The Best (And Worst) Star Trek Movies of All Time

Among Trek fans, there's a well-known bit of lore called the "Star Trek Movie Curse": namely, that even-numbered installments in the franchise are usually great, and odd-numbered installments unspeakably awful. A bit of a blanket statement? Sure. But it's also mostly true.


The Classics

[subtitle]#1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan[/subtitle]

James T. Kirk' old foe Khan escapes exile and steals the Genesis Device, a planet-terraforming tool that handily doubles as a superweapon. The Enterprise eventually blows up Khan' ship, but unluckily loses warp power just as Khan, with his dying breath, triggers a thermonuclear bomb. Spock fixes the warp drive just in time, but having stupidly not bothered to don any protective gear beyond a pair of gloves, dies of radiation poisoning. Kirk and a radiation-suit-wearing Scotty (ah, so that's what happened to it) watch safely from behind a plexiglass wall. Kirk's pretty broken up about it-not broken up enough to go in and help him, of course, but still.

Why You Should See It
"KHANNNNNNNNN!" The producers learn from the mistakes of the dull first Trek film, packing in enough action-packed fun and excitement here for three movies. Plus, Spock' tragic death scene alone is worth the price of admission. That said, Kirk' eulogy-"Of all the souls I've encountered in my travels, his was the most ... human"-is a lot less touching when you remember that Spock' usual reaction to being called human was to arch an eyebrow and get all pissy about it. Kirk's a bit of an ass.

Why You Shouldn't
Hardcore Trek continuity freaks may have difficulty accepting that Khan and Chekov recognize each other, as the original episode with Khan aired the season before Chekov joined the show. But really, if that's the most you can quibble about, you need to get out of the house more.

Impact on the Franchise
Spock dies! For an entire movie, even! Plus, the consequences of Kirk' legendary cocksmanship among the many fine green-skinned ladies of the galaxy finally rear their ugly head here, with the appearance of a heretofore-unknown son (the ensuing paternity suit should have been the plot of the sequel).

Celebrity Cameos?
A bare-chested, mulleted Ricardo Montalban chomps his way through the scenery in just about every scene he's in, either quoting Moby Dick and Shakespeare or just staring longingly into a viewscreen while saying "Kirrrrrk..." Also look for a young, hot, pre-Fat Actress Kirstie Alley as Spock' protégé Saavik.

#2. Star Trek: First Contact

The Borg go back in time to prevent the founding of the Federation by destroying the Phoenix, Earth' first warp-capable vessel, and the Enterprise follows. Picard and Data kill the Borg Queen just in time to ensure the successful flight of the Phoenix. Vulcans stop in for a visit, and everybody gets loaded and parties down to rockabilly music.

Why You Should See It
Jean-Luc Picard, known mostly for enjoying hot cups of tea, Brahms concertos, and avoiding fights by talking things over sensibly, turns into Bruce Willis in First Contact. He sprays Borg drones with hot lead from a tommy gun, courts death by calling Worf a coward and delivers a mouth-foaming monologue about killing every Borg he can lay his hands on that culminates in an awesome rockstar tantrum where he trashes his ready room. Later, he snaps the Borg Queen' spine like a breadstick. Apparently, there are any number of things you can do to Picard without making him lose his cool. But turn him an albino cyborg and he will fuck your shit up.

Why You Shouldn't
Dr. Crusher gets dicked out of screen time, while a juicy part given to Alfre Woodard could have easily been adapted for her. So, if you're a member of Gates McFadden' immediate family, watching First Contact at the reunion and commenting on how great Woodard's performance is might ruffle some feathers. Otherwise, it' a great movie.

Impact on the Franchise
First Contact marked the introduction of the Borg Queen (who would reappear throughout the series Star Trek: Voyager) at the behest of studio execs who pointed out that, without her, it would basically be a Star Trek zombie movie. Keep in mind they said this like it was a bad thing.

Celebrity Cameos?
Cracked's Patron Saint of the That Guys, James Cromwell, ably plays warp-drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane, though it' tricky to reconcile why he looks two decades older (and six inches taller) than the actor who played the same character at a later stage in life in an original series episode. There' also a non-human cameo, if you look closely: Some joker at Industrial Light and Magic slipped the Millennium Falcon into the initial battle with the Borg. Given Han Solo's busy schedule, it was nice of him to lend a hand.

#3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

A super-powerful alien comes to future Earth to touch base with its good buddies the humpback whales, only to lose its shit when it finds out they're all extinct. Eager to stop Earth's destruction, Kirk and crew go back in time to present day Earth to retrieve some whales; Spock chooses to do this in a linen bathrobe, for some reason. The whales tell the alien probe that everything's cool. "Let's all just chill out, okay?" The alien, embarrassed about having made such a big scene, gets its chick and peels out of Earth's orbit in its Corvette without further incident, Zeppelin blasting from the speakers.

Why You Should See It
Star Trek gets comedy right for a change. This one is by far the funniest Trek film, with sparkling dialogue, physical comedy, and even some unscripted hidden-camera scenes in which a uniformed Walter Koenig Borats it up asking actual passersby where to find "nuclear wessels."

Why You Shouldn't
Scotty sets up a possible predestination paradox by revealing the formula for transparent aluminum to a plexiglass executive, Kirk definitely sets up a time loop by hocking the reading glasses that McCoy bought/will buy him in The Wrath of Khan, and Chekov leaves 23rd century technology in the past by tossing his phaser at a security guard. Theoretical physicists may find this irresponsible abuse of the space-time continuum so alarming they need to go lie down. Everyone else should enjoy it fine, though.

Impact on the Franchise
The Voyage Home did great at the box office, prompting not only a slew of mediocre sequels, but the roll-out of a new series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the cast of which would also pump out a slew of mediocre sequels. The Voyage Home is like the event horizon of crap. (Note: Star Trek had no hand in the making of crappy space movie Event Horizon.)

Celebrity Cameos?
Trek fan Eddie Murphy was slated to play a part, but dropped out to do The Golden Child (possibly under advisement from Sean Connery, who backed out of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to star in the hit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Breaking the reverse-curse of actors who bow out of Trek projects in favor of wildly successful films, Child was a massive flop.

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