Tom Kelly's Ranking of Star Trek Movies From Worst To Best
Star Trek IX: Insurrection
This is the movie where Star Trek died for me. In the climactic space battle, Riker decides he needs to take the helm of the Enterprise. No captain has ever had to do that in combat. Seriously? Kirk never knocked Sulu out of his chair. Were the producers too cheap to pay a no named extra to steer? Fine. I can handle this. But then . . . taking the helm is not enough. Riker needs “The Emergency Manual Steering Column”. A 1980s style joystick pops up from the ground. I almost walked out of the theater. As a man who could recite the first 8 Star Trek movies, it took me years to watch this movie again.
Star Trek X: Nemesis
The finale of the Next Generation movie series was directed by an outsider Stuart Baird. Baird blatantly said he did not watch Star Trek. Also contributing to the mediocrity of the film was the fact that Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Brent Spiner (Data) were producers. What did that get us? A movie with two Picards, two Datas and zero chemistry. Every major gimmick in the movie had been done somewhere else. Crashing a Starship into a bigger ship was done better by Captain Janeway in an episode of Voyager. And we’ve been seeing two Datas since the first season of The Next Generation.
Star Trek XII: Into Darkness
Many have called JJ’s second Star Trek movie the worst Star Trek movie ever made. Writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof SQUANDERED, Khan, the greatest villain in Star Trek history. Khan’s race transfer embodies the whitewashing of American cinema. Khan who was supposed to be from the Indian continent (who was originally played by a South American) and made him British. Really?
Khan can beam to the Klingon homeworld with Federation technology? Well why do we even need starships? It’s a great movie . . . if you watch it on mute. Into Darkness benefits from all of the things that made Star Trek XI a decent movie. Star Trek Into Darkness is visually stunning and well-performed. Too bad it was written by a 3rd grader.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
To get William Shatner to participate in Star Trek IV we had to promise him Star Trek V. The project was so over budget, empty shots of space replace the Enterprise at Warp Speed. Plus, there are at least two shots reused from Star Trek IV. The shuttle bay set and turbo lifts sets looked fake. The jokes were slap stick. I don’t think the script was true to the characters. Gene Roddenberry himself hated the idea of Spock having a half-brother.
I treat Star Trek V like a season 3 episode of Star Trek. It was forgettable. But there is still something nice about seeing the gang old and hanging out together. The best thing from Star Trek V was the cast photo which got reused in Star Trek XII: Beyond
Star Trek XII: Beyond
Writer Simon Pegg tried his best. His script was true to the spirit of the characters. As far as bad writing and plot holes, Star Trek Beyond is the least offensive of the JJ movies so far. Basically, the Enterprise gets blown up with little thought or emotion three years into the original 5 year mission. Geez . . . couldn’t they have just pretended they were on their way home from the 5 year mission?
The death of the Enterprise had little meaning. In Star Trek III, the Enterprise was sacrificed to save Kirk’s best friend, Spock.
My freshman year roommate, who hated Star Trek, once taunted me that Starfleet went through Enterprises the way he went through toilet paper. Shatner’s Kirk commanded the Enterprise for over 20 years before he blew it up himself. Chris Pine’s Kirk . . . lasted three years. But don’t worry. We’ll build another.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
It just doesn’t hold up with time. It breaks my heart to rank this so low on the list. Star Trek The Motion Picture was brilliant . . . for 1979. Unlike Star Wars, it just doesn’t hold up for kids today. It’s the movie my friend Ron Motta plays to put his kids to sleep!
Star Trek The Motion Picture is just that . . . it’s not a movie. It’s not even a film. It’s a PICTURE. It was not made to be seen on your TV set in 2016. It was made to be seen in a movie theater in 1979. Director Robert Wise took a dinky TV show . . . and turned it into a space adventure. Wise did his best to mimic the 1968 Kubrick movie 2001.
Many of the models created for TMP were reused in the Star Trek universe for 20 years after that.
Prior to Star Trek: TMP, The Enterprise was a dinky model you could buy for 3 bucks. The long and thoughtful shots of the Enterprise in Spacedock were reused for Star Trek II. Those long and thoughtful shots opened the doors of my imagination of what it would be like to live on a Constitution class starship. Sadly, those same long and thoughtful shots put the Motta kids to sleep.
Star Trek VII: Generations
The Next Generation’s first foray onto the big screen could have been so much more. Captain Kirk’s death seems forced (in the original release, Kirk was shot in the back). Even though it was till cool to see the saucer crash land, the destruction of the Enterprise D was empty and pointless. Data utters Star Trek’s first swear word . . . so they can get a PG-13 rating.
That being said, Generations had the sentimental swarm that makes me love Star Trek. Kirk regretting his retirement. We get to see the Enterprise-B. And we get to see Kirk and Picard riding horses together on screen. “Don’t let them get you off the bridge of your ship, because it’s while you’re there . . . you can make a difference.”
Star Trek XI:
I love the casting, the set design, and the costumes. I even love JJ Abrhams lens flares. I hate the script.
Star Trek XI was written by the guys who wrote Transformers. This movie is on an intellectual par with Transformers.
In Transformers: Things blow up, Optimus Prime explains what’s happening half way through.
In Star Trek: Things blow up, old Spock explains what’s happening half way through.
The difference between Star Trek at its best and Star Wars is Star Trek is science fiction. Star Wars is space fantasy.
The original Star Treks (at their best). . . tried their best to respect science theory and respect its own continuity. Sometimes it got mired in itself, but when the original Star Trek worked, the writers tried to make sense.
Here . . . the enemy is . . . an angry time traveling miner. Plus: Jim Kirk goes from being a cadet to commanding the Federation flag ship in two hours. That’s like a cadet from Annapolis getting to command an air craft carrier after graduation. Who is in charge of Human Resources in the Kelvin timeline?
Also the transporter beam annoyed me. We can beam up Captain Kirk when he is falling from the atmosphere but we can’t beam up Spock’s mom when she is in the beam? We can beam from planet to planet but can’t get Spock’s mom when she’s in the beam?
Also: We blew up Vulcan? And killed Spock’s mom?
But still, the magic of the new cast and the spirit of seeing the crew meet each other made this movie worth watching.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The final adventure of the original crew used to be my third favorite Star Trek movie. I keep moving it down the list. As time passes, I notice more and more of the flaws. Gene Rodenberry hated the idea of Star Fleet officers being bad guys who conspired against the Federation.
Valeris was a rather forgettable Vulcan. Kim Cattrall’s performance becomes annoying when I remember Kim Cattrall eventually becomes Samantha the slutty one in Sex and the City.
It was a great send off for Star Trek. Sulu gets to become a Captain. Captain Kirk makes out with a supermodel. The Enterprise rides off into the sunset.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
In the 1980s, Star Trek fans considered Star Trek II, III, and IV Star Trek’s version of a trilogy. In the words of Kramer in Seinfeld, “Star Trek III is a better picture.”
Star Trek II was about facing death. Star Trek III was about sacrificing for friendship. The original crew of the Enterprise sacrifice their careers and the Enterprise herself to save Spock’s life.
PS. THIS is how and why you blow up the Enterprise. You sacrifice her to save Spock. Not because you lose antimatter containment or you get ambushed in a nebula.
There are a million little things wrong with the movie. Spock’s death from Star Trek II is shown or reenacted three times. “Jim, your name is Jim” is a waste of an ending. But this movie sums up the bromance between Kirk and Spock. Spock’s life is saved at the cost of Kirk’s ship and son. As Kirk tells Sarek “If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.”
The Star Trek movies, for me, was about loyalty and friendship.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek IV made Star Trek accessible to non Star Trek fans without dumbing down the product. On the surface, the movie is about saving the whales. For me, the movie is about Spock’s quest to reconnect with his human side. The movie starts with Spock not understanding the question “How do you feel?” to admitting that risking the mission to save Checkov was not the logical thing to do but rather the human thing to do.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Nicholas Meyers had balls. He gave Captain Kirk glasses. He made Kirk a baby daddy. He brought back a villain from the series. Every gamble he took paid off. I even forgive Kirstie Alley’s emotional Vulcan performance. In a scene that gets cut out of the final film, Spock explains to Kirk that she is half Romulan so she is more emotional than a normal Vulcan.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was the least expensive Star Trek movie ever filmed at a cost of 11 million dollars. Compaire that to 150 million for JJ Abrhams “Star Trek”, 35 million for The Motion Picture or 27 million for Star Trek V.
Produce Harve Bennett and director Nicholas Meyer proved that Star Trek is at it’s best not necessarily when spending large amounts of money but when telling a good story.
There is something to be said, the best Star Trek movie was filmed on the lowest budget.