We’re almost there, boys and girls. The Force Awakens worldwide premiere was last night and if you’re like me, you’re counting down the hours until you can see it for yourself. To commemorate this historic occasion, I’ve put together some (needlessly?) exhaustive blog content related to my beloved Star Wars universe. Yesterday I ranked all of the villains within the franchise and today I tackle all of the vehicles. Heaven help me.
A quick primer for what did and did not make the list. As with yesterday’s list, I’m only working with what we see in the actual films themselves. Expanded universe content (TV shows, video games, books, comics, etc.) don’t count. I also threw out any ship whose name I could not readily identify, whether by calling upon my own nerdy knowledge or by looking directly at the Star Wars website. This eliminated a handful of carriers, frigates, and cargo ships that don’t really matter. And finally, I considered only the most important speeders and land-based transports. No one needs the definitive ranking of all the dumb taxis we cross paths with in Attack of the Clones or the various little machines that propagate the hangar bay. As with yesterday, feel free to chime in at firstname.lastname@example.org or @BGill12 on the Twitter. (And just like yesterday, I’m sure I’m missing some vital ship that you love and I’ll just have to deal with it.)
45. Gungan Bongo Submarine (Episode I)
The mechanical personification of everything that is wrong with the prequels. Not only is it a bad design (one of the few that I’ll actually call “bad”) but its sole purpose is to take us through a completely meaningless scene filled with superfluous creatures.
44. Trade Federation Landing Ship (Episode I)
There are other ships in the Star Wars universe that look dysfunctional but still work on screen. This one doesn’t. It’s a stupid design and when you see it move, you feel like you’re seeing a mistake.
43. Neimoidian Escort Shuttle (Episode I)
“What if we took a weird looking fish and turned it into a vehicle?” “Perfect!”
42. Podracers, all of them (Episode I)
I hate the podracing scene in Phantom Menace significantly less than most fans, I think, but I still find the design to be goofy and dumb. The scene itself could be made useful with a few edits and a better script but the actual look of these things just doesn’t work the way it should.
41. MTT (Episode I)
The MTT is too bulky and cumbersome to be effective in battle but much more importantly, its only purpose is to bring us more battle droids, an unforgivable sin in my book.
40. N-1 Starfighter (Episode I)
The lamest of all fighting ships within the Star Wars universe, it’s only fitting that this piece of garbage was once piloted by Jake Lloyd’s Anakin. This is basically the equivalent of flying a Cessna in a dogfight.
39. Naboo Royal Ship (Episode I)
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this ship, it just seems like a Flight of the Navigator knock-off. The original trilogy set the bar for those that came after it while the prequels borrowed too freely.
38. Solar Sailer (Episode II)
At first glance, you see the Solar Sailer and think, “That’s kind of cool.” But then on the rewatch or upon further consideration…why exactly does it need the sail thing? It doesn’t make sense!
37. Stap (Episode I)
If a Stormtrooper or a bounty hunter or a Jedi rode the Stap, it would be a pretty decent creation. But it’s so closely tied to the battle droid that I can’t see the good in it. Down with the battle droid!
36. Sandcrawler (Episode IV)
The Sandcrawler is an example of function over form. It does exactly what it is supposed to do but doesn’t really look great in the process.
35. AT-TE (Episodes II and III)
The original AT-AT (see below) looked awesome and terrifying at the same time. This one just looks too overloaded and a little bit ridiculous.
34. Republic Cruiser (Episode III)
The obvious predecessor to number 30, there’s nothing really wrong with this ship. It’s just a little ho-hum given that we already had familiarity with the design. Also the ship we see at the beginning of A New Hope looks very old so when did this cruiser go out of commission? Like the second Revenge of the Sith ended?
33. AT-RT (Episode III)
Like so many of the vehicles within the prequels, there’s simply no creativity being expended on the AT-RT. “Let’s just take the AT-ST and minimize it.” That’s it. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just doesn’t have the effect that you want from a Star Wars ship.
32. Trade Federation Battleship (Episode I)
It’s kind of sad that this is one of the better ships from Phantom Menace. So much wasted opportunity! On the plus side, the scale is sufficient and it does have some appeal from a menacing stand point. On the down side, it looks like a giant donut and probably belongs in the Babylon 5 universe, not Star Wars.
31. Swoop (Episode II)
Much like the AT-RT, the Swoop is basically a less-cool version of an awesome vehicle (the Speeder Bike). It’s fine but it doesn’t have anywhere near the panache of its predecessor (or descendant, depending on how you look at it).
30. Tantine 4 Alderaan Cruiser (Episode IV)
It’s supposed to look dingy and old when it makes its appearance in the opening scene of A New Hope and it succeeds in this. It serves its purpose but as giant space craft go, this one is fairly nondescript.
29. Republic Attack Cruiser (Episode III)
The predecessor of the Star Destroyer, the design element works here. It’s just that the actual look of the ship leaves something lacking.
28. X-34 Landspeeder (Episode IV)
Luke’s Landspeeder belongs in the pantheon of iconic vehicles from this universe, to be sure. But its functionality is incredibly weak. I guess it does what it’s supposed to but it doesn’t really bring much to the table. And when I was a kid, any vehicle that didn’t have a gun had no place in my war games.
27. ETA-2 Jedi Starfighter (Episode III)
Not bad but it shares too many similarities with the other prequel ships listed below. That’s part of the problem with these movies. The original ships all looked unique whereas pretty much every prequel ship comes off one familiar tree or another.
26. Arc-170 Starfighter (Episode III)
I think the Arc-170 would rank hirer if we’d just seen it in action a little more. Or, you know, at all. I truly only vaguely knew what the Arc-170 was and it took some research to really get a feel for what it does and where it exists in the film. It’s a cool design, though, so…what the heck.
25. Cloud Car (Episode V)
We only get a couple of glimpses of the Cloud Car and while I’m not totally sure how functional it is, it is a fun design and very unique. I do wonder, though, how it’s piloted. Does one side fly while the other shoots or do they both have steering wheels and just constantly fight over which direction they go? I hope it’s the latter.
24. Imperial Shuttle (Episode V and VI)
To my adolescent point on the Landspeeder, does this thing even have weapons? And yet…the design is terrific. The folding wings and the way in which it glides make this the neatest shuttle around.
23. Sith Infiltrator (Episode I)
The Infiltrator looks good and it gets bonus points for transporting Darth Maul, whom everyone knows to be awesome. But we barely see it in action and most of its screen time focuses entirely on the back end door hatch which is the dumbest part of the ship.
22. TIE Bomber (Episode V)
We don’t get to see the TIE Bomber deal out much damage and it doesn’t seem to move with as much speed or aggression as any of its relatives and thus it is the worst of the TIEs.
21. AAT Battle Tank (Episode I)
The design of the AAT is solid and it has a devastating effect in battle. If we could only remove its affiliation with the oft mentioned and never forgotten accursed battle droids, it probably jumps up the ranks a bit.
20. Delta-7 Jedi Starfighter (Episodes II and III)
The Delta-7 is only an above average creation on its own merits. But there’s something cool about the Hyperdrive expansion ring the Delta docks with in order to jump to lightspeed that I’ve always liked.
19. Vader’s TIE Fighter (Episode IV)
Also known as the Advanced TIE Fighter, the only thing advanced about it is that Darth Vader pilots it in A New Hope. Why this one instead of the standard TIE Fighter? Maybe it’s roomier on the inside. Regardless, for me it’s not quite as iconic as the original in spite of its patron.
18. Y-Wing (Episodes IV and VI)
The least of the Wing series (see below) but still an effective battleship. I would’ve loved to have seen these in action a little more but they were perpetually left on the outside looking in.
17. Death Star II (Episode VI)
I’ll cover the original Death Star here in a minute but in the history of great sci-fi inventions, has there ever been a bigger let down than the second Death Star? From a story standpoint, it totally works as an example of the Empire’s arrogance. But this thing was billed as the ultimate battle station, even bigger and better than the 1.0 version, and mostly all it does is blow up one frigate before bites the space dust.
16. AT-ST (Episode VI)
On screen, the AT-ST is a bit flimsy and doesn’t have the sort of impact than its bigger brother has. However, the AT-ST toy is one of the greatest toys in the history of toys. I had plenty of ships and vehicles in my collection as a kid but none of them were as much fun to play with as the AT-ST. So many working parts and little features.
15. Republic Attack Gunship (Episode II)
We don’t get nearly enough time with this ship (once again, the decision the relegate the actual Clone Wars themselves to a cartoon TV series instead of using them in the movies is a travesty) but when a host of these ships roll up on Dooku in the climax of Attack of the Clones, they do some serious damage and look cool in the process.
14. Grievous Wheel Blade (Episode III)
Initially I had the Wheel Blade ranked much higher but as friend-and-sometimes-podcast-contributor Jason Davidson pointed out, “I completely forgot about that thing until just now.” Very good point. In a universe filled with iconic and interesting vehicles, can you really crack the top 10 if you’re basically an afterthought? Obviously not.
13. A-Wing (Episode VI)
I was OBSESSED with the A-Wing as a kid, despite the fact that it’s barely involved in the films. There are two reasons for this obsession. One, the pilot kamikazes the Super Star Destroyer and takes it down, a pivotal sequence in the film. And two, the A-Wing pilot was one of only four Star Wars action figures I could never get into my collection and thus it was important to me.
12. Home One Mon Calamari Starcruiser (Episode VI)
The Home One is proof that a simple design can be both elegant and effective in battle. Admiral Ackbar’s base of operation, the Home One looks stylish and smooth while still presenting a worthy adversary for the standard Star Destroyer.
11. Slave I (Episode II and V)
Of course Boba Fett rides around in a weirdly shaped, strangely designed, mysteriously named starship that even flies in an odd way. It’s perfectly fitting for Boba Fett’s International Man of Mystery mystique. I’m not sure how functional the Slave I is but it’s always captured my imagination.
10. B-Wing (Episode VI)
I love the B-Wing. I can’t really explain that as we barely see it in action and surely its odd design can’t be completely functional. But it’s completely unique and the toy (which was HUGE, by the way) was always a favorite of mine.
9. Death Star I (Episode IV)
On paper, the Death Star I is a top 3 Star Wars ship. It’s iconic and even casual viewers can tell you what the Death Star is. Plus, it has the power to obliterate entire planets in the blink of an eye. But. BUT. It can be taken down with a single blast from a tiny one man ship. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this plot point and think it is a perfect illustration of the differences between the Empire and the Alliance. But that kind of thing definitely hurts your street cred.
8. TIE Interceptor (Episode VI)
We don’t get nearly as much time with the Interceptor as we do with the standard TIE Fighter. But in this case, that element of the unknown works in its favor. You look at the Interceptor and you just know that bad boy can do some damage. What an awesome upgrade on the original.
7. Snowspeeder (Episode V)
Look, let’s call a spade a spade. There’s no real rhyme or reason that the Snowspeeder would come equipped with a harpoon gun on the back. It’s as if the Rebels knew the Empire would send giant robot elephants to attack them and they’d need to take out their knees. But ignoring that small coincidental issue…HOW COOL ARE THE SNOWSPEEDERS?! Am I alone in this? That design is killer and their underdog effectiveness is fantastic. Am I too excited about this? Am I Dak? I don’t want to be Dak, you guys.
6. Speeder Bike (Episode VI)
This is what happens when you combine excellent and creative design with a spectacular action sequence. Standing alone, the Speeder Bike is a cool vehicle but not much more. But when you add in the chase through the jungle, it suddenly becomes a top 10 entry. And again, the toy was really cool. (Last time I mention the toys, okay? Just kidding, one more coming.)
5. TIE Fighter (Episodes IV-VI)
All cards on the table, I had the TIE Fighter much lower on this list originally. There are so many TIE spin offs that I fell into the trap of crediting their different looks and nifty toys as making them better than the original. But as a friend pointed out, the original TIE Fighter is one of the iconic ships you think of when you think about Star Wars and the sound they make is even more iconic.
4. X-Wing (Episodes IV-VI)
The X-Wing is basically the exact opposite of the Death Star, which is fitting. On paper, it’s kind of a dinky ship and clearly isn’t a well-respected piece of machinery in this universe. You get the feeling that showing up to a battle in an X-Wing is like jumping into a pick-up basketball game wearing L.A. Gear sneakers instead of Nikes. And yet, it carves out a soft spot in your heart due to its hard work and the glorious way in which it takes down the big bully on the block.
3. Star Destroyer (Episodes IV-VI)
I’m combining the standard Star Destroyers in with the Super Star Destroyer. These things look great, they’re terrifyingly effective in battle, and they’re everywhere. You get the feeling that the Empire has thousands of these suckers laying around, just waiting to be deployed and that absolutely adds to the understanding of just how hopeless the Rebels’ fight against the Empire really is.
2. AT-AT (Episode V)
There are probably cooler vehicles and ships in the Empire’s repertoire and there are probably more effective vehicles as well. But the way in which the AT-ATs burst on to the scene and the message they send elevates the AT-AT to its lofty perch on this list. There are a dozen ways the Empire could’ve wiped the Rebel base off the face of Hoth but instead they chose to drop these monsters to the ground and watch their adversaries scatter in terror.
1. Millennium Falcon (Episodes IV-VI)
Did you really expect anything else at this spot? The Millennium Falcon is not just the coolest, most iconic vehicle in the Star Wars universe. It’s the coolest, most iconic vehicle in the history of film. Even the most devoted Star Wars hater could identify the Falcon. And the thing about it is, it’s awesome almost in spite of itself. How many times does one character or another mock this disjointed, weird looking bucket of bolts? And yet, time and time again, it comes through. The Falcon’s design is perfect in its imperfection. And if I may say so, the toy version is perhaps the best Christmas present I ever received. If you don’t love the Falcon, I don’t know if we can be friends.