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Lead image

Best 4K Blu-rays

Our writer's top 4K movies to watch in Dolby Atmos®

I grew up in the heyday of VHS rentals — a time when a trip to the local movie store was eagerly anticipated the entire week. A few decades later I still love watching movies at home, and the experience is so much better than my childhood self could have imagined.

Below are my top 4K Blu-ray disc recommendations — titles encoded with HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Atmos for the best picture and sound quality currently available. This isn’t an exhaustive list of every movie worthy of a watch, of course. It's merely a glimpse into the vast variety of home theater experiences you can have.

Illustration of a Dolby Atmos surround system

An Atmos surround system lets you hear a movie’s score and special effects above, beside, in front of, and behind you — just like you would in a theater.

Avengers: Infinity War

I’m continually blown away by how good 4K Blu-rays look and sound. So much so, that I decided to build my own home movie library. Over the last few years I've added beloved favorites, along with interesting titles that I haven't yet seen.

If I could only keep one disc from my collection it would be Avengers: Infinity War. It has it all — from oodles of superhero star power to epic intergalactic space battles — each captured in exquisite 4K detail.

The CGI and action sequences of this film are astonishing. But the real magic lies in the audio. The Atmos soundtrack of Infinity War is the best that I’ve heard on my surround system, with high-energy special effects, and spectacular transition of sound from one area of the room to another. The "Wakanda Forever" scene at 1:38 will put your speakers to the test in the best possible way.

marantz-2r6015

My system's pre/pro (the predecessor to Marantz's AV7706) feeds signal to a Marantz MM8077 power amp on the other side of the cabinet. A Panasonic DP-UB9000 Blu-ray player skillfully handles disc duty on movie nights.

Ready Player One

As a child of the ‘70s, Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel Ready Player One instantly resonated with my inner geek. The book was exceptional, and Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation is wildly imaginative and equally creative. The racing scene at 12:30 perfectly captures the spirit of this film. Just be mindful of your sub’s output level — King Kong will put it through a bona fide torture test at the end.

If you enjoy the movie, may I suggest checking out Ready Player One (and its sequel, Ready Player Two) on audiobook. Wil Wheaton does a remarkable job with the narration, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to both.

Rocky Mountain Express

The first 4K Blu-ray disc I ever purchased was Rocky Mountain Express. I love trains, and train lore, and this film provides a fascinating look into the world of steam locomotion. It’s short (only about 45 minutes), and well worth a look to learn how the modern rail system slowly weaved its way through the once-unpassable Canadian Rockies.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is one of those movies that I had to see to appreciate. It's about a futuristic dystopia set in Japan, where humans “enhance” their abilities through cybernetics — not normally my cup of tea, but I was intruiged enough to give it a try and I'm glad I did. Ghost in the Shell is a fun watch with an engaging storyline and a phenomenal soundtrack. The opening sequence’s surround effects are particularly potent.

Parasite

There's a reason Parasite has garnered so many international accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2020. 

The film is brilliant, with breathtaking cinematography and striking architectural shots that leap off the screen. The Atmos-encoded score is masterful, as is the dramatic sonic tension that steadily builds over time. This is one of those movies worth watching more than once.

A quick note on subtitles: I find watching movies in English difficult when there are also English subtitles on the screen at the same time. But when I watch content in another language, in this case Korean, English subtitles are smooth and easy to follow since my brain isn’t trying to “sync up” what I’m reading and hearing. It makes films that I wouldn’t ordinarily think to seek out surprisingly enjoyable.

speaker topper

I added Definitive Technology A90 upward-firing Atmos modules to my BP-9060 tower speakers last year. The larger soundstage has been a treat, and the installation couldn’t have been simpler.

Soul

Any movie that takes a crack at explaining our vast and mysterious existence will find an eventual spot on my watchlist. Soul is one of my favorites, because it delves into difficult topics like death and the unknown while also being funny and hopeful. It’s family friendly, with an upbeat jazzy soundtrack and downright gorgeous colors.

Ford v Ferrari

There’s something utterly marvelous about driving an old car down a windy country road. Ford v Ferrari is one of those movies that doesn’t need CGI or special effects to steal your heart — the guttural roar of 1960s American muscle cars does that just fine, thank you.

Even if you aren’t a car person, I think you’ll enjoy Ford v Ferrari on your home theater — the Atmos mix made me legitimately feel like I was careening down a racetrack at breakneck speed.

Black Hawk Down

This powerful war film chronicles the events of a 1991 American military raid in Somalia. It has some of the most realistic sound effects I’ve ever heard, thanks in part to the overhead channels included in the 4K Blu-ray release.

Jupiter Ascending

I love getting a good deal on a 4K Blu-ray disc. As I'm apt do do, I took a flyer on Jupiter Ascending during a Black Friday sale and I'm so glad I did! I knew nothing about the plot, and didn’t have a sense of what to expect other than a “cool space movie.” But by the end of the film I had already added it to my coveted Rewatch List, enamored by its lively visual effects and ridiculously good soundtrack.

Jupiter Ascending is especially impactful if you use overhead or upward-firing speakers as part of your surround system.

ambeo and arc

Want high-performance surround sound, but are limited on space? Atmos-enabled sound bars like the Sonos Arc (left) and the Sennheiser AMBEO use up- and side-firing drivers to bounce sound effects off of the ceiling and walls.

Bonus pick: Game of Thrones

Like many folks, I watched Game of Thrones one painfully slow week a time, streaming each episode alongside millions of other fans each Sunday evening. More than once I found myself wishing that the video quality was better, especially since I knew how much effort HBO put into the show’s production.

I’ve now rewatched the series on 4K Blu-ray disc, where the audio and video fidelity is vastly superior to what I experienced streaming it live. There was no compression, no buffering, and no reduction in the resolution, which meant the entire world of Westeros leapt off the screen in high relief. The contrast between the bright and dark portions of room interiors was startling — an indication of just how good HDR-encoded content can look.

Equally as impressive as the 4K visuals is how good each Atmos-encoded Thrones disc sounds. There’s simply nothing like a full-grown Drogon sweeping down from the sky while raging billows of fire erupt from his enormous jaws. In my book this is what the home theater experience is meant to be — complete emotional and imaginative immersion.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones I highly recommend springing for the 4K box set, it's a real treat to watch.

Kramer playing a video game on his Dolby Atmos home theater system.

I love playing video games on my Atmos system! Even the Nintendo Switch™, which is limited to 5.1-channel output, sounds incredible thanks to the simulated overhead sound effects that automatically get added in.

Until next time!

So, here are some suggestions for what to watch if you find yourself with a few free hours to enjoy your home theater. Dim the lights, grab a snack, and settle in for a fun evening of surround sound. Until next time, friend!

Crutchfield can help

Want a hand putting together your own immersive home theater? Give one of our friendly advisors a shout for free, personalized advice.

Last updated 8/13/2021
  • Steve from Buffalo

    Posted on 10/20/2021

    How can you not have The Gemini Man on the list? It is only one of three 4K movies shot in 60p and the colors and sound are the best I have seen and heard...

  • Mike Guion from Saint Paul, Mn

    Posted on 9/10/2021

    On your recommendation I watched Ready Player One on Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. I had the entire house to myself, so volume levels weren't an issue. I have a 75" Sony 4K, a Sony 7.2 surround system, my two subs are identical Sony's, but the rest of the system ( 7 speakers) are Klipsch. What a fun ride!!! That was the first time that I didn't need to be concerned about volume levels, so it was nice to see what the system can really do.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 9/10/2021

    That sounds like an absolutely fantastic system, Mike! Thank you for sharing your experience — I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie!
  • Stephen Van Bellen from La Plata, MD

    Posted on 8/31/2021

    If you ever get a chance to check out Godzilla vs Kong, you should. This a great home theater must have 4K Blu Ray. The uncompressed audio that comes from physical media surpassed the audio that streaming service can provide. Center channel is very clear, bass is booming and the height channels are pretty active throughout the movie. I went back watched scenes with my ear level speakers turned off with just the height channels on. Amazing! I don't have a TV with HDR or Dolby Vision yet, but I can only imagine what the some of the Hong Kong scenes look like. Hope you enjoy!

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 9/1/2021

    Thanks for the recommendation, Stephen! I haven't seen Godzilla vs. Kong yet, but plan on picking up the 4K Blu-ray disc around the holidays. I'm looking forward to a fun winter of catching up on some of the blockbusters I missed this year!
  • Chris from Ohio

    Posted on 8/25/2021

    What does the word live indicate in the phrase "streaming it live". The word live means nothing there. You were simply streaming it.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/26/2021

    Hi Chris, thanks for reaching out. By "live" I just meant streaming Game of Thrones at 9pm on Sundays when each new episode dropped, rather than watching on a different day. It's my understanding that since so many people were watching at the same time, the picture quality wasn't as good as if we tried to watch the same episode during a non-peak time (Wednesday morning, for example).
  • Michael Guion from Saint Paul, Mn

    Posted on 8/25/2021

    Michael Mann's Last Of The Mohican's has one of the great sound experiences, along with being a great story well-told, and beautiful outdoor scenery.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/26/2021

    That's an excellent suggestion, thanks Michael. I have not seen that film yet, but have added it to my list!
  • Kevin Gardner from Montour Falls, NY

    Posted on 8/17/2021

    Kramer, thank you for your list. I have found that quality Dolby Atmos content for home use is still a rare find. Only thru a Blu-ray player and a 4K disk are Atmos effects worth hoping for. Ready Player One is typically at the top of most reviewers list for Atmos content and the quality of the mix. Streaming services have a long way to go to give us what we think we are paying for. I use a Roku Ultra and the settings for Atmos are a pain to get right, that is if Atmos content is even being streamed from the provider. I've tried several providers and many movie titles say ATMOS, but fall way short of Atmos soundtracks. The few Dolby Atmos demo files I am so lucky to have really show off the Atmos effects of my very budget Atmos system (5.2.2 with ceiling speakers, not bouncy house). I sure wish that a company, like Crutchfield, would sell original Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, etc. demo, set-up, and testing disks that really work. Most disks and files are fakes and a rip-off.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/19/2021

    Thanks for reaching out, Kevin. Check out Pacific Rim if you haven't already. It's a fun watch, and I bet it sounds incredible on your Atmos system!

    You make an excellent point about demo disc material. I've run into the same set of challenges finding quality discs myself. Let me see if I can dig into this some more — I'll report back here with my findings.