Every year, the technology for watching movies improves, inching along on its way to total cinematic immersion. So much is made about advances in visual fidelity, however, that the role of sound is sometimes overlooked. Sound design is a crucial aspect of filmmaking, engulfing the audience in a way visuals simply cannot, and Dolby Atmos is one of the most revolutionary formats to hit commercial and home theaters in years.
Along with overhead sound, Dolby Atmos (and its rival DTS:X) offers enhancement over traditional surround sound setups by placing each “sound object” (such as a radio alarm or a buzzing bee) in a specific spot in the soundstage, as designated by the film’s sound engineers. This enables highly detailed sound mixes that help evoke the suspension of disbelief. Find out more about Dolby Atmos in the home below, or scroll to the next page to see our picks for the best home releases to watch with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack right now.
Important things to know
Atmos on Netflix?
Before we jump in here (feel free to skip to the next page if you’re an Atmos pro), there are a few things you should know. If you’re already paying for a Netflix subscription, you might as well take advantage of its Atmos offerings. Netflix does have some Atmos movies to stream, but it’s a fairly limited selection, and you’ll need a plan that supports Ultra HD (4K) streaming. Set your streaming quality to High or Auto, then look for titles with the Atmos logo next to the description. Netflix’s support for Dolby Atmos varies from device to device, and that list changes regularly. At publication time, it includes:
- Apple TV 4K (requires tvOS 12 or later)
- LG OLED TVs (2017 or newer models)
- Panasonic TVs (2019 or newer models)
- Pixela 4K Smart Tuner
- Sharp TVs (2019 or newer models)
- Sony Bravia Android TVs (2018 or newer models)
- Toshiba TVs (2019 or newer models)
- Vizio TVs (2018 or newer models)
- Windows 10 computer or tablet (requires Windows 10 RS3 Build 16299 or later)
- Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X
What about other streaming services?
Per the official Dolby website, Amazon Prime Video, Apple iTunes, and Vudu are the only other (non-Netflix) services to offer Atmos support. As with Netflix, you’ll want to browse those services’ libraries (see all of Vudu’s UHD content here) and look for the Dolby Atmos logo. Neither Hulu nor HBO currently support any Dolby tech.
Digital copies vs. Blu-ray
In many cases, you’ll need to buy (or rent) a physical Blu-ray copy to get the full Dolby Atmos experience. While a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray isn’t necessary to get Atmos, it’s often not included with the 1080p Blu-ray version. Most on-demand streaming services — some of which also act as hosts for purchased digital copies — do not support Dolby Atmos. That includes the Google Play Store. Although iTunes supports Atmos on select titles, you’ll need an Apple TV 4K to get that level of quality.
With the recently upgraded Movies Anywhere program, most any digital film you own there — assuming it’s not ineligible — should automatically transfer into your Vudu library as well. Obviously, Vudu’s selection of Atmos-supported content is still limited, but it’s better than nothing. Now that Ultraviolet is closing its doors, this is one of the few ways to maintain your digital copy library.
Note: Movies Anywhere only includes movies from Disney (Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar), Fox, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros., and some exclusivity agreements may prevent certain titles (even those made by the aforementioned studios) from appearing across all libraries.
Which playback devices support Atmos?
We’ve got a more thorough breakdown in our Dolby Atmos explainer, but for specific lists of supported devices, head here and scroll down until you see an array of colored boxes with the header Enjoy Dolby Atmos on These Products. Atmos is supported on a wide range of devices, including TVs, smartphones, streaming boxes, and Blu-ray players, but keep in mind that you’ll need an Atmos-capable sound system to hear the results. Not sure if you’ve got the right gear? Here’s how to know if you’ve got great Dolby Atmos sound.
What about TV shows?
As you might expect, the films that best take advantage of Dolby Atmos are typically action-packed movies that can show off the technology’s capabilities (that’s why a good number of our selections are on the Action/Adventure page). Since TV shows are produced with the living room TV in mind — not the movie-theater screen — they don’t include Atmos as a general rule. However, this rule is slowly changing: HBO’s Game of Thrones and Westworld do feature Dolby Atmos, but only if you buy seasons on Blu-ray. On Netflix, shows like Altered Carbon, as well as the now-canceled Daredevil and Jessica Jones, are Atmos-enabled, as is Luke Cage.