Best Star Trek Movie Ranked in 2022: With a plethora of new Star Trek television shows on the air, the strangeness surrounding Paramount’s news that they would make a new Kelvin-timeline picture, and the recently restored, 4k director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, now is the ideal time to revisit Star Trek’s prior films.
So put on your comm badges, make a cup of Earl Grey tea, and let’s get to work on the rankings!
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Wrath of Khan is the peak of the Star Trek franchise, and arguably all of cinema.
It has it all: high stakes, tense moral issues, action, horrifying brain worms, William Shatner eating every piece of scenery he could get his hands on, and, of course, Ricardo Montalban in a gleaming prosthetic chest and fantastic wig.
While still wrestling with the ethical concerns that make Star Trek what it is, it is by far the most enjoyable of the Star Trek films (director Nicholas Meyer wanted it to have a “swashbuckling vibe”).
Plus, it features the ultimate BFF moment in Star Trek history, when Spock sacrifices himself to save the rest of the crew, saying to Kirk, “I have been, and always shall be your buddy,” as they touch hands through the glass panel. Every time, I’m in tears!
2. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Some may find First Contact (1996) a contentious choice, but as an older millennial, I stand by it! It is, without a doubt, the greatest of the Next Generation films (though that is not surprising given how bad the others are), but I believe it stands on its own.
It bestows to us: the Borg queen! Some highly erotic skin graft caresses are seducing Data! The strange leather headgear of James Cromwell! Plus, a time travel narrative that threatens one of Star Trek canon’s most pivotal moments! It’s fantastic.
3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
That’s correct. The one with the whales is the one I’m talking about. And then there’s the famed punk on the bus (who popped back up for a cameo in Picard Season 2. The Voyage Home (1986)‘s a more lighthearted Trek narrative directed by Leonard Nimoy.
There’s time travel, the 1980s meets Star Trek nonsense (like Spock wearing a headband), and Chekov being confined to a hospital. There’s also a scene when whales save the day! Where have all of my Cetacean Ops fans gone?
4. Star Trek: The Search for Spock (1984)
The Search For Spock picks up just after the events in Wrath of Khan (where they shoot Spock’s casket into space), with the Enterprise crew discovering that Spock’s “Katra” (or soul) is trapped inside Dr. McCoy’s head. (Awkward.)
Meanwhile, his body has landed on the planet produced by the Genesis Device, which was set off at the end of the previous film, and the device’s powers have restored his life.
It’s a decent follow-up, but its exposition-heavy narrative drags it down. However, it also features Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon commander who wants to utilize the technology as a weapon, and anything with Christopher Lloyd is better.
5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
The final episode of the original series is a classic. The Undiscovered Country (1991) story becomes more concentrated on banter, one-liners, and light-hearted humor than in earlier films, as the original Enterprise crew is now well and truly old.
Christopher Plummer, who plays the nasty, one-eyed Klingon general Chang, chews up the scenery as well. It also gives Trek fans their first taste of the Khitomer Accords (as an allegory for the Cold War, which was still weighing heavily on everyone’s thoughts in 1991).
6. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Perhaps it’s a contentious placement, but I truly appreciated Final Frontier‘s attempt at operatic grandeur.
After all, the main opponent is Spock’s half-brother, who is attempting to sail a ship into what he believes is the literal location of heaven in order to meet God. Of course, “God” turns out to be an extraterrestrial being more akin to the devil, but this is Star Trek, so expect the unexpected!
When you consider that this picture was directed (and the original premise for the movie was written by) William Shatner, the occasionally overdone tone and concentration on spirituality make sense. It doesn’t quite work, but it’s still a daring and intriguing experiment.
7. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
The Star Trek movies… do not begin with a bang. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a fantastic premise for a TV program, but the exciting special effects aren’t enough to compensate for a shallow and fragmented narrative. It’s difficult when your major enemy is a massive space cloud, right?
8. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Another film installment that would have worked better as a stand-alone episode of Star Trek: Insurrection rather than as a standalone film.
The Son’a have a terrible appearance, but they can’t match the horrors that Voyager had already demonstrated with the Phage. The main problem is that the movie moves at a snail’s pace. It. Moves. Slowly. And the payoff from the conspiracy isn’t worth it.