PORTLAND, OR — “Oh, Christ, downtown is gonna be fucking packed with people watching the fireworks tonight.” If you can relate to this sentiment, then this article is for you. But enough foreplay. Close your windows, draw your blinds, and turn up the volume — because it’s time to watch spaceships explode, instead!
#1 Best Space Battle of All Time
Star Wars: Rogue One
The Battle of Scarif: holy shit.
This one is still new, and maybe we’ll all stop caring about it after we’ve watched it obsessively for the fiftieth time. Until then, let’s just enjoy the pretty spaceships exploding all over the fucking place — and while we’re at it, let’s thank director Gareth Edwards for not fucking this one up. Rogue One is the story of the Rebellion’s first major victory against the Galactic Empire, wherein the rebels manage to make lots of fucking ships explode (including a bunch of their own). Speaking of X-wings and tie-fighters and shit blowing up, don’t forget to watch the Battle of Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens.
The tightly-directed climactic battle of Rogue One was quite the contrast from Lucas’ prequel trilogy, which was packed with long hodge-podge reels of emotionless animation — see the First Battle of Geonosis for one example; or try out the Battle of Kashyyyk for some more random eye-candy that pretty much served no purpose to the story.
#2 Runner Up
Deep Space Nine: Sacrifice of Angels
One of the last major space battles to be created in Hollywood using motion control composite photography, and still one of the reigning champions. Effects artists literally set up an assembly line to build model starships — painting them, packing them with explosives, and then filming them each from multiple angles, with high-speed film, as they blew them all to hell.
Check out the second battle of Chin’toka, not to mention the final battle of Cardassia Prime, for some more breathtaking examples of ships exploding all over the fucking place. And for a blast from the past, watch ships explode in the very first scene of the very first episode of Deep Space Nine — depicting a younger Commander Sisko, aboard the Saratoga, at the battle of Wolf 359.
#3 Runner Up
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Yeah. There’s Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Get the fuck over it. At least there aren’t any Gungans, and besides, you don’t even have to watch any of the parts that they’re in, in the video above — so just relax and watch the pretty ships explode. Then, enjoy this montage of exploding ships from all of the first six movies.
Speaking of a galaxy free of Gungans, check out the re-edited bootleg version of Star Wars: Episodes I-III, known as “The Phantom Edit.” The most notable changes in this popular underground fan-made re-edit? Virtually no Jar Jar, a much shorter pod racing scene, and — thank the gods — no more of Jake Lloyd shouting “yippie” or “oops.” And because I fucking know you’ll ask for it, here’s the battle over Coruscant from Episode III.
#4 Runner Up
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
A masterpiece in the cinematic history of watching space ships explode. Voyager fans, you also may note an (intentional) similarity to the protracted battle between Captain Janeway and Captain Ransom, of the U.S.S. Equinox. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any better clips from that one, so here’s a montage of a bunch of fucking ships exploding throughout Janeway’s 24th century rampage across the Delta Quadrant.
Then, watch some more ships explode in classic 23rd century style, this time starring the same guy who played the dad in the 1965 film The Sound of Music — only now, he’s wearing an eyepatch & quoting Shakespeare.
#5 Runner Up
Babylon 5: Severed Dreams
This 23rd century dystopian future — with a president oddly reminiscent of George W. Bush & a propaganda news network strikingly similar to Fox News, despite predating both — slowly unravels into a story of human civil war, within the overall context of the entire galaxy plunging into interstellar war. Complex storylines intertwine to form an epic mythos, weaving together petty personal motives with the god-like machinations of ancient (and incomprehensible) alien forces — some of which have been meddling in human affairs for thousands of years. Blah-de-fucking-blah-blah. Watch the guy from Tron give his little “independence day” speech on a cheap-looking set, then click play above and watch a bunch of fucking ships explode.
Hipster bonus: this was one of the first television space battles created exclusively with computer animation. But you don’t care about that. Watch some more stylishly-retro ships explode here, here, here, here, and here.
#6 Runner Up
Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning
Believe it or not, one of the best space battles of sci-fi comes from an independently-produced Finnish parody, which pits a satirical version of the Federation against an equally satirical version of the Babylon 5 alliance. The effects could easily pass for the best of DS9. Seriously, why can’t the big budget movies have ships exploding all over the fucking place like this?
#7 Runner Up
The Clone Wars: Landing at Point Rain
The critically-unacclaimed six-season Clone Wars series was a true sleeper hit, just in case you straight-up need to watch some more computer-animated Star Wars ships explode right now. And when you run out of episodes of the Clone Wars, check out the new series, Star Wars Rebels, which has lots of ships exploding all over the fucking place in seasons one & two, as well as in season three.
#8 Runner Up
I wanted to find the battle from the season one episode “The Hand of God,” but couldn’t find it online. It’s the first occasion (and one of precious few in the entire series) where the Battlestar Galactica actually gets to win in a fight. Whatever. As consolation, here’s a 10 minute compilation of ships from BSG exploding. When you’re done, watch some more ships explode here and here.
#9 Runner Up
Alas, Firefly, we hardly knew thee. And when you finally gave us a space battle, you did not hold back on the ships exploding. By the way, if the animation style looks similar to Battlestar Galactica, that’s because it’s the same team of artists.
If you were a fan of Firefly and Serenity, then don’t click here. Seriously.
#10 Runner Up
Star Trek: Balance of Terror
One of the first truly good space battles in science fiction history, this one works precisely because it doesn’t rely on visual effects (which sucked in the 1960s anyway). This battle follows the motif of two submarines with their periscopes damaged, slugging it out blindly in a lumbering battle-to-the-death, as the captains of each respective ship try to get into the head of their counterpart. The episode concludes with a brief on-screen conversation between the two captains, after the Romulan ship is mortally wounded — a scene which by itself makes this episode a timeless classic.
Honorable Mention #1
I’ll be honest. One episode of this ran into the next, in terms of how I remember it, probably because I Netflixed all 11,000 seasons in a single week. So the video above is a giant montage of a bunch of fucking ships exploding.
There were two spinoffs of this tongue-in-cheek show, which itself was a spinoff of a serious movie, which in turn itself was a ripoff of a story written by some poor schmuck named Omar Zuhdi, who never gets credited. And each spinoff had a bunch of ships exploding all over the fucking place in them, too.
Honorable Mention #2
The Last Starfighter
Who doesn’t have a fond spot for this movie? One of the first feature films to utilize computer animation, pretty much all of the space battles in it are as spectacularly… bad… as the one above. Whatever. Watch crappy 1980s ships explode.
Honorable Mention #3
Yeah, the effects are pretty cheesy. Still, if you haven’t watched this movie, make it the next one that you see. It’s a classic tale of a man and an alien marooned together on a planet in the midst of an interstellar war. Eventually, the two must stop trying to kill each other, and work together, before the planet kills them both.
Honorable Mention #4
Star Wars: Fan Animation
This incredible Star Wars anime is one of several fan-made pieces created by Paul “OtaKing” Johnson. By the time this video is over, you’ll be upset that you can’t go out and buy ten seasons of this show — but at least there’s the OtaKing’s Youtube page.
…and the Worst Space Battle Ever
Star Trek: Beyond
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
How does something like this even happen? Yes, they actually just destroyed the Big Bad Fleet with the power of rock & roll… literally. And then there’s something like three more hours of fist-fights after that. I don’t know about anyone else, but by the time this fucking movie was finally fucking finished, I was rooting for everyone on Starbase Yorktown to die.
Clean your eyes with bleach, then wash out the taste with this somewhat more satisfying temporal timeline-bender from Enterprise, wherein a 23rd-century Constitution-class starship takes on a 22nd-century NX class. Turn down the volume, and pretend it’s the alternate ending to Star Trek Beyond, where William Shatner shows up to fix the timeline by blowing Chris Pine straight to hell.
Submit Your Favorite!
Don’t see your favorite (or most hated) space battle here? Do you (a mere layperson) disagree with my ranking, as a professional journalist? Does it piss you right off? Leave a comment below, with a link to the video of your favorite space battle!