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 80 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 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 it 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 is a very good choice for movies, and it comes with up-firing speakers on the bar as well as satellite speakers to help create a more immersive listening experience. It gets really loud without a lot of compression, too, so audio reproduction is clean and pure even at max volume.
It supports Dolby Atmos and surround content, and it has a lot of inputs, so you can use it as a hub between devices like your TV and your DVD player. Its sound profile is neutral enough to reproduce dialogue clearly, and the extra punch in the bass range helps add thump and rumble to action-packed scenes in your favorite movies. It even comes with a few EQ presets and bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound to your liking.
Unfortunately, while it has a decent stereo soundstage performance, its soundstage isn't perceived to be as wide as some of the other models we've tested. Also, it lacks a dialogue enhancement feature, which could be disappointing for listeners who want to make dialogue in movies sound more clear and crisp. That said, this very good soundbar offers versatile overall performance for its more affordable price, and it should satisfy many different movie fans.
If you're looking for a more affordable 2.1 soundbar for movies, consider the Yamaha YAS-209 instead. While this 2.1 setup doesn't get as loud as the Vizio SB36512-F6 and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, it's still a fair choice for watching movies. Its default sound profile is quite balanced, so dialogue is clear and present. Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it packs a little extra punch in the bass range that also makes it suitable for watching intense, action-packed scenes. There's also a DTS-X 3D virtual surround setting available, though we don't currently test for it. It has a lot of inputs for connecting your other devices, but unfortunately, it has to downmix surround content into stereo, which doesn't sound as immersive.
If you want something with satellite speakers that can play Dolby Atmos content, check out the Vizio. However, if you prefer a 2.1 setup, consider the Yamaha 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.
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.