Star Trek Into Music: The Best Film Scores from the Final Frontier


A while back I wrote about how music changes our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. I also started a list of the best science fiction film scores of all time. Today, I'm taking a look back at the orchestral music that made me fall in love with film scores - the music of Star Trek.

Unlike that other space franchise, Star Trek features a wide variety of composers. Each brings their unique style to the franchise while still integrating elements of Alexander Courage's original Star Trek TV series theme. The result is a diverse collection of music that is linked by a common thread (like the James Bond franchise).

Here's my list of the top 5 Star Trek film scores. I’ve spent hundreds of hours listening to each one and hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

#5: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country , Cliff Eidelman


 Cliff Eidelman isn’t known for scoring scifi epics. His other movie scores include My Girl 2, Free Willy 3, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But his music for Star Trek VI matches the urgency and mystique of the cold war storyline. Even though traditional Star Trek cues are absent from most of the film, Eidelman gives the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise a fantastic send off. The sample below includes “Overture” (a powerful introduction to the film), “Spacedock / Clear All Moorings”, “Spock Wisdom” (love the Vulcan mysticism here), and “Sign Off”.



Michael Giacchino's score is fresh and modern (just like the 2009 movie). While it sounds less like a space opera and more like a superhero score, the music fits this interpretation of Star Trek. Spock's theme is reflective and tragic ("Head To Heart Conversation") while Kirk's is searching for a purpose ("Hella Bar Talk"). The best part is Giacchino's take on the original 1966 Star Trek theme ("End Credits") - it honors the past while boldly moving the franchise forward. 


Jerry Goldsmith’s First Contact score makes me believe that we can actually achieve Star Trek’s optimistic vision of the future. The music is tender and has an inspiring melody. It also becomes a fitting theme to the cinematic adventures of The Next Generation. “Main Title/Locutus” integrates Goldsmith’s old and new Star Trek themes while “Welcome Aboard” and “First Contact” setup the most important event in Star Trek's history – the first meeting between humans and aliens.


Yes, it’s blasphemous for me to list Goldsmith’s original Motion Picture theme as the 2nd best Star Trek score. Don’t get me wrong, I love each of the iconic tracks sampled below (“Main Theme”, “Klingon Battle”, “The Enterprise”, “Leaving Drydock”). The issue is the rest of the score doesn’t really do much (besides put me to sleep). The Motion Picture has little tension, conflict, or stakes and the score suffers from the same issues. It's still awesome enough to be my #2. 


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a wonderfully complete movie that seamlessly transitions between intimate moments and epic battles. James Horner’s score does not miss a beat. From the explosive “Main Title”, to the mysterious “Spock”, the menacing “Surprise Attack”, and the solemn “Amazing Grace”, the score is a perfect companion to the film’s message of life, death, and rebirth. This is easily the best film score in the Star Trek universe.


Honorable Mentions

  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Horner does a nice job, but it sounds a lot like the score to Star Trek II.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Too whimsical for me, but it fits the comedic nature of the movie. 

That's my list. What's your favorite Star Trek film score?