Sound is an integral part of any movie, and one of the chief aspects of a poorly produced film is bad sound design. Whether that be unconvincing stock sound effects, horrible balancing, or muddy vocals, a poor-sounding film can completely ruin the experience.
On the other hand, a great-sounding film can do wonders in terms of immersing the viewer into its world. These films sound crisp and clear, their sound effects are both inventive and convincing (even if they’re of a fantastical nature), and they take full advantage of the three-dimensional surround space. If a film fan is looking to break in a new sound system, they’d want to pick from this latter group of movies.
10 Skyfall (2012)
Many modern James Bond films sound fantastic, but Skyfall stands above them all. Skyfall is presented on both Blu-ray and 4K with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, and even though the 4K release is curiously missing DTS:X, it still sounds fantastic.
The movie serves as a showcase for home theaters, complete with thunderous explosions that reverberate with a deep bass and bullets that whiz throughout the surrounding speakers. Dialogue is also crystal clear, making Skyfall the best sounding Bond film in a franchise that has spanned half a century.
9 Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan is arguably the most inventive director working today – at least in terms of visuals, story, and sound design. Any of his films could be placed here, as they all sound terrific. One of the best is undoubtedly his 2010 masterpiece, Inception.
The sound design of the film is impeccably constructed, and each inventive sound is perfectly replicated here, whether it be metallic grindings, gunfire, booming explosions, cars crashing into each other, or buildings tumbling to the ground. Directionality is also clear, immersing the viewer in an engrossing soundscape that takes full advantage of the rear and side speakers. And perhaps best of all, Hans Zimmer’s epic soundtrack comes in loud and clear.
8 Gravity (2013)
Gravity was widely deemed one of 2013’s greatest films, and if nothing else, it was certainly the year’s most ambitious. This is visionary technical filmmaking, and the film walked away with numerous accolades – including the Oscars for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
The movie’s sound design is integral to the otherworldly experience, and it sounds just as good at home as it did in the theater. Silence is imposing, and the opening catastrophe at the space station (one of the best movie openings in the last ten years) is an exercise in impeccable sound design and directionality, proving to be one of the most immersive sound fields in modern film.
7 Baby Driver (2017)
Baby Driver was widely acclaimed for its ingenious soundtrack, striking the right note (no pun intended) for both critics and audiences. As a result, the film became director Edgar Wright’s most successful film in terms of box office gross.
The entire film was built around its soundtrack, and sound plays an integral role in its tone, editing, and story. The movie’s Atmos track on the 4K release is a revelation, offering up a reference quality disc that showcases the best that home theater viewing has to offer. It’s stellar home soundtracks like this that are spelling doom for the theater industry.
6 Jaws (1975)
It’s no secret that older films sound significantly worse than their modern contemporaries. The technology just wasn’t there, and even significant remixing can’t save some older soundtracks. Luckily, that is certainly not the case with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The two-time Academy Award-winner is a masterful filmmaker, and one of Spielberg’s best movies gets the audio treatment it deserves on 4K.
It comes equipped with a brand new Dolby Atmos soundtrack that beautifully emphasizes John Williams’s iconic score and adds some nice surround elements like waves, splashing, and background talking. It sounds modern, despite being nearly 50 years old.
5 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan is arguably Spielberg’s most frenetic film, as much of its runtime is filled with fast-paced and brutal war action. Never before has war been so chaotically captured on film, and its engrossing sound design adds many layers to the film’s immersive qualities.
The movie’s Dolby Atmos track on 4K is nothing short of extraordinary. Gunfire sounds loud and natural, characters scream and yell from every direction, and bullets whiz through the surround speakers to immerse the viewers in the confusing pandemonium. It certainly doesn’t make for easy listening, but it’s fantastic nevertheless.
4 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the most surprising success stories of 2015, earning critical acclaim and numerous Academy Awards for its technical filmmaking – including Best Sound Editing and Mixing. A movie of this caliber – one that is basically two hours of non-stop action – deserves an engrossing soundtrack, and Fury Road certainly delivers.
Everything is loud and has a beautiful “crunch” to it, including the numerous car crashes, metal scrapings, gunshots, and explosions. The theater experience comes home with Fury Road.
3 John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
The John Wick movies have quickly established themselves as some of the best action films in recent memory, and every single one of them contains stellar soundtracks that immerse the viewer in the series’ near-relentless action sequences.
In particular, the Dolby Atmos track on John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum‘s 4K release does fun things with the overhead speakers, and the action is both thunderous and clear, offering realistic sound effects that bombard the viewer with bullets, bass, and blazing music. Few action films sound as good as this.
2 Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Blade Runner 2049 is an action film of sorts, and when it comes time for the gunfire and explosions, the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack certainly delivers. But the movie also shines in the quieter scenes that emphasize introspection and music.
The deep bass of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s music rumbles the house with its intense vibrations, and the city scenes have wonderful ambient sound that place the viewer inside the movie’s fictional world. Sound design is integral in making a science fiction film feel alive, and the sound design of Blade Runner 2049 is nothing short of marvelous.
1 The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix has been released on numerous home video mediums, stretching all the way back to VHS in the late ’90s. In 2018, the legendary film came to 4K with a new Dolby Atmos remix, and it has never sounded better. Most of the reference material comes in the film’s final act, when Neo and Trinity rescue Morpheus from the agents.
The sound field is all-encompassing, and the action makes for a mesmerizing listen, with each distinct element earning its own clarity and emphasis. Whether it’s the whizzing bullets, the shattering tiles and glass, the splashing water, the collision of helicopters, or the movie’s inventive use of additional sound effects (such as when Neo dodges bullets to the iconic swooshing sound), The Matrix sounds breathtakingly beautiful.
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