Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
The Enterprise's first feature, with smarts outdoing guns.
  • PG
  • 1979
  • 143 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Intellect and good judgment save the day, instead of warfare. The United Federation of Planets is famously multicultural, multi-ethnic, even multi-species. The ethos of Star Trek is one of exploration and non-interference, though the crew inevitably gets involved in protecting the vulnerable and fighting evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the crew of the Enterprise demonstrate some basic human foibles (Kirk is too eager to regain command, McCoy suspects Spock's motives), they still function well as a unit of people who care about one another. Some commentators have pointed to the main trio of Star Trek as summing up aspects of a well-rounded, complete person: Kirk for decisive action and passion, Spock for cold logic and intellect, Dr. McCoy for emotion and altruistic kindness.

Violence & Scariness

Space vessels are disintegrated into nothingness. A few crew are knocked around and scorched by energy bolts. A Vulcan nerve pinch. Minor characters perish in a transporter malfunction, but the horrific result is left to the imagination.

Sexy Stuff

Mention that Decker formerly had intimate relations with a comely alien. She spends a lot of the movie in a robe with a very short hemline, and there is generalized talk about her species having a powerful psychic sexual allure.


Scotty says "hell."


Nothing onscreen, but Star Trek, as a marketing franchise, has toys and products in "infinite diversity in infinite combinations," to quote a favorite Gene Roddenberry saying.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Trek: The Motion Picture features sci-fi violence, including the implication of death, and some intense moments amped up by music. When it was first released theatrically, the movie received a G rating, which was revised to PG for the director's cut. There are allusions to sexual activity, but nothing onscreen. Some aspects of the story involve spiritual/moral questions. Like all Star Trek offerings, this one reflects a multicultural universe largely concerned with peace and the well being of all people (and aliens).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAllAges August 13, 2020

Wonderful film.

Seek out the Director’s Edition. Originally rated G, this was rerated PG. Other than the transporter malfunction at the beginning, this is smooth sailing for fa... Continue reading
Adult Written byscottb80 October 10, 2019

Good for Trekkies

Unless your kid is a Trekkie they will likely find this boring.
Teen, 14 years old Written byNickson March 16, 2021

It's flashy and harmless.

Star Trek: the Motion Picture, has some nice special effects for the time this was made, and has talented actors, but that doesn't make up for its otherwis... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThe Literature Lover December 6, 2020
Excellent movie. So futuristic, Loved it, Some things do look animated but considering that time's technology it's a perfect movie.

For more reviews... Continue reading

What's the story?

After years deskbound as an admiral in Starfleet, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE begins with James T. Kirk (William Shatner) reassuming command of the starship Enterprise, just refurbished with the latest gear and weaponry. Their mission is to stop a cosmic menace, a shimmering force field from uncharted space that is heading for Earth and destroying anything in its way. Kirk is in an uncomfortable situation, having demoted the younger, more tech-savvy Captain Decker (Stephen Collins) in order to get his ship back. First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is a late arrival on the mission, having unhappily opted out of joining a monk-like mystical order of pure logic on his home planet of Vulcan.

Is it any good?

While the $42 million budget generated almost as much awe in itself as the movie's cosmic menace, the best part about Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the reunion of beloved small-screen cast members. Far more complex than the film's plot is the story behind the many years it took to bring the first Star Trek film to the big screen. It's commendable that the filmmakers, for the most part, stuck to the TV show's model of character-based dramatics, and an interplanetary menace was defeated using intellect and good judgment, not light sabers.

Still, the film is a pretty ponderous spectacle. When the Enterprise enters the vast, cloudlike boundaries of the intruder, an awful lot of the movie is indeed the cast gaping at the shimmering light show, right up to a quasi-mystical finale that might have some viewers more puzzled than dazzled.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sci-fi violence. How realistic is the violence seen in this movie? Does it make the same impact if violence is in a sci-fi setting?

  • The Star Trek series and movies always made a point of having a diverse cast. Why does having diverse media role models matter?

  • How does Star Trek compare to other science fiction franchises?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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