Harrison Ford, in "The Fugitive". Does she like horror films? They are usually have good sound effects.
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Harrison Ford in "Air Force One" or Sean Connery / Nicholas Cage in "The Rock". Terminator 2 is great to show off a system as well, but that would be sci-fi. "Black Hawk Down" is a real work-out for a HT, but is probably a bit too depressing for such a gala event. Or for the truly mindless (but fun!), a John Woo flick - "Face Off" or "Mission Impossible 2". -Kirk
How about a film entitled: Baraca. It was shot in 27 different countries around the world on 70mm film. It's a show piece rather than a movie in that it is scenes from around the world set to music and sound effects. Baraca translated roughly means "essence of life"
The DVD transfer is gorgeous and it has a very good, if not excellent 5.1 soundtrack.
I have a home theater myself, but my passion is 2 channel audio. When I put this film on though, it provides the glue that makes me realize that properly executed, HT can produce the same emotions (at times) that a high quality vinyl playback system is capable of.
Gladiator would be an EXCELLENT choice, or, if a fan of Diana Krall, here LIVE in PARIS DVD looks and sound terrific!! Toy Story, Bugs Life and Courage Under Fire (though not sure if it is on DVD or not, definitely LD!!)
are good films, transfers, and great sound too!
3 great sci-fi would be Thirteen Floor, Fifth Element, and
the Phantom Menace are all wonderful for surround.
With your caution about your wife's lack of interest in the "supernatural", I am still going to recommend "Dark City", one of the most original sci-fi films of the past 10 years. It is not only a wonderfully unique movie, but also has a soundtrack that will really wring out your HT system.
Here are a few other favorites of "demo" quality:
1. "Super Speedway" -- originally an IMAX film about the development of the 1999 Newman-Haas Indy car, it has some great footage and excellent sound (but will probably not have much appeal to your wife...).
2. "Stop Making Sense", the DVD of the 1985 concert by the Talking Heads. Arguably the best rock concert on DVD.
3. "Calle 54", a superb music DVD featuring a number of the best contemporary Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz stars. The soundtrack was the 2001 Grammy Award winner for Best Latin Jazz recording.
4. "Saving Private Ryan" -- at least the first 30 minutes is demo quality.
Well, a few things come to mind. Some of the above are great demo disks, but many great demo disks have little or no appeal to most (not all) women. Like speedway as SD mentioned--great disk but likely little appeal for your wife. I would probably have put Saving Private Ryan on the "even less appeal" list. The first 30 minutes, while absolutely demo quality, is about the most horrific war scene I've ever scene. I can barely stomach watching it. Seven Years in Tibet--now there is a great story and great filming. It's not going to be an audio demo, but for picture quality it's superb---long movie though. The Matrix is great--but very Treky. Mission Impossible 2--great fun, great filming, and what woman won't watch Tom Cruise for 1.5 hours, even if the story line is a little zany? Now there is one sci-fi, that even my wife likes, and it's a great demo--the Fifth Element. Get it on the superbit version if you don't already have it. If you like Pacino and DeNiro--Heat is great all around. Story line, filming, acting--everything. One of my favorites.
In order to break in your new home theater right, I heartily recommend "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a "sci-fi" film to be sure. But if it's special effects and action that you crave, then there is nothing else out there like "Terminator 2". If "Terminator 2" turns out to be too supernatural for the wifey, then I would recommend something else like "Lethel Weapon I". This movie has a lot of action in it, but no "supernatural" effects are in this movie. If she loves Mel Gibson (and I cannot find a woman who doesn't), then maybe this movie is more her speed. But do, try "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" first and see what you think. That also was MY first DVD (and I have about 60 now) too, by the way. Other movies that can challenge your new home theater system also include those like "Top Gun", "The Matrix", "Independence Day", and "The Specialist".
By the way, congratulations on your new home theater system. By buying a new home theater system yourself, what you did now was join a sacred fraternity. Once you experience home theater, believe me (and I'm talking from experience), you will NEVER go out to see a movie EVER again.
I agree with dweller, Pearl Harbor has it all, action, adventure and romance. The planes and explosion's will put your HT to the test. But remember the most important thing is the "snuggle factor" If your wife associates watching movies with you with snuggling, your home free, It won't matter if your watching gumby reruns, she'll love it. It also makes it easier when it comes time to upgrade. Good luck.