Amazon was an early pioneer in streaming 4k to the masses, and over the last six years has added hundreds of movies and TV shows in the format. What may be more significant than video resolution though is color depth, which can be improved dramatically with either the Dolby Vision or HDR10 specs (and in live broadcasts HLG) are in play.
High Dynamic Range is still somewhat elusive in its nature as you need a 4k HDR TV or device that supports HDR to appreciate the expanded bit depth. Of course, you also need content that been encoded with HDR in order to see it in action. When searching through titles through the Prime Video website or app look for the little “HDR” label that follows the year the movie or TV season premiered.
HDR is becoming more and more common with blockbuster titles both on disc and in digital, but it isn’t the standard with older films or smaller-budget productions. Here’s a list of movies on Amazon Prime Video (either free or for rent/purchase) that you may not expected to feature High Dynamic Range.
Free with Prime
The Natural (1984)
Barry Levinson’s 4x Oscar-nominated film The Natural from TriStar Pictures (the studio’s first title) was released mid-2019 to 4k Blu-ray, so it’s no surprise the digital stream of the film offers 4k and HDR quality. However, if you haven’t seen the upgraded versions of this film you’re missing out. The Natural features an all-star cast with names like Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Kim Basinger.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
A refreshing low budget ($2M) drama from Joe Talbot that stars Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country), and Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple). You’ll love the cinematography by Adam Newport-Berra and music by Emile Mosseri that underscore a touching script written by Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot.
This dark mystery from director Luca Guadagnino is striking in 4k with High Dynamic Range to expand the color depth. The movie, which revolves around a dance company with nightmarish tendencies, stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, and Dakota Johnson.
A24’s Midsomar was a surprise at the box office, earning close to $50M on a $9M budget. The Ari Aster film (who also directed Hereditary) centers on a group of college kids who get invited to a pagan cult. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski and color grading in this film look great on 4k TVs especially those that support High Dynamic Range.
Purchase/Rent on Prime
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – Theatrical Cut & Director’s Cut
Available in both the Theatrical [135 min.] and Director’s Cut [137 min.], Steven Spielberg’s 8x Oscar-nominated film is superb in 4k Ultra HD with HDR. Of course, we strongly suggest picking up the 4k Blu-ray edition of the movie over streaming, but the Digital 4k version with HDR presents Close Encounters of the Third Kind in such incredible detail and color that you may find yourself pausing the movie just to enjoy still images from Oscar-winning cinematographer by Vilmos Zsigmond.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Not one film you would have expected in 4k with HDR, is it? Evil Dead II (also known as as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn) from Director Sam Raimi gains a lot with HDR that expands the detail in shadow areas especially in the film’s many night shots. 4k resolution also helps this late 80s film look much better than previous Blu-ray and DVD editions.
Brian De Palma’s Scarface wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar, but man does this film have resonance. Al Pacino stars as the infamous Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who becomes a drug lord in Miami. The movie was released to 4k Blu-ray last year, but can be enjoyed just as well in Digital 4k with HDR.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Yes, “The Dude” is in 4k. The Big Lebowski was upgraded and released on 4k Blu-ray to celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2018, and, never has it looked so good. In Digital 4k with HDR you can also spot details you may never have noticed before streaming in 1080p, and, HDR brings out the color palette that Joel and Ethan Coen must have envisioned for the big screen.
Top Gun (1986)
We recently wrote of review of Top Gun on 4k Blu-ray and gave it high scores. However, if you don’t have a 4k Blu-ray player the Digital 4k UHD version with HDR is a lot better than you would expect. Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, and Val Kilmer star in this late 80s classic that is given new life in 4k/HDR (also look for a new Top Gun movie coming our way).
Kevin Costner’s Waterworld was groundbreaking in terms of filmmaking, and, not a bad action film either. The highlights of this film are the open ocean scenes with Costner’s character Mariner that are quite beautiful in 4k/HDR. The movie also sounds great (nominated for an Academy Award) so if you’ve got a surround sound system with subwoofer crank it up! Also available on 4k Blu-ray.
See a list of all 4k/HDR movies and TV shows on Prime Video