Nothing fires up a home theater like a great action movie. Except maybe one with full-blown surround sound! These are the kinds of exciting films that may even have you turning up your system until the neighbors start a-knocking. But then they might just join you when the action starts.
This World War II tale of grit and survival resonates strongly every time I see it. As veteran French film composer Alexandre Desplat’s eerie score sets the mood, a vast formation of bombers flies right into the camera, their engines filling the sound field. All is relatively quiet until bursts of flack begin and as each second ticks away, the action, intensity and fire light up your screen. After the drop, fighter jets swoop in on the bombers and your surround speakers (and height speakers too, if you have them!) get a good workout, with gunfire peppering every corner of your room. Check it out here.
Going up? In this scene from the 2014 superhero film, Marvel Comics character Captain America, played by Chris Evans, takes on an entire elevator full of bad guys. All starts quietly, until Cap, realizing they’re all there to take him on, asks if anyone wants to get out. Then the action lights up and the close quarters makes for some loud and proud moments that will shake your system. It’s classic action involving modern weapons, fists of fury and lots of great camera angles. Talk about going from 0-100 mph! Check it out here.
Get the subwoofer ready for some high energy Star Wars action. The CGI (computer generated imagery) in this scene includes power shields, laser cannon shot, spaceships exploding and just about everything else you can dream of in a classic spaceship battle — all zipping from the left to the right, in front of and behind you. The visuals, sound effects and sound design are nothing short of superb … all with the classic John Williams theme bursting out of the speakers. Check it out here.
This 1995 epic won multiple Academy Awards®. It depicts the life of William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) during the first war of Scottish Independence. This exciting scene, depicting the Battle of Stirling, grows in anticipation as the horses pick up their pace in the charge against Wallace and his band of warriors. Bagpipes, hoofs, armor and chains blend together all around you with the simmering orchestral score in anticipation of what’s about to happen. Once the horses get close, the real action explodes on the screen, with a nasty surprise for the riders. Check it out here.
This 2008 superhero film from director, producer and co-writer Christopher Nolan is based on the DC Comics Batman character and is the second installment in the Dark Knight trilogy. Combining stunning surround sound effects with a score by the power duo of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, this scene features the Batpod (a recreation of the Batcycle) and the Joker in a runaway truck, along with helicopters, guns, armored vehicles and lots of high intensity action, all taking place at night in a forbidding urban environment. Get your seatbelts on and buckle up for this one. Check it out here.
This is one of the most dramatic scenes from the classic Bourne Ultimatum series, with complex action that’s stunning in sequence, choreography and sound design. Add in the pulsing drums from the world music score of John Powell and it’s little wonder that this film snagged Academy Awards in 2007 for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, as well as Best Film Editing. Check it out here.
In this power-packed scene inspired by anime and martial arts films, professional hitman John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) is seeking revenge for the stealing of his car and the killing of his dog. Between the pumping club music, the flashing lights and the full-blown action, it’s a surround sound dream come true! Check it out here.
This 2007 science fiction film is interesting in the way that it combines live action with computer animation — and Steven Spielberg was the executive producer, so you know there’s a little extra oomph. This exciting scene takes place in the desert where a Decepticon (a robot that can change into animals, vehicles or other forms) attacks a group of Special Ops soldiers in Qatar. The call goes out to the U.S. Air Force, who arrive in full strength … and let’s just say, things get busy. Turn this one up! Check it out here.
This is a film that needs little introduction, and the slowly building intensity of this scene — especially when listened to on a quality multichannel audio system — is absolutely masterful. As they sit in a car in a rainstorm with a company lawyer, a young boy asks his sister if she feels the pounding on the ground, as the camera pans to two glasses of water moving with each thud — an action that shakes your sub — and you know something terrifying is coming. A Tyrannosaurus Rex suddenly appears from out of nowhere … and from that moment, the stomps of the enraged dinosaur and its menacing growl are pure movie (and surround sound) magic. Check it out here.
Here’s a scene from another high-flying adventure movie with full surround sound action, as Marvel superhero Iron Man (Robert Downey) whizzes around the sky, evading a pair of Air Force F-22 Raptor jets. It’s reminiscent of the best flying sequences from Top Gun but with a pounding hard rock soundtrack underneath and more missiles, more gunshots, more fly-bys … in fact, more everything. Check it out here.
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