11. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Written by Shatner. Directed by Shatner. It’s a big pile of Shatner. This was supposed to be the capstone to the big-screen Trek enterprise, at least for the original crew, wherein they went searching for God. Literally. On a god-planet. That nobody can go to except it’s easy to get there. Oh, and Spock suddenly has a brother, who’s a space-televangelist. And we learn McCoy killed his dad. And Uhura has the hots for Scotty. And Jim Kirk wants his pain. He needs his pain! Apparently, the actor playing Kirk thought we all needed his pain, too, creating the film against which all badness is measured.
10. Star Trek: Nemesis

A movie so bland it forced Paramount to reboot the franchise, Nemesis wants to be Wrath of Khan so badly it’s pathetic. Turns out the Romulans have inbred vampire cousins named Remans (outcasts like Khan’s crew), and they’re led by a deus ex machina clone of Capt. Picard (as in, an evil but equal version of the good guy, just like Khan) who just happens to have a deus ex machina clone of Data and some deus ex machina Romulan version of the Death Star (as in, Khan’s stolen Genesis device). The bad guy will stop at nothing to kill the captain of the Enterprise despite what his lackeys say (just like Khan). Said captain’s best friend has to die to save the ship, but they leave a gapingly obvious plot device to bring him back, so the death has no impact (just like Khan, only far worse). It’s all tired, derivative, and uninspired. But at least Riker and Troi finally get married.

9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

When fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey think your eye-candy effects sequences go on too long, you know there’s a problem. The film’s villain is actually a great gaseous typo who believes that the USS Enterprise is a kindred techno-being infested with unnecessary, distracting human parasites. Unfortunately, the movie’s screenwriters and director had the same opinion, so we got lots of long shots of the ship and its enemy counterpart, V’ger, but precious little time spent with the crew we know and love. For a series that emphasized the human condition, Star Trek’s first movie was cold, pedantic, listless, and dull.

8. Star Trek: Generations

At long last, Kirk meets Picard — and they face off with the bad guy from A Clockwork Orange! Too bad the story is as dumb as bag of old fruit. The plot (as such) is composed of spare parts from The Next Generation‘s TV run, with Data’s years-long quest for emotions, Worf’s career, Guinan’s origins, the Klingon civil war, and Picard’s family drama all wrapped up in unsatisfying side stories that add up to nothing. Oh, and the central plot device of the film — a timewarp of giddiness called The Nexus — works only because the main characters are idiots. You can’t fly a ship into The Nexus because it’ll blow up the ship? But isn’t that how Dr. Soren got there in the first place? And who cares if the ship blows up so long as you get to where you’re going? And if you leave The Nexus, you can go anywhere, anywhen, so why does Picard jump back to a time when Soren already has the advantage, rather than go back to, say, a week ago when he had a full security detail and just arrest the jerk? (And why doesn’t Kirk go back to his time and stop Soren then, and also pick up where his life left off?) This is why Trekkies can’t have nice things.

7. Star Trek: Insurrection

Perhaps the most forgettable Trek movie, and considering that most of the action involves Brent Spiner singing Gilbert and Sullivan showtunes while F. Murray Abraham struts around demanding a space-energy facelift (seriously), that’s quite a feat. Apparently, Starfleet has abandoned the Prime Directive in order to steal (yet another) galactic Fountain of Youth, and Team Picard has to stop them, because no other ship in the fleet has a crew with moral authority. Other than the in-jokes about Worf’s time on Deep Space Nine, the film has few redeeming or appalling qualities. It’s just sort of…there. Apathy et al.

6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Finally, Team Kirk gets to fight the Klingons on the big screen, but then our antagonist is a ridged-forehead version Doc Brown from Back to the Future (and his sidekick is actually Dan from Night Court, but you’d never know it through the makeup). The film’s entire plot is about undoing everything that happened in Star Trek II, including unkilling Spock — who, despite being one of the two most popular Star Trek characters, is almost entirely absent from the film — then unmaking Planet Genesis and unintroducing Kirk’s son. Even destroying the USS Enterprise can’t disguise the fact that the entire film is one giant retraction, and a slipshod one at that.

Read about the Trek films we rated five through one.

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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