This year, the Star Trek franchise celebrates fifty years since the original series that started it all aired on CBS in 1966. We get a new film in the canon this year (Star Trek Beyond) as well as the unveiling of the new design of and name of the upcoming series (Star Trek: Discovery). As well as being an enduring television series, the Star Trek series has also lived on in film over the years. Here is my personal ranking of each film in the series as of 2016.
13. Star Trek: Nemesis
Choosing between this and number 12 was no easy task, however, I felt content with Nemesis taking the bottom spot. Nemesis was the final nail in the coffin that killed the Star Trek Next Generation film series. After one great film and two mediocre ones, the Next Generation film series culminated with this trash fire. The film suffers from an uninteresting plot and antagonist. We also get yet another brother of Data, B4, who is just a really stupid and annoying sibling. The film is poorly directed and just feels like a really crappy episode of the TV series. And I mean REALLY crappy.
12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
I could just say that this is the movie where the original crew of the Enterprise goes to search for God and leave it there. However, I will expand upon what makes this fail. There are constant shifts in the tone. One minute the characters are singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” around a campfire and the next we get a three-boobed catwoman. I can’t make this stuff up! William Shatner directed this monstrosity, and while I guess it could’ve made sense after Nimoy knocking it out of the park on III and IV. It was a very illogical choice in the long run, as the film is not well directed. At all.
11. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek fans had been starving for about a decade at this point for a continuation of the original series, in one form or another. By the time we got the debut picture, it was released in the shadow of Star Wars. The film’s reputation wasn’t helped by the fact that it was trying to be 2001: A Space Odyssey, which doesn’t suit Star Trek’s tone at all. What we get is a very boring, bloated movie and, though it’s the first Star Trek film, it’s definitely not a good intro for newcomers.
10. Star Trek Into Darkness
While I don’t think this film deserves the amount of hate it gets (being called the worst film in the series, etc) it certainly has it’s problems. I actually didn’t mind it the first time I saw it, and it does work as a fun action blockbuster, but it’s a very flawed one at that. The idea of remaking Wrath of Khan, one of the most beloved films in the series, is a bad enough start, but there are other problems with the film as well. Khan himself was white washed (sorry, I love Cumberbatch, but this was a fundamental part of the character’s identity), the main villain is a boring “bad admiral” type seen in countless TV episodes, and we also get a more than underwhelming female lead in Carol. Overall, it has it’s fun bits, but it’s a very flawed film.
9. Star Trek: Insurrection
Insurrection is another film that is often overlooked–and I can’t say I blame anybody. It’s not a terrible movie by any means. Sure, there are some over the top parts (Picard’s little dance, Troi shaving Riker in the bath) it’s not an awful film. It plays as an okay episode of the TV series. There are merits of course, including Jerry Goldsmith’s score and performances all around are good as usual. All around, it’s an okay movie. Not essential, but harmless.
8. Star Trek: Generations
While The Next Generation is probably my favorite of the Star Trek TV series, the movies were pretty underwhelming. I have already spoke of two in the latter half of this list and now we come to this crew’s freshman effort. Generations is not without problems, but on the whole it’s a very fun film with two crews and a considerable amount of camp. It does suffer from an over complicated plot and somewhat weak villain in Dr. Soran. In the film’s favor, it has a great score by Dennis McCarthy. That overture is just amazing. While it has many flaws, and the series finale that was simultaneously being worked on for the show (All Good Things) was better, Generations is still a very fun film.
7. Star Trek Beyond
In the fiftieth anniversary year, Star Trek Beyond works as a subtle love letter to fans, and also as a good stand alone film, without excessive fan service. You can check out my review of the film here.
6. Star Trek (2009)
After the disastrous Nemesis, the Star Trek series needed a fresh start. A do-over. So we ended up getting a reboot of the original series with a new cast. What makes the film (and these reboots as a whole) work is how well the new cast works with each other. We have a strong set of actors who with good chemistry. I also thought that we got an interesting (if not overly timey-wimey) plot, featuring a role from Leonard Nimoy. This film was a fresh new start when Trek needed one and always a great watch.
5. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
The Search for Spock is sandwiched between two of the original Star Trek series most successful films. However this almost works better for the movie. It picks off right where the last one left off, and leads into the next film, forming a little trilogy. Here we are, as the title suggests seeking to bring Spock back after the last film, but continue plot threads and character arcs from the last film. We also meet Christoper Lloyd as a Klingon and get to see the original Enterprise destroyed. While this might not be as good as II and IV when being watched alone, it’s still a great sequel, especially when accompanied by the rest of the series.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Who knew that a Star Trek movie about going back in time and saving the whales could end up being such a success? This is definitely one of the most fun films in the Star Trek canon, using the motif of time travel for some comedy, including Spock learning to swear. The crew splits up into groups, which is always great and highlights their individual characters. The plot is very simple, but I actually don’t think this is a bad thing. There are a few Trek films which have plot lines that are too complex. This one has an easy to understand and accessible plot that was relevant then and to a degree still is now. While some aspects are dated, this is still an incredibly fun watch, perhaps the most fun out of any of the Trek films.
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Great things can sometimes be produced as a byproduct of awful things. Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country is an example of such an occurrence. Shatner messed things up big time with Star Trek V, which was meant to be the ending for the original crew. But, as we all know, that didn’t really go over so well. So, Nicholas Meyer (dir. Star Trek II, co writer Star Trek IV) was drafted to write and direct a film that would cap off the original cast’s story once and for all. And what a film they produced. The Undiscovered Country is Star Trek at its most political, with a gripping storyline that has thriller vibes to it. Add to that great performances from Christopher Plummer as Chang and the entire original cast, Star Trek VI was a worthy send off for the original crew.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? It’s a take on the classic tale of revenge, with both Moby Dick and Hamlet mirrored in the story. William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban deliver standout performances. Not to mention the knockout script and directing by Nicholas Meyer. The battle scenes between the Enterprise and the Reliant are epic and some of the best in the series. James Horner also contributes what is probably the best Trek score. There are very few problems and all around this is pretty much a perfect film… what could possibly top it?
- Star Trek First Contact
As hard as it was to pick Nemesis or Final Frontier as worst film it was harder still to pick between First Contact and Wrath of Khan as the best film in the series. I really do think both are great. But for the purposes of this list I chose First Contact. Though the majority of the TNG series was mediocre at best (on film that is) this film knocks it out of the park. It connects and expands upon plotlines in the series, but does so in a way where you can understand it as a casual viewer, but having seen the series adds layers to it. We get great performances from Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and James Cromwell. The plot brings back the Borg, and puts them in a very interesting plot involving the origins of warp engineering and mankind’s first contact with aliens. The film is very tight and moves along at a fast pace. There is almost no filler in the film. It also has some great action scenes intertwined with all of this. Jonathan Frakes directs (a la Nimoy in the original series films) and does a great job, the film looks great. The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith is also fantastic, one of his best. As with Khan I have trouble finding fault with this film. One of the best movies in the Star Trek series and just an all around great picture.
So there you have it. A ranking of all thirteen Star Trek films, and a testament to just how much of a nerd I am. Star Trek has been around in my life for as long as I can remember in one form or another.Both TV or film. Kirk and Picard. Star Trek is probably one of the many factors that turned me into the person I am today. Hell, I may not have even have been writing on this blog if it wasn’t for Star Trek! For that, I thank Gene Roddenberry and everyone involved with Star Trek on both sides of the camera for being a part of my life. I hope the series lives long and prospers for another fifty years!
Image from the official Star Trek Facebook page.