Revealed: Top Ten 3D Blu-rays

Team HCC dons its silly spex to find the best 3D Blu-rays for your collection...

The 3D Blu-ray market is exploding. Where once stereoscopic HD titles were as rare as a decent movie starring Michael Madsen, you can now fill your 3D disc-shelf with everything from music concerts and documentaries to kids’ toons, sci-fi extravaganzas and blood-soaked slasher flicks.

Yet our inner geeks don’t always demand the best films when it comes to 3D. If you’re going to don the goggles, you want to make sure the Blu-ray you’ve selected will have some impressive 3D imaging to savour. Especially if you’re trying to show off your new 3D display to your friends/family/neighbours/cat.

Yet again, no one wants to sit through an awful movie just to see a couple of axes loom out of the screen and slice through the air. The following ten 3D discs have therefore been chosen because they offer a blend of impressive stereoscopy and solid storytelling – well, most of them.

If you’re building a 3D library, we recommend you check these out...

10. Drive Angry
Region B BD, Lionsgate

Regardless of what James Cameron says, 3D and exploitation cinema were clearly made for one another. No filmmaker proves that point better than Patrick Lussier, who cut his teeth on the surprisingly effective stereoscopic slasher My Bloody Valentine in 2009. Two years later he followed this with the even more insane Drive Angry, starring Nic Cage as a gun-toting, car-driving, escapee from Hell out to save his granddaughter from a cult of Satanists.

Lionsgate’s 3D Blu-ray makes the most of this ludicrous set-up and the violence that quickly ensues. Barely a scene goes by without a bullet, an axe or some piece of human viscera being thrust out of the screen and into your face – meaning that there’s far more depth to the image than the story or the characters who inhabit it.

Demo 3Delight: Nic Cage’s Milton quite literally crashes the Satanic cult’s sacrificial ceremony in Drive Angry’s explosive finale

9. Hugo
Region B BD, Entertainment in Video

While we were originally a little concerned to learn that Martin Scorsese’s first 3D flick would be a kids’ film, we should have known better. What the Goodfellas director delivered was an appealing homage to the pioneers of early cinema that elevates stereoscopic filmmaking into an art form.

The Blu-ray release revels in Scorsese’s sumptuous 3D visuals, lending a real sense of scale and volume to the period locations. And, while EiV’s UK release does feature a minor quirk in the form of a shifting window-boxing effect that isn’t present on the US Blu-ray, we reckon you’ll soon forget all about it as you’re sucked into the delightful narrative and 3D image.

Demo 3Delight: The movie’s opening sequence uses the additional stereoscopic depth to put you right into the world Hugo lives in

8. The Adventures of Tintin:  The Secret of the Unicorn
All-region BD, Paramount

Take one legendary Belgian series of comic books. Add two of Hollywood’s most powerful filmmakers in the form of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Finally, stir in the technical expertise of the world’s foremost motion-capture studio and what have you got? One of the most action-packed computer-animated films ever produced – and the nearest you’ll get to a stereoscopic Indiana Jones adventure for the time being.

Spielberg’s animated adventure drips with the kind of thrills and excitement that was so sorely lacking from …Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Paramount’s excellent Blu-ray presentation means that Tintin’s Tinseltown debut is also one of the best-looking 3D flicks available right now. Roll on the inevitable sequel!

Demo 3Delight: The motorbike chase through the streets of a Moroccan port illustrates Spielberg’s mastery of 3D action

7. Final Destination 5
All-region BD, Warner Home Video

For some people, 3D has never escaped the stigma of its association with the gimmick-driven sci-fi flicks of the 1960s and the horror sequels of the 1980s. For others (ourselves included) this is no bad thing, so we applauded when a franchise like Final Destination got in on the act. Okay, it didn’t get off to the best start with 2009’s dreadful The Final Destination, but the series hit its stereoscopic stride with last year’s fifth instalment.

Boasting some of the most imaginative kills in the franchise yet, Final Destination 5’s Blu-ray encode takes great pleasure in rubbing your face in every bit of onscreen blood and guts, and the creative use of the three-dimensional visual space makes it feel more like a gory movie version of the board game Mousetrap than ever before.

Demo 3Delight: Fancy being speared in the face by a yacht’s mast or having hot tar poured in your lap? These are just two of the treats waiting for you during the premonition of a bridge collapsing

6. The Hole
Region B Blu-ray, EntertainmentOne

Joe Dante’s Poltergeist-esque supernatural family thriller was unjustly overlooked on its cinema release, but at least this belated Blu-ray release means that anyone who missed it on the bigscreen can discover for themselves why The Hole managed to beat the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Coraline and Up to scoop the inaugural 3D Award at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

While you might expect that most of the focus of the 3D effect to be on the titular hole, Dante employs the technique to enhance the overall scale of what could otherwise be a series of rather insular and claustrophobic locations. That’s not to say that the Gremlins veteran isn’t averse to having fun with the format – as shown by a baseball gag that harks back to the legendary 1953 3D shocker House of Wax.

Demo 3Delight: Any of the shots looking up out of the hole are supremely effective, but our favourite is the moment when the trio of kids dangle a camcorder into it (and out of the screen).

5. TT3D: Closer to the Edge
Region B Blu-ray, EntertainmentOne

If you fancy a break from 3D robots and stereoscopic splatter you could do a lot worse than this fascinating documentary. An investigation into the appeal of the Isle of Man TT Race, and the psychology of those who compete in the frequently lethal sporting event, TT3D (as its name suggests) is also a nifty showcase for what 3D can add to any kind of movie when the technology is used in an inventive yet unobtrusive manner.

The film’s native 3D visuals are incredible, particularly the race material captured by track-side cameras. In addition, director Richard De Aragues employs the tech for creative compositions during interviews with the racers, making great use of the additional layers of depth and picture information.

Demo 3Delight: The perilously twisting nature of the road circuit is made all the more clear in three dimensions

4. Tron: Legacy
All-region BD, Walt Disney

Science-fiction is the home of epic spectacle – and films don’t come much more epic or spectacular than this long-awaited sequel to the ‘80s cult favourite Tron.

Tron: Legacy takes all of the best elements from the first film (Disc Wars! Light Cycles!) and embellishes them with today’s technological flair. And, given the film’s deliberate CG-style visuals, it’s no surprise that it turns out to be a perfect fit for 3D. However, Tron: Legacy goes one better still, with certain sequences shot on the IMAX format for an even greater sense of spectacle. Thankfully, Disney’s Blu-ray release is more than up to the task of recreating it all, and features an equally immersive 7.1 mix.

Demo 3Delight: Sam’s foray into the gladiatorial world of the Disc Wars is full of flying discs and impressive volumetric effects

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon 
All-region BD, Paramount

If there’s one thing that the format’s fans and detractors alike can agree on, it’s that filming this third Transformers movie in 3D forced director Michael Bay to curb his usual hyperactive shooting style. Say ‘goodbye’ to the rapid editing that leaves no shot lasting more than a second, and ‘hello’ to lengthier takes that finally allow you to study the CG robots in the detail we’ve been demanding.

That said, there’s absolutely no let-up in the scale of the onscreen action. This time we get a full-on invasion of Earth (well, Chicago), delivered on BD with a superb 3D encode that emphasise the size of the robots, as well as highlighting every little dent in their armour.

Demo 3Delight: The shot of NEST troops in jump suits flying into the Windy City, while a burning helicopter plummets out of the sky. Awesome

2. Tangled
All-region BD, Walt Disney

Understandably, computer-animated films have been one of the driving forces of 3D Blu-ray – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more visually exciting example than Disney’s Tangled.

While the film’s stereoscopic visuals don’t ever try to stab you in the eye, there’s an remarkable sense of depth to the imagery – helped by the fact that while backgrounds are blurred in the 2D Blu-ray encode, they’re left sharp and clear in the 3D MVC version. There’s also no trace of the drop off in fine detailing and colour reproduction that some frequently cite as a key problem with 3D. 

In other words, it’s everything that Full HD 3D should be: unobtrusive, natural, detailed and, most of all, utterly immersive.

Demo 3Delight: The Chinese lantern sequence isn’t just a work of art, it’s the best demo scene around for checking your 3D kit for crosstalk

1. Resident Evil: Afterlife
All-region BD, Sony Pictures

We’re yet to tire of Paul W.S Anderson’s guns, gals and zombies franchise, especially when it delivers home cinema thrills as effectively as this. Milla Jovovich returns again as Alice, the feisty undead-battler with a penchant for slo-mo, in a gloriously batty, fast-paced actioner. A DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix offers all-round mayhem in place of subtlety, and Anderson provides an informative commentary as part of the extras.

Visually, this BD platter is a knockout. Anderson may not get as much love as Cameron and Scorsese when it comes to 3D, but he’s comfortable working with it – employing its poke-you-in-the-face prowess wherever possible and using the extra depth to craft the dystopian future locations. Our favourite 3D platter yet.

Demo 3Delight: The slow-motion water-soaked scrap with the Executioner – a sequence you’ll want to watch again and again

What? No Avatar? Oh, go on then...

James Cameron’s blockbusting sci-fi adventure has become the poster boy of 3D – and quite rightly, too, as Cameron’s devotion to the technology ensures it’s a masterpiece of stereoscopy. Demo sequences abound. From the opening beats with Sully (Sam Worthington) waking up in the cavernous Cryo-Vault, to the airborne beast-riding showcase, there’s always something to admire – and the Blu-ray’s HD visuals and surround mix are first-rate, too.

But as you still can't actually buy Avatar on 3D Blu-ray (unless you fancy paying over the odds for a Panasonic promo copy on ebay), we've left it off our list...

This article first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Home Cinema Choice