Even if you are not a Trekkie and are reluctant to call any series a franchise, you cannot deny the status of Star Trek. With a whopping 13 movies, Star Trek is one of ‘the Franchises.’
Starting as an eponymous TV series in the 1960s, it is now a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon that ranges from films and series to video games, novels, and comic books. Star Trek is a must-watch, and all Trekkies would agree with me; it is filled with allegories, altruism, and morality, with great humor, plot, cast, and characters.
Despite the incredible success of Star Trek, a debate on whether moving into motion pictures was a good choice or not for the franchise remains. Not all the Star Trek movies have enjoyed the same level of approval, and here is a rank list of the films:
13Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the least good movie of the lot, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 22%. In the film, Captain Kirk and his crew are on a mission to rescue the diplomats Klingon and Romulan. However, it was all a ruse created by Sybok in his insane quest to find God.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, this fifth Trek movie has dull action sequences and an underdeveloped storyline. The film forgets to take advantage of its excellent cast from the original series and instead focuses on its villain, Sybok. Sybok fails to create an impression on the audience with a weak negative character and inability to convince us how he can successfully brainwash people.
The cast of the original series has excellent camaraderie (which is one of the primary reasons why the series worked so well), but they are separated in this movie. Supporting characters also have less developed storylines and depth, significantly reducing their impact on us.
12Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 38%, Star Trek: Nemesis is the second least-best film. In the movie, The Enterprise is diverted to Romulus, where Shinzon, living on the slave planet Remus, wants peace with the Federation. However, Shinzon has some sinister ulterior motives.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an interesting premise and some good action scenes, but the whole affair feels a bit tired. The film tries too hard to make Shinzon, its antagonist, the evilest of all villains. Thus, we see no good in the guy and feel no emotions for him.
Like all the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, Nemesis is also unable to satisfy our need to see more of Data. Along with that, Jean-Luc Picard and Data are considered the main characters, with insufficient focus on the various cast members. And don’t let me start with Shinzon telepathically raping Troi! That was just a severely bad idea!
Data is also killed in the movie; however, his backup on the Enterprise just renders the entire move meaningless and emotionless.
11Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 53%, a big jump from the last entry of the list. In the movie, Admiral Kirk resumes command of the Starship Enterprise to seize, examine, and hopefully stop a destructive space shuttle approaching the Earth.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie its critic consensus as being a less-than-auspicious debut for the franchise, and I agree. It has a patchwork script and a dialogue-heavy storyline, and the biggest villain is a cloud.
A slow picture, with lots of screen time for the view screen, The Motion Picture forgets to take strength from the original series cast as it tries to play up new characters like Decker and Ilia. The movie doesn’t create any progress to the characters of the original series and feels like a Star Trek remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Though they were interesting plot points in the movie, like the V’ger reveal, they are not enough to associate the film with the characteristics of Star Trek.
10Star Trek Generations (1994)
Star Trek Generations has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 48%. The movie’s plot follows: Captain Picard and his crew come across Dr. Soran, a renegade scientist with sinister plans. He must take the help of Kirk, who is presumed to be dead, to stop Soran.
Rotten Tomatoes describes it as having a dull plot that sometimes feels like an expanded episode of the TV series. The films gave an impression of being a fanfiction rather than something the franchise needed in the original story.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had already given the original series cast the farewell they deserved. The new generation cast was already well-underway with an entire series to their name. A second farewell and passing of the torch with only some members of the original series felt unneeded.
The film had content about the sacrifices necessary to be a crew member of Starfleet, but the narrative and arrangement of shots were terrible. The movie’s creators handled Kirk’s death in a manner undeserved by him, with a dress-up party scene right after, and that was just atrocious.
9Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Star Trek: Insurrection has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 54% and is too slow-paced. In the movie, The evil Borg travels back in time to prevent the Earth from making contact with alien life. Captain Picard and his crew try to stop them from carrying out this plan.
Like Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: Insurrection also feels like an extended TV series episode. Rotten Tomatoes calls it sluggishly paced but not terrible. It was not terrible, but it can take up only the ninth position on this list.
When the movie was released, Trek TV series was also on the go, and one of the movie’s flaws is that it rarely referenced the larger Trek universe. Agreed, creating the film with excellent connections to the series is a huge task, and it is understandable why the creators did not do it, but when did I say that we, as the audience, are not high in demands and expectations?
Insurrection’s biggest flaw is that it did not utilize the opportunity to delve deep into the Federation’s flaws. Instead, it satisfies itself with a minor issue, and the Starfleet crew is made to help the Ba’ku.
8Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 84%. In the movie, the USS Enterprise crew travels to the forbidden zone in space to rescue an endangered species. Captain Kirk then leads his team to a war-zone world in search of a weapon of mass destruction.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, though the movie is not as good as Star Trek, it is one of the best movies in the franchise: a rock-solid installment, visually spectacular, and suitably action-packed.
However, the movie lost the appeal factor of the franchise quite a bit. Yes, there was a lot of critic approval, and it was a success, but the film replaced the mystical force of Star Trek with a lot of scientific explanations. The J. J. Abrams directorial is well enough as a standalone action movie, but in the Star Trek franchise, it just is not right.
The progression of the plot in the film was off too, and though they were colorful visuals and camera angles, the film failed to make the best out of the story. Kirk’s character arc is also so bad that rather than us hoping for him to learn and grow, we almost want him to fail. And the movie gains no points for friendship. It was just mindless entertainment.
7Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, comparatively, enjoys a whopping 78% Rotten Tomatoes rating. In the movie, Admiral Kirk has defeated Khan, but Spock is dead, and McCoy is suffering from a strange abnormality. Kirk takes the Enterprise to Genesis to recover the body.
Rotten Tomatoes credits this film as a strong Star Trek installment and commends the performances of its cast. And all those who claim that even-numbered Star Trek movies are good while the odd-numbered ones are not are wrong, testament this third movie.
Though a movie trying to deny Spock of a permanent sacrifice seems like it will not work, director Leonard Nimoy brings in a film about the friendship among the Enterprise crew and makes it a hit. The crew is on the run now, ready to sacrifice everything to save their fellow crewman (don’t get me started on Kirk’s sacrifice). Totally Star Trek-worthy!
Also, unlike other Star Trek movies, this movie is on the lesser side of visual effects, traveling to foreign locations, which makes it unique. The crew is at odds with their duty to Starfleet, and the movie has a refreshing original plotline.
66. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 82% and is a fun film. In the movie, Captain Kirk and his crew must travel back in time to reverse the disastrous effects caused by an unknown space probe on planet Earth.
Rotten Tomatoes calls it the lightest and most purely-enjoyable entry of the series as it emphasizes the eccentricities of the Enterprise’s crew. The film’s greatest strength is that the crew goes on a mission to save the whales, which seems so mindless but is the perfect plot to capture the crew as outsiders, something often done in the original series.
With a great message about conserving the whales and nature, the film gives the audience a feeling of knowing more about the world than the crew does now. We get to see the crew uniting even more than they already are.
5Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country enjoys a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 82%. In the movie, an explosion on the moon causes the Klingons to call for a peace summit. However, things get complicated when Kirk and McCoy get arrested for assassinating the Klingon chancellor.
Rotten Tomatoes calls it a strong send-off for the original series cast and commends it for its remarkable visuals and character-driven mystery plot. This movie is the only one that follows the pattern of the original series to present allegories of real-world issues through itself (the closing of the World War in this movie’s case).
The movie is a personal journey for Kirk as he learns to forgive those he holds responsible for his son’s death and adapt to peace between the Klingons and the Federation. The film also has almost everyone involved with a part of the story for each character, giving it a well-balanced story.
4Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Star Trek Beyond has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86%. In the movie, when the Enterprise crashes after an attack by the dictator Krall and a swarm of drones, Kirk, Spock, and the crew must find a way off a hostile planet and stop Krall before he destroys the Federation.
Star Trek Beyond is a movie that I loved for its connections to classic Trek. However, the film did have its flaws due to a lack of bold choices. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Star Trek Beyond continues the franchise’s post-reboot hot streak with an epic sci-fi adventure that honors the series’ sci-fi roots without skimping on the blockbuster action.
However, there were unique moments in the movie, like Spock and Bones being paired together after the crash-landing, and the movie’s cast showcased incredible performances. Unfortunately, the enjoyable film tries and fails to stand out from the shadow of the massive sci-fi franchise and lacks punch.
3Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Star Trek: First Contact has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 92%. In the movie, the evil Borg travels back in time to prevent the Earth from making contact with alien life. Captain Picard and his crew try to stop them from carrying out this plan.
An exciting, engaging, and visually appealing movie, Star Trek: First Contact is an entertainer for novices, too, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The film has a significant contribution by the Next Generation crew members, making it added enjoyment factor for those who have seen the Next Generation series. However, it is not as important enough that the movie loses the others.
Director Jonathan Frakes is able to work an action-horror film into the franchise, and First Contact is born. However, it is not about anything in particular and greatly focuses on Picard. Data does receive quite an amount of screen space, and even Worf comparatively, but the rest of the cast remains in the shadows. But the Borg is a good villain, and the movie makes for an enjoyable watch.
2Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86%. In the movie, Admiral Kirk’s midlife crisis is interrupted by the return of an old enemy, the evil Khan, who is looking for revenge and a potentially destructive device.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie is considered by many to be the best Star Trek movie, and I can completely understand why. The film has a strong plot, increased tension, and a brilliant supporting performance from Ricardo Montalban.
Khan is the villain, and he is the best villain out there as he represents the sins of the past. There’s a reason behind his evilness: Kirk’s past actions. The film makes the latter realize his past mistakes and holds him accountable.
The film’s climax is one of the best (slow-paced yes but still one of the best) and with gut-wrenching dialogues and emotion. It is a true Stark Trek movie, showcasing its uniqueness and a delight for fans.
1Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek has the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating, with an unmatched 94%. In the movie James Kirk, a brash young man, and Spock, an alien with human and Vulcan blood, join the crew of the USS Enterprise to combat Nero, a member of the Romulan race who wants to destroy multiple planets.
The movie is a reboot of the original series and is the 11th film in the franchise. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it is packed with action, humor, a strong plot, and brilliant visuals, and it is the best movie of the lot. I would wholeheartedly agree.
I have not enjoyed as much while watching any other movie of the franchise as I did while watching Star Trek. However, multiple viewings might distort the strength of the story for you. It is a worthy tribute to the original series, but also, many elements have been from the point of view of making a successful tribute rather than staying true to the essence of Star Trek.
Like the lack of sci-fi and the convenience of the storyline: Kirk is stranded on the planet but is able to escape because Spock Prime and Scotty are conveniently there too, and there is no emotional baggage in the confrontation between Kirk and Nero.
But, all these are only noticeable as you watch the movie several times. J.J. Abrams has the film running at such a pace that you don’t have time other than to enjoy it and that you do totally.
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About Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction media franchise originating from the 1960s television series Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. That series, now often known as “The Original Series“, debuted on September 8, 1966, and aired for three seasons on NBC.
In creating Star Trek, Roddenberry was inspired by C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series of novels, Jonathan Swift‘s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, and television westerns such as Wagon Train.
The Star Trek canon includes the Original Series, nine spin-off television series, and a film franchise; further adaptations also exist in several media.