We've rounded up 10 of our favourite Blu-ray discs from the past year that will put your home cinema system to the test, from picture performance to sound quality.

Our rigorous home cinema testing here at What Hi-Fi? wouldn't be possible without the right Blu-ray discs. And, while we receive plenty of new releases, we often find ourselves going back to the same, familiar discs in order to highlight a system's strengths or flaws. 

The 10 discs listed here are our favourites from the past year. They may not all be to everyone's liking, but you can rest assured that they'll all put your system through its paces. 

See them all: 100 of the best tech gift ideas

Mad Max: Fury Road

Four stars

Buy at Amazon

Mad Max: Fury Road ushers in the return of our favourite drifter in a post-apocolyptic world. He and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) attempt to free five young women who 'belong' to Immortan Joe, the ruler of the land.

Lush colours, plenty of contrast, gorgeous cinematography. It's almost stylised but it takes action cinematography to a whole new level. Rarely do you see such action with such clarity. The picture transfer is pristine, too. 

The soundtrack, created by Tom 'Junkie XL' Holkenberg, is furious too and uses what seems like all the drums in human existence. Mad Max is a thoroughly enjoyable film and a perfect work-out for your home cinema system.

See the full Mad Max: Fury Road review

Inside Out

Five stars

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Inside Out tells the story of Riley, a young girl who has her life turned upside down by a home move. But the story is told from the perspective of her emotions - Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear and Sadness - in what is a brilliantly realised concept. 

As with most Disney/Pixar films, Inside Out is a colourful, clean film that's a sensory treat for all those gathered around the screen. The soundtrack may not be as engaging or involved as other Pixar films, perhaps, but with plenty of dialogue, it will still be a test for the clarity of your system.

See the full Inside Out review

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Four stars

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AGWHAAN is a vampire movie, but before you start to worry it will be just another Twilight, let us dispel your concerns. This is a wonderfully original film from Iran that focuses on themes of loneliness and acceptance, and blossoms into a sweet, romantic tale.

It's shot in black and white, so will test the contrast levels of your display. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is much more colourful, ranging from upbeat Iranian pop to haunting overtones. The whole film feels very polished and it's one we would urge you to try.

See the full A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night review

More after the break

Fast and Furious 7

Four stars

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The seventh instalment in the series is just as bonkers as ever but it still manages to be entertaining. The plot itself may be a bit silly, but the way it's acted out and produced is a lot more forgiving. There's minimal CGI, which means some of the stunts you see really did happen, which only raises the thrill factor.

It all looks fantastic in 1080p - the transfer is clean, with crisp edge-definition and fine contrast. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is thoroughly engaging, too, delivering precise directional effects and a stampede of thundering motors.

See the full Fast and Furious 7 review

Jupiter Ascending

Three stars

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We're not going to pretend that Jupiter Ascending is one of the best films of the year. Because it isn't. We described is at being a "ludicrous, entertaining riff on Cinderella - in Space!"

While the plot may be hard to take seriously, the visuals more than make up for it. This is a disc of reference quality, offering stunning, razor-sharp picture detail, while Michael Giacchino's score is one of his best. What's more, the UK disc comes with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

See the full Jupiter Ascending review

Inherent Vice

Four stars

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It took us a few watches of Inherent Vice to properly understand it, and we're still not convinced we 100 per cent get it. Nevertheless, it's a fun film set in the ’70s, with Joaquin Phoenix putting in a great performance as P.I. Larry 'Doc' Sportello. We've managed to explain the plot in the most easy to understand way in our full review, so won't give too much away.

As a test disc though, Inherent Vice is up there with the best. Black levels are excellent throughout and the contrast created by shadows will show off the capabilities of your screen. Your speaker system can take a back seat though, as the only real task is to deal with the dialogue.

See the full Inherent Vice review

American Sniper

Four stars

Buy at Amazon

There's no denying American Sniper was one of the big successes of 2015, taking in $550 million at the box office worldwide. It tells the real life of story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle - credited with most sniper kills in history - as he coped with the violence he saw while trying to be a father to his family. No easy feat.

As expected with a film set during a war, there aren't many vibrant colours, just muted greens and sandy browns. Still, there's plenty of detail on offer to put your system through its paces. Audio is good too, with sound effects of gun fire being particularly effective. The Blu-ray comes with at Atmos soundtrack as well, should you have a compatible system.

See the full American Sniper review

Big Hero 6

Five stars

Buy at Amazon

Big Hero 6 was a surprise success over the summer, telling the story of a young boy who becomes friends with Baymax, a medical robot created by his brother. It's the relationship between Hiro Hamada and his brother that is at the centre of the story though, with Baymax thrown in as the trusty sidekick. 

The animation of the film is quite simply outstanding, making the Blu-ray version an excellent test disc. Your system will need to be able to handle motion particularly well due to a lot of flying around. The soundtrack isn't so intense, but with the odd explosion and thruster blast to deal with here and there, you'll want some decent oomph from your package.

See the full Big Hero 6 review

 

Birdman

Five stars

Buy at Amazon

We're not entirely sure what Birdman is, but we love it. It was also loved by several others in 2015 and walked away with the Oscar for Best Picture. The use of a single take for the entire 119 minutes is executed to great effect, suggesting a documentary vibe while granting everything a dreamlike quality.

As a test disc, it's also brilliant. The theatre stage features various colourful sets while corridors, backstage areas and scenes outside all inject their own pop of colour to create a vibrant, dynamic picture. The constant tracking of the camera also has an effect on sound, so your system will need to be able to handle motion well. 

See the full Birdman review

San Andreas

Three stars

Buy at Amazon

We have no real issue with San Andreas other than the fact it isn't an original idea. It's hard to get involved when we've seen so many disaster films of a similar nature before. The story sees a scientist realise a massive earthquake is going to hit California, which it inevitably does. Then there's Dwayne Johnson's character, who has separated from his wife, but ultimately tries to save her and his daughter in the ensuing chaos.

Original it isn't - but as a test disc it's fantastic. Buildings topple, giant waves crash, and the sheer scale of the threats is a visual treat. Sounds just as big, too, so you'll be feeling the full effects of your subwoofer throughout. 

See the full San Andreas review

 

Want more gift ideas? See our complete Christmas Gift Guide 2015