3D TVs may be on the decline, but thanks to the format's continued popularity in the theater, there's still plenty of 3D content out there. Alas, 3D Blu-rays can be pricey, though in some cases the 3D version, which includes the 2D Blu-ray, sometimes doesn't cost much more than the standard Blu-ray edition.
However, with a lot of new 3D releases costing upward of $30, it's good to know which ones are truly top-notch and worth adding to your collection. Here are our favorites right now.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D'
What we immediately liked about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D" was that the 3D wasn't done in an in-your-face distracting kind of way. Nor was it restrained. In other words, it strikes a good balance and really adds depth and dimensionality to a lot of scenes, whether it's on the desert planet Jakku, which editor Scott Stein complains looks too much Tatooine, or the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Also, that extra dimension really rounds out BB-8, excuse the pun.
There are some nice pop-out effects, but as I said, they're not overdone. And while you do get the occasional cardboard-cutout effect, which can make things look a little fake, in all this is one of the best post-production 3D Blu-rays we've seen this year (by post-production I mean that the film wasn't shot in native 3D) and certainly worth buying if you have a 4K 3DTV.
Some people are more blown away by "Gravity" than others, but there's no denying it's one of those movies that not only not looks great in 3D, with excellent depth and good pop-out effects, but also one where the 3D enhances the viewing experience.
If ever there was an animated movie that was made for 3D, it's "The Lego Movie." If you've already seen the movie in 2D, you can imagine you much more depth and dimensionality you get from moving to 3D. And it obviously has plenty of eye-popping color. This one a 3D favorite of our video guru David Katzmaier, who's not really a fan of 3D.
This is another Marvel film that was post-converted to 3D (that means it wasn't shot in native 3D), but it looks really great in 3D, with a very sharp image and good color that's only slightly muted from the 2D version (it is a pretty dark film overall). I'm a little biased because it is my favorite Marvel film of late and some of the humor transfers over to the 3D effects, which can be a little amusing in their own right.
You can now get some good deals on the Hobbit Trilogy (extended Edition) in 3D, but "The Battle of the Five Armies," which many view as the best of Hobbit movies anyway, makes the most effective use of 3D, adding depth to the big battle scenes beyond what's in the 2D version.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" wasn't shot in native 3D but it is one of the better Marvel post-conversion 3D Blu-rays efforts, with a sharp picture and mostly good effects with minimal crosstalk. I slightly prefer "Guardians of the Galaxy" in 3D, but "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is also worth owning.
"Life of Pi" is a beautifully filmed movie that has some really nice 3D effects that enhance the viewing experience (rather than detract from it). Its crisp video looks great in 2D but has that little extra wow in 3D.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" looked and sounded great in 2D and while it wasn't shot in native 3D, the movie certainly lends itself to 3D viewing with plenty of opportunities for pop-out effects and good use of 3D depth effects. The movie is already pretty frenetic in 2D, and the 3D version enhances that quality of the film -- for better or worse.
"The Martian" looked great in 2D (it comes in a 4K UHD version as well) and also delivers in 3D, with a sharp in and an added layer of depth and dimensionality that comes across in several scenes and not just the panoramic Mars shots.
Much has already been said about how much attention James Cameron paid to the 3D aspect of "Avatar" and the 3D version really wowed audiences when they saw it in theaters. Like "Gravity," it was one of those films that was better in 3D than 2D. We can't say it's one of those movies you want to watch over and over, but it's still one of the most impressive live-action 3D movies.
It only takes up a small portion of the movie, but viewing the tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 3D in the "The Walk" is one of the most impressive 3D sequences you'll see. It's also one of the more reasonably priced 3D Blu-rays.
"Coraline" was one of our early 3D favorites and it's stood up well over time. It uses stop-action animation, filmed with actual cameras, whereas other animated features use computer-generated images. See more info and pricing for "Coraline."
'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole'
"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" is a really great-looking film that features a constant stream of impressive 3D effects, some of which will induce an involuntarily "wow." The movie itself (story, characters) may not be quite up to the level as some of the other animated titles on the list, but it's definitely a disc to show off your 3D TV.
From Warner's "Legend of the Guardians" to DreamWorks' "Rise of the Guardians" -- totally unrelated movies, but both of them enjoyable. This one is truly a visual feast, with eye-popping colors, highly detailed animated characters, and really deep 3D effects.
Tis is one of those movies that was better than I thought it'd be, and while initially at least, the 3D effects in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" are a bit subdued (as is the muted color palette of the film), they do ramp up as the movie goes along and add some nice depth and dimensionality, particularly in the final battle scenes. At around $15, this is also one of the more reasonably priced 3D Blu-rays, too.
The original "Sin City" was considered one of the best early 3D Blu-rays, and the sequel, "Sin City: a Dame to Kill For," surpasses it on 3D front. You can argue about how good the movie is, but the 3D effects are not only impressive but but highly immersive. The 3D Blu-ray is also relatively inexpensive at around $10.
"Pacific Rim" received some negative buzz when it first launched in the US, and although it has its share of silly moments and bad dialogue (what giant monster movie doesn't?), it features pristine, reference-quality video, and the 3D helps create a better perception of the massive size of the monsters. The picture's dark in a lot of scenes, but the movie looks better (shadow details are better) on Blu-ray than in the theater. Of course, it helps to have a higher-end large-screen 3D TV or preferably, a projector.
"How to Train your Dragon" has gotten a lot of props for its 3D version (no shocker, a bunch of animated dragons flying around do lend themselves well to 3D). It's also an entertaining flick with good humor and replay value.
The original "How to Train Your Dragon" was considered one of the best 3D Blu-rays and the sequel is certainly as good, if not better. Like "The Lego Movie," this is one of those animated movies that was made -- and meant to be seen -- in 3D, with lots of pop-out effects and great depth to go long with eye-popping colors and a supersharp image. At $15 this one only costs a few bucks more than the standard Blu-ray, which is included.
"Despicable Me 2" may have lost out to "Frozen" in the Oscar race for Best Animated Film back in 2013, but it's a fun flick that has great colors, really deep 3D and amusing characters. This one also has good replay value, particularly if you have kids.
This is one of our reference 3D Blu-rays. Director Martin Scorsese paid careful attention to the 3D, and the movie has great depth in a lot of its scenes. The film isn't as kid-friendly as many of the animated titles on the list, but adults seem to like it just fine.