The 10 Greatest Spaceship Chases Ever

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, Movies, TV
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 5:01 am

5) Will Smith vs. an Alien
Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day doesn't automatically trigger Top Ten feelings in many people, but you have to admit that this was a pretty damn cool chase scene. Will Smith in an F-16, leading an alien fighter ship on a winding run through a rocky canyon, only to blind it with a parachute and sacrifice his own plane to knock it out of the sky. The scene has even been mimicked over the years: the pod race in Star Wars-Episode I had a similar winding-through-canyons-at-high-speed feel to it, but that was a race, not a chase. And in Stealth, Jaime Foxx fell for the same trick the alien did, getting blinded by an explosion caused by a robot and crashing. Will Smith:1; Jaime Foxx: 0. ...Unless you're counting Oscars, in which case reverse it.

4) Enterprise vs. Reliant
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The pursuit of the Enterprise by the Reliant under the command of Khan Noonien Singh starts out as a hide-and-go-seek, but soon we see a wounded Enterprise make a run for the Mutara Nebula, where neither ship will be detectable by the other. Khan's pilot slows down and convinces Khan that they shouldn't follow, but Kirk's incessant taunting of Khan spurs the chase ever onward. Thank God for the taunting, because the tension in the Mutara Nebula scene is so thick you could cut it with a phaser on its highest setting, and it ends with the Enterprise becoming the chaser and the Reliant becoming the chasee. (Little-known fact: William Shatner's real-life taunting of Ricardo Montalban on the set led to numerous shirtless wrestling matches.)

3) Darth Vader's TIE Fighter vs. Luke Skywalker's X-Wing
Star Wars: Episode IV--A New Hope (1977)

Before we ever knew Darth Vader was Luke's father, and way before we knew he was a whiny bitch, he was the scariest dude in the galaxy. So when Luke and his buds were on his way to deliver the killing shot on the Death Star, and Vader showed up behind them with two wingmen, audiences everywhere crapped their pants. The three TIE Fighters pursued the Rebels down the narrow trench, forcing Wedge Antilles to peel off and blowing Biggs Darklighter to smithereens, Luke would have been next, if not for the timely intervention of deus ex machina--er, Han Solo.

2) Spaceball-1 vs. Eagle 5
Spaceballs (1987)

"Ludicrous speed...GO!" With those three words, the second-greatest spaceship chase in history begins, and it's not even meant to be taken seriously. Lone Starr's space Winnebago Eagle 5 has just escaped the clutches of Dark Helmet's massive Spaceball-1 using its hyperdrive, and to compensate, Helmet calls for Ludicrous Speed (one step above Ridiculous Speed). Spaceball-1 immediately goes to plaid, rocketing past the Eagle 5 in a multicolored blur. The chase ends when Col. Sanders throws the brakes, launching Dark Helmet into a console. And that's the exact moment where Mel Brooks should have stopped making movies. It was all downhill from there.

1) Millennium Falcon vs. Imperial Fleet
Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Han Solo and Chewbacca know how to avoid Imperial entanglements--after all, they're smugglers, and getting boarded is not in their best interests. So when the Falcon's hyperdrive craps out with Princess Leia aboard, they've got to do some pretty goddamned evasive maneuvers. With agile TIE Fighters and even massive Star Destroyers on their tail, they dodge and weave so that the TIEs are unable to get a bearing on them and two Star Destroyers almost collide. They seek refuge in an asteroid field, narrowly avoiding collisions as the TIEs get picked off left and right by giant boulders, and eventually park the Falcon in a massive cave...but it's actually the belly of a giant fucking worm! The Falcon is launched back into the fray, with TIE Fighters surrounding it at every turn, and it seems as if there's no way out, until it hurtles towards the nearest Star Destroyer...and vanishes. No one can find it, because it's attached to the larger ship's superstructure. Also missing? Darth Vader's iPod. Dude, was he pissed.

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