Welcome to The StarWars.com 10, a feature where StarWars.com’s editorial staff huddles to discuss — in a committee — various topics relating to a galaxy far, far away. Today, we pick the top starfighters in the Star Wars films.
Note: This list is not based strictly on technical specs or firepower of starfighters. Ranking was also decided by the crafts’ design, role in the saga, and to put it simply, overall cool factor. Also, this is a starfighter-only list — craft that are part of a mass fleet — thus, there is no Millennium Falcon, Slave I, Death Star, etc.
10. Droid starfighter
Debuting in The Phantom Menace, the droid starfighter is essentially the TIE fighter of the prequel trilogy — the most identifiable aerial weapon of choice for the Trade Federation and later, the Separatists. Controlled by droid brains, these starfighters are fast, deadly, and require no pilot; they can also land, invert their wings and walk, making them versatile and unique from any other craft on this list — and it’s a feature that gives them an added dimension of creepiness. With a cold, curvy design and bland color scheme that matches the look of battle droids and AATs, the droid starfighter reinforces some of Star Wars‘ central themes: man versus machine, individuality versus conformity, and democracy versus dictatorship.
The ARC-170, the starfighter of choice for the Republic’s clone troopers, is successful on many levels. Dramatically, it plays a key role in the opening of Revenge of the Sith, as clones dogfight in thrilling fashion above Coruscant, and protect Obi-Wan and Anakin in their mission to rescue to Chancellor Palpatine. Visually, however, is where the ARC-170 truly shines. It’s simultaneously original — bulkier than a typical starfighter, requiring three clone trooper pilots to fully operate the craft — but also points towards the look of the X-wing, and as a result is a significant aesthetic bridge to the original trilogy.
8. Jedi starfighter (Delta-7)
First seen in Attack of the Clones, the Jedi starfighter is an arrowhead-shaped craft used by Jedi while on missions away from Coruscant. Not designed for deep-space flight, Jedi starfighters have to dock with a hyperdrive ring to travel at lightspeed. (Editor’s note: This became a topic of debate during the StarWars.com team’s ranking of the best starfighters — does the need to use a hyperdrive ring make them more or less cool?) While Revenge of the Sith would introduce an updated version, the Delta-7 remains a popular design. The pointed tip is threatening, but also conveys speed; while the ship is closest in look to the A-wing, it’s still easily identifiable; and as piloted by Obi-Wan Kenobi through an asteroid field while pursued by Jango Fett, the Delta-7 can twist, turn, and barrel roll with the best of them, and is just a fun starfighter to watch.
7. TIE interceptor
The TIE interceptor, which made its first appearance in Return of the Jedi, is a sleek update of the classic TIE fighter design. With elongated and split wings, the TIE interceptor is the most threatening-looking of all the Empire’s starfighters — and the fastest. These things were everywhere during the Battle of Endor, and showed that the Empire was still pushing forward in all facets of militaristic domination.
6. Naboo N-1 starfighter
For a Star Wars one-man fighter, the Naboo N-1 is truly original. Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the N-1 doesn’t really look like anything else in Star Wars — prequel or original trilogy — and years later, that’s what makes it innovative. It’s clean, is a beautiful yellow and silver, and is rounded in design as opposed to the angular look of the original trilogy’s ships. As a testament to the gifts of designer Doug Chiang, the N-1 seamlessly fits with the classic Venetian-style architecture of Naboo, creating a visual continuity that brings the planet to life — and shows how much things changed once the Empire took over. As seen in the climax of The Phantom Menace, the N-1 is a fine starfighter in battle, and is one of the prequel trilogy’s most famous craft.
One of the Rebel Alliance’s hallmark craft, the Y-wing featured heavily in the Death Star attack in A New Hope and is seen in every film in the original trilogy, as well as Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The Y-wing functions as a ship-to-ship fighter or as a bomber, and while slower than its X-wing and A-wing cousins, is powerful enough to make up for its shortcomings in speed. Aesthetically, it’s very Star Wars but also original, with a triangular cockpit, droid socket, and has a worn, detailed look.
One of several craft that debuted in Return of the Jedi, the A-wing is the fastest starfighter in the Rebel fleet, and has become a fan favorite. It plays a key role in Jedi, as a trio of A-wings destroy the Empire’s Super Star Destroyer during the climactic Battle of Endor — including a classic moment, in which an out of control A-wing crashes into the giant starship’s bridge, taking out several high ranking Imperial officers. Design-wise, it looks suitably sleek, with twin engines, no frills, and no droid slot — the A-wing looks like it’s designed for speed. Ultimately, a deceptively simple design that oozes cool.
3. Jedi starfighter
An update to the Delta-7, the newer Jedi starfighter is featured prominently in Revenge of the Sith, piloted by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in the film’s thrilling opening sequence. The Jedi starfighters are blindingly fast, able to outrun missles and pack a punch themselves, successfully knocking out the hangar shields of Count Dooku’s starship and screaming past its emergency blast doors. Visually, this version of the Jedi starfighter features several pleasing design changes to the original: a forked front, a new cockpit pod, and wing tips, as well as laser cannons and a spring-loaded astromech socket (see Artoo’s leap from Anakin’s Jedi starfighter after it crash lands in Sith). It all makes for one of the most aesthetically interesting starfighters ever seen in Star Wars.
2. TIE fighter
Without a doubt, one of the most iconic designs from Star Wars, period. An ominous gray with a spider web cockpit window and hexagonal wings, the TIE fighter is clearly a ship that would be flown by the bad guys; and thanks to sound designer Ben Burtt, its engines emit a threatening scream that has become instantly recognizable. In terms of legacy, the TIE fighter has come to represent the unending reach and wrath of the Empire — swarms are featured in every film of the original trilogy, and as a result, it’s the one starfighter that fans truly love to hate.
When it comes to starfighters, the X-wing is synonymous with Star Wars, and for good reason. Debuting in A New Hope‘s climactic Death Star battle, the X-wing instantly became (even if only in the minds of audiences) the starfighter of the Rebel Alliance. From the high stakes dogfights with TIE fighters to the lightning fast trench run, the X-wing could do it all. And as the ship that Luke piloted and used to destroy the Death Star, its place in Star Wars history was cemented. The X-wing would also go on to play a big role in The Empire Strikes Back — where it serves as a big test in Luke’s faith in the Force — and Return of the Jedi. But the design was revolutionary, with crisscrossing wings featuring laser cannons, and super a slim frame — indeed, the X-wing, upon its introduction, looked like nothing else in film or in real life, but still familiar and inviting. Today, the X-wing looms large in Star Wars and in popular culture, whether it’s serving as the inspiration for a classic video game, acting as the central starfighter in books and comics, or drawing thousands of visitors to Times Square to sit in a life-sized LEGO replica. Most fans dreamed of being a Jedi, but they probably dreamed of piloting an X-wing, too.
That’s it. What do you think? Did we nail it? Are we out of our minds? Did we overlook something? Let us know in the comments below!