50 Blu-ray movies every high-def fan must own

31st Dec 2008 | 11:00

50 Blu-ray movies every high-def fan must own

The discs that should be in every collection

A Blu-ray player is for life, not just for Christmas. And that's why it's time to start building a decent collection of Blu-ray discs.

The great thing about Blu-ray players is that the vast majority of them can competently upscale DVD movies to near-HD. And that means that unless you have a particular penchant for a specific movie (sorry, Wild Things isn't out on Blu-ray yet), there's no real reason to urgently replace all your older DVD titles.

Instead, you can focus on buying new movies on BD instead of DVD, as well as some of the old classics you might only have on VHS or not at all.

So whether you've just received a Blu-ray player or PS3 for Christmas, or you're looking to boost an existing collection of discs, here are the best 50 Blu-ray discs currently out there. We've selected these titles based on the quality of the movies themselves, how well they've transferred to Blu-ray and also the variety of special features.

50. Return To House on Haunted Hill
Warner Home Video - £28
We're the first to admit this horror sequel isn't a great film. But its interactive Choose Your Own adventure-style viewing mode makes it sing as a technological marvel. There are 90 different permutations of the tale available to view, including additional lesbian ghost sex! What's not to like?

49. 28 Weeks Later
20th Century Fox - £29
Due to its low-budget origins, this impressive sequel isn't the best-looking Blu-ray disc ever. However, it will leave you quaking with fear thanks to a dynamic and expansive DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 mix that drags you into the heart of the on-screen zombie horror.

48. The Fountain
20th Century Fox - £25
Director Darren Aronofsky's provocative tale of love across millennia was rendered almost unwatchable on DVD thanks to a painfully muddied, indistinct transfer. Thankfully, this sublime Blu-ray transfer easily makes amends, rendering the dreamlike visuals perfectly.

47. Transformers
Paramount Home Entertainment - £25
These 'robots in Disguise' were meant to be enjoyed in hi-def, and the AVC 1080p encode makes the most of the fantastic CG bot-on-bot action, while the lossless Dolby TrueHD mix is a huge improvement on the earlier HD DVD's Dolby Digital Plus audio. Brilliant fun!

46. Cloverfield
Paramount Home Entertainment - £25
This shaky-cam monster movie ably demonstrates the wonders Blu-ray can work with even the trickiest material. From its surprisingly sharp VC-1 visuals to the bombastic Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sonics, every aspect of this disc is made to impress.

45. Bram stoker's Dracula
Sony Pictures - £18
Even if it doesn't boast a fang-sharp transfer, there's still plenty to recommend about Coppola's take on Dracula. Not least the wonderful new extras, including a commentary, documentary and 12 deleted scenes.

44. Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut
20th Century Fox - £29
This vastly improved re-edit of Ridley Scott's historical drama contains some of the most epic battle scenes yet witnessed in hi-def. If they'd only kept the legions of extras from the four-disc DVD, this would have been much higher up the list.

43. The Simpsons movie
20th Century Fox - £29
Thanks to a straight digital-to-digital transfer, this feature film outing for Homer and family never looks less than spectacular, while the DTS-HD Ma mix is as light and bouncy as you'd expect from animated fare.

42. Zodiac: Director's Cut
Warner Home Video - £28
Fight Club/Alien3 director David Fincher truly came of age with this mature and detailed account of the notorious San Francisco Zodiac murders (which inspired Dirty Harry, don't cha know). Warner's platter offers a magnificently detailed picture, and packs in copious extras that detail the making of the film and the true story behind it.

41. Ghost Rider: Extended Cut
Sony Pictures - £25
This camp comic-book spectacular roars into life on Blu-ray. Its razor-sharp transfer makes the most of the eye-popping special effects and the dynamic uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix will rattle the foundations of your house.

40. Rambo
Sony Pictures - £25
Having also successfully re-launched rocky balboa, Sylvester Stallone then gave Rambo a fresh lick of paint with this gloriously violent flick. Sony's hi-def transfer works wonders with the film's location footage, while a spectacular Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix handles the action with ease.

39. Blood diamond
Warner Home Video - £26
Part action thriller, part message movie, Blood Diamond is a gripping look at the cost of the diamond trade. The already impressive hi-def package is completed by the inclusion of 47 short behind-the-scenes vignettes that didn't even appear on the two-disc DVD release.

38. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Warner Home Video - £26
For our money Mel Gibson was never better than when he brought post-apocalyptic warrior Max Rockatansky to the big screen. In addition to a lovingly restored transfer, this hi-def disc boasts a fascinating director's commentary.

37. The Searchers
Warner Home Video - £26
Over the years Warner has become the master of restoring classics. One of the first to appear in HD is John Ford's epic western, which looks breathtaking thanks to landscapes that seem so 3D you'd think you could step right into the screen.

36. Starship Troopers Trilogy
Sony Pictures - £60
Paul Verhoeven's hilarious and ultra violent sci-fi satire is a joy to rediscover in high-definition – those armies of CG bugs have never looked better. This set also throws in the two direct-to-DVD sequels and pushes the capabilities of BD-Live functionality with the innovative (and silly) Put Yourself in the Movie feature. Be wary...

35. Horton Hears a Who
20th Century Fox - £29
Dr Seuss' highly inventive story gets the full CG animation treatment. It looks stunning, too, thanks to a flawless 1.85:1 encode that lends the film a true 3D quality. The disc's lossless DTS-HD MA mix is every bit as inventive as the visuals, with some elephantine LFE.

34. Hellboy
Sony Pictures - £18
This visually impressive comic-book adaptation is done full justice on Blu-ray by a magnificent MPeG-4 transfer. Just as impressive are the involving lossless audio mix and the generous set of extras – the latter including a devilishly in-depth Making of... documentary (150 minutes!), commentary track from director Guillermo del Toro and deleted scenes.

33. The Departed
Entertainment In Video - £30
Martin Scorsese's remake of Asian thriller Infernal Affairs in glorious Full HD is superb. Accompanying the magnificent imagery and enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack are a pair of featurettes about the film's other influences, nine deleted scenes and the trailer.

32. Face/off
Walt Disney Home Entertainment - £27
This UK-exclusive Blu-ray version of Face/Off makes up for what it lacks in extras with an impressive HD makeover, including a bombastic uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack that has bullets flying past your head and explosions rocking your chairs.

31. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Warner Home Video | £26
This post modern genre pastiche was overlooked at cinemas, but it is well worth checking out on Blu-ray. Not only will it keep you gripped and make you chuckle, but it looks and sounds fantastic, and throws in an exclusive BD commentary.

30. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
Warner Home Video - £26
The best Potter film conjures up some of the most spectacular sequences in the series' history. Harry's battle with the dragon is a masterpiece of visual effects and sound design, all of which shines through on BD. and unlike some other Potter discs, this one also waves its wand and delivers a host of decent extras.

29. The Seventh Seal
Tartan Video - £38
Best known for its scenes of Death playing chess, acclaimed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's classic shows that even 50-year-old black-and-white films can look unbelievably good on Blu-ray. In addition to the lovingly restored HD transfer, a DVD version of the movie is also included.

28. Independence Day
20th Century Fox - £23
Summer blockbusters don't come much bigger than this entertainingly silly reworking of War Of The Worlds. Overflowing with epic set-pieces, the film is a joy to behold in 1080p, while the DTS-HD Ma mix will convince you that the world really is ending!

27. There Will be Blood
Walt Disney Home Entertainment - £24
This award-winning period drama doesn't necessarily seem like prime home cinema fodder, but make no mistake – this is a seriously impressive Blu-ray. The 2.35:1 imagery is up there with the best the format has to offer, while the uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio is as wonderfully seductive as Daniel Day Lewis' moustache.

26. Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid
Eagle Vision - £17
This cracking disc delivers not one, but two legendary sets. The 1981 Montreal gig is the main focus of the release, remastered into 1080p and accompanied by a DTS-HD mix. Queen's Live Aid set is only an extra and is presented in SD grot-vision, but it's still a must-have for fans.

25. The Rock
Walt Disney Home Entertainment - £27
Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery head to Alcatraz to stop a rogue military faction from releasing chemical weapons on American soil in this entertaining action flick. The film looks and sounds first-rate on Blu-ray and it doesn't skimp on extras either, delivering six featurettes, outtakes, interviews and more.

24. The Incredible Hulk
Universal Pictures | £25
The Hulk has nothing to get angry about when it comes to the BD release of his latest full-throttle cinema adventure. The VC1 imagery is pristine and extremely detailed, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio packs as much of a punch as old 'Green Genes' himself.

23. Tekkonkinkreet
Sony Pictures - £18
If Tekkonkinkreet is any indication of what fans can expect, then there are plenty of good days ahead for anime on Blu-ray. The image is detailed and vibrant (almost reference quality), the audio is kinetic and it throws in some great extras, too.

22. Dr. No
MGM/20th Century Fox - £23
Anybody who thinks that there's no point releasing old movies on Blu-ray needs to watch this disc. Thanks to the efforts of Lowry Digital Images, Bond's debut adventure has never looked this good before, and the remixed DTS-HD MA audio is surprisingly effective. It also packs in more extras than Q has Sony gadgets...

21. The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration
Paramount Home Entertainment - £45
Each film in Francis Ford Coppola's classic crime trilogy (and, yes, the third film is actually quite good) has been lovingly restored and given an immersive new Dolby TrueHD audio mix for this immaculate set. As far as we're concerned, you deserve to find a horse's head in your bed if you don't add this pack to your collection.

20. TMNT
Warner Home Video - £28
The 'Heroes in a Half-Shell' get an HD makeover with this astonishing offering. The undoubted highlight is the remarkable VC-1 encode, taken directly from the original digital source. Similarly impressive is the Dolby TrueHD mix.

19. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Walt Disney Home Entertainment - £27
The first, and best, of the series, Curse... excels because of an interactive series of vignettes about pirate lore. Making use of BD-Java prompts and seamless branching, it allows the user to tailor their viewing experience by choosing either to drop out of the film to watch them at relevant points, or save them all up to run automatically after the final credits roll.

18. Superbad: 2-Disc Extended Edition
Sony Pictures - £25
The funniest film of 2007 is blessed with a two-disc BD set that exceeds expectations, with a superlative transfer and lively uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack. However, with this set the film is only half the fun, as there's no shortage of hilarious extras including spoof featurettes, masses of deleted scenes and an exclusive set-top game.

17. Cars
Walt Disney Home Entertainment - £27
Most people agree that Cars wasn't Pixar's finest hour. Yet even when Pixar isn't at the top of its game, its films are still much better than the competition. Unsurprisingly, Cars looks simply phenomenal in glorious 1080p, ranking up there with the best transfers we've ever seen. A 'Cine-explore' viewing mode, that uses BD-J technology and a second encode of the film lets viewers watch the film while switching between the rest of the extras.

16. Pan's Labyrinth
Optimum Releasing - £25
The third of writer/director Guillermo del Toro 'adult fairy tales', this dark and disturbing film contrasts the horrors of the Spanish Civil War with a nightmarish world of creatures overseen by the decrepit beast Pan. Del Toro packs the film with incredible sights, all of which are brought brilliantly to life by the exceptional Full HD transfer. Features include a commentary, documentaries, art galleries and more. It's just a shame that the video commentary from the US release isn't included.

15. Shoot 'em Up
Entertainment In Video - £25
This adrenaline-fuelled flick might have its tongue wedged deep into its cheek, but it also serves up a kick-ass DTS-HD Master audio 7.1 soundtrack that really makes the most of the film's seemingly never-ending shoot-outs. Add a top-notch transfer and an exclusive BD-Java video commentary, and you have a Blu-ray disc to set your sights on.

14. The Host
Optimum Releasing - £25
Forget Cloverfield; if you want a truly original monster movie then make sure you catch this South Korean addition to the genre. Admittedly, the impressive HD imagery on the disc ensures that you can now pick apart some of the small flaws in the computer-generated beastie, but the film still manages to impress. This single-disc offering is overflowing with extras, including a commentary, 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes, a gag reel, 14 deleted scenes and the trailer.

13. 300
Warner Home Video - £28
300 may be historical revisionism at its most macho, but what the film lacks in realism, it more than makes up for with stylish visuals (inspired by the acclaimed Frank Miller's comic book) and a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that's more aggressive than the whole Persian army put together. Throw in a host of extras, including a six-part documentary, deleted scenes and a commentary, and you have an unbeatable warrior in Blu-ray form.

12. Die Hard 4.0
20th Century Fox - £29
This Blu-ray version of Die Hard 4.0 isn't the slightly extended, 'swearier' version that appeared on R2 DVD, but it's undoubtedly the better release, with an atmospheric DTS-HD Master Audio mix that continually drags you off the sofa and right into the middle of the onscreen action, and a pin-sharp, highly detailed image.

11. Casino Royale: Deluxe Edition
Sony Pictures - £23
Is Daniel Craig the best Bond? Well, with this flick he puts forward a decent case. Casino Royale is undoubtedly the sharpest-looking and sounding Bond film in the franchise's lengthy history. The video has an almost 3D crispness and the Dolby TrueHD mix is packed full of sonic highlights. This new two-disc set also makes amends for the earlier single-disc release, packing in plenty of bonus features.

10. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Warner Home Video - £26
This is a dark, dark film, and yet the image is always packed full of detail, while the animation itself is smooth and clean. although the disc only offers a high-bitrate 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1eX mix, the film always sounds rich. Fans will also get a kick out of the eight informative featurettes and music-only soundtrack.

09. Planet Earth: The Complete Series 2
Entertain Ltd - £50
Who would have thought it? A nature documentary nestled amongst HCC's top 10 Blu-ray platters! But then Planet Earth is no ordinary nature series – it inspires a greater sense of awe in the viewer than most Hollywood blockbusters could ever hope for. The HD transfer makes it feel like you could step forward and be swimming with dolphins or scaling steep cliffs with snow leopards yourself.

08. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Walt
Disney Home Entertainment - £30
The final part of the Pirates trilogy may end with a whimper, but its BD release is a revelation. The PCM 5.1 audio and image quality never falter. extras-wise, a fascinating documentary that looks at the making of the sets for the final battle is the highlight, but there's a whole treasure chest of bonus booty included.

07. Fantastic Four: Rise of The silver surfer
20th Century Fox - £29
This Fantastic Four sequel is a jolly superhero romp filled with outlandish characters and special effects. The titular Silver Surfer is one its major plus-points, a CG character who looks, er, fantastic, courtesy of 20th Century Fox's exceptional 1080p transfer. Technically it's nigh-on impossible to fault this disc, and among the many extras you'll find a surprisingly entertaining BD-Java strategy game.

06. Close encounters of The Third Kind: Ultimate Edition
Sony Pictures - £23
Spielberg has tampered with CE3K several times over the years, but unlike his buddy George Lucas and Star Wars, he's not just giving us one version. This two-disc set includes the original 1977 theatrical cut, the 1980 'Special edition' and the 1997 'Director's Cut' via the magic of seamless branching. a second disc houses three documentaries, deleted scenes and several Blu-ray exclusives.

05. Ratatouille Walt Disney
Home Entertainment | £24
One of the best Blu-ray demo discs around is a cartoon about a rat who likes to cook. Well, that's the wonder of Pixar for you. The film looks sublime on BD, bursting with levels of fine detail that will make your eyes water. The uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio is similarly impressive, throwing surround effects around with ease.

04. Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Warner Home Video - £28
This Blu-ray edition boasts the most stunning-looking version of blade runner ever released – despite being over 25 years old, the imagery is so sharp and colourful that it looks as if it was shot yesterday. a packaged bonus DVD contains the brilliant Dangerous Days documentary. It's just a shame that the UK didn't get the five-disc edition released in America, containing all five different cuts of the film.

03. Hairspray: Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition
Entertainment in Video - £30
We admit it. We were just as surprised as anyone that a musical made it into the top three of this list of the 50 best Blu-ray discs. Let alone one based on a Broadway show that has its origins in a low-budget flick from the 'Sultan of Sleaze' John Waters. Yet is Hairspray a great film, guaranteed to leave a smile on your face, and the disc boasts a genius VC-1 transfer and gorgeously wide DTS-HD Master audio 7.1 soundtrack. Also thrown into the mix is an endless supply of extras, including a Java-based, non-Profile 1.1 picture-in-picture commentary. Superb stuff.

02. Spider-man: The High Definition Trilogy
Sony Pictures - £50
If, like so many of us, you're a fan of the web-slinger's films then you can't pass up the chance to own them in HD. all three 1080p transfers look great; each capturing the night-time action as easily as they do the textures of Spidey's costumes. The Dolby TrueHD soundtracks are state-of-the-art, too. Spider-Man 3 comes laden with extras. It's just a pity that there are none for the first two films, beyond the inclusion of both the theatrical and extended cuts of Spider-Man 2.

01. Iron man
Paramount Home entertainment - £30
One of the year's most eagerly-awaited Blu-ray discs is also one of the most convincing reasons we've yet encountered to buy into the format. The hi-def 2.40:1 picture brings to life the gorgeous visual effects, with the CG suit seamlessly integrated into the location footage. And then there's the movie's lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio, which is titanic, offering sensational clarity and imaging positioning with manifold LFE. Sadly, there's no commentary (not even a Picture-in-Picture track), but any disappointment is quickly pushed aside by the weight of extras lurking on this two-disc set. These include numerous documentaries/featurettes about the making of the film and Iron Man's comic book origins, plus BD-Live functionality.


First published inHome Cinema Choice, Issue 164

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