Last week, The Switch compared the popularity of the Star Trek television shows. This week, we're excited to provide a slightly deeper dive into the Star Trek film franchise. Of course, complete with charts.
The first Star Trek movie was released in 1979 — a full decade after the original television show left the airwaves. That first film, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," has the second-lowest Internet Movie Database (IMDB) user rating at 6.3. But its worldwide box office gross was $139 million. Adjusted for inflation, that's $454.8 million in 2014 dollars — putting it somewhere in between the inflation-adjusted returns of the two films in the rebooted film saga that began in 2009.
The two rebooted films are the top-rated by IMDB users out of the all 12 entries of Star Trek film canon — with 2009's "Star Trek" earning an 8.1 and "Into Darkness" garnering a 7.9. The top-rated film featuring the original cast was "The Wrath of Khan" with a 7.8, while the Picard-helmed Next Generation crew's top film was "First Contact." Apparently, watching the android Data experience the thrill of physical sensation wasn't enough to beat the special effects powerhouse of a J. J. Abrams production.
The first rebooted Star Trek film also tops Rotten Tomatoes' freshness scale, with a 95 percent critic approval rate and a 91 percent audience rating. "First Contact" has the next-highest combined Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 92 percent critic rating and an 89 audience rating, while "The Wrath of Khan" has an even 90 percent on both. "Into Darkness," the second of the films in the rebooted universe, earned an 87 percent freshness rating from critics and a 90 percent from the audience.
Assuming IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes follow the same trends as general Internet users, their audience and user ratings may skew towards the preferences of younger fans — so the findings from this data are likely not a perfect representative of the opinions of the entirety of Trek fandom.
But the reboot films average out to an even 8 in IMDB ratings, while averages of both of the earlier franchise grouping of films average out to a 6.7. (Note: For the purpose of calculating this average, "Star Trek: Generations," which features the full cast of "The Next Generation" and three cast members from the original series, was counted for both.)
All of the films featuring the original cast seem to follow the Star Trek movie curse — with odd movies rating poorly in comparison to their even-numbered counterparts. In fact, the "curse" appears to extend almost through the Next Generation cast as well ... until "Nemesis," an even-numbered film, which merited the same rather low 6.4 rating as its odd-numbered predecessor and the lowest inflation-adjusted worldwide box office haul of all films in the entire franchise.
But the lowest-rated film on IMDB was 1989's "The Final Frontier," with a 5.3. It did even worse on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 21 percent of critics and 24 percent of audience members rating it favorably.
William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk, directed that film — which has long been unfavorably compared to films directed by Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock.) Indeed, the two movies Nimoy directed fare considerably better, with a 6.6 for "The Search for Spock" and a 7.3 for "The Voyage Home" (aka Save the Whales.)
But in perhaps The Switch's favorite takeaway from this data, on average, the most highly-rated director who also acted in films from the Star Trek film franchise was Jonathan Frakes, who portrayed William Riker in The Next Generation films and television series. As the director of "First Contact" and "Insurrection," with 7.6 and 6.4 ratings respectively, Frakes ever so narrowly beats Nimoy with an average of IMDB rating of 7 versus 6.95.
In a way, that's almost cosmic justice: Riker was at the center of the least popular Star Trek television episode of all time.