Nasa / Space optimize

The top 10 starfighters in sci-fi movies and television

If you could only pilot one spacefaring dogfighter, which would you choose?

One of the most entertaining conceits in science fiction is the starfighter: a battleplane designed for outer space dogfights. They make for great visuals (and great merchandise spinoffs). But which is the best of the best? We break down the best starfighter from 10 combat-oriented sci-fi franchises.

10. Federation Attack Fighter

Not all Star Trek shuttlecraft are shaped like toads. Some have wings. And guns. And a useful role in large battle sequences, particularly around Deep Space Nine.

9. RF-42 Centaur Tactical Fighter

The strangely swoop-nosed starfighter that Capt. Dylan Hunt used to help restore the Commonwealth in Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda. If it's good enough for Hercules...

8. Veritech VF-1 Valkyrie

It's an F-14 Tomcat that can transform into a mecha battlebot (for better and for worse) as seen in the various incarnations of the Macross/Robotech anime franchise. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

7. Earth Defense Directorate Star Fighter Mark II It was cool when Buck Rogers snubbed Draconians with one of these fang-nosed starfighters in his 25th Century TV series. It was awesome when Col. Wilma Deering did it. 6. USMC SA-43 Hammerhead Endo/Exo-Atmospheric Attack Jet

The spacefaring descendant of the modern day Harrier VTOL, the Hammerhead was the death-dealing battleplane preferred by the Marine Corps pilots of Space: Above and Beyond. I dare you to speak ill of it, Chig.

5. USAF F-302

The starfighter reverse-engineered from alien Goa'uld technology by Stargate Command, it was designed to be a weapon of war to defeat space tyrants who often employed weapons of terror. In other words, the F-302 was the gun that humanity brought to an alien knife fight. You gotta love that.

4. Earthforce Mk2 SA-23E Mitchell-Hyundyne Starfury The quasi-realistic starfighter from Babylon 5, the Starfury has the distinction of looking like it was actually designed for space combat, rather than appearing to be a conventional fighter aircraft just thrown into a microgravity vacuum because it looks cool. Which is to say, Starfuries spin rather than bank, and they use that tactic to their brutal advantage. It's the starfighter for I-told-you-so science nerds, which is a mark both for and against it. 3. Star League Gunstar

Two words: Death Blossom.

2. Colonial Viper Mark VII

The most advanced version of the lead starfighter in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica franchise, the Viper Mk. VII is a favorite of hard sci-fi geeks because it plays by microgravity vector-thrust rules (most of the time). It has actual projectile cannons and semi-realistic sensors, and its painfully human pilots wear real flight suits and suffer real g-turn consequences. Plus, it just looks cool -- especially when blasted out of a believable launch tube. In short, the Viper is the starfighter for grownups. So say we all.

1. Incom T-65 X-Wing The one starfighter every kid grows up wanting to fly. With its distinctive shape and forceful knight's-lance blaster cannons, it's an iconic component of the Star Wars saga. There are more graceful craft, and more powerful, and more realistic -- but none of those competitors can claim the destruction of two Death Stars and ownership by Luke Skywalker on their resumes. There's a reason the X-Wing has its own video game and novel series. Your reigning starfighter champ 35 years running. May the Force be with you.

Think we missed an indispensable starfighter, or just disagree with our ranking order? Fire away in the comments section.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

18 comments
borisbadenov
borisbadenov

Sorry, but those all were fantasy fighters from a scientific POV. WIng COmmander was probably more accurate excepting the sound of guns in space for those who do not know better.

liamrh
liamrh

A-wing or E-wing suckers.

RealInIT
RealInIT

Hoowahhh!!! Now that's space flying!!!

rocket ride
rocket ride

So why was the Starfury #4 and the Viper mk.3 #2? The 'Fury did everything the Viper did, only more consistently, and a whole decade earlier.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

No listing for the fighters in Babylon 5? (did I miss it?) Looking at everything else on tv at the time, Babylon 5's fighters where the only ones to really separate velocity and heading. The direction the craft is traveling has nothing to do with the direction it is currently pointing in space; Babylon 5 got that right. No sound either other than radio interference. The pivot and drop launches from space stations, the "just big enough" size with little regard for atmospheric flight (modified models appearing later). As a space fighter, they're a flying turret and where treated as such. The next time I saw this done properly on TV was Battlestar Galactica years after where they also treat heading and velocity separately.

spadurar
spadurar

The X-wing is on 1st (as it should), but no TIE fighter? The world is going mellow by the second ...

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

The Spitfire as used in Dr Who attacking the Darlek ship, nothing is as cool as seeing a real plane in space. ;) Col

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

Thanks for including the Gunstar and providing the only real reason it's on the list. Also, it was probably the first fighter to be rendered in whiz-bang CGI graphics.

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

Most of them were, but the Star Fury/Thunderbolt from Babylon 5, the Viper from BSG, and the Hammerhead from Space: Down and a Little to the Left at least tried to account for inertial physics. Add to that that for the most part, BSG did not depict sound in space.

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

The Viper Mk. II still did a lot of real work. That was the one that looked a bit like the original BSG Viper, including the red markings.

rocket ride
rocket ride

"It???s the starfighter for I-told-you-so science nerds, which is a mark both for and against it." So why is that a mark against it? BTW, I would have been so P.O.'d if it hadn't been on the list.

Monijo2
Monijo2

Sure was, it was #4... the Earthforce Starfury. :-)

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

...as survivability. TIE Fighters are notoriously built to low cost, including the lack of shields. Also, the twin ion engines do not have a hyperdrive motivator, so if you don't get back to a ship before the fleet jumps, you are screwed.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

now, a tie interceptor on the other hand...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

#4.. should have looked at the pictures. The advanced one no less. I was think of the snub nosed original models

JJMach
JJMach

The most realistic star fighter of the bunch, I appreciate that you ranked the Starfury #4. I love the care B5 took in designing it with appropriately-placed vernier thrusters, upright pilot seating, and its real zero-g battle tactics (the forward-somersault strafing run along a capital ship got me cheering). Sadly, the article slapped a picture of the Starfury's atmospheric-capable bomber cousin, the Thunderbolt, next to the entry. *booo* You might as well have been talking about the F-14 Tomcat and posted a pic of an F-111 Aardvark. It's got swing-wings, right? (Yes, I'm illustrating my nitpick with an equally obscure example, but it's an accurate one.) Edit: P.S. The VF-1 Valkyrie, while also having swing-wings, isn't a Turkey (nickname for the F-14, so named for its huge elevators--the airplane part, not the building part--that gave it awesome pitch control). In fact, the Valkyrie has no elevators at all and relies on vectored thrust from its jet exhaust / feet. Love the theme of the article...aggravated by all the niggling mistakes.