The best 4K movies and TV shows – and how to watch them
Got a 4K telly? Then treat your eyes to some eye-popping UHD entertainment.
There was a time when 4K Ultra HD TVs were rare. No longer – 4K TVs are now very common and there’s a very good chance you’ve already got one (and if not, check out our guide to the best 4K TV to buy today). But finding things to watch on it in that lovely 4K resolution (you can call it UHD if you prefer) can still be somewhat tricky. There’s a fair bit out there if you know where to look, though, and the even better news is that we’ve done the looking for you. Here’s our guide to the best 4K movies and TV shows
So with no further ado, here are the 40 very best TV shows and movies that are currently available in 4K. We’ve even included a direct link to buy or stream each one from Amazon, Netflix or Sky. You’re welcome!
Our pick of the best 4K movies and TV shows to watch today
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
The most expensive TV show of all time may not have lived up to its grand expectations, but Amazons’ The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power truly impressed with its breathtaking visuals and set pieces. The eight-part series follows a bunch of elves and dwarves across Middle Earth as they try to answer the question, who, or what is Sauron?
The series was largely met with a collective ‘meh’ by audiences, even if Nielsen found that viewers watched the first two episodes for 1.25 billion minutes in its first four days. In our opinion, the plot is sometimes muddy and slow moving, and sometimes ties itself into plot knots. Where The Rings of Power truly shines, though, is in how incredibly beautiful it looks on screen. Battle scenes are hugely and detailed, much more suited to a cinema screen than a living room one. The landscapes of Middle Earth more than live up to those found in Peter Jackson’s original trilogy, too.
Watch Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime
The Power of the Dog
This drama from Jane Campion, nominated for a veritable armload of Oscars (Campion ended up winning Best Director), stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a coarse, grumpy Montana rancher who takes issue with his brother’s new wife and her unconventional teenage son. Is he resentful of his brother’s newfound happiness? Worried about the newcomers’ intentions for the family business? Or is there something else – something less obvious – that’s got him so worked up?
This is a film that works against the viewer’s expectations in an unsettling and disarming way, but accusations that it’s particularly slow-moving or opaque are misplaced: watch the movie and Campion clearly lays it all out for you to see. It’s not a barrel of laughs by any stretch of the imagination, but the masterfully shot landscapes and excellent performances from a cast that also includes Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst should keep you glued to the screen.
Watch The Power of the Dog on Netflix
The Hand of God
Paolo Sorrentino’s semi-autobiographical film is filled with gorgeous shots that burn themselves into your head (particularly when watching in pristine 4K) – a frantic night-time drive to a hospital, a flare exploding over the Bay of Naples, a collapsed chandelier in a crumbling ballroom – but its characters are just as memorable.
Teenager Fabietto (a stand-in for the young director himself) is obsessed with football, alternately dreaming of Diego Maradona being signed by Napoli and about his beautiful aunt Patrizia; he’s quiet and has few friends, but there’s no shortage of love and support from his family. When a tragedy turns everything upside-down, his young life comes to a crossroads: should be pursue happiness and pleasure or dedicate himself to something more important? If that sounds like every other coming-of-age story, don’t be put off, because Sorrentino’s vision feels anything but stereotypical. Beautiful stuff.
The BBC does this kind of thing so well. Part whodunnit, part espionage thriller, Vigil sees Suranne Jones’ detective sent aboard a submarine to catch a murderer, only for her to end up in the midst of an international conspiracy that could end in nuclear war. It’s daft at times, but Jones and the rest of a talented cast sell it all really well and there’s more than enough tension to go around.
Is Thor: Ragnarok the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe line-up? It’s certainly got more vim and verve than most, with Taika Waititi bringing his skills as an indie comedy director to a genre where visual spectacle usually takes centre stage: his script invests characters both old and new with new spark and wit. Oh, and it’s definitely not lacking in that visual spectacle thing either – which makes this 4K version a colourful joy to watch.
The plot sees Asgard attacked by Hela, the goddess of death (an excellent Cate Blanchett), who destroys Thor’s hammer and sends him off into deep space. Imprisoned on the decadent, dangerous world of Sakaar, Thor must somehow assemble a team, escape the clutches of Jeff Goldblum’s preening Grandmaster and race back to save his homeland.
I Care a Lot
Proof that you can make an engrossing, enjoyable film even when none of the characters are likeable people, I Care a Lot stars the fantastic Rosamunde Pike as legal guardian Marla Grayson, a ruthless, driven predator who makes a killing by exploiting the elderly people she’s supposed to be looking out for. On first glance her latest ward (Dianne Wiest) seems to be a veritable goldmine, but an unlikely family history makes her instead a doorway to a whole lot of trouble – of the potentially life-threatening variety. Peter Dinklage and Eiza González also star in a viciously black and deliciously enjoyable comedy.
3:10 to Yuma
James Mangold’s Western has everything: gun-slinging, morals and a bad-to-the-bone antagonist guy in the form of Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). There’s some brilliantly tense scenes as a group of everyday ranchers (led by Christian Bale’s principled, half-crippled Civil War veteran) trek to the town of Contention and then wait for the damn train that’s going to take the shackled Wade to prison. It’ll keep you on edge in the same way the 1957 original starring Glenn Ford does – even if it’s sometimes hard to know who to root for.
A gripping piece of indie filmmaking (and one of only a handful of indie movies available to stream in 4K), District 9 tells a story of alien refugees stuck on Earth – and their mistreatment at the hands of unsympathetic human officials – that draws clear parallels with the apartheid South Africa in which director Neill Blomkamp grew up.
When a company field agent assigned to evict aliens from illegal settlements contracts a DNA-twisting virus, he is forced to seek refuge himself – and can only do so inside an alien ghetto called District 9.
Netting 2021’s Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress Oscars, Nomadland is a thoughtful and thought-provoking drama about Fern, a van-dwelling widow who travels the American West in the wake of 2008’s financial crisis.
Based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book about her own life as a “houseless” wanderer, Chloe Zhao’s movie is far from the sort of hand-wringing poverty porn it could have become in less empathetic, capable hands (Hillbilly Elegy, we’re looking at you). Fern’s rootless lifestyle isn’t romanticised, but it’s clear she feels at home on the road, buoyed by the kindness and concern of her fellow nomads and the simplicity of living off the grid. McDormand’s much-lauded performance (she says more with just her facial expressions here than most actors could in ten movies’ worth of dialogue) is worth the price of admission alone, but Nomadland will leave any viewer with much to think about.
Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed’s Ruben is a noise-metal drummer, endlessly touring tiny venues with his partner Lou in a beaten-up RV. This contented lifestyle comes to a juddering halt when Ruben begins to experience hearing loss. Realising that his career may be over and tempted back into his old substance abuser ways, Ruben checks himself into a rural deaf community – but he remains fiercely driven by a hope of fixing his affliction, getting back on tour and getting back to Lou. Ahmed is typcially fantastic, yes, but then everything about Darius Marder’s debut movie works so well: the sound design that puts you in Ruben’s head; the supporting performances of Paul Raci and Olivia Cooke; and the themes of identity, dependence and acceptance that run through it.
The stakes couldn’t be higher: with an interstellar “planet killer” comet on course to wipe out pretty much everyone on Earth, engineer Gerard Butler must get his estranged wife (Morena Baccarin) and young son to the safety of an underground bunker in (yes, you guessed it) Greenland.
There may be nothing particularly original going on here, but Greenland is a well-honed race-against-time thriller that successfully conveys the magnitude of its threat. From violent looters to failing technology to big flaming rocks falling out of the sky, Butler and Baccarin find themselves beset with an array of perils – even before the coming impact that may make the human race extinct.
The first full-length Pixar movie to make its debut on Disney+, Soul is a charming tale about finding your place in the world. Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, a New York band teacher who longs to become a professional jazz musician. On the cusp of achieving his dream, he finds himself abruptly sucked into The Great Before – a place where brand new souls are given their personalities and passions before being sent to Earth.
Sensing an opportunity for a second chance, Joe is tasked with convincing a wilful soul called 22 (Tiny Fey) that life is worth living – but little does he realise that he has plenty to learn about the subject, too. It’s beautifully animated, of course, but Soul is also funny and moving, and more philosophical than your average animated movie.
The Boys (S1-2)
If superheroes were real, they’d be jerks, perverts and outright fascists. That’s the premise behind this excellent comic book adaptation, in which a bunch of superstar costumed crusaders are owned and controlled by a ruthless corporation that keeps their bad behaviour (ranging from voyeurism and drug abuse to plain old murderous psychopathy) under wraps to keep the cash rolling in.
When one super-powered outrage leaves a young man bereaved and hellbent on revenge, he joins a group of like-minded vigilantes with the aim of taking Vought down once and for all. Effortlessly blending humour, action and drama, The Boys was Amazon’s best original series of 2019 – and it’s now back from a second season.
The Witcher (S1-2)
Henry Cavill swaps Superman’s cape for Geralt of Rivia’s silver ponytail in Netflix’s adaptation of the Polish fantasy novel series. If you’ve played the hugely successful video games, you’ll know what to expect: a hearty mix of beast slaying, potion quaffing, spellcasting, grimdark medieval combat and nudity.
If you aren’t already familiar with Andrzej Sapkowski’s world and characters, be warned: this series will toss you right into the mixer without spelling everything out. The lack of hand holding is refreshing, particularly as everything falls better into place within a few episodes. In this age of algorithmically-steered TV shows, it’s nice to be treated like an adult with a decent attention span.
As terrifying as it is enthralling, this remarkable documentary film follows the ever-so-slightly bonkers free solo climber Alex Honnold, whose lifelong dream is to scale the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park alone, without ropes or equipment. Those who aren’t keen on heights might want to watch from behind the sofa, but for everyone else the Oscar-winning Free Solo is a sweaty-palmed thrill ride.
The Mandalorian (S1-2)
Pitched as a Western set in space, the first live action series in the Star Wars universe is set five years after Return of the Jedi and 25 years before The Force Awakens. It follows the adventures of the eponymous armour-plated bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal), who abruptly finds himself the guardian of a very important youngling. Most would consider this the launch flagship show for Disney+, and it lives up to that billing: it’s visually striking, fast-paced and an easy watch – and there’s a second season coming up very soon.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The middle entry in the latest Star Wars trilogy might have divided the critics somewhat: some felt that its tone wasn’t sufficiently “Star Wars-y”, while others enjoyed director Rian Johnson’s fresh take on the universe. One thing nobody could deny is that it’s a visual spectacle and then some. With the arrival of Disney+, it’s finally available to stream too.
Star Wars: A New Hope
The original (and probably second-best) Star Wars movie, A New Hope is now over 40 years old. It still looks and sounds fantastic (partly due to director George Lucas’s inability to stop tinkering with it years after its release), but this trailblazing space opera adventure is beloved for more than just the spectacle of zero-g dog fights and light saber duels.
Star Wars‘ enduring characters and mythology are introduced and established in this movie, but it also serves as a fantastic self-contained adventure story about a simple farm boy who becomes the heroic figurehead of a revolution. It’s simple stuff at its core, but done so brilliantly that you can’t help but be sold.
Until now, the closest the Marvel Cinematic Universe has got to “weird and interesting” is casting Benedict Cumberbatch, but WandaVision feels more inventive, offbeat and experiment than anything we’ve seen from the monolithic franchise yet. OK, so it’s not Twin Peaks or anything, but this spin on the traditional suburban American sitcom, revolving around Vision and Scarlet Witch, is a welcome break from yet another bombastic blockbuster full of spandex-clad superheroes clouting each other in the face.
The Irishman isn’t just director Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited return to the world of organised crime, it also unites the cinematic Holy Trinity of tough guy gangster movie stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and an out-of-retirement Joe Pesci. It’s kind of like The Expendables, but with people who can act.
It also looks beautiful, with Scorsese’s trademark editing and camerawork showcased by Netflix in beautiful HDR and 4K.
With a story spanning several decades (it’s a showcase for how far CG de-aging technology has come) the film delves one of 20th century America’s biggest mysteries: the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), who had links to both mainstream politics and the mob. It’s mainly told through the recollections of De Niro’s eponymous “Irishman” Frank Sheeran, a union member who becomes a hitman and enforcer for both Hoffa and the mafia.
The Crown (S1-4)
The Crown ranks as one of Netflix’s best original series to date. That’s partly down to the phenomenal production values that have been instilled in this retelling of Queen Lizzie II’s early years. Over £100 million was invested in this extravaganza, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith (and, from the third season, Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies), and that all adds up to a swanky amount of period detail as well as several weighty performances.
The Safdie brothers’ handheld camera feverishly follows Adam Sandler’s hustling jeweller around New York as he attempts to juggle the demands of celebrity clients, his wife, his girlfriend and a bunch of mobsters looking for their money.
If you’re looking for a relaxing watch, Uncut Gems ain’t it – the camerawork, Daniel Lopatin’s electronic score and Sandler’s barely hinged performance (he’s become an expert at playing a man teetering on the edge) all serve to conjure a feeling of unease and anxiety that barely lets up over two hours. It’s deliciously delirious stuff.
Breaking Bad (S1-5)
Yes, Breaking Bad had some memorable supporting characters – Los Pollos Hermanos kingpin Gus Fring, psychopath Tuco Salamanca and, of course, ‘Better Call Saul’ Goodman. But one of its more subtle stars is the Albuquerque landscape, shot beautifully on 35mm film and the main reason why the series has the distinctive look of a modern spaghetti western.
The money Breaking Bad saved by shooting in New Mexico (rather than California, as Vince Gilligan had originally planned) was pumped into its cinematic visual production, ensuring that its 4K version bursts from your screen like a Tuco-bothering chemical explosion.
Love Death + Robots (S1-2)
This collection of R-rated animated shorts about the future is like a tube of Smarties for 4K fans – each of the 18 films is short and tasty, and as soon as you finish one there’s another one right there to eat/watch.
With a variety of animation styles on show and a bunch of clever ideas to shove inside your head alongside the gorgeous visuals, Love Death + Robots is a definite top-tier Netflix entry for 4K/HDR TV owners. It’s also jam-packed with bloody violence, sex and filthy language, so dainty types should be warned – this ain’t your typical cartoon series.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (S1-4)
House of Cards’ Rachel Brosnahan stars as Midge Maisel, a vivacious, fast-talking housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s upper-middle class New York lifestyle: husband, kids, a beautiful Upper West Side apartment.
When an unexpected turn puts that all in jeopardy, she decides to pursue a career in standup comedy – and discovers she has a rare talent not only for making people laugh but for hitting upon life’s truths and enigmas while doing it.
The show now numbers a couple of seasons and has bagged a ton of awards, so Amazon’s megabucks has not gone to waste – and there’s plenty evidence of the series’ care and craft on show if you view it in crispy 4K UHD, where its recreation of mid-century New York is, as the kids say, “on point”.
Chef’s Table (S1-6)
This series (now six seasons strong – seven if you count Gallic-focussed spin-off Chef’s Table France) follows world-renowned chefs as they take viewers on a personal journey through their culinary evolution. Essentially, each episode affords the viewer an intimate, informative glimpse into what gets a genius’s creative juices flowing.
Lovingly shot in razor-sharp 4K quality (with HDR too, natch ), you can almost smell the doubtless delightful aromas drifting through the screen and tickling your nostrils. From glistening, perfectly-cooked cuts of meat to steaming pasta dishes and dainty desserts, this is pornography for your appetite. Just try not to dribble all over your remote control, eh?
Undoubtedly the best Netflix-produced movie yet, Roma is the first film from a streaming service that made the cinematic establishment really sit up and take notice – the evidence being its ten Oscar nominations and three wins.
As you’d expect from director Alfonso Cuarón, previously responsible for the likes of Gravity and Children of Men, Roma is both immensely impressive on a technical level – beautifully shot and composed in black and white – and emotionally charged, resulting in a movie that’s every bit as powerful as anything made primarily for the big screen. Semi-autobiographical and inspired by Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico, the film follows an indigenous maid to a wealthy middle-class family as she experiences a series of momentous (and everyday) events.
The Expanse (S1-6)
When original creator SyFy decided to drop The Expanse after three seasons, Amazon swept in and saved it – going on to produce a fourth season and host the lot on Amazon Prime for streaming: all in glorious 4K!
That news will be music to the ears of anyone who digs sprawling, critically-acclaimed and complex space operas, as The Expanse is all of those things: set a couple of centuries in the future where humanity’s colonisation of the solar system has resulted in tension between competing factions, it’s basically Game of Thrones with spaceships instead of dragons.
This quirky spy drama blends deadpan humour, action and a coterie of memorable characters for a truly original whole.
Michael Dorman excels as the permanently put-upon CIA operative John Lakeman, who really just wants to be a folk singer – only for life to keep conspiring against him.
The smart plot takes in Iran, nuclear weapons, a single-minded Luxembourger cop and a lot more info about industrial piping than you’d ever need know. It’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny at times and the acting throughout is excellent. A real winner.
Don’t let Paramount’s decision to dump this movie straight to Netflix rather than give it a cinema release put you off watching it, because Annihilation is one of the most accomplished and intriguing science fiction films of recent years. Not only is it visually outstanding – presented here both in 4K and HDR – and packed with tension, it’s a brain-twister that’ll leave you with more questions than answers (but enough clues to work everything out, too).
When an unexplained “shimmer” engulfs a tract of land in the southeastern United States, then starts expanding, the government doesn’t know how to act. Everything and everybody they send inside disappears, never to return – with one exception. When Natalie Portman’s biologist finds herself personally drawn into the mystery, she joins a team venturing into the Shimmer and uncovers the shocking truth at its centre.
The Grand Tour (S1-4)
Clarkson and co’s Top Gear-topper is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of deal. If you’re a greasy-fingered petrolhead, or simply into following middle-aged boy-men on their banter-fuelled road trips, you’re going to enjoy this series a lot.
If you can’t stand this brand of overbearing laddishness, The Grand Tour isn’t likely to transform you into a believer – but for anybody looking for some beautifully shot, mindless entertainment to grace that new Ultra HD telly, this impeccably-produced show fits the bill.
Stranger Things (S1-3)
It might be an homage to all things 80s (think E.T. meets The Goonies meets The Thing), but other than the scratchy, retro opening title, everything about Stranger Things‘ production is cutting edge. It was actually shot in 6K, but even on our backwards 4K TVs the picture is stunning. Gruesomely so at the more horror-tinged points of the series. But whether you’re an AV nerd or not, this demands to be seen – it’s two seasons of truly stunning, surprising, unique television.
The first season of this magnificent Netflix original drama is all about the rise of drug baron Pablo Escobar, the second captures the true story of his downfall after years on the run, and the third concerns the Colombian kingpins who suceed him. You can expect a mix of tense action sequences, real news footage and superb moustaches – and it’s worth watching in 4K for the extra detail on Escobar’s superb selection of sweaters alone.
Altered Carbon (S1-2)
Altered Carbon is set in the kind of neon-soaked cyberpunk hellhole – created via dizzyingly expensive special effects – that positively demands to be delivered in 4K and HDR. And, thankfully for us, it is!
This glossy, gory cyber-noir takes us 300-odd years into the future, where Earth has become an overpopulated, dirty, decadent mess – but outright death is a rarity. That’s because your consciousness, digitally backed up on a device called a “stack”, can be transported between bodies – if, of course, you can afford to pay the exorbitant fee such an operation entails.
Into this terrifying new world drops hard-boiled anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs, released from prison and dropped into a snazzy, buffed-up Joel Kinnaman-shaped sleeve after a couple of centuries on ice. Why has Kovacs been brought back after so long? In order to solve a murder, of course – a mystery that the insanely wealthy victim (who’s now reincarnated in a fresh cloned sleeve, natch) believes only Kovacs’ unique skills can unwrap.
Better Call Saul (S1-5)
No one really likes lawyers. They don’t have millions of adoring fans on Instagram, and their spirit animals are sharks – cold, grey killers, with dead, soulless eyes. But they’re not all bad. Take the slick and lovable Saul Goodman, aka Slippin’ Jimmy – a slick, rule-bending practitioner of justice who won our hearts in Breaking Bad, a show with incredible cinematography that has transitioned into this equally spectacular spin-off.
Moneyball‘s not exactly replete with the kind of million-dollar action sequences that’ll give your fancy new telly a workout. Heck: there’s not even that much baseball in it. In fact, it’s kind of like Excel: The Movie, but the story of how Billy Beane turned the Oakland A’s from whipping boys into winners by studying stats is so well scripted by Aaron Sorkin that the performances of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill effortlessly capture the team’s underdog spirit. The result? A potential snoozathon becomes one of the most engrossing movies of recent years.
The Man In The High Castle (S1-4)
What if the Allies had lost the Second World War and America was currently ruled by Germany in its eastern half and Japan in its western half? You’d have a damn good plot for a novel, said Philip K. Dick. And, said Amazon over 50 years later, a fairly daring basis for one of its original TV series.
Knowing the scrutiny its first moves as a studio would receive, Amazon pumped a load of dug-up gold into the production. Which is good, because now that it’s available in 4K (with HDR) you can amuse yourself picking up the alt-history references in the newspapers and shop signs as the characters go about their captivating plot-based business in classy period sets.
Watch The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime Instant Video
Black Mirror (S1-5)
Black Mirror‘s move from Channel 4 to Netflix has meant a bigger budget, giving Charlie Brooker’s series of dark, self-contained cautionary tales a grander scope. It’s also meant an image quality upgrade to 4K and HDR which, given the show’s cynical view of chasing the latest tech trend, feels somewhat ironic – but when it looks this good, we’ll take it regardless.
Luca Guadagnino’s stylish reimagining of the Dario Argento classic is likely to divide audiences. Ponderously paced and tottering under the weight of more themes and ideas than it knows what to do with, this is peak arthouse horror – and some might find the inevitable gory payoff too little reward for the time invested.
Others will appreciate the movie’s strong sense of place (late 1970s Berlin, a divided city stricken by political turmoil) and the way it builds its oppressive atmosphere with sound effects, strange camera angles and Thom Yorke’s krautrock-inspired score; it’s not a showy movie, but it looks great in 4K. Dakota Johnson stars as a naive American joining a prestigious all-female dance company that just might be a coven of witches, while Tilda Swinton excels in three separate roles.
Violent yet beautiful, menacing and stunning in equal measure. No, not Titus Welliver’s moody, driven Hollywood homicide detective Harry Bosch – we’re talking about the sprawling city of Los Angeles. The City of Angels is as big a star of Amazon’s gritty crime drama as Bosch himself, and it looks flippin’ gorgeous in 4K with HDR.
Tune in for the beautiful rolling shots of LA, sprawling out from the Hollywood hills in UHD resolution, and you’ll soon be hooked by the clever murder mystery plotlines.
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