tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Monday, Sep 24, 2018
  • Home
We boldly go there: Every 'Trek' film ranked

“Star Trek: Into Darkness,” which opens this week, marks the 12th entry in the long-running sci-fi franchise.

In anticipation of what is expected to be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters, we boldly go and attempt to rank the “Star Trek” films that came before.

We're sure true fans will find plenty to disagree with and probably consider switching their verbal phasers from stun to kill.

Here's our list from worst to first. So as Capt. Jean Luc-Picard would say: “Engage!”

11. “The Final Frontier” (1989)

Spock's half brother, or cousin, or old roommate from the Vulcan Science Academy – it really doesn't matter, because the plot is so awful – hijacks the U.S.S. Enterprise and steers the ship into the center of the galaxy to search for God. What the crew discovers isn't a divine being, but an alien trapped on a planet who wants to use the Enterprise to escape. Fans find a super massive black hole of a movie that nearly drains their love of the franchise.

Why it's ranked last: Maybe it was because William Shatner directed it and his ego was spiraling more out of control than usual. Maybe a great idea got lost in the dozens of rewrites the script went through. Whatever the reason, the movie was a muddled mess that lacked a consistent tone, a true galactic threat and the qualities that make Trek great.

Best moment: Kirk, Spock and McCoy go camping in Yosemite National Park. Seriously, this should've been the whole movie.

10. “Nemesis” (2002)

The last film featuring the “Next Generation” crew, who square off with a villain named Shinzon, played by a young Tom Hardy wearing an outfit that looks as if it was stolen from the set of “The Matrix.” Anyhow Bane ... er, Shinzon, seeks to destroy Capt. Jean Luc-Picard. The motive: Shinzon is Picard's clone and he's got existential angst because of it. Um, what? This movie actually got made?

Why it's ranked here: Producers promised an awesome adventure. Instead we get a few scenes of Picard and Shinzon sharing a pot of Earl Grey tea and a plot that's basically a retread of a more well-regarded “Trek” film. And what's this business about a Picard clone?

Best moment: The Enterprise rams Shinzon's ship. Fans are amazed for, like, two seconds.

9. “The Motion Picture” (1979)

The first film in the franchise features a sentient alien probe threatening Earth. The Enterprise crew responds, spending most of the film's running time talking in undecipherable technobabble and reacting to what they see on the starship's view screen.

Why it's ranked here: It felt as if the producers put most of their budget into the special effects, forgoing the humor and humanity that were the hallmarks of the original series.

Best moment: 1980s B-movie actress Persis Khambatta gets kidnapped and turned into a robotic probe, which improves her acting dramatically for the second half of the movie.

8. “The Voyage Home” (1986)

Yet another alien probe travels to Earth and tries to communicate with humpback whales. The probe doesn't find any – because they're extinct in the future – and begins to inadvertently destroy the planet. So Kirk and crew travel back in time to1986 San Francisco to get some whales, which admittedly sounds ridiculous but doesn't turn out to be a “Final Frontier”-level train wreck after all.

Why it's ranked here: The film is horribly outdated when watched today. It came out during a time when Live Aid, Farm Aid and Greenpeace were all the rage and The “Voyage Home's” “Save the Whales” message seems hokey in the context of the rest of the “Trek” universe.

Best moment: A punk rocker flips the bird at Spock and Kirk. Spock gives him the Vulcan neck pinch.

7. “Generations” (1994)

An obsessed scientist named Soran wants to desperately return to something called the Nexus and he's willing to blow up a planet to do it. Capt. Picard, somehow forgetting all the hand-to-hand combat prowess he displayed during the “Next Generation's” run on TV, enlists the help of Capt. James T. Kirk to help him defeat Soran.

Why it's ranked here: The first “Next Generation” film was serviceable because it brought Picard and Kirk together. But it also wasn't that great because dozens of other “TNG” episodes were far better than this film and SPOILER ALERT Kirk dies in a way not befitting the most awesome Starfleet captain who ever lived.

Best moment: The Enterprise crash lands on a planet. Yes, the sequence was absolutely amazing.

6. “Insurrection” (1998)

Another “TNG” outing and this one's the most underrated in the entire film franchise despite a plot about a planet that bestows eternal youth and some villains who use the “Trek” equivalent of botox trying to destroy it. But Picard disobeys orders and drags his crew to help him save the populace. Among whom is a woman who happens to be about 500 years of age but looks 40, that Picard kinda has the hots for.

Why it's ranked here: It's pretty decent because it's “TNG” crew at their best, showcasing the friendship, humor and teamwork they were known for during their TV run. Fans might have felt let down because its scale was smaller than the “TNG” film that came before it. And yes, it did feel like a glorified television episode. But its themes and action set pieces rival any in the film franchise.

Best moment: The Planet Of Youth forces Worf to relive Klingon puberty which is as horrifying and hilarious as you would expect.

5. “The Search for Spock” (1984)

The surviving crew of the Enterprise, still reeling from the havok that Ricardo Montalban and his heaving chest wreaked upon them in the previous film, suspects that (SPOILER ALERT) Spock isn't dead and was somehow resurrected. Because Vulcans, no matter how logical they are, can somehow illogically come back to life.

Why it's ranked here: It's a good, but not great, “Trek” movie because it continues one of the best Trek story lines conceived. The Klingons, the warrior race and arch-nemeses of Kirk, are once again the main villains. And Kirk hits the self-destruct button on the Enterprise.

Best moment: Christopher Lloyd, speaking with the same inflection he had as Doc Brown in “Back to the Future,” plays the main Klingon bad guy and chews up the scenery.

4. “Star Trek” (2009)

The reboot the franchise sorely needed after the disaster that was Nemesis. Director J.J. Abrams takes the helm. A new batch of younger actors portray the iconic members of the Enterprise. Eric Bana plays troubled Romulan Nero who wants to destroy every planet in the Federation. And Leonard Nimoy reprises his role as Spock. What's not to like?

Why it's ranked here: Fans were blown away because this marked the moment when Star Trek became a bonafide summer blockbuster. Sure, great films came before it, but the reboot was epic in scale and nearly every scene is packed with something awesome, whether it was callbacks to previous movies, the new cast channeling the old or the most breathtaking action sequences Trek ever had.

Best moment: Kirk, Sulu and a redshirt named Olson make a space jump onto a moving platform. Olson bites it in a spectacular fashion totally befitting a redshirt.

3. “First Contact” (1996)

The Next Generation's greatest enemy, the cybernetic organisms known as the Borg, travel to the past to assimilate Earth. Picard, still suffering from PTSD because he once was turned into a Borg drone, jettisons the decorum of being a Starfleet captain and goes on a mission of vengeance. Plus, fans get to see the origins of the Federation.

Why it's ranked here: It's one of the most thrilling “Treks” ever because it takes the most chilling adversary from the television series, places the Enterprise crew in grave peril and shows them blasting their way out of it. And they still have time for funny dialog and awesome jokes. The subplot involving warp drive inventor Zefram Cochran is, as Spock would say, equally fascinating.

Best moment: When Cochran asks the Enterprise crew, “So you're all astronauts on some sort of ... star trek?”

2. “The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

An adversary from Kirk's past, genetically-engineered superhuman Khan Noonien Singh, returns to seek vengeance when former Enterprise crewman Pavel Chekov mistakenly gives Khan a means to escape his exile. Khan then uses a MacGuffin called the Genesis device to threaten the universe and (SPOILER ALERT) force Spock to sacrifice himself to save his friends.

Why it's ranked here: OK, let's get it out of the way, if you're a fan, you're probably upset “Khan” isn't No. 1. Fans routinely rank this the greatest of all “Trek” films. It resurrected the franchise after the plodding “The Motion Picture,” it gave Kirk a worthy antagonist, it addressed the age of the original crew in a touching way and its climactic battle in a nebula is phenomenal. But the seriousness of the film is almost undermined by Montalban's over-the-top performance and its pace slows to a crawl at some points. It's great, but Trek, as a film franchise, was still finding its footing at this point. Everything that's awesome about the series culminates, and soars, with the last film featuring the original crew – which happens to be our top pick.

Best moment: “Khaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnn!” It's a meme. Google it.

1. “The Undiscovered Country” (1991)

The Klingon's homeworld is on the verge of annihilation and the Enterprise crew must overcome their biases and hatred of their greatest enemies in an effort to forge a lasting peace. But a conspiracy against the peace accord is brewing and Kirk and Spock race to uncover the plot.

Why it's ranked here: It's the best Trek movie ever because it has an intense and vastly entertaining murder-mystery plot. It's an allegory on the fall of communism and deals with prejudice and xenophobia head on. It reveals the souls of one of “Trek's” best adversaries. Its pacing is perfect. It's a fantastic send off for the original crew and a great lead-in to the “Next Generation.” And it has the qualities that all of “Star Trek” is built upon: optimism, a sense of discovery and a vision of the future we all can live in.

Best moment: Spock mind-melding with his protege Valeris (Kim Cattrall), so he can learn of an assassination attempt, is one of the most dramatic “Trek” scenes ever.