What to watch in 4K
4K tellies aren't nearly as rare as they once were, and there's a very good chance you've already got one.
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.
So with no further ado, here are the 30 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!
And if you've not yet boarded the 4K train, here are the best 4K TVs available right now
It might be an homage to all things 80s (think ET 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 eight episodes of truly stunning, surprising, unique television.
This first UHD offering from Sky Cinema is a mud-caked classic. DiCaprio’s bear-wrestling trials and wintery tribulations might not be the way to warm up for a karaoke night, but the filmmaking and cinematography are as beautiful as the action is brutal.
Yes, Leo deserved the Oscar, but it’s the The Revenant’s bleak, frozen world that make it worthy of being high on your new telly’s watch list.
If the first season of Netflix’s flagship show was all about the rise of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the second promises to capture the true story of his downfall after years on the run. We’re hoping for the same mix of tense action sequences, real news footage and superb moustaches. It’ll be worth watching in 4K for the extra detail on Escobar’s fine selection of sweaters alone.
Lawrence of Arabia
It might come as a surprise that a movie shot in the early ‘60s could come in new-fashioned 4K (at the time the best it could boast was Super Panavision 70 and Technicolor) but analogue film actually has all the detail needed to extract an Ultra HD picture. That means David Lean’s four-hour epic, which tells the story of T.E. Lawrence’s exploits in the Middle East during World War I, now has the pixels to do its breathtaking cinematography justice. With one of the finest soundtracks in movie history (and some Oscar-worthy performances from the camels) that makes it one seriously appealing package.
If you thought your family was messed up, wait ‘til you get a load of the Rayburn’s. From the outside they look like the luckiest buggers in the world, what with their beautiful Floridian home/hotel and the sort of lifestyle that a sloth might describe as being a bit too slow-paced. But beneath that outer sheen lies a web of terrible secrets that begin leaking out to tragic effect over the course of the first season. It’s brilliantly interweaving, back-stabby stuff, and boy does Florida look lovely in 4K.
Moneyball’s not exactly packed with action sequences to give your new telly a workout. There’s not even that much baseball. 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 and turn a potential snoozathon into one of the most engrossing films of recent years.
Better Caul Saul
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.
Men in Black 3
The original Men in Black was a 90s masterpiece, featuring Will Smith in his silver-screened prime, an array of shiny weapons and gadgets, and, of course, a captivating song which transcended all social and cultural boundaries. While this third offering can't match the original, it's worth watching for Josh Brolin’s incredible performance as a young Tommy Lee Jones – an acting feat that's enhanced by his subtle facial expressions and nuances, made all the more more visible in 4K.
No, this isn’t just Jason Bourne in space. Neil Blomkamp’s follow-up to instant sci-fi classic District 9 absolutely nails its bleak vision of the future, where the have-nots live on a polluted planet stripped of nearly all its resources, while the rich look on from above the atmosphere. The director’s effects work is stunning, but it’s District 9 star Sharlto Copley that steals the show as psychotic sleeper agent Kruger. Think the Terminator, only with a killer South African accent.
Before the old Amazing Spider-Man reboot and the new Spider-Man: Homecoming, there was Spider-Man, plain and simple. Despite being well over a decade old, Tobey Maguire’s first outing in red and black lycra still stands up as a fine example of how to do a superhero movie. With no cinematic universe to neatly slot into or origin story tropes to abide by, Sam Raime’s blockbuster could have a blast on entirely its own terms.
So Spider-Man treats its viewers to a glut of hilarious web-slinger zingers, a fearsome baddie in Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and a comic book romance you actually cared about. #PeteAndMJ4LYF
Choosing your favourite Tom Hanks movie is a bit like settling on your favourite pick ‘n’ mix sweet; they’re all delightful in their own unique way. In the classic Hanksian genre of ‘normal man battles against insurmountable odds’, Philadelphia may well rank as the very best. Why? Because that seemingly impossible challenge isn’t showing the Nazis what for or making it safely back home from the moon, but winning a wrongful dismissal case on account of his ongoing battle with AIDs. As such, Hanks made an unknown and scary subject heartbreakingly relatable and won a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar in the process.
The Man In The High Castle
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.
Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s self-published novel about an astronaut accidentally abandoned on Mars could easily have been bogged down by its maths and technical jargon, as a stranded botanist-with-an-attitude (Matt Damon) works out how to survive long enough to be rescued.
Fortunately, Damon’s Watney is much less annoying than the one in the book, making him far easier to root for. There’s plenty to look at too, with some lovely spaceship design and the red planet’s unusual lighting giving the outdoor scenes a truly otherworldly feel, particularly in 4K. While the finale might get a little silly, the whole thing’s supposedly grounded in science – just don’t try any of it at home.
It might not show Greg Wallace shovelling food into his mouth every ten minutes, but that doesn't make Chef's Table any less appealing to hardcore foodies. The series follows world-renowned chefs as they take viewers on a very personal journey through their culinary evolution, providing a very intimate and informative glimpse into what gets their creative juices flowing.
Presented in stunning 4K, you'll almost be able to smell the food seeping through the TV and massaging your nostrils, from glistening, perfectly-cooked pieces of meat to mouth-watering steaming pasta dishes, this is food porn of the highest order. Warning: wearing a bib while you watch is highly recommended.
Life of Pi
Ang Lee won an Oscar for his direction of this extraordinary film about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with only a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a huge Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company. Adapted from Yann Martel's bestselling novel, Pi’s story meditates on faith after his zookeeping family drowns in the Pacific Ocean.
The incredible visual effects of the CGI animals and terrifying weather systems are only enhanced in 4K, which adds to the sense of exposure, powerlessness and isolation of the teenage protagonist. As unlikely as the scenario is, this is an unmissable spectacle.
Ignore the idiot misogynists on the internet: the new Ghostbusters is pretty great. And yet, it's still not as good as the original.
It’s an everyday tale of a quartet of paranormal experts/losers who happen to set up a ghost-extermination service in NYC just as the city finds itself in the grip of a supernatural invasion.
The story is clearly dripping with comic potential (just as its otherwordly protagonists drip with slime), but it’s down to Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd, at the height of their comic powers, that this potential is turned into cinematic gold. Even the theme tune is as iconic as they come.
It’s 32 years old now, but age hasn’t diminished its charms and the upgrade to 4K ensures it looks better than ever.
No doubt you already know that Daredevil is one of the best things Marvel has created since its cinematic universe first came to fruition. Brooding, bold and bloody, it sees blind lawyer turned martial arts master Matt Murdock attempt to cleanse the crime-ridden streets of Hell’s Kitchen while battling his own myriad demons.
So how does 4K make this show even better? Well, this visceral spectaculaire is dark in both tone and visuals, so Ultra HD’s added resolution makes for better-defined fight scenes in near pitch black locations. And when the red stuff begins to flow, you’ll really feel it.
Mad Max: Fury Road
If ever a film was made for 4K (and HDR if you can get it) it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller takes what could’ve been a largely bland desert landscape and throws in splashes of colour like cinematic fireworks, with stacks of intricate detail in the characters’ grotesque masks and nightmarish modes of transport.
But it’s not just a treat for the eyes. The plot might be simpler than a sloth’s to-do list but the incredible stunts, superbly realised and totally bonkers world, plus a stonking performance from Charlize Theron make it a 4K journey that’s more than worth hitching a ride on.
House of Cards
Kevin Spacey isn’t necessarily the sort of person you’d want to see in ultra-detailed 4K. He doesn’t have the chiselled good looks of Zac Effron, or the charming smile of The Rock, but at these resolutions you can see every little bit of the ruthless cunning and inner rage portrayed on his face.
The series’ cinematography has always been excellent too, and in 4K everything from the lush luxurious innards of the Oval Office to the grimy subway platforms running beneath Washington DC look absolutely stunning. Watch it for the gripping story, and stay for the soul piercing #SpaceySoliloquies.
The Lego Movie
"Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when it's in Ultra HD." OK that's not quite how The LEGO Movie's theme song goes, but this brick-a-brack classic looks even better when you quadruple the amount of pixels it’s rendered in.
Emmet looks radiant in yellow, Batman’s ultra-serious demeanor is as dark as his blackened spandex, and the laughs come thick and fast, as ever. So forget those superhero romps and your Netflix specials, if you want a film to show off just how vibrant 4K can be, then pick up Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s bombastic ode to the power of your own imagination.
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.
Loosely based on real-life events in 2009, when Somali pirates hijacked a US cargo ship and took Captain Richard Phillips hostage, this thriller is now available in 4K. So you’ll be able to see every sweaty pore on Tom Hanks’ face as he attempts to negotiate with the hijackers and save his crew hidden below deck.
As a logical viewer you know the American hero will likely survive, especially when the US Navy turns up, but even so, watching Captain Phillips is still an exercise in coping with stress. The tension zigzags throughout, so keep on holding your cushion.
The Netflix/Marvel partnership is fast becoming TV’s equivalent of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez: reliably brilliant but never in a boringly predictable way.
Jessica Jones is the latest product of said partnership and follows the eponymous character (played by the superb Krysten Ritter) as she attempts to set up her private detective business in NYC, battle with her superhero demons and drink every bar in the Big Apple dry.
Oh, and she also has to face her nemesis, the obsessive, abusive and mind-controlling sadist Zebediah Kilgrave, brilliantly played by David Tennant.
But great though the two leads are, New York City is every bit as integral to JJ’s appeal: it looks simply stunning, with a gritty, stylised feel that is quickly coming to characterise Netflix’s Marvel forays. And of course that’s all the more true in 4K. Stunning stuff.
If you need to name a tank you can’t ask the internet to do it or you’ll end up with something infantile like Tanky McTankface – it needs a fearsome moniker to strike fear into the enemy’s hearts, something like Gun Bastard or The Archbishop of Pain. In World War 2 Brad Pitt didn’t have the internet so the best he could come up with was Fury, which isn’t bad, if a little obvious.
As war films go Fury is no Platoon or Apocalypse Now but its frantic firefights, moodily lit battlefields and gloomy onboard shots are ripe for the 4K treatment.
Violent yet beautiful, menacing and stunning in equal measure. No, not Titus Welliver’s moody homicide detective - the city of Los Angeles. LA is as big a part of Amazon's gritty crime drama as Bosch himself, and it looks flippin’ gorgeous in 4K.
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 plot.
Season one starts out pretty bleak, and season two only dives deeper into LA’s gritty underground, but the fantastic cinematography makes it all worth it.
Imagine the bloke who directed District 9 remaking Short Circuit and you’ve essentially got Chappie. Here the titular robotic protagonist is torn between his nurturing creator and a couple of violent thugs (played by South African rappers Die Antwoord) who want to turn him into the perfect thief.
This near-future, robotically policed version of Johannesburg is full of grimy texture and detail, and it looks fantastically real in pin-sharp 4K. Just be warned that there are also moments of really gruesome violence.
Like a mountain-based Gravity, Everest is a disaster movie that's built for big screens and thundering sound systems. Not that it’s just frivolous eye candy – this is a sober, hyper-realistic account of the 1996 Everest disaster with some moving performances, most notably from Emily Watson as the team's base camp manager.
Crank up the surround sound and you'll be staggering through a 'Death Zone' blizzard with the film's motley climbing crew, who paid for the chance to summit during the mountain's commercial peak in the mid-90s. And while there are other great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke, the real star is the incredible cinematography, with much of the film shot at 10,000 feet in Italy for the full, face-freezing effect.
The Godfather (Parts 1 & 2)
Sky, much like the rest of us, has wisely pretended that The Godfather Part III never happened, but you’ll still need to set aside the best part of half a day to witness the rise and rise of Michael Corleone.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia movies are generally considered ‘quite good’ but we can confirm that their Ultra HD makeover is worth a look. At first, in Don Vito’s gloomy quarters, it might not seem so but the more vibrant outdoor scenes almost look like they were shot yesterday. Obviously neither film looks quite as shiny as something slathered in CGI but when the stories and acting are this good, it’s a 4K offer you simply can’t refuse.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger’s balletic brawls began a trend for super-stylised martial arts films that also gave us the beautifully shot Hero (any chance of adding that to your 4K arsenal, Sky?) but Ang Lee’s Oscar winner is a treat for the eyes in more ways than one.
The fighting is choreographed by the same chap who worked on The Matrix, although the bad outfits and cod philosophy are replaced by stunning scenery and breathtakingly graceful dust-ups, which often defy gravity over roofs and treetops. The story’s not much to write home about but you’ll be too busy gawping at the spectacle to care.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
The Mission: Impossible series has always languished in the shade of the Daniel Craig-era Bond films. It’s fair to say that at times it’s deserved to play the part of runner-up (let’s just pretend M:I2 never happened, yeah? I’m sure John Woo would appreciate that), but here’s the thing - in the 2015 battle of the spy movies, the motorbike chases, topless kung-fu fights and leggy snipers of Rogue Nation were eminently more enjoyable to watch than the portentous, pompous and ultimately anticlimactic Spectre.
All of that action looks amazing in 4K, as you’d probably expect, and despite his well-documented off-screen weirdness you can’t help but love Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.