Ranking (All) The Star Trek Movies
Definitively? Maybe. Hear me out.
12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Okay, so this movie opens with what looks like a scene from Mad Max, then jumps to a chubby Kirk somehow free-soloing El Cap, then jumps to a space-docked Enterprise that’s in a phenomenal state of disrepair where Scotty and O’hura are apparently dating. IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. What a trainwreck. Even the Klingons were a joke. It should be noted that Shatner directed this one (the ONLY one he directed).
11. Star Trek: Insurrection
You would be forgiven for confusing this with a regular Next Generation episode, and that’s because it is. This whole movie is a re-hash of an episode called “Who Watches the Watchers?”, just, you know, longer. Probably the best part of the movie is Troi talking about how her boobs are firming up thanks to the planet’s regenerative properties. Riker also flies the Enterprise with what is basically a Microsoft joystick, and that pretty well sums up the cornball factor on this one.
10. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
This is a tough one. On the one hand, here’s the movie that STARTED the movies, and for its time, did so in spectacular fashion. On the other hand, this thing is really tough to watch. And the uniforms… The whole time, all you can think of is 2001: A Space Odyssey, and not in a good way. Hell, the first 4 minutes are nothing but a black screen with some orchestral music playing. When people ask me about the movies, I tell them to skip this one and go right to watching 2-4, and if they’re really interested they can come back to it afterwards. Charming, and special in that “First time you saw it on the big screen” kind of way, but otherwise sets the standard for the “Even Numbered Movies Were Better” argument. Also, Kirk was kind of a dick in this one.
9. Star Trek: Nemesis
Ah, Nemesis. This is the fourth and final Next Generation film. They got some things right with this one, chiefly any sort of action sequence. This film features arguably the best ship-to-ship combat to date, really illustrating the toughness of the new Enterprise. Sadly, the whole story is pretty weak, and it just has that “episode feel” that the TNG cast was prone to exhibit. You do get Tom Hardy though (with much better diction than he had playing Bane) and an appearance by Admiral Janeway. But Data dies, so fuck this movie.
8. Star Trek: Generations
Here we have the first movie starring the Next Generation cast, and it’s just a little bit of a mess. I’m naturally biased towards the TNG cast, as watching that series as a kid was my first introduction to Star Trek, but I can’t honestly rank it any higher than this. It was entertaining, but there were lots of corny parts (see above picture). Malcolm McDowell plays a pretty lame villain, Data is batshit crazy, CAPTAIN JAMES T KIRK (yes, he’s in this one quite a bit) dies a crummy death at the end by riding a bridge into a canyon, and Riker manages to annihilate the Enterprise-D. But at least Whoopi was there.
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Yep, the one with the whales. Basic premise is that a whale-seeking death probe comes to Earth, destroying everything in its path, and when it discovers there aren’t any whales anymore it proceeds to…ummm…”rain” us to death. On their way back to Earth in their stolen Bird of Prey, the Enterprise crew decides to time travel back to the 1980s by making a u-turn around the sun. While that premise is a little absurd, it is pretty fun to see the crew immersed in 80s San Francisco, but the fact that they’re in that particular decade heightens the cheese factor. Still a pretty good story, however, and it’s a good wrap up for the 2-4 trilogy.
6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Part of the great 2-4 story arc, but just not the best part. Kahn is a tough act to follow, after all. The villain is a misinformed Klingon played by Christopher Lloyd. Now, Klingon Doc Brown is a pretty divisive subject, but I happen to like him. Kirk steals the Enterprise, and subsequently Doc Brown’s Bird of Prey (after a fairly shitty fight sequence) which pretty much makes him the galaxy’s greatest hijacker. Oh, and remember how we just met Kirk’s son in the second movie? Well, he dies. Had to be done, though, as that tosses a little gas on the fire that is Kirk’s hatred for the Klingons. Young Spock also happens to get laid in this one, perhaps because Nimoy was directing…
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
Oh. Boy. The fanboys continue to rage about this one, but they are at least a bit more justified on it than on its predecessor. Plot holes big enough to drive a truck through abound, but the film at least moves fast enough that you may not notice them. Throwbacks to the original show/movies range from the curious (a tribble?) to the downright blasphemous. A special effects knockout, and a strong performer at the box office, this movie hit the mark for a LOT of people that weren’t hardcore Trek fans, and is that really such a bad thing? Part of the nerd enjoyment for all things Trek is probably recognizing something special about the series, something that you enjoy and don’t necessarily share with most people. Since this film went so mainstream in its approach, it may have alienated that fanbase (see above: fanboy rage). If you’re able to see past that, however, you have an tremendously entertaining movie that continues to make more people love Star Trek, which is why it places where it does on this list.
4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Nicholas Meyer directed this one, same guy who did Wrath of Kahn, and it’s actually a pretty cool movie. You’ve got a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon general (much cooler than it sounds on paper) plotting some good-old-fashioned subterfuge, Kim Cattrall as a sneaky-ass Vulcan, Spock laying down the law, and even Michael Dorn making a cameo as a Klingon defense attorney (not as cool as it sounds on paper). The best part, though, is that it was a really fitting culmination and send-off for the old cast. The ending might bring a nostalgic tear or two to your eyes.
3. Star Trek
Fanboys hate it, because fanboys, but this film really earned its keep, and its place on this list. The Next Generation run of films had petered out, and for Trek movies to keep getting made, a reboot made sense. Lens flare aside (honestly didn’t bother me that much) this thing was visually stunning. It’s also responsible for not only getting a whole new generation of fans interested in Trek, but in many cases rekindling the fascination with the series that many of us had to begin with. It did the right thing by using the venerable time travel plot device to create an alternate universe from the original series. This provided an avenue for a new run of films to make their own way instead of tromping all over what had been done before in the existing timeline…which the filmmakers promptly decided to ignore. Still, this was probably the best possible result to come out of a reboot since Batman Begins.
2. Star Trek: First Contact
Far and away the best TNG film. The difference between this and Generations, which immediately preceded it, are night and day. You notice an instant jump up in quality, especially from a musical standpoint (listen closely for the Klingon theme from the older movies whenever the camera focuses on Worf). Picard and Data go straight up supersaiyan on the Borg (great Star Trek villains) and it’s a marked but very welcome departure from their temperaments in Generations. The new Enterprise-E is awesome too, no longer a simple exploration vessel but a Sovereign class, battle-capable flagship of the fleet. If I find fault with it, it’s only that they use time travel yet again as a plot device, but it works really well. Also, Geordi finally gets contact lenses, so there’s that.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
You knew it couldn’t be any other way. This thing really just can’t be beat (and I can’t imagine the hate mail if I didn’t rank it #1). The image of the little sand worm crawling into Chekov’s ear was forever burned into my brain when I saw it as a kid. Traumatizing? Maybe, but mainly just memorable, like so many moments from this film. I mean, RICARDO. FUCKING. MONTALBON. Cumberbatch was great and all, but Ricardo was Kahn, man. This story really pulls you in, too. If you haven’t seen Into Darkness yet, for the love of God please watch this one first. If you have, still watch this so you can see how gratuitously that movie borrowed from this excellent plot. Bonus: you discover that Kirk has a son, kind of ironic considering that he’s such a famous womanizer.