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Ranking Star Trek Movies By How Much They Made At The Box Office

Space may be the final frontier for humanity to venture into, but somewhere even more important for "Star Trek" features is the movie theater. Here is where audiences experience new adventures starring beloved captains, admirals, and assorted crew members with countless other strangers, all bonded over the emotions that only "Star Trek" can deliver. This realm is also where box office receipts are collected, a critical factor in determining the course trajectory of the "Star Trek" franchise. Dating back to the days of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" becoming a big enough success to spawn several sequels, dollars and cents have played as big a part in determining the future of "Star Trek" as anything else in this eternal saga.

Ranking the "Star Trek" movies by how much money they grossed at the worldwide box office, from lowest to highest-grossing, it becomes clearer than ever why certain entries in this series took off like a rocket with general audiences while others just sank like a stone and nearly capsized the entire franchise. Given that these movies have been released over multiple decades, this practice also gives one a peek into box office trends of different eras. Most importantly, though, breaking down the reasons the most lucrative "Star Trek" titles were so successful is bound to make one further appreciate the specific joys "Star Trek" has been unleashing for so long now.

Star Trek: Nemesis

Around 2002, the "Star Trek" film series wasn't a massive blockbuster property, but it had turned into a steady moneymaker for Paramount Pictures. The three preceding installments in the series, each starring the cast members of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," had all managed to crack $117 million globally, while 1996's "Star Trek: First Contact" had even hit $150 million worldwide. All that good financial fortune would come grinding to a halt with "Star Trek: Nemesis," which ended its worldwide box office run with a dismal $67.3 million, including an atrocious $43.2 million in North America.

That worldwide gross was down 43% from the global total of the last "Star Trek" title, "Star Trek: Insurrection" and was beneath all prior "Star Trek" adventures. A multitude of problems plagued "Nemesis" at the box office, including getting dwarfed at the box office by other blockbusters. Opening one week before "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," "Nemesis" had much more competition to face than prior "Star Trek" titles. For comparison's sake, the biggest wide releases "Star Trek: Insurrection" had to face four years earlier were "Jerry Maguire" and "Mighty Joe Young." Meanwhile, that four-year gap since "Insurrection" also hurt "Nemesis," especially since the former garnered a divisive response. Considering all these factors, it becomes significantly less surprising that "Star Trek: Nemesis" hit a new box office low for the "Star Trek" saga.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The "Star Trek" film series was coming off a box office high note with "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," and "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" hoped to keep the good times rolling. Paramount's renewed confidence in this saga was reaffirmed by scheduling "Star Trek V" for release in the heart of summertime, instead of the Thanksgiving launch of "The Voyage Home." Unfortunately, "The Final Frontier" ended up coming up short on box office expectations with only $70.2 million worldwide, down 45% from the global box office gross of "The Voyage Home" and the lowest-grossing "Star Trek" title up to that point.

The biggest issue "The Final Frontier" faced was its release date. This "Star Trek" entry wasn't just opening in the summertime, it was opening in June 1989. The summer of 1989 was a famously crowded corridor that saw "The Final Frontier" opening right after "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and directly before the debuts of "Ghostbusters II" and "Batman." With all these heavyweight franchises to contend with, it's no wonder "The Final Frontier" got lost in the shuffle. Downright negative critical reviews also didn't help, especially since this installment was coming off the well-liked "The Voyage Home." Though not a total box office failure, "The Final Frontier" brought the "Star Trek" series back down to Earth after a big boost in financial clout.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

At the end of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," Spock had perished...or had he? "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock," as the title implied, would be all about whether or not this Vulcan would be returning to the franchise full time. The prospect of seeing a fan-favorite character come back wasn't enough to make "The Search for Spock" bigger than all other preceding "Star Trek" movies, but it did manage to deliver a solid showing all the same.

In North America, "The Search for Spock" dropped into theaters in June 1984 and grossed $76.4 million, roughly on par with the $78.9 million gross of "The Wrath of Khan." On an $18 million budget, that was more than enough to make this a profitable venture and enough to make it one of the 10 biggest films in North America in 1984. The positive buzz from "The Wrath of Khan" and the promise of seeing Spock return had lured in moviegoers once more. The biggest problem here, though, was the international figures, which reflected that overseas audiences had finally given up on "Star Trek." International box office amounted to only $10.6 million, a far cry from the $56.8 million "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" accumulated from those same territories in 1979. Still, the domestic gross was solid enough to make "The Search for Spock" a reasonable success.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

In modern discussions about the "Star Trek" movies, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" tends to be talked about in the same manner as "The Empire Strikes Back" or "The Godfather Part II" as a sequel that vastly surpasses its predecessor. Given this reputation, it's shocking to remember that "The Wrath of Khan" is one of the lower-grossing "Star Trek" movies worldwide. Just because it's not as lucrative as other "Star Trek" features, though, doesn't mean "The Wrath of Khan" was a total wipeout financially.

In its entire box office run, "The Wrath of Khan" managed to score $95.8 million worldwide, a 30% drop from the global gross of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Much of this appears to be due to international grosses, as "The Wrath of Khan" only decreased from its predecessor by 5% domestically but was down a staggering 70% from the first movie globally. Perhaps the novelty of seeing the "Star Trek" characters on the big screen had just worn off for moviegoers in these territories by the time "The Wrath of Khan" rolled around. Still, solid domestic grosses and positive reviews ensured that "Star Trek II" was nowhere near the end of the road for the Enterprise crew at the movies.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The U.S.S. Enterprise has often gotten out of tricky situations, but by 1991, the "Star Trek" franchise was in a conundrum that could have stumped even Captain Kirk. "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" had brought the franchise to a new low at the worldwide box office. The financial viability of this property as a big-screen enterprise was suddenly more questionable than ever. The pressure was on for "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" to bring home the box office bacon and reignite people's passion for this series.

Luckily, several factors coalesced into making "The Undiscovered Country" a needed box office hit. This included the film scoring positive reviews and its release date tying into the 25th anniversary of the original "Star Trek" TV series. The latter event helped "The Undiscovered Country" rocket its way to $96.9 million worldwide, a great haul for a $27 million-budgeted movie. That was also enough to make this installment the 13th biggest movie of 1991. While below the global grosses of two preceding "Star Trek" titles, "The Undiscovered Country" managed to conquer some daunting challenges and get this franchise back into shape at the box office.

Star Trek: Insurrection

With "Star Trek: First Contact," the "Next Generation" era of "Star Trek" movies had hit a new financial high. Naturally, there would be a sequel in the form of "Star Trek: Insurrection." The hope here was to maintain the box office momentum of "First Contact" and, initially, it looked like "Insurrection" would be able to do just that. Box Office Guru reported that the film cracked $22.1 million on opening weekend. That was beneath the domestic debuts of its two predecessors, but the hope was that opening in December (in contrast to the November launch pads of the previous "Star Trek" installments) would keep this one around longer. Plus "Insurrection" opened atop all other movies in North America, giving Paramount Pictures its 19th instance of ruling a domestic box office weekend in 1998.

In the end, "Star Trek: Insurrection" didn't quite hold on as strongly as it could have, with the film eventually grossing just $70.1 million domestically, a sharp 25% decline from "Star Trek: First Contact." Worse, its worldwide haul was only $117 million, a disappointing sum for a title that cost $70 million to produce. After hitting a high with "First Contact," "Insurrection" charted the "Star Trek" franchise into bumpier terrain.

Star Trek: Generations

When it came to "Star Trek: Generations," the box office pressure was on. This franchise wasn't exactly in the doldrums when "Generations" was preparing to hit movie theaters, but it wasn't in peak shape either. The last two entries in the saga had failed to clear $100 million worldwide and now it was time for the "Next Generation" cast members to headline movies. It was understandable to be concerned over whether or not people would flock to movie theaters to see Picard and company the same way they had to see the highest-grossing movies headlined by Kirk's U.S.S. Enterprise crew.

"Generations" did have an ace up its sleeve, though, in the form of William Shatner coming back as Kirk to pass the torch. Melding the old and the new like this made for a perfect marketing gimmick to hinge the whole film on. As a result, "Generations" was able to make $120 million globally, the third-biggest haul for a "Star Trek" title up to that point. The only downside was that this was the installment where it became clear that "Star Trek" wasn't gaining much momentum internationally. "Generations" grossed a mere $44.3 million in overseas territories and wound up the 18th biggest movie of 1994 worldwide, a far cry from when "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was the fourth-biggest movie of 1979 globally. Still, "Generations" was a hit in every other respect and a rousing start to the "Next Generation" crew's tenure as "Star Trek" movie stars.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

In the context of "Star Trek" as an entire franchise, "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" can best be described as "the one with the whales." The simpler and lighter plot of this outing could have made it the movie where "Star Trek" jumped the shark and embraced flights of fancy over more intellectual pursuits. Instead, this premise helped inspire a movie that's still generating positive responses to this day, with many calling it a high point in the entire franchise. This extremely appreciative response can be traced back to the film's initial theatrical release in 1986, when "The Voyage Home" scored significant box office results.

In its worldwide run, "The Voyage Home" grossed $133 million, including a $109.7 million North American haul. The latter sum made it the only "Star Trek" title to exceed $100 million domestically until "Star Trek" in 2009. Made on a $24 million budget, "The Voyage Home" was wildly profitable and was the fifth-biggest movie released in 1986 globally. Even back then, audiences were wild about "The Voyage Home," as seen by how it was given an A+ CinemaScore grade by audiences. When you make a film that resonates with people, especially when it involves whales, the sky is the limit for your box office potential.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The "Star Trek" film series began in 1979, with the fittingly titled "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." This being the first time the franchise played on the big screen, not to mention the first time cast members like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy worked together since "The Original Series" went off the air a decade earlier, "The Motion Picture" was a theatrical event. Its eventual box office run managed to live up to the hype, scoring $139 million worldwide.

That was enough to make "The Motion Picture" the fourth-biggest movie of 1979 globally and, for nearly two decades, the biggest entry in the "Star Trek" series worldwide. All the anticipation for this production no doubt fueled its box office success, but it didn't hurt that "The Motion Picture" was able to premiere right after "Star Wars" and "Superman: The Movie" fueled the hunger of audiences for big-budget sci-fi blockbusters. Though its tone was more "2001: A Space Odyssey" than "Star Wars," the concept of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was right in line with what moviegoers were hungering for. Though a sizeable (for that era) $44 million budget meant that it wasn't an enormously profitable venture, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" still did more than well enough to launch the next era of "Star Trek" adventures.

Star Trek: First Contact

The website TrekMovie did a breakdown in 2008 of the marketing campaigns for each of the "Star Trek" films. When it came to 1996's "Star Trek: First Contact," the site observed that this feature had the most widespread marketing campaign of any of the "Star Trek" movies starring the "Next Generation" cast members. The ubiquitous presence of promotional materials culminated in "Star Trek: First Contact" becoming a major box office hit, one that became the biggest "Star Trek" entry globally until 2009.

Scoring such a noticeable achievement came largely down to the positive reception that the film stoked among "Star Trek" devotees. In a retrospective on the film for The Hollywood Reporter, "First Contact" cast and crew members such as screenwriter Brannon Braga recalled that the movie played like gangbusters to theatrical audiences, a sign that word-of-mouth was bound to be strong. This was borne out in the picture's box office performance, as it soared across the cinematic landscape with $150 million worldwide, including a notable $92 million domestically. The latter number was enough to make it the 17th biggest movie of 1992 and the third-biggest feature of the year for Paramount in North America. Launching at Thanksgiving, not to mention an avalanche of marketing, made "First Contact" a prime moviegoing option for people everywhere.

Star Trek Beyond

The third entry in the rebooted "Star Trek" film series, "Star Trek Beyond" brought director Justin Lin to the franchise while also attempting to bring things a bit closer to the meditative and ensemble nature of the original "Star Trek" (albeit with motorcycle stunts and a Beastie Boys needle drop). However, arriving seven years after the 2009 "Star Trek" movie, the novelty of seeing young Kirk and Spock had worn off a bit. Exacerbating matters was that "Star Trek Beyond" was opening in late July 2016, a crowded month for summertime fare that meant this new installment would be opening directly before "Jason Bourne" and "Suicide Squad."

"Star Trek Beyond" would eventually gross $158.1 million domestically, a 28% drop from the North American haul of "Star Trek Into Darkness," but beyond all pre-2009 "Star Trek" movies in the territory. The bigger problem, though, was the $176.8 million international gross, a lackluster sum for a summer tentpole that cost $185 million to make. Grossing only $335.6 million globally, "Star Trek Beyond" was undoubtedly hindered by strong competition from other blockbusters. However, it didn't help that the marketing failed to establish an especially strong villain, while the divisive nature of "Star Trek Into Darkness" hurt the public's perception of this iteration of the franchise. Even as it wound up the third-biggest installment in the saga, "Star Trek Beyond" couldn't help but come off as underwhelming.

Star Trek

The 2009 "Star Trek" movie wasn't just a reboot of the "Star Trek" series. It was also a do-or-die moment for the franchise's box office prospects. After "Star Trek: Nemesis" had flopped at the box office seven years earlier, the cinematic landscape had changed further. "Star Trek" would now be opening in May 2009 in a summer blockbuster scene defined by superheroes and transforming robots. Would there be room anymore for Captain Kirk and friends? Could this saga get the "Batman Begins" treatment or would "Star Trek" go into the wastebasket of pop culture properties?

Turns out, those understandable concerns were not warranted. "Star Trek" took off like a rocket at the box office, especially in North America. While no prior "Trek" movie had exceeded $110 million domestically, "Star Trek" managed to speed past that mark in its second weekend of release, on its way to a $257.7 million haul. Overseas, the franchise was more subdued, but the $119.1 million intake from international countries was still a sizeable increase from all other entries in the saga. "Star Trek" managed to exceed all box office norms, thanks to a reboot that promised familiar characters like Kirk and Spock but told in a fast-paced, action-heavy manner that could appeal to 21st-century moviegoers. It was the perfect blend of the old and the new, and when you throw in excellent reviews, then it seems like "Star Trek" was always destined to reenergize the saga.

Star Trek Into Darkness

It took a little while to get a sequel to the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot off the ground. Thanks to director J.J. Abrams committing to the 2011 sci-fi hit "Super 8," he couldn't get around to delivering a further "Star Trek" movie until May 2013. Arriving four years after its predecessor, this project was wrapped up in mystery, particularly around who exactly new cast member Benedict Cumberbatch was playing.

All the speculation and anticipation resulted in "Star Trek Into Darkness" grossing $467.3 million worldwide. This sizable haul made it the first "Star Trek" title to crack $400 million globally and also the first installment in the franchise to gross more internationally than domestically. That was big enough to make the project the 14th largest title of 2013 globally. The only downside here was that "Into Darkness" made less than the 2009 "Star Trek" movie in North America. This result was likely due to the lengthy wait for the sequel and "Into Darkness" opening between "Iron Man 3" and "Fast and Furious 6." On the other hand, "Into Darkness" maintaining 88% of its predecessor's domestic haul despite these obstacles speaks to how much the 2009 "Star Trek" had resonated with audiences. In the end, "Star Trek Into Darkness" still managed to take the saga where no "Star Trek" movie had gone before at the box office.