24. Shinzon (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)
I could spend all the words detailing every reason why Nemesis is an affront to all that is good in the world, but you really don’t need to look any further than its main villain, the worst in the history of Star Trek. Shinzon (Tom Hardy, way before he was a big deal) is a secretly cloned version of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, the crux of a discarded Romulan plot who was subsequently cast into the mines on Remus, where he became the leader of the Remans — and already the character has gone off the rails. Remus? Remans? Wuzzah? And why clone Picard for a nefarious plot only to keep that plot from actually happening?
In any event, it’s pretty clear that Shinzon was supposed to be a provocative exploration of the differences between nature and nurture. Instead, he’s a sniveling spoiled brat in a costume straight out of an ’80s metal band music video who bears zero resemblance to Picard save for his bald head and regal nose, and that they both like their tea Earl Grey, and hot. Hardy seems completely lost in the role. It’s a total waste.
23. Klaa (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989)
This is a Klingon warrior? With the mega-heavage and ridiculous perm and…is that…eye-liner?! I’d forgotten he was even in this film until I started this post.
22. Adm. Dougherty (Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998)
For such a seemingly benevolent institution, Starfleet has sure had its share of bad-egg admirals. This one’s not even bothering to hide that he’s up to no good, what with that eeeevvvvvvilllll glower of his. But I can barely recall why he was evil. Was it the beard?
21. Ayel (Star Trek, 2009)
When I heard that the great Clifton Collins Jr. had been case as the main henchman in J.J. Abrams’ Trek reboot, I had high hopes for the character. But it turns out he was only meant to glower and fight Kirk at one point and then die. Wah wah.
Good facial tattoos, though.
20. The “God” of Sha Ka Ree (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
For the entire runtime of what is largely regarded as the worst Trek movie ever*, we kept hearing that we’d find God beyond the Great Barrier (so great, we’d never heard of it before). When Kirk and Co. got there, they found a one-dimensional evil alien masquerading as God…because…um…it’s evil?
Also, that set looks cheap, even by ’80s standards.
Did I mention William Shatner directed this one?
(*I still think Nemesis is the worst, since it just about killed the Trek movie franchise completely, but that’s an argument for another time.)
19. Ru’afo (Star Trek: Insurrection)
I hadn’t seen this movie since it was in theaters, so I had to look up why Ru’afo looks like this — turns out he and his kind were cast out of an Eden-like planet where you live forever because he loves the tech-naw-lo-gee, and now he wants to get back in because he’s dying and addicted to plastic surgery.
At least he’s memorably, creatively ugly. But I can’t help but think of poor F. Murray Abraham, sitting every morning in the make-up chair, sighing aloud to no one in particular, “I won an Oscar once.”
18. Sybok (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
Spock’s half-brother! Who we had never heard of before! Who had embraced emotion instead of logic, and loves to talk about pain, and wants to find “God” beyond the Great Barrier because why not?
I’ve got to give some credit at least to actor Laurence Luckinbill, who really committed to the part and managed to make Sybok’s hippie mullet not seem completely insane.
17. Viceroy (Star Trek: Nemesis)
He’s Shinzon’s henchman, so he’s already handicapped right there. But he’s also the one who actually, like, does evil things, namely mentally rape Counselor Troi, which is pretty awful — and awfulness is what you want from your villain, instead of wandering around an enormous super-ship whining about how life is so unfair. Also, this dude just looks terrifying, thanks to the foundation of actor Ron Perlman’s unforgettable mug and the make-up artists’ decision to rip-off wholesale F.W. Murnau’s seminal horror film Nosferatu.
16. Maltz (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1984)
I have no good reason for including Maltz other than the fact that he’s the only Klingon left at the end of the movie, and he’s played by John Larroquette. (I know!)
Also, he has this choice exchange with Kirk:
Kirk: (To Maltz) You! Help us or die!
Maltz: I do not deserve to live!
Kirk: Fine. I’ll kill you later!
Kirk: Take care of the prisoner.
Maltz: Wait! You said you would kill me!
Kirk: I lied!
So he’s already more interesting and entertaining than everyone ranked below him on this list.
15. Evil whalers (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)
In the film proper, the whalers don’t show up until the very end, when they threaten to harpoon the lovable humpback whales George and Gracie before Kirk and Co. can kidnap them and bring them back to the 23rd century to save the world.
But when you think about it, the entire reason the world needs saving in the 23rd century is because these jerks and their buddies had hunted humpback whales into extinction in the first place.
Also, they provide an excuse for the above sight gag.
And! No weird make-up or facial tattoos or ’80s metal hair!
14. Nero (Star Trek)
On the one hand, Nero is not only responsible for killing James Kirk’s father, but also destroying the entire Vulcan homeworld, which is arguably the worst thing anyone on this list actually pulls off in a Trek movie. On the other hand, as a character, he’s not exactly Mr. Personality — he’s all grimace and revenge and nothing else.
13. Lursa & B’Etor (Star Trek: Generations, 1994)
The only real individual villains from the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series to carry over into the TNG movies, these buxom Klingon sisters not only collaborated with Soran (see below), but were directly responsible for the ultimate destruction of the Enterprise-D. But since they had spent so much of the TV show making Worf’s life a living hell, you’d think our beloved Klingon warrior would be the one responsible for the Duras sisters’ ultimate end. Nope. Their ship goes boom thanks to a technical brainstorm from Riker. Worf, and Lursa & B’Etor, deserved better. Stupid Riker.
12. Admiral Marcus (Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013)
Yeesh, yet another bad egg Admiral. (Uh, Starfleet? Maybe screen these guys more closely?) And his post-9/11-y motivations — oh crap, Vulcan was destroyed, and now we gotta get dark and dirty to protect ourselves! — feel a little too 2005.
But Admiral Marcus does have a couple things going for him. One: He’s connected more fully to the story than many of these other villains, since his daughter — Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) — is a good egg, on the Enterprise, and slaps him but good when they meet. And two: He’s played by Peter Weller, a.k.a. RoboCop, and when he starts screaming at Kirk and calling him “son,” you kinda start sinking in your chair.
11. The whale probe (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
We never learn where this probe came from, or who sent it — and that mystery adds to its ominousness. All we know is that its eerily musical message is so powerful, it incapacitates every ship it comes across, and almost destroys Earth in the process. The stakes are high with this thing, even if it does look like a giant black log. But here’s my thing. I’m not saying I hate whales — I love whales — but if a civilization is so advanced that they can hear humpback whale sounds from thousands upon thousands of light years away, you’d think they’d also be interested in dolphins, possibly manatees. Oh, and also, that they wouldn’t have to send a giant probe to figure out that all the whales are dead.
10. Soran (Star Trek: Generations)
I love the idea that someone from the same race of adept listeners as the peaceable and wise Guinan (that’d be Whoopi Goldberg’s Enterprise barkeep) would be such a ruthless bastard. He is happy to destroy a planet that’s home to hundreds of millions — but it’s so he can get back to a wonderful never-never land where time has no meaning and life is lollipops and joy. Meh. But he also causes the death of James Kirk, so he makes the top 10.
9. Martia (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)
It’s Iman. As a shapeshifter. Who smokes stogies. And makes out with Kirk — only to ultimately sell him out. This is not something one comes across everyday in a Trek villain.
8. Kruge (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock)
He destroys a Federation science vessel — and kills Kirk’s son! — all in dogged pursuit of the Genesis torpedo, which he believes is a powerful weapon*. I’ve got nothing really bad to say about him, only that Christopher Lloyd gives a performance that is less theatrical and more grounded than the best Trek villains — but he still definitely holds his own.
*Here’s the thing: Kruge is actually right. As we learn in the movie, Genesis is way too unstable to create a brand new planet, but if all you want to do is destroy said planet, it’s perfect. That is the geekiest sentence I’ve written…today.
7. V’ger (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)
It may be controversial to have this so high, but hear me out: The movie itself has a deserved rep for being too ponderous and slow, but its central antagonist is quite well thought out*, and pretty terrifying. I mean, if you ignore everyone’s space pajamas in the above clip, it really does still hold up as a chilling existential threat.
*SPOILER ALERT (since even serious Trek fans may have avoided seeing this snoozer): V’ger is actually Voyager 6, a simple probe sent from Earth in the 20th century and transformed into a sentient being by a race of intelligent machines. It’s been collecting knowledge ever since, and now it needs to share what it’s learned with its creator — and nothing will stand in the way of that mission. Very sci-fi, very Trek (and more compelling and complex than Star Trek IV’s whale probe), but it would’ve been waaaay cooler if the movie didn’t spend so much time just staring at special effects for minutes on end.
6. Ceti Alpha eels (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)
No no no no no no no no no no no no no.
[Hiding under desk, clutching ears.]
Worst. Pet. EVER.
5. John Harrison/Khan (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Khan doesn’t quite have the same fizzy ostentation that Ricardo Montalban brought to the role. And I guess we’re supposed to assume that while he was operating as John Harrison in London, this Khan just picked up the foreboding British accent. Is that what happens when you’re a genetically engineered übermensch?
But he’s still Khan, and Benny Batch brought such gargantuan intelligence and menace and physicality to the role that he managed to make it his own. This Khan is able to take out an entire squadron of Klingons and rocket through space in a suit and help design a bad-ass warship and crush a man’s skull with his bare hands. I wouldn’t want to mess with him — would you?
4. Lt. Valeris (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)
It took six movies to get there, but Spock finally got himself a quasi-love interest who idolizes him and clearly turns him on (in spite of himself). And what does she do to repay him for his support and knowing glances? Hide in plain sight as the mole on the Enterprise responsible for nearly starting a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and sending Kirk and Bones to a Klingon gulag.
Put it this way: To a true Trekkie, this is Kim Cattrall’s defining role.
3. Gen. Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
In comparison to the plots of the other villains on this list, Chang is ultimately not all that wicked — just brutally set in his ways, really. But only Christopher Plummer could pull off an erudite general who can quote Shakespeare (in the “original Klingon”) while pulverizing the Enterprise with photon torpedoes, and make it all so damn fun.
2. The Borg Queen (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)
It was a risk placing a single leader at the center of the Borg, whose entire allure as an enemy on Star Trek: The Next Generation had been the fact that they were a relentless — and faceless — horde. But Alice Krige brought such a delicious kinkiness, and slithery intelligence, to the character, that she instantly became one of the premiere Trek baddies of all time. And what an entrance!
1. Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
This is a no-brainer. The rrrrrrolling accent; the simmering malevolence; the self-assured cunning; the enormous barrel chest. Played to the hilt by Ricardo Montalban, Khan is the most formidable enemy Kirk and Co. ever faced, a man so driven by revenge that he caused the death of Spock. More to the point, it is impossible to take your eyes off of him when he’s on screen. He remains the alpha and omega of Trek villains, and no one has been able to surpass him. It’s no wonder the movie was named after him.