Star Trek (film franchise)

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Star Trek
Star Trek movie logo 2009.jpg
Star Trek Logo
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
Budget$674.2 million (all films)
Box office$1.97 billion (all films)
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Star Trek
Star Trek movie logo 2009.jpg
Star Trek Logo
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
Budget$674.2 million (all films)
Box office$1.97 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 would change 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.

The Star Trek films have received 14 Academy Award nominations. 2009's Star Trek won for "Best Makeup and Hairstyling" in 2010, and four of the previous films had been 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. The films are now available on Blu-ray high definition discs.

A sequel to 2009's Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, was released in theaters in May 2013.



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 box office success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind convinced Paramount that science fiction films other than Star Wars could do 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 Original Series cast[edit]

The Motion Picture's gross was considered disappointing, but it was enough for Paramount to back a sequel, though 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.[8] 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,[9] which he described as "Horatio Hornblower in outer space."[8] Upon release, the reception of The Wrath of Khan was highly positive;[10] Entertainment Weekly's Mark Bernadin called The Wrath of Khan, "the film that, by most accounts, saved Star Trek as we know it".[11]

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.[12] The producer penned a resurrection story for Spock that built on threads from the previous film and the original series episode "Amok Time".

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 being 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 of the script.

William Shatner was promised his turn as director for Star Trek V and Nicholas Meyer returned as director for Star Trek VI. Shatner's film was less well-received than the Nimoy-directed films.

The Next Generation cast[edit]

Both the sixth and seventh films acted as transitions between the films featuring the original cast and those with the cast of Next Generation 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 at the box office.

Star Trek (2009)[edit]

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,[13] entitled Star Trek: The Beginning, which would take place after Enterprise but before The Original Series.[14] 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.[15] In February 2007, Abrams accepted Paramount's offer to direct the new Star Trek film, having been previously attached as producer.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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 "Curse"[edit]

Fans commonly considered the films to follow a "curse" that even-numbered films were better than the odd-numbered installments.[19][20] The tenth film, Nemesis, was considered the even film that defied the curse.[19][21][22] The failure of Nemesis and subsequent success of Star Trek (2009) is considered to have broken the trend,[23][24] 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.[25] The curse is well-known enough that it has been mentioned often in pop culture. One of the best known 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,[26] played Scotty in the reboot film.

Plot synopses and series connections[edit]

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.

The Wrath of Khan (1982)[edit]

Khan Noonian 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 crewmember who acts courageously and dies during an attack on the Enterprise is Scotty's nephew.

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. In order 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. Bent on obtaining the secret of Genesis for themselves, however, 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.

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. The signal is intended for the long-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 third and fourth films were both directed by Leonard Nimoy (also co-writer of the fourth), best known as the actor playing Spock.

The Final Frontier (1989)[edit]

Spock's half-brother 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 zealot, seeking glory in what he views as an opportunity to avenge his people of the deaths of their crewmen at Genesis, sets his sights on Kirk.

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 TV series. It is the second and last Trek film directed by Nicholas Meyer and last script co-authored by Leonard Nimoy.

Generations (1994)[edit]

Picard enlists the services of Kirk, who is presumed long dead but flourishes in an extradimensional realm, to prevent 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.

First Contact (1996)[edit]

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

This is one of the most popular Star Trek films following Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.[citation needed] It is also a spin off of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ("The Best of Both Worlds").

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 in order 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.

Nemesis (2002)[edit]

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 false pretences.

This film was a critical and commercial failure (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.

Star Trek (2009)[edit]

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 prevent 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.

Into Darkness (2013)[edit]

A Starfleet special agent (Benedict Cumberbatch) coerces an officer into blowing up a secret installation in London, then shoots up a subsequent meeting of Starfleet brass in San Francisco and 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 his mission, and the man himself, than the Fleet Admiral has told them.


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 but will produce and work on the film and is looking at Rupert Wyatt or Joe Cornish to direct it and and Orci will work with J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay to write the film.[29][30][31][32] The film is rumored to be released in 2016 coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the franchise. [33] In December 2013 it was announced and confirmed that Roberto Orci will return as screenwriter with Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, but Orci's long-time collaborator Alex Kurtzman will not return as screenwriter.[34] That same month, Cornish has reported not involved with the film.[35]

Cast members[edit]

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

The Motion Picture (1979)The Wrath of Khan (1982)The Search for Spock (1984)The Voyage Home (1986)The Final Frontier (1989)The Undiscovered Country (1991)Generations (1994)First Contact (1996)Insurrection (1998)Nemesis (2002)Star Trek (2009)Into Darkness (2013)
KirkWilliam ShatnerChris Pine, Jimmy BennettChris Pine
SpockLeonard NimoyLeonard Nimoy,
Carl Steven,
Vadia Potenza,
Stephen Manley,
Joe W. Davis
Leonard NimoyZachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Jacob KoganZachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy
ScottyJames DoohanSimon Pegg
ChekovWalter KoenigAnton Yelchin
McCoyDeForest KelleyKarl Urban
SuluGeorge TakeiJohn Cho
UhuraNichelle NicholsZoe Saldana
PicardPatrick Stewart
RikerJonathan Frakes
La ForgeLeVar Burton
DataBrent Spiner
WorfMichael Dorn*
CrusherGates McFadden
TroiMarina Sirtis

Crew and other[edit]

The Motion Picture (1979)The Wrath of Khan (1982)The Search for Spock (1984)The Voyage Home (1986)The Final Frontier (1989)The Undiscovered Country (1991)Generations (1994)First Contact (1996)Insurrection (1998)Nemesis (2002)Star Trek (2009)Into Darkness (2013)
DirectorRobert WiseNicholas MeyerLeonard NimoyWilliam ShatnerNicholas MeyerDavid CarsonJonathan FrakesStuart BairdJ. J. Abrams
MusicJerry GoldsmithJames HornerLeonard RosenmanJerry GoldsmithCliff EidelmanDennis McCarthyJerry Goldsmith,
Joel Goldsmith
Jerry GoldsmithMichael Giacchino
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 BennettScreenplay:
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
Running time132 minutes113 minutes105 minutes119 minutes107 minutes109 minutes117 minutes111 minutes103 minutes116 minutes126 minutes132 minutes


Academy Awards[edit]

AwardThe Original Series FilmsThe Next Generation FilmsReboot
The Motion PictureThe Wrath of KhanThe Search for SpockThe Voyage HomeThe Final FrontierThe Undiscovered CountryGenerationsFirst ContactInsurrectionNemesisStar TrekInto Darkness
Makeup and HairstylingNominationNominationWon
Production DesignNomination
Original ScoreNominationNomination
Sound EditingNominationNominationNomination
Sound MixingNominationNomination
Visual EffectsNominationNomination

Box office performance[edit]

FilmRelease dateBox office revenueBox office rankingBudgetReference
DomesticForeignWorldwideAdjusted DomesticAll time domesticAll time worldwide
The Motion PictureDecember 7, 1979$82,258,456$56,741,544$139,000,000$260,212,000#695$35,000,000[36][37]
The Wrath of KhanJune 4, 1982$78,912,963$16,887,037$97,000,000$213,118,700#741$11,000,000[38][39]
The Search for SpockJune 1, 1984$76,471,046$10,528,954$87,000,000$180,708,400#770$18,000,000[40][41]
The Voyage HomeNovember 26, 1986$109,713,132$23,286,868$133,000,000$229,227,500#454$24,000,000[42][43]
The Final FrontierJune 9, 1989$52,210,049$17,989,951$70,200,000$104,420,100#1261$30,000,000[44][45]
The Undiscovered CountryDecember 6, 1991$74,888,996$22,011,004$96,900,000$142,092,200#802$27,000,000[46][47]
GenerationsNovember 18, 1994$75,671,125$44,328,738$120,000,000$143,280,100#784$35,000,000[48][49]
First ContactNovember 22, 1996$92,027,888$57,972,112$150,000,000$164,686,600#594$46,000,000[50][51]
InsurrectionDecember 11, 1998$70,187,658$47,612,342$117,800,000$116,707,600#876$58,000,000[52][53]
NemesisDecember 13, 2002$43,254,409$24,058,417$67,312,826$58,440,700#1532$60,000,000[54][55]
Star TrekMay 8, 2009$257,730,019$127,950,427$385,680,446$274,311,200#67#179$140,000,000[56][57]
Into DarknessMay 16, 2013$228,778,661$238,586,585$467,365,246$221,206,000#97#133$190,000,000[58]

Critical reception[edit]

FilmRotten TomatoesMetacritic
The Motion Picture45% (33 reviews)[59]48 (10 reviews)[60]
The Wrath of Khan90% (48 reviews)[61]71 (11 reviews)[62]
The Search for Spock78% (40 reviews)[63]55 (10 reviews)[64]
The Voyage Home85% (39 reviews)[65]67 (10 reviews)[66]
The Final Frontier21% (43 reviews)[67]43 (16 reviews)[68]
The Undiscovered Country83% (48 reviews)[69]65 (18 reviews)[70]
Generations47% (47 reviews)[71]55 (22 reviews)[72]
First Contact92% (53 reviews)[73]71 (18 reviews)[74]
Insurrection55% (67 reviews)[75]64 (19 reviews)[76]
Nemesis37% (158 reviews)[77]51 (29 reviews)[78]
Star Trek95% (297 reviews)[79]83 (37 reviews)[80]
Into Darkness87% (244 reviews)[81]72 (43 reviews)[82]
Average Ratings67%62

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 (I-VI) and The Next Generation's (VII-X) released in separate collections.[citation needed]


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