Best Blu-ray Discs of 2017

There's still life in the old format yet

by Steve Withers Jan 7, 2018 at 6:32 AM

  • Movies News


    Best Blu-ray Discs of 2017
    Although 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray has been getting most of the headlines in 2017, there have still been some cracking Blu-ray disc releases this year.
    The major studios may be concentrating on 4K more these days but that means the smaller distributors have taken advantage of the opportunity to release some first class catalogue titles on Blu-ray. Many of these releases are based on brand new 4K restorations and include great features and beautiful packaging. In fact it's easy to forget just how good Blu-ray can look when done well and given that they can still include immersive audio soundtracks, the humble Blu-ray remains the first choice of many movie enthusiasts. In addition Disney only jumped go the 4K bandwagon in the summer, meaning plenty of Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm titles were only released on Blu-ray this year. Please note that we have specifically not included titles that also received a 4K release. So, in alphabetical order, let's take a look at our top ten Blu-rays of 2017.

    The Apartment (Arrow)

    Arrow's new release of Billy Wilder's Oscar-winning comedy The Apartment is a great example of the kind of catalogue title that can benefit from a high definition release. The film itself is probably Wilder's best work, funny but bitter-sweet and full of his acerbic wit; whilst the plot, which revolves around office politics and sexism, sadly seems just as relevant today as it did in 1960. The transfer is based on a new 4K restoration of the original camera negative and the black and white photography is simply stunning; easily the best the film has ever looked. There's the original mono soundtrack for purists, as well as an excellent 5.1-channel mix for those who would rather use their full system. There's also a comprehensive set of extras that includes a commentary track and a number of interesting features. There's even a 150-page hardback book included, making this a must-have for fans of the film.

    Buy The Apartment on Blu-ray here

    Beauty and the Beast (Disney)

    Since Disney didn't start releasing 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays until the summer, the biggest film of the year so far only got a Full HD Blu-ray release. However Beauty and the Beast is a stunning disc that perfectly captures the sumptuous production design of Disney's monstrously successful live-action remake of their animated classic. The glorious 1080p image is reference through and through, with the digitally captured image full of exquisite detail and opulent colours. The reference soundtrack is equally as impressive with the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack not only delivering the songs with pleasing dynamic range but also the engaging surround sound design as well. A strong selection of extras include a 3-minute Overture and a host of featurettes that go behind the film's production, making this beautiful package one for the collection.

    Buy Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray here

    Doctor Strange (Marvel/Disney)

    Doctor Strange was the last Marvel title released on Blu-ray before Disney decided to join the 4K Ultra HD party but it remains a superb example of the Full HD format's capabilities. The film itself is an interesting addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that significantly expands the potential scope for future films by introducing other dimensions. There's a strong cast headed by Benedict Cumberbatch who, dodgy American accent aside, is great in the title role. The Blu-ray itself is reference quality with superb detail and a suitably colourful appearance. Although not filmed in 3D, the post-conversion is very good and adds to the trippy visuals, making Doctor Strange one of the few titles this year to genuinely benefit from the added dimension. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is equally as impressive, with a well-designed, very active surround mix and some deep bass. Along with the demo picture and sound, there's a great selection of extras that includes a commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and various featurettes. Overall Doctor Strange is a great Blu-ray release and an obvious addition to any Marvel fan's collection.

    Buy Doctor Strange on Blu-ray here

    Kubo and the Two Strings (Universal)

    Laika Studios have made a number of charming stop-motion animated features but Kubo and the Two Strings is their masterpiece. The film itself is an utterly engaging tale of a young boy's quest of self-discovery with a star-studded and uniformly excellent voice cast. The gorgeous Blu-ray release captures every pixel of the digital photography, revealing all the detail in the intricate armatures and sets. The film was actually shot in native 3D, so if you have the capability that's definitely the best way to see it but the 2D release is equally as stunning. The superb picture is matched by a reference DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that was built from the ground up, taking full advantage of every channel include the low frequencies. A decent set of extras go into the pain-staking work involved in making this remarkable film and the Blu-ray release itself is one of our favourites this year.

    Buy Kubo and the Two Strings on Blu-ray here

    Lone Wolf and Cub (Criterion)

    Criterion have at last begun to release Blu-rays in the UK, which means that fans on this side of the pond no longer have to import Region A locked discs at great expense. Criterion have released a number of great titles in the UK this year but Lone Wolf and Cub was probably one of the most anticipated, if only because the comprehensive nature of the package made importing it prohibitively expensive. This set includes all six Lone Wolf and Cub films, along with Shogun Assassin which is an amalgamation of the first two films for the US market. Despite their age, the 2K remasters of these films look excellent and any limitations are in the original source material. The six Lone Wolf and Cub films include their original mono Japanese soundtracks with English subtitles, whilst Shogun Assassin includes its mono English soundtrack. Aside from the inclusion of Shogun Assassin itself, the set also includes an hour long documentary and a host of other interesting featurettes. If you're fan of Lone Wolf and Cub, this is the release you've been waiting for.

    Buy Lone Wolf and Cub on Blu-ray here

    Moana (Disney)

    The third Disney feature on this list is Moana, which proved to be one of their most enjoyable releases of the year. This beautifully animated CG film is based on Polynesian myths and delivers its positive message with a knowing wit and some brilliant songs. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's charm is clearly evident as the demi-god Maui and he handles the musical numbers surprisingly well. The animation is clever and delivered to perfection by this Blu-ray release with staggering levels of detail, deep blacks and rich colours. Much like Kubo and the Two Strings, the 3D version is the superior experience but the 2D remains seriously impressive. The same goes for the amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack that not only delivers the songs effectively but also renders the film's complex sound design with ease. A comprehensive set of features that includes a Maui mini-movie, an audio commentary, deleted scenes and extensive featurettes round off a superb package. Moana got a perfect ten across the board when we reviewed it this year making it a shoo-in for this list!

    Buy Moana on Blu-ray here

    Mulholland Drive (StudioCanal)

    Mulholland Drive was recently voted the best film of the 21st century, which is quite an achievement for a project that started out as a pilot for a cancelled TV series. David Lynch took the existing footage, shot additional scenes to give the story its own twisted logic and delivers his masterpiece. A breakthrough performance from Naomi Watts carries this tale of Hollywood's dark underbelly and the film is open to any number of interpretations. This Blu-ray release from StudioCanal boasts a brand new 4K restoration that was overseen by Lynch himself and the result is the best this film has ever looked. The film's complex images are rendered with near perfection, whilst the sound design, which is always an important part of a David Lynch film, is equally as mesmerising thanks to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack. A selection of interesting featurettes help add to the film's appeal and make this a must-have for David Lynch fans everywhere.

    Buy Mulholland Drive on Blu-ray here

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm/Disney)

    Although many enthusiasts would love to have seen Rogue One get released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an immersive audio soundtrack, the Blu-ray that was released remains very impressive. The film itself put the 'war' into Star Wars with a story about a Rebel mission to steal the plans for the original Death Star. It's actually a direct prequel to Star Wars that clears up a few plot holes and, thanks to an epic third act, even manages to make the original film better by showing the sacrifice needed to get those plans to Princess Leia. The Blu-ray itself is stunning with a detailed and very film-like image that boasts deep blacks and natural colours. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is just as impressive, with plenty of bass and precise steering of effects around the soundstage. There's a decent selection of extras, although disappointingly the film's 'complicated' production isn't mentioned, nor are the extensive deleted and reshot scenes included. However this remains a fantastic Blu-ray release and one that will doubtless take pride of place in any Star Wars fan's collection.

    Buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Blu-ray here

    Ronin (Arrow)

    John Frankenheimer's Ronin tells a complex and action-packed tale of espionage and betrayal with an in-form Robert DeNiro heading up an excellent cast. The film is expertly crafted with clever dialogue, some interesting plot twists and one of cinema's great car chases. The result is something of a minor classic from the late 90s and a film that marks another great Blu-ray release from Arrow. The transfer is based on a new 4K restoration of the original camera negative that was supervised by the film's director of photography and Ronin has never looked this good. The finely nuanced and richly textured image is marvellous, making it hard to believe the film is nearly 20 years old. The sound is also impressive for its age and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack delivers the gunshots and squealing tyres with wonderful dynamic range. The extras are also impressive with an audio commentary, a host of featurettes and even an alternative ending. It's a superb overall package that makes Arrow's Blu-ray release of Ronin one for fans and film enthusiasts alike.

    Buy Ronin on Blu-ray here

    The Thing (Arrow)

    The Thing won Best Blu-ray of the year in our recent Editor's Choice Awards, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to find it on this list of the best Blu-rays of the year. The film is considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made and, once again, Arrow deliver another fantastic Blu-ray release that does this classic film justice. The transfer is based on a brand new 4K restoration of the original camera negative that was supervised by director John Carpenter and director of photography Dean Cundey. The results are superb, with the film looking better than ever in Full HD. There are also a number of different soundtrack options made available, including a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 track and the original mono track. There’s an extensive set of extras, headlined by a new feature-length documentary about the making of the film, along with a cool reversible sleeve that makes this release of The Thing an essential purchase for fans.

    Buy The Thing on Blu-ray here

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