Got Sky Q but no 4K telly to plug your box into? Have you any idea how many pixels you’re missing out on?
Ultra HD comes as standard with your Sky Q subscription and while it doesn’t extend to everything available, the catalogue is steadily growing all the time. Here’s Stuff’s pick of Sky’s 4K menu...
In case you weren’t aware, Mandy is slang for MDMA - and considering how trippy this woozy horror is it couldn’t be more appropriately named. Nicolas Cage plays Red, a lumberjack who ends up on a blood-soaked quest for revenge after his wife gets mixed up with a hippy cult and a trio of demonic bikers who look like rejects from an early Slipknot video.
Cage has been in his fair share of madcap movies but he really indulges his weird side here, particularly during a bathroom-based breakdown midway through. The plot is as simple as they come but from the psychedelic visuals to the huge M-shaped scythe he forges for himself to despatch the baddies, Mandy is an unforgettable ride.
If Travis Bickle had decided to join the church rather than a New York cab firm he might’ve ended up like Ernst Toller in First Reformed.
Directed by Paul Schrader, the man who wrote Taxi Driver, First Reformed is centred around a small church in upstate New York, where Ethan Hawke's Reverend Toller struggles with alcoholism, grief and the dwindling fortunes of his parish. When a member of the community gives him a new perspective on the state of the environment even Toller's faith is tested – and with dramatic results.
A Quiet Place
Set in a world where humans have been replaced at the top of the food chain by blind but highly noise-sensitive monsters, the first 35 minutes of A Quiet Place pass without anyone uttering a proper word, making the film’s tale of rural survival simple but devastatingly effective.
Most modern horror movies are basically just 90 minutes of trying to guess who’s going to die next, which makes getting attached to any of the characters pretty difficult. In A Quiet Place, though, John Krasinski has made a film that’ll tug at your heartstrings as well as your nerves.
There’s a danger when remastering classic films in 4K that all those extra pixels will make the special effects look ropey. And while the shark in Jaws certainly doesn’t look any more realistic in Ultra HD, it was hardly the most convincing man-eater in the first place.
That’s not to say the rest of the film suffers as a result. The increased resolution makes Amity Island look even more idyllic (as long as you ignore what’s in the water) and Steven Spielberg’s direction is still a masterclass in tension that’s arguably never been beaten.
In the first few minutes of Lady Bird, the titular character (played expertly by Saoirse Ronan) chucks herself out of a moving car - but this isn’t a film that’ll wow you with its stunts and special effects.
Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale is sharply written, very funny (particularly Timothée Chalamet’s try-hard outsider), and brilliantly observed, even if you didn’t grow up in California in the early noughties.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The greatest action movie ever made? Possibly. One of the best sequels ever? Definitely. The last good Terminator film? Abso-bloody-lutely.
In 1995, John Connor is just a normal teenager, but in the future he’s an important figure in the fight against Skynet - the AI that’ll trigger a nuclear holocaust a few years later - so he sends a terminator back in time to protect his younger self. If that sounds complicated, it’s not. Just sit back and enjoy Arnie battling it out with a liquid metal foe for two hours.
Isle of Dogs
The closest thing you’ll get to Wes Anderson doing sci-fi, Isle of Dogs is set in near-future Japan when an outbreak of dog flu and snout fever has made man’s best friend anything but.
A who’s who of the usual suspects lend their voices to the animated canine cast, including Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray (obvs). And while it’s unmistakably a Wes Anderson film, it feels less formulaic than some of the director’s other recent efforts, and in Ultra HD the attention to detail that’s gone into every single frame really stands out.
The Shape of Water
Paddington’s Sally Hawkins plays a mute cleaner who befriends an amphibian ‘asset’ at the military facility that employs her, bonding over old tunes and hard-boiled eggs - a classic first-date story.
Part fairytale, part cold war thriller, The Shape of Water is a bit like ET meets Bioshock, with director Guillermo Del Toro painting everything in shades of aqua green. You get the feeling that in anybody else’s hands it would’ve been a schmaltzy disaster, but GDT is a master of combining fantasy with moments of horror. Plus the score occasionally goes a bit Last of the Summer Wine.
If you were to make a list of movie scenes worth remastering in 4K, the meme-tastic bit in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum’s injured Ian Malcolm unbuttons his shirt and reclines on a table in an apparent attempt to seduce Richard Attenborough would easily make the top five.
Fortunately for everybody involved, the whole of Spielberg’s classic dino ‘em up has had its pixels buffed up, not just that one sequence, so one of the greatest blockbusters ever made is available in Ultra HD. In fact, its two immediate sequels are there too, but they’re rubbish.
Ready Player One
Based on Ernest Cline’s book about a boy who spends all his free time in a virtual reality world called OASIS, Ready Player One’s collage of popular culture references was always going to make it ripe for a movie adaptation (providing they could get them all past the lawyers).
When you’ve got Steven Spielberg on your side, though, it tends to open doors, so Blade Runner aside, it’s a real checklist of iconic films, games and gadgets. While those aren’t really adequate substitutes for proper characters, Ready Player One is still a nostalgic thrill ride that’ll remind you why you loved all those movies in the first place - and it’s all the better for being in 4K.
Bad Boys II
However you feel about a third installment of Bad Boys being made, the first one was a bonafide ‘90s classic. And while its sequel has its fair share of issues, it also has a few moments of exhilarating brilliance, not least the bit when the bad guys launch cars from the back of a transporter at Will Smith’s pursuing Ferrari.
Sure, the script is massively cliched but the chemistry between Smith and Martin Lawrence still fizzes and it arguably captures Michael Bay at his brainless peak, blowing stuff up just because he can. In a time when everyone seems obsessed with superheroes and CGI, this guilty pleasure almost feels nostalgic.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Featuring the most eye-catching cinematic signage since Bruce Willis’s sandwich board in Die Hard With A Vengeance, Three Billboards is a Coen-esque tale of a grieving mother (the ever-compelling Frances McDormand) who takes matters into her own hands when she feels let down by local law enforcement.
Calling it a comedy is probably a stretch but there are laughs amid the tragedy and pain, with its characters painted in real shades of grey rather than the more one-dimensional heroes and villains you might expect to find as the shocking events unfold. There are bigger tests for your 4K TV out there, but few of them are as compelling as this.
Come to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread expecting the slow-burning intensity of There Will Be Blood or The Master and its captivating tale of an obsessive dressmaker in ‘50s London will be a let down, although you do get the feeling that Daniel Day-Lewis’s charming but highly strung Reynolds Woodcock could turn at the slightest provocation.
His relationship with latest muse Alma is at the centre of the film, but there’s much more to Phantom Thread than just this unconventional romance. Stitching it all together is Jonny Greenwood’s brilliant score, while the costume and set design play a huge part in creating a rich and believable world for events to unfold in. Not a bad way for Daniel Day Lewis to bow out.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Despite being 50 years old, Kubrick’s sci-fi classic might just be the ideal film for 4K, offering beautifully shot images of everything from prehistoric desert plains to psychedelic alternate dimensions via some beautifully choreographed spaceship ballet.
But this isn’t some brainless, CGI-riddled space opera. Inspired by an Arthur C Clarke short story called The Sentinel, 2001 is packed with themes that were way ahead of its time, from artificial intelligence to the search for alien life. It’s slow going (not a word is said for the first 20 minutes) but there’s a reason it consistently bothers the business end of best film lists.
Sky has added a whole collection of Christopher Nolan films to its 4K catalogue, including his Batman trilogy that got progressively sillier as the series went on, but this story of two rival illusionists playing a deadly game of one-upmanship is possibly his most underappreciated - and one that most certainly merits repeat viewings.
Putting magic on screen will always lessen its impact, purely because the audience knows what can be done with CGI and camera trickery, but The Prestige’s narrative keeps the audience guessing by pulling many of the same tricks that an illusionist would. This is life-or-death magic, with stunts that are more Derren Brown at his darkest than Paul Daniels at his cheeky teatime best.
The Disaster Artist
If you've seen The Room, a film widely considered to be down there with the worst ever made, you might be wondering what the point of The Disaster Artist is. Surely nothing could be more entertaining than the toe-curlingly awful acting and hilarious dialogue of Tommy Wiseau’s magnum opus?
But The Disaster Artist, based on the excellent book by Tommy’s co-star Greg Sestero, is a surprisingly touching account of the pair's unlikely friendship that clearly comes from a place of love and never resorts to sneering or mocking. All together now: ‘YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, LISA!”
When Ben Affleck directed Gone Baby Gone he surprised pretty much everyone by not making it rubbish. Three years later he proved it wasn’t a fluke by calling the shots on The Town – a crime thriller set in Boston (where else?).
With some particularly memorable heists and a bit of reverse Stockholm Syndrome to keep things interesting, The Town is a textbook slice of cat ‘n’ mouse between the FBI and Batfleck’s bank-robbing crew.
When Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus meets Woody Harrelson’s Twinkie-munching Tallahassee during a zombie outbreak, the unlikely pair begin a cross-country mission to find out if the former’s parents have survived, encountering various survivors and victims, including an undead Bill Murray, on the way.
Zombieland is silly, outrageously violent and easily rewatchable, a bit like an American Shaun of the Dead, plus it has what is probably the best opening sequence of any film released in the past 10 years (and not just because it's soundtracked by Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls). A sequel is due next autumn.
Saving Private Ryan
Has there been a more viscerally overwhelming 25 minutes of cinema than the Normandy landings sequence at the start of Saving Private Ryan? Even 20 years after its release, Spielberg’s World War 2 epic hasn’t lost a thing, particularly in Ultra HD.
Even though it views events through star-spangled specs, it does a fine job of capturing the fear, bravery and despair of Tom Hanks’s young platoon as they attempt to rescue the last remaining Ryan son from occupied France. A true modern classic.
The Handmaid's Tale
Based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, this dystopian series set in a world where women have their basic human rights gradually torn away from them is pretty timely considering America’s idiot-in-chief has a less-than-perfect record when it comes to his behaviour towards the opposite sex.
While that might not sound like your idea of escapism, this brutal 10-part first season is stuffed with outstanding performances, particularly from Elisabeth Moss in the lead role. With season two just coming to an end in the UK, now’s the perfect time to get up to speed.
With 2012's Prometheus a little heavy on the philosophising and light on the indiscriminate slaughter of stupid humans, Alien fans will be pleased to hear that Covenant combines the two more evenly than Ridley Scott’s previous prequel.
While it takes a while to get going, and some clunky dialogue and slightly ropey special effects hamper the first half, Covenant ramps up the fear, spills more than its fair share of guts, and introduces an android that looks like Iggy Pop (played with careful nuance by the always excellent Michael Fassbender). What’s not to like?
The Bourne Trilogy
Is a Bourne film really a Bourne film without Matt Damon? While 2012’s Damon-free The Bourne Legacy is also part of Sky’s Ultra HD offering, we’d recommended ignoring all but the original trilogy of films that had Paul Greengrass at the helm.
Paired with a 007-shaming Damon, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum have a grit and brutality that was in stark contrast to the invisible cars and absurd levels of product placement that Bond was dabbling in at the time - and they're all the better for it.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Proof that not all alien invasions are about enslaving the human race and turning every city back into building materials, Spielberg’s sci-fi classic tells the story of a group of people who start to experience unexplained visions after odd encounters with unidentified forces.
A bit like E.T. for hipsters, its pace feels particularly slow compared to modern blockbusters, but it has a sense of curiosity and wide-eyed wonder that’s often lacking in the apocalypse-obsessed movies of today. If you liked Arrival, Close Encounters is its spiritual ancestor.
Edgar Wright’s most recent films tend to be fairly Marmite but Baby Driver’s pedal-to-the-metal capers make for one of the most purely entertaining blockbusters in years.
Starting with a car chase that’s propelled by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms, all of the film’s main set pieces are thrillingly choreographed to the music that soundtracks them. It sounds gimmicky but with some smart writing, bags of style and larger-than-life performances from Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver is ridiculously watchable. Its story might be straight off the pages of a comic book but there’s not a cape or superpower in sight. Phew.
No, obviously not the 2014 remake, Paul Verhoeven's scarily prescient original.
On the surface RoboCop is a fairly straightforward action movie, but, like the man himself, there’s something more complex going on under the surface. Long before Facebook, Google et al were founded, RoboCop was playing with ideas of corporate responsibility and the role of the media, and it did it with the help of a massive autonomous robot that malfunctions and goes on the rampage. Something for everyone, then.
Only the third season of this gritty Italian mafia drama is available in Ultra HD on Sky Q, so as long as you’ve watched the first two, treat yourself to some extra pixels for the most recent one.
If you’re unfamiliar with Gomorrah, it follows the lives of various faces in Naples’ organised crime scene, but pretty much everything can be traced back to either Ciro or Gennaro, the two friendly looking chaps picture above. The allegiance between the pair is as on-off as Ross and Rachel in Friends (although with slightly more firearms) but the addition of young upstart Enzo proves that three really is a crowd.
Blade Runner 2049
Forget whether it even needed to be made in the first place, this sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic is pretty much what 4K was invented for.
But that’s not a nice way of saying there’s nothing going on upstairs. It picks up Deckard’s story neatly while adding a new narrative of its own, and while there are certainly some aspects of it that don’t quite hit home, you can always use those moments to admire the scenery. Just make sure you’ve stocked up on snacks before it starts - this is one seriously long film
Here’s an offer you can’t refuse: the greatest film of all time in 4K. Only the first part of Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia trilogy is available on Sky Q, but don’t listen to the people who say Part II is better: they’re wrong.
Despite being the best part of 50 years old, the Ultra HD version of The Godfather practically looks like it was shot yesterday, with post-war New York and Sicily really brought to life. Life, of course, is not something that every character in The Godfather gets to enjoy, but you can make the most of this bona fide classic from the safety of your sofa.
Patrick Melrose sounds like the name of the guy who’s in charge of accounts at your office but even Benedict Cumberbatch would probably struggle to make his life interesting.
Each of the five episodes is based on a different book from Edward St Aubyn’s series of semi-autobiographical novels, in which the titular character battles grief, abuse and various addictions across cities and eras. It’s superbly written, masterfully acted and brilliantly directed, with the various settings making it an excellent work out for your telly.
If you’ve seen any of Chris Nolan’s last few films you’ll probably settle in to watch Dunkirk prepared for the long haul, but it’s refreshingly lean, partly due to the fact that there’s very little dialogue.
But then there’s not a lot to talk about when you’re busy either trying to escape or rescue others from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War 2. Nolan’s film portrays the evacuation from land, sea and the air, but there’s one thing that’ll stick with you after the credits have rolled: the clinging sense of dread that’s created by the music and sound design. Got a surround sound system? This is a film to plug it in for.
Lawrence of Arabia
At 7GB and three-and-a-half hours long, give your Wi-Fi a workout by downloading Lawrence of Arabia to your Sky Q box.
David Lean’s biopic, which tells the story of T.E. Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt during World War I, is a genuine epic. With a truly iconic soundtrack and some excellent supporting roles from the camels, its shimmering desert scenes look so good in 4K you’ll be worried about scorching the sofa.
Now into its third series (with all three available in Ultra HD), Billions is about a grumpy US Attorney (Paul Giamatti’s Chuck) and his nemesis: a charitable-but-devious hedge fund manager called Axe, played by Homeland’s Damian Lewis.
But wait! Come back! It’s not all spreadsheets and interest rates. Yes, there’s a fair amount of baffling finance talk but it’s much funnier than you’d imagine, with the drama coming from the power struggle between these two big-bucks heavyweights. It’s classic cat ‘n’ mouse stuff, but on this occasion both animals are so rich they’re almost untouchable. Almost…
War for the Planet of the Apes
With each new Planet of the Apes film it feels like there are fewer and fewer human characters involved, so before Andy Serkis mo-caps his way through every single character in the next one, enjoy the most OTT film in the series so far.
Quick recap: the apes are divided, with Caesar's tribe camped out in the woods, and Koba’s crew teaming up with a Colonel Kurtz-esque warlord played by Woody Harrelson. Two hours of ape-on-ape-on-human action follows as Caesar and his band of monkey brothers fight for their right to find a new home. We’re still not sure how we feel about apes riding horses though. Do hedgehogs ride badgers?
Last time we saw Ewan McGregor’s Renton he was running away from his friends with a sports bag stuffed full of their stolen cash. He was also 20 years younger and had his whole, heroin-free life ahead of him. What happened next?
T2 sees a 46-year-old Renton returning to Edinburgh to face up to what he did. But does it make for compelling viewing? Or just remind everyone how old they are? A bit of both to be honest, but no legacys are spoiled here, and it’s worth watching for the scam he and Sickboy pull on the Protestant club alone.