Star Trek (film franchise)

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Star Trek
Star Trek movie logo 2009.jpg
the Star Trek logo from the 2009 film
Directed by See below
Produced by See below
Written by See below
Starring See below
Budget $674 million (all films)
Box office $2 billion (all films)

The Star Trek film franchise is the cinematic branch of the Star Trek media franchise, which began in 1966 as a weekly television series on NBC, running for three seasons until it was canceled in 1969 because of poor ratings. Reruns of the series proved to be wildly successful in syndication during the 1970s, which persuaded the series' then-owner, Paramount Pictures, to expand the franchise.

Paramount originally began work on a Star Trek feature film in 1975 after lobbying by the creator of the franchise, Gene Roddenberry. The studio scrapped the project two years later in favor of creating a television series, Star Trek: Phase II, with the original cast. However, following the huge success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Paramount changed its mind again, halting production on the television series and adapting its pilot episode into the 1979 Star Trek feature film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Five more films featuring the entire original cast followed. The cast of the 1987–1994 spin-off series Star Trek: The Next Generation starred in a further four films. After a 7-year hiatus, a new film was released in 2009, simply titled Star Trek, serving as a reboot to the franchise with a new cast portraying younger versions of the original series' characters. A sequel to 2009's Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, was released in theaters in May 2013.

The Star Trek films have received 15 Academy Award nominations. 2009's Star Trek won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in 2010, and four of the previous films were nominated mainly in the areas of makeup, music, set design and sound design.

The early Star Trek films were originally released on VHS; competitive pricing of The Wrath of Khan '​s videocassette helped bolster the adoption of VHS players in households.[1] Later films were also released on LaserDisc as well. For those films that did not receive an initial DVD release, Paramount released simple one-disc versions with no special features. Later, the first ten films were released in two-disc collector's versions, with The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan branded as "director's cuts", followed by later box set releases. All of the films are now available on Blu-ray, digital download, streaming media and video on demand.


Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry first suggested the idea of a Star Trek feature in 1969.[2] When the original television series was cancelled, he lobbied to continue the franchise through a film. The success of the series in syndication convinced the studio to begin work on a feature film in 1975.[3] A series of writers attempted to craft a suitably epic script, but the attempts did not satisfy Paramount, so the studio scrapped the project in 1977. Paramount instead planned on returning the franchise to its roots with a new television series, Star Trek: Phase II. The massive worldwide box office success of Star Wars in mid-1977 sent Hollywood studios to their vaults in search of similar sci-fi properties that could be adapted or re-launched to the big screen. When Columbia's Close Encounters of the Third Kind enjoyed a huge opening in late December 1977, Paramount was convinced that science fiction films other than Star Wars could do very well at the box office, so the studio canceled production of Phase II and resumed its attempts at making a Star Trek film.

Principal photography for Star Trek: The Motion Picture commenced August 7, 1978[4] with director Robert Wise helming the feature. The production encountered difficulties and slipped behind schedule. Paramount had approached Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra to handle the film's optical effects, but each was busy or unwilling.[5] The production instead went with Robert Abel and Associates,[6] who proved unable to handle the film's large amount of effects work. Trumbull was hired and given a blank check to complete the effects work in time;[7] the final cut of the film was completed just in time for the film's premiere in Washington, D.C.

The film introduced an upgrade to the technology and starship designs, making for a dramatic visual departure from the original series. The starship Enterprise was "refitted" with a modernized design, both exterior and interior. Many of the set elements created for the earlier aborted "Phase II" television series were adapted and enhanced for use in the first feature film.

The film received mixed reviews from critics; while it grossed $82,258,456, the film's price tag had climbed to about $35 million due to costly effects work and delays.

The "Curse"

Fans commonly considered the films to follow a "curse" that even-numbered films were better than the odd-numbered installments.[8][9] The tenth film, Nemesis, was considered the even film that defied the curse.[8][10][11] The failure of Nemesis and subsequent success of Star Trek (2009) is considered to have broken the trend,[12][13] though some have tried to uphold the trend, either by counting the parody Galaxy Quest as an "honorary" Star Trek film, by using the sum of the digits as an indicator, or by referring to the 2009 reboot as Star Trek 0 due to it being set before the others.[14][unreliable source?] The curse is well-known enough that it has been mentioned often in pop culture. One of the best known examples occurred in a 1999 episode of the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, where it was referenced by Tim Bisley, played by Simon Pegg: Pegg, quite conscious of the irony,[15] played Scotty in the reboot films.

The Original Series[edit]

The Motion Picture '​s gross was considered disappointing, but it was enough for Paramount to back a sequel, albeit with a reduced budget. After Gene Roddenberry pitched a sequel to The Motion Picture in which the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to ensure the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he was "kicked upstairs" to a ceremonial role while Paramount brought in television producer Harve Bennett to craft a better—and cheaper—film than the first feature.[16] After watching all the television episodes, Bennett decided that the character of Khan Noonien Singh was the perfect villain for the new film. Nicholas Meyer became director after he finished a complete screenplay in just twelve days. Meyer did everything possible within budget to give The Wrath of Khan a nautical, swashbuckling feel,[17] which he described as "Horatio Hornblower in outer space."[16] Upon release, the reception of The Wrath of Khan was highly positive;[18] Entertainment Weekly '​s Mark Bernadin called The Wrath of Khan, "the film that, by most accounts, saved Star Trek as we know it".[19]

Meyer declined to return for the next film, so directing duties were given to cast member Leonard Nimoy for the third film. Paramount gave Bennett the green light to write Star Trek III the day after The Wrath of Khan opened.[20] The producer penned a resurrection story for Spock that built on threads from the previous film and the original series episode "Amok Time".[citation needed]

Nimoy remained director for the next film in the series. Nimoy and Bennett wanted a film with a lighter tone that did not have a classic antagonist. They decided on a time travel story with the Enterprise crew returning to their past to retrieve something to save their present—eventually, humpback whales. After having been dissatisfied with the script written by Daniel Petrie, Jr., Paramount hired Meyer to rewrite the screenplay with Bennett's help. Meyer drew upon his own time travel story Time After Time for elements[which?] of the script.[citation needed]

William Shatner was promised his turn as director for Star Trek V, and Nicholas Meyer returned as director for Star Trek VI.

The Next Generation[edit]

Both the sixth and seventh films acted as transitions between the films featuring the original cast and those with the Next Generation cast with the sixth focusing on the original cast and the seventh focusing on the TNG cast. The Next Generation cast made four films over a period of eight years, with the last two performing only moderately well (Insurrection) and disappointingly (Nemesis) at the box office.


After the financial failure of Star Trek: Nemesis and the cancellation of the television series Star Trek: Enterprise, the franchise's executive producer Rick Berman and screenwriter Erik Jendresen began developing a new film,[21] entitled Star Trek: The Beginning, which would take place after Enterprise but before The Original Series.[22] J. J. Abrams, the producer of Cloverfield and creator of Lost, was a Star Wars fan as a child and confessed that the Star Trek franchise "disconnected" for him.[23] In February 2007, Abrams accepted Paramount's offer to direct the new Star Trek film, having been previously attached as producer.[24] Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote a script that impressed Abrams, featuring new actors portraying younger versions of the original series' cast. The Enterprise, its interior, and the original uniforms were redesigned. While the film was ready for a December 2008 release, Paramount chose to move the film's opening to May 8, 2009.[25] The film earned over $350 million worldwide (from a solid $75.2 million opening weekend, higher than 1996's Star Trek: First Contact), and surpassed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the highest grossing film in the franchise. The sequel was greenlighted even before the first one opened, and Paramount released the film (the 12th in the franchise) on May 17, 2013.[26]

The film also has the distinction of being the first film in the franchise to win an Academy Award. It won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in 2010.

The Original Series films[edit]

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)[edit]

A massive energy cloud advances toward Earth, leaving destruction in its wake, and the Enterprise must intercept it to determine what lies within, and what its intent might be.

The movie borrows many elements from "The Changeling" of the original series and "One of Our Planets Is Missing" from the animated series.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)[edit]

Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), whom Kirk thwarted in his attempt to seize control of the Enterprise fifteen years earlier ("Space Seed"), seeks his revenge and lays a cunning and sinister trap.

Both the first and second films have television versions with additional footage and alternate takes that affect the storyline. (Subsequent Trek films tended to have shorter television versions.) Especially notable in The Wrath of Khan is the footage establishing that a young crew member who acts courageously and dies during an attack on the Enterprise is Scotty's nephew.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)[edit]

When McCoy begins acting irrationally, Kirk learns that Spock, in his final moments, transferred his katra, his living spirit, to the doctor. To save McCoy from emotional ruin, Kirk and crew steal the Enterprise and violate the quarantine of the Genesis Planet to retrieve Spock, erstwhile resurrected by the rapidly dying planet itself, in the hope that body and soul can be rejoined. However, bent on obtaining the secret of Genesis for themselves, a rogue Klingon (Christopher Lloyd) and his crew interfere, with deadly consequences.

The first film to be a direct sequel to the previous Trek film.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)[edit]

While returning to stand court-martial for their actions in rescuing Spock, Kirk and crew learn that Earth is under siege by a giant probe that is transmitting a destructive signal, attempting to communicate with the now-extinct species of humpback whales. To save the planet, the crew must time-travel back to the 20th century to obtain a mating pair of these whales, and a marine biologist (Catherine Hicks) to care for them.

The second through fourth films loosely form a trilogy, with the later plots building on elements of the earlier ones. The third film picks up within several days of the conclusion of the second, the fourth three months after the third. (The fifth film takes place a month after the fourth, but is not directly connected to the plots of the preceding three films.) The third and fourth films were both directed by Leonard Nimoy (also co-writer of the fourth), best known as the actor playing Spock.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)[edit]

Spock's half-brother (Laurence Luckinbill) believes he is summoned by God, and hijacks the brand-new (and problem-ridden) Enterprise-A to take it through the Great Barrier, at the center of the Milky Way, beyond which he believes his maker waits for him. Meanwhile, a young and vain Klingon captain (Todd Bryant), seeking glory in what he views as an opportunity to avenge his people of the deaths of their crewmen on Genesis, sets his sights on Kirk.

This is the only film in the franchise directed by William Shatner.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)[edit]

After Qo'noS is devastated by an environmental catastrophe, the Klingons make peace overtures to the Federation. The Klingon Chancellor (David Warner), en route to Earth for a summit, is assassinated by Enterprise crewmen, and Kirk is held accountable by the Chancellor's Chief of Staff (Christopher Plummer). Spock attempts to prove his captain's innocence, but in so doing uncovers a massive conspiracy against the peace process, with participants from both sides.

This film is a sendoff to the original crew. One Next Generation cast member, Michael Dorn, appears as the grandfather of the character he plays on the later television series. It is the second and last Trek film directed by Nicholas Meyer and last script co-authored by Leonard Nimoy.

The Next Generation films[edit]

Star Trek Generations (1994)[edit]

Main article: Star Trek Generations

Picard enlists the help of Kirk, who is presumed long dead but flourishes in an extradimensional realm, to keep a madman (Malcolm McDowell) from destroying a star and its populated planetary system in an attempt to enter that realm.

Following seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the next Star Trek film was the first to feature the crew of the Enterprise-D along with a long prologue sequence featuring three members of the original cast.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)[edit]

The Borg attempt to prevent First Contact between Earth and Vulcan by interfering with Zefram Cochrane's (James Cromwell) warp test in the past. Picard must confront the demons which stem from his assimilation into the Collective ("The Best of Both Worlds") as he leads the Enterprise-E back through time to ensure the test and subsequent meeting with the Vulcans take place.

The first of two films directed by series actor Jonathan Frakes.

Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)[edit]

Profoundly disturbed by what he views as a blatant violation of the Prime Directive, Picard deliberately interferes with a Starfleet admiral's (Anthony Zerbe) plan to relocate a relatively small but, seemingly, immortal population from a planet to gain control of the planet's natural radiation, which has been discovered to have substantial medicinal properties. But the admiral himself is a pawn in his alien partner's (F. Murray Abraham) mission of vengeance.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)[edit]

Main article: Star Trek: Nemesis

A clone of Picard (Tom Hardy), created by the Romulans but eventually exiled to hard labor on Remus, assassinates the entire Romulan senate, assumes dictatorship, and lures Picard and the Enterprise to Romulus under the false pretence of a peace overture.

This film was a critical and commercial disappointment (released in late 2002 in direct competition with the James Bond film Die Another Day and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) and was the final Star Trek film to feature the Next Generation cast and to be produced by Rick Berman.

The reboot films[edit]

Star Trek (2009)[edit]

Main article: Star Trek (film)

When Vulcan is destroyed by Romulans from the future, Starfleet cadet Kirk (Chris Pine) and instructor Spock (Zachary Quinto) must set aside their differences to keep Earth from suffering the same fate.

This film acts as a reboot to the existing franchise by taking place in an "alternate reality" using the plot device of time travel to depict an altered timeline, featuring younger versions of the original series' cast. It is the first production to feature an entirely different cast of actors playing roles previously established by other actors, with the exception of an aged Spock played by Leonard Nimoy. It was directed by J. J. Abrams (who produced it with Damon Lindelof) and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. According to Lindelof, this production was designed to attract a wider audience.[27] It received positive reviews[28] and a number of awards, including the film franchise's only Academy Award, albeit for "makeup and hairstyling".

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)[edit]

A Starfleet special agent (Benedict Cumberbatch) coerces an officer into blowing up a secret installation in London, shoots up a subsequent meeting of Starfleet brass in San Francisco, and then flees to Qo'noS. The crew of the Enterprise attempt to bring him to justice without provoking war with the Klingon Empire, but find there is much more to the agent's mission, and the man himself, than what the Fleet Admiral (Peter Weller) has told them.


The following table shows the cast members who played the primary characters in the film series.

Crew and other[edit]

Crew/detail Film
The Motion Picture
The Wrath of Khan
The Search for Spock
The Voyage Home
The Final Frontier
The Undiscovered Country
First Contact
Star Trek
Into Darkness
Untitled Star Trek sequel
Director Robert Wise Nicholas Meyer Leonard Nimoy William Shatner Nicholas Meyer David Carson Jonathan Frakes Stuart Baird J. J. Abrams Justin Lin[30]
Music Jerry Goldsmith James Horner Leonard Rosenman Jerry Goldsmith Cliff Eidelman Dennis McCarthy Jerry Goldsmith,
Joel Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith Michael Giacchino
Writer Screenplay:
Harold Livingston
Story by:
Alan Dean Foster
Jack B. Sowards,
Nicholas Meyer (uncredited)
Story by: Harve Bennett,
Jack B. Sowards
Nicholas Meyer (uncredited),
Samuel A. Peeples (uncredited)
Harve Bennett Screenplay:
Steve Meerson,
Peter Krikes,
Nicholas Meyer,
Harve Bennett
Story by:
Harve Bennett,
Leonard Nimoy
David Loughery
Story by:
William Shatner,
Harve Bennett,
David Loughery
Nicholas Meyer,
Denny Martin Flinn
Story by:
Leonard Nimoy,
Lawrence Konner,
Mark Rosenthal
Ronald D. Moore,
Brannon Braga
Story by:
Rick Berman,
Ronald D. Moore,
Brannon Braga
Brannon Braga,
Ronald D. Moore
Story by:
Rick Berman,
Brannon Braga,
Ronald D. Moore
Michael Piller
Story by:
Rick Berman,
Michael Piller
John Logan
Story by:
John Logan,
Rick Berman,
Brent Spiner
Roberto Orci,
Alex Kurtzman
Roberto Orci,
Alex Kurtzman,
Damon Lindelof
J. D. Payne,
Patrick McKay
Simon Pegg[29]
Doug Jung
Running time 132 minutes[31] 113 minutes[32] 105 minutes[33] 122 minutes[34] 106 minutes[35] 110 minutes[36] 118 minutes[37] 111 minutes[38] 103 minutes[39] 116 minutes[40] 126 minutes[41] 132 minutes[42]

Home video[edit]

The Star Trek films were the first media in the franchise to be released on DVD. The second through ninth films were issued in "vanilla versions," with their trailers being their only special features. The tenth film was the only film to have a single-disc release with a variety of special features.[citation needed]

In 2001, Paramount Pictures re-released the first film on DVD, which was redone with new computerized special effects to better satisfy the vision of Robert Wise. The Director's Edition was an enormous success and Paramount eventually re-released the rest of the films on two-disc special edition DVDs. The second and sixth film in these special editions were slightly extended. The original theatrical versions were only on the basic DVDs and Blu-rays. The DVD special editions of the first ten films were issued in sets as well, including all ten, the first six, and the last four.[citation needed]

The films were released on Blu-ray, with the original cast's films and The Next Generation '​s released in separate collections.[citation needed]


Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Box office gross Budget Reference
North America Other territories Worldwide Adjusted North America[43]
The Motion Picture December 7, 1979 $82,258,456 $56,741,544 $139,000,000 $267,292,837 $35 million [44]
The Wrath of Khan June 4, 1982 $79,912,963 $16,887,037 $96,800,000 $195,290,748 $12 million [45]
The Search for Spock June 1, 1984 $76,471,046 $10,528,954 $87,000,000 $173,590,744 $18 million [46]
The Voyage Home November 26, 1986 $109,713,132 $23,286,868 $133,000,000 $236,046,438 $24 million [47]
The Final Frontier June 9, 1989 $52,210,049 $17,989,951 $70,200,000 $99,332,246 $30 million [48]
The Undiscovered Country December 6, 1991 $74,888,996 $22,011,004 $96,900,000 $129,669,757 $27 million [49]
Generations November 18, 1994 $75,671,262 $44,328,738 $120,000,000 $120,404,633 $38 million [50]
First Contact November 22, 1996 $92,027,888 $57,972,112 $150,000,000 $138,383,544 $46 million [51]
Insurrection December 11, 1998 $70,187,658 $47,612,342 $117,800,000 $101,555,723 $70 million [52]
Nemesis December 13, 2002 $43,254,409 $24,058,417 $67,312,826 $56,714,893 $60 million [53]
Star Trek May 8, 2009 $257,730,019 $127,950,427 $385,680,446 $283,315,130 $140 million [54]
Into Darkness May 16, 2013 $228,778,661 $238,200,000 $466,978,661 $231,622,053 $190 million [55]
Total $1,243,104,539 $687,567,394 $1,930,671,933 $2,033,218,746 $690 million [56]

Critical and public response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
The Motion Picture 45% (33 reviews)[57] 48 (10 reviews)[58]
The Wrath of Khan 90% (48 reviews)[59] 71 (11 reviews)[60]
The Search for Spock 78% (41 reviews)[61] 55 (10 reviews)[62]
The Voyage Home 85% (39 reviews)[63] 67 (10 reviews)[64] A+[65]
The Final Frontier 21% (43 reviews)[66] 43 (16 reviews)[67] A-[65]
The Undiscovered Country 83% (48 reviews)[68] 65 (18 reviews)[69] A-[65]
Generations 48% (48 reviews)[70] 55 (22 reviews)[71] B+[65]
First Contact 92% (53 reviews)[72] 71 (18 reviews)[73] A-[65]
Insurrection 55% (67 reviews)[74] 64 (19 reviews)[75] B+[65]
Nemesis 37% (158 reviews)[76] 51 (29 reviews)[77] A-[65]
Star Trek 95% (298 reviews)[78] 83 (37 reviews)[79] A[65]
Into Darkness 87% (247 reviews)[80] 72 (43 reviews)[81] A[65]
List indicator(s)
  • A dark grey cell indicates the information is not available for the film.

Academy Awards[edit]

Award The Original Series Films The Next Generation Films Reboot
The Motion Picture The Wrath of Khan The Search for Spock The Voyage Home The Final Frontier The Undiscovered Country Generations First Contact Insurrection Nemesis Star Trek Into Darkness
Cinematography Nominated
Makeup and Hairstyling Nominated Nominated Won
Production Design Nominated
Original Score Nominated Nominated
Sound Editing Nominated Nominated Nominated
Sound Mixing Nominated Nominated
Visual Effects Nominated Nominated Nominated


Untitled Star Trek sequel (2016)[edit]

During an interview with HitFix, it was confirmed that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto will do at least one more film. Abrams has confirmed that he will not be directing the third film as he is busy working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but will produce it.[82][83][84][85] The film is rumored to be set for release in 2016, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the franchise.[86] In December 2013, it was announced and confirmed that Roberto Orci will return as screenwriter with McKay and Payne, but Orci's long-time collaborator Alex Kurtzman will not return as screenwriter[87] and Joe Cornish will not be involved in the film.[88] On April 22, 2014, Orci told Variety that he may be directing the film.[89] On May 9, 2014, reported that Orci was considered the lead candidate for director of the film.[90] A few days later, Variety confirmed that Orci will indeed direct the next installment.[91] William Shatner has revealed that Abrams contacted him about reprising the role of Captain Kirk in the film, despite the character's death in Star Trek Generations.[92] Zachary Quinto said that filming will probably begin by March 2015, and George Takei, who appeared as Sulu in the original series, may make a cameo.[93]

In December 2014, it was reported that Roberto Orci will no longer direct and that Edgar Wright, Rupert Wyatt, Morten Tyldum, Justin Lin, Daniel Espinosa and Duncan Jones were being looked at as a potential replacement, but Jones tweeted that he won't be directing the film.[94][95][96] A week later, it was announced that Lin will direct the film.[30]

On December 23, 2014, it was announced that the film will be released on July 8, 2016.[97] On December 24, 2014, Orci told Trek Movies that he will produce the film, but will not write the film.[98] On January 21, 2015, it was announced that Simon Pegg, who starred as Scotty in the film series since 2009, and Doug Jung, were hired to write the screenplay.[99]

Filming will commence on April 15, 2015, with Bryan Cranston and Idris Elba both in talks for the villain role.[100][101]


^1 Michael Dorn, who played Worf in The Next Generation series and films, portrayed that character's grandfather, also named Worf, in The Undiscovered Country.


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