Every Trekkie has this: the list of Star Trek films ranked worst to best. This here is mine, and of course this is just my opinion. The caveat is I have only watched most of the Trek films once, especially the older ones, so I don’t pretend I remember a lot of the details.
So starting from the bottom of the pile….
12. Star Trek Insurrection
I think this is the one Star Trek movie that I couldn’t finish watching, because it was so boring and inconsequential. It’s made worse by the one-shot villains (Son’a) whom we never saw before… or ever again. Good riddance too; having Saran wrap stretched across one’s face doesn’t make for a scary alien.
11. Star Trek the Motion Picture
As I understand it, Paramount was trying to cash in on the Sci-Fi craze after Star Wars hit it big in 1977, and they decided to take a swing at it with the Star Trek franchise. Unfortunately what Star Wars did right, Star Trek did the opposite, making for a serious snooze-fest. And those Starfleet uniforms… hideous! No Space Barbie for that film. And no re-watching for Heidy.
This one actually has the ingredients for a compelling story: the Romulans finally get their chance at being the Big Bad. Remans are introduced. They have the SCIMITAR. Political upheaval among the Star Empire. But something in the delivery fell short; I never felt Shinzon was a credible threat to the galaxy. Maybe it’s because as powerful as the Scimitar is, it’s ONE ship, that’s all Shinzon has. Or maybe because Shinzon is just some snot-nosed Picard Jr. that makes me go, “HA, punk kid”. Also, as soon as they dug up B-4, I think we all knew Data was going to bite the dust.
9. Star Trek Generations
First Sin: this film killed a Sci-Fi icon (Kirk) in a meaningless way. Second Sin: Plot-hole that’s a light-year wide. I just can’t understand why Soren couldn’t just rent a shuttle and fly into the space ribbon thingy, instead of trying to bring the ribbon to a planet and killing everyone there (and would they really die? Wouldn’t everyone be transported to paradise?). I mean, he got there in a ship the first time, and clearly his little Ikea rocketship can fly into it. The only two saving graces to this film are (A) the crash sequence of the Enterprise, and (B) the opening of the film where Kirk once again took the captain’s chair to save the day.
8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
The story of this film is right there in the title: we know Spock is coming back right off the bat. I’ve only seen this once so my recollection is foggy, but I recall things dragging for most of the film… nothing much else happens while Spock regenerates. I also remember some TOS Trek friends telling me how crushed they were when the Enterprise burnt up in orbit, though, so that’s something.
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Now I know a lot of Trekkies rank this film higher, but I just can’t get past how hokey the entire premise is. Giant alien whale probe shows up, doesn’t hear whale songs so it’ll destroy Earth? Wot? And rather than looking for obvious solutions (like, I don’t know, look for recordings of humpback whale songs to broadcast at the probe), Starfleet decides to… TIME TRAVEL back to the 80’s to fetch humpback whales to bring to the future? Sure there are a lot of funny moments in the film, but the whole thing just… isn’t… even… remotely… plausible…
6. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Here’s one that a lot of Trekkies pan, but surprisingly I somewhat enjoyed. It’s got some good comical moments, and it was the first time Star Trek showed a seediness (Nimbus) that’s comparable to Star Wars (Mos Eisley). And it does ask a valid question: What does God need with a starship?
5. Star Trek: First Contact
The premise here is good, and a chance for the Borg to be the Big Bad on the Big Screen – and yes, the Borg are creepy here. Picking up on old TV threads is the game here: Picard’s Locutus ordeal with the Borg, and Zefram Cochrane’s first human warp flight. The only thing that felt a little disjointed is the fact that half of the crew spent the movie battling the Borg, and the other half were obliviously vacationing in Montana. But all in all, a solid Trek movie.
I also know a lot of Trekkies hiss and seethe at the Abrams reboot of the franchise, and this one gets a lot more flak than the 2009 film. Admittedly there are some big plot holes in this one, but (A) the action is so fast-paced and intense you don’t notice the plot holes right away, and (B) said plot holes aren’t so far-fetched that they are implausible if the movie had spent time explaining them (I’m looking at you for that, “Man of Steel”). Overall I enjoyed it a lot, even though there are moments that made me cringe (the death scene of Kirk was fine, until you realize they’re trying to mirror Spock’s death scene in Star Trek II… the gravitas just isn’t there in this film).
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
This was good Trek movie stuff. The original cast at their best, with a story that was smart, tightly-written and politically savvy. It introduced a critical period in Trek chronology when the Federation’s original greatest enemy (Klingons) took the first rocky steps towards becoming a future ally. Chris Plummer’s Chang was a scene-stealer and a memorable villain. Just about perfect.
2. Star Trek (2009)
As far as the reboot goes, the originally 2009 film was really enjoyable to me. Barring some outrageous moments (the odds of Kirk randomly meeting old Spock on the moon seem… implausibly minute), it was fun, energetic and entertaining. I remember watching it the first time and audibly gasping when Nero destroyed Vulcan. Bastard.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I don’t think any Trekkie would disagree that this one takes the cake. Khan is, of course, cool and THE single most iconic villain in Trek lore, but the other parts all combine to make the film the best of Trek. The battle between the Enterprise and the Reliant looked nothing like the Star Wars-esque battles in the new era, but more resembled a tense submarine duel from a Tom Clancy novel. But let’s not beat around the bush: it’s the death of Spock that made this film THE Trek movie. The exchange between Kirk and Spock in those final moments was heart-rending, tear-jerking drama that would go down in movie history. And don’t forget the unforgettable quotes that came out of this movie:
“The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few.”
“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”