Every year at the halfway mark we like to touch base with our readers and home theater enthusiasts to determine the best 4k Blu-ray discs. It might not be too long before we start including streaming titles in the mix, but for now, 4k discs still offer the highest quality possible in home media (unless, of course, you’ve got a premium digital system like Kaleidescape).
How close is streaming to disc media? While the best streaming bitrates max out around 24 Mbps – 25 Mbps, 4k Blu-ray Discs usually double those bitrates, and often triple the quality when playing in the 60 Mbps – 70 Mbps range. 4k Blu-rays can also peak in the 90 Mbps range and have even hit over 100 Mbps with certain titles.
Here are a few observations about our list derived with some help from Twitter polls. All Quiet on the Western Front had the highest percentage of votes among all the titles and has already been moved into our list of the best 4k Blu-rays of all time. Star Trek: First Contact was overwhelmingly the most voted-on TNG film (we thought ‘Generations’ would be). And, another surprise was that Avatar: The Way of Water crushed the original Avatar film in votes, even after years of waiting for Director James Cameron to release the prequel in higher resolution. But, it’s not surprising given the native 4k master used for ‘The Way of Water’ is noticeably better than the upscaled 2k video in Avatar.
Without further delay, here are the best 4k Blu-rays of 2023 so far, taking into consideration titles released from January through June. The movies are presented in no particular order. Be sure to see a summary of the Twitter poll results below and see our complete list of 4k Blu-ray Discs.
All Quiet on the Western Front
It’s hard to say any 4k presentation is better than the Netflix Original Film All Quiet on the Western Front. The video and color grading are exquisite, the sharpness of the 2160p resolution is unbeatable on 4k Blu-ray, and the Dolby Atmos surround sound immerses you in this incredible story that takes place at the end of WWI. What’s more, the bonus features and 24-page booklet make it a win/win for physical media and home theater enthusiasts alike.
Avatar: The Way of Water
There is no doubt Avatar: The Way of Water is one of the best 4k Blu-rays to show off your home theater system. The colors, detail, and richness of the scenery may have you pausing scenes just to take it all in. The soundtrack, offered in Dolby Atmos, provides an excellent immersive experience enhanced with some low-frequency range moments that hit your subwoofers with an intensity not found on all surround sound mixes.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever excels in its video presentation where the colors are vibrant and deeply layered. The imagery is razor-sharp, and the contrast ratio is impressive in many of the scenes. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack gets a 5/5 score for its immersive experience that pushes 7.1 channels and overhead effects as well as any contemporary film.
Star Trek: First Contact
As the first franchise film to feature the Borg, Star Trek: First Contact succeeds in presenting the haunting species in 4k resolution with excellent color rendering via Dolby Vision HDR. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio delivers a punch where it needs to, but is otherwise clean in its dialogue and effects delivery. The film is available as a single 4k Blu-ray title or within the Star Trek: The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection with ‘Generations,’ ‘Insurrection,’ and ‘Nemesis.’
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Shout! Factory’s restoration of MGM’s The Magnificent Seven (1960) was derived from a previous 4k scan of the negatives, offering a new color grade with Dolby Vision that stands out from previous BDs. What’s more evident though is the improvement in sharpness overall, and consistent grain structure. Audio is provided in mono DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Superman 5-Film Collection (1978-1987)
Another 4k release to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Warner Bros. Studios, the Superman 5-Film Collection (1978-1987) delivers the coveted films starring Christopher Reeve in 4k resolution for the first time with the exception of Superman: The Movie (1978) that was previously released on 4k Blu-ray in 2018. What makes this collection special is the inclusion of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, the version released in 2006 as envisioned by the film’s original director who was replaced by Richard Lester.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is not only a lot of fun as an action film and dive into D&D lore, it’s also a great-looking presentation on 4k Blu-ray. The film boasts some good color depth that’s enhanced with Dolby Vision/HDR10. There is no degradation in the video that we could find, and the sharpness is impressive even in close-ups. The soundtrack offers some quality immersive moments in Dolby Atmos, with a wide range of frequencies offering a quality and expansive audio experience.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish released in a Collector’s Edition from Universal Pictures that offers a really impressive 4k HDR10 presentation of this sequel from the 2011 film. Colors render beautifully in HDR10. But what’s most noteworthy is the quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that’s both fun and immsersive. In our Twitter poll, the movie received 40% of the votes received.
Star Trek: Generations
The first film in the Star Trek: The Next Generation film series, ‘Generations’ played at high bitrates with a low average of around 40 Mbps to 50 Mbps and higher averages between 50 Mbps to 60 Mbps depending on the scene. Colors are what stand out most when you watch this upgraded version of the film, which are rich and vibrant with Dolby Vision HDR. The soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 allow plenty of spatial audio for an immersive experience. Read Review.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Among the titles celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Warner Bros. Studios this year is Cool Hand Luke (1967) on 4k Blu-ray for the first time. The movie is ageless for fans of the genre and of Paul Newman. While this 60s film doesn’t provide all the visual explosiveness of let’s say, Black Panther: Wakanda, it’s a considerable upgrade to the 1080p Blu-ray in terms of sharpness and the use of HDR10 to bring out details in shadows and control previously blown out bright areas. In our Twitter polls, the 4k Blu-ray edition of Cool Hand Luke beat out classics Rebel Without a Cause and Serpico.
Twitter Poll Results (2023)
Black Adam (2022) 32.6%
Dawn of the Dead (2004) 32.6%
The Italian Job (1969) 23.3%
Wrath of Man (2021) 11.6%
February, 2023 (2 polls)
Black Panther: Wakanda 45.3%
Strange World 0%
Three Colors Trilogy 11.3%
The Magnificent Seven (1960) 43.4%
Puss in Boots Last Wish 40%
Texas Chain Saw Massacre 12.5%
Training Day 35%
All Quiet on the Western Front 53.3%
April, 2023 (2 polls)
Star Trek: Generations 16.7%
Star Trek: First Contact 79.2%
Star Trek: Insurrection 0%
Star Trek: Nemesis 4.2%
Cool Hand Luke 42.9%
Rebel Without a Cause 17.9%
The Seventh Seal 7.1%
May, 2023 (2 polls)
Ant-Man/Wasp Quantumania 24.4%
Creed III 15.4%
D&D: Honor Among Thieves 52.6%
Shazam: Fury of the Gods 7.7%
Deep Impact (1998) 28.6%
Rain Man (1988) 12.9%
Superman 5-Film Collection 38.6%
Thelma & Louise (1991) 20%
Avatar (2009) 4.2%
Avatar: The Way of Water 33.3%
John Wick: Chapter 4 55.2%
Super Mario Bros. Movie 7.3%
Also Read: The Top 10 Best 4k Blu-rays of 2022