Over the past five decades, the Star Trek franchise has showcased some of the coolest starships in all of sci-fi TV and film history. But which one is the best? We’ve ranked the greatest “Hero Ships” from the series, from the classic ‘sixties ’60s show to more modern Treks like Picard, Discovery, and Strange New Worlds. And for clarity’s sake, we define “Hero Ship” as any starship where the main action takes place in a particular show or movie. Or that a principal character commanded in a pivotal way.
1. The Enterprise NCC-1701 (Refit) and the Enterprise NCC-1701-A, Constitution-class, seen in Star Trek films I-VI (1979-1991)
When Star Trek made the jump from the small screen to the big screen, the starship Enterprise got an upgrade to go with it. Undergoing a two-year refit, the remodeled Enterprise made its debut in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They took the basic design concept from the sixties show, and upgraded it with more detail and sleeker warp nacelles. They destroyed that Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but in the next film we got a new Enterprise of the exact same type—Constitution-class refit. And since they’re the exact same model, we’re counting them as one. Still the ship we think of when someone says “Star Trek.“
2. The Enterprise NCC-1701-D, Galaxy-class, seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Generations (1987-1994)
In a recent episode of Picard‘s third season, a random person referred to the Enterprise-D as “the fat one.” Well, the saucer section was indeed very large, as a way of accommodating over 1,000 crew members and their families. But this design is the most organic looking of all the Starfleet vessels, and there was just something graceful and sleek about its design. Sure, it had pastel carpets on the floor and walls, and even wood paneling. Truly, a choice. But overall, the Enterprise-D just felt like a true home in space. And one we wouldn’t mind living in. We miss her still.
3. Voyager NCC-74656, Intrepid-class, seen in Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001)
The U.S.S. Voyager was a brand new ship when we were introduced to it, under the command of Captain Kathryn Janeway in the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager. The Intrepid-class ship was one of the late 24th-century successors of the Galaxy-class ships like the Enterprise-D. Yet it was much smaller, and could actually land on a planet. Her design kind of looked like a serving spoon with two nacelles sticking out, but there was something undeniably cool about this one. And it definitely had the coolest class of shuttlecraft on board.
4. Enterprise NCC-1701-E, Sovereign-class, seen in Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis (1996-2002)
After they crashed the Enterprise-D onto a planet in Generations, a year later Starfleet introduced the next Federation flagship, the Enterprise-E. It was a Sovereign-class ship, longer than the Enterprise-D, but not wider. Its saucer section was more elongated, and the warp nacelles were larger. Something about this ship, designed with fighting Borg and Dominion in mind, made it look meaner and more militant than the Enterprise-D. Which was perfect, as she saw many battles in First Contact and in subsequent films.
5. The H.M.S. Bounty/Klingon Bird of Prey, seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1984-1986)
This entry is kind of cheating, we admit. However, the H.M.S. Bounty, a commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey, was under the command of Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He and the displaced Enterprise crew saved the whales, and the entire future, with this ship. So we say it counts. It was jokingly renamed after the same 18th-century British vessel famous for its mutineers. Besides, it was the first Klingon Bird of Prey we ever saw, introduced in The Search for Spock. And that ship was one of the coolest in all of sci-fi history. It was so cool in fact, they used the model in TNG, DS9, and several more films for years.
6. The Enterprise NCC-1701, Constitution-class, seen in Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1975), Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (2022-Present)
The original starship, commanded first by Christopher Pike and later by James T. Kirk. It was designed by Matt Jefferies in 1964 for the pilot episode of Star Trek. The basic design is as pure Trek as it gets, and remains iconic throughout the world. The only reason it ranks at this mid-tier level is that the feature films took this same design and greatly improved on it. We still see a version of the classic NCC-1701 Enterprise on Strange New Worlds, although with added details for a 4K HD world. But it’s still the same basic design, and you just can’t go wrong with it.
7. The Excelsior NCC-2000, prototype, seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Introduced in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as “the great experiment,” we count the Excelsior as a “hero ship” because her Captain was none other than Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And she saw plenty of action in that film. She kind of looks like a version of the refit Enterprise, only one that hit the gym and got very swole. The Excelsior led to a whole class of ships named for her, of which the Enterprise-B was one. The Excelsior-class was in service for nearly 75 years.
8. The Defiant NX-74205, prototype class, seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, (1994-1999), Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
It’s tiny compared to the other ships on this list, and kind of looks like a waffle skillet with a vacuum cleaner nozzle. A prototype vessel designed to fight the Borg, the Defiant was an overpowered ship that packed a lot of heat. She was the main starship assigned to Deep Space Nine, appearing in DS9 seasons 3-7. Her first appearance remains a visual indicator of when the show got really good. Riker called her “a tough little ship” in the movie First Contact, and we think that’s a fair description. She was the angry chihuahua of the Star Trek franchise. And for that, we love her.
9. The Enterprise NCC-1701 Constitution-class (Kelvin Timeline), seen in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016)
We generally like the alt-timeline Enterprise, introduced in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek 2009 reboot film. But, it had some weird design choices. The saucer section was aces, but the warp nacelles were too big, a bit too muscle-car-looking. The placement of the deflector dish section jetting out in a weird way made the ship look unharmonious in design. We don’t dislike it, but the new Enterprise didn’t have to go so deeply Fast and the Furious for this redesign. Maybe if we ever see the Kelvin-verse crew again, they’ll be in a newer and cooler-looking ship.
10. The Titan NCC-80102-A, Neo-Constitution-class, seen in Star Trek: Picard season 3 (2023)
The main hero ship of Star Trek: Picard, the Titan is a new Neo-Constitution-class, meant to evoke the original Constitution-class ships like Kirk’s Enterprise. Only with a lot more detail. The Titan feels like a true update of both the classic and the 24th-century Starfleet vessels seen throughout TNG, DS9, and Voyager. Although commanded by Captain Liam Shaw, Will Riker took command when Shaw was injured. The previous Titan, a Luna-class ship, was under the command of Riker years before. We saw him in command of that Titan on Lower Decks. The current Titan has components of the old Luna-class ship. So it qualifies as both a refit and also as a new ship, hence keeping the registry number.
11. The Discovery NCC-1031 and NCC-1031-A, Crossfield-class, seen in Star Trek: Discovery (2017-2024)
The 23rd Century U.S.S. Discovery had a lot of cool design features, especially once it got a 32nd-century upgrade in Discovery’s third season. It was actually based on old illustrations by Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie for a never-produced Trek movie. But Discovery was too weirdly flat looking, and with boxy warp nacelles, for us to ever really feel like something from Starfleet. It sort of looks like a pizza cutter, which is why they eventually made a Discovery pizza cutter. We just never really fell in love with the design for Discovery the way we wanted to.
12. The Protostar, NX-76884, prototype class, seen in Star Trek: Prodigy (2021-Present)
A relatively new ship to Star Trek canon, the Protostar is the hero ship of Star Trek: Prodigy. The experimental prototype ship harnessed the power of a young star. This energy helped it travel at incredible speeds, much faster than the average Federation starship. It had similar design elements to both Voyager and the Enterprise-E. And that makes sense, as it would have been built around the same time as those iconic ships.
13. The Cerritos NCC-75567, California-class, seen in Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020-Present)
The U.S.S. Cerritos, a California-class 24th-century ship (named for a real California city near Los Angeles), is the main ship on Star Trek: Lower Decks. The animated comedy series is about a crew stationed aboard the least important ship in Starfleet. Since it is a show filled with awkward main characters, the Cerritos is appropriately awkward looking. It sort of looked like a frisbee with handlebars. We kind of like it, but majestic she ain’t.
14. The Enterprise NX-01, prototype class, seen in Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005)
To be fair, the 22nd-century NX-01 Enterprise was a prototype ship designed by Starfleet before there was ever even a Federation. It was the first Earth vessel to hit the Warp 5 mark, allowing them to explore far more of the galaxy. They meant it to look very “first draft,” if you get our meaning. But it all just looked a little too much like a first attempt. It’s not hideous, it’s just that the NX-01 looks very unassuming and slightly underwhelming. Kind of like the Enterprise series itself in the end.
15. The S.S. La Sirena, NAR-93131, Freighter-class, seen in Star Trek: Picard (2020-2023)
Introduced as Captain Cristobal Rios’ private vessel in the first season of Picard, the S.S. La Sirena has changed hands many times. Rios gave it to Seven of Nine in season two, who later turned it over to Raffi in season three. This red-hued speed freighter looked like a random ship from Star Wars, more than anything worthy of a main series Star Trek ship. It’s not that it’s awful, it just feels the most un-Trek of every ship on this list. And let’s face it, it looks like a space crab. Hopefully, by the end of Picard season three, someone will put this hand-me-down ship out of its misery.