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Every Single ‘Star Trek’ Movie, Ranked From Best to Worst

From Hell's Heart... I post at thee!

Kirk and Spock separated by glass and Spock gives him the vulcan salute

From the bounty of new Star Trek television shows gracing our screens, to the weirdness around Paramount’s announcement that they would making a new Kelvin-timeline movie, to the newly restored, 4k director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, now is the perfect time to revisit the films of Star Treks past. And of course, rank them from best to worst. 

So strap on those comm badges, get your earl grey tea hot, and let’s get to the rankings!

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Wrath of Khan is the pinnacle of Star Trek films, possibly the pinnacle of cinema as a whole. It’s got everything you could possibly want: high stakes, fraught moral dilemmas, action, terrifying brain worms, William Shatner chewing every single piece of scenery he could get his hands on, and of course, Ricardo Montalban in a glistening prosthetic chest and fabulous wig. It’s by far the most entertaining of the Star Trek films (director Nicholas Meyer wanted it to have a “swashbuckling feel”), while still grappling with the ethical questions that make Star Trek what it is. Plus, it has the ultimate BFF moment in Star Trek history when Spock sacrifices himself to save the rest of the crew, and delivers the now-legendary line to Kirk: “I have been, and always shall be your friend” while they touch hands through the glass panel. Tears every time!

2. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Maybe a controversial choice to some, but I am an elder millennial and I stand by it! It is far and away the best of the Next Generation films (though that is not hard to because, to be frank, the other ones are hot garbage), but I think it really stands on its own. It gives us: the Borg queen! Data being seduced by some very erotic skin graft caresses! James Cromwell’s weird leather hat! Plus, a time travel story that threatens one of the foundational moments of Star Trek canon! It’s great.

3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

That’s right. The one with the whales. And the infamous punk on the bus (who popped back up for a cameo in Picard Season 2.) Directed by Leonard Nimoy, it’s a more lighthearted Trek story. There’s time travel, and 1980s meets Star Trek silliness (like Spock in a headband), and Chekov being trapped in a hospital. Plus it involves whales saving the day! Where are my Cetacean Ops fans at!

4. Star Trek: The Search for Spock (1984)

Following up immediately after the events of Wrath of Khan (which ends with them shooting Spock’s casket into space), The Search For Spock involves the Enterprise crew discovering that Spock’s “katra” (or soul) is trapped inside Dr. McCoy’s mind. (Awkward.) Meanwhile, his body has landed on the planet created by the Genesis Device set off at the end of the last movie, and the effects of the device have brought his body back to life. It’s a solid follow-up, but it does get bogged down by its exposition-laden script. However, it also has Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon commander who wants to use the device as a weapon, and anything is better when Christopher Lloyd is involved.

5. Star Trek (2009)

Okay so the first “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek movie from J.J. Abrams is pretty fun! Chris Pine brings his own swagger to Kirk, and Zachary Quinto gives us a much more emotional Spock. It makes the smart choice to create a time rift, which allows them to make big creative moves, and it’s action-packed, which is something that often falls to the wayside in more cerebral Trek installments. 

6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

The final original series film is a classic. As the original Enterprise crew is now well and fully old, the story becomes more focused on banter, one-liners, and light-hearted humor than in previous films. It also has Christopher Plummer as the villainous, one-eyed, Klingon general Chang chewing up the scenery. And it gives die-hard Trek fans the first iconic Khitomer Accords moment (as an allegory for the Cold War, which was weighing heavy on everyone’s minds still in 1991.) 

7. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Perhaps it is a controversial placement, but I really enjoyed the attempt at operatic grandiosity of Final Frontier. After all, it involves Spock’s half-brother as the main antagonist, because he is trying to fly a ship into what he thinks is the literal location of heaven so that he can meet God. Of course, “God” turns out to be an alien entity more akin to the devil, but it’s Star Trek, so of course that is what happens! The sometimes overblown tone and focus on spirituality make sense when you realize that this film was directed (and the original story for the script written by) William Shatner. It doesn’t fully work, but it’s still a bold, interesting exercise.

8. Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Despite its critically derided and off-tone trailer—Kirk jumps motorcycles over explosions while the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” blasts—it’s a fun movie. (Plus, the Beastie Boys song becomes an actual in-universe plot point, which I am for.) Definitely superior to its predecessor Star Trek Into Darkness, plus it has Idris Elba as the villain in some wild prosthetics. 

9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

The Star Trek films … do not start off with a bang. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a great idea for an episode of the TV series, but unfortunately the fun special effects aren’t enough to make up for a thin and piecemeal script. It’s hard when your main antagonist is a giant space cloud ok?

10. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Another film installment that would have been better served as an episode in The Next Generation and not a stand-alone film. The Son’a are sufficiently creepy looking, however, they can’t live up to the horrors that Voyager was already showing with the Phage. The biggest issue is that the pace of the film is a true slog. It.   Is.   Slow. And the conspiracy pay-off is just not worth it.

11. Star Trek: Generations (1994)

On paper, Generations seems like a great idea. Some of the original Enterprise crew and the Next Generation crew teaming up? Malcolm McDowell as the villain? Sounds amazing! Except it is pretty boring and it gives Kirk a really lame death. Like, he dies trying to retrieve a sci-fi remote control from a broken bridge, and then the bridge falls on him. The end. However, the original death planned for him was even worse! It was just McDowell shooting him in the back while he stands there. But regardless, the death was still bad, and because of that, this movie goes to the bottom of the list!

12. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

A truly bad idea on every level. Star Trek (2009) could have changed the game entirely when they broke off into their own timeline and destroyed the Vulcan homeworld. The universe was literally their oyster. And instead, JJ Abrams and co insisted on doing their own version of Wrath of Khan, while insisting to the press and the public that “no we swear it’s not Khan!” (LOL good one guys!) Except it was Khan without any of the things that make that movie the greatest Star Trek film of all time. It lacked life, and character history (Wrath of Khan means something because we have met Khan and his family before), and more importantly character motivation. In Wrath of Khan, Khan wants to destroy Kirk and the Enterprise because they inadvertently killed his wife and left him and his people to die on a barren planet. In Into Darkness Khan has just awoken and wants to destroy them … just for funsies I guess. It’s bad and I say that as someone who loves Benedict Cumberbatch. 

13. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

It’s the worst one! Far and away the worst. Which is a bummer because it has baby Tom Hardy acting as a young clone of Jean-Luc Picard! But it’s just … it’s really bad. Definitely the worst of the TNG movies, and that’s really saying something because they only had one good one. But not even bald baby boy Tom facing off against Patrick Stewart can save it. Watch it at your own peril.

(Image: Paramount)

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Brittany is a lifelong Californian (it's a big state, she can't find her way out!) who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles with her gigantic, vaguely cat-shaped companion Gus. If you stumble upon her she might begin proselytizing about Survivor, but give her an iced coffee and she will calm down.