Star Trek movies, ranked worst to best


Raise shields, red alert! It’s time for our list of the Star Trek movies, ranked worst to best. We’ve watched them all again so we can definitively say which are the best Star Trek movies, and which ones need throwing in the brig.

Space, the final frontier. These are the movies of the starship Enterprise. Their more than 40-year mission: to seek out new audiences and entertain fans. To boldly go where every successful film franchise has gone before.

Any series that lasts as long as Star Trek has is going to have masterpieces, disasters, and every permutation in between. The Star Trek movies range from brilliant to hot mess to ‘well, they did their best,’ and though fans will find something to enjoy about all of them, your free time is finite. 

Here, then, is the definitive ranking of the best Star Trek movies. Oh, and if you want to see more intergalactic cinema, our list of the best space movies is just a warp jump away too, along with the Alien movies ranked, for those with strong nerves.

13. Star Trek Into Darkness

Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Pine in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) © Zade Rosenthal (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: May 16, 2013Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

How this film managed to make Khan a boring antagonist is a mystery that will baffle scholars for years to come. No shade to Benedict Cumberbatch, but he doesn’t have the charisma necessary to persuade viewers to overlook the plot holes and bizarre character choices that make Into Darkness unwatchable. The sacrifice that is so poignant in Wrath of Khan falls flat because the relationship between Kirk and Spock – roles reversed for the climactic moment – barely reaches the level of roommates, let alone dear friends. And don’t get me started on Carol Marcus in her underwear. 

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12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and Laurence Luckinbill in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: June 9, 1989Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Final Frontier’s core idea is actually pretty good: Spock’s half-brother hijacks the Enterprise so he can fly it into the middle of the Milky Way and meet God. Unfortunately, a writers’ strike grounded the script before it got off the ground. What remains is a muddled mess that still may have been watchable were it not for William Shatner. He’d been promised a turn in the director’s chair and this was what he did with it. If you’ve ever wondered if the stories about Shatner’s unbearable ego were true, look no further.  

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11. Star Trek: Insurrection

Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: December 11, 1998Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner

Even hardcore Star Trek fans forget what Insurrection is about. Not because it’s confusing, but because it’s the cinematic equivalent of a filler episode. Starfleet decides to relocate a small (but immortal? Ok) population so that the Federation can claim their planet’s unique natural resource for itself. Feeling betrayed by Starfleet’s apparent disregard for the Prime Directive, Picard gets very, very annoyed. Nothing about this movie is particularly good or bad. It’s all just kind of there. Watching Insurrection will neither ruin your day nor make it any better, so do as you will with it. 

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10. Star Trek: Nemesis

Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: December 13, 2002Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner

Before he was Bane, Venom, or Mad Max, Tom Hardy was Picard’s clone, Shinzon. He kills the Romulan senate, lures Picard and crew to Romulus under the pretense of peace negotiations, and oh, yeah, he has an android that looks just like Data. The plot is a hot mess of mistaken identity, telepathy, and revenge that never has stakes – or characters – worth caring about. Even the movie’s most emotional moment, when Data sacrifices himself to save Picard, is immediately undercut with a “Just kidding! I downloaded my brain into the android who looks just like me!” Troi and Riker got married, though, so that’s nice. 

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9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, and George Takei in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: June 1, 1984Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

On the plus side, it has Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon. On the minus side… is everything else. After his sacrifice saves the Enterprise from certain destruction, Spock’s casket is shot into space, eventually settling on the Genesis planet. Thus begins a “how do we get Spock’s consciousness back into his newly reborn body” reverse-heist film that is crammed full with awkward moments. Spock going through puberty? Yikes. Klingons murdering Kirk’s son? Oof. Also, the entire film looks bizarrely cheap. You could generously call it an homage to Trek’s humble beginnings, but it’s very strange after the lush visuals of Khan. At no point is a viewer not acutely aware that this movie had to happen to get Spock back on the Enterprise, and it almost isn’t worth it.   

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8. Star Trek: Generations

Malcolm McDowell, Brian Thompson, and Gwynyth Walsh in Star Trek: Generations (1994) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: November 18, 1994Cast: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Malcolm McDowell

Generations was intended to pass the torch from the cast of The Original Series to that of The Next Generation, with Kirk and Picard teaming up to defeat not-quite-a-villain-he’s-just-sad-really Malcolm McDowell. The shoehorning of Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov into a film set a century after they were zipping around the universe is less than elegant, more than gratuitous. Generations spends so much time waving goodbye to the old crew that it never really gets going as a film, but it did its best with an impossible task. 

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7. Star Trek Beyond

Idris Elba and Chris Pine in Star Trek Beyond (2016) © Kimberley French (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: July 22, 2016Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban

I’d put this here just for the line about the “beats and shouting,” if I’m honest. Featuring an unrecognizable Idris Elba as its villain, Krall, Beyond isn’t overly concerned with nuance. It’s fast and loud, the very definition of style over substance. Does the scene set to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” make any sense? Not a lick, nope, but damn, does it look cool. This is the Trek film you watch when you want to sit back, turn your brain off, and enjoy a lot of colorful, exciting fight and/or chase scenes. Now that I think about it, “beats and shouting” is a pretty apt description of Star Trek Beyond. 

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6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Majel Barrett, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Persis Khambatta, George Takei, Stephen Collins, Nichelle Nichols, and Grace Lee Whitney in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: December 7, 1979Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

The ponderous pacing and pure 70s-ness of the costumes makes The Motion Picture a slog, but at least it’s a spectacular slog. The plot is pure Trek: An energy cloud housing a living machine is headed for Earth, destroying everything in its wake. The Enterprise is the only ship within intercept range of the cloud, because how else is Kirk going to have an excuse to take over command? The Motion Picture shows its age more than most of the other films of the franchise, but was a perfect vehicle to move the Enterprise and her crew from the small screen to the theater. It has interpersonal conflict, heroics, hubris, and a brilliant reveal about V’ger’s true nature.

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5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: November 26, 1986Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Aka “The One With the Whales”, Voyage Home leans heavily on humor to great effect. It eases off the sci fi, instead going for a classic fish-out-of-water scenario. An alien probe is trying to communicate with Earth, but the only creature that could respond, the humpback whale, is long since extinct. The crew of the Enterprise travel back to 1980’s San Francisco to snatch a mating pair of humpback whales and return them to the future, preventing the unanswered probe from destroying the planet. The ecological message wasn’t exactly subtle, but Voyage isn’t preachy. Chekov asking anyone if they know where the “nuclear wessels” are, Scotty cooing “Hello, computer” into a mouse, Kirk yelling “Double dumbass on you!” to an angry driver – it’s all immensely charming and genuinely funny.

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4. Star Trek

John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, and Chris Pine in Star Trek (2009) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: May 8, 2009Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg

Is it a great Trek film? Maybe. Is it fun to see Kirk and Spock’s origins stories? Absolutely. Watching baby Spock beat the snot out of someone at school is highly gratifying, as is seeing the father whose shadow Kirk can never quite escape. The story does a good enough job twisting the timeline so that the reboot won’t be hamstrung by everything that came before it, and Leonard Nimoy is a delight in his final turn as Spock. Star Trek embodies the spirit of unfettered adventure exhibited by The Original Series while simultaneously making the crew into more than just set dressing there to push buttons and open hailing frequencies. And “Hi, Christopher, I’m Nero” is straight up one of the greatest line reads in all of Star Trek. 

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U.S.S. Enterprise battling the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: November 22, 1996Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner

Jonathan Frakes (aka Commander Riker) directed this absolute treasure of a movie, and his deep love of Trek comes through in every scene. This is a Trek movie for Trek fans, with nods to TV series Deep Space Nine and Voyager in what is essentially the conclusion to Picard’s arc in the legendary The Next Generation episode “Best of Both Worlds.” The Enterprise follows the Borg back in time to prevent them from disrupting First Contact, the event that introduced Earth to the universe. Picard must face the Borg queen (silkily played by Alice Krige) even as Data is tempted by her promise of humanity. The Earth-based subplot about getting First Contact back on track explores a different aspect of humanity, namely how people step up when they’re called to lead. 

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2. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and Christopher Plummer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: December 6, 1991Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Some of the entries on this list are little more than over-inflated episodes, but this… this is a movie. Not a film, thank you very much, a get-more-popcorn-and-shut-the-heck-up-until-the-credits-roll movie. The Klingons desperately need the Federation’s help after their moon explodes, and Kirk – whose son was murdered by Klingons just a few films ago – has to serve as liaison. That’s the set up for a murder mystery that will see Kirk and McCoy imprisoned and Spock turning the Enterprise upside down to find the true culprit. Christopher Plummer is having an absolute blast as a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon who has no interest in peace. Fun fact: This is one of two Trek films directed by Nicholas Meyer. The other one is… 

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1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)Release date: June 4, 1982Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

First, and most importantly, yes, that is Ricardo Montalban’s real chest. Secondly, if you’re only going to watch a single Trek film, this is the one. Picking up the threads of The Original Series episode “Space Seed”, Khan is a retelling of Moby Dick as the genetically superior Khan chases his white whale, Admiral James T. Kirk. Montalban and Shatner are at the top of their games, effortlessly owning every scene they’re in, yet providing the perfect counter for each other. Director Nicholas Meyer, who also wrote Khan, shows exquisite patience in the film’s climactic showdown, drawing out the tension as Kirk and Khan hunt each other in the Mutara Nebula. The other Trek films are great space romps, but Khan feels deeply, deeply personal as you watch these great men spit and claw at each other with unfathomable rage. 

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Source: space.com

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