September 29, 2022

Star Trek movies in order: Chronological and release

Star Trek movies in chronological order
Star Trek movies in chronological orderStar Trek movies in chronological order

We’ve got a guide to watching the Star Trek movies in order, decloaking off our starboard side!

So long as movies stick numbers on the ends of their titles, it’s easy to watch them in order. Once they start branching out, however, things can get a little muddled, especially when reboots come along and start the whole process over from scratch. 

You may have heard that the even-numbered ones are good and the odd-numbered ones are not. That’s spot on for the films starring the cast of The Original Series (aka Kirk and friends) falls apart once you reach the tenth entry in the series. It would probably be worth your while to have this list of the Star Trek movies, ranked worst to best around to steer clear of the clunkers. Look, we’re not going to pretend everything here is worth two hours of your day, we’re just letting you know which came out after which.

Should your Trek appetite remain unsatiated after your movie watchathon, feel free to pull from either our list of the best Star Trek: The Original series episodes or best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Either one will set you up for a weekend jam-packed with great Trek moments. Consult our Star Trek streaming guide for all the details on where to watch the movies and shows online 

Star Trek movies: Chronological order

Below is the quick version of our list if you just need to check something to win an argument, but it comes with a lot of in-universe time travel-related caveats that we’ll explain below.

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Star Trek
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek: Prime Timeline

The first thing you need to know about the Star Trek films is that while they travel back and forth in time, they also diverge into two (for now) different timelines. The films of the original crew (well, the first iteration of them, anyway – more on that later) are all in what is known as the Prime Timeline. 

Within the Prime Timeline, the movies are then split between The Original Series movies and The Next Generation movies.

The Original Series movies

1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Crew in Star Trek: The Motion Picture_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: December 8, 1979
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

This is the film that brought the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise to the big screen. An energy cloud is making its way toward Earth, destroying everything in its path. Kirk and crew intercept it and discover an ancient NASA probe at the heart of the cloud. Voyager – known as V’ger now – encountered a planet of living machines, learned all it could, and returned home to report its findings, only to find no one who knew how to answer. It’s a slow-paced film, and the costumes are about as 70s as they come, but there’s classic Star Trek at the heart of this film.


2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: June 4, 1982
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban

Ask a Star Trek fan what the best Star Trek movie is and more often than not, you’ll get Khan as your answer. A sequel to the events of the “Space Seed” episode of The Original Series, Khan is a retelling of Moby Dick with Khan throwing reason to the wind as he hunts his nemesis, James T. Kirk. Montalban delivers a pitch-perfect performance, giving us a Khan with charisma and obsession in equal parts.


3. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, and George Takei in Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: June 1, 1984
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Spock might have died in The Wrath of Khan, but this third entry set up the premise for his return, with the creation of the Genesis planet. Essentially a heist movie in reverse, Search for Spock has the crew defying orders from Starfleet in an attempt to reunite Spock’s consciousness with his newly-rejuvenated body. It’s not a great movie, but it does include two very important events: the rebirth of Spock and the death of Kirk’s son at the hands of the Klingons. That’ll be important a few flicks from now.   


4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols in Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: November 26, 1986
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Catherine Hicks

If Star Trek fans don’t say Khan is the best Star Trek movie, odds are very high they say Voyage Home is. It’s a funny film where the mission isn’t destruction, but creation – or more accurately, repairing the devastating effects of humankind’s ecological short-sightedness. 

A probe arrives at Earth, knocking out the power of everything in its path as it looks for someone to respond to its message (yeah, it happens a lot). This time, however, the intended recipient is the long-extinct blue whale. To save Earth, Kirk and co. go back in time to 1980s San Francisco to snag some blue whales. The eco-messaging isn’t exactly subtle, but it doesn’t get in the way of a highly enjoyable movie.


5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and Laurence Luckinbill in Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989)

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: June 9, 1989
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

A writers’ strike and Shatner’s directorial skills (or lack thereof) doomed this film before a single scene was shot. The core plot is actually pretty good: Spock’s half-brother hijacks the Enterprise so that he can meet God, which he believes to be… himself. Some Star Trek fans have an odd fondness for this movie, as it showcases the camaraderie of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy when they’re off-duty.


6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and Christopher Plummer in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: December 6, 1991
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Plummer

Right, so if that Star Trek fan you’ve been talking to doesn’t choose either Khan or Voyage Home as the best Star Trek movie ever, they almost certainly name Undiscovered Country (and if they don’t, they have highly questionable taste, frankly). The Klingon moon of Praxis explodes, putting the entire Klingon race at risk. The Enterprise hosts a diplomatic entourage of Klingons, much to Kirk’s discomfort. 

Remember how Klingons murdered Kirk’s son? Well, he certainly hasn’t forgotten. Kirk’s lingering rage makes him the perfect patsy for the murder of the Klingon Chancellor, sending him and McCoy to a prison planet and setting the stage for war. Christopher Plummer is perfection as a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon general with no taste for peace.

The Next Generation movies

7. Star Trek: Generations

Malcolm McDowell, Brian Thompson, and Gwynyth Walsh in Star Trek Generations (1994)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: November 18, 1994
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner

And thus the torch is passed from the crew of The Original Series to that of The Next Generation. It’s a bit of a fumble, to be honest, but they all did their best to get Kirk and Picard into the same film and have it make sense. Malcolm McDowell plays Soran, a scientist who will stop at nothing to control the Nexus, a giant space rainbow that exists outside of space-time. 

Soran lost his family when his home world was destroyed and he wants to re-join them (or at least an illusion of them) in the Nexus. He’s not so much a villain as a tragic figure, but the Nexus makes a meeting between Kirk and Picard possible. Not all that sensible, but possible.


U.S.S. Enterprise battling the Borg in Star Trek First Contact (1996)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: November 22, 1996
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Alice Krige

Okay, no, for real, if your Star Trek pal didn’t pick Khan or Voyage Home or… oh, nevermind. Cueing off the iconic two-part episode “Best of Both Worlds,” in which Picard is assimilated by the Borg, First Contact sees the collective traveling back in time in order to disrupt First Contact, the day Earth’s first foray into space attracted the attention of the Vulcans, kicking off the events that would eventually lead to Starfleet’s victory over the Borg. The Borg Queen torments Picard with visions of the past and tempts Data with humanity, going so far as to give him some human skin. 

The fight with the Borg aboard the Enterprise is thrilling, and the work on the surface to get first contact back on track is fun. Plus, there’s just nothing like Patrick Stewart turning it up to 11 as he lashes out at the enemy that haunts his dreams.


9. Star Trek: Insurrection

Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek Insurrection (1998)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: December 11, 1998
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, F. Murray Abraham

Essentially an episode inflated for the big screen, Insurrection is about the Federation conspiring to displace a planet’s population in order to harvest the planet’s unique resource – super healing metaphasic particles. In addition to the rejuvenating natural resource, the Ba’ku also have access to exceptional technology, which they shun in favor of a more simple lifestyle. 

Data malfunctions, the villains are Federation allies (and former Ba’ku!), Picard gets to knock boots with a local – Insurrection is the very definition of “fine.” Chronologically, Insurrection is relevant for rekindling the romance between Riker and Troi, but not much else.


10. Star Trek: Nemesis

Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy in Star Trek Nemesis (2002)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: December 13, 2002
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Tom Hardy

Before he mumbled his way into our hearts as Bane, Tom Hardy was Shinzon, a clone of Picard the Romulans created in an eventually abandoned attempt to infiltrate Starfleet. Shinzon is dying, and all that will save him is a transfusion of Picard’s blood. Unfortunately, Shinzon also happens to be a megalomaniac who happens to want to destroy all life on Earth and maybe a few other planets, too, if he’s feeling saucy. 

Nemesis is notable mostly for killing Data with a noble sacrifice, only to resurrect him moments later in a duplicate body found earlier by the Enterprise crew.

Star Trek: Kelvin Timeline

The last of the Prime Timeline movies failed to impress at the box office, so it was a few years before anyone tried to bring the Enterprise back to the big screen. Rather than lean on any of the TV crews, this new slate of movies would serve as a reboot, welcoming new audiences while honoring long-time fans. Welcome to the Kelvin Timeline. (For all the ins and outs, check out our Star Trek: Kelvin Timeline explained article).

11. Star Trek

John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, and Chris Pine in Star Trek (2009)_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: May 8, 2009
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban

Back to the beginning! Star Trek introduces us to James T. Kirk, Spock, and “Bones” McCoy as they meet and join the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Though the plot is a relatively straightforward affair of a Romulan named Nero trying to destroy the Earth. His anger borne out of grief, what matters most is how it all came to be. In the future, Spock – the Prime Timeline version – tries to save Romulus from being destroyed by a supernova, but fails. Both his ship and Nero’s are kicked back in time, setting off a chain of events that diverge from the original, “true” timeline. 

The name “Kelvin” refers to the U.S.S. Kelvin, the ship heroically captained by Kirk’s father, which is destroyed in the opening moments of the movie.


12. Star Trek Into Darkness

Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Pine in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)_© Zade Rosenthal_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: May 16, 2013
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch

The benefit of the Kelvin Timeline is that it not only allows Star Trek to explore canon material – such as Khan (he of the Wrath) – but to do something completely new with it. Khan features heavily in Into Darkness, but he has no beef with Kirk. Instead, a Starfleet Admiral is threatening the lives of Khan’s crew, forcing them to craft weapons of mass destruction. 

Khan inevitably eludes captivity and strikes out against Starfleet, killing Captain Pike (and a bunch of others) in the process. Kirk and company eventually take Khan down, but not before Kirk sacrifices himself to save his crew. Don’t worry, these things don’t last in either Star Trek timeline, as Kirk gets better moments later thanks to *checks notes* Khan’s super blood.


13. Star Trek Beyond

Idris Elba and Chris Pine in Star Trek Beyond (2016)_© Kimberley French_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
  • Release date: July 22, 2016
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba

Beyond leans into the camaraderie of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy now that they’ve had some time together, much to the movie’s benefit. The Enterprise is lured to Altamid under false pretenses, leading to much of the crew being marooned on the planet. The architect of the deception was Krall, who wants an opportunity to return to a galaxy where war is the order of the day. 

Beyond is a significant point in the timeline for two reasons. First, it sadly marked the death of Spock Prime due to the passing of Leonard Nimoy. Second, it culminates in the Enterprise embarking on the five-year-mission that started everything back in 1966.

Star Trek movies: Release order

If you can’t be bothered remembering two different orders for the Star Trek movies then we’ve got good news for you — the release order is identical to the chronological order that we’ve shown above (accounting for the Kelvin timeline as it’s own entity anyway).

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Star Trek
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Star Trek Beyond

Upcoming Star Trek movies

The full run of Star Trek films currently tops out at 13 entries; the fate of the 14th was hidden within a nebula of conflicting information. “Star Trek 4” was slated for December 22, 2023, but given that filming had yet to begin as of July 2022, it seems inevitable that date will change. Back in February 2022, Paramount that the principal cast would be returning for the fourth installment of the Kelvin timeline, a claim quickly disputed by the agents of those selfsame actors. Awkward.

Soon after, however, Chris Pine eventually signed on the dotted line, and his shipmates reached their own agreements. As of right now, Kirk (Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban, assuming he can make it work around filming of The Boys), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldaña), and Sulu (John Cho) are all ready to beam up and get filming. Sadly, this will be the first of the Kelvin films to not feature Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov. Yelchin died in an accident at his home in 2016. It’s currently unclear if Chekov will be recast or if a different character will take his place on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Though the Kelvin timeline is often referred to as “J.J. Abrams Trek,” he won’t be directing Star Trek 4; Matt Shakman will take on that responsibility, leaving Abrams to produce. As for what it will be about, that’s anyone’s guess, but Chris Pine told Deadline (opens in new tab) he hopes this one tells a smaller story that appeals to the core Trek audience. “Let’s make the movie for the people that love this group of people, that love this story, that love Star Trek,” he said. “Let’s make it for them and then, if people want to come to the party, great.” It’s a strategy that makes sense; the disappointment with recent Trek films hasn’t been their content so much as their box office. A Trek film with a smaller scope (and budget) would almost certainly have a very healthy profit margin while also resonating with the fanbase.   

With no new announcements coming from San Diego Comic-Con 2022, it seems that we’ll have to wait for any more insight into the next Star Trek film. Sill, recent comments from Paramount CEO Brian Robbins have us cautiously optimistic: “We’re deep into [Star Trek 4] with J.J. Abrams, and it feels like we’re getting close to the starting line and excited about where we’re going creatively,” he told Variety (opens in new tab)