We recently ranked every film in the Star Wars franchise and now we turn our attention to another sci-fi behemoth. In addition to the many existing and upcoming TV shows, Star Trek has also spanned thirteen films to date, covering the continuing adventures of Admiral / Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and his Enterprise(s) to a four-film continuation of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and finally a reboot of the original crew, with Chris Pine taking up the mantle of the alternate Kirk.
With the merger of Viacom and CBS, the future of the franchise is back under one house again and the future of the films is as ripe for development as the many new shows underway. Whether Quentin Tarantino gets to make his own version on film, Pine and the rest of the reboot crew are tempted back for another big-screen adventure or new films are spun out of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard or something entirely new, remains to be seen.
As it stands, we have thirteen films to choose from. So here are out choices, from best to worst. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below...
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
There’s a reason the second big-screen adventure feature the original crew often tops the charts of best Star Trek films. After the 'motionless' first film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan brought action, adventure and horror as Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise faced off against a vengeful Khan (Ricardo Montalban reprising his role from the original 60s episode SpaceSeed) and chewing up the scenery as he commanded the screen.
There's an argument that ST works best on the small screen, the big screen adventures eschewing science and exploration for crowd-pleasing action. However the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the perfect blend of both - the Genesis device and the creation of the planet at the climax providing the scientific McGuffin amid the story of revenge.
While the final dogfight in the Mutara Nebula is a franchise highlight, the core of the movie is the reflection on the past and legacy as an ageing Kirk faces his own mortality, a lost love and a son he never knew he had. But the ultimate sacrifice comes from Spock as he sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise from certain destruction. With his death, Star Trek proved its worth on the big screen as much as the small.
2. Star Trek: First Contact
The Star Trek: The Next Generation movies never had the same acclaim as their predecessors, despite the TV series before it being regarded as the gold standard for Star Trek on the small screen. However, the second film in the TNG movie franchise is pure gold, as the crew of the newly commissioned Enterprise-E comes up against their greatest enemy, the Borg.
While the cybernetic race was enough to sustain the story, this is far more than a remake of The Best of Both Worlds. After a spectacular opening battle to save Earth, the Borg travel back in time, forcing the Enterprise to journey back to 2063 to save humanity and ensure James Cromwell's Zefram Cochran launches the first warp ship in order to make contact with alien life.
This film has plenty of action and horror as the Enterprise is slowly assimilated by the Borg, while the addition of the Borg Queen - played to perfection by Alice Krige - makes for a formidable enemy. Funny and dramatic in equal measure, this is everything we hoped a movie version of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be.
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The 25th anniversary was celebrated in style with an epic swansong for the crew of the Enterprise A, as a tragic accident on a Klingon moon opened up the possibilities for peace between the Klingons and the Federation. We all knew that peace existed between the two races by the time of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era, but for Kirk - who saw his beloved Enterprise destroyed and his son murdered at the hands of the Klingons - this was a step too far.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a momentous, emotional journey for the original crew, forced to put aside decades of hostilities for peace. There are some wonderfully tense sequences - the dinner party and the murder of Chancellor Gorkon - while Kirk and McCoy's imprisonment on a Klingon penal colony opens up plenty of adventure before the dramatic final showdown with General Chang and his weapons-ready cloaked Bird of Prey as the Khitomer peace talks hang in the balance.
Even with strong guest appearances from the likes of Christopher Plummer, David Warner and Kim Cattrall, the biggest success of the movie is the sense of rich, shared history among the core crew, facing their personal demons in a universe that is rapidly outliving them. It's the swansong the original iteration deserved.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The funniest of the movies, and the one with the most heart, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the culmination of the story began in The Wrath of Khan as Kirk and his 'rebellious' crew return home after the events at Genesis and the rebirth of Spock, only to find Earth itself facing extinction. Cue a bold, fun-fuelled affair that sends the crew back to 'modern Earth' as it was in the 80s, trying to find two humpback whales to communicate with the alien probe destroying Earth back in their own time.
When we spoke to Walter Koenig (Chekov) at Destination Star Trek last year, he cited Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as his fondest memory of the franchise and it's easy to see why. Every member of the cast gets something to do, from Chekov and his capture on the 'Nuclear Whessel' to Scotty attempting to talk to the 80's computer. Adjusting to life, Spock is at his best neck pinching punks on a bus or swimming with whales while Kirk gets a classic romance with scientist Gillian (Catherine Hicks), as he attempts to procure her whales for a trip back to the present.
It's a true fish out of water story, fused with the high jinks time travel adventures of the 60s series and with an environmental message to boot. ST has rarely been as fun as it was in this movie.
5. Star Trek (2009 reboot)
When a reboot of was announced, Trekkies everywhere groaned with despair. No big-screen conclusion for the crew of the Enterprise E (not to mention Deep Space Nine and Voyager)? A reboot of a beloved series? The question everyone was asking, was why?
Fortunately, the reboot was something rather clever. Also serving as a sequel / prequel (the destruction of Romulus from the Prime timeline will impact on the upcoming Star Trek: Picard TV series), it proved to be a roller coaster of a ride that shocked, entertained and proved it could still work on the big screen.
It also forged its own identity too. Not just in the terrific performances from all involved (Karl Urban's McCoy is perfect) but in the direction it took. From the destruction of Vulcan to a clever use of a returning Leonard Nimoy to anchor both franchises, this was something fresh and fun that delighted new audiences and won back plenty of old fans too.
6. Star Trek Beyond
The most recent movie featuring the rebooted cast was made to celebrate the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary and it did so in absolute style. While not having the cultural impact of the 2009 film, it was a far cry from the dire issues facing Into Darkness. Delivering bold new worlds and civilisations, high stakes and plenty of drama with a healthy dose of fun, this was as close to a big-screen re-imagining of the 60s TV series as the reboot movies ever got.
The destruction of the Enterprise (again) propels the story forward, stranding the crew on an alien world, where every character gets a moment to shine, with the cast playing off three films' worth of chemistry to deliver some of their finest performances yet. The final showdown at Starbase Yorktown (a nice homage to the original series) is stunning, with action and wonder in droves.
With Star Trek's movie journey unknown once more, Star Trek Beyond at least serves to deliver a fitting climax to this reimagined crew and the surprising amount of fun they brought with them to the big screen.
7. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
The middle chapter of the ‘motion picture trilogy’ is a film of three distinct acts - the return to Earth and then 'stealing of the Enterprise', the battle with the Klingons at Genesis and Spock's resurrection at Vulcan.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock has a somewhat muddled pacing, climaxing long before the credits have ended with the infamous destruction of the Enterprise which provides the film's high point. That middle act offers some of the finest action and drama of any of the films with the Klingons firmly cementing themselves as the Big Bads of the Kirk era.
The stealing of the Enterprise is rather fun, though poor Uhura - one cool scene aside - gets shockingly sidelined. Though the finale on Vulcan carries a lot of emotional resonance, it does leave the film with a somewhat flat ending, perhaps accounting for why it doesn't rank as highly as those films around it. Still, as an 'odd numbered' ST film, it stands head and shoulders above the others.
8. Star Trek Generations
This was the movie that saw the passing of the torch between the original and Next Generation crews as Kirk and Picard met on screen for the first and only time. William Shatner and Patrick Stewart are terrific together, starting off at odds and then allies, though Kirk's final death is somewhat underwhelming for such an iconic character.
Malcolm McDonnell's Soran, the man responsible for Kirk's death is a brilliant bad guy. But as great as they were in the TV series, having Lursa and B'etor as primary antagonists doesn't work. While they are Klingon rebels, their race is at peace in this time period and having them destroy the Enterprise thematically feels like an undoing of everything Kirk and his crew went through to create the peace treaty in his last movie.
As a TNG movie, it's great to see the crew of the Enterprise D onscreen and the destruction of the ship is a brilliant sequence, but it doesn't push itself further. It would take the Borg to do that. The death of Picard's family is also a rather odd sub plot. But overall, it proves that Picard and his crew could work just as well on the big screen as the crew that preceded them.
9. Star Trek Insurrection
Designed to offer a more light-hearted affair after the darkness of Star Trek: First Contact, this movie would been brilliant as a two-parter in the TV series but lacks some impact on the big screen.
Ignoring the fact that chronologically it is set during the Dominion War of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the film feels almost too light to be worthy of a big screen adventure. The crew's 'rebellion' lacks bite, and the Sona - as interesting as they are - don't quite have the presence of the Klingons or Borg to be truly memorable.
But it isn't all bad either. The film looks stunning, they are genuinely funny moments, the final dog fight in the Briar patch is thrilling and the cast is solid. Everyone looks like they're having a great time - and admit it, so did we.
10. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The big screen return of the original crew is stunning to look at, but is missing an engaging story to go with it. Capitalising on the success of Star Wars, the planned 'Phase II' TV series was dropped and the pilot retooled into a movie.
The V'Ger threat is powerful - the opening destruction of the Klingons is terrific - and there is a real sense of tension as it approaches Earth. The final reveal of what V'Ger is, is rather cool too. Most significantly, it's a beautiful, beautiful movie. From the impossibly long reveal of the Enterprise to the journey into V'Ger itself is gorgeous.
It's just a shame there isn't much going on. The Decker / Ilia romance is stilted, the transporter death of the new Vulcan first officer is very random and it takes far too long for anything to happen. It also lacks the sense of fun that made the original series so enjoyable. Star Trek: The Motion Picture might be lovely to look at, but it takes itself far too seriously - it would have worked as a pilot episode but not so much as a motion picture.
11. Star Trek: Nemesis
The final outing of the Enterprise E is not as bad as you might remember, though it does have some significant flaws that end the TNG era of something of a damp squib.
Giving the Romulans - arguably the primary villains of Star Trek: The Next Generation after the Borg - was a great move and there are moments where it feels like their scheming duplicity is well realised. But after a bold opening the Roumlans are largely side lined in favour of Tom Hardy's Picard clone. The Remans look like the film is trying to capitalise on the orcs from The Lord of the Rings. We get another unnecessary Data clone story in B4 (get it?) and most of the cast feel side-lined too. But at least Riker and Deanna get married and he finally gets a ship of his own (even if we never see it).
That wedding aside, it doesn't really feel like a culmination of the The Next Generation era and some great action sequences and Data's heroic demise aside, doesn't feel like the finale this crew deserved. Let's hope Star Trek: Picard makes use of the few decent plot strands running though this somewhat disappointing movie.
12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Captain Kirk and the crew of the newly commissioned (though still not fully functional) Enterprise A head off in search of God in this fifth movie. Kirk himself, William Shatner, directs the movie and proves he's no Leonard Nimoy.
It's a rather frustrating entry. The Klingons are back aagin but don't really bring anything to the story. The envisioned final battle on the Planet with rock monsters is downgraded to Kirk being chased by some flashy lights and the introduction of Spock's half brother Sybok raises more questions than answers.
It all feels a little cheap and self congratulatory. The showdown with 'God's is brilliant ("What does God need with a warship?") and Shatner really draws out the fun dynamic of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. But the rest of the film needs a little more magic to fulfil its unrealised potential.
13. Star Trek Into Darkness
There is no such thing as a disappointing Star Trek film and even Star Trek Into Darkness has its moment to shine. But it is also a terribly mishandled affair that tries to recreate the magic of the mighty The Wrath of Khan and fails miserably.
Revisiting Khan was always a big mistake and the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch is wasted in a role that bares no resemblance to the original. The attempt to deny he was playing Khan backfired because we all knew who he was supposed to be all along. And there's a lot of stupid decisions from transporting halfway across the galaxy to magic healing blood and a terrible reversal of Spock's famous death scene. There's a reason this is the worst film when Khan is the best.
But this film has its moments. The cast is brilliant (a gratuitous attempt to reboot Carol Marcus aside) and moments like the jump from the damaged Enterprise to the Vengeance and the Original series-style opening are great. It's just a shame the rest of the film didn't try and attempt a revisit of another classic story instead.
From Khan to...Khan, that's every Star Trek movie in the franchise to date. Do you agree with these choices? Let us know in the comments below...
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