On Sept. 8, 2023, Star Trek celebrated its 57th anniversary, marking the day the franchise aired its first episode on television in 1966. Since this first voyage of Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, there have been several spin-offs, over 850 televised episodes, and 13 feature films — making Star Trek one of the most enduring franchises in sci-fi history.
The best Star Trek movies have consistently captivated audiences with bold explorations of space, complex moral dilemmas, and colorfully clad crew mates. Films like “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” are celebrated for their thrilling action sequences and deeply emotional storytelling, while “Star Trek: First Contact” is hailed for its time-travel intrigue and memorable Borg encounters. These cinematic adventures have not only expanded the Star Trek universe but have also left an indelible mark on the science fiction genre as a whole.
Along with the stories Captain Kirk and the other captains have told us, Star Trek has always been rooted in science and discovery. This theme has carried over to the real as it inspires new scientists, to quote the series, “to boldly go where no man has gone before!” This mindset has inspired a team from New York to create the world’s first mobile DNA lab that can fit in your pocket. Much like the fabled “tricorder” scientific scanner from “Star Trek,” this iPhone app can help scientists study virus samples in the palm of their hands.
Another Trek-inspired innovation is a deep-space detector that could actually act like “long-range sensors” and spot alien spaceships traveling through the Milky Way galaxy. Researchers with the New York think tank Applied Physics say the device picks up gravitational waves — incredibly fast ripples formed by the movement of massive objects. Named LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), the instrument could hold the key to identifying extraterrestrials’ mega-technology. In both cases, it’s easy to see how Star Trek has and will continue to shape the real-life science scene.
Before you proclaim, “ENGAGE!” on the best movies in the series, StudyFinds set out to do the research for you. We visited 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best Star Trek movies of all time. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!
The List: Best Star Trek Movies of All Time, According to Experts
“The Wrath of Khan” pits a charismatic villain against Captain Kirk and his crew and ends with an emotional payoff. It’s peak Star Trek to many Trekkies out there.
Den of Geek sings its praises, “More than 40 years and a dozen movies later, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the gold standard for what this franchise could and occasionally did achieve on the big screen.”
It’s a movie that transcends just “Star Trek” movies. “Is it the obvious choice? Yes, but it’s also the right one. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan isn’t just great Star Trek. It’s great filmmaking period,” claims Collider.
SYFY doesn’t back its praise of the second Star Trek film. Why? “The most thematically and emotionally rich film in the series, Khan is still the benchmark to which all subsequent Treks aspire to match or exceed. Not only is it the best big-screen mission ever for the Enterprise, but it’s also one of the best science fiction films of all time.”
This film follows the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E from the cast of “The Next Generation.” This space thriller follows the crew as they attempt to stop the Borg from taking over Earth in a previous era. Paste said, “While the first film from this iteration of space explorers—the crossover Generations—got a little mired in the novelty of having two Enterprise crews together, First Contact lets Patrick Stewart and company tackle their most iconic villain on their own.”
Forbes commented on the performances by Patrick Stewart: “Picard gets his own Ahab-like quest to destroy the Borg at all costs. That gives way to terrific action scenes and ‘acting with a capital A’ moments for Stewart.”
The addition of a new villain was slightly puzzling to some, but done well. “Some have questioned the introduction of the Borg Queen – they were a terrifying hive mind but now they’ve got a leader? – but logic aside, she’s an undeniably great character, played with insidious relish by the otherworldly Alice Krige,” comments Empire.
A time-traveling romp through Earth’s history as the Crew of the USS Enterprise tries to save the planet from destruction. Often branded for its social commentary about saving a pair of Humpback whales, this entry also takes advantage of yet another time-travel trope to solve a 23rd-century crisis with a 20th-century solution,” says Screen Rant.
This was also the second film directed by Spock’s actor, Leonard Nimoy. SYFY commented on this fact, as well as its humor, “It’s not just the funniest Star Trek movie, it’s one of the funniest movies ever. Large credit goes to director Leonard Nimoy and the movie’s late producer and co-writer, Harve Bennett.”
“Because of its lighter plot, it was considerably more appealing to viewers who were not really as into the dense sci-fi of prior Star Trek movies. It is among the best movies about time travel,” says Movie Web.
The sixth major motion picture was also the final time a group of the cast members from the original TV show were together. Space.com thinks that this is actually more than the other films as they say, “Some of the entries on this list are little more than over-inflated episodes, but this… this is a movie.”
The Klingon-based movie sets the ground for an interesting murder mystery. Entertainment Weekly commended the actions of the main cast, “Shatner and the whole original Enterprise crew are all giving career-best work here, the dinner scene being a showcase for everyone involved.”
“Out of all of the Star Trek movies, The Undiscovered Country is the only one to mirror real-world events. In this case, the script cleverly draws a parallel to the closing of the Cold War with the coming peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons because the Klingon Empire is about to go bankrupt,” says Collider.
The reboot by J.J. Abrams was considered a fresh start for the series as it tried to give us an origin story for major characters like Captain Kirk and Spock. It was meant to be a movie for Trekkies and newcomers alike. “Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike,” says Rotten Tomatoes.
It blended both the new with the old. “Leonard Nimoy cameos as the Spock we already know, and the new cast does a great job at making their iconic roles feel both familiar and fresh. It’s an energetic, colorful, pacy film, reveling in joyful nostalgia and a deep love for these characters,” says Empire.
“Perhaps more than any other Star Trek movie, the crew feels like a team of outer space superheroes. And, after seven feature films in which Captain Kirk (William Shatner) was moving through various midlife crises, it was refreshing to have Chris Pine remind us that at heart, Jim Kirk is forever young,” says Den of Geek.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Star Trek Captains
- Best Star Trek Ships
- Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes
- Best Star Wars Movies
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Den of Geek
- Entertainment Weekly
- Screen Rant
- Movie Web
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.