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Media Beat

The First 6 Star Trek Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best

It’s no secret that Star Trek is a media juggernaut. From its humble beginnings as a cult classic TV show in the 1960s to today, it has spawned countless shows, movies, video games, and more. However, not all Star Trek is good Star Trek. For all their successes, both Star Trek: The Original Series (or TOS) and the 6 movies based off of it have had their share of ups and downs. Today, I will rank the first 6 Star Trek movies from worst to best. My mission: to boldly rank movies that have definitely been ranked before. And keep in mind that this is only my opinion, so feel free to share your own ranking in the comments.

6. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V, 13 November 2022.

Any Trekkies out there probably saw this one coming. Star Trek V is, in a word, bad. In this film, Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise meet a mysterious Vulcan named Sybok, who leads them on a search for “God” at the center of the galaxy. If that already sounds absurd (even for Star Trek), that’s because it is. While it does have some good interplay between Kirk, Spock, and Bones, Star Trek V is a messy movie with an uninteresting plot, and it is easily the worst of the TOS movies. It’s so bad, in fact, that its events and revelations (such as Sybok being Spock’s half-brother) are basically never mentioned again in any future Star Trek media. However, the movie was plagued with production and budget issues, so that does make its low quality a bit more forgivable.

5. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 13 November 2022.

Star Trek‘s infamous first foray into film sees Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise on a mission to stop a mysterious energy cloud named V’Ger from destroying Earth. I’m going to be completely honest here: Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn’t as bad as people may claim. Yes, it is slow-paced and can get boring at times, but considering this movie came out two years after the action-packed Star Wars, I commend it for having the bravery to be a slower and more thoughtful sci-fi movie. That being said, I have heard that the director’s cut for this movie is an improvement over the original, so I recommend checking that version out if possible.

4. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III, 13 November 2022.

There’s a common sentiment that the odd-numbered Star Trek movies are always the worst ones, but Star Trek III is a definite exception to this phenomenon. This movie takes place immediately after the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and follows Kirk and the Enterprise on an illegal journey to the Genesis planet to find Spock’s body. Overall, Star Trek III is a fun adventure with plenty of memorable moments, but it just can’t quite live up to the two movies that came before and after it.

3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI, 13 November 2022.

In Star Trek VI, while Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are on a mission to negotiate for peace between the Klingons and the Galactic Federation, they are suddenly caught up in an intergalactic murder mystery that threatens the newfound hope for peace in the galaxy. This is a highly enjoyable movie with plenty of intriguing twists and turns along the way. However, in my opinion, it just isn’t quite as memorable as the next two entries on this list. Still, it’s an overall very solid film and one of the best of the TOS movies

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Cover image for the movie Star Trek II
Star Trek II, 13 November 2022.

KHAAAAAAN! There, I said the thing. In stark contrast to its slow-paced predecessor, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a thrilling tale of revenge in which Khan, a classic villain from TOS, escapes from banishment on the planet Ceti Alpha V, and now he has only one goal: to kill James T. Kirk. This movie has it all: a compelling plot, plenty of action, some great emotional moments, and an iconic rivalry between Kirk and Khan. It’s even got a musical adaptation heading to off-Broadway next year. The Wrath of Khan is Star Trek at its finest

1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Star Trek IV, 13 November 2022.

Colloquially known as “the one with the whales,” Star Trek IV sees Kirk and company going back in time to 1986 Los Angeles to stop an alien probe from destroying Earth. This film takes a more comedic and lighthearted approach to Star Trek and, in my opinion, is all the better for it. Star Trek IV is in all parts charming, funny, and enjoyable; it knows how campy Star Trek can be and fully embraces it. Sure, it may not be as action-packed as, say, The Wrath of Khan, but seeing the crew of the Enterprise try to fit in with ordinary people in the 1980s will simply never not be funny. Plus, it’s got whales. What’s not to love?

Student blogger Bryce Cain is a sophomore at IU studying Interactive & Digital Media along with Theatre & Drama. He began working for Media Services this semester.

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