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Best 4K Blu-ray discs

The age of 4K Blu-ray is here, delivering the best video quality of any in-home format to date.

We have chosen the following discs from among the 300 or so available so far. These movies not only show off the capabilities of your brand-new television, they're also good. (Well, we liked them, at least.)

All of these titles include the 4K disc as well as the standard 1080p Blu-ray copy in the package. To watch the 4K version you'll need a 4K TV and a 4K Blu-ray player, such as the Samsung UBD-K8500. All of the 4K discs also include HDR (high dynamic range) information, and when watched on a compatible HDR TV they can look noticeably better than standard Blu-ray.

Editors' note, Sept 19: Originally published in June 2016, this list is regularly updated.

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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET

'Planet Earth II'

If there's one title that looms large over other 4K releases this year so far, it's the BBC's "Planet Earth II." Shot mostly in 4K and complete with HDR effects, the latest installment of this series features all of the stunning footage you'd expect from the award-winning team behind the original and "Life." And of course it's narrated by David Attenborough.

From the opening scene of a sloth swimming among mangroves to the later macro shots of ants eating tadpoles, the cinematography can be simply breathtaking at times. If you want to show off your TV's ability to deliver color and detail, this is the disc.

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Photo by: BBC

'The Revenant'

The poster child for what 4K movies are capable of, "The Revenant" is one of the most beautifully shot movies we've ever seen. The picture quality is flawless and both the expanded color palette and dynamic range pop. Put it on the biggest screen you can afford and turn the volume up!

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Photo by: 20th Century Fox

'Mad Max: Fury Road'

When it comes to feminist revenge films masquerading as macho action flicks, they don't come bigger, louder or more fun than "Mad Max: Fury Road." There's no real story, or even that much dialogue: it's more akin to a two-hour rollercoaster ride with the promise of redemption at the end.

The HDR effects range from subtle to gaudy (especially when it comes to "flamethrower guitar guy") but as usual they improve what is already a superbly shot and directed action movie.

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Photo by: Warner Bros.

'The Martian'

"The Martian" may not be the best comedy of 2015 as voted by the Golden Globes judges, but it is a rollicking adventure combining equal parts plausible science and dumb heroics.

The HDR effects, with the right settings, make this movie pop on your TV, and you'll probably never want to go back to standard HD after watching it.

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Photo by: 20th Century Fox

'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales'

Forget "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," this is the Disney movie you should get on 4K Blu-ray. While it may not be the best movie in the "Pirates" series, it's an enjoyable romp with some spectacular visuals. Come for the HDR lighting effects; stay for Javier Bardem's underwater hair. 

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Photo by: Disney

'The Lego Movie'

While some of the discs here tend to monochromatic palettes (red for "The Martian" and gray for "The Revenant"), one of the most colorful 4K Blu-ray discs we've seen is "The Lego Movie." It's perfect for showing off the wide color gamut capabilities of your 4K HDR TV. It's also a fun film that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike.

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Photo by: Warner

'Logan'

Despite its moody tone, "Logan" is anything but dour when it comes to visuals. Images are sharp, and the special effects including HDR are as subtle and well-handled as the story-telling. Impressive visuals aside, this film is an involving and moving send-off to one of our favorite superheroes. 

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'Deadpool'

While way too sweary and violent for your usual comic book movie audience, "Deadpool" is perhaps the best of the more adult adaptations so far. It ranks alongside other mature comic movies such as "Watchmen," "Blade" and "Hellboy" but features more black humor and pure glee than all three.

The HDR 4K version is even more eye-popping than what you might have seen in the cinema, but care has been taken so that it still looks "realistic" (which is a hard thing to say for a CGI superhero movie). The colorist of the film hit the nail right on the head when he said HDR is the best reason to buy 4K Blu-ray, and here he helps prove it.

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Photo by: 20th Century Fox

'Star Trek'

"Star Trek": Come for the lens flare, stay for the lens flare in HDR. Even if you've seen this movie before, the high dynamic range version is worth a rewatch. The picture simply bursts from the screen. Though it was a toss-up between this and its follow-up "Into Darkness," also available in 4K HDR, "Star Trek" is arguably the better film.

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'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition'

While some of the HDR effects are a little dodgy -- does the white cloth of a protest banner really shine like a fluorescent tube? -- the fight scene this movie is named after (chapter 11 on the disc) really pops in HDR.

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'Jason Bourne'

From the recent Bond files of "gritty spy thriller" comes "Jason Bourne." It balances jittery camera work, fine detail and natural-looking HDR effects with skill. This movie shows that HDR is moving beyond the "sticking spears at the camera" phase that 3D went through and is maturing as a cinematic tool.

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'Life of Pi'

"Life of Pi" was the early 4K HDR movie of choice in many of the demos we've seen, and high dynamic range makes what was already a visually stunning movie even more spectacular.

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Photo by: 20th Century Fox

'The Fifth Element'

Yes, it's a 20-year-old movie and yes, there's some grain, but Luc Besson's bonkers sci-fi epic pops in a way that it never has before. The modern HDR effects are subtle but well executed and colors burst and crackle inside every frame. If you only buy one remastered movie in 4K make it this one. Until "ET" and "Close Encounters" come out...

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Photo by: Buyenlarge, Getty Images

'Sicario'

If you like your crime movies gritty and morally compromised, "Sicario" is one of the best in recent years. The advantage of the 4K version, reportedly, is that it was natively shot in the format and exhibits more of the detail than you could see before. Compared to many of the other titles here its HDR effects are relatively subtle, and that's not a bad thing in our book.

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Photo by: Lionsgate

'Kingsman: The Secret Service'

If you ever wondered what a James Bond movie would look like if it was made by the Wachowskis, wonder no more. "Kingsman" is violent, cartoonish fun, and the 4K version boasts much better color and a pleasing three-dimensionality to objects that the standard HD version can't touch.

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Photo by: Jaap Buitendijk

'Chappie'

While some of the opening scenes are overly grainy by the time the film builds to the confrontation (chapter 14) the seamless blend of CGI, live action and understated HDR will win you over. Bonus points to the movie makers for Chappie's bling.

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Photo by: Sony Pictures

'John Wick 2'

While Keanu Reeves playing a human with actual human emotions is a little far-fetched, "John Wick 2" is a visual treat. Like "Jason Bourne" and "Batman v. Superman," "John Wick" punctuates its grimy night scenes with HDR neon signs and taillights, lending the movie an energized noir atmosphere.

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Photo by: Niko Tavernise

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