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Top 10 and a couple more: 4K UHDs of 2023

Updated: Jan 15


THE LIST of movies is the very best in 4K viewing from a physical disc or streaming. The criteria required the source to be mastered in 4K and nothing less.

No upconversion from 2K to 4K on this list. Kino Lorber Studio Classics and Warner Brothers Home Entertainment dominate the Top 12 and honorable mentions, while The Criterion Collection came in a close third.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)

Irish actor Cillian Murphy plays J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist behind the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer speaks to the Los Alamos scientists who helped create the first nuclear explosion, on July 16, 1945.


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 2023, R for some sexuality, nudity, and language; Digital via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: The seven-part “The Story of Our Time: Making of Oppenheimer

SUNDAY NIGHT the latest Golden Globes – now with improved voting procedures and 300 voting journalists, 10 percent of whom are Black – awarded Christopher Nolan’s three-hour docudrama of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the A-bomb five awards including Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Director. 

The 4K disc of “Oppenheimer” quickly sold out at Amazon, Best Buy, and even Walmart when it arrived just before Thanksgiving. Part of its success is due to Nolan’s fine, trademark cinematography, capturing all footage on traditional film cameras – the majority on large format 65mm and about 1/3 on massive IMAX cameras. Resolution on the 4K disc is remarkable, with exceptional clarity, scanning the footage in 8K then down-converting to 4K for this presentation. It delivers a nice layer of subtle film grain structure. Aspect ratio bounces between 2.20:1 for the 65mm scenes and 1.78:1 for the IMAX moments. I saw the theatrical presentation on 15 perf/70mm IMAX film – one of 31 screens worldwide – where the IMAX scenes were in 1.43:1 ratio, filling the seven-story screen from top to bottom with wide shot vistas, and powerful emotional close-ups. 

Nothing at home can duplicate that immersion, but this is the next best thing. 

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who shot three other Nolan films (“Tenet,” “Interstellar,” “Dunkirk”), took up the challenge again when Nolan decided to use color and black and white to distinguish the two different storylines. Color was used for Oppenheimer’s viewpoint and is played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who won a Golden Globe for his performance. B&W footage, which hasn’t been made by Kodak in decades, was used for Lewis Strauss, the man who orchestrated Oppenheimer’s backlist in the 1950s. Strauss is played by Robert Downey Jr. in an award-winning performance. 

HDR10 toning is not that different from the SDR grading on the Blu-ray, with peak brightness at 186 nits, averaging 147 nits. The video bit rate runs in the mid-60 Megabits per second encoded onto a 100 GB disc. Overall, the color is fully saturated, with many scenes bathed in warm tones. Highlights are controlled, mid-tones fully developed, and shadows deep and dark.  


Nolan doesn’t include Dolby Atmos with his films, providing a six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack to deliver his trademark super-loud levels, and deep bass response. Composer Ludwig Göransson’s (“Black Panther,” “Tenet”) masterful forceful score won a Golden Globe and is expected to get an Oscar nod.

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


Whoopi Goldberg earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Celie, a Southern woman who triumphs over sexual and racial oppression. Desreta Jackson plays younger Celie, as sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) moves in with Celie and Mister.



4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1985; PG-13 for violence, profanity, brief sexuality; Digital via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: The 2003 featurette “Conversations with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from the Book to the Screen”

NO CREDIT is given to this marvelous 4K restoration other than its release by Warner Brothers, but it’s got Steven Spielberg’s fingerprints all over it. The original 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) was scanned and mastered in TRUE 4K. The film grain is organic and completely intact, while the expanded HDR color spectrum is rich and bold with perfect contrast levels from the deep dark shadows to the gorgeous golden highlights from cinematographer Allen Daviau (“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” ‘Empire of the Sun”), when Celie and Nettie hang sheets on the clothesline in the late morning sun. Overall clarity is first-rate, only showing a slight softness during the composite opening title sequence and period dates in Celie’s life.


The encoding is onto a 100-gigabit disc and averages above 60 Megabits per second of video from start to finish. This marks Spielberg’s 19th film to be released on 4K Ultra HD discs and he leads all other directors, with Alfred Hitchcock and Ridley Scott both with 14 films on 4K physical. No doubt, this presentation will make our Top 10 4K discs of 2023.



The six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack is ported over from the previous Blu-ray, which still provides a balanced soundstage for dialogue and Quincy Jones' lively score (also nominated for an Oscar, including a Best Song nod for “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister).”


— B.K. III

Keanu Reeves stars in the 4th installment of the John Wick franchise. The opening desert scene was captured in Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert.



4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 2023; R for pervasive strong violence and some profanity; Digital version Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Vudu (4K)

Best extra: “In Honor of the Dead” featurette


WHO DO YOU send to kill the Boogeyman? John Wick, of course. Director/Producer Chad Stahelski set out to honor the great directors of his youth, John Woo and David Lean, when he cast Keanu Reeves as the unstoppable assassin John Wick, “the wanted man,” in his blockbuster 4-film franchise.


Not one of the Wick chapters disappoint and No. 4 is no exception as John confronts the leader and international allies of the High Table in a suicidal mission of revenge. There’s a $20 million bounty on John’s head. Does that make a difference? No.


This is a first-class production. A stuntman himself, Stahelski tops the choreography shown in the previous films combining Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Muay Tai and Kung fu fighting techniques. There are gun, sword, and knife battles throughout along with improvised weapons such as books and the infamous pencil. All this takes place in a complicated criminal underworld with a mythology as dense and fascinating as anything we’d find in “Game of Thrones,” “Blade Runner," and most certainly Woo’s gangster films. A huge fan of legendary British director David Lean (“Lawrence of Arabia”), Stahelski staged "Chapter Four's" opening sequence in the wide landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert. It’s the same location Lean spent months filming the extraordinary life of T.E. Lawrence, who led an Arab revolt against Turkey during World War I.


Stahelski and Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water”) captured the striking, stylized imagery with ARRIRAW 4.5K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) mounted with an anamorphic lens. Everything was mastered in 4K for impeccable clarity. HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning is bold with shafts of light and deep dark shadows, and a full palette of saturated colors with a strong tint of a warmish orange and greenish teal. Costume design by Paco Delgado is stunning, while Laustsen’s framing is worth pausing to study.


HDR10 peak brightness hits 1000 nits and averages 629 nits, while the video bit rate varies from 50 Megabits per second to 70Mbps encoded onto a 100 GB disc.



The disc includes an aggressive, enveloping eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, with gun blasts, raindrops, and other environmental effects, plus a deep bass response when Wick repeatedly hits a punching bag. Despite the near-constant effects, dialogue comes through cleanly. “Chapter Four” is the first within the franchise to boast a 72-piece orchestral score by Tyler Bates (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), while he continues to provide a strong guitar groove.




Harrison Ford plays respected vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of murdering his wife in the Oscar-nominated action thriller from director Andrew Davis.



4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1993, PG-13 for violence and language; Digital via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: The 30-minute featurette, “Thrill of the Chase”

THE ONSCREEN clarity and sharpness are first-rate, sourced from an 8K scan of the original 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio), with the only reduction during the composite title sequence. The natural film grain is more pronounced on the disc from start to finish. Director Andrew Davis supervised the restoration and the HDR grading is one of Warner’s best, right up there with the 2021 4K release of “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).


Colors are natural, especially the facial toning, while the rest are saturated. Check out the extreme greens in the river during the Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day festivities. Shadows are deep and dark, dominating many of the scenes, while super bright highlights show plenty of detail in the spillway waters where our fugitive does a ‘Peter Pan’ jump.


HDR10 peak brightness hits over 3000 nits and averages 347 nits. Also, the 4K video and audio, plus extras, are encoded onto a 100 GB disc. Video bit rate varies from the upper 40 Megabits per second to the upper stratosphere of video encoding of 110 Mbps while averaging in the mid-60 Mbps.


Warner produces a new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack elevating the Oscar-nominated sound, with deep bass response and effects shooting to height speakers and rears. Dialogue remains front and center and music cues from the robust Oscar-nominated score by composer James Newton Howard (“News of the World”) are clear. It’s evident within the first 30 seconds as the sound of a crashing jail door rattles the title moving across the screen. Don’t be surprised if you jump a bit during the intense train wreck, filmed with 27 cameras in the North Carolina Mountains.

— B.K. III

Right, Margot Robbie plays Barbie and travels to the “Real World” and discovers new friends Gloria (America Ferrera) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt).

NO. 5 - “BARBIE”


4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 2023; PG-13 for suggestive references and brief profanity; Digital version Amazon Video (4K,) Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: “Musical Make-Believe” featurette


WRITER/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR Greta Gerwig envisioned her Barbie Land “a world without aging, without death, and without mistakes,” she says during the “Welcome to Barbie Land” featurette. Most of the delightful and thought-provoking $100 million production was created on huge Warner Brothers soundstages in England, much like the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and ‘50s. By its opening weekend in late July, tens of thousands of moviegoers wore pink to celebrate the visually dazzling comedy and its smart female empowerment tale. Word-of-mouth praise became a brushfire, driving viewers to theaters, while critics gave the film its highest marks. “Barbie” quickly became the surprise hit of the summer and the year’s biggest blockbuster topping over $1.4 billion worldwide.


Gerwig and Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“The Irishman,” “Brokeback Mountain”) used ARRIRAW 6.5K digital cameras (2.00:1 aspect ratio) with footage mastered in 4K. Onscreen resolution is superb, with Barbie’s awkward, disproportionate toy-world bathed in varying shades of pink. It becomes much more neutral when she and Ken arrive in the “Real World.”  


Encoded onto a 100 GB disc, HDR10 peak brightness hits 446 nits and averages 115 nits, while the video bit rate varies in the upper 60 Megabits per second range to nearly 80 Mbps.



The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also excellent, with its nicely balanced effects and music cues which include a trio of possible Oscar-nominated songs (by rule only two can be nominated per movie): “What Was I Made For” from Billie Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell, and “Dance the Night” and “I’m Just Ken” from Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt.


— B.K. III


Prince Charming rejects every woman until he sees Cinderella, as the two dance throughout the royal palace.



4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 1950; G for everyone; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: “From Rags to Riches” featurette (2005)

WHEN DISNEY Animation announced the timeless fairy tale “Cinderella” would get a 4K Ultra HD release on physical disc – no one was sure what to expect. Especially since it would be available first to its Disney Movie Club members months before the general public.


To our shock, Disney has gone back to the original Technicolor 35mm camera negative (1.37:1 aspect ratio) and given this family favorite, whose origins date back to the first century B.C. and 17th-century France, a striking 4K restoration. Natural film grain is fully structured and visible – flowing over the screen within highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Plus, colors are natural and dialed correctly through HDR10 grading on the disc and Dolby Vision on digital platforms. For more than a decade, Disney’s reputation for handling film grain on their animated classics has been unacceptable. They would notoriously digitally scrub away the grain, eliminating fine detail within the image.

First off, Disney has given “Cinderella” an incredible level of video bitrate numbers – hitting the upper stratosphere varying from 75 Megabits per second to over 125 Mbps. More likely with its short running time of 74 minutes, it was encoded onto a 66-gigabit disc


Even though the 4K disc has Dolby Atmos stamped onto the disc, it only includes the carryover six-channel DTS-HD Master soundtrack. Sadly, the original two-track Mono was not restored or provided. The majority of the music cues and tunes are front and center including the opening title sung by Marni Nixon, known for subbing Deborah Kerr’s vocals in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.” Brief effects are pushed to the rear speakers.

— B.K. III

Burt Lancaster stars as French resistance leader Paul Labiche and British actor Paul Scofield as Col. Franz von Waldheim, in John Frankenheimer’s powerful World War II action/drama.



4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1964; unrated


Best extra: Director John Frankenheimer’s commentary

THE ORIGINAL United Artists 35mm camera negative (1.66:1) was scanned and mastered in TRUE 4K and delivers excellent, consistent natural film grain and superb clarity and texture. Cinematographers Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz used a high f-stop on Mitchell cameras mounted with spherical lenses to get Frankenheimer’s trademark deep focus.


Compared to the 2021 KL Studio Classics Blu-ray, this is a major upgrade. Hundreds of thousands of marks and defects were removed for this new 4K master.


The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading gives more detail in the highlights and mid-tones while producing deeper, darker shadows without losing detail. It’s a dramatic cinematic experience. The video was encoded onto a 100 GB disc – the Megabits average in the mid-70s per second, while the new Blu-ray outputs around 38. The HDR peak brightness hits 1,015 nits and averages 154.



The original two-channel DTS-HD Master soundtrack provides a solid front soundstage with heavy dialogue, explosions, and gun blasts. French composer Maurice Jarre’s (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago”) lively score is also available as an isolated track. A new Dolby Digital six-channel reprocessed soundtrack has been added, but I still prefer the original mono.

— B.K. III

Nicole Kidman stars as Grace Stewart, a devout Roman Catholic mother, who lives with her two young children. Mysteriously, her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston), who she thought was killed in action during World War II, appears at the family’s remote country house on Jersey Island between England and France.



4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 2001; PG-13 for thematic elements and frightening moments


Best extra: The new “A Look Back at ‘The Others’” featurette

THE ORIGINAL 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) was scanned in 4K in Madrid, Spain, and the striking restoration was handled by Mercury Films. Most of the dirt and marks were removed, but we still found some small imperfections with dust marks and photochemical spots at times. Overall, there’s nothing to be concerned about. Strangely, the 4K disc is not encoded for any HDR toning, and the same with the European 4K disc released by StudioCanal. Amenábar who supervised the restoration must have felt the contrast levels and the Rec 709 color space were just fine. The cold color palette of browns and grays with only hints of a warm glow from lanterns sets the dramatic mood from Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (“The Road,” “Talk to Her”).

The 4K imagery was encoded onto a 100 GB disc, averaging a superb 90-plus Megabits per second, while the enclosed Blu-ray runs around 35 Mbps. The additional 50-plus Mbps gives the 4K film grain more definition and structure, while the additional resolution provides more clarity for the fabric patterns and edges around the actors and objects.


The 4K and Blu-ray include a new enveloping eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. It’s quite terrifying, especially the opening scream from Grace, which leaps to height speakers and soars throughout the room. The score was also created by Amenábar, much like American filmmaker John Carpenter, who can also do it all. The orchestrated music cues has hints of Hitchcock’s lead composer Bernard Herrmann (“Vertigo,” “Psycho”) dominating the front speakers and also lift to height speakers.

Peggy Earle

Frances McDormand won her first Best Actress Oscar as Marge Gunderson, the resourceful, very pregnant Brainerd, Minnesota, police chief who investigates the murder of three people.

NO. 9 - “FARGO”

4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray, 1996, R for strong violence, language and sexuality

Best extra: Archival commentary with cinematographer Roger Deakins

WHAT YOU may not know is that with a new 4K master struck from the original 35mm camera negative, and supervised by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins (he won for “Blade Runner 2049” and “1917”), “Fargo,” new to Shout! Factory’s Shout Select series, looks spectacular. And that may not do it justice. Another review hit the nail square on the head: clarity is pristine, with a nice layer of grain and “the finest details imaginable”; depth of field is super strong; black levels are deep and natural; the bold color reproduction is off the charts; and skin tones are natural and consistent. Really, you just can’t envision the new print looking any better. It defines “reference quality.”

The numbers: The video bitrate consistently tops 80 Megabits per second while the HDR10 peak brightness tops out at 509 nits and averages 140.


Picked up from earlier releases, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track holds up just fine. From the subwoofer to the rear speakers, nothing goes unnoticed. The minimalistic score by Carter Burwell, the Coens’ go-to composer (beginning with “Blood Simple” to Joel Coen’s underappreciated “The Tragedy of Macbeth”), is given plenty of room. Dialogue is clear.

Craig Shapiro

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were both in their early 20s when they played star-crossed lovers Rose Dewitt Bukater and Jack Dawson.

NO. 10 - “TITANIC”


4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1997; PG-13 for disaster-related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality, and brief language; Digital copy via Apple TV/iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K)


Best extra: “Titanic: Stories from the Heart” documentary

JIM CAMERON’S Lightstorm Entertainment supervised the first-rate 4K restoration, featuring a scan of the original Super 35 camera negative (2.39:1 aspect ratio), then mastered in TRUE 4K. Many of the daylight scenes are super bright, with a lesser film grain. But, once inside the Titanic, the imagery is darker and the grain is more evident. Grain is apparent from start to finish but the size and structure are different. It seems flattened and less distinct than a 4K catalog release from Sony, Arrow, Criterion, or MGM/UA release from Kino Lorber. Still, the on-screen clarity is excellent – especially since the Oscar-winning cinematography from Russell Carpenter is full of many close-up facial shots. You’ll see every wrinkle, mole, freckle, and all hair texture.


The video bit rate varies from the high 40 Megabits per second and tops in the low 70 Mbps, encoded onto a 100-GB disc. HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading has a slightly higher contrast level with its super bright highlights. Shadows are deep and inky, with a neutral color palette, except during the bluish-tint scenes during and after the ship sinks.



The Oscar-winning sound has also received an upgrade to an eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Unfortunately, the majority of the effects and James Horner’s Oscar-winning score and music cues are not forwarded to height speakers, but the bass response is still strong and doesn’t lose any punch from the subwoofer.