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Classic movies – better on Blu-ray disc?

Blade Runner Blu-ray case

The Blu-ray format’s only been with us for six years, but it’s already facing stiff competition from on-demand services. But if you want to revisit the growing number of beautifully-restored classics, it’s impossible to beat.

For many, Blu-ray is a format with the axe-man’s shadow looming large. Despite a rise in Blu-ray sales, technology is rapidly moving-on, with downloads and streaming services jostling for position as our new favourite way to watch movies at home.

Why bother buying expensive Blu-ray discs when you can click and watch the film of your choice in an instant? So is it time to call-time on Blu-ray?

Not quite yet. If there’s one thing Blu-ray can deliver that video on-demand can’t yet match, it’s the ramped-up picture quality. But it’s not the latest blockbusters which make Blu-ray worth the bother; it’s the chance to re-visit some old classics that should make every film fan sit up and reach for the play button.

Classic films restored on Blu-ray

There’s a growing body of classic movies being re-mastered and lovingly transferred on to the high-definition format. The restored colour and detail make some classic films look so good, it’s like watching a familiar favourite for the first time.

The dystopian visuals of Bladerunner (a film that’s, let’s face it, all about the visuals) have simply never looked better. Zulu, the Michael Caine & Stanley Baker classic, is nothing sort of a revelation. This is a movie that’s half a century old that simply bursts with detail and colour, making it look like it could have been filmed yesterday – especially satisfying if you’re used to the washed-out broadcast version.

Into that same ‘filmed yesterday’ bracket I’d pop a sumptuous transfer of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a breathtaking 50th anniversary re-master of the epic Lawrence of Arabia. If you didn’t manage to catch this re-release at the cinema, then the Blu-ray version is a stunning rendition of the David Lean classic. Amadeus, Jaws, Wizard of Oz and Sean Connery era Bond films are all well worth a Blu-ray re-visit too.

Tracking down the best Blu-ray restorations

There is a fly in the ointment, however. Not every movie will get the transfer treatment it deserves. The quality of the source material plays an enormous part, as well as the time and effort that’s gone into the transfer.

So, in the absence of any reliable guidance from the film studios, it’s worth spending a bit of time surfing the net to sort the wheat from the chaff… and also posting your recommendations (or ones to avoid) below. That’s if you’ve jumped on the Blu-ray bandwagon yet – and if you haven’t, why not?

So what am I going to spend the Christmas tokens on? I can hear the Francis Ford Coppola restored Godfather collection calling…

How do you watch films? You can pick multiple answers:

I watch movies shown on free TV (eg BBC, ITV) (22%, 662 Votes)

On DVDs (bought or rented) (18%, 522 Votes)

At the cinema (17%, 501 Votes)

On Blu-rays (bought or rented) (11%, 323 Votes)

Streamed online via free on-demand services (eg BBC iPlayer) (8%, 245 Votes)

I don't really watch movies (8%, 224 Votes)

Via subscription TV services (eg Sky movies) (6%, 184 Votes)

Streamed online via subscription on-demand services (eg LoveFilm) (4%, 123 Votes)

Pirated downloads (3%, 98 Votes)

Bought or pay-per-view downloads (eg Apple TV) (2%, 66 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,129

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For myself the best way to watch a film is at the cinema (no brainer) however there are cinemas and there are cinemas the usual suspects the big chain multiplexes are ok but leave a lot to be desired in many respects. I profess to being something of a film buff you know art house movies etc. I am fortunate to live a short commute by train to one of the best art house cinemas in the country the Showroom in Sheffield it is redolent of the film buffs enthusiasm and a sheer delight to go watch a movie with like minded enthusiasts.I sometimes visit my local multiplex,recently I saw there the superb Life of Pi. I saw it in the 3D format and the use of this format was brilliant. But yes I catch up with movies I have missed on the BBC etc. I do not use pay TV. I also have a number of DVDs of many of my favourite films but not as yet in BLUE-RAY though I do have a player. I have a Blue Ray version of Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash the fly on the wall documentary of the life style and working life of David Hockney also I have a Blue Ray of Glyndebourne’s production of Purcell’s Fairy Queen.But that’s it apropos Blue-Ray discs though I do hope to add to this list in the future. Some of the titles you mentioned in your article will probably be some of them.But I do emphasize, if you can the best way to watch a good film is in a good cinema with excellent projection technology. I missed the re-release of Lawrence of Arabia but I hope to catch up with it.If ever you needed evidence about my enthusiasm for CINEMAS see this film in the cinema(the thoughts of watching on small tablets or other such gadgets is of course a joke) I rest my case.

Why do we use the US term “movies” when the good old English term “films” is perfectly acceptable? Trucks instead of lorries is another example. We seem to fall over ourselves to become mid Atlantic in our speech and outlook.

Fair point Phil, however it is a term that is getting more usage in the UK. I personally think both terms are suitable and we have a nice mix in this post.

By the way, as you’re now one of our regular commenters it’d be great to see you with an avatar so that you can become a more recognisable member of the community. You can upload a pic of your choice here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/your-account/

Whatever media is used for the Video part of the film is, to me and probably to thousands of other deaf people, largely irrelevant. The other part, the audio sound track is not available as we are deaf, and rely on a well subtitled version to get a complete understanding of whatever it is being presented.

In the last 20 years I’ve seen one main stream film shown at a sensible time…. last year’s subtitled version of “Skyfall” shown at 3.30 pm at a local multiplex cinema….. but the ‘Screen’ in which this was shown was deserted apart form myself and two others. This was in contrast to the sell out at other ‘Screens’. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, albeit feeling a mite lonely!

In vain I look for the letter “S” ( Subtitled) on the majority of Sky TV offerings and as for the alternative open to me , “T Loop”, the local Cinema complexes and the hugely expensive hi tech building which forms the SAGE theatre on Tyneside, fail abysmally when it comes to a solution to the problem of accessible sound reproduction for the partially deaf. BUT, when I attend my local Church Services, the sound of the celebrant’s voice is delivered with crystal clarity to my hearing aids as they pick up the T Loop produced, by the installed low budget PA system.

Blue Ray may be wonderful to watch but does the re-mastering bestow subtitles alongside the video content? When THAT aspect of media reproduction is given due consideration, I’ll lash out and buy a Blue Ray player

I watched Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Blu-ray on my new 4K telly in the other day in the build-up to going to see the sequel in the cinema, and I’ve got to tell you, it looked pretty blooming spectacular. The landscapes were crazy clear and crisp and the SFX didn’t look like they’d aged a day because of it. Cinematographers have had the ability to shot in HD for years. Only now with decent home TV systems are we beginning to enjoy films as they were supposed to be enjoyed.

Blade Runner GIF