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 75 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 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.
It 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, and while it has a slightly larger depth, you shouldn't have too much of a problem placing it on a table. Note that our 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 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 mostly watch movies on Blu-ray, check out the Samsung HW-Q950T. While it doesn't have as many physical inputs as the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch and its surround performance doesn't sound as rich or immersive, this 9.1.4 setup supports eARC. Thanks to this, you can 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. Its thumpy bass can also help bring out the intensity from sound effects in action-packed scenes or add some boom to an EDM track. There's even a graphic EQ and presets if you want to customize its sound. It's also Bluetooth or Wi-Fi compatible, so you can wirelessly stream audio from movies if you prefer.
Try the Samsung if you watch a lot of movies that use high-quality lossless or advanced surround sound audio formats. However, if you tend to digitally stream your movies rather than watch films on Blu-ray, consider the Nakamichi.
The best 5.1 soundbar for movies that we've tested is the JBL Bar 9.1. This 5.1.4 setup has two truly wireless satellite speakers that detach from its main 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 model 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 its satellite speakers, it can also 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 said, its balanced sound profile out-of-the-box and uniquely truly wireless satellites make this soundbar stand out from the crowd and it's a great addition to any movie lover's arsenal.
The best soundbar for movies at a more affordable price is the Vizio SB36512-F6. This 5.1.2 setup comes with up-firing speakers on the bar, a dedicated subwoofer, and two satellite speakers that help create an immersive movie-watching experience. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS content, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and movie streaming platforms.
Overall, it has a balanced sound profile that's suitable for lots of audio content, and the extra boom in the bass range helps bring action-packed scenes in your favorite films to life. A few EQ presets help you customize its sound, and there's a Virtual Surround feature that can help create a more immersive sound. This bar can get loud without a lot of compression, so you can watch your movies in a large room, too.
Unfortunately, the satellite speakers need to be wired to the subwoofer to function, which can be limiting depending on your room setup. Also, it lacks a dialogue enhancement feature, so voices may not sound as crisp and clear. However, this versatile soundbar is still a very good choice for movies despite its lower price point.
If you're looking for a more affordable 2.1 setup for watching movies, consider the Yamaha YAS-209. While it doesn't come with dedicated surround speakers and doesn't support Atmos content like the Vizio SB36512-F6, it's still a fair choice for watching movies. Its sound profile is well-balanced and neutral, with a little extra punch in the bass range that's well-suited for action-packed scenes in your favorite movies. There are a few EQ presets to help you customize its sound, as well as a DTS-X 3D virtual surround setting that's advertised as creating a more immersive sound. You can also use its dialogue-enhancement feature to make it easier to hear voices in your favorite films.
If you want a 5.1 setup that can support Dolby Atmos content, check out the Vizio. However, if you prefer a simpler setup and don't watch a lot of Atmos movies, consider the Yamaha.
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 bar is a solid choice.
11/23/2020: Replaced the Yamaha YAS-207 with the Yamaha YAS-209 as '2.1 Alternative'.
11/03/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q90R with the Samsung HW-Q950T for 'Wider Audio Format Support Alternative'.
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.
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.