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capnsmak 06-05-2012 08:21 PM

20 Blu-ray Discs To Show Off Your HD Display
Since the advent of high definition media, we as enthusiasts have strived to seek out the titles that would satisfy our insatiable thirst for the type of high quality presentations that give us that special thrill when we see them on our displays at home. As a writer that covers Blu-ray disc releases, I am fortunate in that a large number of movies pass through my players. You would think that having written over a thousand reviews that my thirst for the next thrilling high definition presentation would be diminished. Well, like most of you reading this, it isn’t. When I pop in a Blu-ray disc that sparkles with enriching clarity, vivid, lifelike color and definitively resolvable shadows that are emboldened by inky blacks and stable contrast I still get a little giddy. With that in mind, I decided to offer those who might be looking for a few titles to bring out the best in their displays some recommended Blu-ray titles that I have found to be exceptional at eliciting that “wow” factor. This following list consists of live action films and isn’t meant to be a “top” twenty compilation -- these titles got high marks from me for video quality when I reviewed them, however there are many on the list that scored pretty well on the audio front too. I have included a few comments from my reviews for frame of reference. If you want to read my full reviews, simply click on the film title.



This is a stellar high definition presentation that boasts rich, delineated primary colors, beautifully lush pastels and vibrant hues that are vivid, bold and striking in high definition. The video quality is nothing short of mesmerizing in its depiction of the film’s digitally crafted images. Objects onscreen are exquisitely detailed with a luminous and sparkling clarity that seems infinitely lucid and three dimensional.

Sin City


I was always impressed with the video quality of Sin City on DVD, but the high definition presentation on Blu-ray is breathtaking. Black and white levels hold dominion over the visual aura, as each offers quality that enhances depth. Blacks are inky and dynamic while contrast is steadfast, boldly applied and stark. Shadows are deep and incredibly dimensional, which enhances the superb visual design’s use of uneven lighting, intentionally blown out whites and splashes of rich vibrant color that look succulent in HD.

The Help


Video presentation is an important component in the telling of this wonderful story. A variety of colors are effectively used to help set the tone/setting based upon the mood of the scene and characters within it. The cinematography is beautiful. Images are crisp with well balanced color and definitive resolution that provide a transparent and lustrous quality.

Battle Los Angeles


This is a reference-quality video presentation from Sony that looks superb. Images are visually arresting and have a rich dynamic quality that highlights the film's near flawless rendering of detail. The video has a three dimensional and razor sharp clarity that never left me wanting.

Inglorious Basterds


This is a superb looking high quality Blu-ray offering from Universal that appears faithful to the film’s theatrical presentation. Colors are lavish and eye popping with oversaturated primaries and warm tonality that make them pleasing. Flesh tones are natural with appreciable delineation among the varied complexional types in the cast. Strong contrast and consistent black levels provide excellent balance during bright scenes containing mixed content.



Hugo is a stellar high definition presentation that boasts rich primary colors, beautifully lush pastels, and vibrant hues that are vivid, bold, and striking in high definition. The attention to detail in the construction of train stations, clocks, and Paris is truly impressive and can be fully appreciated thanks to the video’s exquisite level of delineation.

Tron Legacy


Tron Legacy's wide angle 1.78:1 shots of the multifaceted digital realm look stunning. Depth of field in the darkened environs with the defining element being the streams of outlining light makes for an enriching contrast that bolsters dimension. It's as visually impressive as the original was in its time.

The Dark Knight


Christopher Nolan's nighttime cityscapes look breathtaking. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally-depicted so that the long drawn skyline and buildings have seemingly infinite depth. Shadow detail is also as good as I have seen. Images are sharp with exquisite definition and bold contrast.

The Sound of Music


This is a flawless and film-like video presentation that delivers exquisite high level detail and rich, deep, image penetrating colors that look gorgeous in high definition. The video has incredible depth and dimension that is rarely limited by the camera’s perspective. The level of resolution present produces imagery that in many cases has a near infinite visual acuity that draws out the finest details in close ups while enhancing the delineation and textural nuance within objects and backgrounds.

The Book of Eli


The Book of Eli utilizes a permeating stylized visual aesthetic that accentuates the storyline. I find the deep, gradational grays, rich contrast, and intriguing use of color enamoring.

The Fall


I love The Fall. Its two-tiered narrative is presented via distinctly different visuals. In the “fantasy” worlds, bolder use of contrast and bright vivid colors help to propel images to an elevated level of vibrancy and a three dimensional quality. Images are impeccably detailed with fine articulation and visual acuity that seems infinite when looking at long panning shots.

Transformers Dark of the Moon


Say what you will about the film itself, this is reference-quality video presentation that simply looks stunning. Detail perception is nearly flawless, primary colors are striking, blacks are deep and rich, with extended dynamic range, and bold use of contrast enlivens colors without compromise to fidelity.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


The wide angle shots of the various geographical locations look marvelous. Close-ups reveal high levels of detail that allow the pores, stubble, peach fuzzy hair, and subtle variations in the complexions of the cast to be quite perceivable. Black levels and contrast are excellent and visible detail within dark backgrounds and shadows are equally as strong. The video has a gratifying and pristine quality.

The Tree of Life


At times, I found the visuals to be breathtaking here. The Tree of Life utilizes a reserved chromatic palate that sets the thematic tone for the 1950’s era familial drama. Clothing, interior design, etc. are kept within the scope of the time frame, which means lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks. Such isn’t the case when director Malick takes us on a journey of the boundless musings of his vision of earth and beyond. The nature-defined colors look terrific as the deep, vivid, reds, succulent blues, and resplendent earth-toned hues leap from the 1.85:1 framed video. The digitally created images of space boast a resplendent array of brilliant color with deep, image-penetrating blacks and spot-on contrast.

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop


The video is razor sharp with a slightly edgy but otherwise pristine quality. Detail rendering is nearly flawless with lucid visual acuity and fine articulation that brings forth lots of subtle detail in the images onscreen. The presentation has a filmic quality that mates perfectly with the thematic tone of the story.



First and foremost, this is a dark film (as it should be), and Inception's ability to clearly render its elements under those conditions is essential to getting the most out of it. Well, you can be rest assured that this Blu-ray disc delivers some of the richest, deepest, and velvety-textured blacks that I have seen. The sequences featuring the various city and snow-covered landscapes look superb. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally-depicted so that wide angle perspectives, unevenly lit interiors, and shadow-laden environs have a seemingly infinite level of depth.

Lord of the Rings Extended Edition


Across the board, these three epic films share a commonality in that the nature of the photography isn’t lent to high gloss imagery and razor sharpness -- however, there is an enriching and film-like quality that abounds. High definition’s increased resolution is readily apparent, as textural nuance and subtle refinement is apparent, especially during close-ups. Wide angle vista views tend to look gorgeous as the color range is comprised of earth tones, shades of dark blue, brown, gray and black with splashes of crimson red and green/blue hues.

The Star Wars Saga


One of the most (if not THE most) anticipated Blu-ray releases to date, the epic six part saga has never looked better since coming to home video. This just needs to be seen in HD.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


Shot digitally, this film looks superb on Blu-ray and features glossy high definition video quality that exhibits high level detail, razor sharpness, and exquisite definition that brings out the lifelike textures captured by the camera’s lens. Dimensional perspective has a near infinite appeal here.

The Immortals


Another stylized and purposeful visual treat, The Immortals rewards with deep inky blacks, spot on contrast, intriguing use of color and excellent high definition resolution.

Now Let's Hear Yours

There you have it -- 20 Blu-ray discs that come highly recommended for your HD display. But this list is by no means supposed to be definitive. I'd love to hear from you what you consider are great showpieces. Please post some suggestions in the comments below, or feel free to create your own list on AVS!

Ralph Potts has been a member of AVS for ten years and has been reviewing audio/video hardware and digital home media for even longer. He has been AVS’ official Blu-ray reviewer for the last four years and has provided over nine hundred Blu-ray reviews for the AVS Community. You can follow Ralph along with AVS’ other official Blu-ray reviewer Lee Weber at AVS' Official Blu-ray Disc Review Forum. Click Here..

kopkiwi 06-06-2012 02:56 AM

Great list.<br><br>Pirates of The Caribbean, Kill Bill, Polar Express, UP, Wall-E would be among my personal Favs. How about a list of best SOUNDING movies?

djgill 06-06-2012 02:57 AM

I'll be checking out "The Fall" and "A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop" ASAP - they look stunning. Thanks Ralph<br>

Toe 06-06-2012 06:08 AM

Great list! The only one that comes to mind that I feel is a MUST for this list is "The Art Of Flight". It is absolutely gorgeous, pure eye candy and excellent demo material.

pittsoccer33 06-06-2012 07:08 AM

Drive<br>The Wizard of Oz<br>Terminator 2<br>Backdraft<br>The Matrix

hidefpaul 06-06-2012 07:09 AM

I would love to add to this, the movie "Real Steel", just pure HD eye candy. Great audio and video for the whole family to enjoy. I am surprised it was overlooked.<br><br>Paul

batutta 06-06-2012 07:49 AM

Live and Let Die<br>Aliens<br>District 9<br>Kill Bill, Volume 1 in particular<br>Toy Story 3<br>Barry Lyndon

triumphrider74 06-06-2012 08:38 AM

Awesome list!! Great job, Ralph.

chirpie 06-06-2012 08:40 AM

Born to Be Wild, Baraka (yes, even with the slight edge enhancement), Speed Racer, Cars 2... lots of great eye candy out there. (Though I'll admit a lot of these titles aren't that great in the sound department or actual content. ^_^)

triumphrider74 06-06-2012 08:41 AM

You hit all my current favorites with the exception of Despicable Me. LOL! But seriously, it is one of my favorites.

FenixP3D 06-06-2012 10:37 AM

I do second Battle:Los Angeles as a good Bluray demo for HD display but I think (not to be nittpicky) the scene used for for the screenshot is from IMHO ridiculous Skyline and not Battle:LA.

superleo 06-06-2012 01:55 PM

For Visual/Eye candy: Baraka, Avatar, 127 Hours, Source Code, Space Odyssey 2001, The Fifth Element, Narnia ... to name a few.<br><br>Ralph, great suggestions as always!

rwestley 06-06-2012 01:56 PM

I have seen most of the films on the list and I really believe that "The Art Of Flight" should be included. It was shot in 4K with the Red Camera system and it really shows off any good quality projector or set. It is amazing.

Ralph Potts 06-06-2012 02:30 PM

Greetings,<br><br>Hello to all and welcome to the new AVS! I will definitely have to check out The Art of Flight. Many of your suggestions were on my list but we wanted to keep it at twenty!<br><br>I will be adding another installment regarding some great picks for sound. I will probably add a list for animted titles as well as I chose to limit this one to live action films.<br><br>Thanks to all.<br><br>Regards,<br><br>

mcmountainman 06-06-2012 03:41 PM

I also recommend the Art of Flight ! Its just stunning visually and has a LFE soundtrack to match.<br>This is now my go to Demo Disc .

centauro74 06-06-2012 05:54 PM

Inmortals sucks.

swarm87 06-06-2012 06:08 PM

no king kong or house of flying daggers?

capnsmak 06-06-2012 08:27 PM

I checked out The Fall thanks to this list and loved it so much I had to immediately watch it a second time; that's a great pick. I'd personally also suggest Ocean's Eleven and Blade Runner.

doomnaut 06-06-2012 09:19 PM

Alien, Blade Runner, The Thin Red Line, Sound of Music, Ben Hur, 2001, Casablanca, Baraka, Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Fall, The Dark Knight.

JeffreyJonesBSME 06-07-2012 04:37 AM

I recently watched The Muppets on Blu-Ray with my daughter. I was surprised how good the picture looked.

greylight44 06-07-2012 08:52 AM

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Cleopatra (Region free UK) both look spectacular.

Beantown Bronco 06-07-2012 10:23 AM

The Star Trek reboot needs to be on here. And I'll second swarm's recommendation of King Kong.

RonAlam 06-07-2012 10:33 AM

The fountain should also be on the list

LowellG 06-07-2012 04:58 PM

Pretty much any Pixar movie.

IfixitBIG 06-07-2012 07:32 PM

And I would like to add, <i>Hugo</i> was an incredible looking 3D movie.

DDigitalGuy05 06-07-2012 08:07 PM

Harry Potter Deathly hallows series part 1 and 2 both video and audio was great. Some good bass scenes.

Tshark 06-08-2012 07:01 AM

Check out "Below" for a great way to show off detail, black levels, and sound. One of my favorites.

lovinthehd 06-09-2012 05:02 PM

I like most of the suggestions. I'd add for consideration The Fifth Element, The Bourne trilogy, Dead Man, Ronin, Super 8 (that one was thanks to Ralph actually), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pulp Fiction, Monsters, Raising Arizona, Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, The Wall and The Way Back.

rwestley 06-09-2012 05:16 PM

I would also suggest TimeScapes the first film released in 4K for download.

dvdmd1 06-10-2012 04:30 PM

You forgot Zodiac,Alien Anthology,Star Trek

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