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Top 10 Blu-ray scenes to show off your home theater

(Image courtesy of Digital Trends, and The Cinematic Art) (Image courtesy of Digital Trends, and The Cinematic Art)

By Cliff Heyne
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When you've got a hot home theater rig, it's natural to want to show it off. But for those times that you don't want to throw a full-on movie night, it's nice to have some go-to demo material that will give your system a workout while impressing your friends and family in the process. To help you zero in on movie scenes that deliver some big wow factor, we have assembled 10 of our favorite Blu-ray movie scenes. While our selections are chosen primarily based on audio performance, most of them feature reference-level video as well. Alright, let's have some fun!

U-571 -- U-571 was a classic demo disc in the DVDs heyday, and it still holds up well today in its DTS-HD Master Audio Blu-ray release. Like many of the films featured on our list, there are multiple scenes in this flick that promise to impress. About 28 minutes into the film, the sound of crashing waves flood every speaker channel around you as a small boat of sailors approaches an enemy submarine. Even a scene as simple as the crew eating in Chapter 5 offers an enveloping soundscape thanks to silverware sliding around as the submarine rocks in the water. However, the coup de grâce in this movie comes in chapter 15, when a German ship drops depth charges in the water during a fight against the submarine U-571. And because it isn't a new movie, the Blu-ray can be had for $10 bucks (or less). We think that's $10 well spent.

The Incredible Hulk -- A movie centered around a nearly invincible (and very angry) giant versus the military and another raging giant is a recipe for some home theater magic, if you ask us. Chapter 11 happens to be on of our favorite sound system demo scenes. The realistic crunch of bones and pounding thud as a soldier is thrown against a tree is sure to make you cringe. Also, pay attention toward the end of the battle where two vehicle-mounted Sonic Cannons (courtesy of Stark Industries, of course) are used to battle the Hulk (good luck with that, guys!). The soundtrack is powerful and enveloping. It's a real treat to listen to this movie and, as a bonus, this version of the film much better than the 2003 attempt.

Star Wars Episode 1 -- Don't worry, the scenes we like in Episode 1 don't involve Jar Jar Binks flapping his annoying yapper. The pod racing scenes in chapters 19 through 22 (about 7 minutes total) are sure to test the composure of every speaker in your system. As the racers ram into each other, run into obstacles, and push their vehicles to the limit, listeners are sure to be dazzled.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- Gun shots, Angelina Jolie, explosions, breaking glass, fist fights, Angelina Jolie, car chases, rocket launchers, Angelina Jolie -- this movie has it all. There are a number of short fight scenes throughout the movie that can showcase your home theater, and the film itself isn't half-bad either. The three most impressive action sequences are in chapters 18, 20, and 24. Oh, and Brad Pitt is in there too… as is Vince Vaughn, but don't let that detour you.

Terminator Salvation -- Terminator Salvation is the latest in the Terminator franchise and though not our favorite from the series (T2 all the way!), it's still worth your time. In this most recent film, you'll find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world where the machines have already taken over. (Note to self: do not invest in "Skynet") Chapter 9 starts a long action sequence which barrels all the way through chapter 11. Through those three chapters you are treated to a firefight on foot, on the road in a tow truck, and in the air with fighter jets. As the scenes progress, so does the sound. And by the end of the battle you'll be hooked into watching the movie to its completion. And no, Edward Furlong isn't in this sequel either -- tear.

Master and Commander -- Master and Commander has been a favorite of home theater enthusiasts ever since it was released, and it still has one of the best mixes of any movie to date. Creaking wood and crashing waves put you right in the middle of Chapter 4. Once you are drawn in, canon fire lights up every speaker and punishes your subwoofer with powerful low frequency effects. Though you may not agree with some on this list, Master and Commander should be in everyone's top 10 for sound quality.

Inception -- Inception is what we consider a movie trifecta because it packs in an amazing plot, sound, and picture. The majority of the movie takes place in a dream world, which gave the director freedom to create over-the-top visual effects. There isn't one specific scene that we think is best; rather, we recommend watching the entire movie and paying particular attention to the music score conducted by the legendary Hans Zimmer. What was that? You demand a "best scene"? Fine. Try chapter 3 (at 26 minutes in) where an entire street self-combusts. Or there's always chapter 7, wherin a train comes out of nowhere and plows through the middle of a busy street.

Brave -- The Disney/Pixar movie Brave is a great choice for showing off your home theater because everyone in the family will love it. You won't hear the typical explosions and gun shots; instead you hear the roar of a bear, clang of a sword, and ambient effects that put you right in the scene. Start out at chapter 14 as the queen transforms into a bear and comically trashes her bedroom just before she attempts to escape the castle, lest she be discovered. Then, try jumping forward to scene 24 and watch through the end of the movie to see an epic battle between two mythically giant bears and a mob of angry Scots. Fact: you just can't go wrong with angry Scots.

The Matrix -- The movie that redefined the action/sci-fi genre brought us a leap ahead in sound effects as well. Before you start the movie, make sure to set the soundtrack to Dolby TrueHD from the discs menu because it defaults to Dolby Digital. In chapter 31, Neo and Trinity attempt to rescue Morpheus from Mr. Smith and his cronies. During the scene, the building's sprinkler system goes off and splashes of water are heard from each speaker. Meanwhile, Trinity is flying a helicopter outside the window of the skyscraper as Neo unleashes a fury of a .50 caliber machine gun rounds on the agents. You can hear the ping of the empty shell casings as they fall to the floor and the impact of each bullet as they tear up the building. As slow motion kicks in, the spinning of helicopter blades will definitely push your sub. And remember these wise words, courtesy of Keanu: "I know Kung Fu."

The Incredibles -- This hit from Disney/Pixar (and a personal favorite) features a soundtrack that is as incredible as the superhero family it follows (yeah, we went there). Not only are this film's sound effects impressive, so too is its musical score. Highlights from this film include: the car transformation scene (Chapter 1 at 2:11), the sequence that has Mr. Incredible going after Bomb Voyage (Chapter 1 at 6:20) and any scene that involves an evil robot (try Chapter 9 at 37:30 and again in Chapter 27). Really, the entire movie is a rock and roll show for the senses. Good luck watching just one scene.

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This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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