With higher resolution capabilities, bigger screen TVs and projectors, and immersive audio systems, viewers at home can expect a more theatrical experience from shows than what was available ten years ago. We might start referring to these shows as “cinematic series,” which are typically shot in widescreen format and often recognized by a much darker palette than traditional TV shows.
You might say shows have taken on a more cinematic look with the dawn of HDTV and the wide 16×9 format (preceded by the squarish 4.3). But 4k resolution, HDR (delivered by Dolby Vision and HDR10), and surround sound (experienced best with Dolby Atmos) have taken the home theater experience to the next level. Here’s a look at some of the best cinematic series from popular streaming services including Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Paramount+.
Game of Thrones (HBO)
HBO’s Game of Thrones could be the series that took the home theater experience of shows to the next level. While the series was only offered in HD during its 8-season run on HBO, you can now stream the shows on HBO Max in 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos. Before the streaming upgrade, GOT was only available in 4K from a 4K Blu-ray disc (the show is ranked in our Best 4k Blu-rays Of All Time). The lighting, visuals, details, and sound in this series may define what a cinematic series is. The production quality of Game of Thrones is so good that the final two episodes of Season 9 were actually screened in IMAX theaters for a limited time.
House of the Dragon (HBO)
The spinoff to Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon is equally as impressive as a cinematic series. What’s most striking about the improvements in digital effects in House of the Dragon is the rendering of the dragons themselves. The dragons look so incredibly realistic that it’s not that hard to suspend your disbelief. The immersive audio is also impressive. It’s too early to say if House of the Dragon will maintain its impact as long as Game of Thrones, but the first season is certainly off to a good start. The series streams in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos. (Now available on 4k Blu-ray.)
The Witcher (Netflix)
Based on the book series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher is a cinematic series on Netflix that you’ll get the most out of on a big-screen 4K TV or projector. The imagery is dramatic and dark, immersing viewers in a medieval world that follows the life of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter played by Henry Cavill (seasons 1-3). The 4k resolution and Dolby Vision HDR enable a gorgeous image on 4k HDR screens. And, the Dolby Atmos audio adds a thaterical experience to this already immersive series. Also check out The Witcher: Blood Origin Limited Series that just premiered on Netflix.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
The phenomenon of Stranger Things is not one to meddle with. Fans of the show are about as diehard as you can get, and the show looks as good as the episodes were written. With budgets that increased as viewership expanded, the production of Stranger Things just kept getting better and better. The video imagery and sound will impress in any home theater, offering Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for home theaters.
The Rings of Power (Prime)
Among the best cinematic series is Amazon’s enormous production The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. This series has got incredible visuals that harken back to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but has also defined itself as unique from the films. The contrast and color depth are about as good as they can get in current streaming bitrates, and is most appreciated viewing on a large 4K TV with HDR. The soundtrack is also an excellent component of the series. It isn’t as loaded with surround mixes as the film trilogy, but there are moments when you will really feel like you’re in a theater, especially with Dolby Atmos. One highlight is the moment Mount Doom erupts and you can feel the ground shaking beneath you. It’s a cinematic series worth upgrading your home theater for.
The Wheel of Time (Prime)
What could be one of Amazon’s most overlooked series, The Wheel of Time is just an incredible accomplishment in filmmaking. The show was derived from the series of fantasy novels by Robert Jordan, and some say the series holds true to many of the stories. But it really is a fine example of a cinematic series on TV, with beautiful cinematography, sound, special effects and digital effects that are truly impressive on a home theater projector or TV. The series streams in 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. We strongly suggest you try out the series if you’re a fan of the genre.
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Disney’s The Mandalorian is one of the more cinematic-looking live-action Star Wars series with its sweeping views of desert planets and galactic environments. Mainly shot in the volume (the immersive, real-time green screen), the show has realistic detail and color given the 4k resolution and HDR color depth. Immersive Dolby Atmos sound helps provide a better cinematic experience during this show that has a somewhat thin story and character development, albeit a fan favorite in the Star Wars TV franchise.
Marvel Studios’ Daredevil produced for Netflix is probably the most favored of the series that ran on Netflix, but was eventually taken back by Disney and placed into a mature rating on the typically friendly kids platform. It has a cinematic quality that you don’t find in other Marvel series, and in fact looks more cinematic than the motion picture starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. The series streams in 4K with HDR and Dolby 5.1 channel audio.
Foundation (Apple TV+)
Apple TV’s Foundation based on the book series by American author Isaac Asimov can be likened to the movie Dune in terms of cinematography, lighting, and sound design. It’s a dramatic-looking show with subtle colors and excellent sharpness, boasting intricate set design and digital effects. The pace of the series is slow but hits you with exciting surprises in the plot. The show currently exists as one season but in October 2021 was renewed for a second season.
See (Apple TV+)
Apple TV+ original series See starring Jason Momoa sort of fizzled out in its later episodes, leading the series to end after 3 seasons. Still though, the show has a cinematic experience like no other starting with its first episode. Produced in 4K with Dolby Vision and Atmos, the imagery and sound will fully immerse you in the post-apocalyptic world created by Steven Knight. It’s a very dark and quiet series (as you would imagine) so a distraction-free home theater atmosphere is ideal for watching.