VLC, mplayer and a bunch of others can play 1080 .mp4 files, but they are always choppy/blocky. I tried changing some VLC settings but it didn't help. Is there any way to play 1080 files on a macbook pro?
A better definition of "choppy/blocky" would help, possibly even with a single frame screen capture to show what you're describing.
If the playback stutters, it can be for a variety of reasons - if it looks like long pauses it's probably dropping frames (which it really shouldn't on a MacBook Pro).
If it has what appears to be odd quick stutters at full screen there's a possibility that it's a frame rate rendering issue (ie: if a movie is 1080p24 (24fps) being played back on a screen that has a 60hz refresh, it can cause what I like to call micro stutters due to the refresh being out of sync with the fps of the video being played back)
If it looks like there are large block squares in the picture (similar to what you might see in the pictures here: The good, the bad, and the…beautiful | TokBox Blog) it could be a compression issue - H.264 is a lossy compression, the more highly compressed a file is the more "blocky" certain areas (especially what might appear to be constant tones like black or blue sky where there really are many gradients) will appear - also motion will suffer from this with higher compression. All movies digitally encoded will display some of this - Movies from Apple for example are very highly optimized and look very good for their overall size but can still show some "blocks" in certain scenes/backgrounds due to the compression (think about it - a 1080p movie on bluray can be anywhere from 20-40ish with the average at about 30ish mbps for video. Most 1080p video files are encoded at a significantly lower bit rate - quality at that point will depend heavily on the algorithms used as well as the ability of who is doing the compression to optimize the process for the source media (which is why movies on iTunes usually look very good for their respective size)
I know my 2009 couldn't handle it well either, but that was down to the weak video chipset. The 2012 MBP I'm using now has 4x the video RAM (intel HD 4000) and 1080p plays way better now. Having a good deal of RAM seems to help a lot as well.
You may want to through it into another player to see how its handled. Although many players use the same decoders, they have custom settings that can sometimes change the way the same file plays between different software. Then if it plays well in the other software, find out what the settings were in that software and see if you can get a similar config in your player of choice (ie: if it plays well in PLEX or MplayerX, find its settings for ffmpeg and go into vlc and set the settings as close to what the other player uses and you should get similar if not same results)
Usually I use PLEX to watch most of my movies/TV shows (also because I have it feed the media to my ATV3) and only use VLC for quick playback sessions.
That's honestly odd - I haven't been able to throw a video file at my MBP it couldn't play and for that matter even the Mac Mini I used to have (intel based C2D, 2009 model with 9400m graphics) could easily play video files without dropping frames up to about 30-35Mbit/s...