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 105 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 Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch is the best soundbar for movies that we've tested. This well-built 9.2.4 setup has a unique design with two dedicated subwoofers to help you feel the deep thump and rumble in action-packed scenes. It's a solid choice for movies, and its balanced stereo frequency response helps to reproduce dialogue clearly and with detail.
This soundbar offers a great surround performance, with four discrete surround speakers that help to accurately localize surround objects like voices in the sound image. It also supports Dolby Atmos content, using the up-firing speakers in the bar and the satellites to bounce sound up to the ceiling and back down towards you, which helps create the illusion of height. It gets very loud, too, although there's some compression when you push the bar to max volume.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks some more premium sound enhancement features like a graphic EQ and room correction, so it may sound a bit different depending on the room you're listening in. Also, it doesn't support eARC, which can be disappointing if you want to watch object-based formats over an ARC connection. That said, it still offers a very immersive movie-watching experience.
If you mostly watch movies on Blu-ray, check out the Samsung HW-Q950A. While it doesn't have as many physical inputs as the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch and doesn't get as loud, this 11.1.4 setup supports eARC. If you like to watch lossless or object-based formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X often found on Blu-ray discs, you can get an immersive listening experience with this soundbar. It also comes with more sound enhancement features, including a graphic EQ to help customize its sound. Thanks to its discrete surround speakers, it also offers a great surround performance.
If you want a better-built, louder soundbar with more physical inputs, check out the Nakamichi. However, if you want a soundbar with more customization features and eARC support, consider the Samsung instead.
The best 5.1 soundbar for movies that we've tested is the Vizio Elevate. This well-built 5.1.4 setup has a unique design with sides that automatically rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content to create a wider, more immersive soundstage. It has a decent surrounds performance, too, with discrete satellite speakers that help to more accurately localized sound objects like voices and footsteps in the soundstage.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar has a bass-heavy sound profile that adds an extra boom and punch to your audio, so you really feel the deep rumble in action-packed movie scenes. There are also a few EQ presets as well as bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound, which is handy for listeners who prefer a more neutral sound. It gets pretty loud, too, and it comes with lots of physical inputs that let you use the bar as a hub between your different devices.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks some more premium sound enhancement features like room correction or a full graphic EQ, which can be disappointing for some listeners. Also, its bass-heavy sound profile can be overwhelming for some listeners, especially on its surrounds channels. That said, if you're looking for a versatile soundbar that's also great for watching movies, it's a solid choice.
If you're looking for a more immersive 5.1 setup, consider the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers instead. While it doesn't support DTS or DTS:X content like the Vizio Elevate and lacks a Full HDMI In port, this soundbar offers a better surrounds performance, so you can feel immersed in your favorite movies without being overwhelmed by a bass-heavy sound. This 5.1.2 setup is amazingly well-built, and it even comes with a room correction feature that automatically optimizes audio reproduction based on the acoustic characteristics of your room. With this feature turned on, it has a slightly bright sound profile, but you can also use the bass and treble adjustments to customize it for a more neutral sound. It also has an impressive soundstage performance, so you really feel immersed in your audio from all angles, and sound objects are accurately localized in the soundstage. Also, while it isn't available as a package, you can purchase the bar, the sub, and the satellites separately and pair them all together.
If you want a soundbar that supports DTS and DTS:X content and comes with a Full HDMI In port, check out the Vizio. However, if you prefer a bar with a better surrounds performance, consider the Sonos instead.
If you're looking for a more affordable soundbar for movies, consider the Vizio M Series M51a-H6. This 5.1 setup from 2020 is currently available from Costco and the manufacturer's website, and it offers impressive performance for movies. It comes with dedicated surround speakers, and it can also use its front-firing speakers to play Dolby Atmos content.
Out-of-the-box, it has a balanced, neutral sound profile with a little extra kick in the bass that's ideal for watching action-packed movies. There are also bass and treble adjustments, as well as some EQ presets to help you customize its sound. It gets pretty loud, too, and it comes with lots of physical inputs that support audio formats like DTS and DTS:X.
Unfortunately, while this soundbar has a decent soundstage performance, it isn't perceived to be as wide or as accurately localized as that of more premium setups like the Vizio Elevate. It also lacks a room correction feature, so it may sound different depending on the room you're using it in, and it doesn't have a graphic EQ for customizing its sound. That said, it's still a very versatile bar that can please many different movie fans.
If you're looking for an even cheaper soundbar for movies, consider the Vizio V Series V51-H6 instead. While it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content and doesn't sound as neutral out-of-the-box as the Vizio M Series M51a-H6, this budget-friendly 5.1 setup is still a decent choice for watching movies. Thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, it can playback surround content without downmixing it to mono. It has a decent soundstage performance, and its neutral, though slightly boomy default sound profile makes it suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. It also comes with bass and treble adjustments, as well as some EQ presets so you can customize its sound.
If you want a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos content and offers a more neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, check out the M Series, but if you're shopping on a tighter budget, you may want to check out the V Series instead.
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar is the best standalone soundbar for movies that we've tested. This well-built 5.1.4 setup comes with 13 speakers embedded in the bar, which helps create an impressively impressive movie-watching experience. Its AMBEO 3D mode makes it a good choice for watching surrounds content, and it supports Dolby Atmos, too.
Overall, it has a neutral mid-range that can reproduce vocal-heavy content clearly, though it's lacking a bit of low-bass. Fortunately, there's a parametric EQ available to help you customize its sound. Its room correction feature can also analyze the acoustic characteristics of your room and apply sound adjustments accordingly.
Unfortunately, it's quite wide, tall, and heavy, so it can take up a lot of space in your existing setup. Also, it lacks a lot of low-bass, especially when listening to stereo content, which can be disappointing. However, if you want to watch Atmos or surround content, this is a solid choice.
Jul 28, 2021: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q950T with the next-generation Samsung HW-Q950A. Replaced the Samsung HW-Q900T with the next-generation Samsung HW-Q900A, and the LG SN11RG with the LG SP11RA.
Apr 29, 2021: Replaced the JBL Bar 9.1 with the Vizio Elevate as 'Best 5.1' since the Vizio has a better soundstage performance. Added the Sonos Arc full setup as 'More Immersive 5.1 Alternative'. Replaced the Vizio SB36512-F6 with the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 as 'More Affordable' since the M Series has a better surrounds performance. Added the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as a 'Cheaper Alternative'. Added the JBL Bar 9.1, the Vizio SB36512-F6, and the Samsung HW-Q800A to Notable Mentions.
Jan 29, 2021: Removed the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as 'More Compact Alt' due to changing availability. Added the Samsung HW-Q900T to Notable Mentions.
Nov 23, 2020: Replaced the Yamaha YAS-207 with the Yamaha YAS-209 as '2.1 Alternative'.
Aug 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.
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, sorted by their movie performance. 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.