The Star Wars universe is jam-packed with all manner of strange and interesting spaceships, speeders, and everything in between. From a design standpoint, many of these focus on look rather than practicality, sacrificing the science behind their functionality. We have star-fighters without aerodynamic wings, space stations that are impossibly large, and land vehicles without wheels. Even so, we’re willing to ignore all that for the sake of sheer entertainment value.
We can justify designs that don’t hold water from a scientific standpoint in favor of something that’s too cool to hate. Similarly, we can condemn vehicles that simply don’t make sense and are made to be aesthetically pleasing but still end up completely ineffective in the process. We’re going to go over both sides of the coin, laying out the best and worst Star Wars has to offer.
Best: Slave 1
Slave 1 may very well be the best ship we don’t see nearly enough of in the original Star Wars trilogy. Really one of the highlights of the prequels was getting to see the chosen vehicle of the Fett family in action, as we see it utilizing its vast array of advanced weaponry. Pimped out with seismic charges, laser cannons, and homing missiles, its unique design seemed fitting for bounty hunters like Jango and Boba Fett.
Worst: Pod Racers
Before you take to social media about how the pod race from The Phantom Menace was one of the best scenes in the prequels, know that we’re not knocking the sequence per se. But there’s no denying that the racers themselves are terribly designed, especially when you consider the variety of other land speeders we see in the Star Wars canon. Imagine if NASCAR had a 50% mortality rate for every race, because that’s essentially what pod racers give to the preferred sport of Tatooine. There’s nothing aerodynamic or practical about the design of a vehicle supposedly built for speed and maneuverability.
Best: Imperial Speeder Bikes
Now if we’re talking about vehicles built for speed, the Imperial Speeder Bike we see in Return of the Jedi deserves a place in the conversation. While probably not the best mode of transportation on the forest planet of Endor, it makes a lot more sense than a freaking pod racer when it comes to getting somewhere in a hurry.
Worst: The Death Star
No one’s going to argue with the advantages the Death Star affords the Empire with its planet-destroying firepower. But when an under-funded group of Rebels destroys not one, but two of them, you have to place the blame somewhere. There really shouldn’t be a two-meter wide hole capable of blowing up the entire operation. And if that happens, you shouldn’t build a tunnel an entire fleet can fly through that leads directly to the reactor core into the next version. Poor design led to a whole lot of destruction and wasted money here.
Of all the starfighters in the Star Wars universe, none accomplished quite as much as the X-Wing. Incidentally, these are the ships most similar to your classic fighter jet design, likely inspired by George Lucas’s own love of old-school air battles. Mounted with four laser cannons, it’s a nimble, fast ship equipped with its own hyper-drive, making it good for both long trips and up-close battles. It’s no wonder they were consistently able to best the Empire’s fleet across the original trilogy.
Worst: TIE Fighters
Throughout the Star Wars films, we see the Rebels constantly dominating the air with their superior starfighter force. The standard-issue TIE Fighter is designed to be quick, but that’s about its only advantage. It doesn’t feature anything in the way of weaponry other than twin laser cannons, it doesn’t have its own hyper-drive, and according to the new canon Star Wars novels, it doesn’t even have an ejector seat. The Force Awakens even features a TIE crash landing, so things haven’t gotten much better in the years since the fall of the Empire.
Best: The Millenium Falcon
The Millenium Falcon may have a hyper-drive that’s almost a guarantee to not work when it’s needed most, but it should tell you just how good a ship it is that it survived in spite of this. It served Han Solo well as a smuggling vessel, and the Rebellion even better as a full-on war machine, making it one of the most versatile vehicles the Star Wars universe has to offer. Knowing this, we’re not at all shocked to see it survive years into the future for The Force Awakens.
Of all the heavy artillery the Empire features, the AT-ST Imperial Walker is perhaps the least practical of them all. Their four-legged AT-AT counterparts are the back-bone of the Imperial ground assault, making it a strange choice to also feature a bipedal edition too. In Return of the Jedi, we see the AT-ST constantly get tripped up and destroyed by a primitive race of teddy bears that just figured out how to sharpen sticks. It’s a wobbly mess of a pseudo-tank, and falls firmly in the “bad idea” category in terms of assault vehicles.
Best: Super Star Destroyers
As the flagship of the Imperial fleet, the Super Star Destroyer is a technological marvel. Most estimates peg it as being approximately the size of Manhattan, making it a terror to take on for any Rebel fleet. There’s a reason these were the chosen vessels of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, demonstrating their function as consummate command centers. And while we did see the Rebels take one down during the Battle of Endor, it’s still hard to bet against a Super Star Destroyer in any scuffle.
Worst: Trade Federation Battleships
Throughout the prequel movies, we never see just what it is that makes the Trade Federation’s chosen flagship anything less than terrible. Destroying just one command ship is enough to deactivate an entire droid army on the surface of a planet, and apparently all it takes is one shot at a very exposed reactor on an all too accessible landing deck. If a 9-year-old can take down your giant battle cruiser, then odds are you’ve built a bad ship.
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