ByMatthew Bailey, writer at
Husband. Father. Gamer. Cinema Lover. Mix it all together, and there I am. I love all things pop-culture and coffee; but coffee is the best.
Matthew Bailey

There have been countless leaders and commanders that have graced the screen, both big and small, over the years. More often than not, they are one of the defining elements in the shows and films we love. Whether we think they are honorable and we would follow them into the lion's den, or maybe we just love to hate them. All the same, they are clearly ingrained in our memory as being something special.

Whether they are the aboard a deep space cruiser navigating the universe, a small dingy sailing the open seas or maybe they're just commanding a group of travelers. Regardless of their station or what physical vessel they command ultimately they are in control of their fate and often times they are responsible for the crew and passengers that they are with.

I thought it would be fun to look at some of the iconic space captains in pop-culture, and what they're greatest traits are. So let's begin:

Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek)

Captain Kirk is probably the first name on most people's list, when they think about the best captains to ever enter our imagination. Captain Kirk was the commander of the Enterprise, a beautiful ship that was crafted to explore the deep recesses of the universe as a part of Star Fleet. Two actors have portrayed the captain; William Shatner and Chris Pine. Both afforded the character the same devotion and integrity that we believe Captain Kirk to possess.

Kirk is a fighter with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Often seen with a thirst for action as he pushes forward, refusing to back down or withdraw. Kirk doesn’t run away and is always leading with his gut that has a way of finding trouble. Although through all of his escapades, he has a keen, nay innate, understanding of the value of his crew and his ship, always managing to find a way out of the trouble he had led them into.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Another Captain of Star Fleet, Jean-Luc joined leadership as a part of The Next Generation. Whereas Kirk is seen as a guns-blazing, run-into-danger leader Picard has similar tendencies but he focuses more on the strategic elements of being a captain. Picard is nothing if not a brilliant tactictian along with carrying a warriors heart. No matter the situation he would always be looking for angles and planning his next steps. Picard was given a great deal of prestige and power through being portrayed by Patrick Stewart.

Tactically speaking, Picard was as smart if not smarter than any one or thing that he ever faced. He had guts to spare and would go into a fight no matter the odds. Although he was not the greatest of students through Star Fleet Academy, he never looked back once given the smallest level of command. He always pursued his dream of being a ships captain, and he made that dream a reality and flourished. He always managed to keep a level-head even when under the most deplorable conditions, his strategy is one for the ages, probably never to be compared to another captain.

Captain Han Solo (Star Wars)

The lone wolf of captains, it took Han Solo a while to gain an understanding of what it meant to be a real captain, not just the figure-head pilot of a ship. Solo is a rogue-ish captain in the sense that he strikes from the angles that you wouldn't expect. He is the captain of the Millennium Falcon and uses his expert piloting to bust through or evade Imperial blockades to eventually live to fight another day. He often tried to avoid conflict knowing the odds may have not been in his favor, only to turn around once the situation changed or he had no other alternative.

Solo, although eventually being named a general in the rebellion, maintained his captain mantle and often would jump on the Falcon and take off across the Galaxy to aid his friends as they faced off against the Empire. He understood risk, and as he learned about what it truly meant to be a captain and a part of something bigger- that's when he truly became a real captain.

Captain Mal Reynolds (Firefly)

Malcolm Reynolds, the strong but silent leader of the crew aboard the Serenity. Mal was a volunteer during the Unification War against the Alliance. His heroics through the war earned him the military rank of sergeant and eventually captain. It was through the war that Mal gained his desire to maintain his independence, never to be controlled by anyone.

It's through this desire that he gathered his makeshift crew, all who share similarities in the idea of living a free life. Mal is fiercely loyal and follows his own unique moral code and is not above petty theft, smuggling or even killing (albeit a last resort) to maintain his free lifestyle, but ultimately Mal would sacrifice it all for his crew who are more a family than a ship crew.

Captain Lone Starr (Spaceballs)

Lone Starr is the captain of the Eagle 5, a modified Winnebago RV. He is comical and rarely takes anything serious. He lives a life of leisure modeled after Han Solo. He is a rogue and often spend his time looking for the opportunities where the odds are on his side.

Through his escapades with Princess Vespa, and his encounter with the Schwartz Master Yogurt, Lone Starr learns the truth about who he is as well as what he is capable of.


Who is your favorite?


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