Star Trek is the sci-fi franchise that went where no other sci-fi franchise had gone before. Indeed, no other media franchise—in and beyond the realm of science fiction—has had the same kind of complex storytelling and world-building that Star Trek brought forth.
Ever since 1979, the Star Trek movies achieved varying levels of success, both good and bad. For every bad movie (The Final Frontier), there would be also a good one (The Undiscovered Country), and Trekkies love them all in their own unique ways.
Despite dips in quality, all of the Star Trek movies are worth watching for their different journeys and arcs. Here’s our take on how the different Star Trek movies rank against each other.
13. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
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The Final Frontier is universally slammed as the least impressive Star Trek movie ever made. The crew of the Enterprise is called to action when rebel Vulcan Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, stages a hostage crisis.
They then discover his plans to venture to the center of the galaxy and physically locate God. Does that premise sound ludicrous? Wait ’til you see the movie itself. The uninspired action and cheesy dialogue make it look like a spoof.
William Shatner’s vision is all over the place, but you can still see the passion from the entire crew. Incompetence aside, this has some decent ideas. For skeptics, treat it like a decent passion project.
12. Star Trek VII: Generations (1994)
Star Trek: Generations is the first movie crossover in the franchise and the first entry for the Next Generation timeline.
For this seventh movie, Jean-Luc Picard teams up with the now-retired Captain James T. Kirk to stop the devious El-Aurian Tolian Soran (played by Malcolm McDowell) from causing destruction throughout the galaxy.
For the average Trekkie, it’s amazing to see the two generations team up. Sadly, the resulting crossover ended up sour when Picard got more screen time than Kirk, and when the story ended up feeling more like a stretched TV episode.
Overall, Star Trek: Generations is a passable time-burner for the least-expecting fanatic, and McDowell’s Soran makes for a great threat.
11. Star Trek IX: Insurrection (1998)
Another from the Next Generation, Star Trek: Insurrection follows the Enterprise-E crew at odds with Starfleet when they learn of a heinous plot to conquer the planet Ba’ku for its resources. This results in Picard leading a rebellion to stop the Son’a from causing destruction to the planet.
Picard leading an insurrection is an idea filled with potential. Even if it seems thin on execution, it works as the ideal Star Trek escapist flick. Jonathan Frakes continues to deliver the goods of a fun Trek voyage: the Son’a are a credible threat and Patrick Stewart remains awesome.
10. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
In the second movie of the Kelvin timeline, the Enterprise is assigned to travel to Klingon territory and track down the terrorist John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) who’s behind the attacks on Earth.
But when Harrison surrenders, his hidden intentions compromise the mission and the crew themselves.
Star Trek Into Darkness continues the streak of the J. J. Abrams series of movies, even if this one has a mediocre outcome. Most Trekkies point to the characterizations as its main problem, the worst being Harrison’s twist revelation and Carol Marcus herself.
Regardless, it has all the set pieces for an explosive Star Trek blockbuster, making it the highest-grossing Star Trek movie.
9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture came on the heels of the show’s abrupt cancellation. This time, the original crew of the USS Enterprise is brought back to their assignments, along with now Admiral James T. Kirk, to stop an alien cloud called V’Ger.
For all its hype, Trekkies were delighted to see the crew back on deck for more missions, even if it wasn’t the brightest of starts. Despite all that, there are moments to enjoy, like the cloud’s destruction scenes, Ilia’s presence, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock.
8. Star Trek X: Nemesis (2002)
Star Trek: Nemesis was unfortunately the endcap to the Next Generation timeline. In this last hurrah, the Enterprise-E crew is assigned a hazardous mission: to stop a clone of Jean-Luc Picard named Shinzon (played by Tom Hardy) from taking over the Romulan Star Empire.
Both fans and audiences deride this film for ending the Next Generation timeline on a sour note. Yet, Nemesis is filled with intriguing ideas beneath its mess and action. For one thing, Picard’s brawl against Shinzon is both a physical and philosophical combat for Picard.
7. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
For the third Star Trek movie, the crew of the USS Enterprise seizes their starship to return Spock’s body to his homeworld after his spirit is confined inside Dr. Bones McCoy’s mind.
Meanwhile, their mission is interrupted when a group of ruthless Klingons, led by Kruge (played by Christopher Lloyd), want to use the Enterprise for terraforming purposes.
The Search for Spock continues the three-movie arc started by Wrath of Khan about Spock’s significance. And while it feels like the middle child, it successfully balances the crew’s enjoyable dynamic with the overall spectacle. Plus, Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge is watchable as ever.
6. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Star Trek Beyond continues the voyage of the Kelvin timeline reboot series. During one passage, their starship is ambushed and the crew ends up isolated on a nearby planet.
There, they learn of a Starfleet captain named Krall (played by Idris Elba), who was horribly transformed and developed a hatred of the Federation.
Trekkies and audiences might know this entry as the one with Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” playing in its trailer. While that was an unfortunate red herring, the resulting movie is more than rewarding.
Star Trek Beyond keeps the ball rolling with its splendid cast and immersive world-building, and Justin Lin’s knack for action makes it more alive. Sadly, this is the last we see of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country is the last movie to feature the original cast. This time, the Klingons are brought to their knees and attempt to make peace with the Federation.
However, Captain Kirk and McCoy are held accountable for the murder of a Chancellor, leading Spock on a mission to clear their names.
When The Final Frontier proved to be the end for Star Trek, The Undiscovered Country proved that there were more worlds to conquer. Trekkies were treated to many callbacks to the series, while newbies were welcomed with its stunning visuals and the whodunnit plot.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The fourth chapter in the Star Trek movie saga, The Voyage Home finds the Enterprise crew succumbing to the fallout from The Search for Spock.
Upon their travel, they learn that the planet is under threat from an alien probe attempting to contact humpback whales. As a result, the crew travels back in time to before the whales’ extinction.
For his second directorial effort, Leonard Nimoy proved that he knew how to blend the absurdity of Star Trek with its seriousness into a fantastic popcorn flick. The result is a fun adventure that’s half “fish out of water” fantasy and half cautionary tale.
3. Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996)
Star Trek: First Contact features the directorial debut of Jonathan Frakes. The mission this time is for the crew to travel back in time to the mid-21st century to thwart the plans of an alien race called the Borg, who want to change the past and make the Earth vulnerable to invasion.
Storylines within the Star Trek pantheon have been endlessly compared to literature by scholars. This one has a clear parallel to Moby Dick, with Picard being compared to Captain Ahab. That proved a strong point for the crew’s intense conflict against the Borg—the perfect foil.
Combined with the cool Borg Queen and its exciting action, First Contact made resistance to expanding the franchise futile.
2. Star Trek (2009)
The 2009 Star Trek movie starts the series fresh with a reboot, and the result is gratifying. The newly-rebooted crew of the USS Enterprise is sent on a mission to stop the nefarious Romulan Nero (played by Eric Bana) from laying ruin to an alternate timeline (separate from the original show).
Back then, no other filmmaker had the sheer ability to re-energize a franchise like J. J. Abrams. While he brings a ton of flashiness to the screen, Abrams also bridges the gap for old and new fans by honoring the show’s legacy while starting afresh with a fine cast led by Chris Pine.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
No other Star Trek movie sticks the landing as greatly as The Wrath of Khan did. The second entry finds the Enterprise facing off against their fiercest rival yet, the tyrannical Khan Noonien Singh (played by Ricardo Montalbán), who wants to acquire the terraforming device Genesis.
This is the perfect film for newbies to Star Trek since it references the 1967 episode “Space Seed,” which set up Khan. It provides the right balance between immersive sci-fi flick and radical Star Trek voyage. And thanks to Montalbán’s charm, Khan is the best Star Trek villain to date.