With the eleventh “Star Trek” movie currently in the early stages of production, I have decided to look back at the preceding movies and rank them according to personal taste. The films form three distinct groups for me. I would consider four of them to be outstanding, two of them to be pretty average, and the final four to be pretty crappy to be honest with you. It is with this last group that I will begin my ranking:
I love all “Star Trek” movies, but this has been my least favorite thus far. The story of Spock's renegade brother stealing the Enterprise and using it to find God is flawed in many respects, and despite decent comedic turns by the main characters the film never managed to get past its cheap feel and absurd ending. In fact it is so bad, it didn't really deserve to be called a “Star Trek” movie.
Notable scene: I liked the moment when the Enterprise and one of her shuttles are under attack from a Klingon seeking glory; however, I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.
This will surprise a lot of people. The Voyage Home was a very popular movie, and not just with the “Star Trek” fans. It featured plenty of the comedic banter between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that everyone seemed to like. For me, however, it suffered from one inexcusable flaw - the lack of the Starship Enterprise. As far as I'm concerned, the Enterprise is the central character of the franchise. Besides that, almost the entire movie consisted of our beloved characters making asses of themselves in eighties San Francisco (not very sci-fi at all, really) and force-feeding us a “save the whales” message.
Notable scene: When the giant turd probe thingy deprives various starships of power.
This was obviously supposed to be the passing-of-the-torch movie. First they killed Kirk, then they brought him back to life so he could be killed again, and then they got Picard to bury him - just in case we didn't understand the point of the movie. If it wasn't for that sequence of events, this would actually have been a good film. A fairly solid plot and great performances from Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, and Malcolm McDowell very nearly rescued it. Re-use of special effects from the previous movie really annoyed me.
Notable scene: Early in the film, Kirk is perceived to have been killed saving the Enterprise B from being destroyed by an energy ribbon. The scene was very exciting, and a saddened Scotty brought a tear to my eye.
Despite a superior performance by F. Murray Abraham as the youth-stealing bad guy, this film was probably responsible for crushing the “Star Trek” movie franchise. Once again, the producers attempted to deliver some sort of moral message that nobody wanted to hear, just as they did in The Voyage Home.
Notable scene: F. Murray Abraham getting a face lift you'll never forget.
This movie wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for some subtle re-editing at the end of The Wrath of Khan that left open the possibility of a sequel. Early screenings of that movie gave a clear indication that the public wanted more, so Leonard Nimoy was enticed to return as Spock by being given the director's chair. By heavily involving the Enterprise in the story, and by taking advantage of William Shatner's strengths, Nimoy managed to craft a decent film from a difficult starting point.
Notable scene: In order to recover the body of Spock, Kirk is forced to steal the Enterprise. Later, he destroys his beloved starship in a scene that always chokes me up.
I really liked this movie. Penned by John Logan (Gladiator), the script was clever and exciting. We were at last exposed to the mysterious (and frankly rather creepy) Remans, who overthrow the Romulan government and attempt to use a deadly technology to conquer the Federation. Tom Hardy played Shinzon (Picard's evil twin in many ways), the leader of the Reman warriors, who needed Picard's blood to survive. Because of the dreadful stewardship of the franchise by Rick Berman, bad “Star Trek” was saturating television when this movie came out. Coupled with the poor previous effort of Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis never really had a chance of box office success.
Notable scene: A thrilling space battle culminating in the shocking and sad death of Data echoed the finest moments of The Wrath of Khan.
Apart from being a bit long, The Motion Picture was a truly glorious “Star Trek” movie. Following the success of “Star Wars”, Paramount decided to cancel plans for a new series (Star Trek: Phase Two) and recruit Robert Wise to direct the first ever “Star Trek” feature film. A weak plot (and some absolutely dreadful costumes) is saved by stunning cinematography and effects. I like the additional scenes and effects of the “Director's Cut” for the most part, but I was disappointed that these were added at the expense of others. I got a strong impression that the actors felt a bit ridiculous in their bland uniforms, but everyone turned in a pretty good performance.
Notable scene: Scotty takes his captain for a tour around the space dock. In what is one of the most beautifully-photographed scenes of any science fiction movie, we are treated to gorgeous views of what is surely the most elegant version of all the ships to bear the name of Enterprise. Later, after some engineering assistance from Spock, the Enterprise shows her stuff as she leaps into high warp.
Of all the aliens ever faced by the crew of any Enterprise, the Borg were the scariest. With no central figure to reason with, the Borg were a terrifying menace to the Federation. The Star Trek: The Next Generation recurring character of “Q” had this to say about the Borg in the first encounter of the series:
You can't outrun them, you can't destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains. They regenerate and keep coming. They are relentless.
First Contact introduced the character of the Borg Queen. By giving the Borg a face, the producers of the movie took away much of their drone-like quality and made them seem less menacing. Nevertheless, the Borg were a worthy adversary for the crew of a rather cool-looking NCC-1701E. The film depicted Zefram Cochrane's first warp flight, and the subsequent first contact with an alien race by an Earth ravaged by war. There are particularly strong performances by Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner.
Notable scene: Starting from Picard's eye, there is a long camera pull-back to reveal the cavernous interior of a Borg cube. Later, a fleet of starships destroy another Borg Cube threatening the Earth.
This movie kicked off with a big bang. After the catastrophic destruction of a moon that provided energy to the Klingon Empire, they are forced to make peace with the Federation. Led by General Chang (hilariously played by Christopher Plummer), militant factions attempted to cause a war by developing a Klingon ship that could fired when cloaked. After a spectacular space battle, the peace process is saved. The welcome return of director Nicholas Meyer ensured that this movie contained everything a die-hard “Star Trek” fan could want. Strong performances from all the main cast, cool special effects, and a proper story offering a fitting send-off for the cast of the original “Star Trek” series.
Notable scene: The Enterprise takes a beating from a cloaked Klingon warship. After discovering a flaw in the Klingon disguise, the Enterprise teams up with Sulu's Excelsior to destroy the enemy. Great stuff.
Simply the finest “Star Trek” movie of them all (and one of the best science fiction movies of all time), it featured the greatest performance of William Shatner's career. The movie was essentially a sequel to an Original Series episode where a genetically-enhanced being is marooned on a planet after attempting to capture the Enterprise. Seeking revenge, Khan uses a stolen starship to attack Kirk's ship, before capturing a device capable of destroying entire planets. In a spectacular space battle reminiscent of “Run Silent, Run Deep”, Kirk defeats Khan with his greater experience. He is later appalled to discover that his dearest friend has sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise from destruction. The death scene always makes me cry like a little school girl, no matter how many times I watch the movie.
Notable scene: There are a lot to choose from, but I think the final battle in the nebula that culminates in the death of Spock is superb.
All these movies are now available in a single boxed set: