Top 10 Starship Captains in Movies and TV

Script written by Matt Wende. They are the fearless leaders whom we would follow to the end of the universe. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Starship Captains. For this list, we’re looking at the memorable captains, or those people who are in charge of any fictional spaceship, from both film and television. In the words of a certain entry on the list: Engage! Special thanks to our users kenn1987 and mukarakate for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Matt Wende.

Top 10 Starship Captains in Movies and TV


They are the fearless leaders whom we would follow to the end of the universe. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Starship Captains.

For this list, we’re looking at the memorable captains, or those people who are in charge of any fictional spaceship, from both film and television. In the words of a certain entry on the list: Engage!

#10: Turanga Leela
“Futurama” (1999-2013)

Launching our list is the one-eyed, animated captain of the Planet Express Ship. A foil to the goofier characters of “Futurama,” Leela is often found to be the voice of the reason among the group, and provides guidance and a moral compass for Fry and Bender. As strong a leader as she is a close friend, she often puts up a hard exterior that hides a soft heart.

#9: Jason Nesmith
“Galaxy Quest” (1999)

A parody of some other shows found on this list, “Galaxy Quest” follows the story of a group of actors from a hugely popular TV show as they are transported across the galaxy to help a group of peaceful aliens who don’t understand that their newfound heroes have never actually been in a starship. With all of them completely out of their element, Tim Allen’s Nesmith must embrace the characteristics of his character, as well as those of a starship captain, to put aside his own selfishness and truly become a brave leader.

#8: Captain Lone Starr
“Spaceballs” (1987)

In this spoof of the “Star Wars” series, Lone Starr is the captain of a spaceship that looks eerily like a Winnebago. Directed by the hilarious master of genre parody, Mel Brooks, this sci-fi comedy sees Bill Pullman’s Lone Starr as a gun for hire who is tasked with rescuing the Princess of a planet held hostage by the evil leader of planet Spaceball. On the journey, Lone Starr finds himself falling in love, learning the ancient power of the “Schwartz”, and discovering that he is also a prince, so he and the princess can ride off into the sunset… or whatever there is in space.

#7: Zap Brannigan
“Futurama” (1999-2013)

A General in the Democratic Order of Planets, or DOOP, Brannigan is without a doubt the most incompetent entry on our list. However, what he lacks in actual leadership skills, he makes up for with pure zeal and arrogance. Fancying himself an intergalactic playboy, Brannigan prides himself on his bad-boy reputation and unbridled sex appeal that win him countless admirers and critics alike. Whether we love to hate him or hate that we love him, we can’t imagine a universe without him.

#6: Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds
“Firefly” (2002) / “Serenity” (2005)

Joss Whedon’s notoriously short-lived sci-fi western is renowned for featuring an ensemble cast of wonderful and diverse characters onboard the Firefly-class ship called Serenity. As the captain of the ship, Mal Reynolds stands out for being as tough as he is passionate. The ship is as much a character as the rest of the family of people that inhabit it, and Nathan Fillion’s captain has no shortage of love for both. This is a fact he proves time and time again as he is willing to put the lives of his friends before himself.

#5: Kathryn Janeway
“Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001)

The Captain of the USS: Voyager, Kathryn Janeway finds herself in a terribly difficult situation when her ship and crew are accidentally propelled several thousand light-years away from home into an unmapped quadrant. Fortunately, Janeway capably leads her crew through the Delta Quadrant, discovering new species and challenges for them to face. A true leader through and through, her wisdom beyond her years allowed her to thrive as an officer and eventually become a Starfleet admiral.

#4: Han Solo
“Star Wars” original trilogy (1977-83)


Scoundrel, loner, nerfherder… call him what you will. The Harrison Ford role that propelled the actor to superstardom is known the world over as one of the most famous space captains around. Upon our first encounter with the smuggler, he’s a rebel without a cause who cares only for money. It’s throughout the epic saga of films that the captain of the Millennium Falcon joins the rebels in the fight for freedom, while also falling in love with a princess and proving himself a worthy ally and hero.

#3: William Adama
“Battlestar Galactica” franchise (2003-09)

Tougher than a two-dollar steak, Adama proved himself a worthy leader of his ship and crew, leading them to victory through various situations, even when outnumbered and outgunned in this re-imagining of the ‘70s TV series. His brilliance in battle often came at the cost of his personal life and relationships. In spite of this, the majority of his crew recognized him as one of the bravest men they had ever met. Even during a time of mutiny against him, several crewmembers remained loyal to his leadership, and his service to the ship continued.

#2: James T. Kirk
“Star Trek” franchise (1966-)


An explorer and adventurer through and through, Kirk is renowned for being one of the most popular captains in the whole “Star Trek” franchise. He performs all the duties necessary of a captain, but he manages to do it with a certain… style. A character that defined that genre of science fiction and space travel on television, Kirk set the benchmark through the TV series and its large canon of subsequent films. His qualities as a leader, a man, and a friend earn him a place just short of our top spot.

Before we salute our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Peter Quill / Star-Lord
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
- Zaphod Beeblebrox
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005)
- Dallas
“Alien” (1979)
- Captain Amelia
“Treasure Planet” (2002)
- Bucky O’Hare
“Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars” (1991)

#1: Jean-Luc Picard
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” franchise (1987-2002)

One of the most celebrated captains at Starfleet, and just edging out Kirk, Picard embodies all the qualities necessary of a great Captain. He is well educated, a fierce leader, infinitely wise, and his courage and commitment to his crew and ship are matched only by his passion and love for exploration and discovery. His steely guile is an affront to some, but those who have the privilege of calling him a friend know that his compassion is as boundless as space itself.

Do you agree with our list? What daring on-screen leaders and space explorers did we miss? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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