This year I decided to go big with my list for the best Blu-rays. Kicking off my Top 10 year-end lists for 2014 is an article devoted to what I consider to be the best the Blu-ray format has had to offer for this year. These are films that I have been able to really dig into and see them as easy recommendations for anyone with the greatest home media format currently available. Much like the previous years, I stayed true to some rules; I have to have actually watched the movie on Blu-Ray, recognize it for the quality of their video and audio transfers, delved into the special features, and attempt to keep off any film on this list that may also be on my “Top 10 Films of the Year” list,” which basically means no LEGO Movie. I followed these rules for the sake of keeping my list interesting, along with creating some extra sections to provide even more highlights of the year, so here we go:
TV On Blu-ray
Every year always has some great television shows receive great Blu-ray sets to compliment them and that is once again the case this year. Here are my picks for great television shows that received great treatment on Blu-ray this year:
Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series (Review) – Easily my favorite anime series of all time and I am super thrilled to now finally have the series on my shelf, in Hi-Def.
Eastbound and Down: The Complete Fourth & Final Season (Review) – One of my favorite comedy series came to an end, but the Blu-ray release had me re-living the last season of this insane show.
Fargo: The Complete First Season – One of the biggest TV surprises of the year was how great this adaptation of Fargo into a television series turned out to be. It has a stellar Blu-ray out as well, so people can have fun catching up.
The Legend of Korra – Book 2: Spirits and Book 3: Change – Currently one of the best animated series going (let alone in general, when it is at its best), Korra had two of its seasons hit Blu-ray this year and both are fantastic sets.
The Sopranos: The Complete Series – This is one of my favorite shows ever (like top 5 good) and now I have it on Blu-ray. Yes!
The Venture Bros: The Fifth Season – My favorite Adult Swim comedy was treated well this year on Blu-ray.
The Criterion Collection
Every month The Criterion Collection releases several great releases and I just can’t find a way to incorporate these films into a top ten, without having nothing but Criterions in there, so here are my favorite Criterion Blu-ray releases from this year:
Ace In the Hole – Another great Billy Wilder film.
A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles having a lot of fun.
All That Jazz – Roy Scheider getting his groove on the hard way.
The Complete Jacques Tati – The genius French comedian/filmmaker gets his due on Blu.
George Washington – Director David Gordon Green’s first feature.
Insomnia – The original Scandinavian thriller.
It Happened One Night – One of my favorite romantic comedies debuted on Blu in a great way.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – My favorite Wes Anderson film finally on Blu-ray.
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Peter Weir’s eerie Australian mystery.
Rififi –One of my favorite film noir features.
Seconds – A very trippy film from John Frankenheimer that I was very pleased to catch up with.
Thief – Michael Mann’s terrific neo-noir.
Top Picks For The Year
There were so many great releases this year that I decided just to work my way down from 25. The top ten will get the most emphasis, of course, but this was too much fun to just list ten movies (and then there are still honorable mentions). So let’s do this:
24. Robocop (Remastered) – The only good thing to come out of the remake, was a remastered version of the original.
23. The Man with No Name Trilogy – It’s all about the new remaster of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, but it’s still a great set.
22. The King of Comedy: 30th Anniversary Edition – One of Scorsese’s best now on Blu-ray.
20. Natural Born Killers: Diamond Luxe Edition – Huge fan of this controversial 90s satire and love the new Blu-ray for it.
18. Ghostbusters 1 & 2 – One of the greatest comedies ever now in 4K and its decent sequel on Blu-ray for the first time as well.
17. The Hunger Games Catching Fire – One of last year’s biggest films received a great Blu-ray.
16. The Act of Killing – An amazing documentary with lots going for it for home viewing.
12. The Long Goodbye/Running Scared – Kino Classics put out two solid cult classics, with The Long Goodbye, in particular, standing out as a fantastic film that I was so excited to finally have in this format.
11. Darkman (Review)/The Shadow /Ravenous (Review) – Why So Blu reviewer Brandon Peters did a tremendous job covering all the Shout and Scream Factory releases this year and these are the three I was most excited for, especially Ravenous!
10. Sorcerer – William Friedkin’s terrific 70s thriller made its way to Blu-ray this year and it is one of those films that is great to see get another chance. With an intriguing structure and some interesting themes focused around characters on a mission in South America, where shooting the film must have been difficult to say the least, Sorcerer is a fantastic film to finally be catching on with so many, given its availability now. With a supervised transfer that makes an old, obscure film look great again, along with some terrific sound design reflected well on this disc, it is only a shame there are no real extras to speak of, beyond the packaging (which is what keeps this ranked at the 10 spot and not higher).
All I can say is it’s a good place to lay low. (Order HERE)
9. The Spike Lee Joint Collections, Vol. 1 (Review) and Vol. 2 (Review) – I have been waiting a long time to finally have 25th Hour on Blu-ray. The fact that I got that film, along with Lee’s underrated Summer of Sam, along with He Got Game and to a lesser extent Miracle at St. Anna in two solid Blu-ray releases was quite a joy. The best thing about these two double-feature releases are the newly recorded commentaries for each film, which are highly enjoyable and well worth listening to for both fans and people that may be surprised to hear how much fun Lee can be to listen to, despite his reputation for being outspoken in not the greatest of ways. Here’s hoping more of Lee’s films make the transition to Blu-ray, with solid new commentary tracks to also go with them.
8. Tie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Review)/How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Two of the year’s biggest and best blockbusters received fantastic treatment on Blu-ray. Both have 3D editions as well as regular 2D versions that are spectacular in terms of the visual quality. They also feature robust audio tracks that truly add to the experience in the greatest of ways. Extras-wise, both are packed, with plenty of insight given in regards to the making of both films, along with lots of friendly extras for the younger audiences for ‘Dragon 2,’ while we get to see plenty of the stellar motion-capture work for ‘Dawn.’ In a year where Marvel’s three Blu-ray releases lacked more extras to go with their fun films, these two features really delivered.
7. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – For the past three years now, I have mentioned a Kino Classics releases and for good reason, as this studio is doing a tremendous job of presenting early silent films on Blu-ray. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the influential silent feature, known for being the first true horror movie has now made its way to Blu-ray, featuring a terrific 4K restoration and an out-of-this-world audio transfer that was really creeping me out! Add to that a look at the restoration process and a really solid documentary and you have another great release from Kino.
Spirits surround us on every side… (Order HERE)
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: 75th Anniversary Edition (Review) – A movie like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is not necessarily one that I reference frequently, but when it comes up, I very much love showing my appreciation for it. Having been able to catch up with it this year on this new, terrific Blu-ray was quite a treat (and fairly inexpensive), as the film really is a triumph in a lot of ways. It is also great that this Blu-ray DigiBook package features some great extras and a fine way of presenting the film in its newly remastered condition.
I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too. (Order HERE)
5. Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Deluxe Edition) (Review) – Last year, the first film in this franchise received a terrific Blu-ray that made my list. This year, we have the entire Halloween collection in one spectacular package. Sure, there is a regular edition of this set, but the Limited Deluxe Edition is where it is at, given the presence of the producer’s cut of The Curse of Michael Myers, along with a final bonus disc, with plenty of extra goodies. Add to that the work done to bring all of these films to Blu-ray, properly presented, with a shmorgus board of additional content and commentaries. Given my fondness for this slasher series over the other biggies in this realm, I was plenty pleased to add this huge set to my collection.
Death has come to your little town, sheriff. (Order HERE)
4. Gravity (Review) – One of my favorite films from last year received one of the best Blu-rays ever, given the amazing quality of the video transfer, 3D presentation, and audio to support such a fantastic film. The bevy of extras that go into the production of the film, along with a short film that supplements the main feature, are also very welcome for a film of this magnitude. Currently, another release is coming in 2015, with an option to watch the film with no score. I am curious about how this will impact Gravity, given the Oscar-winning score’s presence in the film now, but regardless, the Blu-ray for the film that is already out is amazing and easily a disc worth using as a key example in showing how great this format can be.
So, what do you like about being up here? (Order HERE)
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition (Review) – Along with Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my all-time favorite horror films and this 40th Anniversary release does the kind of justice completely appropriate for true classics, which this film certainly is. What does this disc boast? How about a video presentation mastered in 4K, making this gritty, low-budget 70s film look better than ever, without taking away from what makes its style work. What else? How about a 7.1 lossless soundtrack! Incredible. Is there more? Yes! 4 commentary tracks, two that are new to this Blu-ray, along with a second disc loaded with extras that go over every aspect of the film. I can’t imagine what we may see in the 50th Anniversary, because this current package is amazing, and I didn’t even get the even crazier box set complete with an apron and large truck-shaped box to carry the film.
Look… I got some good barbecue here! (Order HERE)
2. Batman: The Complete Series (Limited Edition) – Something geeks everywhere have been asking about for years and now it has arrived. The 60s Batman TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder has not only arrived on Blu-ray, but has done so in pretty much the most stylish of ways possible. The giant box this set comes in even has a button to play the freaking TV show theme song! And then there is still plenty to take away from actually opening this thing up. The entire series (120 episodes) has been lovingly restored, making this very colorful series look better than it ever has. It also sounds great, which is almost surprising, given the age of the series and what Warner Bros. had to work with. Plus we get a lot of great extras and some fun goodies to really round out what has been one of the Holy Grails of DVD/Blu-ray collectors. Holy Awesome Blu-ray, Batman!
Quick! To the Batmobile! (Order HERE)
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (The Criterion Collection) – I cheated a bit by listing a TV release and now I have cheated a little by naming a Criterion film, despite having separate highlight lists for both categories, but guess what, it is my list and this is all for fun. With that in mind, I am a huge Wes Anderson fan and Fantastic Mr. Fox is such a wonderful film, so I was not only pleased to finally see The Criterion Collection release this film, I was elated, because it is a wonderful Blu-ray full of amazing, never-before-seen extras, going with a film that looks and sounds terrific. The Life Aquatic may be my favorite Anderson feature, but while that Criterion release had nothing new in the way of extras to offer, this package has everything I was hoping I would someday get, including really cool artwork and a chance to see George Clooney roll around in dirt, as we watch the process of the actors recording sound for the film in just one of the great behind-the-scenes features. After much debating with myself, my love for this movie and the new Blu-ray it arrived on this year had me realizing that it doesn’t get much better and I should just embrace this Fantastic Mr. Fox enough to make it my number one Blu-ray pick of the year.
If what I think is happening, IS happening… It better not be. (Order HERE)
With all of the bests out of the way, there is still plenty of praise to give to many other releases that hit shelves this year, mainly due to how great they look and sound on Blu-ray:
12 Years A Slave (Review), 300: Rise of An Empire (Review), About Time, Batman: 25th Anniversary Diamond Luxe Edition, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Review), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Frozen (Review), Fruitvale Station (Review), Godzilla (Review), Guardians of the Galaxy (Review), Her (Review), Inside Llewyn Davis, The Jungle Book Diamond Edition, Kingpin, Hayao Miyazaki’s films, Noah (Review), Rush, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Review), Short Term 12 (Review), Thor: The Dark World (Review)