Soundbars are a great way to enhance your movie-watching experience when you don't have space for a full home theater setup. You can get a great surround sound reproduction from soundbars that will give you an immersive movie-watching experience. However, not all soundbars are equal. While some are only capable of recreating stereo content, many have Dolby Atmos support that can help bring a cinema-like experience home, whether you're watching from a dedicated home theater room or the comfort of your bed.
We’ve tested over 60 soundbars, and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars for movies. See also our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, and the best budget soundbars.
The best soundbar for movies that we've tested so far is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch. With the right configuration, this 9.2.4-channel setup can easily rival the traditional home theater setup, making it a solid choice for those serious about movies. It delivers a remarkably immersive, engaging experience and supports Dolby Atmos.
This setup comes with four satellite speakers, which can be positioned either horizontally or vertically to better suit your room's acoustics. Its up-firing speakers do quite a decent job at reproducing Dolby Atmos, and the center channel creates clear dialogue. With three Full HDMI-In ports, you can use it as an HDMI hub between all your different components, and it has no issue passing through the highest quality video signals.
While its two wireless subwoofers pack a solid punch, they're a bit light on thump and rumble and tend to distort at max volume. While the distortion shouldn't be an issue at regular listening volumes, the soundbar itself also sounds a bit dark with stereo content, like an older movie. Fortunately, you can also adjust the treble, or even choose a different sound profile with its EQ presets.
If you're running low on space in your home and don't have enough room for two subwoofers and four satellites, check out the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. Although it doesn't produce as immersive or rich of an audio experience as the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch, this 5.1.2 setup delivers a well-balanced sound right out-of-the-box without taking up as much room overall. It comes with one subwoofer and two small satellites. The bar isn't as long either, and while it has a slightly larger depth, you shouldn't have too much of a problem placing it on a table. It should be noted that the current soundbar test bench doesn't accurately reflect its low-bass energy. It has an excellent surround performance, which helps produce more immersive audio, and it uses up-firing speakers on the bar and its rear speakers to bounce sound back to the listener. However, it doesn't have a lot of connectivity options, and it lacks eARC as well as DTS support.
If you want a more immersive sound experience and you have the room for its setup, go for the Nakamichi. However, if you're looking for something with fewer components without sacrificing too much of your surround experience, get the Sonos.
If you tend to watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray, consider the Samsung HW-Q90R. While it doesn't have as many inputs as the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch and its surround performance isn't as rich or immersive, this 7.1.4 setup supports eARC allows you to listen to the most advanced object-based surround signals as well as high-quality lossless formats, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs. It also delivers a better-balanced sound than the Nakamichi, making it a bit more versatile in use as it's also well-suited for music. You can use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to play audio wirelessly as well.
If you're watching a lot of movies that use high-quality lossless or advanced surround sound audio formats, go for the Samsung. However, if you aren't primarily watching movies on Blu-ray or if you prefer to stream your movies digitally, go for the Nakamichi.
The best 5.1 soundbar for movies that we've tested so far is the JBL Bar 9.1. This 5.1.4 setup has two truly wireless satellite speakers that detach from its main soundbar body and can be placed anywhere in the room. Although we don't currently test for it, they're also advertised to have up to ten hours of continuous playback time, and they can be reconnected back to the bar to charge.
This unique soundbar can get pretty loud with little compression. It has a well-balanced sound profile with a present and punchy bass, which is great for fans of explosion-packed action flicks to casual music lovers. Thanks to their satellite speakers, they're also able to create an immersive sound experience and deliver an amazing surround performance. It has several wireless playback options, and its full range of physical inputs makes it easy to use it as a hub for multiple devices like a TV and DVD player. As it supports eARC, you can also watch your favorite Blu-rays with advanced object-based surround signals.
Where it falls short is in its lack of sound enhancement features. While it has three EQ presets and a room correction feature, it doesn't have a graphic EQ, which some users may find a little limiting. That being said, its balanced sound profile out-of-the-box and uniquely truly wireless satellites make this soundbar stand out from the crowd and are a great addition to any movie lover's arsenal.
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is the best affordable soundbar for watching movies that we've tested so far. If you're watching your wallet while trying to create the perfect home movie theater, this 5.1.2 soundbar offers the best bang for your buck.
It includes a soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and two rear satellite speakers that connect to the sub. It has a well-balanced, neutral sound profile with a bit of extra bass, making it a solid choice for your favorite action films. It supports all the most common surround sound formats since it has a full HDMI-in port, and provides a decently immersive experience with Dolby Atmos content, thanks to the two up-firing speakers on the bar. You can also check out the Vizio SB46514-F4, which has two additional up-firing speakers on the rear speakers, although it's quite a bit more expensive.
On the downside, this system isn't as well-built as other full surround systems, and the bar is covered by a fabric that can be ripped and attracts dust. That said, this soundbar still has a great price-to-performance ratio despite some flaws, making it an affordable soundbar option for movie lovers.
If you prefer the simplicity of a 2.1 setup, then get the Yamaha YAS-207. It doesn't create nearly as immersive an experience as the Vizio SB36512-F6 since it downmixes surround content to stereo, but it's less of a hassle to set up and doesn't take up as much space. It's among the best budget soundbars we've tested, and it offers a good price-to-performance ratio. It has a neutral sound profile that helps make dialogue sound clear and detailed while still being able to produce enough thump and rumble to make action-packed scenes pop. While it's technically been replaced by the newer Yamaha YAS-209, it's still not too hard to find in stock and is considerably less expensive for a minor difference in performance.
Overall, if you prefer a more immersive soundbar setup, get the Vizio, but if you don't care about surround sound and would simply like to upgrade from your TV speakers for the occasional movie night, go for the Yamaha.
The best standalone soundbar for movies that we've tested so far is the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. This soundbar is quite massive and has 13 speakers integrated in the bar. Thanks to the side and up-firing speakers and the 3D AMBEO mode, you can get a very immersive listening experience. This bar is a great option if you don't want the hassle of routing a subwoofer or rear speakers.
When using its 3D audio mode, the surround performance is very good, and it handles Atmos content well. It has a fairly well-balanced sound profile, and you can easily modify the full parametric EQ to get the best settings for your liking. It also has a room correction feature that adjusts its audio reproduction based on the room it's put in. There are a ton of inputs, and you can easily stream content wirelessly.
On the downside, its bass performance is disappointing, so action lovers will find explosions missing rumble and thump. Its size and weight can also make it a bit hard to make it fit in your setup. That said, if you're looking to keep your setup to a minimum but still want something with good surround performance, then this is a great option.
08/25/2020: Added the JBL Bar 9.1 as 'Best 5.1 Soundbar for Movies' and the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as 'More Compact Alternative'. Changed Samsung HW-Q90R to 'Wider Audio Format Support Alternative'. Added the LG SN11RG to 'Notable Mentions'.
05/13/2020: Verification for accuracy; only slight adjustments to the text.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars for movies for most people to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper soundbar wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no soundbars that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our soundbar reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. No soundbar is perfect. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.