2019 marks 40 years of Star Trek movies but which one is the best of them all? Since the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, there have been 13 Star Trek films, nine of which about the original crew of the Starship Enterprise led by Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock.
The original Star Trek TV series ran from 1966-1969 but found new popularity in syndication. When Star Wars became a blockbuster in 1977, a planned TV sequel called Star Trek: Phase II was scrapped in favor of a feature film, which became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The original cast starring William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, and DeForrest Kelley as Dr. McCoy headlined six Star Trek movies from 1979-1991, which was followed by four films starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, led by Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, from 1994-2002. After seven years of the franchise laying dormant, director J.J. Abrams successfully revived Star Trek in 2009 with a younger cast led by Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, and Karl Urban as McCoy. Abrams produced three reboot films from 2009-2016.
Related: Why Star Trek 4 Has Been Canceled
With so many films across four decades made with varying budgets and levels of special effects, Star Trek is a challenging movie series to place in context; the long-held fan belief involving the first six films that the odd-numbered ones are "bad" and the even numbered ones are "good" certainly no longer applied once The Next Generation's cast took over the film franchise. Here is our ranking of all 13 Star Trek movies, from worst to best.
13. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Directed by Stuart Baird, Star Trek: Nemesis was the fourth and final film starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was released in Christmas 2002, received poor reviews, and ranks as the lowest-grossing Star Trek movie ever. Although it stars a young Tom Hardy as the evil Shinzon, the screenplay by John Logan, who was nominated for an Oscar for Gladiator, is a blatant rehashing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with a virtually identical climax and Data dying just like Spock did. Moreover, Star Trek: Nemesis is a grim and dreary affair, with ill-conceived moments like Picard leading a dune buggy chase on an alien planet and Troi being sexually assaulted by Shinzon. The failure of Nemesis tanked Star Trek as a viable film franchise until J.J. Abrams' successful reboot in 2009, and it also ended the story of Star Trek's 24th century, which fans hope to finally see a return to when the solo series about Jean-Luc Picard premieres on CBS All-Access later in 2019.
12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
The folly of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier's plot can be summed up with the immortal line uttered by Kirk: "What does God need with a starship?" The only directorial effort by William Shatner, who also conceived the story of the crew of the Enterprise meeting the Almighty, Star Trek V was released in the hugely-competitive summer of 1989 and ranked the lowest-grossing Star Trek film until Star Trek: Nemesis came along. Along with a faulty premise that introduced Spock's brother Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill), the film is peppered with cornball slapstick comedy and B-movie-level visual effects. However, the campfire scenes of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on vacation together that bookend the film deliver a welcome warmth and charm that help smooth over Star Trek V being the worst of the original cast's films.
11. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Directed by Robert Wise (The Day The Earth Stood Still), Star Trek: The Motion Picture reunited the original crew of the Starship Enterprise on the big screen and was intended as Paramount's answer to the massive success of Star Wars. The film ended up costing a staggering (for the late-1970s) $46 million to produce, thanks to its many elaborate special effects sequences showing off the rebuilt Starship Enterprise. The story by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is more of a ponderous science-fiction tone poem than a stirring space adventure, resulting in Star Trek: The Motion Picture moving at a glacial pace. The film lacks the wit, charm, and colorful action fans of the canceled TV series were accustomed to, but it does debut the classic orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith that later became the theme of Star Trek: The Next Generation. While much of it feels tedious to sit through, Star Trek: The Motion Picture boasts big sci-fi ideas and was successful enough to revive Star Trek as a viable film franchise, setting the stage for better movies to come.