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  • Liam

    Just a little bit biased towards American ships…

    • Liam

      Good list though, enjoyed reading it.

    • Kirsten

      I totally agree! i have never heard of any of these ships other than the santa maria and the titanic!

      • Anonymous

        u are revealing your lack of education

    • Tim

      Ever heard of the Calypso? Jacque Cousteau’s research vessel that went all over the world for 50+ years and is now being restored?

  • TriviaFan

    Interesting and nice list.

    I would consider following:

    -Mary Celeste, not as historically significant as others on the list, but probably the most famous ghost ship ever.

    -Queen Mary

    -Kon Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl’s famous ‘raft’

  • I’m glad to see HMS Endeavor got a mention.

  • Dennis

    I would have the USS Indianapolis on the list and,of course,the USS Arizona should be number #1.

    • Peter Boucher

      Well, it has been documented that the sinking of the USS Indianapolis was the greatest disaster in the history of the US NAVY. On its return trip from delivering the Hiroshima Bomb to the island of Tinian De Leyte in the Phillipines, the captain was given direct orders to follow a “zig-zag” pattern on its return which in effect caused two Japanese torpedos to sink the vessel in 12 minutes. When the movie “Jaws” was filmed and the scene where Quint the fisherman (Robert Shaw) explains the story (an eerie one at that) about that catastrophe, Steven Spiellberg had to gain permission from the War department to use the monologue. Anyway, as Quint the fisherman says at the end of the monologue “we delivered the bomb”

  • david

    I think the Lusitania has got to be on here

  • Wilm

    I was suprised the Battleship Yamato was not mentioned in this list. She was one of the largest and most powerful battleships ever created. Although she didn’t get to fight in any real naval battles, she was dispacthed as a last ditch defense to stop the American advances on Okinawa.

    • Genie in a Bottle

      Don’t get me wrong, I would have figured the Yamato there as well, even though the only engagements were shore bombardment, task force protection and last ditch effort from Tojo. Now to some of you that have it in for the U.S. please stop. This is only an Opinion, not a general consensus of ship history. hell, we could probably name hundreds of ships if we tried. maybe it should have be written as, but not in any order: 1: Top ten fighting ships of the 20th Century; 2: Top Ten Naval ships of EACH Sea-Faring Nation ( Said Nation has to have fought in some conflict around the world)

  • jason stone

    where is the U.S.S. Enterprise..arguably the most decorated and distinguished aircraft carrier in the world?

    • Kirsten

      Haha, that’s funny 😉 I’m guessing you’re a trecky?

      • christopher satterfield

        what are you doing girl

  • Marco

    Omitting truly legendary ships like Lusitania and Yamato in favour of a multitude of second rate American choices such as the far less famous Hunley and Virginia makes this a worthless list.

  • Josean

    The world is bigger than the Usa.

    • Dennis

      Actually it’s not

      • David J Gill

        As an American I want to repudiate this comment.

        • Kirsten

          As a Canadian, I would like to make a very valid point of interest, the largest country in the world (area wise) is Russia, then Canada, then the United States of America. By the way, you forgot to place a comma in your sentence, it should be “As an American, I want to repudiate this comment.”

          • George

            Aww, you Canadians are so cute and adorable.

            • Kirsten

              no we aren’t, we’re ferocious!

  • french toast

    Well some interesting ships no doubt, but complely biased towards american ships/or british with american connections!!.
    what about ships like the mary rose?? hms dreadnaught?? hms queen elizibeth??
    Great britian, spain, france, portugul and china dont forget have ruled the waves long before america even existed…
    Granted america has contributed some awesome ships that deserve to on that list, but great ships have been shaping the world for hundreds of years.

  • Dennis

    Good list but I would have to add the USS Indianapolis.

    • Peter Boucher

      The vessel went down in 12 minutes, 1100 men went into the water and 316 came out alive. That sounds typical of the sinking of a war ship. But the survivors to be floating in the deadly heat of the South Pacific, wearing floatation devices that could only last 48 hours, and being in shark infested waters (tiger sharks), made it even more horrifying. The monologue of Quint the fisherman about that account in the movie “Jaws” is no joke and Steven Spielberg had to get military clearance to use it in that movie.

  • Peter Boucher


  • Zee

    The Wilhelm Gustloff? Almost 5400 people killed.

    • David J Gill

      …one of those shocking events in history that are completely unknown to most of the world. I suspect the sinking of the Gustloff was lost amid the news of the end of the war, because the victors write history and in this case, because the victors did not want to condemn their Soviet allies.

  • Peter Boucher

    Two others come to mind. The Andrea Doria and The Edmund Fitzgerald

  • Lachlan

    Where is HMS Dreadnought ? The appearance of this state-of-the-art battleship in 1906 rendered all major warships, of all navies (including the Royal Navy) , obsolescent – if not obsolete. Its design was based on less guns but of devastating larger calibre in central turrets, more armoured protection used more efficiently and various other new ideas. It made the world’s leading navies shudder in apprehension and caused the start of a major naval arms race between Germany and Britain. Major warships of all navies designed/built on earlier principles became known as “Pre-Dreadnoughts”.

  • Lachlan

    *It may be of interest to the reader to note that the author’s wife’s uncle, Hansel Grant Nicholson, was among those who died onboard the Arizona on December 7th, 1941.

    Regarding that note, it’s also interesting I believe, that, back in Musselburgh, Scotland, my old next door neighbour’s brother, PO/X 3429 Marine Joseph Gillan, was killed on board HMS Hood in the encounter with the Bismarck. Joseph served on a Type XVI 4 inch dual-purpose gun – styled “No 4” gun (on the rear centre of the shelter deck), the other 6 x 4 inch guns being styled S1, S2, S3, P1, P2, P3.

  • orphius

    A good list. Some glaring omissions. The Queen Mary, The Queen Elizabeth II, USS Enterprise (not Star Trek the real ship), The HMS Bounty, Australia II (yacht), Edmund Fitzgerald, The Flying Dutchman
    The Golden Hinde, Fiction brings us the Pacific Princess (actually real but famous from tv), the Posiedon, and Nemo’s Nautilaus But these are all arguments and opinions, I can’t fathom that Noah’s Ark was left off the list religious or not almost everyone knows about it.

  • peter8172

    I, being a Veteran of the US NAVY (and proud of it). I have been on the USS Missouri (that’s before I became enlisted) and was given a tour of the ship as I happened to live in Honolulu and was there for the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the Missouri was there. I must say that pictures or any pictures of it, do not do it service. You have to see it to believe it !!! Probably the most memorable part of that day for me was the fact that 3 of the Japanese attackers were present at the ceremony. I politely shaked hands with them and 1 of them even gave me his business card which I still have today. I did feel a bit of remorse for them, after all they were following orders from their superiors and were doing what they were ordered to do.

  • Paul UK

    Written with total bias towards Americans with mostly American ships, with brief mentions of the truly Worldwide famous ships & completely ignoring some of the REAL firsts in maritime history!

    Just the usual …. American self propaganda!!


    • As I have written dozens of times to people who complain about this. “Write a list for!”

      You can avoid any mention of the evil American empire and our self propaganda. Submit it to I’m still waiting for the first submission. Will you be the first? Top 10 ships from the UK?

  • Paul UK

    And just to be clever!

    THE MAYFLOWER????? Lol.


  • renpsu

    I think I would add for consideration

    1. HMS Beagle – Aboard which Charles Darwin developed the Theory of Evolution

    2. USS Enterprise (CV6) – Fought in every major engagement in thr Pacific from Pearl Harbor on.

    3. USS Nautilus (SSN571) – First nuclear powered ship & first true submarine

    4. North River Steamboat (AKA “Clermont”) – First practical steam vessel

    5. HMS Dreadnought – First “all big gun” battleship

    6. SS Edmund Fitzgerald – Has anyone not heard the song by Gordon Lightfoot?

    7. SS Mauflower – The US has a national holiday in honor of its passengers – Thanksgving

    • Peter Boucher

      @ renpsu : I would have also included the sloop, “The Spray” which was the name of the sailboat that Joshua Slocumb used to be the first person in history to sail around the world, solo. The Edmund Fitzgerald was a disaster before it even took off. I believe that it had a crew of 27-28, but it was much too overloaded with pig steel which they were transporting on Lake Superior in Hurricane conditions. Everyone on that ship perished. If you go on to You Tube and type in the song by Gordon Lightfoot, I believe there is a video of the people who died that day and the story behind it. Great Song, by the way.

  • BaliTitanichistorian

    Rms titanic and bismarck is my favourite

  • Mike

    While the list is very bias towards the US the title is FAMOUS ships not SIGNIFICANT ships.

    If it was ships like the HMS Dreadnaught or USS Indianapolis surely would be there but ask your average person now if they even knew there was a ship named that and you’ll likely get a no 95% of the time. The Hunley shouldn’t be in the famous list, definitely the significant one though. I would have definitely put in the Mayflower in over the Santa Maria. Maine, Victory and Constitution should also be out, they may have been very famous at one point but the average person these days would likely never have heard of them.
    HMS Hood is a given, USS Enterprise(CV-6), Yamato is certainly hugely well known in Japan, less so outside it but still fairly well known. How about RV Calipso? Potemkin? Mary Celeste? Or if you want to be current Costa Concordia?;)

  • Marvin S

    “… (Note: The wreck of the Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras, Virginia…”

    That’s Cape Hatteras NORTH CAROLINA. Do you guys not do yoru research BEFORE you print something out?
    Otherwise, great article. There are a few ships you left out that bears mentioning, if only in an “honorable mention” sort of way, lol

    • As time and money allows. Looks like we were short on both of these this time. I’m doubly embarrassed as I live in Virginia and know very well Cape Hatteras is in North Carolina, not Virginia.

  • L

    The lusitania sinking was in 1915.

  • LR

    I was expecting to see the Mayflower on this list, being the ship that sent arguably the most famous colony over to America… I guess it wasn’t really that important, but it sure is incredibly famous (at least here in the US).

  • Kahl


    It feels like someone just shoved a handful of freedom fries down my throat.

    Considering the Germans played a massive role in WWII and euro history, not even one mention is illogical in my opinion. As one famous ship I can’t remember sunk every allied warship that came after it until it was cornered by several ships while refuelling in the Mediterranean. They couldn’t even get close to it at first.

  • bob

    i dont even see the list of boat names?

  • David J Gill

    More unreasearched internet Top 10 List non-sense… This is both a superficial and a rather anglo-centric sort of list likely written by an American.

    What about the Lusitania, the Bismark, the Hood, the Yamato, the Andrea Doria? One would need to know the details of American history to put the Hunley on a top 10 list of famous ships….more like a candidate for a top 50 list.

  • Stella Conway

    the only ship i knew was the R.M.S Titanic. there was a lot of battle ships. Why? the Titanic is really famous

  • Peter Layzell

    The list is very US centred with several important omissions from the UK/European viewpoint.
    One of the most important of those is HMS Beagle which took Charles Darwin around the world to the Galapagos Islands which was the dynamic in the development of his theory of evolution in 1859 and still forms the centre of scientific belief today as the most important work that helps us understand ourselves.
    Without the sturdy little Beagle we may not have benefited from this knowledge.

  • Ned

    You do realise that America wasn’t the only country to fight in WW2 don’t you?

    • Kirsten

      Sorry, but it’s spelled realize, not realise

      • Zach

        Realize is the Americanised-English spelling… the REAL English way of spelling it is ‘realise’. Most Britons agree you’ve dumbed down, over simplified and ruined our language enough to start telling us how to speak/spell it.

  • Wolf von Witting

    Myth and fact gets blurred as we consider the most famous. There was a mutiny on the Potemkin in 1905, but it was the cruiser Aurora (in St.Petersburg harbor) firing the signal shots of the October revolution 1917. Nevertheless the film about Potemkin elevates the ship out of the crowd of anonymous war vessels.
    Most famous, beyond dispute: the Titanic, 2nd the Bismarck (plenty of books and films on the subject)
    3rd – 11th in alphabetical order: Bounty, Enterprise, Mayflower, Mary Celeste, Potemkin, QE2, Queen Mary, Santa Maria, Victory. (ships famous on both sides of the Atlantic, in books, films and many of them being taught about at school all over the world). Kon-Tiki is famous enough, but a raft and the Arc of Noah (or Utnapishtim as his name was in the epic Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh) has transcended completely into myth.

  • Justino

    The Titanic picture is from the 1958 movie “A Night To Remember.”

    • Actual photo now in place, better? At least we didn’t use this image:

  • Shaking my head

    I’m honestly disgusted at the twitch anti-Americanism in these comments. “OH NOSE SOMEONE NAMED AMERICAN SHIPS IN THEIR TOP TEN THE WORLD IS BIGGER THAN MERICA YOU KNOW!!1 EVIL IMPERIALIST YANKS!!111”

    It’s a guy’s PERSONAL TOP TEN, for cripes’ sake. He doesn’t have to forgo mentioning his country’s famous warships just to placate to your ignorant biases about Americans. If you want to draw more attention to your own country’s naval history, WRITE YOUR OWN TOP TEN.

  • Johno

    Then maybe the title of the piece is inaccurate?

  • Eric

    Is the Maine really “that” famous? Most youth, even American these days, know little-to-nothing about the Spanish American war. In academic circles, it is famous mainly for the conspiracy – i.e., that the Spanish crown did not really sink it, that those in power in the U.S. knew this, and yet opted to use it as a pretext for war (and therein an opportunity to grab the Philippines and access to an exploding trade market in China) anyway. A democratic government must always play the ‘good’ guy, especially when it is – in fact – the aggressor.

  • marcosrtc

    The Yamato was larger than the Bismarck, with an overall length of 263 metres. Although it hardly saw any action it was the largest battleship ever.
    Also missing is the USS Enterprise, which was the longest serving aircraft carrier in history. Another worthy list of ships is at:

  • Robert Potter

    If Warships are built for war then the sheer number of battles participated in has to count heavily. Survivability should not count quite as much as damage inflicted but does display strength and perhaps maneuverablilty. I discount behemoths like the Yamato and Bizmarck, the use of so much resources for so little gain. The HMS Victory owns the title as the Greatest Ship with the USS Enterprise CV6 second. Although the Enterprise participated in more actions you gotta hand it to a ship Commanded by Lord Admiral Nelson that survived and is still with us today. To those who complain about the number of American ships represented in this list I would say, go fight…get your nation involved in more battles and earn your stars. During wartime you cannot have your ships running rum and expect them to do well here.

  • Anonymous

    what about the ark

  • Anonymous

    Ships. Hunley is NOt a ship AND not very famous.what about vasa:biggest of her time and fell over in the breeze?HMS ark royal? How the hell is HMS dreadnought les famous then a ship from an american war that the average american has never heard of and nobody else CARES?

  • Graham

    Interesting list, however I found the following comments also enlightening!!

    The Titanic would probably be the most famous ship, known worldwide & if you asked someone in the street to name a famous ship most would say the Titanic.
    HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin’s ship, The Mayflower, SS Great Britain, Queen Mary, HMS Endeavour, The Golden Hind, HMS Victory & The Cutty Sark. Just a few famous ships that are worthy of mention

  • derp

    Maine my ass. It was an inside job