While streaming high-def movies from the Internet may soon snuff them out, Blu-ray discs still have a leg up on Netflix and Amazon when it comes to quality and availability. High-def might not be necessary for stuff like South Park and Family Guy, but for certain movies, standard def just doesn’t cut it. For this reason, we’ve put together this list of the best movies to own on Blu-ray. To be considered for the list, each of these movies has the highest level of digital conversion possible, so from a technical standpoint, each movie ranks among the best Blu-ray movie releases on the market.
Multiple members of the Digital Trends’ staff contributed to this list.
If there’s one movie that’s worth owning in high-definition, it’s definitely James Cameron’s epic chart-topping film Avatar. Even if you’re not impressed by the predictable plot and unoriginal character archetypes, it’s hard not to fall in love with the lush, exotic world that Cameron created. Visually, it’s one of the most impressive films of all time. The live action sequences were shot in 3D at 24 frames per second, so 2D versions of the film just don’t do them justice. The Blu-ray 3D version of the film is the next best thing to seeing it in theaters – making it a must-own for video and audiophiles alike.
When Jurassic Park first came out on Laserdisc back in 1994, it became one of the essential films to own for the quality of the sound and visuals. Even putting aside the movie itself, which was a mega-hit (along with both sequels), the film made for an excellent test of a home theater. When the DVD of the original came out in 2000, that copy also excelled for testing systems. Now that the Blu-ray collection is here, it is again a must for home theater fans. The set contains all three original films, digital copies of all three movies, several featurettes, and more. Most importantly though, all three films have been fully remastered for Blu-ray.
If you are a true Lord of the Rings fan, this is the set that you have been waiting for. Fans of the series were none too pleased when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was first announced for Blu-ray. Sure, it was a great series formatted in the best audio and visual format available today, but the version coming out was not the Extended Edition. Not counting the VHS tapes, the trilogy has now been released four separate times. That may have left a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of some, but this should be the final and definitive version, both in quality and content. If you are a fan of the series, this is the version to own.
This is an easy pick, but still one made with a hint of reluctance. How many releases of Star Wars can there possibly be? Although this is the best collection out right now by far, a better set is likely to be released within a year or so. The 3D versions of the prequel trilogy hit theaters in 2012, so we expect them to be released on blu-ray sometime in mid to late 2013. This release will inevitably be followed by some sort of ultra-mega-ultimate-definitive collection, which will drop shortly after Return of the Jedi 3D hits theaters. If you’re a purist, however, and don’t need all this fancy 3D business, stick with this version – it’s currently the best version to own.
The Toy Story Ultimate Toy Box Collection is perfect for fans of the series who do not already own one or more copies of this movie on Blu-ray. There is nothing additional included to make you consider re-buying the films, but you will receive all three original films on Blu-ray, DVD, digital download, as well as a tenth disc filled with supplemental material. The discs all come in a foam container rather than jewel cases, but that won’t affect what are among the best Blu-ray films available today.
The most expensive of the Blu-ray movies on this list also gives you some of the most for your money. This-five disc set contains director Ridley Scott’s “Final Cut” of the film, along with the (apparently poorly named) Director’s Cut, the 1982 Theatrical Release, the 1982 International Release, and more features than you will know what to do with. One of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, Blade Runner needs to be in your collection. If the Ultimate Version isn’t for you, each version of the film is available separately, and each are equally impressive to watch.
The Dark Knight ($20)
Once the top selling Blu-ray movie, it was surpassed by Avatar. If you are building up your Blu-ray collection, this movie is a must-have that no Blu-ray fan should be without. Beyond just being a top-rated flick, it is a technically sound Blu-ray film that was filmed in IMAX, which on Blu-ray is positively stunning. When you combine that with the action scenes, The Dark Knight is a keeper.
To celebrate the anniversary of the classic film Gone With the Wind, Warner Home Video decided to fully remaster the original print of the film. The result is the best-looking version of the film ever released. If you have only seen the VHS, or possibly the DVD version which is just a digital copy of the original movie, then prepare to be blown away by the change. Even if you have seen the movie several times, watching it in this form is different experience. The Collector’s Edition contains eight hours of bonus material, including three hours that are exclusive to the collection. Fans will love it, but the standard Blu-ray release is also worth it if special features don’t appeal to you.
While sci-fi movies with highly detailed graphics shine in HD, and the transfer and remastering of older movies make them feel new again, you really can’t beat the truly awesome beauty of nature. In standard def, Planet Earth’s visuals are amazing. In HD, they are stunning. A beautifully filmed documentary that you can watch with the entire family, and one that takes full advantage of the capabilities of Blu-ray. We also highly recommend the Life and Frozen Planet series.
While the Gone With the Wind Anniversary Edition comes with eight hours of bonus footage, making that version worth your time, the Wizard of Oz’s Anniversary set contains a watch, a campaign book reproduction, and a commemorative book. All of these things are cool if you are a fan, but they don’t necessarily make the Blu-ray package better. The movie itself, however, is definitely worth the purchase, as the film has been painstakingly remastered in both picture and sound. It is actually fairly phenomenal what they did to this film, and despite the age of the original, the Blu-ray looks as good as many movies released today. In terms of both technical specs and movie quality, the Wizard of Oz is one of the best family movies you can own on Blu-ray.
Back in 2010, Inception snagged an Academy Award for best cinematography, and now that the film has long since been out of theaters, the only way to fully appreciate it is by watching it on Blu-ray. Aside from the film’s gripping, creative, and fast-paced plot, it has some of the most stunning visuals you’ll ever see. Cities folding in on themselves, zero-gravity fistfights, and slow motion explosions that pop like popcorn – you’ll see it all in this flick.
Full Metal Jacket ($8)
This list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning at least one of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic films. His movies were already awesome on VHS, but now that they’ve been remastered for blu-ray they’re better than ever. This new version of FMJ draws you in with a picture that’s sharper and more detailed, and colors that are rich and realistic
2001: A Space Odyssey ($9.50)
While we’re on Kubrick films, we can’t just skip over 2001: A Space Odyssey. No proper Blu-Ray collection would be complete without it. Although it was filmed in 1968, it’s arguably one of the most visually impressive films Kubrick ever produced. This digitally-remastered blu-ray version is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
When James Cameron isn’t busy exploring the deepest parts of the ocean or mining asteroids in space, he makes awesome movies. His epic film about the sinking of the Titanic quickly became the highest grossing film of all time when it was released in 1998, and stayed at the top for 11 years until Cameron beat his own record with Avatar. It’s available in both Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D today, so now you can relive the 1912 disaster with more realism than ever before.
This one almost needs no summary: it’s everyone’s favorite archaeologist whooping butt and taking ancient artifacts in high-def. Need we say more? Each movie has been painstakingly remastered, so everything – from the crack of Indy’s whip, to the shots of that dude getting his heart ripped out – looks and sounds sharp, crisp, and clear.
If we had to, we would’ve listed every movie Tarantino has ever made in this post, but luckily there’s an eight-disc Blu-ray set that includes some of his best work, so mentioning each one individually is unnecessary. In this collection, you’ll get Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Volumes 1&.2, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and True Romance. It also comes with five hours of behind-the-scenes footage you can’t get anywhere else.
This one may be a bit obscure in comparison to some of the other movies listed here, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. It’s about a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, and while we wouldn’t describe it as “action-packed”, it’s definitely one of the most thrilling movies to came out of 2011. The screenplay will draw you in, the cinematography will make your eyes happy, and if you’ve got a good set of speakers, the soundtrack will blow your mind.
Star Trek ($15)
When JJ Abrams decided to make a modern Star Trek movie, there was a lot of pressure on him. If the movie sucked, he’d have angry mobs of Trekkies swearing at him in Klingon everywhere he went for the rest of his life. But luckily, Abrams is good at what he does, and the movie turned out to be a white-knuckle thrill ride that appeals to both Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. Snag this blu-ray edition and you’ll be dazzled by all the awesome sci-fi scenery and hyperrealistic action sequences.
Hands down one of the best James Bond movies ever made – and that’s not just my opinion. It’s the highest-grossing Bond film ever made, and currently the 7th highest-grossing film of all time – and for good reason. It’s got a gripping and nuanced plot, all the action you’d expect from a 007 flick, and some of the best cinematography the franchise has ever seen. The film won all kinds of awards, and would’ve snagged up the Academy Award for Best Cinematography if it wasn’t for Ang Lee’s film the Life of Pi. Speaking of which…
The Life of Pi ($20)
You’d think a movie about a guy stuck on a boat with a cat would be boring as all hell, but Life of Pi is anything but. The plot is adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name, and while the story is engaging, the rich visuals are what keep you watching. Of the two stars in the film, one of them is entirely computer-generated – but still so photorealistic you can hardly tell.