We’re in the 21st century, well beyond the year 2000. Where the hell are our flying cars? Why is commercial space travel not a thing yet?
Despite our best efforts at imitating the jet packs, hovercrafts, and newfangled flyin’ machines (even the experience of zero g) we read about and saw in movies as kids, they pale in comparison to all the incredible means of travel promised to us by decades of science fiction.
While some of the once-fantasies of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells have been realized by modern science and technological advances, here are 23 kickass vessels and vehicles we’re aching for the R&D teams to hurry up and develop.
Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
"It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." Need I say more? Probably not, but I’m going to. Maybe the most famous sci-fi spaceship of all time, the Millennium Falcon ain’t pretty, but it’s such an iconic vessel that I’ve always dreamed of traveling on it. Shooting down TIE fighters from my own turret, making the jump to light speed, even letting the Wookiee win. After all, it may not look like much, but it's got it where it counts, kid.
TARDIS (Doctor Who)
If you’ve seen Doctor Who, then I know that you (like me) yearn for that WHOOSH WHOOSH sound to signal the appearance of the TARDIS in your backyard so you can be whisked away for an adventure out among the stars. As if it weren’t enough to control both space and time, the ship (disguised as a 1950s police box) is bigger on the inside and contains an ever-changing array of rooms, from a library to a swimming pool. It’s hard to imagine getting cabin fever in the TARDIS.
USS Enterprise (Star Trek)
Probably the only sci-fi spaceship that could ever contend with the Millennium Falcon in terms of fame, the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek series is no less beloved and (in its many incarnations) has certainly seen more screen time. I’m not a Trekkie myself, but I'd definitely be in awe if I could travel the galaxy on the bridge of the Enterprise, provided it was being captained by Patrick Stewart.
The Batmobile (Batman)
“But the Batmobile exists!” you say. “You can buy one on the internet!” I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you there—you can buy cars disguised to look like the Batmobile on the internet, but the REAL Batmobile, with all its bells and whistles, all its state-of-the-art bat-tech, is still just a sci-fi fantasy that our technologies have yet to fully approximate. But one day we'll be able to build the Batmobile. And then it will be mine…Oh yes, it will be mine.
Heart of Gold (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
The Heart of Gold is the first ship in the galaxy to be equipped with an infinite improbability drive. While the science behind it is a little beyond me, Douglas Adams explains that “as soon as the ship's drive reaches infinite improbability, it passes through every point in the universe, thus allowing the ship to go anywhere without all of that mucking about with hyperspace and what not.”
Light cycle (TRON)
Growing up a fan of video games, I couldn’t help but find everything about TRON super cool. The concept was super cool, the techniques used to make the movie were super cool, and the content itself was super freaking cool. I've wanted to ride a light cycle since I was a little kid, watching the 1982 original. Not only could the glowing bars transform into the most amazing motorcycles ever imagined in cyberspace, but they could become planes too (and I think the best part for me was knowing that the machines served no higher purpose than the pursuit of fun).
Podracers (Star Wars)
Probably the closest a sci-fi vessel has ever come to imitating a horse-and-carriage setup, Star Wars podracers are tiny cockpits attached by long cables to two huge engines, meant for ultra-fast land races across desert terrain. Sure, the races are dangerous, but for the Tatooine equivalent of the Indy 500 how could they not be?
Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle)
While it may be a loose interpretation of a sci-fi vessel, Howl’s Moving Castle is no less fascinating than any of the other vehicles on this list. A seemingly autonomous hodgepodge of metal and timber with a mismatched set of eyes and what appear to be big steel chicken legs, the Castle is powered by a magical fire named Calcifer. While most of the Castle’s interior remains a mystery, its most enticing feature is the magical door that opens on a different place every time you turn the dial.
DeLorean (Back to the Future)
Okay, let’s be honest—the DeLorean is a dated car. It's boxy and ugly, which is barely helped by the gull-wing doors, and it never really gained any traction in the auto industry. However, Doc Brown and Marty McFly drove that garish automobile into the history books (no pun intended) when they used it as their time machine in the Back to the Future series. Granted, most of the series revolves around the DeLorean’s inability to function properly for one reason or another, but I can’t imagine crash landing in the 1950s any other way.
Nautilus (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
The Nautilus, originally from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, might be the original sci-fi vessel. An ultra-powerful submarine, very scientifically advanced and capable of extreme speeds, the Nautilus has been recreated several times since the original story. By far my favorite was the steampunk-y rendition from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with its clean lines, silver scrollwork, and minimalist interior. But no matter what it looks like, there’s no ship within which I’d rather visit the depths of the ocean.
The invisible plane (Wonder Woman)
Wonder Woman’s invisible plane is the butt of a lot of mockery (but, personally, I can’t see why). It’s an Invisible. Plane. Sure, you’d literally run into it every now and then, but you could travel huge distances at great speed in secret, and it even travels through SPACE! Plus you’d never get a parking ticket—just try really hard not to forget where you left it.
Battlestar Galactica (Battlestar Galactica)
Classified as a “Battlestar” (a battleship/carrier hybrid starship), Galactica represents the Colonial planet Caprica. Though the ship survived the Cylon attack largely because of a case of technophobia and not because of any outstanding military might, it boldly undertook the epic quest of leading surviving civilians to the legendary planet called “Earth.”
Serenity is the Firefly-class transport vessel that gave the beloved Firefly TV series (and subsequent movie) its name. Sure, maybe all of the crew's antics aren’t entirely legal, but I’d trade pretty much anything to serve as a space cowboy under Mal Reynolds. Much like the Millennium Falcon, Serenity is an older model that needs a lot of TLC to keep running but laughs in the face of those that doubt it.
Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)
Life on the Nebuchadnezzar never looked particularly comfortable or luxurious, but I think a little bit of stark reality is a fair tradeoff for a lifetime of unconscious servitude in the Matrix. Don’t get me wrong—those goo pods looked plenty comfortable (until you woke up) and the Matrix does sort of approximate real life (even if it’s not), but I think the chance to be on the front lines of the battle against the machines sounds way more epic.
Silver surfboard (The Silver Surfer)
The Silver Surfer’s silver surfboard (say that 10 times fast) is made of the same impervious, cosmically powered substance as his skin. It can travel through space (including black holes) as well as time and is controlled entirely by the Surfer’s mind. It even has the ability to attack, absorb, and imprison enemies. I’d love to see the look on someone’s face as I brain-piloted a giant silver surfboard at them.
RLS Legacy (Treasure Planet)
Disney’s Treasure Planet never got much hype. It was a weird little movie with an overdone premise and not enough interest. But its take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale was just innovative enough that it supplied not one but TWO sci-fi vehicles on this list. First and greatest of the two is the RLS Legacy (RLS being an abbreviation for Robert Louis Stevenson), a giant sailing ship capable of space travel, with huge solar sails powered by starlight. Maybe not the most probable or convenient way of getting through space, but you have to admit it looks pretty grand.
USS Planet Express Ship (Futurama)
The USS Planet Express is the delivery spaceship from Matt Groening’s Futurama universe. Functioning as a sort of interplanetary FedEx truck, the ship can move faster than the speed of light, simply by shifting the entire universe in relation to itself, a function accomplished by its dark matter engine. If you want to pilot the Planet Express, make sure you know stick—apparently it’s operated by an automobile manual transmission.
Valley Forge (Silent Running)
In a post-apocalyptic world, I think one of the best places to be would be on a starship preserving all of the remaining living specimens from Earth. That’s the purpose of Valley Forge, a space freighter with the eventual intention of repopulating the planet with its own native species. Sort of a Noah’s space ark, the Valley Forge isn't the prettiest ship on the outside, but the view of space from the tree canopies inside one of those bio-domes would be unrivaled.
The terrariums from Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 are a little-known but very intriguing concept. The story, set in the future, has humans living on Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and the terrariums are their means of transportation throughout the system. Created from hollowed-out asteroids, these terrariums are designed to mimic the various human biomes and are present in almost every asteroid in the solar system.
Voltron (Voltron: Defender of the Universe)
I’ll admit it—my memories of the Voltron cartoons aren’t great, and for a long time I thought Voltron was just some robot dude doing its own robot thing. Turns out, that’s not the case—Voltron is the super-robot that’s formed when a whole bunch of other robots (all piloted by people) piece together like a giant fighting robot puzzle. And if I had to choose, I think the way I’d want to save the world would be driving giant robots with a bunch of my best friends.
Solar surfer (Treasure Planet)
Closely related to the RLS Legacy, but on a smaller scale, this second vessel from Treasure Planet is also powered by a solar sail but utilizes that power in a different way. Rather than pulling a giant boat through space, the solar surfer behaves much more like a wind-surfing rig. With its one-man board, tiny engine, and steering control, the solar surfer is simple but elegant, and from a “fun” perspective is probably second only to the hover board.
NSEA Protector (Galaxy Quest)
In most respects, the Protector is a very intentional parody of the USS Enterprise. In fact, its technical name, “NTE-3120,” stands for “Not the Enterprise.” It differs in a few key ways: First, everything that happens on it is a good deal funnier than most of what happens on the Enterprise, and, second, it invariably must contain a very aggrieved Alan Rickman in an alien skullcap.