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 great surround sound reproduction from soundbars that will give you an immersive experience and pull you into the movies that you're watching. Not all soundbars are equal, however, and 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 nearly 40 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 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 soundbar setup comes with four satellite speakers which can be positioned either horizontally or vertically to better suit the acoustics of your room. 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 short on space and can't have two subwoofers and four satellites taking up valuable real estate in your living room, you'll want to consider the Samsung HW-Q90R. While its surround performance isn't quite as rich and immersive as what the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch delivers, its more modest 7.1.4 setup doesn't occupy as much space. Its default sound signature is also a lot better balanced, which makes it a more versatile option if you like listening to music at home as well. It has multiple connection options so you can easily make it a hub for your TV and other devices. Its ports also support most common audio formats and you can use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to wirelessly play audio.
If you have the space for an even more immersive setup, then get the Nakamichi, but if you're looking to simplify a little bit without sacrificing too much of your surround sound experience, go for the Samsung.
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is the best affordable soundbar for watching movies we've tested so far. If you're watching your wallet while trying to create your 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 system 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 mess around with the full parametric EQ to get the best settings for your liking. Also, it has a room correction feature that adjusts its audio reproduction based on the room it's put in. There are also 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 soundbar is a great option.
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.