Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Thrilling, philosophical installment of popular space saga.
  • PG
  • 1982
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 19 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's a continuing theme throughout about how to react with courage and resourcefulness in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kirk learns to accept his aging and the mortality of his friends, and there's a closing act of heroic self-sacrifice. Starfleet is, as always, racially integrated, and a female Vulcan character has more of a presence than women usually do on the ship.


Phaser and photon-torpedo battles, with deaths (including major characters in the series). Two men are tortured in gruesome detail with brain-burrowing insect-like parasites put into their ears. Scenes of corpses after a massacre.


We learn that Kirk has an illegitimate son by an old lover, and she describes the Starfleet hero as "no Boy Scout." Kirk eyes a pretty Vulcan, but that's as serious as it gets.


"Hell," and various forms of "dammit" from Dr. McCoy especially.


Star Trek is an enormous commodity with plenty of merchandise available to buy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, with Dr. McCoy bringing Kirk some "old" (22nd century) wine for his birthday.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a more violent feature than the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with assorted character deaths and torture. One of the biggest stars of the series dies. While the TV Captain Kirk always seemed to have girlfriends on every planet, this is the first time it's acknowledged that one of them bore him a now-adult son, and their paternal relationship is not close or cordial.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjowoho December 26, 2008

One of my personal favorites

Looking back, I liked the first movie, but I LOVED this one! It does have a lot more action and is probably a good idea to fastforward through the worm-going-in... Continue reading
Adult Written byAllAges August 13, 2020

Wonderful, but would be PG-13 now.

Unlike the first, this entry has more violence and space battles, with grisly (albeit excellent) prosthetic wounds. PG-13.
Teen, 13 years old Written byTrueRatingExposed October 18, 2018
great classic movie! it is a little creepy but a great movie NO LESS , NO MORE!
Teen, 14 years old Written byCarson Bush May 12, 2018

The best Star Trek film has moderate violence.

This film features all you loved about Star Trek TOS: diversity, action, and most importantly awesome space battles. It features the return of Khan Noonien Sing... Continue reading

What's the story?

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN takes place 15 years after "Space Seed," an episode from the original Star Trek series. In it, The Enterprise discovered a vessel whose crew were placed in suspended animation, banished form Earth in 1996. When Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) realized their leader, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), was still as dangerous some 200 years later, the Enterprise marooned him and his followers. Now 15 years later, Khan has managed to escape with his people and hijack a well-armed Federation starship of his own. Obsessed with wreaking vengeance on Kirk, he lures the Enterprise into a devastating battle while plotting to steal the Genesis project, a bomb-like device capable of creating or destroying new worlds.

Is it any good?

This sequel combines passionate acting, great music, fine effects, philosophy, ethics, and derring-do to create what some fans consider the best of the Star Trek features. The script contains observations about friendship, aging, military misuse of science, contentious father-son relationships, and the futility of revenge. Since the chance of any further Star Trek movies was iffy -- and Leonard Nimoy was hoping at the time to sign off playing Spock for good -- viewers get the feeling here everyone is really giving the material all the respect it's worth, just in case this turned out to be the final Star Trek as we knew it (it wasn't, of course).

It was good to be a science-fiction movie fan in 1982. Out-of-this-world features released that year, which seemed to reach a pinnacle of entertaining scripts, mind-expanding concepts, and cutting-edge special effects, included E.T., Blade Runner, The Road Warrior, Tron, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This last one even proved that sequels from adaptations of TV shows could be better than originals (talk about mind-blowing concepts), since the first Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a bit of a disappointment. Director Nicholas Meyer claimed to have very little prior knowledge of Trekdom when he came aboard. Instead, he said, he took inspiration from his favorite Napoleonic-era naval adventures, novels in the C.S. Forester Horatio Hornblower series. That's indeed how Star Trek II plays out, as a seagoing military epic transplanted to deep space, with questions of command and leadership, duty, and sacrifice for the welfare of the crew.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the parallels between Khan's obsession with avenging himself on Kirk and one of the books glimpsed in Khan's personal library, Moby Dick. How is the theme of vengeance similar in both works?

  • What do you think of Spock's code of sacrifice for "the needs of the many"?

  • This movie added to Trekkie lore a Starfleet Academy flight simulation test in which a practice captain faces a seeming no-win battle scenario. Why do you think this is important training? What would you do in this scenario?

Movie details

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For kids who love Star Trek

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