Every Star Trek Movie Ranked Worst To Best

"Star Trek" is easily one of the most influential science fiction franchises in history. Over half a century in, the saga's optimistic vision of the future continues to inspire new generations of storytellers. When Gene Roddenberry's original series debuted in 1966, its sci-fi mythology of a future where mankind has moved past racism, sexism, and bigotry was an absolute game changer. Not only was "Star Trek" progressive in a social sense, but the invented elements preceded real developments in science and space travel.

After the original series was canceled after its third season, the journey to reach the big screen was more tumultuous. A follow-up television project titled "Star Trek: Phase II" had been in development, but the record-breaking success of "Star Wars" in 1977 indicated that audiences would turn out in mass for science fiction films. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" united the original cast for a new adventure, and they would go on to star in five direct sequels.

As the original cast aged into their roles on the big screen, "Star Trek" returned to the small screen, as well, when "Star Trek: The Next Generation" debuted in 1987. After a successful seven-season run and following the conclusion of the original crew's story onscreen, "The Next Generation" cast starred in four films of their own. The franchise languished in development hell in the early 21st Century, but a new trilogy recast the original series characters.

Here is every "Star Trek" movie, ranked worst to best.

13. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

After Leonard Nimoy proved to be a proficient filmmaker thanks to the success of "The Search for Spock" and "The Voyage Home," Captain Kirk himself decided he was also up to the task. Unfortunately, William Shatner's writing and directing abilities were as blunt and ridiculous as some of his performances, and a whole lot less charming. "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" has a few interesting ideas about religious fanaticism, but the central metaphor is depleted by Shatner's complete incompetence as a filmmaker.

It takes over 45 minutes for the story to go anywhere. While Nimoy had been able to naturally integrate humor into the story in a way that fit the rhythm of the original series, Shatner constructed elaborate sequences that revolved around just a few unfunny one-liners. A vacation sequence in which Kirk, Spock, and McCoy scale a mountain and sing campfire songs immediately dulls the film's pacing.

"The Final Frontier" also has one of the worst villains in the series. Spock's half-brother, Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), who conveniently hadn't been mentioned at all in any of the episodes focusing on Spock's origins, was a potentially interesting parallel to the rise of televangelism. Unfortunately, Shatner had no real insights and Luckinbill's ridiculous performance failed to create any tension. While there are moments in "The Final Frontier" that are so campy and over the top that they're unintentionally funny, the majority of the film is simply uninspired.

12. Star Trek: Insurrection

"The Next Generation" cast had both the benefit and the handicap of moving to the big screen after their story had been completed on television. Unlike the original series, which was cut short in its prime, "The Next Generation" had developed each of its characters well throughout a seven-season run that produced many of the greatest moments in "Star Trek" history. Unfortunately, this dynamic was never fully captured cinematically; "The Next Generation" was more of an ensemble show than the original series, which tended to mostly focus on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. While this made "The Next Generation" a stronger prolonged television show, balancing a larger cast was harder to do within the two-hour window of a film.

"Insurrection" is the lowest point in "The Next Generation" cast's films because its story wouldn't even stand out amidst the television run. The metaphor of a "Fountain of Youth" planet and the conflicts it causes with the "Prime Directive" had already been done better on the show. "Insurrection" barely progresses any of the characters, who all appear as caricatures of their more developed personalities. In particular, forcing Captain Picard and Data into a dynamic reminiscent of Kirk and Spock's relationship contradicted their depiction on the show.

Although the film's budget was significantly higher, the action was uninspired. Director Jonathan Frakes attempted a more light-hearted tone reminiscent of "The Voyage Home," but the attempts at humor were awkward and unfunny. "Insurrection's" biggest crime is being very, very boring.

11. Star Trek: Nemesis

After the slowly-paced "Insurrection," the franchise went in the complete opposite direction for "The Next Generation" crew's subsequent film. Action filmmaker Stuart Baird, who had helmed "The Fugitive" sequel "U.S. Marshalls," was brought in to direct an action-packed adventure opted for a take-no-prisoners approach to the series. While action is certainly an important part of "Star Trek," "Nemesis" had no substance to back up the spectacle.

Like many of the unsuccessful "Star Trek" films, "Nemesis" had a good idea, in theory ... but botches the execution. The film's core antagonist, Praetor Shinzon (Tom Hardy), the leader of the Remen people, is a younger clone of Picard created by the Romulans to negotiate with the Federation. This could have been a fascinating exploration into Picard's psychology where he's faced with a villainous mirror of his younger self and forced to think back on his mistakes, but all "Nemesis" does is feature Hardy doing a bad Patrick Stewart impression. Tom Hardy's weird attempts to capture Stewart's charisma is a baffling early performance from one of the best actors of his generation.

"Nemesis" also features an incredibly awkward sequence in which Shinzon "violates" the mind of Counselor Dianna Troi, a sexual assault parallel that is just uncomfortable to watch. At the very least, Baird does create a few compelling setpieces, including Picard and Datas' escape from Shinzon's vessel.

10. Star Trek: Generations

While "Generations" isn't as boring as "Insurrection" or as big and stupid as "Nemesis," the first incarnation of "The Next Generation" crew on the big screen is a complete embarrassment that fundamentally did not understand the appeal of the landmark sequel series. Beloved characters who had been well developed throughout the show's run are largely relegated to the background in an installment that tries to turn Picard into an action hero. Compared to the well-reasoned, intelligent ship captain that he is in the series, Picard appears in "Generations" as a brash and reckless character. It was an attempt to fit Stewart into Shatner's shoes, when in actuality Kirk and Picard are radically different characters.

Even more confusing is the film's use of Kirk himself. The concept of the two captains working together was an exciting possibility, but Kirk overstays his welcome and takes away the narrative focus from "The Next Generation" crew. Kirk's presence is also awkward given the proper sendoff he received in "The Undiscovered Country," and his meeting with Picard himself is massively underwhelming. At the very least, the opening scene where Kirk takes control of the "USS Enterprise-B" shows a more mature version of the iconic ship captain. This is contradicted in the film's terrible ending, which disrespects the character's legacy.

9. Star Trek Into Darkness

Demonized by fans as a poor taste remake of "The Wrath of Khan," the second film in the "Kelvin Timeline" trilogy has a lot more merit than it's given credit for. "Star Trek Into Darkness" wrestles with interesting ideas about the forced militarization of Starfleet and the parallels with recent events in American history. "Star Trek" has always been political, and using the legacy Starfleet leaders' forced attempts to provoke a war with the Klingon Empire works as a nuanced metaphor for the Bush administration's militarization. It identified how a terrorist attack can galvanize the public into supporting radical action.

This clever way of modernizing the series comes in sharp contrast to its frequent callbacks to the past, including the reuse of entire sequences, lines of dialogue, and iconic moments from "The Wrath of Khan." It wasn't proper fan service, as the "Kelvin Timeline" crew hadn't yet matured into their roles in the same way that their original series counterparts had, so it didn't make sense for Kirk to make the ultimate sacrifice that Spock did.

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an excellent and menacing performance that would've ranked among the best "Star Trek" cinematic villains if he was simply John Harrison; turning him into Ricardo Montalbán's Khan was completely unnecessary. The film's chaotic third act features some of the greatest "Star Trek" action ever, but it introduces a "super blood" plotline that is confusing and lazily wraps up story beats.

8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

In hindsight, the fact that "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" went in a more slowly paced, spiritual direction is simultaneously one of the boldest and most baffling decisions in the entire franchise. After the success of "Star Wars," it made sense that audiences would turn out to see the "Star Trek" crew on the big screen for an action-packed adventure. "The Motion Picture" is not that at all; the philosophical exploration of identity, overreliance on technology, and faith in institutions were much closer to the artsier sci-fi fare of "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Solaris." Not only was it radically different than the spectacle of "Star Wars," but the more mature direction of "The Motion Picture" wasn't anything like the original series itself.

The result is a fascinating combination of heady science fiction themes and a fan-pleasing reunion of the original series cast. A decade had passed since the show had been taken off air, and suitably the characters had grown into different roles. Kirk still had signs of the brash captain he was in his younger years, but as an Admiral he's saddled with more responsibility. Spock's reintroduction to his old colleagues after spending time studying his people's culture on his homeworld is thoughtfully handled.

Unfortunately, the methodical pacing and reliance on spectacle haven't aged well. Laborious time is entirely dedicated to depicting the visual effects in prolonged space sequences.

7. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

"The Search For Spock" had to deal with a challenging concept: Spock needed to be brought back from the dead in order for the series to continue, but he couldn't be easily reintroduced in a way that negated the emotionally devastating moments of "The Wrath of Khan." Thankfully, "The Search For Spock" thoughtfully brings the beloved Vulcan science officer back by showing the great personal cost it takes for both Kirk and the crew.

Kirk goes through the emotional wringer in the film. Shatner is often lampooned for his over-the-top performances, but he shows a surprising dramatic range as Kirk wrestles with the death of his lifelong friend, and his shock upon losing his son, David (Merritt Butrick), who had been introduced in "The Wrath of Khan," is heartbreaking. His later decision to sacrifice the "USS Enterprise" in order to save Spock is a beautiful piece of symmetrical storytelling; in "The Wrath of Khan," Spock sacrificed himself to save his ship, and now the ship was returning the favor.

These weightier themes are wrapped up in a fun adventure that sees the crew in a caper dynamic as they steal back the "Enterprise" from Starfleet authorities. Unfortunately, a lot of the action has aged rather poorly, particularly Kirk's hand-to-hand fight with the Klingon Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), one of the hammiest villains in the series.

6. Star Trek Beyond

After the divisive response to "Star Trek Into Darkness" and the more action-centric direction of the "Kelvin Timeline" series, the third installment scaled things back for a more contained sci-fi adventure. Chris Pine had matured into the role of Kirk beyond his more eccentric depiction in the previous two films, and here he both wrestles with his father's legacy and considers what life beyond the captain's chair would look like.

"Star Trek Beyond" masterfully divides the crew and gives each character a moment to shine. After a stunning sequence in which the alien leader Krall (Idris Elba) attacks the "Enterprise," crashing the crew on a mysterious jungle planet, the crew is paired off as they search for Krall's base. In particular, seeing Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) interact works very well, as the pair share some great humorous banter. There is also time made for more serious moments that thoughtfully honor the passing of Leonard Nimoy.

5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" is the most blatantly political film in the entire franchise. It was released amidst the end of the Cold War, a time in which the United States was reaching a peace agreement with the Soviet Union, and in the film the Federation and the Klingon Empire are doing the same thing. Kirk is framed for the murder of the Klingon Chancellor, which threatens to disrupt the fragile political state.

Not only was "The Undiscovered Country" a thoughtful examination of the then-current political climate; it also served as a proper sendoff for the cast as they bid farewell to their characters. Kirk questions what his place is as an older man, and director Nicholas Meyer makes the more dialogue-centric scenes just as compelling as the action. The Shakespeare-obsessed Klingon military leader Chang (Christopher Plummer) is one of the best villains in the series, and Plummer's actual love of Shakespeare is translated well.

4. Star Trek

The thought of anyone but the original cast taking on the original series seemed unthinkable, and a prequel adventure threatened to cause further hiccups in the mythology, which was already complex enough. However, J.J. Abrams found a creative way to introduce an alternate timeline set in the "Kelvin" universe that opened the franchise up again and even brought Leonard Nimoy back as the elder Spock Prime, who becomes Kirk's mentor.

2009's "Star Trek" does a great job balancing the entire cast and giving each equal screen time, but the heart of the story is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. It's fascinating to see how the adversarial relationship transforms into a friendship, and Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto honor their predecessors without simply impersonating them. The 2009 film has one of the best opening sequences in the franchise, which establishes how Kirk's father (Chris Hemsworth) left a lasting legacy for his son to uphold. Unfortunately, "Star Trek" does lose some points for its underwhelming villain, Captain Nero (Eric Bana).

3. Star Trek: First Contact

"Star Trek: First Contact" is essentially "Die Hard" on the Enterprise. It's perhaps the most action-packed installment in the entire series, but as a director, Jonathan Frakes was able to use his knowledge of the cast dynamics to give each character an interesting personal journey. The film is particularly strong in how it uses Picard's post-traumatic stress disorder as he's reunited with the enemy that once held him captive: The Borg. Alice Krige delivers a scenery-chewing performance as the enigmatic Borg Queen who forces Data to question his humanity.

The film has a classic "Star Trek" affinity for optimism through the inspirational storyline of Earth's Dr. Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell), the scientist who bridges communication between mankind and the Vulcan visitors. It's both heartwarming and amusing to see Cochrane learn about the legacy of his achievements when he meets with Riker, Troi, and Geordi.

2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" is the most comedic entry in the series, and the fish-out-of-water humor of seeing the "Enterprise" crew in modern California offered many sharp satirical insights. While the environmental storyline of the crew capturing the sound of whales (which have become extinct in the future) in order to destroy an alien probe is ridiculous, "The Voyage Home" treats the importance of animal rights with earnestness.

There's a lot of great self-aware humor that pokes fun at the cliches of Federation procedures as Kirk and Spock venture through modern San Francisco, including a hilarious sequence where Spock dispatches with a rowdy bus rider. It also has one of the most satisfying endings of any film in the series, which sees Kirk praised for his heroism, but demoted from the Admiral position and back into his old captain's chair. It was a great wrap-up to the story arc of "The Wrath of Khan" and "The Search for Spock" that set the crew up for further adventures.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Sometimes the obvious pick is also the correct one, and "The Wrath of Khan" is not only the greatest of "Star Trek" movies, but one of the best science fiction films ever made. Director Nicholas Meyer understood that the crew had grown since they appeared on the original series, and crafted a story about characters wrestling with age and their past mistakes. Meyer also crafted tense combat sequences between ships that are reminiscent of submarine battles.

Ricardo Montalbán's villainous Khan from the classic episode "Space Seed" returns to remind Kirk that the past never truly dies, and Montalban's scenery-chewing performance easily ranks as the greatest "Star Trek" villain ever. It's impossible to talk about "The Wrath of Khan" without discussing Spock's apparent death. The fact that he was revitalized in subsequent films does nothing to dampen the emotional devastation of the scene or the importance of his sacrifice. It's a tear-jerking, iconic moment for any hardcore "Star Trek" fan.