UPDATE: Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning war film Hacksaw Ridge has just arrived on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in the US and has gone straight to our list of best releases on the format – find out why on Page 5!
There's no denying the importance of 4K Ultra HD and high-dynamic-range (HDR) when it comes to the future of home entertainment. Offering incredible visual clarity, sensational colour reproduction and vastly improved contrast, these technologies give people at home the opportunity to experience films the way they were meant to be seen.
If you've made the leap and purchased a 4K/HDR-ready television, chances are that you're hungry for content that will show off just what your bleeding-edge setup is capable of. Add new audio technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X into the mix, and what you have is a home theatre system that rivals your local multiplex.
Though streaming services like Netflix have plenty of original 4K content ready to stream at a moment's notice, there still isn't a lot of variety when it comes to actual movies. While it was reported back in April that Netflix will take advantage of your new TV's HDR support this year, several months have passed and only the Netflix Originals Marco Polo, Marvel's Daredevil and The Ridiculous Six have been made available in HDR – hey, one out of three ain't bad!
Many pundits have been quick to praise digital and streaming as the future of home cinema, but it will be a long while before these services can offer the variety that physical media can. Simply put, if you truly want to watch films in the highest quality possible, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is still the best format on offer.
That said, not all 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays are created equal – source materials, digital intermediates, upscaling, digital noise reduction and more can all affect the quality of a 4K Blu-ray's finished product.
With that in mind, we've put together a list of the best and most-impressive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movies currently available for purchase. Each of the discs on this list, regardless of how good the films contained on them are, can be considered 'reference quality' and we've thoroughly tested each to ensure they're really worthy of our recommendation. Best of all, every 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc is region free, so anyone with a 4K Blu-ray player can enjoy these films.
Read on to find out which discs have made the cut!
Speaking on the recent 4K Blu-ray release of his film, Deadpool, director Tim Miller told TechRadar that “the Ultra HD is f***ing amazing in the level of detail.” Having thoroughly inspected the disc for ourselves, we absolutely have to agree. Shot at 3K on the Arri Alexa camera and then finished at 4K, Deadpool’s Ultra HD Blu-ray closely resembles the film’s theatrical presentation, only with the added bonus of HDR – which is exclusive to the film’s home release.
Immediately evident from first viewing, Deadpool at 4K offers a much greater level of visual detail than the film’s regular Blu-ray. By far the film’s most eye-popping element, Deadpool’s suit shows more fine detail in its fabric and stitching, and the wider colour gamut offered by HDR makes the costume’s various shades of red not only stand out more, but also blend together more naturally. As with most CGI and green screen-heavy films, the added resolution gives the film a slightly-heightened vibe, one that seems fully intended by its filmmakers. The film’s fully computer-generated character, Colossus, also looks better, with HDR allowing for improved specular lighting on the character’s reflective metal body.
Add to this a punchy and immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and Deadpool becomes one of the format’s first must-own discs.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 108 minutes
X-Men: Apocalypse was originally captured at 6K in the Redcode RAW format, which offers filmmakers an increased level of post-production control, making it perfect for HDR post processing. Finished on a 4K digital intermediate, X-Men: Apocalypse comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with no loss to visual fidelity whatsoever. A visual effects showcase if ever there was one, the end result, pardon the pun, is x-traordinary.
From its Ancient Egypt opening through to its apocalyptic finale, X-Men: Apocalypse dazzles in Ultra HD. Costumes and makeup benefit greatly from the added resolution afforded by format, opening our eyes to the incredible work that goes into their creation. There’s an immediately noticeable increase in detail, as well as an added depth of texture.
As you would expect from a movie in which characters frequently shoot beams of energy from their hands/eyes/sceptres, lighting effects are a particular highlight here. Increased contrast and a wider colour gamut mean that light blooming appears much more natural, avoiding the usual blocky-glow that plagues images with a lower colour depth. It’s also an extremely colourful movie, with numerous blue and purple characters on its roster. Thanks to HDR, and the added colour gradations that it offers, characters show much more individual detail on screen. Without question, this Ultra HD Blu-ray is the preferred way to experience X-Men: Apocalypse.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.35:1, Runtime: 144 minutes
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition
As director Zack Snyder typically shoots on 35mm film stock, his films can be scanned at 4K without any real loss in visual fidelity. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder also opted to capture certain sections of the movie with 4K digital cameras, and on 70mm film stock using Panavision 65 cameras. The film was then finished on a 4K digital intermediate, which makes its Ultra HD Blu-ray release pretty close to what most people would’ve seen at their local multiplex (if not what they might have seen at IMAX and 70mm screenings).
Admittedly, the movie itself is quite grim, dark and muted in its presentation, but that doesn’t stop its 4K Blu-ray from being super impressive – the disc’s added resolution and colour depth mean that Batman v Superman looks as good as it possibly can at home. HDR support allows for tremendous contrast and vivid colours (when they do appear). Fire in particular, looks vibrant and lifelike, achieving a level of brightness that makes it look even more incandescent. Everything else on screen has finer definition, allowing you to really appreciate the detailed texture of Batman’s suit, for instance.
If you’re a fan of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is a no-brainer – along with its inclusion of the more brutal and violent director’s cut, the disc is also a testament to how 4K and HDR can improve the overall viewing experience.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 182 minutes
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Much like Batman v Superman, The Amazing Spider-Man was shot on 35mm film and later scanned and transferred to a 4K digital intermediate. Whatever you may think of the film itself, its Ultra HD presentation here is utterly sublime. Vibrant and colourful throughout, TASM2 especially shines during its effects-heavy set pieces.
Watching Spidey swing through New York on sunny days is a real treat – the film’s beautiful blue skies really pop on this transfer, presumably aided by some HDR tinkering. The red and blue of Spider-Man’s costume shimmers in the sunlight in a realistic manner, and the added resolution makes the spandex’s rippling in the wind much more noticeable.
The real standout though, is the villainous character of Electro. With his translucent blue skin, constantly changing shades and pulsing with electricity, Electro’s presence throughout the film is a real show-stopper. The scene in which he reveals his new form in the middle of Times Square, surrounded by the area’s huge electronic billboards, is one of the most dynamic scenes I’ve personally witnessed on a television screen. Thanks to HDR, the scene’s many colourful lights emit a more naturalistic light bloom that never shows signs of bleeding into the background.
Best of all, this Ultra HD presentation of the film manages to achieve all of this without losing its filmic appearance. A truly exceptional disc.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 142 minutes
Arriving on Ultra HD Blu-ray with an absolutely stunning transfer sourced from a 4K digital intermediate, Lucy demonstrates the strengths of the format by showcasing immense fine detail, exceptionally-realistic skin tones and textures, and truly-dynamic colour reproduction throughout.
From the film’s opening scene, which features Lucy the primate in a prehistoric setting, this presentation solidifies its place as one of the format’s best reference-quality discs. The detail in the hominid’s face and fur is utterly astounding, as are the colours and textures in its surrounding habitat.
As was mentioned earlier, skin tones and textures are also incredible on Lucy’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, looking supremely lifelike at all times. Seriously, if you can find pores and imperfections on the face of someone as beautiful as Scarlett Johansson, you know you’ve reached an unparalleled level of clarity.
Likewise, as the film starts to veer into true science-fiction territory, the disc continues to shine, displaying vibrant HDR-enhanced colours and terrific contrast. Even if you only has a passing admiration for Luc Besson’s trippy action film, you owe it to yourself to check out Lucy on 4K Blu-ray.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 89 minutes
As a science-fiction film with a very sleek and minimalistic art design, Oblivion makes an ideal candidate for the added resolution of 4K. Though the transfer was taken from a 2K digital intermediate (common with visual effects-driven films), Oblivion looks sharp and clean, if not immediately mind-blowing.
With that said, as the film enters its darker scenes, the impressive colour gamut and contrast afforded by the film’s HDR grading give the film a real sense of depth and vibrancy, particularly in the film’s indoor drone shootout sequence. Bloom lighting and sparks from the scene’s many explosions burn white-hot, showcasing the brilliant brightness that 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is capable of. Likewise, close-up shots of the drones show a wonderful level of detail.
Though the film has a mostly washed-out grey and blue tone, skin tones appear quite naturalistic and at times appear to be the most vibrant thing on screen. Facial textures also excel, showing fine details like pores and individual hairs in Tom Cruise’s five o’clock shadow. Grime, cuts and bruises also look benefit from the format’s added clarity.
Giving the film a visual uptick in every category over the standard Blu-ray edition, for fans, this is by far the best way to experience Oblivion.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 125 minutes
Just like an enormous Kaiju, a new reference-quality disc has emerged, stomping all over your Blu-ray collection to proclaim itself the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reference disc to beat – say hello to Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pacific Rim.
Though the film was finished on a 2K digital intermediate, much like Star Trek Into Darkness, this does not stop Pacific Rim from looking utterly sensational on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, your entire television screen will be used to display the film’s many giant robot vs monster set pieces.
Thanks to some HDR tinkering, the film’s colours and contrast now look even better than they did when the film was in theatres. Witness the rainswept battle that opens the film to see how good its vivid colours look against the inky blacks of a night-time sky. The added resolution afforded by 4K Blu-ray makes the rain look more detailed and realistic. Sparks that fly within the Jaeger cockpit are also more clearly defined and burn hotter than ever before.
Though the entire film is a showstopper, anyone that has seen Pacific Rim will know that its mid-film Hong Kong monster battle is the best-looking section of the film, and believe us when we say that it has never looked better than it does on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The city’s neon-soaked skyline radiates with beautiful and realistic bloom lighting, making the best of the film’s high-dynamic-range upgrade.
Even if you already own Pacific Rim on 3D Blu-ray, you owe it to yourself to see how incredible the film can look on 4K Ultra HD. This is absolutely a reference quality disc.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1, Runtime: 131 minutes
Independence Day: Resurgence
Sourced from a true 4K digital intermediate, Independence Day: Resurgence roars onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray without losing any detail whatsoever – in fact, the film’s presentation is improved by the inclusion of HDR (that said, the ultimate way to watch a film of this magnitude will always be on the biggest cinema screen possible).
A much darker and gloomier picture than its predecessor, Independence Day: Resurgence features many scenes surrounded by inky blacks that would look exceptional on an OLED display. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to one for testing purposes, so we can only say that the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray’s increased contrast and vivid colours make Independence Day: Resurgence look fantastic on any HDR-compatible TV.
Its various scenes of computer-assisted citywide destruction unfurl on screen with an extreme level of visual clarity and detail, acting as a showcase of what the 4K format is capable of. Many times, the film’s turquoise alien tech takes centre stage, glowing with a naturalistic light bloom that never shows obvious signs of colour gradation (see the film’s opening scene to see how well light fades into darkness).
If you’re a fan of the film, there’s no better way to watch Independence Day: Resurgence than on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 120 minutes
Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) is known for his knack for seamlessly blending science fiction elements into everyday scenarios, offering a uniquely down-to-earth view of a world filled with robots and aliens. His latest film, Chappie, is no exception. Set mostly around the slums of Johannesburg, Chappie’s mostly daytime action allows this 4K HDR presentation to really pop.
Shot by Redcode RAW (5K) cameras and finished on a 4K digital intermediate, Chappie’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray practically mirrors what was shown in theatres, only with HDR providing improved contrast and more naturalistic colours. The detail in the titular robot character is astonishing, with the steely greys and blues of his frame making the orange highlights of his arm and antenna stand out even more. You can also see details in Chappie’s dirty, scratched body that just weren’t visible on the film’s regular Blu-ray. Best of all, the expressive LED lights on Chappie’s face now show much finer detail, making the character seem even more like a real world object, and not just a marvel of computer-generated wizardry.
Though the film can be quite grimy at times, it’s got a lively, vibrant undercurrent to it, employing a Day-Go style thanks to Chappie’s co-stars, the rap-rave group Die Antwoord. The group brings its signature art style to the film’s costumes and set design, all of which looks fantastic when aided by HDR’s wider colour gamut. Now, bring on District 9 and Elysium in 4K!
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 120 minutes
Though it’s been ‘upconverted’ from a 2K digital intermediate (which is what you likely saw in theatres upon release), J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek movie looks absolutely wonderful on 4K Blu-ray – the release actually lends some weight to argument that Ultra HD discs don’t need to come from a true 4K source in order to impress.
Director J.J. Abrams’ may be guilty of relying a little heavily on his ‘lens flare’ technique on both of his Star Trek films, but the effect looks better than ever here thanks to HDR’s increased colour gamut and contrast levels. Light blooms looks completely natural, avoiding harsh shade transitions entirely. Elsewhere, the Ultra HD Blu-ray offers amazing detail when it comes to facial textures on the film’s many creatures and alien races – Eric Bana’s Romulan character Nero looks especially good, with the disc’s increased resolution showing just how great the film’s Oscar-winning make-up and facial prosthetics are.
While Star Trek’s Ultra HD Blu-ray disc may be outclassed by its sequel’s truly (inter)stellar 4K release (listed below), this is by far the best way to experience J.J.’s first voyage on the USS Enterprise at home.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, 1.78:1, Runtime: 132 minutes
Star Trek Into Darkness
When it comes to the visual quality, the Ultra HD Blu-ray for Star Trek Into Darkness is absolutely mind-blowing – we’d even go as far as calling it the most impressive 4K release on this list. With over 30 minutes of the film shot in the IMAX format, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness cuts back and forth between a traditional 2.40:1 letterbox presentation for its non-showy scenes, and the more vision-encompassing 1.78:1 aspect ratio for the film’s spectacle-driven moments (this presentation is exclusive to the film’s Ultra HD release). Though the film looks great throughout (despite being sourced from the film’s 2K digital intermediate), the level of detail displayed in these IMAX scenes is absolutely astonishing.
From its very first scene (pictured above), in which Kirk and Bones are chased through a vibrant red forest by the primitive Nibiru tribe, Star Trek Into Darkness will make an instant believer of any 4K/HDR naysayer. Witness, for instance, the cracked, flaking skin on the faces of the Nibiru tribes people, shown up close and in great detail. Marvel at the naturalistic skin tones, visible pores and wrinkles shown on actors Chris Pine and Karl Urban’s faces, offering a level of immersion that 3D just cannot compete with.
Another scene, in which Spock drops down into a volcano, is also a showstopper – with its swirling specks of fire and ember, and contrast enhanced greatly by HDR, the scene becomes a showcase for the emerging 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. Until more IMAX-enhanced films start to be released, consider Star Trek Into Darkness your go-to 4K reference disc.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, 1.78:1, Runtime: 132 minutes
Starting with an outdoor scene shot in natural light, Jim Henson’s classic family film Labyrinth does not immediately impress on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Looking soft and full of grain, you’d be forgiven for thinking that not a lot of work has gone into this transfer.
However, once these initial minutes pass, and as the film moves into studio sets with professional lighting and controlled environments, the real Ultra HD magic begins. It’s at this point that Labyrinth’s brand new 4K scan (sourced from the original 35mm negative) becomes truly mind-blowing.
Taking advantage of the format’s added resolution, Labyrinth shows extraordinary detail in the film’s many puppets. Fur looks sublime, with individual strands of hair becoming clearly visible. Quite frankly, they look so good, it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch them. The film’s fantastic makeup work and matte paintings also hold up magnificently under the increased scrutiny of 4K.
Though Labyrinth’s 4K Blu-ray provides an incredible visual upgrade in all areas, perhaps the most important thing about this release is that it manages to keep the film’s original filmic texture, with no digital noise reduction to speak of. Though we’re watching a digital scan, the presentation always feels film-like.
Labyrinth has never looked better than it does here, and while this presentation can’t top the likes of Star Trek Into Darkness in terms of spectacular visual clarity, for a 30-year-old film populated mostly by puppets, this release is a triumph.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 101 minutes
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Boasting incredible detail and rich, vibrant colours, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a noticeable step up from its already impressive regular Blu-ray release. Look closely and you’ll notice that each of the turtles has realistic, scaly skin textures that make you understand just how much work has gone into bringing these characters to life – heck, you can even see the enamel on their teeth!
Other digital characters also look fantastic. Notice the individual textures given to Bebop and Rocksteady, giving each creation its own unique look and texture. Splinter also impresses, with the added resolution on display allowing you to see individual hairs and whiskers that weren’t as noticeable in regular HD.
Though most impressive during its daytime scenes (which include the film’s spectacular, effects-heavy finale), TMNT: Out of the Shadows also impresses in the darker subterranean moments set within the turtles’ sewer lair. The colour palette and contrast on display are exceptional, adding a real depth to the image. Fans should consider this 4K Blu-ray release as the definitive way to watch the turtles’ latest big screen adventure.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 112 minutes
The LEGO Movie
One of the things that immediately strikes you about The LEGO Movie’s Ultra HD presentation is that the film has received a significantly brighter and more vivid colour palette. Not only that, contrast has also increased by leaps and bounds, making the film’s characters look even more like real, stop-motion minifigs – even fingerprints are visible, despite everything on screen being computer generated. Touches like this are what makes 4K and HDR so important to our overall immersion in the film.
Notice the deep blacks in any scene featuring Batman, or the beautiful, naturalistic bloom lighting found in the Old West portion of the film, or how about the gorgeous orange light emitting from film’s spaceship (SPACESHIP!!) finale?
Though this release has been upscaled from a 2K master (the film was captured at 2.8K), The LEGO Movie looks incredible in Ultra HD. Vibrant colours and wonderful contrast levels make this 4K release an essential purchase for fans of the movie.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1, Catalan Dolby Digital 5.1, Flemish Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 101 minutes
Though sourced from a 2K digital intermediate, Hacksaw Ridge arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gloriously-detailed transfer that's bolstered by a terrific HDR colour gamut.
In its first half, the film radiates with natural-looking light and the kind of clear cinematography that only digital cameras can achieve. Though the disc's increased resolution makes it easy to spot green screen work on a couple of occasions, the added clarity that's made possible by the Ultra HD format far outweighs these minor infractions.
Later, the added detail provided by the format's higher resolution, as well as the wider colour gamut it offers, brings a shocking level of detail and an added feeling of authenticity to the film's many gruesome war scenes. If you find intense scenes involving bloody viscera and shredded appendages hard to stomach, you're going to have an even harder time experiencing them on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Elsewhere, high-dynamic-range allows the film's cinematography to really shine, showing very realistic colour and light reproduction, especially in dark scenes. At times, Hacksaw Ridge's war scenes forego realistic colour palettes in favour of a stylised, almost monochromatic look. Here, HDR allows you to really notice the different shades at work, rather than simply looking dull and grey. These scenes are also punctuated by a barrage of explosions, juxtaposing bright bursts of colour over a bleak battlefield.
Top this off with a dynamic and concussive Dolby Atmos audio track, and what you have in Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best releases on the format to date.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (Upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1, Runtime: 131 minutes
The Neon Demon
One of the few 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles that doesn't come with HDR enhancements, Nicolas Winding Refn's horror thriller The Neon Demon looks utterly glorious on the format nonetheless. If you want to get your hands on the film in razor-sharp 2160p, you'll have to import this English-friendly German release, which includes all the special features found on the regular Blu-ray in the US and UK – don't you just love how all 4K UHD discs are region free?
With regards to the disc's lack of HDR, you may be surprised to learn that the famously-visual director is actually quite colour blind. An inability to see midtones has led Refn to favour high contrast and extreme colours throughout his career, as evidenced by the films Drive and Only God Forgives. Because of this, it's probably safe to assume that he wouldn't get much out of the high-dynamic-range experience.
Sourced from a 4K master (but shot at 3.4K), The Neon Demon looks incredible on Ultra HD Blu-ray, with its high resolution offering a noticeable uptick in detail over the 1080p version included in this package.
Aside from its 4K resolution, deep blacks and scorchingly vibrant colours are the big selling point here – though we were unable to test the film on an OLED television, the promise of individually-lit pixels beaming and pulsing out of the pitch black darkness of certain scenes has us giddy at the possibilities on hand.
Essentially a feature-length exercise in immense style and cinematography, it would be hard to imagine a film more suited to the 4K Ultra HD format.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1, German DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1, Runtime: 118 minutes
Based on the devastating true story of an enormous oil rig disaster that occurred in 2010, often cited as one of the largest man-made disasters in history, it is perhaps in bad taste to describe Deepwater Horizon as a tremendously visceral and visually spectacular film, given the lives that were lost on that fateful day. Regardless, we must still call 'em like we see 'em, and Deepwater Horizon looks incredible on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor) brings his tough and gritty film to the format with exceptional results. Though the film was finished on a 2K digital intermediate, Deepwater Horizon delivers strong detail and impressive dynamics, with its HDR enhanced presentation offering great depth and colour reproduction.
Witness, for instance, the fantastic textures in the many scenes featuring actors smeared in oil and covered in dust and debris. Likewise, the film's many explosions burst with astonishing clarity thanks to the format's higher dynamic range. Fire is so bright that you can almost feel the heat emanating from your screen.
Visuals aside, Deepwater Horizon's audio presentation also receives top marks, with a Dolby Atmos presentation that will shake your living room once those aforementioned explosions start. The film's audio dynamics will bounce around your room, placing you right in the action. Helicopters flying overhead are particularly impressive here, making Deepwater Horizon a reference quality disc in both video and audio categories.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 107 minutes
Providing even more proof that you don't need a 4K master to get exceptional 4K UHD Blu-ray results, the entertaining shark attack movie The Shallows has emerged on the format with an absolutely sublime audio and video presentation.
Upscaled from a 2K master, The Shallows looks astonishingly crisp, with the film's digital photography lending immense clarity to the film's many surfing scenes. Witness, for instance, star Blake Lively's resting 'beachface', which reveals detailed pores, fine lines and even the salty texture of someone who's spent all day swimming in the ocean and soaking in sun rays. Unsurprisingly, the waves look spectacular, too.
Also complementing The Shallows' incredible visual presentation is an amazing Dolby Atmos track which faithfully reproduces the film's clever sound design. It's a muscular track that really puts you in the action, handling all of the film's audio dynamics with ease. Scenes where Lively is submerged make your living room feel like it's underwater, and one particular moment where an underwater GoPro shot breaks through the surface makes your ears pop like the real thing.
Occasionally, the added resolution of the disc makes some of the film's shark attack scenes look a little fake, but overall The Shallows is one of the best looking and sounding releases that the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format has produced so far. Highly recommended.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, French (Canada) Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 86 minutes
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release brings with it some enormous expectations, as the film is one of the more visually dazzling action blockbusters in recent memory. Thankfully, Fury Road absolutely delivers, despite having been upscaled from a 2K digital intermediate. This might seem like a bummer, but that's how the film was presented in theatres, and it looked pretty freakin' good there, didn't it?
With its colours undergoing a re-grading process in HDR, Fury Road looks more sensational than ever in Ultra HD. The film's many explosions now burn with added intensity, and improved contrast and increased resolution give the film a more painterly appearance, especially in the film's huge storm sequence.
Some might argue that this makes Mad Max: Fury Road's CGI stand out more, I believe it only adds to the film's artistic quality. Elsewhere, you'll find more realistic skin tones and textures, brilliant lighting, richer landscapes and shinier chrome. Mad Max: Fury Road's Ultra HD release is definitely worth the upgrade for fans, though we'd love to see what the added resolution of 4K and HDR could do with the film's new Black and Chrome version.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 120 minutes
As close to a flawless 4K presentation as the format has so far produced, The Revenant looks utterly fantastic on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Shot digitally at resolutions of up to 6.5K (and finished on a 4K digital intermediate) using only natural light sources, The Revenant offers a very natural-looking presentation, giving the audience a more authentic idea of what it must feel like to be in the freezing wilderness alongside Leo and Co.
Compare the The Revenant’s 4K disc to the regular Blu-ray packaged with it, and you’ll notice that the discs provide quite different presentations of the film. This is because director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki re-graded the entire film in HDR exclusively for this UHD release. By comparison, the regular 1080p Blu-ray looks much cooler, with more dominant blues and greys taking centre stage. Meanwhile, the 4K disc offers more naturalistic skin tones and a warmer overall palette, making the film’s many icy landscapes appear whiter and more true to life.
Speaking of landscapes, the added resolution and contrast of The Revenant’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray makes them appear more grand and breathtaking, offering more fine detail and depth. Improved bloom lighting also lets the sun shine without bleeding into obvious and distracting shade transitions. A reference disc if ever there was one, The Revenant belongs in everyone’s 4K collection.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 156 minutes
Warcraft: The Beginning
Though you’d expect HDR to make films more vibrant and colourful, Warcraft’s presentation has taken a more subtle approach to the film’s colouring. Less garish than its regular Blu-ray counterpart, Warcraft’s Ultra HD presentation offers more naturalistic colours, especially when it comes to orc skin tones. That’s not to say that this presentation is muted in any way – Fel magic looks spectacularly vivid and bright, giving the film a suitably other-worldly and fantastical appearance.
As expected, the real show-stoppers here are the orcs, lovingly realised through terrific motion-capture performances and CGI wizardry (as opposed to the other kind of wizardry seen in the film itself). Lead orc Durotan’s facial expressions are more detailed and realistic, thanks to the disc’s bumped-up resolution. Getting to actually see fine lines, wrinkles and textures in these characters’ faces make them much more believable (though the illusion is still broken whenever they’re standing next to the film’s human characters). Other CGI creations, like the Gryphon Lothar rides during the film’s climax, or the kingdom of Azeroth itself, exhibit an exceptionally high level of detail.
While it is another example of an upscaled film sourced from a 2K digital intermediate, Warcraft’s 4K presentation nonetheless offers enhanced clarity, improved contrast and naturalistic tones. This Ultra HD release is definitely the best way to watch Warcraft: The Beginning in 2D.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 123 minutes