3. Star Trek (2009)
With Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams pulled off a miraculous feat by successfully recasting The Original Series' iconic roles and delivering an action-packed, propulsive joyride unlike any Star Trek movie before - and it worked wonderfully. Redesigning everything from to bottom while maintaining its iconography, Abrams' film turned Star Trek into a modern day blockbuster with spectacular visual effects. The younger cast of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, and Simon Pegg all embodied their roles while distilling each character to their essence, and Leonard Nimoy's cameo granted the film a necessary legitimacy. The screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman doesn't pause for any type of thoughtful morality play longtime fans demand from Star Trek and some of their decisions, like romantically pairing Spock and Uhura, didn't quite land, but Abrams' frenetic, crowd-pleasing filmmaking revived the franchise and infused Star Trek with a newfound vitality, which opened the door for two more sequels and the rebirth of the TV franchise with Star Trek: Discovery.
2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The second film directed by Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the most joyful and fun Star Trek movie. Originally planned as a vehicle for Eddie Murphy to join the franchise, when the comedian dropped out of the project, Nimoy hatched his idea for the Enterprise crew to rescue humpback whales in 20th century San Francisco. Smart writing and Nimoy's light touch as a director successfully imbued Star Trek IV with lighthearted comedy and allowed the futuristic space heroes to entertainingly become fish-out-of-water in the modern day. Grossing $109 million in 1986, Star Trek IV was the highest-grossing Star Trek movie at the time, a record that stood until J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot, and it remains one of the best and most enjoyable entries of the franchise.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Directed by Nicholas Meyer, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the most influential, most resonant, and the best Star Trek movie of all. A thrilling adventure story where Kirk finally faces a no-win scenario, the film is a poignant treatise about friendship, loss, and sacrifice. Ricardo Montalban's stark-raving lunatic Khan (returning from classic Star Trek episode "Space Seed") still remains the standard by which all Star Trek movie villains are judged. The Wrath of Khan contains numerous unforgettable moments (that have been homaged several times throughout the franchise), especially Kirk screaming Khan's name and his tearjerking final scene with Spock where the Vulcan declares "I have been and always shall be your friend". Star Trek II has been remade twice, but neither Star Trek: Nemesis nor Star Trek Into Darkness came close to recapturing the magic of the original classic. Simply put, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan embodies everything that makes Star Trek great.