There's a fantastic selection of action movies now available on Blu-ray, so if you want to give your home cinema system a real workout, choose from one of our Top 10 action films.
No.1: The Dark Knight (2008)
Chris Nolan's brooding Caped Crusader puts in a star turn, but The Joker has the winning hand
Superhero movies are supposed to be cool – but for every smash-hit, Hollywood has served up a plethora of misfiring mistakes, each brasher, louder and clunkier than the next.
Bear than mind when you next watch The Dark Knight, and remember, it stems from the same franchise, or at least premise, that gave the world the cinematic car-crash that was Batman and Robin.
Viewed in those terms, Chris Nolan's second Batman film – which manages, astonishingly, to surpass the heights of his first, already splendid offering, Batman Begins – isn't so much a triumph as a minor miracle.
A strong supporting cast gives the film its foundation, but it's the formidable performances of the two leads that ensure its success. Christian Bale's earnest, angsty turn as the eponymous hero is sturdy and imposing, although we're still not sure why he had to growl his dialogue with quite so much menace.
Perhaps he was trying to stop the threat to his limelight posed by Heath Ledger's massive, movie-stealing performance – and if so, he failed, because for all ofBale's strengths, it's the sadly departed Ledger who dominates. There has never been a better Joker or, indeed, a better villain in any superhero story.
Bat's entertainmentThis cast, the director's assured touch and the edgy, worthy script would be assets enough to ensure star status in themselves – but The Dark Knight has one last ace to play (or, if you like, joker in the pack): the quality of its Blu-ray release.
With some scenes derived from IMAX footage and presented in full-frame video, a scintillatingly crisp transfer from frame one to film's end, and sound so forceful it beggars belief, there simply is no better action Blu-ray to buy this year.
Vision: 2.40:1/1.78:1 Sound: TrueHD
No.2: Iron Man (2008)
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) is a playboy and arms dealer who, after being captured by terrorists, creates a suit – the Iron Man – so he can bust out.
His escape sparks an epiphany and Stark abandons his company's weapons program. Of course, the company's money man, evil Obadiah Stane, doesn't like this. And so begins a fun action romp as the two do battle.
A great picture and obligatory balls-out soundtrack are both present and correct, and director Jon Favreau keeps the action and laugh count high.
Vision: 2.40:1Sound: Dolby TrueHD
No.3: GLADIATOR (2000)
The Gladiator DVD was a test staple here at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, and the Blu-ray disc is no different. You don't get the hyper-real, eye-popping picture from some Blu-rays, but for every touch of authentic grain you get a dollop of HD detail.
Just the sound as Maximus rises through the gladiatorial ranks to avenge his family and Emperor is never less than exciting, thanks to a meaty 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. A top disc.
Vision: 2.39:1Sound: DTS-HD MA
More after the break
No.4: SPIDER-MAN TRILOGY (2007)
They're perhaps the ultimate blockbuster franchise, so you'd expect the three Spidey movies to be great on Blu-ray. You'd be right, too.
All three have stunning levels of depth and detail (they're all BD50 discs) and the soundtracks are predictably hefty. The films themselves? The first is great. The second is brilliant. The third is... well, OK, a bit too much. But does anyone care? It's still a load of fun.
Vision: 1.85:1Sound: PCM 5.1
No.5: THE BOURNE TRILOGY (2008)
Poor old Jason Bourne, he's in a pickle, isn't he. We tried to watch this excellent trilogy back to back, and had to stop halfway through for a lie down in a very dark room – such is the frantic energy of the whole rogue-assassin franchise.
That hyper-caffeinated treatment extends to the crisp, noise-free picture and aggressive DTS-HD Master Audio sound, too. A feast for eyes and ears.
Vision: 2.35:1Sound: DTS-HD MA
No.6: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TRILOGY (2007)
Huge explosions! Suspense! More explosions! Toothy scientologist Tom Cruise keeps the 'Midichlorians' (or whatever it is he believes in) in check to deliver three top-quality action flicks.
The trilogy gets better with each film, as does the picture quality. Expect vivid colour and oodles of detail. Your subwoofer will, of course, be flapping merrily away for much of the time. Good-oh!
Vision: 2.40:1Sound: DD-Plus 5.1
No.7: HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)
An ancient truce between humans and a variety of mystical beings (think trolls, fairies and goblins) is broken, and a vast army of mechanical warriors is about to be unleashed.
Of course, UN sanctions wouldn't really work here, so it's up to Ron Perlman's Hellboy to sort it out. It lacks the subtlety of the first film, but makes up for plot shortcomings with a luscious, punchy picture and aggressive 7.1 soundtrack. It's great fun, too.
Vision: 1.85:1Sound: DTS-HD MA 7.1
No.8: BRAVEHEART (1995)Some restorations have caused controversy, but Braveheart's an exception: most would agree that this is a sensational disc, its picture and sound coming firmly out of the top drawer.
As for Mr Gibson's perspective on history – well, as Fergus Cannan, medieval historian and contributor to the Blu-ray's extra features puts it, "It's a film, not a history book. It's the story of the man becoming the myth." And a damn good action movie, too...
Vision: 2.35:1Sound: DTS-HD MA
Based Frank Miller's awesome graphic novel following 300 Spartans as they face-off against the Persian army, this big-screen adaptation shares the same ultra-stylised, sepia-tinted comic treatment and off-the-chart levels of violence.
Director Zack Snyder's style stops it from feeling too gratuitous, though – indeed, much of it's funnier than you'd think. A crisp (if edgy) picture and muscular sound complete this high-octane epic.
Vision: 2.35:1Sound: PCM 5.1
No.10: CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009)
You'll get a stunning picture here, with detail to die for. The 7.1-channel soundtrack, likewise, is awesome. As is this film. It's the most brilliantly offensive, confusing, funny, baffling, jaw-dropping, frenetic, sweary, violent, relentless, awful piece of cinematic genius we've ever seen.
There are cringe-worthy moments, as well as all-out belly-laugh ones. This film just never lets up. It's amazing.
Vision: 1.85:1Sound: DTS-HD MA 7.1