2016 was the year of the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, the new disc format that holds enough data to deliver 2160p video to 4k UHD TVs. What’s more, most new Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs contain High Dynamic Range (HDR) specifications, a vast improvement over standard Blu-ray that expands color range, contrast and detail in lights and shadows. The criteria for our Top 10 include color depth, sharpness and level of detail, frame rate, audio bitrate, and overall viewing experience. Without further ado, here’s our countdown of the Top 10 UHD BD releases in 2016.
10. Everest (Universal)
The footage in Everest is breathtaking on the big screen, but if you missed it in theaters the closest you can get is a 4k HDR TV displaying the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc from Universal. Photographers and cinematographers know how snow-covered mountains can be a challenge to capture, but with High Dynamic Range (HDR) capability the 4k disc edition contains plenty of detail to wow even the most scrupulous eye.
9. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.)
DC Comics’ Suicide Squad was one of the most anticipated theatrical releases of year, and fans chomped at the bit waiting for the home media editions. The Ultra HD Blu-ray edition (as well as the Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D combo editions) include both the theatrical and extended cut of the film, along with plenty of extras. With it’s HDR-enhanced color, 4k (2160p) resolution, and Dolby Atmos soundtrack, Suicide Squad made our Top 10 list.
8. Ghostbusters (Sony)
It’s hard to say anything bad about the 2016 redo of Ghostbusters with an all-women ghostbustin’ team, and the same can be said about the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of the film. Ghostbusters (2016) features color and contrast enhancements with High Dynamic Range, as well as an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack (backed up by Dolby TrueHD 7.1). It easily made our Top 10. You can also get a fresh look at the films that started franchise with Sony Pictures Home Media’s reissues of Ghostbusters I and II on UHD BD.
7. Life of Pi (FOX)
OK, so you saw Life of Pi in theaters and wondered why the film wasn’t quite as spectacular on TV. Well, the closest you’ll get to the big screen experience at home is Life of Pi on Ultra HD Blu-ray. The 4k release with HDR color (labeled as Ultra HD Premium) is truly hypnotizing. Just be sure to kill any ambient lights that might be reflecting on your TV, and, we suggest setting your 4k TV to “cinematic” mode, as there is no need to further enhance the color saturation of this film.
6. Sicario (Lionsgate)
Sicario is a dark thriller starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro that lauds its genre. To add to the exceptional plot, acting, and editing, the film is a must have for anyone with an appreciation for cinematography and the work of Roger Deakins. Sicario formatted in 4k with HDR enhancements is well worth the few extra bucks for the Ultra HD Blu-ray copy, and the Dolby Atmos soundtrack will rock your audio system as well. While not an SFX extravaganza like other 4k titles listed here, the closer-to-reality experience Sicario offers puts it in our Top 10.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros.)
While some may not agree with the plot and execution of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the overall video and audio quality of the film cannot be denied. A movie that is as dark as it’s plot, B v S is best viewed on a HDR-supported 4k TV that can really show off the details in shadow areas. The Ultra HD Blu-ray title (as well as standard Blu-ray) was released as an Ultimate Edition with over 30 additional minutes of story not seen in theaters, along with over 2 hours of bonus content. If Frank Miller’s Batman is your style, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on UHD BD should be sitting in your library.
4. Deadpool (FOX)
What many call the best “superhero” film of year, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool is a no-brainer for the home theater enthusiast who wants to show off their 4k HDR TV. Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray features High Dynamic Range (HDR) video that is really evident in the opening 360-degree scene that pops with contrast. We did a a comparison to the standard Blu-ray edition and found a vast difference in the levels of detail and range in color from 2160p lines of resolution and HDR specifications.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
A festival for your eyes, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is about as good as you can get in terms of outstanding color, contrast, and depth of detail (although the movie is equally as intense in the black and white “Chrome” edition). The 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray edition from Warner Home Video features HDR color and a soundtrack in the immersive Dolby Atmos format. It was also arguably the best Ultra HD Blu-ray release of the year.
2. The Martian: Extended Edition (FOX)
A gorgeous film to see in theaters, Ridley Scott’s The Martian translates nicely to smaller home theater screens. And, with the release last June of an Extended Cut of the film to Ultra HD Blu-ray, this is one 4k title not to miss. The Extended Cut includes an additional 10 minutes of film, along with new audio commentary, deleted scenes, and several featurettes. The UHD BD edition is encoded with HDR color (labeled as Ultra HD Premium) and backed by a DTS-HD-Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack.
1. Star Trek (Paramount)
All three of J.J. Abrams Star Trek films are now available on Ultra HD Blu-ray, but we had to pick one to include in this Top 10 list. While many of you might have thought we would go with the latest film, Star Trek Beyond (2016), we chose to go with Abrams’ first venture Star Trek (2009) which was truly a rebirth of the franchise. Plus, considering 4k wasn’t a reality back in 2009, rewatching Star Trek on an Ultra HD TV with HDR and Dolby Atmos audio was the best home media experience of the year.
We thought it appropriate to mention several films that didn’t quite make the Top 10, but are definitely worth checking out in UHD if possible. Those films include Wild (Fox), Divergent-franchise films (Lionsgate), X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), The Last Witch Hunter (Lionsgate), Goodfellas (Warner Bros.), Hancock (Sony), Pacific Rim (Warner Bros.), Oblivion (Universal), Lone Survivor (Universal), Lucy (Universal), and Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Warner Bros.). Overlooked titles: The Revenant (FOX), Sully (Warner Bros.).
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.