Conventional wisdom has it that the even-numbered movies in the franchise are better than the odd-numbered pictures, and the quality of villains often reflects that but not always. Here, then, is a ranking of "Star Trek" movie villains, from worst to best.
Gallery | Ranking Every 'Star Trek' Movie Villain
- 11. Sybok ('Star Trek V: The Final Frontier')
Most "Trek" fans cite the William Shatner-directed "Star Trek V" as the lamest entry in the franchise, and Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill) is a big reason why. A Vulcan who's on a most illogical quest -- to find God -- he manages to hijack the Enterprise. One advantage he has is that Spock is his half-brother and therefore can't bring himself to kill him. Sybok puts the ship at risk, both from Klingon attack and from damage from the Great Barrier at the edge of the galaxy. All this, just to find a powerful being who turns out to be a projection of his own id. D'oh!
- 10. Whale Probe ('Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home')
As in the initial "Trek" movie, the probe isn't really a villain, just a blundering machine that doesn't realize it will destroy all life on Earth if it doesn't get the response it wants from its outgoing message. Turns out that the only creatures who can respond are humpback whales, long extinct. Kirk and company are forced to travel back in time, to our own era, to rescue some whales and bring them back to the future. So, despite being a lame villain and occasioning a preachy environmental message, the alien probe does inspire one of the best "Trek" adventures, one that wittily and poignantly outlines the contrast between the optimistic "Trek" future and our own troubled age.
- 9. V'Ger ('Star Trek: The Motion Picture')
The villain of the first "Star Trek" movie isn't that much of a villain. In what's essentially a big-screen redo of the episode "The Changeling" from the original series, world-destroying menace V'Ger turns out to be one of NASA's old Voyager probes, having gained new powers and misguided reprogramming during an encounter with a mechanical alien intelligence decades before. After some cosmic bluffing by Kirk, some tinkering by the techies, and the self-sacrifice of new character Capt. Decker (Stephen Collins), all is made right with the universe, and a sense of optimistic awe among the Enterprise crew is restored.
- 8. Soran ('Star Trek Generations')
Malcolm McDowell can play sneering villains in his sleep, which is what he seemed to be doing here. He's a mad scientist who's desperate to return to a floating ribbon of time-space distortion called the Nexus, where dreams are made real. Never mind that his manipulations of the Nexus threaten to destroy star systems and kill hundreds of millions. Soran's a dream junkie who won't be denied his fix. He gets some threat-level points for causing (yet again) the destruction of the Enterprise and for being responsible for the sloppy, ignoble death of Captain Kirk, who really deserved better. But otherwise, he's little more than the device by which Kirk passes the "Trek" torch to Jean-Luc Picard and the "Next Generation" crew.
- 7. Ahdar Ru'afo ('Star Trek: Insurrection')
In what unspools like one of the little morality plays that often made up the TV episodes of the various "Star Trek" series, the Enterprise crew get caught up in a civil war on a bucolic planet of seemingly eternal youth, between the well-preserved locals and an exiled faction who've aged grotesquely and hope to strip the planet of its healing radiation for their own exclusive use. Leading the latter faction is Ahdar Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham), whose mummified appearance is the scariest thing about him. (Well, that and his ability to trick Starfleet officers into attacking each other's ships in the name of science.) Picard handily dispatches him with a trick of his own, and the two groups reconcile and live happily ever after. Abraham admitted in an interview that getting to wear a mask "had me chewing at the scenery." A little of that hamminess is expected of "Star Trek villains, but it goes a long way.
- 6. Shinzon ('Star Trek: Nemesis')
In a plot that's preposterous even by "Star Trek" suspension-of-disbelief standards, Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is a Picard clone who plots to conquer both the Romulan empire and the Federation. Oh, and because he's a rapidly aging clone, he needs to obtain Picard's blood to extend his life. Not that that stops him from nearly destroying the Enterprise out of sheer petulance. (As a Tom Hardy villain, Shinzon's no Bane.) Picard's ultimate confrontation with his young doppelganger ought to carry more weight, but (in a move that rips off the end of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"), Data upstages the pair by saving the Enterprise via his own self-sacrifice. Just think, if he'd caused Wesley Crusher's death instead, Shinzon could have been a fan favorite.
- 5. Nero ('Star Trek')
Eric Bana doesn't Hulk out as a rebellious Romulan named Nero. Like the similar Shinzon of "Star Trek: Nemesis," he just whines a lot. He does manage to turn a personal vendetta against Spock into an all-consuming blood feud, one that claims the lives of Kirk's father, Spock's mother, and (oh, yeah) the entire planet Vulcan. Altering the canonical history of the whole "Star Trek" franchise is, admittedly, pretty badass. And dying by being sucked into a black hole of his own making is some neat poetic justice.
- 4. Chang ('Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country')
The Klingon General Chang (Christopher Plummer) would have been a scarier villain if he hadn't been so obvious -- first, because of his clearly menacing appearance (he has an eye-patch bolted onto his face) and second, because Plummer plays him with the hammy flourish of the old-school Shakespearean stage actor that he is. Framing Kirk and McCoy for sabotaging Federation-Klingon peace talks, then prosecuting them in a Klingon court and sentencing them to a hard-labor prison planet, Plummer's Chang is all barks and sneers. Still, it takes the Starfleet crew a ridiculously long time to figure out that Chang is one of several co-conspirators trying to sabotage the peace accord themselves. Chang pilots a stealth warship that, unlike most Klingon vessels, doesn't have to shut off its invisibility cloak in order to fire, but Spock figures out the ship's weakness, allowing the Enterprise to destroy it. Tough break, Patchy.
- 3. Kruge ('Star Trek III: The Search for Spock')
Back in the olden days, when Klingons were still belligerent enemies and not uneasy allies of the Federation, Commander Kruge (played by an unrecognizable Christopher Lloyd) proved to be one of the more badass Klingon warriors. Hoping to snatch the life-generating Genesis device as a Klingon weapon, Kluge comes into conflict with the Enterprise. Not only does his bird-of-prey warship attack Kirk's vessel, but he's also responsible for the capture and execution of Kirk's son, David, and indirectly responsible for the destruction of the Enterprise. A grief-stricken Kirk and Kluge finally go mano-a-mano on a precipice overlooking a lava pit, even while the Genesis planet is moments away from blowing itself up. Kirk wins and makes his usual hair's-breadth escape. It's all pretty silly and old-fashioned, but the Kluge subplot does make for a nice distraction from the cheesy resurrection-of-Spock main plot.
- 2. Borg Queen ('Star Trek: First Contact')
As in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," one of the best of the "Star Trek" TV villains also makes for one of the best of the movie villains. In this case, it's the Borg, the hive-mind race of cyborgs, who briefly assimilated Capt. Picard during the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "The Best of Both Worlds." In the second and best of the "Next Generation" movies, a haunted Picard must confront the Borg again when they travel back in time to prevent Earthlings from building their first interstellar spaceship, meeting aliens for the first time, and founding the Federation. The movie Borg are even scarier than the TV Borg, thanks in no small part to the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), alluring, arrogant, and treacherous. Her near-assimilation of Enterprise android Data evokes the great theme of "Star Trek," the question of what it means to be human. In the case of the Borg, their vestigial humanity proves to be their greatest vulnerability, while for Picard and even Data, it's their greatest strength.
- 1. Khan (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) had been one of the more charismatic villains on the original series. A genetically engineered superman who had once tried to conquer Earth, and then the galaxy, he'd been left by the Enterprise to colonize and rule a distant world. But as we discover in "Star Trek II," that planet had been all but destroyed in a cosmic accident, killing Mrs. Khan and leaving the weatherbeaten ubermensch howling at the universe for Kirk's blood. Finally, the Capt. Ahab-quoting Khan gets his chance for revenge when the unlucky Chekov lands on his blasted planet. (Khan takes over his mind by letting a nasty-looking scorpion-like creature crawl into Chekov's ear.) After a space battle that kills poor Scotty's cadet nephew, Khan appears to succeed in his plan to take all that Kirk loves and abandon him to the same desolation he endured. (Hence Kirk's galaxy-filling cry of anguish and rage: "KHAAANNN!!!!") Then again, maybe Khan hasn't read "Moby-Dick" that closely, or he'd have remembered that the whale kills Ahab. Kirk escapes from captivity and mortally wounds Khan in another space battle. The dying villain quotes Ahab one more time before striking a potentially lethal blow at the Enterprise. Kirk ultimately saves his ship but loses his best friend, Spock, in an act of pragmatic self-sacrifice. Khan is the best villain, then, because he is the one who acts not out of power-lust or misguided good intentions, but out of sheer personal spite, and he's also the one who's grand quest for vengeance forces the Enterprise to make contact with high tragedy worthy of the Melville, Dickens, and Milton works its officers love to quote.