Its not like we’re winding down any time soon on films that still need to make it to the Blu-ray format. There are ah-plenty. Heck, there are films that still never made it to VHS or DVD. 2016 introduced us to 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays. The new wave, the new cream of the crop. And with that, Blu-ray starts repackaging and re-doing many of the older titles. However, we live in a really cool world now with boutique labels that go after these films that still haven’t been released or enhance the ones that did but left us wanting more. And while some may scoff and leave rude comments like “This again?”, in reality its not “this again”. These are getting delicious new transfers, having taken notes from the previous version’s mistakes and adding the extras that were not previously there or even adding an extra is adding something. What I’m getting at is that they are making it all worthwhile in terms of asking for more dollars from you. Then again, there are people that didn’t have it to begin with because they A) Hadn’t gotten to it yet or B) were holding out for something like this. Anyway, there were a lot of terrific releases in 2016. And since I cover 4K UHD, Blu-ray and also am Region Free, my list is expanded to 25 instead of just ten releases.
25. Bogey & Bacall (Warner Archive) – Warner Archive finally came life an unleashed some real gems in 2016. It opened up the year by releasing all 4 of one of cinema’s greatest duos within a period of a couple months. The big get was finally having film noir’s masterpiece, The Big Sleep jumping to Blu-ray. While these offered nothing new in terms of supplements, the transfers were dynamite and well heralded among most reviewers and fans of the films. The releases included To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo.
24. Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition (Sony) – I’m not the greatest believer in this film, but with this 4K UHD looking and sounding fancy, along with some really genuine new extras (Including Jennifer Connelly giving a new interview. Her first appearance on this list), its hard not to get into it and enjoy a pretty thorough release.
23. Road Games (Umbrella Entertainment) – The last of the Jamie Lee Curtis late 70s/early 80s horror films finally stepped out onto Blu-ray. It came with a rather true to cinema look and a bit of an onslaught of extras. This film, which is led by Stacy Keach, is a fun little “Rear Window on wheels” concept that’s gone overlooked for many years and is quite a fun Australian thriller.
22. Road House: Collector’s Edition (Shout Select) – One of the silliest movies ever made gets one of the most serious releases of the year. Shout! Factory unleashed their Shout Select line in 2016 and didn’t mess around. This 2-disc set of Road House not only features a brand new transfer, its got on onslaught of new interviews from everyone in cast and crew as well as porting over all the old material too (So, that gets you some Swayze interviews as well).
21. Black Christmas: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – One of my favorite movies gets its definitive release. This had come out 2-3 times already, but Scream Factory gave it a fresh look as well as gathering everything in terms of bonus material and then adding a couple new interviews. Its even got the old transfer of the film on there, to boot!
20. Carnival of Souls (Criterion Collection) – One of my favorite horror films I had just been waiting and waiting on to come to Blu-ray. This new transfer looks quite lovely too. The extended cut didn’t work out here because of the sourcing for it, but that’s okay, the deleted material is still present on the disc as a bonus. An added plus; an interview with Dana Gould serves as one of the real highlights on this release.
19. Ghostbusters 4K UHD (Sony) – This release has some nice extras, but the thing that catapulted it to my list was the presentation. The Dolby Atmos track is awesome, but I want to talk about the transfer. It truly had great dimensional work to it and I absolutely loved the shifting of aspect ratios to go along with the film’s special effects crossing over and breaking into the matting. It made for a real non-glasses 3-D experience.
18. Return of the Living Dead: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – Oh yeah, getting it right. A new transfer, all but one song back into the audio mix and extras galore. The big inclusion with this one is having the feature length documentary More Brains! now together with the feature film. One of the zombie genre and horror comedy’s greats has a release to back it up!
17. The Graduate (Criterion Collection) – A great film, from a great distributor. What’s more to say? Mike Nichols film looks amazing on this Blu-ray and you also get plenty of new material along with a load of other ported material. Having a film like this in the Criterion library is a huge get and it looks like more and more like it will be coming down the pike.
16. The Hills Have Eyes: Limited Edition (Arrow Video) – I’ve seen complaints about the look of this new 4K transfer…and well, this film is never going to look pristine. But, if it can look very much like its 70s theatrical appearance, then I am appeased. This release of the grimy Wes Craven classic comes with some fancy packaging, good new extras, a poster, post cards and more.
15. High Noon: Signature Edition (Olive Films) – Olive went back to some of their titles this year and redid them with some new transfers and stocked them full of bonus material with slick packaging. While many a quality release, their original was the combo of best film, presentation and extras. This is a swift thriller and one of the best westerns ever to inhabit the genre. Now its got a terrific Blu-ray to go with it.
14. The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (Universal) – Packing together The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business and the masterpiece Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers FINALLY received some love on Blu-ray. Prior to this the only film available on the format was their worst. Now, they’ve got 4K restorations and some solid extras for each film and a nice booklet. Its about time! Now if the remaining Warner Bros films could have their set transferred over, everything would be gravy!
13. Raising Cain: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – This release gets some high honor of making enjoy and appreciate the film more. DePalma had himself a year of being sorta rediscovered or evaluated again with much more appreciation thanks to the documentary he did. This release took one of his lesser films and then provided a cut that was more by his original intention and it actually makes the film work so much better and actually lifts it up a few notches. The extras here are quite good as well.
12. The Transformers: The Movie – 30th Anniversary Edition (Shout! Factory) – Did not expect this film to sweep me away like it did. I’m a full fledged fan of it again thanks to this release. The picture quality and awesome sound helped make this a really transcended experience of visual art and music coming together. Shout’s release also comes with some rather terrific documentaries, old features and other material, too. This release both has the touch and the power.
11. To Live and Die in LA: Collector’s Edition (Shout Select) – Another fantastic double dip from Shout’s “Select” line. This one feature an outstanding 4K restoration and transfer that had me seeing a film I already adored in a whole new light. There was a lot of bonus material on the previous edition, and that’s all here, but Shout was able to put their own stamp on the extras with new interviews and such to make this a rather sharp and pleasing release for us Friedkin fans.
And now…the TOP 10!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – I was a bit in question when this release was announced. In 2013, Arrow Video released a pretty definitive edition of the film. But, never doubt Scream Factory. They not only made a better transfer than what was out there, but they brought on a whole slew of bonus materials that COMPLIMENTED that release. Now, with both together, I’m not sure what much more that you could have for the film. This film, an delightful, crazy mess, I came to the acceptance this year that its one of my favorite films of all time. It came to me when I bought this edition and suddenly looked back and had the realization that this was the third time I was buying it on Blu-ray. In addition, I owned it twice on DVD and 2-3 times on VHS. With that type of purchase history, I can’t deny the fact any more.
Tenebrae / Phenomena – Limited Edition Steelbooks (Synapse Films) – Everyone has been waiting years for Synapse Films to unleash their Dario Argento films upon us. We kept saying it would be worth the wait. And indeed it was. The films looked and played spectacular on our Blu-ray players. As a bonus, the film’s scores/soundtracks were thrown in. Tenebrae had a neat little giallo documentary included in it and Phenomena sported 3 versions of the film. I couldn’t have been happier with both of these. I’ll call it right now, reserve a spot in the top 5 for their grand finale and maybe the biggest release in the history of Synapse Films when they drop the 40th anniversary edition of Suspiria (4K restoration, delicately done) next year.
The Thing: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – For years we’ve been strapped with a pretty crappy Blu-ray of John Carpenter’s masterpiece. Well, no more! We received a labor of love from Scream Factory that culminated all the previous bonus materials from the DVD special edition of the film to go along with some really tasty new interviews. Best of all, we were given a much better transfer of the film and some fun new audio mixes to accompany it. The Thing is a constant marvel and now we have the grand daddy of definitive releases for the film and it comes as no surprise who it came from.
The Exorcist III: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – And here I was, happy enough that Warner Bros decided to release the sequels to The Exorcist, barest of bones, on Blu-ray 2 years ago. Now, we have a special edition of the third one, the second best in the series (And really only good sequel) and very damn good film on its own right. We got the highly coveted Legion cut of the film. Who cares if the footage was VHS (Only source existing), we get to SEE it. The interviews and such are very honest and rich as well. This was a highly anticipated release when it was announced and it did not disappoint.
Manhunter: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) – Yes, Shout! Factory under many different monikers shows up here a lot. Thing is, they absolutely deserve it. They put their all into their releases. Shy of including the soundtrack, Manhunter brought forth everything a fan would want when purchasing the film. It also looked gorgeous with its new transfer. You get both cuts of the film, loads of new interviews and all the old stuff to boot. Its nice when an underseen and underappreciated masterpiece like this gets the respect and recognition it fully deserves.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 4K UHD (Sony) – If you want a classic title to sell 4K on and floor someone, right now this is your go-to. This 4K transfer was a marvel to look at as I reviewed it a few months ago. The audio was also remastered with Atmos, making it a real treat. The disc also utilized being a BD-100 and had bonus materials on the 4K UHD disc itself (Most just rely on being combo packs and the bonus is all on the regular BD). Said bonus material is all new, with some rich interviews to go along with deleted scenes and archival featurettes from the previous release. Ang Lee’s masterpiece is now a masterpiece of the latest home video format in itself. A MUST OWN for 4K UHD users!
Woody Allen: Six Films, 1971-1978 & 1979-1985 (Arrow Academy) – Arrow will complete these sets with the Woody Allen: Seven Films 1986-1991 set in February. No, these releases don’t contain an amazing array of extras. Each film only has the trailer. Woody Allen refuses to do or allow extras on his films’ home video releases. Its always been this way. However, these sets by Arrow are still top notch and must owns. They come in a very sturdy, hard case and each film gets its own solid true amaray case with uniform artwork and style across the board. Each set also comes with a 100 page hardcover book featuring essays on each film. That’s truly an underrated extra right there. Having just these films 1) available on Blu-ray and 2) in sets like these is awesome. Allen’s classic library is really lacking here still in the US, where we’ve only had 4 official releases and then those $35 “limited” Twilight Time releases. Aside from Annie Hall and Manhattan (Same as their previous releases), these are region B locked, so you’ll need a region free player (WORTH IT if you’re a serious collector). Now, if someone could just do a set of his 90s films so I could get Manhattan Murder Mystery (the next volume stops JUST shy of it) on Blu-ray, please!
Chopping Mall: Collector’s Series (Vestron Video/Lionsgate) – I lost my mind when this one was announced. Teased for years, this news came two fold. Not only was Chopping Mall getting a Blu-ray release, but we now have the Vestron Video Collector’s Series. Which, its basically Lionsgate taking notes on Shout! Factory & Arrow Video, but good for them. Chopping Mall’s 4K restoration looked great on Blu-ray and the extras were amazing. Featuring candid interviews with all the pertinent people, the best they could do with some lost footage and whatnot…EVERY angle of this film was covered, leaving no questions left, every stone unturned and hopefully every fan completely satisfied.
Pieces: Limited Edition (Grindhouse Releasing) – Pieces is not a good movie, that’s not hard to see. It is indeed a riot with a good rowdy audience (You can actually watch it with one as a bonus feature). Many will tell you its one of the best films to riff on or “so bad its good” and they are absolutely right. However, it getting a phenomenal Blu-ray release? Wow. This film received an astonishing 4K restoration and looks AMAZING on Blu-ray. It does not deserve to look this good. This is quite incredible. Grindhouse also loads it with 2 cuts of the film, some awesome bonus features, the soundtrack and their traditionally great packaging. The kicker, the first 3000 copies came with a replica puzzle like the one in the movie. This damn thing caused so much damn controversy in the Blu-ray world, too, if you look it up. Its quite humorous. When we talk about complete releases, this film has one and so many other great movies don’t have one. So silly, but I’ll take it.
Deep Red: Limited Edition (Arrow Video) – This one was supposed to come out December 2015 and got delayed to February 0f 2016. That delay helped it out as I may not have been able to acquire and check out a UK title in time for my list last year. I’m glad, this is a tremendous release. Arrow had already release a nice edition, but this clobbers the hell out of it. Dario Argento’s ultimate giallo film sees a gorgeous, eye opening 4K restoration that resonates really well on this transfer. Offered up are 2 editions of the film with many different audios to choose from. In terms of bonus material, there’s nothing to shy from in terms of interviews and visual essays. This also comes with some postcard sized lobby card reproductions and a 2-sided fold out poster. It comes in a hard card and also has the score for the film as well as a book.
When it came down to picking the #1 for this year, I had to go with the most complete razzle dazzled release and Arrow did it in spades with Dario Argento’s Deep Red. And the theme of 2016 for me was rich, luxurious titles that we all had to double dip on, or had to hold out through many releases.
That does it here. There are plenty of films that are worthy that just didn’t make the cut or because I haven’t purchased them yet (Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast box set, a lot of Criterion double dips I’m working on getting to; Dr. Strangelove, Blood Simple, Boyhood, Pan’s Labyrinth) or even popped in my own copy. I appreciate every read, every skim, every click on this as well as my reviews and my fellow colleagues’ work on this site as well. And we all hope you’ll keep coming back and reading us for more exciting adventures in 2017!
You can order some of my Top 10 picks below and the first 15 by clicking their picture!