5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
A murder mystery in space where all of the classic Trek characters are in character, have something to do, and legitimately save a galaxy on the brink of war? And the bad guy is a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon played by Christopher Plummer? Yeah, I can work with that. The dialogue is a bit hammy, and the mystery a bit un-mysterious, but this one hits all its marks and treats the franchise with respect. It was a more than serviceable way to send out the original Enterprise crew, although why we couldn’t get at least a TV miniseries of Capt. Sulu’s time aboard the USS Excelsior I’ll never know. All in all, a worthy apology for Star Trek V.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek always had its comedic episodes (A Piece of the Action and The Trouble with Tribbles) but “the one with the whales” is perhaps the favorite film of non-Trekkies that’s enjoyed by hardcore Klingon-quoters, as well. The Voyage Home is the exact opposite of The Motion Picture, as the Enterprise is almost entirely absent, and the crew spends most of its time in 1986 San Francisco, rather than the eye-candy future. Strip Star Trek of all the trappings of Star Trek, and you’re just left with the people, and that’s a good thing. While Voyage Home played the show’s premise for a few laughs and some enviro-preachiness, it’s still well worth your time. Also, “hello computer” and “nuclear wessels” for the win.
3. Star Trek: First Contact
Picard versus the Borg on the big screen, with bonus Starfleet origin stories. While it may represent the moment Star Trek jumped the shark, it also was the first, last, and only time the Next Generation crew shone brightly on the big screen. The villain was an adequate foil, the stakes were high (as in the foundation of the Trek universe and the survival of everyone in it), and every character had a moment of competence and character growth. Plus, the battles were cool, and we finally got some rock & roll into the Trek canon. If you’d never seen a NextGen episode before, you could still enjoy this movie on its merits. There is no higher franchise compliment.
2. Star Trek
A Hail Mary reboot of the franchise that still tried (if unsuccessfully) to be faithful to canon — and it worked. Kirk and Spock were cool again, the Enterprise was once again the starship everyone wanted to fly, and Star Trek was about doing things rather than saying things for the first time in a long time. While some fringe criticisms that this was an action film dressed in Roddenberry drag are not entirely unwarranted, J.J. Abrams’s take on Trek breathed some much needed vitality — and public interest — into the franchise. And if nothing else, Karl Urban’s version on Dr. McCoy is a treat that cannot be missed. Honestly the second best Star Trek movie (not story) ever released.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The undisputed champion 30 years running, The Wrath of Khan remains the seminal Star Trek film of all time. Kirk is at the height of his powers. He has a villain — from canon, no less — who is his equal. At stake is the most dangerous technology in Federation history, with moral implications worthy of a classic McCoy-Spock debate (which happens). Moreover, the film gives depth where even the TV series often didn’t. Kirk’s infinite dalliances with galactic girlfriends at one point produced a son — one with a complicated opinion of his father. Kirk’s cowboy-style problem solving in years past catches up to him in the form of Khan. The crew is acknowledged to have aged, and not always gracefully. The allegories of Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities and the introduction of the still ingenious Kobayshi Maru test expertly inform the action without overpowering it. Finally, even while it was later reversed, the most compelling, pivotal, and emotional death in Trek history make The Wrath of Khan the best Star Trek film of all time.
Care to disagree? Infinite dissension in infinite combinations is welcome in the comments section.
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