29 Years Ago Today…Khaaaaaaan!!

On June 4th, 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released, and Star Trek changed forever. In the intervening 29 years nine more Star Trek feature films have been released, yet this relatively low budget entry is still considered the best of the franchise. Today TrekMovie celebrates Khan.


Happy Anniversary to Wrath of Khan

The late 1970s saw a resurgence of movie science fiction, with films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and especially Star Wars, leading to Paramount reviving its Star Trek franchise on the big screen. The result was Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, a big-budget feature helmed by Academy Award-winning director Robert Wise. Although the film made a profit and was an impressive epic, it didn’t meet Paramount’s expectations and for the follow-up they turned to TV producer Harve Bennett to deliver a sequel for a fraction of the price.

Bennett turned to young Nicholas Meyer to direct the film, making it his second feature (following Time After Time). The full Star Trek cast were set to return, although Leonard Nimoy took some convincing. As filming was rapidly approaching Nicholas Meyer took it upon himself to write the screenplay, taking elements from the various drafts. The result was a change in tone from The Motion Picture, with more humor and a return to the Horatio Hornblower style adventure. Oh, and a return to a classic Star Trek bad guy, Khan Noonien Singh.

Star Trek II Trailer

By the weekend of June 4th 1982 fans and critics were excited about a new (and different) Star Trek adventure. Roger Ebert was especially impressed with Ricardo Montalban’s performance, noting how it illustrates the axiom "Each film is only as good as its villain." Star Trek II set a new standard, one that subsequent Star Trek films have been trying to match ever since.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opened with a $14.3 million weekend which may not sound like a lot these days, but was actually the biggest weekend of 1982. In the end Khan was the #6 domestic grossing film of the year, beating out movies like the Eddie Murphy hit comedy 48 Hrs, and the horror classic Poltergeist. The success of Wrath of Khan lead to a series of popular Star Trek films with the original cast and produced by Bennett. And this successful run certainly helped set the stage for the franchise’s return to its TV roots with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987.

It is not hyperbole to say that much of the success of the Star Trek franchise, still going strong today, can be attributed to Wrath of Khan.  So today, TrekMovie.com says thanks to Messrs. Bennett and Meyer and the rest of the TWOK team for bringing us a beloved film and reinvigorating Star Trek (again).

And who can forget…


Death and funeral of Spock

Reminder: Star Trek II screening w/ Nick Meyer on Friday in LA

And to remind you again, The LA Times 2011 Hero Complex Film Festival (June 9-12) will go all Star Trek on Friday June 10th. They will be showing a double-feature with a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan followed by a chat with director Nicholas Meyer, and then a screening of Star Trek (2009) plus discussion with Star Trek writer/producers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Damon Lindelof. Tickets cost $45 each. CLICK HERE for full schedule and to buy online.

What is your Wrath of Khan memory?

On a personal note, I can still remember seeing Khan in theaters (again and again) as a kid in Los Angeles. Although I like The Motion Picture, it still felt like it was missing something of the Star Trek franchise that I grew to love through the 1970s reruns in syndication. Wrath of Khan brought that back and more and is the film that also reinvigorated my inner Trekkie. I haven’t looked back since.

So what about  you? When did you first see Khan? Is Khan still your favorite Star Trek film? Sound off in the comments section below.


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I think one of the reasons the movie was so good is that it harkened back to one of Roddenberry’s original inspirations for Kirk – the Horatio Hornblower novels. TWOK was very much like a naval sea battle film. The second thing it did correctly was to play on the friendship between Kirk and Spock, and gave it a very “human” feel. It was emotional without being manipulative, and had some excellent action as well.

29 Years…..Wonderful film…..

I grew up with Star Trek TNG as my brother, Bobby, loved it very much, nearly five years ago (after graduating from high school) with summer coming to an end, my brother came to visit and broght along his Star Trek movies. I choose to watch these films hoping it was a closer way to bond with him. After watching the Motion Picture, I was astounded by it’s special effects and enchanting music, but knew something was missing from the story line. All of those voids were filled when I watched The Wrath of Khan. It gave me a new passion for Star Trek and I saw every single episode of TOS thereafter as well as all the movies. Excited for the 2009 movie later that Christmas of ’06, I found this website and visited daily ever since. Star Trek II easily is one of the most essestial movies not only in the Star Trek franchise, but science fiction as well, and it’s an integeral part of my life! :D

The best and worst thing ever to happen to Star Trek. A high watermark in the series, but also a seemingly impassable psychological barrier that has set the standard for every Trek movie since!

A 29th anniversary story? Maybe it would have been better hold this for next year on the 30th — not sure why we need at 29th anniversary “story”? This is right up though with those Twitter “stories” of lesser Trek actors’ birthdays. :-)

Wow, I always thought “ET” beat TWOK as 1982’s best opening a week later. But ET only did $11.8 million (it did, of course, go on to best TWOK by a wide margin, including $16 million over the 4th of July.).

That was a terrific summer for movies. TWOK, ET, Poltergeist, Rocky 3, Blade Runner, An Officer and a Gentleman, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Tron. All different, memorable movies.

Those were the days.

Considered the best film of the franchise because story beats effects every time!

It just dawned on me that the scariest moment I remember from the film wasn’t the Ceti Eels or Chekov’s scream, but that red planet that was intercut with Kirk running to Engineering after narrowly escaping the Genesis explosion. I don’t know. That image of a slow rotating ball of fire just scared me as a kid.

@8 Agreed! Although I like Trek 2009 equally as well — those two stand miles above any of the other Trek movies.

“Buried alive… buried alive…”

Argh, I just realized I fell for Anthony’s made up news story and am now posting on the topic. :-))

Went to see TWOK on opening night at the ABC in Sauchiehall street in Glasgow, Scotland im sure it was in 70mm – with my girlfriend of 2 months – now my wife of 26 years! That night she became a Star Trek fan – she was crying at Spock’s death scene as were others in the cinema – you could hear a pin drop! Went back a week later to see it again at hen 3 times more that month. Every time I hear Amazing Grace on the pipes it reminds me of the film. As Harry Baltz said “story beats effects every time!”.

10. MJ


13. allister gourlay



Get kraken on a Khan revival in the trek sequel.


I remember as a kid having to fast-forward through the Ceti Eel scenes because they creeped me out and gave me nightmares! To me the most important and memorable part of this movie is the score… so dynamic and appropriate.

Thank you Nicholas Meyer!!

I remember crying during the Spock death/funeral scenes… the FOURTH time I saw the movie. Not during the premiere, not the second viewing… but the fourth. I guess I’d been too excited before, or with a group of friends that I was too happy to share my Trek fascination with. But that fourth time, I went by myself to a matinee… and bawled like a baby. It finally hit me that Spock was gone… of course, then the NEXT movie came out a few years later, and we all know how that worked out, no don’t we? But it was still worth it. The emotional connection with the film worked so well….

A great story… and excellent acting performances… did a great and iconic movie!

:-) :-)

Went with my best friend and his family when we were little kids — loaded up their huge Ford station wagon, which was a good 10 years old in 1982. Didn’t go on opening weekend, I don’ t think… we saw it at the local mall theater, which was a standalone building built in the 1960s and still had a grandiosity to it, with only two huge screens and huge, modern chandeliers in the lobby. James Doohan had a daughter in the area and he used to visit that theatre when Trek movies were out. There’s a Krispy Kreme on that site now, alas.

Anyway, we used to play “Star Trek II” in my parents’ basement… my friend would be Kirk and I would be everyone else (except Uhura). I should have been an actor.

A couple of years alater, we would watch the ABC version his parents had recorded on VHS over and over…

Anthony, I worked in the STIV screening in Santa Monica last summer into a vacation weekend. Fun. Thanks for your website!

Actually it will 29 years and two weeks for me as Star Trek II opened at the local DRIVE-IN and not the local two-plex in my town first. My Dad worked the 4-12 shift and since I was only 11 I did not drive (hence no drive-in movie for me) But my memory in this pre-internet spoiler alert world we live in today was as follows: My childhood friends (Sal and Pete) and I were waiting outside the Cinema 19 for the doors to open and get our tickets. As we waited a limo (or expensive car like a lincoln or something) pulled up and this guy got out and asked us if we were waiting to see Star Trek. After we said yes, he asked us if we knew that Spock died? WHAT! Spock dies! Thanks Pal.

This is the probably the same guy who hung out at the theater as people left Empire Strikes Back informing them of the relationship between Luke and Vader.

Happy 29 years and 2 weeks you jerk.

Thanks for the awesome movie Nick Meyer, Cast and Crew. It still stands as my favorite film of all time. I just watched it 3 days ago for the 287th time.
And no I don’t live with my mother and YES I am married.

Evil-gasm, hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

I was a theatre manager in 1991 at a second run house, and we managed to get an old print of TWOK for a week before the bigwigs of the company put a stop to it (go figure). It was great seeing my favorite Trek film on the big screen in surround sound back then… too bad I can’t get to the new screenings. On well!

I saw the film several times when it came out, but, of course, the first time was the best. The news of Spock’s death was already common knowledge, but that scene of Kirk hearing McCoy’s broken voice, looking at Spock’s empty chair, and the look of fear in his eyes as he fled the bridge, did not fail to stir some pretty acute emotionalism in me. I knew what was coming, but Kirk didn’t know, and I didn’t want to see him face what was about to happen.
But Spock’s death was a heroic one, full of the honor and integrity of self-sacrifice, and turned out to be more than just a gimmick to get people in the theater.

I seen Star Trek 2 9 times at the Theater in Ft Smith Arkansas. I was there at 7pm on opening night to a packed house and everyone was excited. The Radio station was there and so were the local T.V Stations. As much as I and many others Enjoyed TMP Trek 2 was everything that Tos was and much more. I admit I wore a Red Shirt there. (People were scared to be around me LOl) My Mom and Dad were also with me as they wanted to see it. I was 13 at the time and I remember it like it was just yesterday. When Spock Died I did tear up and so did my Mom. The Music and action was just amazing. Thank you to Nick and all who were involved in this Incredable movie.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a great movie but not the best. The best so far is JJ Abrams “Star Trek”. Wrath of Khan is a classic which seems to me to be the only reason it’s held in such high esteem but in my opinio its as good but no beter than Star Trek: First Contact. Khan works best as part of the original series trilogy; Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock and Voyage Home.

Harry is right. a Great Story will out do an Fx. Fx Should be used to help the story. Not take it over. Trek 09 was a good mix. But can be better.

I remember winning tickets to see Khan in New York City. I was 16 and my Dad, who really didn’t like Star Trek that much, went along with me. At the end, I think he was a converted, but silent, Trekker. I thought so because as we walked out of the theatre they handed out some stickers of Spock doing the Vulcan salute and my dad trying to do it and being surprised when he could.

Several years later when Star Trek three came out he asked ” let’s go see that new Star Trek movie.”

Trek Lives!

Being only 6 at the time, my only memory of it (from 1982) is seeing the movie twice in the theater, once with my mom, and once with my dad (they’re not divorced, still married today after 39 years). Of course I’ve seen it a ton more times since then and in July of 2001 made this my license plate:

The shot of the Enterprise rising up, out of the cloud to fire upon Reliant.

Thats my Star Trek Moment.

good film, its also older than me. i’m sure the next film will be good too.

I saw it on Sunday 6 June at 1:45PM at the Nelson theater in Ottawa, Canada with my best friend Dave Agulnik. For 2 bucks!

Loved the movie then and now.


Oh how I wished Netflix would stream the Trek movies again! I SOOOO want to watch them again, but don’t have them downloaded or on dvd! All I have is the vhs version of TWOK and of course the vcr player doesnt work, lol.

Also worth mentioning is the wonderfully energetic James Horner score. I love Giacchino but think he can do even better with the Trek 2012 score (assuming he returns for it).

i remember crying my eyes out.

I saw this movie on the big screen in Times Square back then. I sat through the whole thing with a knot in my stomach because I knew that Spock was supposed to die. And when it happened, so quietly, and so realistically, I reacted as one would if a real family member had died.
By that time, I was a physician and I had seen real people die in the hospital. You would think I would be inured to it by then. But I wasn’t.
After the death scene and the funeral with “Amazing Grace,” the entire audience filed out of the theater silently. There were no high fives or whoops of joy, just quiet contemplation. I was so upset by the death scene that it was a good hour before I could speak to anyone.
To this day, I still have this reaction, and although I know it is the best Star Trek movie of the six, I do not enjoy watching it.

Remember being very pleased…realizing that they had put together elements of the old show this time around. The chemistry, more of the feel. The energy. It felt more like the Trek universe I was familiar with. And I remember wondering why they couldn’t,…or didn’t do that the first movie. The “buried alive” reference someone mentioned…hearing elements of music from the old show. Was so gratified by that. That was another thing I kept looking for from this new, latest movie. I was very pleased at many a turn with this one. It set everything right.

Good memories. Good times.

I usually stay for movie credits. The first time I saw Khan, I HAD to stay,because I couldn’t get up!

What i would give to have James Horner score another Trek film – it was the first soundtrack i ever purchased! Beautiful score, character focused story with brilliant ship vs ship battle scenes (take note JJ and Bob – you got the character focus right but there wasnt enough of the Enterprise)

Great movie.

I first saw it at San Jose spring 2010. I was visiting my dad’s house, and when we wondered what to watch, we decided to have a marathon of the TOS films. We watched one film each night…

TMP: (Strangely…) bored me.
TWOK: Kept me on the edge of my seat.
TSFS: Just 1% worse than TWOK, A.K.A. great (but no one really talks about it…)!
TVH: Pretty good, but… whales?!?!
TFF: Meh…
TUC: I like it!

Around a day after we finished, we went to “Star Trek: The Experience” (which kicked butt!), and saw “Star Trek” on the IMAX screen (quite an experience!). This spring-break vacation forever changed me into a trekker.

One of the first films I ever watched and still one that i come back to time and again. Great story, great acting and superb special effects (would still take these effects over the cgi effects that blight films at present.) It’s also the film that introduced me to the world of Star Trek. In my opinion one of the greatest science fiction universes ever created and through all its incarnations a great piece of modern fiction. Favourite moment from the film: Kirk bites from the apple and says ‘I don’t like to lose!’ as James Horners music swells in the background. Superb!!!

TWOK was a great Star Trek movie, but I liked TSFS and TUC as much. Those were the best of the original cast movies to me.

I remember seeing TWOK in the theater like it was yesterday. I’d just turned 18, a week or so after graduating from High School. I saw it at Merritt Square 6 Theaters in Merritt Island, Florida. The future seemed wide open that summer, out of High School, the Space Shuttle just getting started (STS-4 would launch at the end of the month) and Star Trek was back in a big way. Exciting times.

It’s so funny that I can look back and remember all the times I have seen this movie from the first time in the theatre with my cousin to all the times since with family members, friends, and girlfriends right up to today watching it with my wife. No matter how my life changes, Star Trek is always there. Very comforting.

My memory is coming out of the theater, and as I approached my car being struck by the fact that the Ceti Eels were (of course!) a special effect. I had “suspended disbelief” to the point that I forgot that.

Mr. Balz is, of course, correct. Story is paramount. But GOOD effects, in service to a good story, can also be important.

– Harry

My husband and I went to see it opening night. I remember it well. We couldn’t wait to see it . We just watched it again last Saturday night, for the ??? time. We have watched it more than any of the other Trek movies. Sometimes I still can’t watch when Spock dies. It is that powerful and emotional to me.

I know I’m in the minority that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was my favorite. But there is no doubt Star Trek II comes in as a close second for me. For me the main thing that edges TMP was the exploration angle as far as V’Ger being a new life form and all. That was the one thing Star Trek II was lacking (the only thing, actually). I also was always partial to Jerry Goldsmith’s music (not to say James Horner didn’t do a good job too). It kind of touched on the potential with the Genesis device, but there was no real exploration in Star Trek II. However it had some great battle scenes, character moments, suspense, special effects and music. Plenty for me the give it an excellent rating.

Star Trek II is a great movie. Not just a great Star Trek movie, A GREAT MOVIE, PERIOD.

Were movie trailers that crappy back then? I remember seeing KHAN in its first run but I don’t recall movie trailers. That one for TWOK is just awful. Thank God it was a good film.

I was always a TOS fan, but never even bothered to see TMP on the big screen. I called it right – it was big, slow ponderous, grey, and dull. But something about Wrath of Khan just drew me to it. It “smelled” right. I remember a pre-release interview with Shatner where he admitted that TMP missed the boat with things like the costumes and the theme and the missing character interplay, but that WoK got it all right.

So I trekked (heh) on down to the Cinerama dome in Hollywood with my best friend and his brother. It was perfect. Even though I knew Spock was going to die, I was on the edge of my seat. I was fooled by the training drill scene. I was mesmerized by Montalban’s performance. Why are actors today so afraid to ACT??

And at the end… it was the first movie that had brought me to tears since I was a kid. A totally memorable experience. I saw it three more times. I’ve never seen any other movie in a theater more than twice.