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Star Trek movies in order - chronological, release, and recommendation

With a truly expansive timeline, here's a complete guide on how to watch the Star Trek movies in order chronologically, by release, and our own recommendation.

Star Trek movies in order - William Shartner as Kirk and Patrick Stewart as Picard

Here’s our complete guide on how to watch the Star Trek movies in chronological order, release order, as well as our own bespoke recommendation. Since the ‘70s, cinemagoers across the world have been treated with new Star Trek movies in every single decade. What a blessed world we live in.

The 2020s will continue this trend as Star Trek fans were recently hit with the announcement that a new Star Trek movie is coming. The Section 31 release date is scheduled for 2024, and until then, we have 13 previous entries to rewatch including some of the best science fiction movies of all time.

But the Star Trek timeline is a messy one, and figuring out the best way to enjoy the adventures of Star Trek captains Picard and Kirk isn’t straightforward. So, we’ve put together the definitive guide on how to watch all of the Star Trek movies in order, starting with an explainer on the two timelines, our own recommendation on the best watch order, then chronologically, then by release. Engage, hit it, thataway, etc.

What is the difference between the Kelvin timeline and Prime timeline in Star Trek?

The Star Trek movies take place over two timelines: the Kelvin timeline, and the Prime timeline. Understanding the difference between the two before you embark on a mission to watch the Star Trek movies in order is important.

The Kelvin timeline covers the events seen in the three Star Trek reboot movies starring Chris Pine, and everything else (from all the Star Trek series on TV, to the TOS and TNG movies) is the Prime timeline.

Aside from it being a launching point for a new era of Star Trek, the Kelvin timeline actually has an in-universe explanation. In the year 2387, in the Prime timeline, Spock unintentionally sends himself back in time along with a Romulan named Nero.

Having been sent to the past (specifically 2233), Nero interferes with the natural passage of events and destroys the USS Kelvin, killing George Kirk (James T. Kirk’s father) in the process. Doing so splinters the flow of time, creating a divergence point that leads to two parallel but alternate timelines: the Kelvin timeline (which includes the events of Star Trek 2009, Into Darkness, and Beyond), and the Prime timeline.

Star Trek movies in order Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk 2009

The best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order

The best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order is to start with the three Kelvin timeline movies (which star Chris Pine as Kirk) before moving on to the classic TOS-era adventures and then the TNG-era movies. 

If you want to be really rogue, you can even add Star Trek Picard season 3 onto the end, as it is effectively a ten-hour long TNG movie, which ends the adventures of Picard and his crew on a much, much better note than Nemesis. Just don’t watch the two awful seasons which preceded it.

This is unorthodox but means you can watch the timelines progress in a mostly linear fashion. We get into much more detail on our reasons for this below, but this is how we watch the Star Trek movies, and it’s how we think you should too.

How to watch the Star Trek movies in order:

  • Star Trek 2009
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Star Trek The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek III The Search for Spock
  • Star Trek IV The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek V The Final Frontier
  • Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country
  • Star Trek Generations
  • Star Trek First Contact
  • Star Trek Insurrection
  • Star Trek Nemesis
  • Star Trek Picard season 3
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Star Trek 2009

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Placing Chris Pine’s movie in this position is relatively controversial, but stick with us. Though it begins with the Prime Spock years after Nemesis, 99% of what we see in the three Kelvin timeline movies effectively serves as a prequel.

Set in an alternate timeline created by Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, Star Trek 2009 follows a young James T. Kirk as he first takes command of the USS Enterprise, starts his journey as a captain, and meets his crew. Therefore, though set in an alternate timeline, the Pine movies act as prequels to the events seen in TOS, and the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order is to start here. This is by no means the consensus, but we think it offers the most coherent and satisfying viewing experience.

Star Trek movies in order Into Darkness Chris Pine as Kirk

Star Trek Into Darkness

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video (VOD)

The second installment in Pine’s trilogy brings in Khan as the antagonist, playing with the order of events as seen in Shatner’s adventures. Let’s put a pin in that, for now.

Khan causes havoc, corruption is rife within the Federation, and there’s an inversion of major plot points seen in The Wrath of Khan. The movie proved to be divisive upon its release, and does lose sight of the thematic thoughtfulness which makes Star Trek so distinct.

Still, it continues to deepen the connection shared by the main cast and characters, and if you’re going to commit to watching the Star Trek movies in order, it’s an important and necessary piece of the puzzle.

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Star Trek Beyond

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video (VOD)

Set three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission, Star Trek Beyond is the last film in the Kelvin timeline and somehow the first to really show the crew actually doing its job. Unsurprisingly then, it’s the best movie of the three, and it achieves a good balance of adventure and introspection by toning things down and lowering the stakes.

Amid all the fast action and fun, Beyond focuses on Kirk’s loneliness and his search for meaning in the vastness of space. It’s something new, and Star Trek thrives on new.

Since 2016, fans have been waiting patiently for the Star Trek 4 release date. But, with behind-the-scenes issues, it seems like that’s now dead in the water.

Star Trek movies in order - Enterprise in dry dock in the Motion Picture

Star Trek The Motion Picture

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Now we get to the Star Trek movies with William Shatner and co. as the crew of the USS Enterprise.

We recommend watching The Motion Picture after Beyond, because the Kelvin timeline Star Trek movies take place during Kirk’s five-year mission, and The Motion Picture is set after these adventures when Kirk has been made an Admiral. So, despite being set in alternate timelines, this is just how it makes sense to us, rather than skipping backward and forwards across timelines.

In The Motion Picture, Kirk re-assumes command of the USS Enterprise to deal with the threat posed by the mysterious V’Ger. His old crew join together once again in a frosty reunion but regain their connections as the adventure unfolds, building to a triumphant ending. It’s this growth across the movie, and the depth of its themes, which means that we love The Motion Picture despite its status as an awkward start to the cinematic side of the franchise.

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Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

One of the best movies ever made, The Wrath of Khan is set over a decade after The Motion Picture with Spock now the captain of the Enterprise. How times change.

The movie is remarkably straightforward. Kirk is tricked into coming face to face with his old enemy Khan Noonien-Singh, before the USS Enterprise and USS Reliant engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Thrilling, clever, and deeply moving, The Wrath of Khan ends with the death of Spock, who sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise and his friend Jim Kirk. We’re not crying, you are.

Star Trek movies in order The Search for Spock Kruge

Star Trek III The Search for Spock

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Directed by Leonard Nimoy who, in his infinite wisdom, wanted to add a sense of TOS-style fun back into proceedings, The Search for Spock is Star Trek at its most adventurous. Kirk steals the still-damaged Enterprise to embark on a mission to resurrect Spock, with his loyal crew in tow. Captain Picard could never.

Set directly in the aftermath of The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock is the make-shift middle installment in one of the best trilogies ever made. The Klingon Kruge is a fearsome foe (though he can’t hold a candle to Khan) who pushes Kirk to his very limits, and it sets the stage perfectly for the brilliant movie that follows it.

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Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

The Voyage Home is the one with the whales, and the nuclear wessels, and it’s an amazing achievement once again helmed by Nimoy. As Kirk prepares to return to Earth on the HMS Bounty to atone for his sins (disobeying Starfleet orders), the crew is instead roped into a time travel romp with a single goal: take whales from the past and bring them into the present (2286).

There’s very little jeopardy here: no Khan, no Kruge, just a heartfelt adventure to save Earth from its past misdeeds. It’s packed with laughs and fun, with perfect fish-out-of-water humor found in Kirk and his colleagues traversing ‘80s San Francisco. In the end, after the day has been thoroughly saved, Kirk is demoted back to the rank of captain which is really what he’d always wanted.

It ends a cohesive trilogy of Star Trek movies, following the death of Spock, his rebirth, and his return to adventure alongside Jim Kirk. If you’re looking for the best science fiction movies ever made you don’t have to look any further than these three.

Star Trek movies in order- William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in The Final Frontier

Star Trek V The Final Frontier

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Exit Nimoy, enter Shatner. As well as sitting in the captain’s chair, Shatner was swapped into the director’s chair for The Final Frontier too. And, honestly, the movie is a pure reflection of the man himself.

Concerned with grand philosophical ideas, notions of ego, and the quest for knowledge, The Final Frontier follows the first voyage of the USS Enterprise-A on the search for God. It marks the introduction of Spock’s half brother Sybok (a brilliant Star Trek villain), and is notorious for its iffy visual effects and puzzling tone.

It’s not all bad, though, and there are some gloriously camp sequences between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on their camping trip. The humor doesn’t always land here, but its heart’s in the right place and I enjoy watching Kirk climb a rock (and adore his ‘Go climb a rock’ shirt). But, The Final Frontier was bad enough that it almost prematurely ended the franchise, and prevented Shatner from exerting his creative influence over the next movie.

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Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

The final adventure of the whole TOS-era crew, The Undiscovered Country is a grand, emotional send-off for the first Star Trek cast and a group of beloved characters.

As the Klingon moon Praxis explodes due to unsafe mining conditions, Kirk is sent on one last mission: to negotiate peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire after years of tension and war. It’s a direct parallel to the Chernobyl disaster, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War.

Unsurprisingly then, The Undiscovered Country is the most political Star Trek movie, concerning itself with deep-rooted prejudice and how personal conflicts can be barriers to social progress and peace. Kirk learns to overcome his hatred for the Klingons and see the bigger picture, but not before the Enterprise crew uncovers a traitor in its midst who is attempting to sabotage the peace process.

“Second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning,” is the perfect end to it all. At least, it could have been.

Star Trek movies in order Patrick Stewart and William Shatner as Picard and Kirk in Generations

Star Trek Generations

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

After the smash success of Star Trek The Next Generation (the finale was seen on broadcast by an astonishing 30 million viewers), it was the TNG cast’s turn to have a go at making movies too. What better way to start a new era than by looking back to an old one?

Set in the immediate aftermath of TNG season 7, Captain Kirk joins forces with Captain Picard thanks to a convenient time travel plot device. Together, they defeat the villainous Soran, a man obsessed with finding a fantastical extra-dimensional realm called the ‘Nexus’. The Enterprise-D is destroyed, and to make things even worse, Kirk dies along the way too. He’s buried under a pile of rocks by Picard, which isn’t exactly a hero’s send-off, but here we are.

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Star Trek First Contact

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Like some joyless inverse of The Voyage Home, First Contact sees a former first officer (Jonathan Frakes’ Riker) step into the director’s chair to create an adventure that catapults the crew of the USS Enterprise back in time to Earth. This time though, there’s the threat of the Borg: it’s a lot darker than a mission to save some whales.

As the Borg attempts to prevent Earth from making first contact with the Vulcans, the TNG crew split up to combat the Borg in space with the shiny new Enterprise-E and ensure that things go as they should down on Earth’s surface. With some of the best action Star Trek has to offer, this is widely seen as the greatest TNG movie, even if its attempts to turn Picard into a Rambo-style action hero are misguided.

Star Trek movies in order Insurrection Son'a

Star Trek Insurrection

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Often likened to a TNG episode, Insurrection lowers the stakes and opts for a more personal story instead. Mostly set on the planet of Ba’ku, Insurrection sees Picard ditch Starfleet’s orders in favor of doing the right thing.

The planet has restorative effects thanks to its metaphasic particles, which the Federation’s allies the Son’a want to harness for their own personal aims. That would mean shunting Ba’Ku’s inhabitants off to another world, though, and Picard refuses to cooperate. Instead, he helps the Ba’Ku mount a resistance, which brings him close to death.

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Star Trek Nemesis

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

While the TOS cast got six movies, the TNG cast could only manage four. Nemesis was their fourth and final adventure (until their reunion in Picard season 3) and it brought Picard into conflict with an evil clone… of himself, played by a bald Tom Hardy.

This clone is Shinzon, who leads the Remans (slaves to the Romulans) aboard his ship the Scimitar. The Scimitar is equipped with an extraordinarily powerful Thalaron weapon that has the power to destroy all before it, including Earth. In the battle to defeat Shinzon, Data sacrifices himself in an act similar to Spock’s sacrifice in The Wrath of Khan. Riker leaves to take command of the USS Titan, and the Romulan commander Donatra suggests peace could be on the horizon (something that never happens).

It’s a downer ending which, after the perfection of All Good Things… which concluded their time on TV, retroactively made all four TNG movies seem somewhat of a misfire.

Star Trek movies in order - Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard in Picard season 3

Star Trek Picard season 3

Where to watch: Paramount Plus

No one wants to finish their Star Trek movie marathon with Nemesis, for God’s sake. Instead, end on a high with Star Trek Picard season 3.

Some critics, and plenty of audience members, called it one of the best seasons of Star Trek ever. Let’s make this abundantly clear: it’s not. The plot is packed full of contrivances, the attempt to force in nostalgia is cynical, it’s got too many subplots, the return of the Borg is predictable, and unlike 99% of TNG (which is so wants to remind you of) it ends with a giant mindless battle.

And yet, it at least gives the beloved Star Trek The Next Generation cast a happy ending. It also, to be fair, has some great moments, ideas, and episodes, with the like of No Win Scenario, and Dominion. It can be thrilling, and exciting, and it has a genuinely brilliant movie-like score.

In fact, it really wants to be a TOS-style Star Trek movie. And, perhaps it should have been. Cutting down the length would have solved a lot of problems and bloat. Still: to finish things off with some Star Trek VI-style optimism, you can end your re-watch with Picard season 3. For better and worse.

Star Trek movies in order The Wrath of Khan Nebula

How to watch the Star Trek movies in chronological order

As the Kelvin timeline is created in the Prime timeline in the year 2387, the formal way to watch the Star Trek movies in chronological order is with Chris Pine’s Star Trek trilogy at the end.

Star Trek 2009 starts with Prime Spock post-Nemesis, so the movies are technically (if not spiritually) sequels. This isn’t the ideal order in which to watch the movies, because it’s jarring to skip back and forth.

But if you’re a stickler for rules, this is how you’ll want to do it. You’ve been warned, though. It gets messy, and pretty confusing.

How to watch the Star Trek movies in chronological order:

  • Star Trek The Motion Picture (2270s)
  • Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (2285)
  • Star Trek III The Search for Spock (2285)
  • Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (2286)
  • Star Trek V The Final Frontier (2287)
  • Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (2293)
  • Star Trek Generations (2371)
  • Star Trek First Contact (2373)
  • Star Trek Insurrection (2375)
  • Star Trek Nemesis (2379)
  • Star Trek 2009 (Prime timeline 2387; Kelvin timeline 2255)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (Kelvin timeline 2259)
  • Star Trek Beyond (Kelvin timeline 2263)

Star Trek movies in order Nichelle Nichols as Uhura

How to watch the Star Trek movies in release order

Beginning over a decade after the end of the first Star Trek series, the Star Trek movies began in 1979. Since then, new movies have been making their way into cinemas in neat intervals up until 2016, with the release of the most recent Star Trek Beyond.

Thankfully, watching the Star Trek movies in release order isn’t complicated at all.

Star Trek movies in release order:

  • Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984)
  • Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986)
  • Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989)
  • Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • Star Trek Generations (1994)
  • Star Trek First Contact (1996)
  • Star Trek Insurrection (1998)
  • Star Trek Nemesis (2002)
  • Star Trek 2009 (2009)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
  • Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek movies in order Michelle Yeoh as Georgiou

All upcoming Star Trek movies

As it enters a new golden era with its TV series, the Star Trek franchise has plenty of life left in it, and there are two potential Star Trek movies which could be arriving in the next few years.

First, we have the one which is officially in development: Star Trek Section 31. A spin-off of Star Trek Discovery centering on Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou, the new movie is set to shine a light on the secretive operations of the infamous Section 31. This is a clandestine organization which forms part of Starfleet Intelligence and serves to protect the security of the Federation by any means necessary.

The Star Trek Section 31 release date looks like it will arrive at some point in 2025, and it’s set to air exclusively on Paramount Plus.

Then, we have the apparently-cursed Star Trek 4. A sequel to Star Trek Beyond with the Kelvin timeline cast has been in the works for close to a decade now, and still we have nothing concrete confirmed about the film.

Contractual negotiations and scheduling, as well as lots of shifting creative directions behind the scenes, have prevented the movie from ever getting further than a script. And even that, reportedly, is now scrapped. As each month passes by, the likelihood of Star Trek 4 ever being made lessens. The movie hasn’t been officially canceled yet, just indefinitely delayed, so we’ve still got a shred of hope. For now.

Upcoming Star Trek movies:

  • Star Trek Section 31
  • Star Trek 4

William Shatner as Captain Kirk in The Undiscovered Country

And, that’s it on how to watch the Star Trek movies in order. If you got to the end, well done: you’ve watched 13 movies across two parallel timelines. That’s no mean feat.

If, like us, you still can’t get enough of the Enterprise in all its forms, you can check out some of our other Star Trek articles, including our interview with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn about Strange New Worlds as well as our guides to the Strange New Worlds season 3 release date, Lower Decks season 4 release date and a potential Star Trek Legacy release date.

You can also see our picks for the best Star Trek starships, as well as our explainers on the USS Intrepid, USS Farragut, and USS Kelcie Mae. Or, see our picks for the best Star Trek characters of all time, and our thoughts on which Star Trek captain would win in a zombie apocalypse. You can also check out what’s new on Paramount Plus this month, as well as our choices for the best TV series of all time.