Ranking the Star Trek Movies, Part 1

I thought it would be fun this week to take a look at the Star Trek films. I love each Star Trek series, and I love to sit down and find a random episode to watch. Sometimes, thought, I want something more. Something a little more substantial, but still Star Trek. When those times are upon me, I turn to the films. Not all Star Trek films are created equal, though, and there are some I can sit and watch again and again, and others I have only seen once or twice. Which is which? Today I am going to start my own personal ranking of the Star Trek films.

As you look through this list, the first thing you might be asking yourself is: “Where are the new Star Trek films?” I chose not to include the Abramsverse films for a couple of reason. I feel like they were a re-boot of the franchise, and should be discussed separately. Also, leaving them off the list gave an even 10 films, essentially making this a top ten. I enjoy the new Trek films on a certain level, but I don’t consider them traditional Trek. So, they’re not on this list.

So which films were stinkers, and which were classics? I would love to be able to say that I love all the films, and none of them stink, but I can’t because the first entry on our list is simply not good. However, by and large, most of these films I think are great, and could watch again and again. So, let’s get it started.

10. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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There are so many reasons why this film should have been good. It was the first adventure in the new Enterprise A. It had part of the classic Star Trek intro as a subtitle. It begins with Kirk and McCoy mountain climbing. So much potential. It fell short of all that potential. Way short. The premise of the story is that Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, is trying to hijack the Enterprise to get to the center of the universe to literally meet God. That’s really all I have to say about this one. This would fall into the category of films I have only seen once or twice. That’s on purpose. I just can’t bring myself to watch it again. Just a strange film. On my list, it is definitely number 10. With a bullet. And bold font, and highlighting. Just skip this one.

9. Star Trek: Nemesis

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This is my least favorite of the Next Generation films. It’s Picard vs. a Romulan clone of Picard, played by Tom Hardy, who was a relative unknown at the time. Of all the Next Generation films, this one felt the least Trek-y to me. I also felt like this was the one where they knew they weren’t coming back to do another one, so they just blew the whole thing up. Including killing Data and having Riker reporting at the end to a new command. That’s not why I didn’t like it as much. This was just all about the action, and it really took away from the story and the characters. I like the idea of the concept of Picard facing off against a clone of himself, but the execution just didn’t work our. Plus, B-4.

8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

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One of the things that always gets me in the world of geek is when characters are killed off, and then they rarely stay dead. Comics always get a bad rap for that, with Superman, Batman, Captain America, Green Lantern, and the Flash all having spent some time being dead, but then coming back. I get it. Usually these are really popular characters, and fans want to see them back. Spock is no exception. Everyone loves Spock. Nobody wanted to see him die. This is my big issue, though, it often cheapens the death of the hero. Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan was powerful. He sacrificed himself for the greater good, for the good of the many. He was a hero. Then they brought him back right away. I mean, you knew he was coming back just from the title of the film. I think a much more poignant story would be how the crew of the Enterprise would carry on without Spock, how would they adjust. Make his death mean something. Sorry, rant over.

7. Star Trek: Generations

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This was a classic example of a “passing of the torch” storyline. It’s the last adventure for the classic original Enterprise crew, and the first big screen adventure for the new Enterprise crew. This is the moment when the Star Trek film franchise was all about Picard and his crew, and Kirk was getting a hero’s send off. This is also the point in the list where we start getting into the films I enjoyed. From here on out, I liked each one of these films. None of them were perfect, but they were all enjoyable. TNG was always my favorite of the series, so to see the Enterprise D on the big screen with her crew was just awesome. Plus, seeing Picard and Kirk, the two greatest  Star Trek captains, working together was awesome. It was fun. Not the best TNG film, but worth watching for sure.

6. Star Trek: Insurrection

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A lot of fans really did not like this movie. I was not among them. I enjoyed it. I thought the story was a good Star Trek story, dealing with the Prime Directive and how much the crew should get involved with all the politics. It wasn’t super action packed, like First Contact, so I get why people may not have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the result of all the complaints against the amount of action was Nemesis, which was just awful in so many ways. I felt like the action and story had a good balance, and it seemed like the chemistry between the crew in this movie really shined through. Plus, I love that they poke fun at themselves, when Worf, who is now assigned to DS9, shows up on the ship. One of my favorite lines of any Star Trek is when Picard questions him about it.

There you have it. The first part of our list is complete. What Star Trek films were missing from our bottom five? Which ones didn’t belong? Let me know in the comments, or you can send your feedback to me directly at thegeekymormon@yahoo.com.

 

Jake Dietz

Jake Dietz is a humble bank employee by day, and super dad to 5 little monsters by night. He enjoys all things geeky. That’s why he started this blog. He considers himself a member of many fandoms, and dreams of the day when all geeks, everywhere, can find a way to live together in harmony.


2 thoughts on “Ranking the Star Trek Movies, Part 1

  1. Justin Beauvais

    I disagree with your order, I don’t even think that these are the bottom 5. Four out of five are right. I do think that Star Trek 3 and The Motion Picture need a swap. I’m going to assume Motion Picture is going to be #5 because that’s the most logical placing. Motion Picture was essentially a TOS episode with tons of plotless eye candy. Story wise it is good, but it lacks compared to movies. The ending felt just like the ending to a TOS episode. It didn’t feel like a new beginning. I’m honestly surprised Wrath of Kahn was ever made after Motion Picture.

    Star Trek III has a lot of content worthy of a movie.It tackles the conflict of following orders vs doing what is right. It has an entertaining villain, which is rare in Star Trek. While I disagree with the revival of Spock, they made it work and he turns out to be integral to the later movies so I can forgive. Search for Spock also has a lot of character conflict, both internal and external. For the most part it is Kirk working through his decision to go after Spock, then his decision to destroy the Enterprise. It’s a tactical master stroke that deserves recognition. He defeats a superior enemy with the loss of only one hostage. Speaking of the hostages, that is a kink in the story that closes of a lot of options for Kirk. It portrays the character’s ability to face the no win scenario. McCoy is both convincing and amusing carrying Spock’s katra. I think III was a lot stronger movie than I.

    Now, I also suggest a flip of Nemesis and Final Frontier. Much like Motion Picture, Nemesis is filled with fan service, eye candy, and rehashed plot devices. For the premise, the replacing a person to spy on enemy, problem with keeping the baddies alive, and the bad guy’s race against time aspects are all predictable and have been used before. About all Nemesis really brings into question is nature vs. nurture (which is a fascinating subject but I’m not sure Star Trek can do it justice). I suppose the idea of battling one’s self could be considered but Shinzon isn’t Picard, and they aren’t really close in ability. Shinzon really just has the better ship.

    Final Frontier tackles a few different things, but in my mind has one really strong thing going for it. Final Frontier has a truly terrifying villain in Sybok. This is a Vulcan, who has embraced emotion and discovered a technique for almost perfect brainwashing, and, on top of that, is being driven by an ancient mythology to endanger everyone who follows him. Finally by sheer coincidence they find a creature that should not have been found. On top of a villain that really should give nightmares you have the questions of mortality, God, and the lengths people will go to, to get answers. As the story goes it’s filled with cliche and slapstick. The idea that the pride of the fleet the Enterprise is a broken mess of a new ship is laughable, but accurate to most new ships in real life. You’d think Starfleet could build a ship that would work from a design that has been relatively the same for 40 years, but apparently doors are complicated. Despite its blemishes I think that V inches out Nemesis in storytelling and amusement.

    I agree with the placement of Generations. It really loses points with me as the destruction of the Enterprise D was untimely and ultimately pointless to the main plot. Insurrection was a story begging for a less pathetic villain. Overall it was good but I feel the Admiral and Ruaffo shot this one in the foot. It could have been a better movie but it’s still pretty good.

    So that leaves II (which will probably be #1), IV (which will be 3 or 4), Motion Picture (which should be 8 but you’ll probably have it as 5), First Contact (a solid contender for 3 or 4) and, VI (which would be #1 in any universe where Wrath of Kahn didn’t happen so it will probably be 2).

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  2. Quinn Rollins (@jedikermit)

    It’s been a while since I ranked them, but ranking JUST these five movies, here’s how I’d do it:

    6. The Search for Spock. I agree with you 200% on it cheapening Spock’s death, and the overall problem of that in geeky cultural properties. At this point we don’t care who dies, because they can resurface anytime. And they probably will. BUT. I love McCoy here. I love seeing Kirk defy Starfleet’s orders in the most blatant manner imaginable (we talk about him doing it all the time, but this is the one time in the movies he commits a court martial-able offense). This is the first time Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura get their own enjoyable moments in the movies. This is the first Trek with a sense of humor. We get to see Excelsior. We get Christopher Lloyd as Kruge. We see the Enterprise destroyed (my brother and I rewatched that death on VHS-recorded-from-TV hundreds of times)(although, as with Spock’s death, this was temporary, and stupidly replaced with a ship JUST LIKE THE OLD ONE at the end of IV). A serious negative you didn’t mention was replacing Kirstie Alley with Robin Curtis; I don’t dislike Curtis’ take on Saavik, but it comes across as a completely different character. Awkward bump.

    7. The Final Frontier. I may write a big post on this for Big Shiny Robot at some point, but I do not dislike this movie. One of the strengths of the original series for me is the family/trinity of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. It’s something that hasn’t been repeated in any of the other series, including JJ Abrams’ Treks. I think we get that at its most brotherly here. In some cheesy and some over-the-top ways, but this movie stitches them together as a family in a way nothing else did. This may be the Trek movie I quote most often, or at least think about in relation to my own life. When Sybok is “healing” McCoy, and then attempting to heal Spock and Kirk, we get insight into their characters that we don’t get in the other movies. “I am not the boy you knew on Vulcan,” “I need my pain,” etc. I even like the interactions with the god alien on the planet, and after it’s blasted Kirk and Spock, McCoy having the courage to stand and confront him is one of my favorite Bones moments (and he’s a favorite character of mine). There are things that soooo suck. The effects (Lucasfilm was otherwise committed), the Klingons (I’m so over the frigging Klingons anyway, and these are the worst), everything that happens at “Paradise (Lost) City”. Uhura dancing. Just no. But the relationships at front and center override all of that.

    8. Generations. I’ll never forgive whoever it was who decided Spock and McCoy’s roles should be so small in the opening that Nimoy and Kelley opted to not do it. I love Scotty and Chekov, but it should have been Spock and McCoy. Chekov in sickbay? What the actual fetch. I liked seeing Guinan playing a major role. I loved Malcolm McDowell as Soran. I thought Data getting emotions was funny. This was the first movie I saw post-mission, and no one told me that the Enterprise died, and I’m pretty sure I cried real tears. And also was “holy crap” and also was offended that Data said “shit.” Ahhh RMs. I rank it this low simply because it’s a very disjointed story. It’s not the meeting of Kirk and Picard that I wanted.

    9. Insurrection. I don’t like it. The humor is too broad, it’s too derivative of other TNG episodes, everything that happened in the village felt like it could have been a planet of the week, ala “Who Watches the Watchers” or any number of other episodes. The story wasn’t big enough to warrant its own movie. I didn’t like the action (is this the one where a joystick comes up out of the bridge floor for Riker to pilot?), and although I liked the Tarkin-y flavor of F. Murray Abraham as a villain, he didn’t work well as a villain the motivation, the actions…not worth it.

    10. Nemesis. I agree with you on pretty much everything here. If they knew this was their last movie, they should have had more emotional punch than just killing Data. I’m thinking about the last episode of M*A*S*H. I’m fine with Riker and Deanna getting their own ship (and I like the USS Titan series of novels), but some insight into what happens next, and the pain of letting go of comrades you’ve been together with for a decade-plus, should have been more felt. And holy moley, B-4. What the hell were they thinking there? Someone should have said no. Like, hell no. Also the Nosferatu Remans, suddenly introducing a second Romulan race, when we’ve been around Romulans since the 1960s? I waited through NINE MOVIES, most of which had Klingons as villains somewhere, to get Romulans. I love Romulans. And THIS is what they do? No. No no no.

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