Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan



Thrilling, philosophical installment of popular space saga.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: April 23, 2007
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1982
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 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.

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?


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.

Yet there's still room in the script for 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). The result is a blend of passionate acting, great music, fine f/x, philosophy, ethics, and derring-do to create what some fans consider the best of the Star Trek features.

Families can talk 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.

  • 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

Theatrical release date:June 4, 1982
DVD release date:August 2, 2002
Cast:Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban, William Shatner
Director:Nicholas Meyer
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Space and aliens
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:violence and language

This review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was written by

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Learning ratings

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old April 12, 2009
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old May 30, 2009
When I was a toddler, my mom took me to see this movie thinking it was just about silly monsters cracking jokes. But for a whole year I would sleep with my parents because I was scared that a monster would be in my room. Now I'm 11 and of course I know there's no such thing. Just don't take younger kids.
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion April 27, 2009

The Best!

This is the best STAR TREK film yet. Violence is the only issue, really, outside of some brief "d**n"s and "hells". People are shot with lasers, and many bodies are seen dead, with blood on them. Wounds range from a few cuts to one man who has half of his face bloodied up and darkened. There's a creepy scene where worm-type creatures crawl into mens' ears and take possession of their minds.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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