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During different eras people had different stereotypical visions of alien spacecraft. Sometimes it came from the movies and sometimes it bled into the movies from real life. This design is a classic- it's the standard classic pointy-nosed sits-on-its-fins spaceship. This piece of Raygun Gothic comes from the time when T-bird fins were actually seen as futuristic rather than retro. Spaceships were more likely to be referred to as rocketships by excited seven year old boys and the designs could feed off the ongoing space race and concurrent developments which were based around a long steel tube with a pointy tip that had fins on the bottom and belched flames out of its base to reach for the skies.
While once the definitive spaceship image, nowadays you generally only see these as parody or homage.
A few features are particularly common. The design will often necessitate a vertical take off and the fins often are used for the rocket to stand on, leading to one of the style's alternate names: “tailsitters.” Thus many will have a tripod base for its fins. Note that in a setting with both in space, aliens generally got its nemesis—the Flying Saucer—while this design was predominantly reserved for human characters, modern times have given us the ISO Standard Human Spaceship in its stead.
Anime & Manga
- The Luxion-class starships from Gunbuster.
- In Outlaw Star, the eponymous Cool Starship is a George Lucas Throwback to this trope, looking like both a classic Retro Rocket and the X-15 hypersonic rocket plane. As a bonus, it launches vertically from planet surfaces, dramatic countdown and all.
- Tintin's rocket from "Destination Moon" and "Explorers on the Moon" as seen here
- Anything used by Dan Dare.
- Superman is almost always said to have arrived on earth as a baby in a "rocketship, and the little ship is almost always depicted this way. John Byrne made it round instead of pointy, but even his version was recognizably a rocket. The only major exception is the movie version, which was a spiky crystalline sphere.
- The Legion of Super-Heroes (originally published in 1958) had a clubhouse shaped like this kind of rocket.
- In a Glorith-timeline comic, the rocket was a kid...
- Destination Moon might be the Trope Codifier.
- Though Woman in the Moon got there first back in 1929.
- The second Men in Black film has this type of ship as part of the Special Effects Failure Show Within a Show.
- Honorable mention goes to 20 Million Miles to Earth, and When Worlds Collide has a variant which adds wings.
- The Rocketship X-M is likely the most phallic Retro Rocket ever seen, until The Seventies porn spoof Flesh Gordon of course.
- Speaking of humorously phallic rockets: Dr. Evil's rocket in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, whose shape is described in a Hurricane of Euphemisms.
- The War Rocket Ajax in the Flash Gordon film.
- The spaceship in Earth Girls Are Easy is very much an homage ship. Not a 'tailsitter' but very close to the 1930s Flash Gordon serial ships.
- The P-1 spaceship from the Godzilla film Kaiju Daisensou (a.k.a. Monster Zero or Invasion of Astro-Monster).
- Cat-Women of the Moon and the remake Missile to The Moon. Unfortunately while keeping within this trope the rocketship changes shape several times.
- Attack of the Clones: The Techno Union Hardcell-class ships.
- The eponymous ship in Missile to The Moon.
- Well you can see from the cover of the book how the Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein fits in.
- The cover of another Robert Heinlein book: Space Cadet.
- In Hyperion, the Consul's starship is specifically designed to fit the Platonic ideal of "space ship". This ideal, at least according to the author, is that of the Retro Rocket.
Live Action TV
- This shows up in Doctor Who more than once. The one that comes to mind is at the start of "Planet of the Ood", where Donna goes gaga over the “proper rocketship” that flies overhead.
- Also any human rocketship from the First and Second Doctor eras.
- Star Trek has one in the episode "Space Seed".
- When the Enterprise was designed, Gene Roddenberry made sure to steer clear of this trope, which was a remarkable move at the time. Matt Jefferies, the original designer of the Enterprise, recalls that Roddenberry "emphasized that there were to be no fins, no wings, no smoke trails, no flames, no rocket."
- Star Control Syreen ship, Penetrator "is shaped after the V-2 rocket, and a dildo".
- There's one of these in Myst. It doesn't actually take you anywhere, but just holds the link to the Selenitic Age. (You link into an identical spaceship, a remnant of the fact that at one point in the game's development you were supposed to fly in the spaceship.)
- Many of the ships in the Escape Velocity series, from the humble scout ship in the original to the... rather engorged Igazra from Override.
- Gene Wars
- Super Mario Galaxy
- The Pikmin franchise
- The rockets at the REPCONN Test Facility in Fallout: New Vegas.
- And the Delta IX rocket from Fallout 3.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, the Spacemonauts travel to the Moon in one of these.
- The dragons' prison transport ship in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob has this shape, although it's also stated to have a retractable ramscoop for interstellar flight.
- Bugs Bunny shorts:
- The Planet Express Ship from Futurama, though it's horizontally oriented with extendible landing gear. Note the various late Fifties-ish elements in the show: In a show named after a 1939 & 1964 World Fair exhibit, a man who dresses like James Dean is impressed by a Retro Rocket.
- Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century: both Dodgers' and Marvin's ships.
- Likewise, Dodgers' ship in the 2003 Duck Dodgers TV series.
- In Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out, the duo build an orange rocket of this design. Some later episodes feature smaller versions of this rocket as decorations in their house.
- The Space Ranger ships in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
- Thunderbirds and its craft Thunderbirds 1 and 3. One's a hypersonic plane based on 50s-60s high-tech fighters and X-planes (MiG-21, X-5, X-15) and mid-50s VTOL designs like the XFV and XFY. The other is a rocket ship with a tripod of engines. Both essentially have the same overall shape and impact leading to many seven year old arguments about which one was better. Both fit very well into the trope, aside from TB 1's VTOL abilities in horizontal position.
- The Hugo Award trophy is in this shape.
- The V2 is probably the Ur Example.
- The logo for the British comics and sci-fi collectibles shop Forbidden Planet.