I can never quite figure out whether I am more of a Star Trek fan or Star Wars fan. It's probably I love them both equally. One big difference is that there's little debate on how the Star Wars films should be ranked. Empire is the best, the original is next, and everything that followed was total shit until Force Awakens kinda made things good again.
With Star Trek it's a radically different situation. Since I'm old enough to be an original series fan, my picks skew towards Kirk & Co. — while Trek fans that came late to the game tend to gravitate towards Next Generation.
With that in mind, here we go...
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan The gold standard for Star Trek films. A beloved villain, plenty of action, smart humor, a great story with lots of memorable moments, and a shock ending that rocked the sci-fi universe. On top of that, the special effects were fantastic. But my favorite thing about the film was the dialogue, which was written and performed so beautifully. Weather it's quiet moments of reflection or Khan's unhinged rants... it's a delicious feast for longtime Star Trek fans from beginning to end.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home A great story built around a great idea is all you really need for a fantastic Star Trek film... everything else will work itself out. But The Voyage Home went beyond that by giving fans a time travel story packed with some of the funniest moments in Trek history. The end result is just a plain fun movie with appeal outside of the franchise's fan-base.
- Star Trek The potential for disaster in rebooting the franchise was huge, but JJ Abrams reboot got so many things right... even if it bathed all of them in an ungodly amount of stupid fucking lens flare. The casting was note-perfect... especially with Karl Urban channeling DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy. We got a good story as well, packed to the rafters with excellent action and special effects. Using rogue Romulans as bad guys wasn't exactly inspired, but it worked. Overall? A very good start. Or re-start, as it were.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country This was a terrific Star Trek adventure, even if there were hiccups along the way. But, more importantly, it was a good send-off for the original series characters (thank heavens it didn't end with the hot mess that was Star Trek V). That the film also built a bridge to The Next Generation without shitting all over itself was just the icing on the cake.
- Star Trek Beyond It may have gone off the rails a few times and had an overly-complicated ending... but it was still a lot of fun to watch because there was plenty of action and "Star Trek magic" to keep things moving. A nice recovery in the reboot universe after being disappointed with Into Darkness.
- Star Trek: First Contact The only Nest Generation film I enjoyed, this was a smart, clever outing that moved at a speedy clip and featured one of the best thing to come out of Next Gen: The Borg. But they didn't just leave it at that, they came up with The Borg Queen to make things fresh... and added time travel to make things fun. If only everything that followed was even half this good.
- Star Trek Into Darkness Though the reboot sequel had some harsh criticism lobbed its way, I actually enjoyed it. Would I have rather see something different than a re-telling of the best Star Trek film on this list? Sure. But it was entertaining to the end, and that's more than you can say than many films on this list.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture Yes, it was unbearably long, drawn-out, and even boring in spots, but it was the first film in the franchise and there was a lot to love, even if just the chance to see all the characters again. And I still think the story concept is one of the best to come out of Trek canon. It's just that it could have been so much more entertaining with action added to the mix and less pertinent elements dropped.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock When an entire movie is devoted to rectifying the mistake of killing off Spock, you're sure to get into trouble real fast. If not for the inspired casting of Christopher Lloyd, this movie would be pretty much a loss.
- Star Trek: Generations I never understood how anybody could greenlight a script with so many obvious problems, but I'm guessing that they felt the historic mingling of new and old would cover any sin. They were wrong. I didn't think Star Trek could get worse than killing off Captain Kirk in such a lame-ass manner, but all I had to do was wait for the final two movies.
- Star Trek: The Final Frontier This movie was a huge waste of time, effort, and money. Surely they could have come up with something better than this to follow The Voyage Home, but no. Instead we got Spock's half-brother in an idiotic quest to find God in the center of the galaxy. Barf.
- Star Trek: Nemesis This is a film that could have slayed with its story concept... if only the writers would have had bothered to find a way to make it interesting. Instead we get something that plays out like a forgettable episode of the TV show. They could have at least let the Next Generation crew go out on a high note after the previous disaster (see below), but instead we got this mess.
- Star Trek: Insurrection So awful I don't even know where to begin. This was like a very long, boring, and badly-written episode of Next Generation but with less scope and precious little genuine humor.
And next up? Star Trek: Discovery. I had high hopes when it was announced that Bryan Fuller was at the helm. Then became worried when it was announced he had stepped away. But, still... it's Star Trek, so I'll be watching.