Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

Star trek 639x360 Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

On the eve of the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, it behoves us to remember that Star Trek had a rich history on film before J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009. With 11 movies over 34 years, everyone has their favourite Trek, but not all Star Trek movies are created equal. So submitted for your approval is our unofficial list of the Star Trek movies in order from the worst to the best. From planet-eating clouds to planet-creating weapons, from time traveling cyborgs to evil clones with an army of monsters, and all points in between, these are the movie voyages of the starships Enterprise…

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11. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

star trek v Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

In many ways, deciding what Star Trek movie was the worst is easy. The Final Frontier had the dubious distinction of following up The Voyage Home, at that point the most successful Trek movie yet released. It was also William Shatner’s feature directorial debut, and despite the Captain’s ample experience working on a budget and directing several episodes of TV (10 episodes of his series T.J. Hooker to be precise), the film still went over-budget, and suffered from a weak, meandering script. The shame is that the story was highly ambitious: the crew of the Enterprise go in search of God, but instead of a theological exploration through the lens of Trek, we get scene after scene of Laurence Luckinbill as Spock’s never-before-heard-of brother Sybok asking people to share their pain with him, a sentiment more likely to be heard in a Hellraiser movie than a Star Trek one.

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10. Star Trek: Nemesis

Star Trek Nemesis 2 1024x768 Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

The tenth film was pegged as the last adventure of The Next Generation crew, but by the time the credits rolled on Nemesis fans had already retired their uniforms anyway. Credit over-saturation of the franchise or the rather shameless intent of the film to revisit Wrath of Khan beat for beat, or maybe it was because Nemesis opened one week before Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but reaction to this film was muted as compared to Trek films of the past. In retrospect, one can at least recommend Nemesis for being an early showcase for Tom Hardy, who plays Capt. Picard’s evil, young clone Shinzon, but aside from that, the usual Star Trek schtick just wasn’t working anymore. Despite the recruitment of Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator), and U.S. Marshall’s director Stuart Baird, both Trek “virgins,” even the most hardcore Trekkie left Nemesis thinking a real change had to made.

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9. Star Trek: Insurrection

Star Trek IX Insurrection Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

After two relatively darkish outings, Trek producers wanted a more light-hearted adventure for the ninth Star Trek film, the third featuring the Next Generation crew. First Contact director and TNG co-star Jonathan Frakes was recruited to direct, and Michael Piller, author of the seminal TNG two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds” and co-creator of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, was hired to write the screenplay for a story whose source material borrowed from the Joseph Conrad classic Heart of Darkness. But the mish-mash of tone and intention led to some embarrassing highlights, like Klingon zits, plastic surgery addicted villains and a bizarre musical interlude where Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner duet a Gilbert and Sullivan tune. The ingredients were there, but the franchise seemed to be answering to too many masters, and there was also the question, just three movies in, how much longer the TNG crew would want to continue making these films.

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8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

star trek the motion picture Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

Although it was once famously called, “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture” for its, let’s say, deliberative pace, in context this first Trek movie was probably the most cinematic in scope till J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot. Representing a giant leap forward for the franchise in terms of visual effects, art design, and make-up, The Motion Picture was a bold departure from Trek’s TV origins, and series creator Gene Roddenberry used the occasion to take for a walk some of the ideas he’d fully flesh out when he began developing Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1986. Featuring a highly ambitious story about a mysterious force heading to Earth after travelling from one end of the galaxy to another, the film was literally rushed to its premiere. A 2001 Director’s Cut released on DVD features a much tighter cut of the film and demonstrates what legendary director Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still and Run Silent, Run Deep) might have done if he had a bit more time to tinker. But despite the flaws, The Motion Picture made enough money for the studio to see the value in a sequel.

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7. Star Trek: Generations

star trek VII generations 01 4 Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

It was an obvious gimmick, but one that the fans really wanted, yet despite being called “Star Trek: Generations,” the film only really brought together Captains Kirk and Picard, and only then for the inevitable third act showdown with mad scientist Malcolm McDowell. But we get ahead of ourselves. The somewhat flimsy premise for the team-up of the captains of two generations of Enterprises is a cosmic whatchamacallit where time stops and makes all your dreams come true in a vivid fantasy land. Kirk’s trapped inside, McDowell’s villain wants in, and Picard tries to stop him from destroying a star system to do it. The film featured a pretty spectacular sequence of the Enterprise-D crash landing on a planet, but it also featured the biggest fight between senior citizens this side of Grumpy Old Men. Ultimately, the film is reviled somewhat for killing off Captain Kirk, but since Shatner resurrected him for a series of novels set post-Generations Trekkies can’t stay too mad (probably).

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6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

trek3 poster Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

If The Search for Spock was a cut above being just an average Trek movie it’s because the story reinforced the camaraderie of the Original Series crew and featured the destruction of the Enterprise in a scene that was as pragmatic as it was poignant. Now Spock’s return was a foregone conclusion, but the real revelation was Spock’s alterego Leonard Nimoy behind the camera, who constructed a well-paced, action-packed entry into the Star Trek saga, which introduced several elements that carried on into future Trek movies and series. Chief amongst those were the Klingons, who took centre stage as the villains after a mere prologue appearance in The Motion Picture. The new look and language of the Klingons would be re-used and expanded upon for next 20 years, thanks in no small part to Christopher Lloyd as the main Klingon antagonist. Lloyd, until then mainly known for playing the loony Reverend Jin on the sitcom Taxi, proved that he could match Shatner ham for ham. And who wasn’t touched by Spock’s reunion with his loving crewmates. Vulcans may not show emotion, but fans sure did.

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5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

Rushed into production after an early attempt to reboot the franchise fell through, The Undiscovered Country featured the dramatic return of Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer to the franchise, and a then-timely tale of peace between the Federation and Klingons that mirrored the real-life détente between the U.S. and Russia. The real highlight though was the casting of Christopher Plummer as Kirk’s Klingon nemesis General Chang. Spouting Shakespearean taunts at the Enterprise captain, Plummer and Shatner’s on screen battle was accentuated by the pair’s former real-life rivalry, as Shatner came up in the Montreal theatre scene at roughly the same time as Plummer, and later followed him to both the Stratford Festival and Hollywood. Released just in time for Trek’s 25th anniversary, The Undiscovered Country was a beautiful and fitting send-off for the Original Series crew and ended perfectly with Kirk’s order for the Enterprise to lay in a course for the “second star on the right, and straight on till morning.”

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4. Star Trek: First Contact

star trek first contact Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

When it was decided that The Next Generation crew would take over the film franchise, two possible stories were developed, one turned out to be Generations and the second was a time travel story featuring TNG’s greatest nemesis, The Borg. The film had some strong horror elements, a first for a Trek film, while letting Captain Picard and the crew of the new Enterprise-E stand on their own two feet in their first real film effort. Also standing on their own was Jonathan Frakes, TNG’s Commander Riker making his feature directorial debut after directing dozens of episodes of Next Gen., DS9, and Voyager. First Contact also featured some cool Easter eggs and cameos for the Trek fans, but it was accessible enough for a broader audience to enjoy to. Financially, it was the most successful Trek movie since The Voyage Home, which is why The Borg ended up becoming ubiquitous with Trek to the point of exhaustion. But in the context of First Contact, resistance really was futile.

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3. Star Trek

star trek 2009 poster Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

No one knew how to make Star Trek relevant again, though everyone had their own idea. But it was J.J. Abrams who boldly went with a direction that both rebooted the franchise for new audiences while staying true to the 40-plus years of continuity fans knew and loved. He also did something no other Star Trek film had been able to do in nearly 20 years: bring Leonard Nimoy back to the franchise. Now you may make fun of the result: there’s all that lens flare, an Enterprise bridge that looks like an Apple store, the narrative contortions that take Kirk from Academy punk to Starfleet Captain in two hours etc. Also, Trekkies wince because of Abrams’ emphasis on action and adventure rather than pursuing something a little more, shall we say, intellectual, but when it comes to Trek movies, anytime they focus on exploration (The Motion Picture), existentialism (The Final Frontier) or social justice (Insurrection), they end up being the worst of the series. So instead, Abrams re-launched Star Trek for a new generation, and for many fans his Trek is fondly remembered next to Batman Begins and Casino Royale as a reboot that works.

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2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Star Trek IVa Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

Star Trek saves the whales. It could have been silly, but in a surprising twist, The Voyage Home ended up being the most successful Trek movie till J.J. Abrams came along. When a probe of unknown origin seemingly attacks Earth, the crew of the Enterprise take their spaceship-jacked Klingon Bird of Prey back in time to the late 20th century to find the humpback whales, a species long since extinct in the 23rd century, that the probe is trying to communicate with. Leonard Nimoy sits in the director’s chair again and nimbly guides his fellow castmates through the complexities of punk rockers, exact change buses and why sending the Russian guy to steal nuclear particles from an American aircraft carrier at the height of the Cold War is not such a good idea. Great dialogue, a simple fish-out-of-water story, and the wonderful charisma of the main cast make this Trek a delightful voyage home indeed.

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1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

star trek ii the wrath of khan  Ranking The Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best

After “The Motionless Picture,” the then burgeoning Star Trek franchise needed a slam dunk, and they got it in Wrath of Khan. More than that though, Khan is a high that Trek films have been chasing for the last 30 years, which is why those persistent rumours that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness refuse to die. But back in 1982, Khan, as portrayed by Ricardo Montalban, was a one off character who appeared in the 1966 episode of the Original Series called “Space Seed.” Producer Harve Bennett, who was hired to replace Gene Roddenberry as the film’s shepherd, watched all 79 episodes of the series and decided to build the sequel around the standout Khan. In addition, he recalled the series’ swashbuckling adventure side, and found compelling literary inspiration in works like Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities. By the time we get to Mr. Spock’s touching act of self-sacrifice, you’ve been put through an emotional roller coaster thanks to the film’s combination of big action, tense drama, and even a few moments of levity. Revenge may be a dish best served cold (old Klingon proverb), but Wrath of Khan is still hot more than three decades later.

So there you have it, our favorite Star Trek films. Let us know what you think of our rankings in the comments below! And we hope you enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness.

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  • William Riker

    Great list!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Antonis-Michael-Arocho/718662770 Antonis Michael Arocho

    why in Gods name does everyone criticize this movie nemesis was great articulates thoughtful funny it was not the bestbut I would have to say personally if my 4th favorite

    • RoyBatty

      I agree. I would put Wrath of Khan as 1, Undiscovered country as 2, Generations as 3, and Nemesis as 4.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Antonis-Michael-Arocho/718662770 Antonis Michael Arocho

    give me a break this movie was actually quite good….what the hell is wrong with you people

  • Iam_Sparticus

    Agree with almost all of it, but would move Undiscovered Country up to number 2 mainly just for Plummer. He’s just absolutely terrific.

    • Mike KM

      Completely agree! I respect this ranking, but for me I would swap Undiscovered Country and Voyage Home. Voyage Home is great but feels like a well-produced episode. Undiscovered Company is much more cinematic and epic.

  • Brian Sleider

    you have A Voyage Home as #2, your list is invalid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jakechristian75 Jake Christian

      You are correct…

      Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home should have been listed as #1
      It is the best movie in the entire franchise and it is what made me fall in love with Star Trek!

      • Brian Sleider

        Opinions and assholes, we all got em.

  • phoenix1976

    I just rewatched Star Trek the other day (The first J.J. Abrams one, that is) and have to say that it did not age well. I had more fun rewatching ST9 a couple of months ago. I cannot shake the feeling that neither of the new entries will have a lasting following. Right now, I would rank Star Trek behind ST II, IV, VI, VIII and IX.

    • slappidy

      i think what hasn’t aged well is your mind. the 1st abrams movie is not old at all and still looks good…of course because it hasn’t had time to age yet. You must be really, REALLY young to be spinning this as a valid opinion. But yeah, it’s not. Because you’re wrong. And therefore your rankings of the other movies has no relevance since your opinion is not worth listenin to

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.brandenburg.735 Mark Brandenburg

    In terms of great overall movie making and storytelling…..
    1. Wrath of Khan
    2. Undiscovered Country
    3. Voyage Home
    4. First Contact
    5. Search For Spock
    6. Generations
    7. Insurrection
    8. Motion Picture (2001 Edition)
    9. Nemesis
    10. Final Frontier
    Reboots are in their own Category.
    Will watch Wrath of Khan, Undiscovered Country, and First Contact again anytime, the rest just bore me to tears.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.steib Brian Steib

    They got the top and bottom films right, the top 5 right, though in the wrong order, and the next 5 right (again, mostly in the wrong order). This is my ranking:
    1. Wrath of Khan – about as perfect as Star Trek gets
    2. Undiscovered Country – Plummer is brilliant, the story is tight, and a great send off for the original crew.
    3. First Contact – easily the best of the TNGs and a great story
    4. Voyage Home – another great story and more accessible than most to non-Trekkies as well as a great social commentary on the 80s
    5. Star Trek (Reboot) – Just a lot of fun and a great action story with a good villain
    6. Nemesis – a very underappreciated movie with a strong story and good performances.
    7. Generations – a bit silly overall, but fairly entertaining & the Enterpise crash scene is fantastic!
    8. Motion Picture – A great space odyssey, but its too long and drawn out. Gets boring and bogs down too often.
    9. Insurrection – a fluff piece with silly sequences. Went for a Voyage Home feel, but doesn’t really find it.
    10. Search For Spock – Overall, just a really silly story. As great as Lloyd is, he can’t make up for the silly plot points about the Genesis planet regenerating Spock. It just didn’t make much sense.
    11. Final Frontier – Just simply a bad movie with a mediocre characterization, especially with the new characters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.steib Brian Steib

    They got the top and bottom films right, the top 5 right, though in the wrong order, and the next 5 right (again, mostly in the wrong order). This is my ranking:
    1. Wrath of Khan – about as perfect as Star Trek gets
    2. Undiscovered Country – Plummer is brilliant, the story is tight, and a great send off for the original crew.
    3. First Contact – easily the best of the TNGs and a great story
    4. Voyage Home – another great story and more accessible than most to non-Trekkies as well as a great social commentary on the 80s
    5. Star Trek (Reboot) – Just a lot of fun and a great action story with a good villain
    6. Nemesis – a very underappreciated movie with a strong story and good performances.
    7. Generations – a bit silly overall, but fairly entertaining & the Enterpise crash scene is fantastic!
    8. Motion Picture – A great space odyssey, but its too long and drawn out. Gets boring and bogs down too often.
    9. Insurrection – a fluff piece with silly sequences. Went for a Voyage Home feel, but doesn’t really find it.
    10. Search For Spock – Overall, just a really silly story. As great as Lloyd is, he can’t make up for the silly plot points about the Genesis planet regenerating Spock. It just didn’t make much sense.
    11. Final Frontier – Just simply a bad movie with a mediocre characterization, especially with the new characters.

  • anigo mantoya

    4. voyage home, 3. wrath of khan, 2. first contact, 1. star trek

  • http://www.facebook.com/mileyah Mileyah Ziva Leisure

    I am a Trekkie and I have read all the Novels plus I grew up with all the TV Series, so I’d like to think I know what I am talking about. Seriously Worst to Best for Star Trek Movies should be this….
    12. Voyage Home
    11. Motion Picture (2001 Edition)
    10. Nemesis
    9. Final Frontier
    8. Undiscovered Country
    7. Generations
    6. Insurrection
    5. Star Trek (2009)
    4. First Contact
    3. Search For Spock
    2. Into The Darkness
    1. Wrath of Khan

  • hyphenate

    I could predict some of the order, but for some reason a lot of the later films have been nearly erased from my mind. My two favorites were Voyage Home and Wrath of Khan, so I’m in sync there, but I guess I’m going to have to see them all again to correctly visualize their order.

  • http://countercultureconservative.wordpress.com/ Jesusland

    Perfect.

  • Hans Brubaker

    1. Wrath of Khan – Duh

    2. Undiscovered Country – Even number

    3. Voyage Home – Also an even number

    4. Motion Picture: Director’s Edition – Probably the most thoughtful film in the series, and one of the few films in the series to have an actual science fiction story

    5. First Contact – Easily the best Next Gen film

    6. Search For Spock – Nimoy and Loyd were good, but the story was very flawed, basically it is a giant framing narrative for the “stealing the Enterprise” sequence

    7. Final Frontier – Okay, this one wasn’t great, but it was also more like an episode of TOS than anything to come after it, which is why a lot of TOS fans really like this film

    8. Generations – Not really bad, but nothing really good either, Kirk’s death feeling like an afterthought was aggravating to TOS fans

    9. Nemesis – The director was a hack, the edit was bad, but somehow I feel like with editing a better version of this film could easily be made

    10. Insurrection – Painful to sit through, didn’t watch it again for ten years

    11. Star Trek (Reboot) – Cool looking, big budget fan fiction train-wreck, felt at times like a Steve Guttenberg Police Academy movie