Ominous Floating Spaceship

This does not look good...

"Independence Day. That alien invasion movie. The first part, where the aliens come and they look up between the buildings and the sky is gone and, like, all they see is metal. Just as far as you can see, that steel ship looming up there. I remember thinking thatís what the end of the world will look like. It wonít be wars and tanks or a meteor. Itíll be something we never could have thought of..."
Jennifer Lopez (not that one), John Dies at the End

Some aliens want to make a grand entrance. This trope marks the tendency for fleets of mile-long alien spaceships to ominously hover, several hundred feet over the world's cities without doing very much. It usually means the start of an Alien Invasion but it can be subverted. Expect shots of shadows washing over cities like a tide, awe-stricken people looking upwards and Jitter Cam footage of the ships over every major city. Five Rounds Rapid against them will be useless while their Wave Motion Gun will be devastating when they decide to use it. Absolutely no Midair Bobbing ever. Quite inexplicable as not only would it expend vast amounts of power and present a big target but by Newton's Third Law, crush everything underneath it. Perhaps it's because Power Floats or because ships float in the sea and Space Is an Ocean, but it also adds to the menace: how can something that big hang in the sky without making a furious amount of engine noise and disruption? Clearly, they must be fearsomely advanced, and the Puny Humans defenses will be nothing to them.

It nearly always occurs Twenty Minutes In The Future by Higher-Tech Species and is never inverted. Probably because humans are too polite.

See also Floating Continent and Ominous Floating Castle.


  • An advert for Doritos in the UK has a giant chip hovering above London in this manner.

  • The Arume ships in the final episode of Blue Drop.
  • In the final episode of Kirby of the Stars, the Destrayer is a colossal UFO that is several times bigger than Dedede Castle. And then it turns out N.M.E. has a whole freaking ARMADA of them.


  • Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End (1953). The Overlords' ships mysteriously appear over the major cities of Earth. Many years later all but one disappear, leading to in-universe speculation that the rest were illusions the whole time.
  • The Vogon Fleet in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Particularly over the top since this isn't even a hostile fleet: it's just a bunch of construction workers clearing out some rubbish.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's short story "Evening Conference with the Mr. Special Deputy", the protagonist recounts how First Contact began with three huge ships appearing over three major cities. While they aliens turned out not to be evil, they did state that they intend to take Earth for themselves and move what humans they could fit into the polar regions (their own world was about to be swallowed by a black hole). In the end, the alien ambassador off-handedly mentions that they've just terraformed Venus and closed the black hole, so they don't need Earth any more. They're also leaving the ships for humans, as they're obsolete now. Why? Because Humans Advance Swiftly is inverted hard in this story. All alien races make monumental scientific advances every month or so. The alien ambassador's grandfather invented the wheel. They see humans as mentally deficient, which is why no one has bothered to conquer us (would you harm a kid who suffers from Down Syndrome)?

Live-Action TV
  • The Visitors' ships in V, both versions. Likely the Trope Codifier.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Sycorax asteroid ship in the first Christmas Special.
    • Not spaceships, but Missy does this with passenger planes by freezing every flight in the air over Earth as a way of getting UNIT's attention in "The Magician's Apprentice". The frozen planes cast ominous shadows on the ground.
  • Stargate SG-1 does this at least once a season. A few notable instances are:
    • Inverted in "Thor's Chariot", where said Asgard flagship Beliskner appears and performs a Gunship Rescue against Heru'ur.
    • "Scorched Earth" plays it straight. The entire plot of the episode revolves around convincing the Ominous Floating Spaceship not to terraform a resettled civilization out of existence (not that the AI commanding it wants to, it's just too far into the process to start again somewhere else, so stopping would doom the species in hibernation on board).
    • Anubis's mothership over the capital of Kelowna on Jonas Quinn's homeworld of Langara. Less suspenseful for the viewers, as it is no doubt that Anubis wants to invade, but true for the people of Kelowna, who have never seen a Ha'tak before. This isn't an ordinary Ha'tak (which has a pyramid shape) but a much larger circular mothership.
    • Inverted in the episode "The Lost City", with the USS Prometheus floating over our heroes. In this case, defending them from Anubis's forces.
    • Another episode involves a Show Within a Show called Wormhole Xtreme! when a Human Alien ship descends through the clouds right where the show is being filmed. The creative director (who originally came on that ship) tells the cameraman to keep shooting. Everybody else just assumes the ship is a special effect, a few stagehands even pulling a Your Costume Needs Work on it, claiming they'll fix it up with CGI.
  • In Babylon 5, Londo has a dream of a fleet of Shadow ships filling the sky of Centauri Prime and then much later it happens.
  • Shown in a series of child drawings in the pilot of Falling Skies. The alien ships appeared in this manner, hovering over cities and not doing anything. The world governments refused to strike first, as they weren't sure about the aliens' intentions. Then the aliens made any attacks impossible by using EMP to shut down most complex technology on Earth and wiped out all cities, and a sizable percentage of the population.
  • The first few minutes of the Defiance pilot shows the Votan Ark fleet descending from orbit. The shots focus on a teenage boy in a park looking up as a huge ship breaks through the cloud cover. The story then cuts to 33 years later. The ending of the pilot flashes back to the arrival scene to reveal that it took place in St. Louis (the titular town stands on the ruins of that city), and that the boy was the protagonist Nolan, who finally returns home.

Video Games
  • In Kirby Air Ride, one of the more awesome events in City Trial warns you that "A mysterious flying craft is approaching!"note  Then the Destrayer from Kirby of the Stars slowly flies over the city, making an unnerving high-pitched droning noise but otherwise doing nothing dangerous at all. On top of it are tons of power-up patches, including at least one All Patch in the center.
  • The Chimera ships in Resistance 2.
  • Bowser's saucer in Super Mario Galaxy that he uses to laser-carve out the ground underneath Peach's castle and carry it away. You see the UFO again briefly while en route to Bowser's Galaxy Reactor, but it does nothing.
  • Many, many times in the Halo games, mostly Covenant ships but sometimes UNSC ones too.
  • The Reaper Fleet in Mass Effect 3, particularly unnerving as they actually drop out of the sky, defying Newtonian physics when they land on the ground as gracefully as an insect lands on a leaf. The sight of two kilometer high spaceships casually walking around and laying waste to their surroundings is impressive, to say the least. Various allied starships similarly can be seen hovering over various planets, in usually short-lived attempts to fend off the Reaper onslaught.
  • These are present whenever you go outside in Iji.
  • The introduction to X3 Terran Conflict shows a rogue Terraformer fleet of Mile Long Ships hovering over the remains of New York City after they bombarded it from orbit with asteroids

Real Life