More than any other fictional property, yes more than even Star Wars (really it’s about the lightsabers), Star Trek is known for starships. Star Trek’s approach to ships is a unique one, with the universe’s fictional craft fitting a specific design aesthetic with rules and fictional physics. All of those details, rather than being limiting factors, are ways to make everything about Star Trek’s ships feel more real.
Which Star Trek ship is the best? There are a lot of ways you can measure it. Which is the most powerful? Which is the fastest? The only thing that really matters is which is the coolest.
Cool is a difficult thing to define. It’s a combination of function, form, and sheer fun which can only be measured by someone who has spent a huge chunk of his life watching a lot of Star Trek and knows everything there is to know about every starship ever to appear on any Star Trek movie or television show. Hey, that sounds like me.
So here it is, the definitive list of the best Star Trek starships.
1. Constitution Class Refit
The design of the Constitution class Enterprise from the TV series was iconic, but dated by the time the crew got around to making their first movie in the late-70s. That ship, originally designed for the series by Matt Jeffries (for whom Jeffries Tubes are named), had to be updated. For the update, they went to Ralph McQuarrie, legendary mind behind the look of Star Wars. He came up with this…
His design was a radical departure from the ship fans knew and loved from the show. While McQuarrie’s ungainly design would decades later be used as the starting point for the hero ship on Star Trek: Discovery, the Star Trek movie team (wisely) threw it out and went back to the drawing board.
Instead they went to the man who came up with the Enterprise in the first place, Matt Jeffries, and asked for an updated version. The result was the Enterprise first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Dubbed the “refit” version, the in-canon explanation for the new look of the ship was that it had been updated with new technology by Starfleet. The ship maintained its name and registry number: NCC-1701
In the in-canon world of Star Trek, the Enterprise is a Constitution class starship. The series version was a standard Constitution class, the movie version is the Constitution class refit. The ship first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture was eventually destroyed in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. They brought back a new and identical version of the ship in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That new version, while visually identical, got a new registry number. This Enterprise was the NCC-1701-A. That naming convention stuck and each subsequent version of the Enterprise, no matter her class of ship, has gotten a new letter designation.
The ship itself is almost art-deco in its design. The grills on the nacelles evoke designs from that period. The saucer section is in perfect balance with the engineering section. More than any other Star Trek ship, this feels like a starship which is not only designed for space, but could only ever exist in space.
Matt Jeffries’ incredible work on the original Constitution class and its refit has endured. Decades later it lingers in pop culture consciousness as the most recognizable symbol of Star Trek, and one of the most recognizable and iconic fictional creations of all time.
Constitution Class Refit Technical Specs
- Decks: 23
- Length: 305 meters
- Standard Crew Complement: 300 – 432
- Top Warp Speed: Warp 9
Most Famous Constitution Class Refit Ships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701 | Seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A | Seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
2. Miranda Class Starship
Star Trek fans were first introduced to the Miranda Class starship in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That ship, named the USS Reliant, is still the most famous representation of the class but it has seen service in numerous other Star Trek movies and television shows. The Miranda has become one of the most recognizable ships of Starfleet, the backbone of the franchise’s fictional Federation.
Most recently a Miranda class showed up in a trailer for the second season of the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks. Fans will see even more Miranda action in Lower Decks season 2.
The ship was originally designed the other way around, with the nacelles above the disc. When drawings of the design were sent to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan producer Harve Bennett, he accidentally ended up looking at them upside down. He approved the design and everyone suddenly realized it actually looked better upside down anyway.
- Standard Crew Complement: 220
- Length: 277 meters
- Top Warp Speed: Warp 9.2
Most Famous Miranda Class Ships
- USS Reliant NCC-1864 | As seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- USS Saratoga NCC-1887 | Ass seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
3. Excelsior Class Starship
Excelsior. The great experiment. In-canon the Excelsior class ship was designed as the United Federation of Planet’s first foray into Transwarp drive. The first Excelsior class ship, Excelsior, received the NX designation as an experimental craft. That experiment failed, but the Excelsior class lived on after being converted to use a more traditional warp drive. This was the ship that replaced the Constitution class in the fleet and, like the Miranda class, it served as one of the backbones of Starfleet for decades.
The Excelsior class ship would go on to make appearances in nearly every Star Trek movie and every series up until Star Trek: Discovery. The model itself was designed by artists at Industrial Light & Magic for use in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The idea behind the ship was that it needed to look so brilliant, it would “steal the thunder” from the Enterprise. They succeeded.
The Excelsior class would, after many years of service, eventually get a refit. The refit version is generally the same as the original. The main difference is two flared out sections on the ship’s engineering hull.
- Decks: 34
- Length: 466 meters
- Standard Crew Complement: 770
- Top Speed: Warp 13 (old Warp scale)
Most Famous Excelsior Class Ships
- USS Excelsior NX-2000 | As seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B | As seen in Star Trek: Generations
4. Klingon Bird of Prey
Almost inarguably the most famous ship used by the Klingon Empire, the Klingon Bird of Prey was originally designed solely for attack with little thought to defense and it looks every bit that part. In practice though, it has proven to be far more than a fast attack craft and over time became one of the most versatile and beloved ships in the Klingon fleet. The Bird of Prey has several different, related sub-classes. Those are sometimes referred to as the K’vort class, the D12, and the B’rel. Visually they’re all much the same, though there is wide variation in size between them.
The first Bird of Prey model was originally designed for use in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. That version of the ship was conceived of as small and powerful, a utility for making war. Like all the effects in Star Trek III, the Bird of Prey was designed by ILM. The ship would go on to make appearances in nearly every form of the Star Trek franchise from then on. Most recently it even made an appearance on the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Technical Specs (standard version)
- Length: 109 meters
- Decks: 4 meters
- Standard Crew Complement: 12
Most Famous Bird Of Prey Class Ships
- HMS Bounty | As seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Duras Sisters Bird Of Prey | As seen in Star Trek: Generations
- Dukat’s Bird of Prey | As seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Return to Grace”
- IKS Rotarran | As seen in numerous Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes
5. Sovereign Class Starship
The Sovereign was designed to be the eye-popping, movie version vessel for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. It debuted in Star Trek: First Contact and that movie’s production team’s goal was to do for Picard’s Enterprise what the Constitution class refit did for Captain Kirk’s. They succeeded with the work of legendary designer John Eaves under the supervision of Herman Zimmerman. The already debuted Intrepid class on Star Trek: Voyager was a clear influence on the design, but the Sovereign was the next step forward in the Intrepid’s design evolution. The Sovereign is sleeker and slightly smaller ship than the Galaxy Class which came before it. It’s also more dangerous.
Unlike the Enterprise A, the Enterprise E was not a refit of the Galaxy Class ship which preceded it. The Enterprise name was instead put on Starfleet’s newest and most advanced class of ship. The Sovereign was developed specifically with fighting the Borg in mind, so gone were the civilian accommodations found aboard the Galaxy class. A Sovereign class is no place for a family. The Enterprise E was lean, mean, super-fast, and the most ultra-high-tech vessel Starfleet of that time was able to produce.
- Length: 680 meters
- Decks: 24
- Standard Crew Complement: 700
- Top Warp Speed: Warp 9.99
Most Famous Sovereign Class Starships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E | As seen in Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis
6. Ambassador Class Starship
The Ambassador class starship lingered in the background for years on Star Trek: The Next Generation, appearing in the form of a relief on the history wall of the Enterprise D’s observation lounge. Eventually, it made a full appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, an episode now considered one of the finest pieces of science fiction television has ever produced.
The ship was created by TNG production designer Andrew Probert. Probert claims that the relief on the wall of the Enterprise D was always intended to be another class of ship the Enterprise would encounter. The Ambassador bridges the design gap between the Excelsior class Enterprise and the Galaxy class Enterprise, combining some of the best elements of both to create something that’s as good as, and in some ways even better, than the two designs it sits between.
In “Yesterday’s Enterprise” our first real look at an Ambassador class comes when the Enterprise C emerges from a rip in time. By the time the episode is over, the NCC-1701-C has died a glorious and noble death. Since then we haven’t seen a lot of the Ambassador class in Star Trek. It’s high time someone brought it back.
- Length: 478 or 524 meters (disputed)
- Decks: 33
- Standard Crew Complement:1320
- Top Warp Speed: Warp 9.2
Most Famous Ambassador Class Starships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C | As seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
7. Galaxy Class Starship
When the Galaxy class Enterprise first appeared on screen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first episode, it was a radical departure from anything Star Trek had done before. The traditional circular saucer was replaced by something resembling an oval. The neck of the ship looked like some kind of snake. It was a shock, but fans grew to love everything about the new ship.
What’s most unusual about the Galaxy class is that, despite its popularity among fans and utility in the Star Trek universe, the design is kind of a one off. Star Trek never really designed another ship even remotely like it. Before was the era of the art deco starship, after was the more spoon shaped style of the Intrepid and Sovereign Class.
It’s not just the design of the Galaxy class that makes it so unique. Even it’s purpose is singular. It was the first Federation starship designed specifically to carry families. Not just a means of transportation or exploration or even war, the Galax class was more like a giant floating city which could do anything and everything and do all of it really, really well.
The design is so unique that it demands a place on this list, even if at times it looks a little ungainly and even though the noble Enterprise D died an ignominious death at the hands of hack writers.
- Length: 642 meters
- Decks: 42
- Standard Crew Complement: 1012
- Maximum Crew Capacity: 15,000
- Top Speed: Warp 9.8
Most Famous Galaxy Class Starships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D | As seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Generations
- USS Odyssey NCC-71832 | As seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Jem’Hadar”
8. Vulcan Suurok Class
Before the formation of the Federation, Vulcans had the most powerful fleet in the Alpha Quadrant. Of all their ships, the Suurok Class (sometimes also called the Surok class) was the fastest and most powerful vessel in their defense force. It’s also the most beautiful.
Before Starfleet homogenized things and focused on double nacelle warp drive designs, the Vulcans used warp rings to power their starhips. That combined with the long, pointed body of the Suurok class makes it look at the same time delicate and deadly. It’s the kind of ship that could only ever exist in outer space.
The Suurok class was designed for Star Trek: Enterprise by production designer Doug Drexler. It was the first ever Vulcan designed starship seen on screen.
- Length: 309 meters
- Decks: 11
- Standard Crew Complement: 175
- Top Speed: Warp 7
Most Famous Suurok Class Starships
- Ni’Var | As seen on Star Trek: Enterprise in “Shadows of P’Jem”
- Sh’Raan | As seen on Star Trek: Enterprise in “Fallen Hero”
9. Constitution Class Retcon
When Star Trek: Discovery announced they were bringing the original, Captain Pike era Enterprise into the show, fans feared the worst. Instead, what they did is deliver a visual reboot of the ship that stayed totally faithful to its original (and now dated) look, but totally updating it so the new Constitution class fit with the abilities of modern special effects.
The Constitution Class Retcon keeps all the things that were great about the original Constitution Class which debuted back in the 60’s on Star Trek, while fixing all the problems about it that were largely the result of limited technology of the time. It’s so good that now I prefer it to the original, hallowed be its name.
The Retcon version of the Enterprise will be back to star in its own show soon. Captain Pike and the Enterprise will lead upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
- Length: 288 meters
- Decks: 22
- Standard Crew Complement: 230
- Top Speed: Warp 9
Most Famous Constitution Class Retcon Starships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701 | As seen on Star Trek: Discovery and soon to be seen on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
10. Borg Cube
The classic Borg Cube is brilliant in its simplicity. It is quite literally a cube floating in space. It has no visible propulsion, no visible weapons and yet… it’s one of the most menacing things ever seen on screen.
The first Borg Cube was designed for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Q Who” by Writer/Producer Maurice Hurley and Production Designer Richard James. It was first described in the script this way: “The shape of the ship is more apparent. It’s box like, with none of the aerodynamic qualities associated with most spaceships including the Enterprise. This is a case of form following function.”
Though other types of Borg craft have appeared over the years, a Borg cube is still the most fear-inspiring thing in Star Trek’s fictional universe. Resistance is futile.
- Length: 3,037 meters
- Decks: 22
- Standard Crew Complement: 130,000
- Top Speed: Transwarp Capable, Warp 9.99
Most Famous Borg Cubes
- The Artifact | As seen on Star Trek: Picard
- First’s Cube | As seen in Star Trek: Voyager’s episode “Collective”
- Locutus’s Cube | As seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Best of Both Worlds Part 1” and “Best of Both Worlds Part 2”
11. Prometheus Class
The Prometheus class was a highly secret, specially designed starship developed for heavy tactical assignments in deep space. Designed to operate in far off dangerous places without backup, the ship was given a number of unique abilities. It’s also highly automated, able to run almost without any crew at all. At the time it was introduced, the Prometheus class was the most powerful ship in the entire Alpha Quadrant.
The Prometheus class is perhaps best known for its ability to activate “Multi-Vector Assault Mode”. This feature, when activated, split the ship into three different space craft. Unlike a saucer separation on a Galaxy Class where the Engineering section is fully functional and the saucer is all but helpless, all three parts of the ship were fully functional and able to operate totally independent of the others.
A Prometheus class is so powerful they’ve been known to take on and defeat Romulan D’deridexes with little trouble. During its time in Starfleet, only the later introduced Sovereign Class starship was more powerful than a Prometheus.
- Length: 414 meters
- Decks: 15
- Minimum Crew Complement: 4
- Top Speed: Warp 9.9+
Most Famous Prometheus Class Starships
- USS Prometheus NX-59650 | As seen in Star Trek: Voyager episodes “Message in a Bottle” and “Endgame”
13. Constellation Class
While Starfleet’s most famous captain Jean-Luc Picard is best known for captaining the Enterprise, he actually got his start in the center seat of a Constellation class starship called the Stargazer. The Constellation class was an old style star cruiser and one of the workhorses of the Federation fleet.
The Constellation’s most unique feature is the fact that it uses four warp nacelles instead of the standard two used on most starships. Its uniqueness combined with the use of a beautiful, Constitution class refit era saucer design, make it one of the most visually striking and memorable ships in Starfleet’s service.
- Length: 310 meters
- Decks: 17
- Standard Crew Complement: 350
- Top Speed: Warp 9
Most Famous Constellation Class Starships
- USS Stargazer NCC-2893 | As seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The Battle” and “Relics”
- USS Hathaway NCC-2593 | As seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Peak Performance” and “Redemption II”
13. Defiant Class Escort
The exterior of a Defiant class isn’t much to look at. It’s simple, it’s stocky, and it looks overpowered. It looks that way because, well, it is overpowered. That’s the entire point and there’s beauty in the simplicity of its design. On the inside, a Defiant class is a triumph of function and form. They cram a lot into one little ship, and it works brilliantly inside and out as one of the few Federation Starships designed for one thing: War.
Though technically classified as an “Escort” vessel the Defiant is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with much larger starships. It was originally designed to fight the Borg, but when Starfleet engineers encountered flaws in the design, the project was abandoned. The already constructed prototype was given to Benjamin Sisko, then Commander of the space station Deep Space Nine. Sisko’s chief engineer, Miles O’Brien, managed to fix the ship’s design flaws and turned it into one of the most powerful forces in the both the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants.
- Length: 170 meters
- Decks: 5
- Standard Crew Complement: 50
- Top Speed: Warp 9.5
Most Famous Defiant Class Starships
- USS Defiant NX-74205 | As seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- USS Sao Paulo NCC-75633 (renamed USS Defiant) | As seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and in Star Trek: First Contact
14. Constitution Class, Kelvin Timeline
When JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek universe using time travel and an encounter with a ship called the USS Kelvin, everything about Starfleet changed, even the look of its ships. For his 2009 Star Trek movie Abrams gave the ship a radical redo, making its engines bigger and making the ship far more massive than ever before.
While the scale of the ship is ridiculous and unneeded, the design is actually beautiful from a purely aesthetic perspective. Say what you want about JJ Abrams’ and his terrible scripts, but if you had to change the look of the Enterprise in any radical way (and you probably shouldn’t) then this is a great way to do it.
The biggest change is the ship’s Warp Nacelles, which have been oversized and re-shaped to look like something out of a 50’s starship matte painting. Yes from a technical perspective they’re way too big, but they give this Kelvinverse Enterprise a muscular, overpowered look that no other Star Trek ship has really had before.
The Kelvin universe version of the Constitution class was tweaked even further at the end of Star Trek: Beyond for the introduction of the Enterprise A. The changes are subtle, the position of the saucer and nacelles on their pylons, but both models are equally visually impressive.
- Length: 762 meters
- Decks: 36
- Standard Crew Complement: 1100
- Top Speed: Whatever The Plot Needs
Most Famous Constitution Class, Kelvin Universe Starships
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701 | As seen in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek: Beyond
- USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A | As seen in Star Trek: Beyond
15. Romulan Valdore Class Warship
The Romulan Valdore was a new type of Romulan ship introduced specifically for Star Trek: Nemesis and designed by John Eaves. The ship’s design takes a totally different direction from the most famous Romulan ship, the D’Deridex.
Where the D’Deridex is huge, oversized, and menacing; the Valdore is sleek, refined, and predatory. Given the Romulan tendency towards subterfuge rather than overwhelming force, the Valdore’s aesthetic is far more in keeping with their race’s preferences… and it looks pretty too.
- Length: 604 meters
- Width: 911 meters
- Standard Crew Complement: 900
Most Famous Valdore Type Starships
- IRW Valdore | As seen in Star Trek: Nemesis
Great Star Trek Starships That Didn’t Make The Cut
I would have loved to include the Luna class starship on this list of the 15 best, but we’ve never seen one in live-action. The only version of the Luna we’ve seen is the Captain Riker commanded USS Titan on the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks. I decided, for simplicity sake, to leave 2D animated ships off the list.
You’re probably wondering where the Intrepid class is. The ship’s most famous iteration is the USS Voyager, as seen in every episode of Star Trek: Voyager. And while the Intrepid is justifiably beloved, it never really hit the right notes aesthetically. It does all the things a Star Trek: The Next Generation era ship should do, but does them by looking like a spoon. And those articulating warp nacelles never made much sense, having to take the extra time to move your nacelles around before you can go into warp seems like a pretty huge design flaw.
Also missing from this list is every ship from the original 60s Star Trek series. Nearly every design on The Original Series is beautiful and innovative, but the technology of the era really wasn’t up to the challenge of bringing those designs to life. As a result, they don’t hold up at all. Modern recreations of those designs are (visually anyway), superior, despite the importance of their origins on the original show in the 60s.
Another well-known Star Trek starship which didn’t make the cut is the Romulan D’Deridex class warbird, which while imposing and huge looks sort of like a fat vulture. I also left out the Klingon D7 Battlecruiser. The D7 is a great design, but it pales in comparison to the far superior, albeit much smaller, Bird of Prey.
I’ve also left out pretty much everything from Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Picard’s only ship of note is the La Sirena, a boring boxy design which looks like it belongs more in the Mass Effect universe than Star Trek. The Discovery itself is based on that rejected Ralph McQuarrie design for the Enterprise mentioned earlier in this rundown. That design was rejected back in the 70s because it’s incredibly ugly. It’s still ugly today. And let’s not talk about how terrible the Klingon ships look on Disco. Their hideousness is obvious.
If I had decided to include a #16, I probably would have gone with the Walker class starship from Star Trek: Discovery. You probably remember it best as the USS Shenzhou, the not-evil Georgiou’s ship from the series’ first episode. It’s a unique and aesthetically interesting design. Had the show stuck with that style instead of jumping to McQuarrie’s terrible idea, Discovery probably would have been a lot better off.