Pretty self-explanatory. What the Cool Car and Tank Goodness is to the road, the Cool Plane is to the sky, and the Cool Starship is to space, the Cool Boat is to water, whether it's a steamship, a sailing ship, or a submarine. A sufficiently large Cool Boat may also serve as headquarters for the characters. If the hero's primary place of residence is a boat that the hero owns and can take wherever he wants, that's a Houseboat Hero.
On the "boat" vs. "ship" thing: A boat is something you can lift out of the water and place on the deck of a ship. (Except submarines are boats. Tenders usually are too, no matter how big they are.) And remember, it's not an it, she's a she. (Except for if you're Russian.) Expect to get called on this by hardcore Navy types.
Sub Trope of Cool Ship.
Under no circumstances confuse this with a Nice Boat... which is something entirely different and more disturbing. Though it may depend if you like the boat....
The Tuatha De Danaan from Full Metal Panic is a state-of-the-art submarine featuring numerous missile silos, a small air force for land-based operations, and a contingent of the most advanced Humongous Mecha known to mankind. It's also a stealth submarine, meaning it has sonar-dampening hull and an ultra-silent magnetohydrodynamic drive. If that doesn't scream "cool", I don't know what does.
There are the ships used by the Straw Hat Pirates, the Going Merry and the Thousand Sunny. Sunny has a Gaon Cannon which shoots extremely pressurized air which annihilates all in its path, it also has a jet engine, a small fleet of mini-ships, among them a submarine and a wide variety of useful equipment. Cannon and jet are powered by barrels of cola by the way.
Whitebeard's personal ship, the Moby Dick is a boat that goes underwater. No not a submarine. A boat. With sails and stuff. And it looks like a blue whale.
Another example is Gecko Moria's Thriller Bark. It's the size of a freaking island and its swarming with zombies.
Yet another example (well two together) is the Utan Sonar and Victory Hunter captained by Shoujou and Mashira, respectively. As the name implies, the Utan Sonar has a sonar beacon that is powered by Shoujou's voice. It also has a forest as it's mast. Mashira's Victory Hunter has a giant clamp on the front (that looks like a Cymbal Clapping Monkey) that can be used to pull up stuff from the bottom of the ocean.
Ryou's personal cruise ship in Tokyo Mew Mew serves to remind the cast and the viewer that he has money. Even Mint, who's probably richer than him, is impressed.
The DDG-182Mirai, a fictional AEGIS-type Japanese Self-Defense Force destroyer from the Zipang! series. It found itself accidentally sent back to WWII by some strange phenomenon. Cool, because of its very realistic design (it is practically identical to a modern Atago class destroyer, albeit drawn a few years before the first Atago was built) and the fact that it scares the bejeezus out of both the Imperial Japanese Navy and the USN because of its modern armament. Also has a Cool Plane as a scout-recon aircraft.
During the Orange Islands season of Pokémon, Team Rocket followed the twerps around in a pedal-powered submarine that looked like a giant Magikarp. (the previous season had one episode where they had a similar pedal-powered Gyarados) The kids themselves traveled the seas on Ash's Lapras.
The title ship of Cowboy Bebop can double as this, as it was originally a fishing ship before it was modified by Jet for use as a bounty hunting craft.
Corsair features a rather nice fleet of boats, particularly the Belle Ayme.
The Katsura family yacht in School Days. NICE BOAT! The original Nice Boat may count too... if you like the boat.
Red Shield's headquarters in Blood+ appears to be a huge cruise ship
Various incarnations of the Batboat. Especially the ones that turn into a Batsub.
In the Captain LeatherwingElseworld, Pirate Batman has the Flying Fox.
Iron Man Noir features Stark Industries' Happy Hogan, a very small submersible with just enough room for four people (plus enough headroom to stand), and Captain Namor's Lady Dorma, a sub easily twice the Hogan's size and with a lot more power.
The Disco Volante from Thunderball, Stromberg'sLiparus, and Elliot Carver's stealth boat from Tomorrow Never Dies (the latter obviously supposed to be the real-life Sea Shadow stealth technology demonstrator). Bond villains luck out with boats, apparently.
Not just them. The British had the St. Georges - ugly trawler on the outside, sophisticated spy ship on the inside, and capable of launching Britain's nuclear arsenal. Needed more armour, though.
Not as big as the above examples, but in Disney's Condorman, the CIA builds the titular hero a speedboat with a laser cannon built into a turret mount on the back. It features prominently in the climactic chase scene. He also gets a Cool Car earlier in the movie.
The USS Nimitz from The Final Countdown; first of the US Navy's Nimitz-class supercarriers, and the most powerful warship in the world at the time, and then she gets sent back nearly 40 years to just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where against 40's era planes and weapons, she's packing God-like levels of power.
The Yellow Submarine (which can also fly, time travel, launch giant cigars and survive being sucked into oblivion to name a few).
The Mariner's boat from Waterworld was pretty cool.
East Indiaman Black Pearl on Pirates Of The Caribbean. It's been burned, sunk (twice), resurfaced, renamed, stolen (twice), cursed, went to limbo and back... And to its rightful Captain it means... freedom.
And then there's the Flying Dutchman. It's covered in barnacles and seaweed, crewed by undying fishmen, and it can dive and resurface as easily as a fish.
It also has a pair of tri-barreled rotary cannons on its bow similar to gatling guns.
Now we can add the Queen Anne's Revenge to this list. Say it with me, everybody. MAGIC PIRATE FLAMETHROWERS.
Being big budget movies about pirates, there are much, much more examples, but they just can't keep up with the three supernatural ships.
Sebastian Shaw's submarine from X-Men: First Class is pretty normal on the outside, but on the inside it's very cool looking. And we're not even going into the nuclear device he's hiding in the room full of mirrors.
Also it gets lifted out of the water by Magneto, so that's cool.
In The Asylum's modern adaptation of Moby Dick, the Pequod is a nuclear submarine for the US Navy. Captain Ahab modifies it's torpedoes into harpoons, and is also carrying a miniature atomic device known as "The Fadallah" for when he finally tracks down the white whale.
The Zissou Team's Belafonte in The Life Aquatic. It has a spa, a recording studio, monitoring equipment, a duo of scout dolphins, a submersible, a helicopter, an underwater observation deck, and much more.
Cool, but everything in it now is 30 years out of date.
Tony Trihull from Cars 2, who is a large shark-faced battleship used as the Lemons' main form of transportation.
Also, Crabby, Finn McMissile's fishing boat seen in the film's prologue.
Averted in PT 109. The PT-boats in general are referred to as 'pieces of plywood', and the 109 in particular is (informed to be) in pretty bad shape.
The Red October from The Hunt For Red October. A modified "Typhoon" class submarine (see picture), with an (almost) silent drive system and 26 nuclear missiles as compared to the 20 that the other RL "Typhoons" had. Consider that each of those missiles could carry ten warheads (eight in the novel).
The Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, an advanced submarine in the 19th century, has a size and underwater travel range that would not be matched in the real world until after World War II, with a speed only matched by one sub in history in real life (the Soviet Lyra/"Alfa" class). On the other hand, since it attacked surface ships by ramming them, it's surprising Captain Nemo never thought of inventing the torpedo.
A ship of such coolness, that several later vessels (though the name is older than the novel- an 1800 sub was called Nautilus) have been named after it - including, appropriately enough, the world's first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus.
The gilded submarine Leif Erikson in the Illuminatus!! trilogy, that functions as the headquarters for the Legion of Dynamic Discord.
Not content with just one cool boat, Snow Crash has The Raft - a massive flotilla of refugee ships all attached to the Enterprise (the aircraft carrier, not the starship). The Enterprise, now a private yacht, follows the currents around the Pacific Ocean, picking up refugees in Asia and dropping them off in the former United States.
In John C. Wright's Chronicles Of Chaos, the Argent Nautilus, among its other virtues, arrives when Vanity summons it and can carry them anywhere on the earth in a day and a night. Space travel turns out to be a bit more interesting but feasible.
Clive Cussler novels have these in abundance, seeing as how they commonly center around the water, but the prize for Coolest Boat has to go to the mercenary ship Oregon. In addition to being one of the fastest and most dangerous vessels on the planet, crewed by a seriously professional mercenary group and disguised as an aging tramp steamer, it was the only Boat that proved Cool enough for Cussler to launch a spinoff series, The Oregon Files, for the sole purpose of bringing it and its crew back after their cameo debut in the Pitt novel Flood Tide.
Subverted in The Terror: while the Erebus is regarded as supremely luxurious/high-tech/cool by the expedition's leaders, and had an IRL history of coolness-worthy achievements, Sir John Franklin's stubborn refusal to abandon his ever-so-cool flagship when it gets stuck in the ice is ultimately to blame for the UNcool deaths of nearly 130 officers and crew.
Minerva from Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle was designed to be a pirate-killer, and it does a pretty good job of it. Its bottom is also lined with metal (Unobtanium at first, later replaced with ordinary copper) to prevent it from catching barnacles; not much of a big deal in modern times, but the book was set during The Cavalier Years.
The Dragon Wing of the Inheritance Cycle, finest sailing ship in the Empire, designed by master shipwright Kennel... and not available to anyone who can't pay a roomful of gold. The Palancar Pirates find a way around that, though.
The six masts were so tall that one man with good eyesight couldn't see to the top of any of them: it took five. These tops of masts had to be hinged, so they could be bent down to let the moon and the sun go by. The whole kit and caboodle of the Boston sailmakers had to be shipped to the Sahara Desert, so they'd have room to sew the sails.
The HMS Thunder Child from The War Of The Worlds, a torpedo ram that took out three tripods while protecting refugees from London.
Dark Life has the Spector: a stealth sub shaped like an enormous shark!
At the end of The Silmarillion, the Valar turned Eärendil's ship Vingilótë into a flying ship, so he could sail around in the outer atmosphere, or outer space (it's not clear which). With the last Silmaril tied to his head, he became the Evening Star and Morning Star (a.k.a. Venus).
In John Birmingham's Without Warning, a lot of the action takes place on the abandoned and recovered by the protagonists superyacht Aussie Rules.
The Cerys in Septimus Heap, sporting among others ventilated safe rooms, lots of fancy equipment etc.
Captain Demos' Silve from Codex Alera. It's all one giant wood fury.
The Elric Saga has The Ship that Sails Over Land and Sea, which can do exactly what its title says. It was an object of contention between Straasha and Grome (the rulers of the water and earth elementals, respectively), who fought over its ownership.
The Flying Submarine from the same series managed to be a Cool Boat and a Cool Plane at the same time.
The eponymous submarine, hull number DSV-4600, from Sea Quest DSV. A Cool Boat in its own right, and carried a few other mini-Cool Boats aboard, including but not limited to the Stinger (underwater hot rod), the crab submersibles and the shuttles.
The Mythbusters once built a boat, the Yesterday's News, out of frozen newspapers. And attached a powerful motor to it. And it worked! (For about ten minutes before it started melting and the newspapers disintegrated, but still...) Can you get much cooler than a frozen boat?
A frozen aircraft carrier? Didn't get past the prototype stage, but took three summers to melt even that.
One of Harry Turtledove's books in the Darkness series (a fantasy version of WWII) has the American Essex-class carriers represented by giant magically-permanently-frozen icebergs that have lots of kennels for dragons (representing the airplanes)
More recently, they constructed the Stuck On You out of freakin' duct tape! It held together even better.
Since then, they built a duct tape outrigger canoe in the Duct Tape Island special (under less-than-ideal working conditions to boot). It held together for over seven hours on the open ocean, and also through the swells near the shore.
You can bet there wasn't a kid alive in the 80's who didn't want Sonny Crockett's Endeavour 42 sailboat (complete with alligator) and Chris Craft Stinger 390 speedboat in Miami Vice.
The producer absolutely made the Stinger look like sex on the water. "Oh, she can handle about 200 keys (of dope) and still outrun anything the Coast Guard's got." Badass Boat might've been the better description.
Top Gear has featured and/or built a few. The fancy high-grade speedboat used for the Riviera race would qualify, if it hadn't beaten the shit out of James May, and it hadn't had a carbon fibre toilet (and thus the nickname HMS Carbon Khazi).
HMS Indefatigable, from the Horatio Hornblower mini-series as well as the books. About once an episode, in the first series, it appears unexpectedly over the horizon to save the day, to shouts of "It's the bloody Indy!" She is never boarded and never seriously damaged. Her sailors love her to bits. What a ship! Cool boat indeed. She even has her Leitmotif.
The Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat" is an ode to how cool The Boat is.
Mythology and Religion
Skidbladnir of Norse Mythology: it belongs to the god Freyr, can fly, and can fold up to fit in a pocket. But what do you expect from the Vikings?
For the Ancient Egyptians one of the ways of depicting the sun god was to show him sailing through the sky in a boat. At night, he sailed through either the underworld, the inside of the sky goddess Nut, or the waterway behind the sky. The daytime sky could also be considered a waterway.
No list of cool mythological boats is complete without the Argo, famous for carrying many of the greatest heroes of Greek Mythology on their voyage to Colchis to obtain the Golden Fleece.
This is the point of the Warhammer spinoff Dreadfleet. One side has a floating temple, a steam-powered seagoing anvil, a giant pleasure barge fitted with an array of bound elementals, a pirate ship coated with bits of powerful sea creatures, and an Elven dragon roost with sails. The other? A floating vampire castle, a ghost ship, a laser-firing pyramid with a hull, a mechanical squid, and a zombie deep sea monster crewed by undead ratmen mad scientists.
The point of the Naval Ops series. You start your way with a destroyer hull and some really puny weapons, and through a lot of fighting and research and designing, hopefully end up with a Cool Ship tailored to your liking. Possibilities for high end Cool Ships include an ultra-high-speed missile frigate with enough gizmos to make Bond jealous, an old-fashioned battleship but with gravity and EMP shielding and a good enough loading system to blot out the sun with artillery fire, a battleship with a drill mounted on the hull, a battleship with a Wave Motion Gun, a submarine that looks like a torpedo-firing shark, and a aircraft carrier with a full wing of whatever kind of planes you want to kill things with.
In addition, the bosses of that series mostly come in the form of superships. In the early game they tend to just be versions of usually pretty normal ship types except for the fact that they're a hundred or so times bigger than they should be. Whether that makes them cool ships itself is not certain, but the superships that appear later usually get stranger (and cooler). Cool superships include a giant drillship, twin-hulled battleships, an iceberg aircraft carrier, and invisible battleships.
The iconic Druna Skass (or Wolkenkratzer in the Japanese version) deserves a special mention. This recurring boss since the earliest installment of the series (a sprite-based PC game) is armed to the teeth and sports ultra-heavy armor which renders cannons smaller than 60cm harmless. The ship and its variations are the only canon superweapons to sport a literal Wave Motion Gun in the series to this date, which was used to blast the Shikoku Island into two halves just to make a grand entry for itself in Warship Gunner 2.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 features a yacht that goes for 5 to 7 mil. if you purchased it on Ibiza or Hawaii, it not only features a large elevator platform to park your current car on. It also features a ventral, six car garage to keep your most valued vehicles in.
Being armed with memes is just as advantageous as being armed with nukes.
Also, its improved version, Outer Haven from Metal Gear Solid 4.
There's also the fact it was essentially a mobile staging platform for mass-production model Metal Gear RAYs, having a hangar for at least a dozen of them which would be controlled from safely inside Arsenal, making it quite a formidable and valuable naval asset.
Topping both those boats combined is the little motorboat in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Said little motorboat has a Timeshift Stone inside of it that allows it to create a large field around it that causes the surrounding area to be the sea that it was in the past.
Hostile Waters - Antaeus Rising has the Antaeus, the prototype for the so-called "adaptive cruisers". Interesting in that, at the start of the game, it's 20 years old, and one of only two survivors of its class (the Antaeus was number 00, and the other was number 04, but 04 fails to respond to the surface order given before the game begins). The primary feature of the class is the ability to build combat forces on the spot using nanomachines. At the end of the game, the Antaeus is turned into a makeshift nuke and sent on a kamikaze mission to stop a hostile race from escaping Earth. It's assumed nobody onboard (read: the captain, aka you, and the various brain profiles that make up your combat forces) survived. Your enemies, however, not only make it into space anyway, they also take over the creation engine of your ship. Downer Ending, indeed.
Ace Combat 5 has the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi submarines, which are also aircraft carriers somehow.
Well, there really have been submarines that carried planes on board. The Japanese had about 50 during WWII, and one of their sub-launched planes even managed to bomb the continental US. Nowadays, you'd probably launch UAVs.
The Scrinfaxi and Hrimfaxi do launch aircraft, but only small combat-equipped UAVs for air defense during the times when they must surface. Probably a simplier solution than having to mount deck guns for the same purpose.
Supreme Commander has several, depending on your preferred variety of boat. The UEF boasts the Atlantis submersible aircraft carrier and the Summit battleship that looks like a WW 2 battleship updated with plasma weapons, the Aeon have the Tempest submersible factory battleship and the Macross Missile Massacre of the Torrent missile cruiser, and the Seraphim offering is the Hathuum battleship with onboard nuclear missile factory and launcher.
The Cybran destroyer. Maybe not as impressively huge or powerful as the other examples, but it can crawl out of the water and walk on land, essentially turning into a six-legged Humongous Mecha, with naval-scale weaponrynote That is, a very powerful direct-fire gun that rivals light artillery range. In other words, baserape for those without Tier 2 defense guns. It even came with it's own built-in anti-air capabilities.
The first three races also have their own nuclear attack subs, capable of sitting in the ocean and building nukes to fire at enemies. The nukes were shorter ranged, but the ships also had the ability to launch cruise missiles either while waiting or to knock out enemy nuke defenses.
The UEF cruiser also had on-board cruise missiles in addition to being largely immune to missiles itself. The Cybran Cruiser lacked the "land-legs" of the Destroyer but made up for it with it's Anti-Air, which could be converted to ground level unguided use, much like the T1 AA unit. Far more useful on the sea due to the larger size of enemy naval targets.
Taken to whole new levels in the sequel. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No... it's a god damn flying Cybran "naval"-fleet that now sports jumpjets, can walk on land, lays a smackdown on anything it encounters, and has no real hardcounter. EVERY. CYBRAN. SHIP. Submarines? Yeah I'll walk on land. Tanks? Ok, lets go for a swim. Experimentals? Kiting all day, every day. Cybrans are all about adapting to the enemy. And with their cruisers they knocked the ball into the stratosphere.
Villainous example: the Myrmidon, flagship of Artemis Global Security in Tom Clancy's HAWX. Armed with super-advanced cruise missiles that outrange a US Navy carrier group, powerful anti-air batteries, and can absorb as much damage as its attendant escort fleet combined.
The SS Tea Cup in Wario Land 1 and 2, arguably. Large enough to serve as a world of the game, and if maps are to be believed, something like a few hundred to a thousand feet in length and height, it's got plenty of rooms, mooks, treasure and entire rooms made of solid stone. Oddly, it's a lot smaller in the intro cut scene.
The Lemurian ship from Golden Sun. For one thing, it can only be moved using Psyenergy. Later, it gains wings, which allow it to hover above the water (or land) using said Psyenergy. Later still, a cannon is installed.
Chousokabe Motochika, the resident Pirate from Sengoku Basara has a nice boat. Sure it's made of wood, but that doesn't make it any less Badass.
Sonic Rush Adventure has four different boats to explore the ocean with; a stunt jetski, a heavily-armed sailboat, a speedy hovercraft with a charge beam, and a submarine. Each has a sort of minigame to control. (
One of Yoshi's transformations in Yoshi's Universal Gravitation is a boat that navigates though the waters you get to tilt in some stages.
SS Lola from Grim Fandango. It starts out as a rusty tramp steamer and, a year later and under new management, has been converted into the biggest floating hotrod ever.
Command And Conquer: Red Alert 3 introduced several awesome ships with its new focus on more naval combat, with veterans (the Allied Aircraft Carrier and the Soviet Dreadnoughts), as well as the new Assault Destroyer, a huge gunship with tank treads, and most of the Empire of the Rising Sun's navy counts.
While Red Alert got most of the attention for ships, the Tiberian series has a few notable ones, namely the Massive Nod Cruisers in Tiberium Wars which have considerable range with their missiles (and looking like a giant end of a scorpion's tail) and the Nod Hovercrafts, which look like giant flying manta rays.
During the Chinese campaign in Age Of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties you have a giant treasure ship instead of a home city.
Since Suikoden IV is set in the Island Nations, it was only natural to have a Cool Boat for your headquarters. The ship offers all of the usual amenities for a Suikoden base, from shops and a blacksmith to Minigames, a training hall and a massive onsen.
Thunderbird 4, from Thunderbirds. Also a yellow submarine, also can do anything underwater. Torpedoes, lasers, the works.
From The Pirates Of Dark Water, The Wraith, vessel of the heroes, can detach its mainsail as a glider. Dread Pirate Bloth's ship, the Maelstrom, is as big as a modern supercarrier, and can swallow other ships whole. And is still fast enough to catch the Wraith. On sail power.
Bonus points for that it's apparently made with the skeleton of some sort of Behemoth!
The Q-boat from the James Bond film was pretty badass in real life. Lacking any heavy weaponry but still possessing a fiber glass body and a massively overpowered engine that used water jets the tiny boat could hit 80mph, a downright scary speed on the water for something so small.
The Zbur class hovercraft. Biggest in the world. Able to put ashore either three main battle tanks or ten APC with 140 troops. Is faster in the water then most main battle tanks are on roads. Being a militairy landing vehicle, it comes with an array of weaponry.
The DSV Alvin, a three-person US Navy submersible operated out of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has served the cause of undersea research and exploration for nearly 50 years. Re-fitted several times, Alvin was pivotal in the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vent fauna, carried Dr. Robert Ballard and colleagues in their discovery of RMS Titanic, located lost nuclear submarine USS Scorpion off the Azores, and investigated the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling disaster.