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Every "Star Trek" movie: From Worst to Best

Writer: Casey Chong


The crew from "Star Trek Beyond".

"Star Trek" began life as a TV series created by the legendary Gene Roddenberry that ran three seasons from 1966 to 1969.

After the TV series was axed in 1969, the "Star Trek" legacy lived on with the birth of the big screen feature ten years later. Over the course of four decades since the big screen debut of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979, the movie series has undergone a series of ups and downs.

So, which movies are the best, and which ones are the worst?

With "Star Trek Beyond" scheduled to unleash in cinemas this 21 July, we have revisited all 12 "Star Trek" movies and ranked them from worst to best. Keep reading and find out which one tops our list below.

12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier".

Easily the worst movie in the long-running franchise, "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" marked the directorial debut of William Shatner after his co-star Leonard Nimoy was given the chance to helm the previous two movies in "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home". However, Shatner's overall direction was a mess of epic proportion. Most of the comedy elements fell flat, with the campfire scene where Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" being one of the bad examples here. The plot, which centred on the crew encountering a rebellious Vulcan (Laurence Luckinbill) and also happened to be Spock's long-lost half-brother looking for God, actually had a potential if done right. Too bad the story was silly and muddled. Not to mention "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" was plagued with some of the worst and cheesiest special effects ever seen in a "Star Trek" movie. Even the action was routine and the main villain himself was sadly neglected as a weak antagonist.

11. Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Patrick Stewart and William Shatner in "Star Trek: Generations".

In this seventh instalment of the "Star Trek" movie series, this was the first time where fans and viewers got to see Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) from TV's "Star Trek: The New Generation" join forces together as a team. On paper, it sounded like a winner, but unfortunately the execution was sloppily done on screen. Although David Carson had prior experience helming a few episodes of the "Star Trek: The New Generation" television series, his overall direction in "Star Trek: Generations" was both wobbly and uninspired. Clocking at nearly two-hours long, the movie was a slog. The action was a whimper and "Star Trek: Generations" botched the talent of Malcolm McDowell to play a potentially worthwhile antagonist as Tolian Soran. However, nothing came worst than Kirk's shockingly lame death during the climactic finale.

10. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Tom Hardy and Patrick Stewart in "Star Trek: Nemesis".

Sandwiched between a trio of high-profile blockbuster releases including "Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets", "The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers" as well as "Die Another Day", "Star Trek: Nemesis" was sadly an odd movie out. Paramount made a huge gamble of hiring veteran editor-turned-director Stuart Baird ("Executive Decision", "U.S. Marshals"), who had no prior knowledge of the "Star Trek" series. But Baird has a knack of delivering spectacular action scenes while the special effects were among the finest ever seen in a "Star Trek" movie. Unfortunately, that were the only saving grace in this tenth "Star Trek" movie. The rest of the movie suffered from a protracted storyline that dealt with an evil clone of Picard a.k.a. Shinzon, played by the young Tom Hardy (yes, "that" Tom Hardy!). The recurring characters from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" were largely neglected with the primary focus going mostly to Patrick Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Brent Spiner's Lieutenant Commander Data. Not to mention "Star Trek: Nemesis" ended up as the least profitable "Star Trek" movie ever made, with a total worldwide gross of US$67.3 million barely recouped its US$60 million production budget. And because of the financial loss, this was the last time a "Star Trek" movie was made until J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise seven years later. It was also known as the final movie that featured "The Next Generation" crew.

9. "Star Trek: Insurrection" (1998)

Brent Spiner in "Star Trek: Insurrection".

Following the commercial success of the action-packed "Star Trek: First Contact" in 1996, actor-director Jonathan Frakes returned for the second time around with "Star Trek: Insurrection". Instead of replicating the fast-paced story beat of "Star Trek: First Contact", he opted to go the "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" route by turning the ninth feature lighter in tone. The result was a mixed bag that felt less of a movie but more like an extended TV episode in the "Star Trek" series. Despite the inspired casting of F. Murray Abraham (best known for "killing Mozart" in the Oscar-winning biopic of "Amadeus") as the main villain Ru'afo, his role was largely forgettable. The story, which centred on the peaceful planet of Ba'ku that carried the secret of regeneration and immortality, was less cinematic and would have been suited better for a TV episode instead. There were few effects-laden action scenes but most of them were routine. Some of the comedy elements, such as the one where Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Worf (Michael Dorn) and Data (Brent Spiner) sang "A British Tar", almost rivalled the same cringe-worthy moment of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" campfire scene seen in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier".

8. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979)

The majestic sight of the USS Enterprise ship in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

It was the big screen debut of the "Star Trek" movie that reunited the crew from the original series for the first time since 1969. And it was supposed to be a big deal back then, considering all the hype at the time of its release in 1979. Blessed with a then-huge budget of US$35 million, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was a visual feast. The opening scene, which featured a trip to the brand-new USS Enterprise ship was filled with a sense of epic grandeur. Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-nominated signature theme, in the meantime, was one of the most famous movie scores ever composed in cinematic history. Not to mention the movie received two Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects. However, the first "Star Trek" movie was often criticised for being slow-moving. Despite enlisting veteran director Robert Wise ("West Side Story", "The Sound Of Music" and "The Sand Pebbles") to helm the movie, his direction was sluggish while his "2001: A Space Odyssey"-like thematic inspiration was considered too cerebral for a major blockbuster. Although "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" got off to a wobbly start, the movie series was significantly improved three years later in "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan".

7. "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" (1984)

(L-R) DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan and George Takei in "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock".

After the success of Nicholas Meyer's "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" in 1982 which was regarded mostly by Trekkies as a fan favourite, it was nevertheless a huge undertaking for actor-director Leonard Nimoy to either match or upstage the second "Star Trek" movie. Compared to "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" was a middling entry suffering from its laboured pace. Still, Nimoy's major themes of death and resurrection were competently told while Christopher Lloyd (yes, the one before he became forever known as Dr Emmett Brown in "Back To The Future" a year later) left quite an impression as the Klingon commander, Kruge. The final twist, which involved the "undoing" of Spock's death, was admittedly far-fetched and took some time to get used to.
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6. "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013)

(L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine in "Star Trek Into Darkness".

J.J. Abrams' second "Star Trek" movie in the rebooted series may have been criticised for its obvious "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan"- like story retread and the awkwardly misplaced gratuitous scene of Carol Marcus' (Alice Eve) stripping down to her underwear, but deep down, "Star Trek Into Darkness" was slick enough as a summer blockbuster filled with lots of action, spectacular effects and a vibrant young cast. Benedict Cumberbatch, in the meantime, delivered an engaging performance as the mysterious John Harrison. Sure, he was no match to the late Ricardo Montalban as Khan but he remained sufficient enough for his role.

5. "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996)

(L-R) Alice Krige and Patrick Stewart in "Star Trek: First Contact".

No doubt this is best "Star Trek" movie ever made that featured "The Next Generation" crew. "Star Trek: First Contact" was also significantly improved by leaps and bounds following the dismal failure of "Star Trek: Generations" two years prior. Thanks to the gripping yet know-how direction by fellow "The Next Generation" cast member Jonathan Frakes, this eighth "Star Trek" movie was packed with lots of action as well as a memorable villain in the form of the lethal Borg Queen, played with femme fatale perfection by Alice Krige. The pace was fast enough to satisfy even the non-Trekkies. This explained the rousing success of "Star Trek: First Contact", which made a total worldwide gross of US$146 million against its US$45 production budget.
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4. "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991)

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country".

Best known as the last movie that featured the crew from the original series, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" also saw the return of "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" director Nicholas Meyer. And thankfully, Meyer did it again by turning this sixth instalment as one of the best "Star Trek" movies ever made. What's more, he was even bold enough to combine an intriguing mix of a Cold War thriller, courtroom drama and a mystery element nicely packaged within the science-fiction trope. Not to forget the movie also featured one of the most memorable villains in the form of Christopher Plummer's General Chang, a Klingon who loved to quote Shakespearian dialogue.

3. "Star Trek" (2009)

The young crew from "Star Trek".

Seven years after the critical and financial failure of "Star Trek: Nemesis" in 2002, director J.J. Abrams finally found a successful formula that rejuvenated the franchise back from the dead that appealed to both fans and mainstream viewers. By adding a young cast and beefing up the otherwise cerebral sci-fi spirit of the series with a breakneck pace and more action, J.J. Abrams' shiny reboot of "Star Trek" was akin to a "Star Wars" movie. The young cast, ranging from Chris Pine as Kirk to Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as McCoy, was spot-on. But although the "Star Trek" reboot was a huge success at the box office, the movie was not without its flaws. For instance, J.J. Abrams' penchant for using the lens flare effect throughout the movie was largely distracting. And Eric Bana, who played the vengeful antagonist Nero, was sadly underdeveloped.

2. "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986)

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home".

Excluding the first two J.J. Abrams' movies in the rebooted series, "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" was the only movie that broke more than US$100 million at the domestic box office. And ironically enough, it was not because the success of this fourth instalment had nothing to do with sticking to the series' signature cerebral sci-fi formula. Instead, actor-director Leonard Nimoy ("Star Trek III: The Search For Spock") was daring enough to stretch his creativity by turning it into a fish-out-of-water comedy with a strong environmental undertone. Even the plot was surprisingly a departure of sorts, which largely detailed on the crew's journey back in time to save the humpback whales from total extinction. While the story does felt less like an essential "Star Trek" movie, the movie actually worked well. In fact, it was both fun and lively while the characters were absolutely wonderful. No doubt a voyage home worth praising for.

1. "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" (1982)

One of the most iconic scenes in "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan".

So here it is, the best "Star Trek" movie of all time belongs to none other than "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan". Most importantly, the movie successfully restored the good faith of the otherwise flagging franchise following the less-than-stellar response of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" three years prior. Among the highlights of this movie was, of course, the memorable casting of Ricardo Montalban as the sinister and vengeful Khan (a role previously featured in an episode of the first season titled "Space Seed"). Then there's the heartbreaking finale involving Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) self-sacrifice and his eventual death. That scene alone was often regarded as one of the greatest character deaths ever seen in Hollywood history. Unlike the leisurely-paced "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", this second instalment was blessed with a brisk pace and an engaging direction from Nicholas Meyer.

"Star Trek Beyond" opens in cinemas nationwide on 21 July 2016.

Cinema Online, 16 July 2016


Related Movies:
STAR TREK (07 May 2009)
Star Trek Into Darkness (16 May 2013)
Star Trek Beyond (21 Jul 2016)

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