STAR TREK II THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ricardo Montalban
This is, hands-down, the best Star Trek movie. All real Trekkies agree that this film captures all that was great about the original series. I love introducing this film to non-Trekkies who say, "I like the one with the whales," only to have them recant after seeing Khan. Sure, "the one with the whales" (Star Trek IV) is good, but nothing beats Khan vs. Kirk in an all-out space cage match.
Since the release of the latest Star Trek film, which I like, I have gone back to look at the old films to see if they still hold up when compared to the shiny, lens-flarey new one. To answer myself, they do, and Star Trek II most of all. What I hope to see in the sequels to the latest Trek is the depth of character and engaging plot that we saw in Khan. Certainly special effects have come a long way since 1982, but Star Trek was never about the effects, they were just a means to advance an interesting story.
Star Trek II's story is about an aging Kirk who feels worn out and useless, but he's quickly thrust into a battle with his old nemesis Khan Noonien Singh for his life and the secrets of the Genesis device. Genesis is the planet transforming weapon developed by Kirk's son and baby mama, which adds even more depth to the story. This film is as complete as it gets, and has a great many memorable moments. Let's also not forget the ear slugs, a sultry, pre-metric ton Kirstie Alley as Saavik, Khan's chest and the battle in the Mutara nebula. Oh, and Spock dies.
No matter what J.J. Abrams does with the future of Star Trek, we can be assured that it reached its cinematic peak in 1982.