Every Star Trek Movie Ranked

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on TV. While logically this should have resulted in a “best episodes!” type post… I haven’t seen every episode of the original series. I’m of the Next Generation generation. And since that anniversary isn’t for another 2 weeks (29 years!), I figured we could talk about the movies.

Because I love the movies. Well most of them. OK some of them. Here’s my favorites from beloved to almost-despised. Feel free to list yours in the comments.

1) II

I mean obviously. The best villain, the best action, and the only time the real battleship-on-battleship nature of ship combat was realized (OK, heavy cruiser-on-heavy cruiser). But more importantly, it was smart. Kirk’s brain against Khan’s. Great script, direction, acting, and of course, music. Absolutely perfect.

So perfect they tried to remake it (Into Darkness) and failed. The score was so good, James Horner reused it almost note for note for Aliens.

2) VI

This is basically tied with IV. Both are excellent movies, though really, IV is better. I just love this one though. It’s a fun who-done-it, the last outing with old friends, and really, a tight solid movie.

3) IV

The one with the whales. Everyone knows this movie, even non-Trek fans. It’s fun the way no other Trek movie before or since has been. It’s also flat out excellent science-fiction. A classic time-travel fish-out-of-water story (“Hello computer”). Also, what an incredible score by Leonard Rosenman.

4) III

Now we’re getting in the good-but-not-great realm. III isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a great one. The pacing is weird, it’s really dark in parts, and it just feels uneven. But it’s worth watching just for the Stealing the Enterprise scene.

Awesome. Really, it feels like that could have been a movie in itself (and a good one).

5) Generations

This is a bit of a controversial choice. Look, Generations is not a good movie. But it is beautifully shot, and I really wanted to love it. Remember, I’m a TNG fan first, and to see my “friends” up on the big screen, that was huge. I’m not even going to link to the movie. I’m going to link to RedLetterMedia’s review of it. Mr Plinkett does a number on this movie, but honestly I agree with nearly everything he points out.

That said, I still like it. That isn’t a recommendation though. And WTF is with the HO scale trees and grass when the Enterprise augers in?

6) Star Trek 2009

I defend this movie a lot. I am a HUGE Trek fan, but I also understand where the world of movies are in the 20-teens(ish). This was the only way we were getting a new Star Trek movie. An action movie with a new/young cast. Reboot from top to bottom, not least because Rick Berman and Brannon Braga sucked the life out of the franchise and should never be allowed to touch anything good ever again.

But this movie. Look, it’s fun. It’s not Star Trek in the slightest, it’s an action movie with Star Trek sprinkles, but like I said, that’s what we’re going to get now. Movies like IV and VI would never get made today. I mean of course they wouldn’t, look at the dreck the TNG cast had to go through, and they have, on a whole, much better actors than the TOS crew.

7) First Contact

If I had made this list 10-15 years ago, this one would have been much higher. It hasn’t aged well, at least to me. I liked it when it came out, to a degree, but the more I thought about and re-watched it… the less I liked it. I guess after all those years with Picard, I felt like we, as the audience, got to know him pretty well. The vengeful, angry Picard doesn’t make any sense. This is the same Picard who let the Borg live. There’s some cool action I guess, but it just feels weird.

It also looked like garbage. For all its flaws, at least Generations looked cinematic.

8) V

Yeah, this isn’t a very good movie. But it has its moments. The jailbreak and running around the ship is cool. It’s still good to see Kirk/Spock/McCoy. But it’s a weird premise for a pretty obvious “twist.” Amusingly, Shatner always points to the lack of special effects at the end as the main problem. Sorry Bill, it started at the script.

It did, however, lead to this gem, so not all was a waste.

9) Insurrection

On one hand I feel this movie is treated unfairly. It would have been a pretty decent episode of the show. It’s a neat dilemma and story, real solid sci-fi stuff. But there’s just enough “oh come on” moments to really ruin it: like… WTF is with that damn joystick? Why is it on a pedestal? what is on the deck below that allows all that space? Why does it look like a plastic computer peripheral circa 1998? Since when did Star Trek devolve to kitsch?

OK, there’s more than that of course, but really… it’s just not big enough, not “movie” enough, and the script is pretty meh.

10) Into Darkness

As much as I defend ST’09, Into Darkness pretty much undermines most of it. By creating all new continuity in the previous movie (not a bad idea), they have literally infinite stories to tell. So they tell… Khan. Again. Poorly. And their clever twist is to flip the Spock/Kirk ending in a way that no longer makes sense. What a waste.

11) The Motion Picture

Yeah, it’s not a bad movie. It’s just boring. Long and boring. Neat idea, I’ll give it that. Sure, it doesn’t deserve to be down here in the dregs of the ST universe but… look it’s really boring, OK?

12) Nemesis

The best thing I can say about this movie is what a friend of mine said “A nice night out with old friends.” And that’s how I felt going in. I wanted to like this, and there are pieces of it that work. But lazy filmmaking and a mediocre script just ruin it. Here’s one change that would have made it so much better. Imagine the ending, with the massive “Romulan” dreadnought, not in some random spot in space, but poised over Earth after defeating dozens of Star Fleet ships. It’s damaged but about to destroy Earth, so Picard orders the stricken Enterprise to ram the enemy ship in a last ditch effort to save the planet. BAM! Cool drama. Again, what a waste of a cast and movie.


I haven’t seen this one yet. The trailer looked fraking horrible. I’ve heard it’s not quite that bad. I’ll see it eventually.

What’s your list look like?

jporter's picture

This is a great movie that really embraces what the TV series was all about. It has humor and relates to real problems we have right now. Call me a tree hugger, but I really love the message of this film. Hard to believe it is already 30 years old and sad that it is still so relevant.

MatthewWeflen's picture


I think your list is pretty solid. I appreciate your low rankings of the reboots, because they are both objectively (internal story logic and character "growth") and subjectively (as Star Trek) terrible. I also appreciate your elevation of Generations and Search for Spock, because I think people downgrade them to fit the "odd movie" thesis.

I would quibble with a few placements. 6(TUC) doesn't hold up very well. It has nice action scenes, and the overall cold war story is fine, but the whodunit ends up feeling really silly and stupid (especially for Chekov), and the prison escape is ridiculous (See: Veridium patch). And what of Spock's mind-rape of Valeris? I also think TMP is just a fast-forward button away from being a solid mid-level Trek film.

So my ranking would go as follows:

2 The Wrath Of Khan
4 The Voyage Home
3 The Search For Spock
First Contact
6 The Undiscovered Country
1 The Motion Picture
5 The Final Frontier
Into Darkness

I also haven't seen Beyond, due to my unbelievably depressed expectations from the prior movies and the trailer. I'll watch it on disc.

nehasri's picture

I have been reading out a lot of your articles and that i ought to say pretty nice stuff.
I will certainly bookmark your Blog.
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