The best 4K HDR Blu-ray movies to show off your new TV
You definitely want these UHD movies in your rotation
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As attractive as your 4K, HDR-equipped TV is on its own, it's not gonna show itself off. But while you can get 4K HDR content through services like Netflix and Vudu, those services are often compressed depending on your internet connection. To get the best quality, you'll still want 4K Blu-ray movies.
Older Blu-rays top out at 1080p and don't offer HDR. For that you'll want newer 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) discs. These often come in a black box and say 4K, UHD, and HDR on them. You'll also need a 4K-compatible Blu-ray player. Right now we recommend the Xbox One S, since it's one of the cheapest options, it'll be well-supported with software updates, and you can play games. Now comes the fun part: building your new movie collection.
Our favorite picks
There's a reason Mad Max: Fury Road is our go-to movie whenever it comes time to see what a new 4K TV can do—it's got a tremendous color palette and tons of detail; the film's contrasting orange-and-blue colors pop off the screen like nothing else. It's not a stretch to suggest that Mad Max is one of the best films of 2015, and frankly, it's almost certainly one of the best looking films of the last five years.
If you haven't seen it (or if the last time you saw it was in a movie theater), you owe it to yourself to experience all of the frenzied action on a TV capable of high dynamic range. There's just nothing else like it.
Baz Luhrmann's polarizing 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal novel is bright, loud, and full of style; the perfect flick to showcase the dizzying contrast and extra-wide color palette of your 4K TV. While some might find it to be a disappointing take on a classic story, there's no denying the film's visual appeal.
If you really want to feel the energy of the movie's modern soundtrack, hook your TV up to a soundbar and crank the volume. We've already gone through the trouble of compiling the best soundbars for under $250, so there's really no reason not to.
All right, so this movie by the Wachowskis is just downright puzzling, but it's got more than its fair share of high-budget, high-octane action sequences that work wonders on an ultra-high definition TV, including an aerial dogfight with spaceships and anti-gravity boots over the Chicago skyline. There are also a handful of sweeping, extraterrestrial vistas whose intricate details can only be fully appreciated in glorious 4K resolution.
Is it silly? You bet it is. But it's also one of the best digital video transfers I've ever seen. Even when the Wachowskis miss their mark, there's almost always something to appreciate in their efforts.
The dark, nearly-monochromatic aesthetic of Creed is anything but "colorful," but this gritty, hard-hitting installment in the Rocky franchise (which garnered critical praise and an Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone) looks marvelous on the 55-inch Samsung KS8000 television in our lab.
If you're tired of superheroes, aliens, and high concepts, Creed is an uplifting, down-to-earth drama that generates its thrills with good ol' fashioned storytelling and phenomenal performances (particularly from Michael B. Jordan, who was unfortunately snubbed come Oscar season).
Other popular 4K Blu-rays
Most of our early selections are from so-called "First Wave" 4K Blu-rays, and there are already some newer releases that are drawing rave reviews. Here are the ones we're most excited to check out based on what we've heard from users and other experts.
Regardless of how you felt about Alejandro Iñárritu's The Revenant, it's tough to deny the appeal of watching Leonardo DiCaprio roll around in the mud and wrestle a bear beneath the majesty of all-natural lighting.
Shot in both 3.5K and 6K, Emmanuel Lubezki's pictures have received a phenomenal transfer resulting in what is probably the first reference-quality 4K UHD Blu-ray out there. It's not a movie for the squeamish, but if you can stomach it, The Revenant is often a gorgeous sight to behold. While the home release may not quite match up to the sheer scale offered when it was in theaters, there's no doubt that this film is ideal for the UHD HDR era.
Labyrinth is not the kind of movie that you'd expect to do well with the increase to 4K resolution, as puppets can look exceedingly artificial with newer formats. This Blu-ray transfer is lifted directly from the original 35mm print and mastered in 4K resolution, and the result is apparently magical.
While that's a win for fans of Jim Henson's legendary work, it also is a promising sign for fans of older films who have been let-down by the quality of even 1080p home releases. If original 35mm prints can be brought to life with this kind of visual fidelity, our aging film-era productions may live on forever.
When it was released late last year, Sicario didn't reach nearly as many moviegoers as some of us expected it would. That's a shame, because it's a taut, well-plotted thriller filled with stellar performances.
The thing that has us most excited: Sicario was also shot in 3.4K by the immortal Roger Deakins, so you're getting some of the master's finest work in a format that is very near to the original quality. Now we just have to wait and see if Skyfall will get a similarly high-quality home release in the 4K format.
The first two films from the rebooted Star Trek timeline have made the jump to 4K and HDR and both are already receiving praise for the high level of visual quality as well as their excellent soundtracks.
While J.J. Abrams' visual style has its share of detractors, both of these are well-lit and tightly shot productions that make the most of both 4K resolution and HDR. And I personally can't wait to hear Michael Giacchino's stunning main theme and the haunting London Calling in Dolby Atmos.
Sometimes all you really want is an entertaining, turn-your-brain-off kind of movie (preferably starring Tom Hanks with goofy-looking long hair). The Da Vinci Code was one of the few movies of its era to be mastered with a 4K digital intermediate, so this is a direct-to-4K transfer that isn't being upscaled from 2K.
As a result, much of the scenery has been given new life, with the natural film grain giving it a romantic, Hollywood feel. Early reviews of this 4K Blu-ray have been surprisingly positive as a result, thanks in no small part to Sony's decision to preserve the 4K resolution throughout the film's lifespan.
The foul-mouthed superhero that crushed box office records this year will shoot and sneer his way into your heart, especially when you see it him in this highly-lauded Blu-ray transfer. Like some other recent flicks, Deadpool was shot right in 4K, so you're getting a fine direct transfer that shows the gulf in detail between even the best 1080p Blu-rays and movies that were shot natively in 4K. Deadpool also features an incredible Dolby Atmos sound mix, so if you've got a healthy home stereo you should be in for a treat.