If you asked, most science fiction fans could probably name their favorite starships or interstellar spacecrafts from television or cinema. Whether it’s the USS Enterprise or an Imperial Star Destroyer, or even that flying Winnebago from Spaceballs, they’re all pretty equal on the imaginative scale. But, when it comes to sheer speed and what we know so far about the physical laws governing our universe, there are some fictional spaceships that are clearly faster than others.
20. The Milano – Guardians of the Galaxy
Named after Peter Quill’s childhood crush Alyssa Milano (good taste, Peter!), The Milano is a Ravager M-Ship seen in both the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and movies. Quill had modified the ship heavily over the years, since it was originally used for hunting and scouting reasons. Quill used it to establish his reputation as an intergalactic thief, so he needed to add a few tricks.
The exact speed of The Milano is hard to pinpoint with a specific number, but here’s what we do know. Star-Lord has used it to outrun multiple members of law enforcement (or whoever else he angers in his adventures) and it’s capable of doing multiple jumps through time and space, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, going from planet to planet in a matter of seconds. According to one estimate we saw online, those jumps worked out to travelling the distance of 183 light years – every second.
19. The Raza – Dark Matter
Dark Matter was a Canadian sci-fi show that lasted three seasons from 2015 to 2017. The plot was pretty simple: six people awake from stasis pods aboard The Raza with no memory of who they are or how they got there. They merely assume the identities One through Six, and attempt to piece together the mystery of their situation.
As the show progresses, each person discovers they have knowledge of different parts of the ship, including piloting, electrical systems, and the weapons cache. Eventually they learn (or remember?) about the ship’s “blink drive,” a highly technical feature that allows The Raza to travel to any point in the galaxy in an instant. However, the Blink Drive is unstable and dangerous, leading to many midadventures.
18. SDF-1 Macross
We’re going a bit off the board with this spacecraft, but the SDF-1 Macross from the Japanese anime series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross definitely deserves a spot on our list. The series (along with two others) was later adapted in a larger series called Robotech, but that’s not important right now.
The SDF-1 isn’t just a spacecraft, it’s also a transformer capable of taking on different forms. Originally an alien war vessel that crashed into Earth, the SDF-1 contains enough weaponry to destroy a small planet and technology that allows it to fold space, meaning it can travel faster than light. Like some other ships on this list, we don’t know an exact speed number. But being able to bend time and space for a short flight across the universe definitely qualifies the SDF-1 for this list.
17. The Borg Cube – Star Trek
The Borg Cube may not look like the fastest spacecraft, lacking sleek, aerodynamic lines or any sign of rocket thrusters. They mostly float around at a slow and steady pace, which that isn’t a surprise considering a single edge of a Borg Cube can be over three kilometers long. Like most ships in the Star Trek universe, the Borg Cube has a Warp Drive. But so what? That’s barely exciting anymore. The Cube does pack an extra punch, though.
Outfitted with a Transwarp Drive, the Borgs can move really move their Cubes at incredible speeds. Some estimates put the speed of a Transwarping ship at 50 times that of a standard 9.9 Warp speed. The Cube also includes an additional shielding system to protect it during Transwarp, otherwise the entire thing might simply disintegrate under the intense pressure.
16. Trimaxion Drone Ship – Flight of the Navigator
Flight of the Navigator is a decades old Disney movie about a 12-year-old boy who is abducted by a Trimaxion Drone Ship, aka Max. The ship itself has a personality, can speak over 1,000 different languages, can travel underwater, and certainly knows how to make long trips feel short.
In the movie, it’s confirmed that Max travels 560 light years in just 4.4 hours, meaning the ship travels faster than light. That already makes it one of the fastest fictional ships ever conceived. Max has another trick though, as it can actually travel through time (backwards and forwards) to compensate for time dilation, which is what happens when 4.4 hours pass on a ship in the same duration that eight years pass on Earth.
15. Tomb Ships – Warhammer 40k
Most of the spacecrafts on this list come from the world of film or television, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expand out territory a little bit. We’re sure there are many blazing fast ships from the gaming world, but we’ve chosen to focus on the Tomb Ships from Warhammer 40k, the primary ship of the Necrons in the popular board and video game franchise.
The Tomb Ships are heavily weaponized and armoured, making for a excellent battleship. They also possess an unknown form of hyperspeed drive that allows them engage in interstellar speeds without entering the Warp, an alternate dimension of magic and chaos. The Necron technology also allows the Tomb Ships to travel at extreme speeds while maintaining handling, meaning it doesn’t have to sacrifice precision or agility in exchange for hyperspeed.
14. The Liberator – Blake’s 7
Blake’s 7 may not be that well known in North America, but the British sci-fi TV series produced 52 episodes over four seasons for the BBC between 1978 and 1981. Based over 700 years in the future, it tells the story of a small group of rebels who are fighting against the totalitarian Terran Federation, an evil united government that includes Earth. As the series starts, the rebels are led by Roj Blake, commander of The Liberator.
The ship itself was actually built by The System, a computer network that is in charge of a highly advanced alien race. It has self-regenerating energy systems and an advanced weapons/defensive protocol. But since this article is all about speed, let’s focus on that. The Liberator comes with photonic stardrive that allows it to travel at speeds of “Standard by Twelve.” The exact nature of the drive is never revealed, but there are suggestions it utilizes “negative hyperspace” or some sort of “antimatter interface” to achieve its incredible speeds. What are those things, exactly? Who knows!
13. The Heighliner – Dune
Based on a 1965 novel of the same name, Dune was an epic sci-fi adventure released in 1984. Written and directed by David Lynch (who would later create Twin Peaks), Dune is the story of rival noble families fighting over a barren desert planet called Arrakis, also known as the “Dune”, because it is the only known source of a vital drug called the Spice.
The extraction of the Spice is mostly controlled by the Spacing Guild, an organization with a monopoly on interstellar travel and banking. They use the Spice’s mysterious properties to “fold space” with their fleet of Heighliner starships, a collection of crafts used for transporting people, equipment, and goods across the universe. These ships are massive, capable of holding thousands of people. While they may not move that fast during regular flight, their ability to harness the power of the Spice and fold space allows them instant travel to literally any spot in space – even if it’s millions of light years away.
12. Serenity (Firefly)
Serenity is the Series 3 Firefly-class transport ship captained by Malcolm Reynolds and his ragtag crew of misfits. While all Fireflys feature a large rear engine module and wing-mounted engines capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), the Series 3 uses a Trace Compression Block engine which enables it to reach speeds of approximately 4.5G (G = the acceleration of Earth’s gravity).
11. Swordfish II (Cowboy Bebop)
Originally designed for high-speed racing, Spike Spiegel’s timeworn Swordfish II was converted into a space-ready fighter well-suited for chasing down wanted criminals and illusive con artists. The extensive modifications combined with a Rolls-Royce AF-15C axial fusion aero-spike turbine engine help this lightweight ship reach speeds of 50G.
10. Ark (Transformers)
The Ark is the name given to the spacecraft that originally carried the first Autobots to Earth in the Transformers universe. The massive ship is a Vanguard-class deep space interceptor with five decks that can house a crew of 300 transformers in a fully automated and self-sufficient environment. Although not a lot of reference is given to the actual speed of travel in Transformers, we know the Autobots have gone on interstellar voyages with non-cryosleeping humans on board. Therefore, the four hyperfuel intake accelerators that functions as the Ark‘s main propulsion systems are believed to be capable of reaching speeds of roughly 115C (C = the speed of light).
9. USS Sulaco (Aliens)
In Aliens, the USS Sulaco is a Conestoga-class assault starship carrying military troops on a mission to investigate why communications were lost with a colony on LV-426. The power plant of the ship is a Westingland A-59 Fusion Reactor fueled by Lithium-Hydride. The main sublight (sub-lightspeed) engine is attached directly to the reactor and consists of four Gates-Heidmann Rocket engines. These rockets function by taking hot plasma from the fusion reactor, and bringing it into contact with the reaction mass. The resultant gas then gets expelled as it would in any normal rocket engine. For faster-than-light (FTL) travel, the Sulaco has a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 Hyperdrive Tachyon Shunt capable of shifting the entire ship into a mirror state in which it’s composed entirely of tachyons. In this state, the ship is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 270C.
8. USS Prometheus (Star Trek: Voyager)
A prototype designed specifically for deep space tactical missions, the USS Prometheus is the fastest ship ever operated by Starfleet. Like other Federation starships, the Prometheus obtains faster-than-light speeds by using a warp drive. In Star Trek, warp drive velocity is expressed using “warp factor” units which correspond to the magnitude of the warp field generated. And, although a warp factor of 1 is equivalent to the speed of light, the velocities that correspond to higher warp factors are determined using an ambiguous formula and are much greater than double or triple the speed of light. According to the formula, warp velocities approach warp 10 asymptotically, which means there might never be a warp drive quite capable of reaching that speed. The Prometheus, however, comes very close to it and is capable of reaching warp 9.9—well over 2,000C.
7. Eagle 5 and Spaceball I (Spaceballs)
Forget these other “realistic” spacecrafts with their technical mumbo jumbo. The Spaceball I from the classic parody film Spaceballs can fly faster than them all. How do we know? Simple – it has Ludicrous Speed! For anyone who needs a refresher, that’s one gear higher than Ridiculous Speed (which is a bit faster than Light Speed). Of course, it’s not quite as fast as Plaid Speed (which is just a bit faster).
The whole scenario can be seen in the classic clip seen below. The terms have become ingrained in pop culture, with auto manufacturer Tesla Motors using the terms Ludacrous Mode and Plaid Mode as names for different acceleration modes on their popular models of electric vehicles. How fitting.
6. TFCT Rodger Young (Starship Troopers)
The Terran Federation Corvette Transport Rodger Young (or “the Rog” for short) is a military carrier sent to battle the bug-like extraterrestrial race in Starship Troopers. Only one platoon is stationed on the transport—the special mobile infantry unit known as the Roughnecks—and it’s captained by Yvette Deladrier. Since the vessel carries only one unit, it is very small and built for speed with a maximum velocity of 1,300,000C.
5. Galactica BS 75 (Battlestar Galactica)
In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, the propulsion systems are powered by fuel refined from tylium ore. The Galactica BS 75 is equipped with both sublight engines, that allow it to traverse the distance between neighboring planets in relatively short timeframes, as well as an FTL drive that folds space and allows the ship to travel interstellar distances almost instantaneously. Although the precise range that Galactica can jump has never been specified on-screen, in a deleted line from the mini-series, the jump from Ragnar to the Prolmar Sector is said to be 30 light years. Converting that estimate to light-speed terms would give the battleship a velocity somewhere in the range of 1,680,000C.
4. Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.” Perhaps even more so than its unique shape and rough exterior, the Millennium Flacon is probably best known for its speed. The hyperdrive system onboard the ship is nearly twice the size of a hyperdrive typically found on a YT-1300 freighter. This puts it in the 0.5 hyperdrive class and makes it twice as fast as most imperial starships. The Falcon‘s speed is further increased by its navicomputer, which can locate the quickest and safest route between point A and point B, and also by special streamlining modifications that help control the warp of the spacetime around the ship in hyperspace. Add it all up and you’ve got a ship that tops out at around 9,130,000C.
3. The Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
The Heart of Gold spacecraft from the classic Douglas Adams novel (and later, a 2005 film by Garth Jennings) A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is certainly one a kind. According to the fictional history, it was built in secret with the help of an engineer who was “a superintelligent shade of the colour blue.” It was originally stolen at its own official launch and comes with Marvin the android, a depressed and paranoid robot servant.
The highlight of the ship’s incredible speed is the Infinite Improbability Drive, a small golden box at the heart of the ship (get it?? Heart of Gold??). When engaged, the ship actually passes through every point in the known universe, allowing the pilot to simply stop where ever they want. It’s a great way to get around the universe without resorting to Warp Drives or Hyperspeed. The Heart of Gold is definitely one of the fasted fictional ships ever thanks to its unique technology.
2. Deadalus (Stargate SG-1)
Also known as a Deep Space Carrier or 304, the Deadalus-class battlecruiser from Stargate Sg-1 is constructed with fully-integrated alien technology that was once merely “tacked on” to existing spacecraft. Two of these systems include the ship’s reactor and hyperdrive, both of which were designed by the Asgard race. This advanced technology enabled Deadalus-class ships to journey between galaxies in mere weeks, which translates to speeds greater than 55,000,000C.
1. TARDIS (Doctor Who)
The “Heart of the TARDIS” is a sentient being powered by both the Time Vortex and the Eye of Harmony—a perpetually exploding star frozen in time. Determining just how fast the TARDIS travels is a bit of a conundrum considering it moves through both space and time at extremely variable rates. As such, the distance occupants travel in time doesn’t always seem to relate to the amount of time they spend in the TARDIS. In the episode “Utopia,” for example, they take the TARDIS all the way to the end of time and the journey only seems to take a few minutes; but in other episodes, journeys apparently take at least several hours as evidenced by some companions stating they were able to get a full night’s rest before arriving at the destination. Nevertheless The Doctor is able to control the speed of the TARDIS—at least to some degree —and, therefore, its top speed is estimated to be somewhere around 10,000,000,000,000,000C.