A comprehensive list of the original Star Trek movies ranked, including The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, and more
The first deep dive of the year for me was the original Star Trek movie franchise. I’d never watched any of these movies prior to this year, and so this ranking is coming from a viewer without deep roots to the television series runs or subsequent reboot franchises with new lines of characters and actors. All I know are these six movies at face value and my own feelings about each of them.
And I generally liked them! As is the case with nearly every franchise, the Star Trek original series has their ups and downs – a few movies that don’t really push the envelope, and a couple that really feel like last gasps of glorious practical efforts in the science fiction genre landscape. They always felt like they were counterprogramming to Star Wars growing up, but they clearly have different objectives, scales, and visuals.
Yet I suppose that my ultimate interest in these films relies in whether I’d want to revisit them anytime soon. I’m not sure I’ll be doing a Star Trek rewatch every year moving forward, but perhaps I’ll find more and more value in them with each future viewing. At times they’re much more methodical and understated than their contemporaries. I’d imagine I’ll find them more insightful as I grow older as they carry deep themes of legacy and ushering in a new age.
But regardless, I wanted to stop and rank the original six Star Trek movies before I move on to The Next Generation. I’ve already watched a couple of those movies, and boy are they something else! I can’t wait to talk about them. But for now, here’s how I’d rank the Star Trek movies from The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country:
6. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
The Final Frontier, for lack of a better word, sure is odd. William Shatner’s directorial entry into the Star Trek canon has a handful of highs along the way, but gets way too uneven and digressive for its own good. I had heard beforehand that The Final Frontier was considered the worst among these original movies, but I was still curious to see where the crew would take it considering the unmatched and virtually unplaceable The Voyage Home. Especially with Shatner becoming the second cast member to take a crack at directing one of these after Leonard Nimoy helmed The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. The Final Frontier movie review
5. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
There’s a natural come-down from the high that is The Wrath of Khan, but The Search for Spock isn’t a dud by any means. Leonard Nimoy shows off his chops as a director with a distinct visual style and promising practical effects. His thumbprints can still be felt all over this thing despite his lack of presence as a character in the movie. Although not the best that Star Trek has to offer, it’s far from the worst. A pretty serviceable (and often entertaining) trip through the galaxy to resurrect an old friend. The Search for Spock movie review
4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Director Robert Wise keeps the story small in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in order to accentuate the crescendos throughout. William Shatner and Stephen Collins give strongman performances as Admiral Kirk and Captain Decker, respectively, and Leonard Nimoy gives the equally quirky and lanky one as Spock. Star Trek: The Motion Picture movie review
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Safe to say, I enjoyed The Wrath of Khan. It’s more my speed as an enjoyable, wildly adventurous science fiction film than the first, but hard to judge just one to one. They’re vastly different, and Director Nicholas Meyer is more interested in expanding the universe this time around than Robert Wise was in The Motion Picture. For a movie made in 1982, there’s a lot of technical and visual brilliance instilled into The Wrath of Khan that helps push the industry towards a new era of striking moviemaking where practical effects meets computer generated effects. The Wrath of Khan movie review
2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The Voyage Home is the jolt of energy that I felt the Star Trek movies were looking for. It’s such an audacious premise that is played out perfectly in terms of tone and pacing that it just works. Leonard Nimoy returns as the director of this worthy sendoff for the Genesis trilogy. The Voyage Home movie review
1. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
A few of the prior Star Trek movies were much too consumed with big ideas and larger-than-life themes. I much prefer the slapstick gimmicks and relentless genre quirks that The Undiscovered Country revels in. Nicholas Meyer returns to direct in an outstanding fashion. The Undiscovered Country movie review
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