This is a weird list, I know.
There are only 13 Star Trek movies, which means I had to exclude three movies from the list. That doesn’t mean that the movies listed are all great movies, taken as a whole. Just that they’re better than three other movies.
I know. My 10-Lists are complicated affairs. They’re not always Top-10 lists. Sometimes, they’re just the 10 things (movies, books, whatever) that most exemplify the essence of something. Not this time. With only 13 movies to choose from (so far), I need to list these ten movies as a Top 10 list. To add a degree of difficulty, I need to rank them. For dramatic effect, it should be a listing from 10th favorite to my true #1.
Star Trek: Into Darkness: Number 10 on my Trek movie Top-10. There are a lot of things I like about this movie. I like Benedict Cumberbatch as a Star Trek villain. Even an augmented villain. I’m not a fan of another version of Khan Noonien Singh. In fact (all apologies to Mr. Cumberbatch), this is a lesser version of Khan to me. Plus, I don’t enjoy the whole subtly-changed “ship out of danger?” scene. The Shatner-Nimoy scene is iconic and didn’t need to be monkeyed with. The amazing thing is that this movie, which I believed to be highly flawed, ranked higher than three other movies.
Star Trek the Motion Piction: There is a contingent out there who would take me to task for listing this one at the nine-out-of-thirteen spot. It made the list nearly for only nostalgic reasons. I remember looking forward to this movie. I also remember reading the novelization. Those of us who lined up for tickets to this one were already Trekkies. Maybe we were riding the crest of the wave created by Star Wars when we saw it as well, but we were already Trekkies. If edited down to a reasonable 45-minute running time, this would have made a killer television episode. As it stands, it’s bloated and moves at a snail’s pace. And, the whole V’ger/Voyager thing invites questions no one is prepared to answer.
Star Trek: The Search for Spock: This movie is notable for its highlights. Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon. The resurrection of Spock as a clone, with a handy Vulcan mind meld memory transfer. Otherwise, it’s remembered for replacing Kirstie Alley with Robin Curtis, the death of Kirk’s only son, and the ignominious death of the Genesis Project.
Star Trek: Beyond: This was a fun entry in the J.J. Abrams Trek saga, one that doesn’t seemed based upon any movie that came before it. It’s an exciting action-adventure story that includes the destruction of the USS Enterprise (again). The Yorktown space station is an arresting visual that invokes countless science-fiction stories, including Larry Niven’s Ringworld and its sequels. I do believe it was a mistake to cover Idris Elba’s handsome face with prosthetics through most of the movie, but can’t fault this one for much else. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Star Trek (2009): The first J.J. Abrams reboot was a homerun, as far as I’m concerned. Chris Pine is excellent as Captain James T. Kirk. The remainder of the classic bridge crew is also cast well. The addition of Beastie Boys music is unexpected, but oddly fitting. The additional backstory, of Kirk attempting to live up to his deceased hero father”s (who was, by the way, Thor himself) memory was a bonus. I liked this movie, even when I was prepared to hate it.
Star Trek: Generations: I’ll accept the argument that this isn’t really a Trek movie at all. This was the bridge between TOS and TNG, a passing of the baton to “the next generation.” But, the movie was essentially Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, and the villain, played by Malcolm McDowell. This was more of a bottle episode. Sure, Guinan played a part as well, didn’t she? She’s of the same race as McDowell’s Soran (which sounds a lot like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sauron, doesn’t it?). This movie is great because it’s the first TNG movie. The whole magic heaven ribbon thing called the Nexus is merely a plot device, and the death of Kirk seems anticlimactic. The only important thing that occurs in this story is that the TOS reign is over and TNG takes over for a few movies.
Star Trek: Undiscovered Country: The thing about this one is that I thought it was a much better movie the second time I watched it. In the big picture story, it’s about what happens when two enemies begin the process of peace. It’s why Worf can be a main character in TNG. Also, Christopher Plummer as General Kang is awesome. Michael Dorn also has a role as one of Worf’s ancestors, and Rene Auberjonois makes an appearance as the would-be assassin of the Federation president. When reassessed, this movie is better than nine others.
Star Trek: First Contact: Without a doubt, the best of the TNG Trek movies. The Borg, the Borg Queen, time travel, Zefram Cochrane and the first human foray into warp space. All of which leads to first contact with the Vulcans. Plus, Jonathan Frakes directed it. All of which combined to a third place finish for me. Not too shabby.
Star Trek: The Voyage Home: Another time travel entry, this is the one with whales. Full disclosure: I don’t think this one has aged as well as First Contact, and it almost ended up in the number-three spot because of that. But, a movie with the original cast has to have some primacy. Plus, we get Kirk saying, “Well, a double dumb-ass on you,” and then he and Spock discussing the use of profanity in the 20th century.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: This one was never in doubt for me. Kirk vs. Khan, the title bout. Submarine warfare in space. Ceti eels and the Genesis project. From Hell’s heart I stab at thee. Just the perfect Trek movie, and the one that really created the franchise.
Not that you couldn’t figure it out yourself, but the three Trek movies that didn’t make my 10-List were The Final Frontier, Insurrection, and Nemesis. There were parts of all three that I liked, even when the sum of the parts wasn’t that entertaining.
In case you’re wondering: in my personal ranking, the worst Trek movie was Star Trek: The Final Frontier. It was directed by William Shatner, after two movies in a row directed by Leonard Nimoy. Producer Harve Bennett once said that this movie nearly killed the franchise. Even though I did a rewatch during this past year, I’ve still managed to blot most of this one from my mind, just as I did after the first time I watched it. I seem to recall that it was an extended metaphor for attempting to kill God. No one ever accused Shatner (who also contributed to the story) of not having a massive ego.