The best Dolby Atmos movies, from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ to ‘Gravi - | WBTV Charlotte

The best Dolby Atmos movies, from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ to ‘Gravity’

By Nick Hastings


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Every year, the technology for watching movies improves a little more, inching along on the quest to provide total immersion in a film. So much is made about advances in visual fidelity, however, that the role of sound is often overlooked. Sound design isa crucial aspect of filmmaking, engulfing the audience in a way visuals simply cannot, and movie producers are always looking for ways to make films sound more engaging and realistic. Dolby Atmosis one of the latest formats to hit commercial and home theaters and it sounds incredible, thanks to its ability to rain sound effects from up above and all around you.

Along with overhead sound, Dolby Atmosoffers enhancement over traditional surround sound setups by placing each “sound object” (such as a glass hitting the ground or a buzzing bee) in a specific spot in the mix, as designated by the engineers who edited the sound. This enables engineers to craft highly detailed sound mixes that help evoke the suspension of disbelief. As it has done in commercial theaters,Atmos has transformed home theater audio and it’s becoming more and more prevalent, with a rapidly expanding list of supported titles.Below are our picks for the best movies to watch in Dolby Atmos right now.(Here’s also a list of theatrical releases with Dolby Atmos, but be warned: They may not all support Atmos on Blu-ray or digital release.)

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 might want to know. For most everyone, streaming is preferable to purchasing movies; if you’re already paying for a Netflix subscription (or glomming off a friend’s), you might as well use it, right? Netflix does have some Atmos titles available for streaming, 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. Oh, and one more thing: Netflix only supports Atmos on Xbox One consoles, LG OLED televisions, and the Windows 10 desktop app. Sorry. Here are some more details.

What about other streaming services?

Per the official Dolby website, Vudu and German platform Maxdome are the only other (non-Netflix) services to offer Atmos support. As with Netflix, you’ll want to browse those services’ libraries (see all Vudu’s UHD content here) and look for the Dolby Atmos logo. Amazon Prime Video supports Dolby Vision HDR, but not Dolby Atmos. Neither Hulu nor HBO platform 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. Most on-demand streaming services — which also act as hosts for purchased digital copies — do not support Dolby Atmos; that goes for Amazon, Google Play Store. While iTunes does not currently support Dolby Atmos, Apple announced Atmos support will be coming this fall, along with tvOS for Dolby Atmos on the Apple TV 4K.

With the recently upgraded Movies Anywhere program, most any digital film you own on those platforms — 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, right? Keep in mind many Blu-ray purchases include digital Ultraviolet codes.

Note: Movies Anywhere only includes movies from Disney, 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 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, and Blu-ray players, but keep in mind you’ll need an Atmos-capable sound system to hear the results.

What about TV?

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 rarely fit that description. There are two major exceptions — HBO’sGame of Thrones andWestworld — which do feature Dolby Atmos support, but only if you buy seasons on Blu-ray. Sorry, streamers, no luck yet.

Action/Adventure

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road, the resurrection of George Miller’s apocalyptic ’80s franchise, was a surprise smash hit, garnering rave reviews for its highly kinetic action and uncompromising vision of dystopia. Set in Australia years after nuclear war has scorched the Earth, the film follows series protagonist Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) as he joins a band of women fleeing a brutal warlord. The ensuing chase sets the ugliness of machinery against the beauty of the natural world, as ramshackle vehicles hound each other across the red wastes.

As metal clashes and flames erupt, the sound is as important as the explosive visuals, surrounding the audience with a symphony of warfare. Fury Road is an intense two-hour chase sequence underscored by a muscular soundtrack from Junkie XL. It’s a celebration of everything action movies should aspire to be, and one of the best Dolby Atmos demonstrations available today.

Black Panther

Black Panther obliterated expectations and set box office records on the back of incredible direction from Ryan Coogler (Creed) and a sparkling ensemble performance from a cast including big names like Sterling K. Brown, Forest Whitaker, and Michael B. Jordan. The Marvel movie — one of two on our list, both recent releases — focuses on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the superpowered leader and guardian of Wakanda, an African nation blessed with extraterrestrial technologies and shrouded from the outside world.

Jordan’s character, Killmonger, intrudes on this utopia, fracturing Wakandan politics and endangering the world with radical plans. Coogler — aided by Kendrick Lamar — underscores all of Wakanda’s shine with a gritty, hip-hop inspired soundtrack that will sound even better on an Atmos system.

Our full review

Hacksaw Ridge

In Hacksaw Ridge,Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist and conscientious objector who nonetheless enlists in the military to serve during World War II. Despite refusing to touch a gun, Doss becomes a critical contributor, working as a combat medic during the Battle of Okinawa to save the lives of many American soldiers. Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t break much new ground — in fact, it falls victim to many of the same tropes that have always plagued war movies — but its battle scenes, based on a true story, are frantic, kinetic affairs, with believable anguish and choreographed chaos.Few genres can get as much mileage out of a surround sound system (or an Atmos one). If only Dunkirkwas on the list of supported titles.

Our full review

Logan

As brutal as it is heartbreaking, Logan takes Wolverine — and the superhero genre as a whole —into unfamiliar territory. The film serves as the perfect swan song for the titular character who’s been clawing up bad guys and evil mutants for nearly two decades. Wolverine’s “softer side” is on full display in Logan, but that doesn’t mean our favorite killer mutant (sorry, Deadpool) doesn’t show his animal side, too. Hearing the sounds of Wolverine’s claws unfurl and slice through a horde of evildoers is as stirring as it is frightening, especially when it’s magnified through a Dolby Atmos system that makes you feel like you’re right beside the lone mutant.

Our full review

Sicario

It may be hard to imagine that mere miles from the border of Texas are cities that resemble war zones. Such is the case with Juarez, Mexico, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world. It is in this borderland thatSicario sets its story as FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) joins a covert operation to hunt down a cartel leader responsible for a series of killings in America. As the strike team moves closer to its goal, Kate experiences firsthand the horror of the war on drugs, a conflict that corrupts both sides of the border.

Heavy subject matter aside, Sicario is a relentless thriller, with a cloud of dread hanging above even the most sunlit scenes. When the tension snaps and the bullets start flying, viewers may feel as if they have been sucked into the vicious quagmire themselves.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Few films are as expensive and extravagantly produced as those in the Star Wars franchise, so it should come as no surprise to see The Last Jedi — nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing — appear on this list. While fan reaction was mixed for director Rian Johnson’s first foray into the Force, few would dare to argue the fact thatEpisode VIII is a sumptuous buffet of blaster bolts, explosions, crackling lightsaber blades, and weird alien noises. If there’s any movie you’d want to watch in full, Dolby Atmos-enabled glory, it’s this one.

Our full review

Thor: Ragnarok

Ragnarokflipped the script, refreshing a series that had, to be honest, gotten somewhat stale withThor: The Dark World. Here, new director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows) imbues Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with a renewed sense of humor, one which powers the movie — almost as much a comedy as it is an action flick — and helps him stay confident in the face of his scary older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who’s returned to take control of Asgard.Ragnarok has some pretty great fight sequences, as well as incredibly traces of ’70s sci-fi nostalgia, and an early scene where Thor battles a massive, fiery giant of sorts.Ragnarok isn’t necessarily the best Atmos film but it’s fun, action-packed and bombastic.

Our full review

Baby Driver

Director Edgar Wright is known for straying off the cinematic beaten path — like inScott Pilgrim vs. The World and the hilarious Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy — and Baby Driveris no exception. The film follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), an ace driver who finds himself simultaneously courting a beautiful waitress (Lily James) and trying to extricate himself from a dangerous gang of criminals, led by Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey. Wright creatively blends the film’s sound effects into Baby’s music choices — he’s always got his earbuds going, thanks to some nasty tinnitus — turning a slick heist setup into something entirely different. You’ll want to hear it on Dolby Atmos.

Our full review

Dramas

Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013 masterpiece drewpraise for its sound design and cinematography, which combined to give viewersthe sensation of being in space. Following a pair of astronauts adrift in space after their shuttle is destroyed by debris, Gravity explores their personalities and relationshipagainst the backdrop of the cold, all-encompassing void. Dolby Atmos is a great format for the film, where the position and movement of sounds are key to immersing viewers in the physics of space.

The chirping of machines, headset chatter bouncing around in the astronauts’ helmets, and of course, Steven Price’s stirring, layered score all mesh together to create soundscapes unlike anything else in Hollywood cinema. If you have an Atmos setup and want to show it off to friends, Gravity is easily one of the most impressive experiences available.

Our full review

La La Land

La La Land is a unique throwback and a stylish ode to classic Hollywood cinema. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play a pair of young Angelenos — a struggling jazz pianist and an aspiring actress, naturally — who come together following a series of coincidental meetings. In classic fashion, the film establishes musical themes with regular reprises, as scenes will suddenly become massive musical numbers and then morph back into regular, everyday life. Critics gushed over Damien Chazelle’s use of contemporary tech to produce an old-school story, and there’s nothing quite like hearing chorus voices from every direction.

The Martian: Extended Edition

After he’s abandoned on Mars, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) uses his NASA training and wits to help him stay alive and send signals back to Earth. Director Ridley Scott’s sense of magnitude and scopemakes Damon’s odyssey through Mars equal parts beautiful and desolate. Projecting the film’s excellent soundtrack through an Atmos system gives you a better sense of suspense as the film leads to its adventurous climax, which puts Damon’s character in a life-or-death situation as he’s making split-second decisions and attempting to make a harrowing escape back to Earth. The extended edition of The Martianadds 10 more minutes to the film, as well as a plethora of special features.

Our full review

Comedies

Deadpool

Watching the Merc With a Mouth (Ryan Reynolds) kill a bunch of bad guys while making cringe-worthy jokes was a treat in theaters, but it’s an even better time when you’re laughing along with your friends and family at home. Every bullet, stab, and terrible pun is amplified for the better with Dolby Atmos sound. Composer Junkie XL’s distinct ear for grandiose electronic music makes for a soundtrack that sets the stage perfectly for the wisecracking antihero to make his way through bad guys like hot knives through butter. Plus, few comedy movies feature enough action sequences to justify Atmos.Deadpool is one.

Our full review

Ghostbusters (1984)

When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, what ya gonna watch? Whether you’ve seen the movie hundreds of times or haven’t watched it since it came out on VHS, Ghostbusters is still worth it just to see the entire cast, from Bill Murray to Sigourney Weaver, at the top of their game. Watching the film in high definition with Atmos sound will have you smiling just as wide as when you first watched the classic as a kidand seeing the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man take on New York has never looked so good. As an added bonus, Ghostbusters 2 and the reboot are also available in Dolby Atmos.

Swiss Army Man

Your Dolby Atmos system can handle any explosion, gunshot, and punch you throw its way, but what about flatulence? When Swiss Army Man premiered at Sundance in 2016, people walked out of the theater due to its dumb and excessive fart jokes (and missed out as a result), but behind this setup — in which a suicidal man on a desert island finds a farting corpse — lies a thoughtful, funny story about human connections and expressing who you are. The film might not be for everyone, but it caught the attention of NPR, which interviewed the director and went into great detail over the metaphor hiding behind a farting corpse.

Documentaries

Roger Waters: The Wall

Pink Floyd’s The Wall is a legendary album, made famous by hits like Comfortably Numb and Another Brick in the Wall, and it marked the start of the band’s decline due to internal conflicts. Bassist Roger Waters was largely responsible for the direction and songwriting of the album, and his solo tour from 2010-13 represents probably the last time it will be performed in its entirety. Roger Waters: The Wall captures the grandiose performances from that tour, where Waters traded the psychedelic imagery from the original performances of The Wall for striking visuals that evoke contemporary political issues, such as financial corruption and terrorism, and the sound is a fantastic source for Dolby Atmos.

Enchanted Kingdom

Nature documentaries are well-trod ground at this point, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still impress. Produced by the BBC, Enchanted Kingdom is a tour through the diverse biomes of Africa, with everything from the tiniest insects to the tallest mountain peaks captured in immaculate detail. The filmmakers used a variety of cameras and techniques to document their subjects, and the level of craftsmanship on display is impressive, with even the time-lapse sequences looking too seamless to be real. The film accurately reproduces the sounds of the wild as well, and moments like a volcano erupting will rock the audience. Idris Elba provides narration, his rich baritone enveloping viewers on their journey through nature.

Journey to Space

When NASA closed its doors on the Space Shuttle Program in 2011, hope for exploring new worlds and witnessing life beyond ours started to dissipate. Journey to Space brings hope back by showcasing NASA’s audacious plans for landing on Mars in the distant (but not too distant) future. You’re given just a glimpse — the documentary is a lean 45 minutes — but it’s packed with beautiful footage from space that was originally featured in the IMAX filmSpace Station 3D.

If you missed out on that movie when it was released in theaters,Journey to Space is the only way to see that footage in the comfort of your home and surrounded in Atmos sound. The doc is also narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, who knows a thing or two about the deep realms of space from his old Starfleet days.

Rocky Mountain Express

Compared toself-automated semi-trucks and Amazon package drones, railroads seem like a minuscule accomplishment from more than a century ago. Rocky Mountain Express puts into perspective just how amazing of a feat it was to build railroads. Originally an IMAX release, the documentary follows a restored 1930s steam engine as it travels railroads throughout rural Canada. As the train goes on its journey, we’re treated to aerial footage of breathtaking landscapes and once-in-a-lifetime views. The thunderous roar of a steam engine echoing throughout your home gives you the sensation of a train traveling just right outside your front door. Admittedly, a documentary about trains doesn’t sound too enthralling, but you’re quickly captivated by the train’s remarkable power and ingenuity. The feeling is how you imagine people felt in the late 1800s when film was first introduced and audiences were enthralled with the Lumire brothers’ 50-second film, TheArrival of a Train.

Sci-fi/Horror

Blade Runner 2049

We chose Blade Runner 2049 as our top movie of 2017. Set some 28 years after the events of Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, the movie follows Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant — the movie’s term for android — tasked with hunting down and “retiring” older replicant models. In the course of his work, he stumbles across a conspiracy, which in turn begins to unlock memories that — by all accounts — he shouldn’t have. The film is striking and visually lush, packed with gorgeous details that flesh out K’s futuristic Los Angeles and the locales he visits in his investigation. Director Denis Villenueve somehow manages to pay tribute to the original film while telling a wholly new story that ties into the events of the firstBlade Runner.Excellent support is provided by the likes of Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Jared Leto.

Our full review

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker’s most famous novel has been adapted many times, with the titular count making more than 200 film appearances. Though most films featuring Dracula stray far from the source material, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film retains most of the plot, even using multiple narrators and viewpoints to capture the fragmented nature of the novel. For those who haven’t read the horror classic, the story concerns the arrival of the vampire Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) in 19th century London, and the group of people who run afoul of him. Coppola reimagines the count as a tragic figurebut doesn’t sacrifice any of the horror he brings with him. Filmed using practical effects in order to maintain an antique aesthetic, Coppola’s Dracula is a delirious journey through romance and horror, the type of big-budget spectacle that’s perfect for a serious sound system.

The Fifth Element

Summer blockbusters have become so rote that it’s hard to remember a time when big-budget action films dared to be a little mad. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, set in the 23rd century, involves a New York taxi driver/special forces soldier (Bruce Willis) helping an ancient woman (Milla Jovovich) locate a superweapon capable of destroying a planet-obliterating evil. And that’s just the setup. Depicting a grotesque future where consumerism and industry have ruined the Earth, The Fifth Element is a gutsy sci-fi adventure with an imaginative setting and over-the-top action set pieces. The film’s sound design is also key, immersing the viewer in bizarre machinery and the alien music of Besson’s future.

mother!

Mother was one of the most controversial films in recent memory, causing some critics to gush and some to walk out of the theater in abject misery. Darren Aronofsky’s metaphorical tale follows Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in an isolated house. Suddenly, two visitors show up (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer), quickly followed by their sons, who turn Mother’s paradise into a kind of living hell. The movie progresses from an idyllic beginning into a frenzied, sin-soaked nightmare party, with particular detail paid to cinematography and sound design. You may not like watching this movie with your Atmos setup, but you will appreciate the effort put in.

It

It — adapted from the first half of Stephen King’s iconic novel — received universal acclaim for its deft blend of storytelling with graphic horror. By now, you probably know the story: Some kids in a podunk town discover a disturbing trend of child disappearances, and soon find themselves face to face with Pennywise, a killer clown capable of transforming into your biggest fear. If you like scary movies, this should be on your list, not only due to the unnerving performance of Bill Skarsgrd as Pennywise but also for its creative, varied horror scenes, capable of causing tremors in even the most hardened viewers.It is as atmospheric as they come, making it a perfect pick for Atmos.

Our full review

Family

Pixels

Okay — Pixelsis not necessarily the best movie ever made. Think for a moment, though, about your favorite movies as a kid. Were they Oscar bait? Probably not. WhatPixelsmay lack in committed performances and coherent storytelling — thanks, Happy Madison — it makes up for with inventive, CGI action sequences depicting arcade games come to life. Imagine that you’re 10 years old. Is there anything you’d want to see (or hear) more than a giant Pac-Man chomping his way through the streets of New York? Didn’t think so.

Our full review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

With a name like Captain Underpants, you’d hope that the movie would be a fun, silly way to spend an hour and a half. It delivers on that front, while also serving up a solid side of heartwarming moments thanks to the on-screen friendship of George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch). The two pranksters create comics about a fictional superhero, and when one prank goes awry, a mysterious 3D Hypno Ring transforms their stodgy principal (Ed Helms) into Captain Underpants himself.

The film’s wonderful animation is accompanied by enough laughs to keep everyone in the family entertained. Captain Underpants also has an amazing soundtrack that features everyone from Weird Al to Lil Yachty. You truly haven’t taken advantage of your Atmos system until you’ve heard theCaptain Underpants theme song.

Coco

Most Pixar films feature some musical numbers, but Coco is actually about music (partially, anyway). Miguel loves to play the guitar, but his great-great-grandmother Imelda forbid his family from playing music after her husband — a guitarist — disappeared. When he accidentally transports himself to the land of the dead on El Da delosMuertos, Miguel must seek out his great-great-grandfather to return home and rekindle his family’s love for music.Coco is visually astonishing, a color-crammed feast for the eyes, but it’s also got an incredible soundtrack, putting a spotlight on traditional Mexican music for kids to learn and appreciate.


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