Which are the best movies to get on Blu-Ray?
September 16, 2009 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Which are the best movies to get on Blu-Ray?

So, the HD format wars are long over and I'm looking at buying my first Blu-Ray player. So I want to know: which films most benefit from the Blu-Ray medium? (Or television content, for that matter; I hear that Planet Earth is practically the first thing one should buy on Blu-Ray.)

So are there movies that blew your mind when you saw them in HD? Which are most impressive or improved over the DVD?

Also, assuming my player does a decent job of upscaling standard DVDs, will it be worth purchasing Blu-Rays of any movies that I already own on DVD? (Not that I'm averse to buying my fifth copy of Blade Runner, but...)

I should note that I'm mainly curious about visual pizazz since I do not own anything resembling a Sound System(tm), just the speakers on my TV.
posted by bent back tulips to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely "The Dark Knight". The scenes shot in IMAX take up the whole screen and look phenomenal.
posted by King Bee at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2009

The first 2 Blu-Ray movies I bought were Iron Man and Prince Caspian. Both look terrific in Blu-Ray, especially the action scenes in Iron Man (don't forget the AWESOME sound) and the exterior shots of Prince Caspian. The opening scenes where the kids are on the beach look outstanding. Planet Earth is on my list for sure.

For pure visual pizazz, we (missus, oldest son, and I) thoroughly enjoyed Speed Racer.

TV shows seem sort of hit-or-miss to me.
posted by jquinby at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2009

The Fifth Element!
posted by meta87 at 6:38 AM on September 16, 2009

Planet Earth is definite Blu-ray demo material, as far as sweeping vistas and bright colors go. So are the films Baraka and The Fall.

Watchmen is also pretty impressive, as far as modern-day effects films go. Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also look great. And generally, any CG animated film will look amazing (especially Wall-E).

Blu-ray discs are good for more than just recent films--a good HD remaster can make an earlier film look almost like a freshly struck print, revelatory in its detail. 2001, Unforgiven, Casablanca, and the Godfather movies are all good examples. And anything released as part of the Criterion Collection is a safe bet.

And though not all DVDs are worth repurchasing, you should definitely buy the five-disc Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner (if only because it has every extant version of the film, including the workprint). It can easily be had for $25 or less.
posted by Prospero at 6:46 AM on September 16, 2009

Forgive me, bent back tulips, if you feel I'm piggybacking, but I've been somewhat confused about the same issue, but from a slightly different perspective. After I got a Blu-Ray player, I realized that I'd been confusing the "DVD vs. Blu-Ray" issue with the "Standard Def vs. High Def" issue. So, to kind of expand on the question, are all movies on Blu-Ray higher def than the same movies on DVD? Or do Blu-Ray discs merely provide more capacity for extras, etc. If I'm renting from Netflix, say, and the same movie is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, is the Blu-Ray version always a higher quality video?

Again, bent back tulips, please have the mods delete this if you feel I'm out of bounds.
posted by dinger at 6:54 AM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: you should definitely buy the five-disc Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner

Heh, well, I already have the five-disc DVD edition, so I suppose technically it would be my 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th copies of Blade Runner. I will definitely buy the standalone Director's Cut though.

Again, bent back tulips, please have the mods delete this if you feel I'm out of bounds.

That's fine, it's pertinent to my question too.
posted by bent back tulips at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2009

dinger, yes, BR discs are always high def. If you have a BR player properly hooked up to a HDTV, you'll always get better video quality over DVD
posted by Oktober at 6:58 AM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: As a followup (if it matters) I am in the UK and have a 720p/1080i 42" televison.
posted by bent back tulips at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2009

Basically I would say, if you like a movie, check these sites before you buy. They go into fairly good detail about picture quality:


In most cases, the upgrade in picture quality from DVD to Blu-ray is significant. Make sure your TV supports 1080p, 120Hz (or 60Hz with switching to 24Hz for movies), and that you're connected using an HDMI cable to get the full effect.
posted by exolstice at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2009

The answer to your question may depend entirely on what kind of movies you like. For instance, I'd say that Criterion's The Seventh Seal is one of the most gob-stoppingly awesome things I've ever seen in my living room. It doesn't look like a 35mm print, exactly, but it clearly approximates that experience. The fine layer of film grain is exquisite, the level of detail in the shadows and elsewhere unprecedented.

On the other hand, if you don't roll with Bergman, the new Blu-ray release of Crank: High Voltage is something else entirely, and makes similarly stunning use of the HD medium. This one was shot on video, and largely with an extreme shutter-angle effect — the same technique that was popularized in Saving Private Ryan's Normandy sequence — that reduces motion blur. On Blu-ray, the result is a stuttery but kinetic experience that probably comes closer to the effect Neveldine/Tayor had in mind on the set than a 35mm film print in the theater. A shot of Amy Smart having sex with Jason Statham on a horse-racing track takes on an almost pop-art quality — you're in close, on her face and head, but the shutter effect makes the quick shot look less like a piece of film and more like a quick series of still portraits. I don't think the movie's especially good, but it's not bad for what it is. (You may find it offensive, too, with its vulgar and retrograde [but perhaps deliberately ironic vulgar and retrograde, a-ha!] attitude toward gender- and race-based stereotypes.)

Nthing the suggestion of Blade Runner. You can get the five-disc collector's set for $22 on Amazon, so it looks like you'll be retiring your DVD version. (Actually, only the movie discs are Blu-rays — the "extras" discs in the set are DVDs, because the extras are in SD.)

Other titles to consider, based on my experience and selected off the top of my head: Speed Racer (the movie is better than its reputation, and the Blu-ray is dazzling); The Wild Bunch; The Third Man; Chungking Express; any of the Kubricks, starting with your personal favorite; Play Time (shot in 65mm!); any of the Pixars released to date, starting with your personal favorite; Encounters at the End of the World. There oughta be something in that list that turns your crank.
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2009

I have a smallish bluray collection, and of those my favourites so far are (for pure visual effect, ignoring all other aspects):

Transporter 3
Cruel Intentions
Children of Men
Dark Knight
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Casino Royale
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 7:54 AM on September 16, 2009

My only advice is to NOT buy 28 Days Later on blu-ray, as the grainy look of the film is exactly the same on DVD and blu-ray.
posted by Grither at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2009

Missed the fact that you're in the UK. I'm not sure how many of the titles I mentioned are region-locked to North America without UK equivalents. You do have access to a nice Blu-ray of Wong's Ashes of Time over there and what should be a very nice edition of Murnau's classic Sunrise is coming soon.
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2009

The Dark Knight is the only film I have on Blu-Ray and it is awesome. Imax scenes are absolutely stunning.
posted by azarbayejani at 8:01 AM on September 16, 2009

Another benefit of Blu-ray is that most of them are not region-locked, so getting discs from America etc. is made a lot easier than with DVD.

My flatmate swears on his Blu-ray copy of V for Vendetta and says it's one of the better HD transfers he has seen.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:05 AM on September 16, 2009

The first movie I got when I got my playstation was Earth (that's the Japanese title), narrated by Patrick Stewart about the changing of the seasons, migration, life, and ending with the plight of the polar bears. Absolutely stunning. There's a scene where they show a couple dozen reindeer crossing a river. Then the camera just keeps pulling back (airborne shot) until you see that there are literally thousands of them, and you can make them all out. Clearly.

Plus, it has a whole bit on Birds of Paradise, which is worth getting for that alone. I've seen a version of the same movie that had Morgan Freeman narrating it. I like Morgan Freeman, but for this one, Capt. Picard just rocks.

The other movie I have is Dark Knight, and it is purty. Seriously, get it. As said before, the imax is fantastic.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2009

2nding Planet Earth. That's some good Blu-Ray.
posted by paperzach at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2009

With what slimepuppy said, be careful. I happened across a site that listed which bluerays were region locked. Evidently a good number of them are, and even different versions of the same film might be region free/not region free. The site consisted of a giant, mindboggling table that was frankly not easy to comprehend.

On the other hand, my copy of Dark Knight contains information for region 1 (English) and Region 2 (Japanese). My PS3 was set to run menus in English, and when I sat down to watch it with my wife, we checked the subtitle list. It had roughly 20 different languages, but no Japanese (for a disc bought in Japan!). I changed my PS3 setting to display Japanese menus, and voila, there it was, entirely in Japanese. Strangely enough, the subtitle options were suddenly limited to Japanese and English, only.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 AM on September 16, 2009

Wall-E looks amazing. In fact the detail in most of the Pixar movies is great, but I just really like Wall-E. Get Wall-E.
posted by Elmore at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2009

Just a note- most blu ray players can upconvert dvds which means regular dvds will look pretty great.

I have a play station 3 so that I can watch blu ray/dvd movies and also stream movies from my computer to my tv (mac, but also plenty of programs for pc), I also download quite a few movies, all public domain and completely *ahem* legal of course.

My picks would definitely be all of the planet earth series, both new batman movies, Sin City (fantastic for blu ray or regular dvd), Fight Club and Army of darkness- total cheese, but I love Bruce Campbell no matter what he's been in. I can't wait for Inglorious Basterds to come out as well.
posted by TheBones at 8:51 AM on September 16, 2009

note: there are only 3 regions in the blu-ray coding scheme, and they're not the same as the DVD coding scheme

A/1: The Americas, and their dependencies, East Asia (except Mainland China and Mongolia), Southeast Asia.

B/2: Africa, Southwest Asia, Europe (except Russia), Oceania, and their dependencies.

C/3: Central Asia, East Asia (Mainland China and Mongolia only), South Asia, central Eurasia (including Russia), and their dependencies.

Of particular note is that the US and Japan are both region A, while Europe is region B.
posted by Oktober at 9:03 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Braveheart transfer is really fucking superb, if you're into the movie. Unfortunately, the Gladiator one that came out the same day is not so great-- I don't think they've done anything to that transfer since the last DVD release.

I nth Speed Racer, Casino Royale, and Iron Man; they all look absolutely fantastic. Crank looks nice because it was shot digital anyhow, but you have to be pretty into Jason Statham and the Neveldine/Taylor approach to filmmaking.

Also, grab a copy of the BBC/Discovery Planet Earth, because no home theater is complete without flocks of penguins/ pods of dolphins/ brightly-colored frogs for showing off to small children and easily-offended relatives.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2009

The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy is great for showing off your system, especially the audio, since they all feature fully uncompressed audio tracks.
posted by CMcKinnon at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2009

Seconding the first two Godfather movies, WALL•E and Blade Runner. Ratatouille is great, too.

*pines for Apocalypse Now and Alien*
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:51 PM on September 16, 2009

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
posted by St. Sorryass at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2009

I enthusiastically second Planet Earth, Children of Men, and The Assassination of Jesse James.

I'd also recommend There Will Be Blood.
posted by churl at 7:59 PM on October 1, 2009

« Older After all bills are paid when is it ok to finace...   |   Who invented the amateur athletics for charity... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.