes some heavy damage against the Cylons when attacked. But it's adaptable and flexible; during one memorable episode when the ship's computers are networked to solve a complicated problem, crew members use the ship's to stave off a Cylon virus. And Battlestar manages to stay one step ahead of the Cylons in many cases, safely using its faster-than-light drive to escape.

NEXT: A technological marvel

Elysium ship (2013)

Everett Collection

While Elysium is fundamentally a sad story, its ship is a marvel of technology. This is a massive space station that actually looks like another world. Sadly, only the ultra-rich get to live and party here, but for what it's worth, Elysium looks a lot like a paradise. Glimpses of the ship reveal a world of verdant green — natural enough to make you feel relaxed, but close enough to civilization to whisk you to a Med-Bay to cure your worst illnesses. The best part is what happens once you are registered as an Elysium citizen. The space station is automatically programmed to deploy rescue ships to pick you up and bring you back home, even if you're stuck on the stinking hell that is Earth in this film.

NEXT: A deadly lurker

Reapers ('Mass Effect' franchise)

Electronic Arts

The Mass Effect game franchise features characters valiantly trying to protect our home galaxy from baddie aliens; in a later game, a new fight begins in the Andromeda galaxy. For ship innovativeness, it's hard to beat the villain Reapers. They blend biology and machine, lurking in the space between galaxy for up to 50,000 years, according to the Mass Effect wiki. While they're mainly portrayed as intruder chasers, we can't forget how smart these Reapers are. They created the mass relay network that all ships use to jump locations. They also made the Citadel, a massive space station.

NEXT: A storied classic

USS Enterprise line ('Star Trek' franchise)

CBS Photo Archive/Getty

This isn't the time to quibble about whether the NCC-1701-A or NCC-1701-D was the better U.S.S. Enterprise, but keep in mind that the entire ship line has an impressive history. If we take the movie and television franchises as a whole, the U.S.S. Enterprise not only performs, but outperforms in most situations. It regularly operates well beyond safe speed limits (to the chagrin of Scotty), some versions have the ability to split in two independent parts, and it can deal with extreme environments (like burning up in Earth's atmosphere or lurking under the ocean.) Some of the more advanced versions can even cloak, taking away the element of surprise that Romulans and Vulcans previously enjoyed.

NEXT: An adaptable hauler

Millennium Falcon ("Star Wars" franchise)


Coming in close behind the U.S.S. Enterprise — sorry, "Star Wars" fans — is the amazing Millennium Falcon. It's a bit of a nice contrast to the sleek Enterprise, because there's no huge crew running this ship; instead, it's a bunch of ragtag heroes who need to use whatever they have on hand to keep this ship going. The Falcon, though, is surprisingly adept and adaptable. Yes, it's got fast travel capabilities, but there's more to it than that. The ship is able to fit into small cracks, to engage in epic fights on- and off-planet, and even survive in weird environments like an alien mouth. Like any jet fighter worth its name, it also has great weaponry on board to help fight the evil Empire. [Building the Fastest Hunk of Bricks in the Galaxy (Video)]

NEXT: A light in the black

Serenity ('Firefly' franchise)

Zoic Studios

Sure, Serenity doesn't have the trappings of more elegant spaceships. There's no warp drive or fast travel. There are very clearly toilets on board, counteracting the old "Star Trek" myth about their starships. It looks a bit like a warehouse inside, and it always seems to be breaking down. But fans don't gorram care, because Serenity is built to last. The ship's modest appearance means it's easy to miss when the crew members take on their main job of scrapping other starships for supplies. If it takes a bad hit, usually it can be fixed with scavenged parts. And above all, it just works. No high-fuss mechanical work needed here; just put a capable mechanic on the crew, and Serenity will give you all you need.

NEXT: An unknowable presence

Alien ships in 'Arrival' (2016)


"Arrival" is one of those films where you would love to know much more about the aliens, the beautifully named "Heptapods" who communicate with special symbols representing full sentences or concepts. One of the questions we barely get answered is how their amazing ships work. The ships suddenly arrive on Earth and appear to be synchronized across locations, instantly reacting to events that just one of the ships is privy to. They hover in mid-air with no apparent propulsion system, and they appear to use some sort of warp drive that involves visual dissolution on-site. Inside these ship entrances, gravity is a bit uncertain; the interior is filled with some sort of atmosphere that may alter how humans experience the environment. These ships, in a word, are beautiful — but we wish we knew more about how they worked.

NEXT: A flexible speedster

Spaceball One ('Spaceballs,' 1987)


We love Spaceball One for showing all the plot holes that other spaceships missed. The ship has a number of speeds to choose from: Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, Plaid Speed. As the crew quickly shows in the film, if you hit a speed that is too fast, you'll easily overshoot your target. It also has an unusual cloaking mechanism, demonstrating there are other uses to a costume besides hiding; Spaceball One can change into huge robotic maid with a vacuum cleaner, capable of sucking air off of planets.

NEXT: An oddly breakable behemoth

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.