Virtual reality (or, VR, for short) has had a front seat on the hype train for quite a while now. And thanks to books like Ready Player One and Meta’s purchase of Oculus in 2014, that hype has only increased. Gaming has some fun uses for the tech already—check out the best free VR games and the best VR horror games. However, for the average person, VR can feel like a bit of a bust. But – for our money – that’s because most people are unaware of the best VR movies to watch right now.
The 9 Best VR Movies So Far and Where to Watch Them
What are "VR movies"?
What are "VR movies"?
VR movies are films made exclusively for the VR format. These films take a lot of styling cues from regular film and TV but add their own spin, often requiring audience interaction or promoting full immersion. Imagine yourself watching Avatar or Jurassic Park. Sure, sitting in the theatre, munching on a box of overly buttered popcorn, you may feel sucked into the picture. But what if the movie was truly unfolding all around you? What if you could look up at the sky to watch pterodactyls fly by, or turn your head to see a T-Rex stomping your way, just as the main character on the screen notices the same thing? With the best VR movies, all of that is possible.
However, it’s not just 360 sight and sound capabilities that make a great VR movie. Some films require audience participation, a la a choose-your-own-adventure novel. In a way, these movies are a lot like video games, but with a more cinematic spin. To many, this is what differentiates a VR movie from 360-degree videos. The former allows you to interact with the characters and story, while the latter simply lets you look around and hear sounds from different angles. We’re not here to judge what is or isn’t technically a “VR movie,” but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
Just like reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is different from watching the film, a VR movie is much different from watching a similar story on your TV at home. And the best VR movies use that to their advantage. They put you smack in the middle of the action, allowing you to fully let go of your surroundings and live in the film as if you were really there.
How do they make VR movies?
The best VR movies are made in a few different ways, depending on whether or not they’re animated or live action. Live action VR movies are filmed just like a regular movie or TV show, except in this case, filmmakers need to use a 360 camera to capture sound and visuals from all angles. You can see examples of this style of VR movie in a few of our options below, including Space Explorers and The Limit.
When it comes to the best animated VR movies, however, things a get a bit more complex. These VR movies have a lot in common with video games, so it’s no surprise that many creators use common game engines to whip up their work. According to Arm, a leader in the processing space, a game engine is a software framework that developers can use to build out their games (or in this case, VR movies). These frameworks come with various APIs and tools to help developers make some of the best games of the year. And given their robust nature, clever filmmakers can use these engines to build out some of the best VR movies.
The last important item to consider when making a VR movie is audio, or in this case, 360 audio. Sometimes referred to as spatial audio, 360 audio helps clue users in to exactly what is happening around them. While an image may show up directly in front of a user, it’s the spatial audio that lets VR film enthusiasts know what is happening all around them. Hearing stomping feet and crunching twigs will truly put you in the middle of a deadly T-Rex attack, much more than simply seeing the dino coming your way.
Below you’ll find a few of the more popular platforms for making VR movies.
Popular platforms for making VR movies
Unreal Engine is arguably the most popular game engine around. Similar to Unity, it is free to use for small projects, and offers a wide variety of tools and APIs that a creator can use to realize their vision.
Similar to Unreal Enginge, Unity is one of the more popular video game engines that VR filmmakers can likewise use. It offers a suite of tools for any budding filmmaker to use, as well as a host of tutorials and a bustling community on their website. Unity can be used with Linux, Windows or Mac.
CRYENGINE is another game engine that allows creators of all kinds to whip up their 3D and VR works of art. Like the other options on our list, it offers realtime physics and lighting to help give films a real sense of flow and feel. Likewise, it is free to use, with CRYENGINE simply taking a 5% cut of your royalties, should you decide to ship your finished product.
Maya is another tool that can work wonders in the VR space. This option comes from Autodesk, a software company that specializes in infrastructures and engines. Like some of the other options above, 3D modeling and animation is made simple thanks to this powerful tool.
Where can you watch VR movies?
In order to watch the best VR movies, you have to access the right movie platforms. Luckily, you have plenty of options from big names like Google, Steam and Oculus.
As the proud owners of Oculus, Meta has plenty of top-notch titles available on its store to watch and play. Simply search what you’re looking for in the top search bar or scroll through some of its top offerings for a little VR inspo.
Steam is another popular game/VR movie platform worth remembering if you’re looking for something new to watch tonight. Along with their extensive library of games, the Steam store has a massive list of VR movies you can scroll through.
If you’re looking for a good VR movie to start your night but don’t know where to start, we’d recommend scrolling through some of Google’s spotlight stories. You’ll find an array of cute and harrowing adventures, all created with VR in mind. From behind-the-scenes looks at favorites to brand new tear-jerkers, Google has an impressive list on offer here.
Before diving into our list of the best VR movies, let's touch upon the leading contenders in the VR headset market. Many are familiar with Meta's Oculus brand, which offers devices like the standalone Quest 2. HTC's Vive series and Sony's PlayStation VR are also formidable options for immersive experiences.
The first decision point when considering a VR headset is the choice between wired and standalone (wireless) devices. Wired headsets, such as the PlayStation VR or the HTC Vive, need to be connected to a powerful PC or console. This setup often provides superior graphics, low latency, and precise tracking. However, it can be pricier, especially when factoring in the cost of the necessary hardware, and limits your movement due to the tether.
On the other hand, standalone headsets like the Meta Quest 2 or the Oculus Go offer a more flexible experience. While there might be a slight trade-off in terms of graphics quality, these devices are generally more affordable and allow users the freedom to move without being tied down, making them perfect for those without a dedicated VR space or those who wish to enjoy VR on the go.
Now with that all settled, let’s dive! Below we’ve gathered the best VR movies so far. Note that while this is a solid list of movies, it is by no means exhaustive. If you think we’ve missed a few, let us know!
1. Dear AngelicaWatch Here
2. SpheresWatch Here
3. The Great CWatch Here
4. Wolves in the WallsWatch Here
5. Space Explorers: The ISS ExperienceWatch Here
6. The Invisible HoursWatch Here
7. Alex Honnold - The Soloist VRWatch Here
8. The LimitWatch Here
9. AllumetteWatch Here
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