The chase scene—a staple of every good action film. But when a film is set in the cold reaches of outer space, that tricked-out Ford Mustang with a V6 and a hemi don’t mean diddly-squat! (Unless you’re in Jean Luc Godard’s Alphaville, where people drive cars in space, in which case we’re very, very sorry for you.) No, in space, fast three-dimensional thinking and rapid laser fire rule the day, and it takes a unique combination of the two—hell, any combination of the two—to make a chase one of the best. So without further ado, here are ten of the greatest chase scenes involving spaceships ever portrayed in pop culture. So far.
10) Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Starfighter vs. Slave 1
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002)
While some might balk at the prospect of having anything from a Star Wars prequel on any top ten list anywhere, this chase was pretty cool. Obi-Wan Kenobi in his starfighter, with Jango Fett’s Slave 1 in hot pursuit (beginning about the 2:50 mark), weaving in and out of an asteroid field and firing round after round with that cool pyew-pyew-pyew sound? It was awesome…mainly because it’s a total rip-off of our #1 chase scene. Still, riding on that chase scene’s coattails earns it the number ten spot, and anyway, it’s not really ripping anybody off if the same person wrote both scenes. Then it’s a “sly self-reference.”
9) Tardis vs. Taxi Cab
Doctor Who, ‘The Runaway Bride” (2006)
Spaceship chases: awesome. One-sided spaceship chases: even awesomer. When you’ve got a spaceship that can travel through time and disobey the laws of physics, running down a British taxicab should be no problem, right? Wrong. The good Doctor learns that being a Timelord means nothing when your friend is locked in the back of a lorry speeding down the highway with a robotic Santa Claus at the wheel (it begins at 2:00, more or less). The Tardis blatantly changes lanes without signaling in pursuit of the cab, even bouncing off the roof of another car. and on its second approach the doctor finally convinces the woman to make the leap from cab. Probably the greatest use of a flying police box ever.
8) Firefly vs. the Reavers
Nothing gives a chase scene a bit of an edge like the possibility of being raped to death and worn as a coat if you get caught. The Reavers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly TV series were never seen, only described in grotesque detail, so when Mal and his crew get interrupted mid-heist by a Reaver raiding party, they run like the dickens. Flying across the grasslands in a hover car, the Serenity crew trades shots with the smoke-belching Reaver ship on their tail, barely making it back aboard their own ship in time. Rape narrowly avoided!
7) Bruce Willis vs. the Police
The Fifth Element (1997)
While none of the ships involved in this chase technically fly in space, they’re all flying cars, whizzing miles above New York City! That’s like space, right? We bet if Bruce Willis wanted to take his futuristic flying taxi into space, he could. In this instance, however, he simply leaves the regulated lanes of flying traffic to drive straight down into the depths of New York, with the police in pursuit. What could make a man act so recklessly? Milla Jovovich. She’s made many a man do things he’ll regret, like paying to see Ultraviolet.
6) Borg Cube vs. Enterprise
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Q Who?” (1989)
The appearance of Q in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is never a good thing, as bad stuff usually happens when he’s around. The best thing he ever did? Introduce us to the Borg. Granted, the crew of the Enterprise didn’t enjoy it, as the Borg attempted to assimilate them and carve the ship up for parts, but the viewers at home got to see the Enterprise try to outrun a massive, more advanced starship (beginning at 2:50). Luckily, Q teleported them all away in time, but if this had been a Joss Whedon TV show, the Borg would have caught them and raped them all to death.