Here Are The 5 Best Star Trek Captains, According To Trekkies

The best Star Trek captains have become iconic figures in the franchise, each leaving a unique and lasting impression on fans worldwide. Captain James T. Kirk, portrayed by William Shatner, stands as the charismatic and pioneering leader of the original series, known for his boldness and fearless approach to exploration. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, expertly portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart, brought a profound sense of diplomacy, intellect, and moral depth to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” earning him a place among the most revered captains in Starfleet history.

Starting in 1966, Star Trek was already pushing innovation with ideas like hand-held communication devices and non-invasive medical scans. Today, it continues to inspire scientists and engineers. One recent study shows that scientists are still looking to Star Trek for ideas: “On ‘Star Trek,’ the replicator recycles matter to create anything you could possibly desire out of thin air — from a delicious steak dinner to a simple glass of water. Now, scientists are turning science fiction into reality! A team in Switzerland has created a device that can harvest water from thin air.”

With such a far reach and deep resonance with fans, it is no surprise that Star Trek made the transition to the cinema. With 13 major motion pictures in the franchise, Star Trek has firmly established itself as one of the most iconic franchises in science fiction.

The far reach of the Star Trek franchise can be viewed in many forms of modern media from audio books to streaming content online. Certainly, part of the appeal of Star Trek is the diverse cast of crew members that make up the family structure of each of the Star Trek series. Despite this, it is undeniable that the captain of each ship is the narrative and often emotional core of their respective shows and films.

So, who are the best Star Trek captains in the 57+ year history of the franchise? This is a tricky question, as there are dozens of beloved captains that have been featured across 13 films and nine television shows. However, five captains are true pop culture science fiction icons that made it to the top of nearly all our source’s lists. Let us know who you think is the greatest captain in the comments below!

Could a Star Trek-style sensor detect alien craft?
USS Enterprise Star Trek (Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash)

The List: Best Star Trek Captains, Most Beloved by Fans

1. Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation), played by Patrick Stewart

According to the experts, Captain Picard is by far the most highly regarded commanding officer in Star Trek. Ranked close to the top of nearly every list StudyFinds found, Picard is the exemplification of what an inspiring hero can be. The Fantasy Review describes him as a skilled diplomat, philosopher, and strategist. They say his overall unflustered demeanor is what makes him such a great leader.

Picard is a diplomat first and he always tries to uphold his high moral ideals. Part of his enduring charm is due to the skilled acting of Patrick Stewart. “He may not have had Kirk’s panache, but Picard was an altogether more intelligent leader, thanks in no small part to Stewart’s Shakespearian roots and stentorian delivery which added an air of gravitas to even the most absurd of intergalactic exploits,” writes The Guardian.

Stewart’s performance created some of Trek’s most memorable episodes. touches on some of Stewart’s memorable moments, including his resistance to torture in “Chain of Command,” his portrayal of aging in “The Inner Light,” and his impactful cry of “No!” in “Star Trek: First Contact” in 1996.

These are just a few of the most iconic moments created by Patrick Stewart’s performance in this iconic role. This character’s popularity endures with streaming series “Star Trek: Picard” as well as numerous in-character cameos on the long-running animated series “Family Guy.”

2. Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), played by Avery Brooks

Avery Brooks’ performance of Captain Sisko is passionate, bombastic, and larger than life. “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” is very much a story of a man caught in a constant state of upheaval. The series opens with Sisko’s deep personal loss and the life he builds for his family in the aftermath of that loss. As the leader of a space station at the mouth of a galaxy-spanning worm hole, the stories of DS9 were a departure from the themes of exploration and discovery.

Instead, Sisko must navigate a war-torn setting while dealing with the revelation that the local Bajoran civilization regards him as a religious icon. When hostile aliens enter from their side of the worm hole, Sisko is forced to become a conflicted military leader. He doesn’t just rise to meet the challenge, Sisko discovers that he excels in the role of battle commander.

The Mary Sue applauds him for his uncanny ability to get things done regardless of the situation. Additionally, Brooks’ lilting delivery of dialogue is distinctive and at times almost lyrical. The cadence of his vocal portrayal always projects Sisko’s intensity and charm. The complex and layered performance wasn’t merely that of a religious leader or a military man.

According to Sideshow, Sisko was really a family man at heart, as shown through his relationships with his son and grandfather. These narrative elements are only enhanced by what is arguably the strongest supporting cast of any Star Trek series. DS9 successfully manages to balance action, drama, and character-driven storytelling.

The Digital Fix says that Captain Sisko brings to life the complex themes of war, loss, and tough choices that you find in “Deep Space Nine.” Without him, the franchise would not be the same.

3. James T. Kirk (Star Trek: The Original Series), played by William Shatner

Kirk is a character so iconic that he has been played by no fewer than six actors, so it may be surprising that Captain Kirk is ranked third on this list. To some fans this might seem like blasphemy; after all, James Tiberius Kirk is the archetype for human charisma and swagger in Star Trek. William Shatner as Kirk in the original series is an adventuring space cowboy who explores strange new worlds with his trusted friends, Spock and Dr. McCoy. Shatner’s tenure would continue as the lead in seven of the 13 feature films. “James Kirk remains the legendary template against whom all captains must be measured,” writes We Got This.

The crew of the original series was made up of a racially diverse cast. Shatner’s performance captured a leader that cared deeply for his crew, to the point that he would consider them to be his family. People of many races were equals, and valued members of the Enterprise crew. While this might not seem like a big deal now, in 1966, the ensemble cast was groundbreaking. This is one core aspect of Kirk that makes him resonate with so many audiences. states that Captain Kirk maintains unwavering optimism and determination toward exploration. This is evident in his renowned speech, dubbed ‘Risk Is Our Business’ by fans, found in ‘Return To Tomorrow.’ Kirk draws parallels between Starfleet’s endeavors and the achievements of past explorers like those in the Apollo program or the pioneers of flight. Additionally, Kirk demonstrates the ability to remain friends with and heed the advice of his core crew members, even amidst the ongoing disagreements between Spock and Dr. McCoy.

Captain Kirk’s enduring popularity as the iconic captain of the first Enterprise has resulted in the richly detailed story of one man’s journey through life. “Fans see a faithful and familiar hero who’s learned from his mistakes, carries a few regrets and comes to terms with his own mortality. Kirk’s journey is easily the most complete of any Star Trek captain. It’s no wonder why he remains a favorite for fans everywhere,” notes Game Rant.

4. Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager), played by Kate Mulgrew

Kate Mulgrew also broke down barriers as Star Trek’s first leading woman with her performance as Captain Kathryn Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager,” a ship that is flung into the far reaches of the galaxy.

“I’ve had probably the single greatest response from my fan base than any other actress because I was the first female captain,” Mulgrew said in a joint interview with Sonequa Martin-Green for the Associated Press, according to the team at /Film. “And because I saw it directly, I was deeply and directly affected by it. And over the years it’s done nothing but evolve. Very, very few actresses have that. I’ve had it for over 25 years. It’s extraordinary to me.”

Mulgrew’s beloved captain also stars in the new animated show, “Star Trek: Prodigy.” Between the two series, Janeway’s appeal is apparent in her strong leadership and adventurous spirit. In the same way that Brooks’ Captain Sisko was willing to cross the line to defend the Federation, Captain Janeway is fiercely protective of her crew and is willing to protect them with deadly force. Moreso than the other captains on this list, Janeway was relentlessly harangued by a parade of villainous factions over the course of her seven-season series. Janeway rises to meet these new foes, all the while struggling to maintain her ideals.

According to Vulture, Janeway and the Voyager crew encounter their most significant challenge not from hostile races or limited resources, though those factors add difficulty. The real test arises from situations tempting them to forsake their principles. In the second season’s “Alliances,” Janeway explores options to avoid conflict with the Kazon, described as a budget version of the Klingons in the Gamma Quadrant. She contemplates forming an alliance with a Kazon faction and later considers teaming up with the seemingly more civilized Trabe. Despite opposition from some of her officers, she ultimately rejects both choices upon discovering the untrustworthiness of the Kazon and the moral shortcomings of the Trabe. Vulture continues to say that despite the potential for a prolonged journey home or even never returning, Janeway remains steadfast in her determination that her crew upholds their best selves regardless of the challenges.

Captain Janeway is also a deeply human character with passion, loyalty, and flaws. Janeway is ranked as the greatest Starfleet captain by three of 10 sources StudyFinds polled, and only narrowly missed out on ranking higher on this list. The Digital Fix describes her as approachable and warm while still remaining authoritative. Although she sometimes made the wrong calls, that only showed her humanity. Ultimately, it is Janeway’s humanity that makes her one of Star Trek’s most memorable captains.

5. Jonathan Archer (Star Trek: Enterprise), played by Scott Bakula

There have been dozens of Star Trek captains in the many films and shows of the franchise. Rounding off this list is Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer. As the lead of the four-season series “Star Trek: Enterprise.” “The Enterprise prequel show focuses on humanity’s early days of space exploration. As such, Archer embodies the home-style charm of those classic astronauts,” as Game Rant puts it.

Despite having fewer episodes in his series as compared to the other modern captains on this list, Captain Archer is a fan favorite that ranked well with our sources. Canonically, Archer is captain of the first ever Enterprise, before the formation of the United Federation of Planets. Archer, unlike the other captains listed, is the every-man.

The Fantasy Review describes him as courageous, adventurous, and willing to take risks, even when he is not sure of the outcome. He is also skilled at resolving conflict peacefully, making him a skilled diplomat.

The other Captains on this list all come from a setting where interstellar travel is the norm. The United Federation of Planets along with Starfleet seek to explore new worlds and civilizations with the logistical support and structure needed for the task. They pool their resources and talents to achieve greater goals. None of these narrative elements are present in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Instead, Captain Archer is a man from New York. As an American, he bridges the gap between our society today and the aspirational society of the Federation.

“Archer was dependable, reliable, and the man who could take us from A to B on the Star Trek journey. This likable ‘first captain’ never dodged action, but he’s the most diplomatic and ambassadorial of the set,” adds

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


  1. William Shatner aka Kirk has never been one of my favorites.
    I’m not familiar with the Scott Bajula version so I can’t comment on it.

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