Time to kick off some lists! First up we have the Blu-ray list. Like previous years (2013, 2014, 2015), I have decided to tackle every aspect of what I enjoyed about this year in Blu-ray. This list consists of what I consider to be the best 2016 had to offer for the Blu-ray format based on what I’ve seen, with a few rules to go with it. Going by the same standards as before, I have to have actually watched the movie on Blu-Ray, recognize the quality of the video and audio transfers, delved into the special features, and attempt to keep off any film that may also be on my “Top 10 Films of the Year” list in the final top ten for Blu-rays. 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. I may not have a fancy 4K setup like Brian and Brandon, but this works for me, so here we go:
The Criterion Collection:
Every month The Criterion Collection releases several great films and that are all generally top ten worthy, so it made sense to give them their own special section. So, aside from the few that did make the top ten list, here are my favorite Criterion Blu-ray releases from this year presented separately and in alphabetical order:
In A Lonely Place – A film noir with one of the best Humphrey Bogart performances.
The In-Laws – Peter Falk and Alan Arkin star in this terrific buddy comedy.
The Manchurian Candidate – One of my favorite conspiracy thrillers.
McAbe & Mrs. Miller – Robert Altman’s revisionist western now on Blu-ray!
The New World – Terrence Malick’s incredible production in a deluxe Criterion package.
Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece celebrates its 10th anniversary.
The Player – Robert Altman’s wonderful Hollywood satire that still resonates.
Punch-Drunk Love – I adore this delightfully different romance from Paul Thomas Anderson.
Shout / Scream Factory:
It has become too hard to avoid doing this, so I must now treat Shout Factory like the above Criterion Collection list. Shout has certainly earned this, as the Shout / Scream Factory brand means you will be getting some fantastic releases for lots of acclaimed films and cult favorites that have desperately needed proper home media treatment. And my hat goes off to WSB’s Brandon for so much great coverage of these releases. So again, aside from the few that did make the top ten list, here are my favorite Shout and Scream Factory releases from this year presented separately and in alphabetical order:
Black Christmas – The proto-slasher film and dark comedy from A Christmas Story’s Bob Clark
Dead Ringers – David Cronenberg’s wonderfully twisted tale of twin doctors played by Jeremy Irons.
Midnight Run – Finally, this fantastic buddy comedy with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is on Blu-ray!
Rollercoaster – Here’s a neat little thriller about a mad bomber that I re-discovered this year.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 – Tobe Hooper’s wild follow-up to his horror classic got a packed new release.
Transformers: The Movie (30th Anniversary Edition) – Michael Bay has nothing on this animated gem. (Review)
Because there’s always room for more, here’s a list of the many other great releases that came out this year, which I’ve been happy to check out for both their technical presentation and the extra features that came with (and of course my enjoyment of the films themselves). Presented in alphabetical order:
An American Werewolf in London (Restored Edition) – A proper new transfer for a horror-comedy classic.
Beauty and the Beast (25th Anniversary Signature Collection Edition) – A fantastic new release for this animated Disney classic. (Review)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – This hilarious film from The Lonely Island has plenty more good stuff to offer on Blu-ray.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (42nd Anniversary Special Edition) – This fantastic and influential thriller got the proper treatment on Blu-ray this year.
Time After Time – Warner Archive released a lot of great films this year, including this cult favorite about H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper.
The Top Ten:
Here it is…
10. Son of Saul (Review)
One of the most acclaimed films of 2015, which also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Son of Saul depicts the harrowing journey of a prisoner of Auschwitz, who sets it upon himself to provide a proper burial for a boy he takes for his son. The film doesn’t downplay the horrors of the Holocaust, but the narrative focus makes for an engaging film, with some incredible cinematography. Fortunately the key participants (director, cinematographer and star) are all featured prominently in the extras on this Blu-ray, which also has a great technical presentation.
Rabbi, Help me bury a body (Order HERE)
9. Steve Jobs (Review)
Despite high praise, Steve Jobs still seemed to go somewhat underrated, after flopping theatrically last year. That said, it still made my Top Ten list and I was very happy to take on the Blu-ray. This ambitious take on Steve Jobs, which highlights key moments in his life, was wonderfully constructed and having two separate commentary tracks featuring director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin was a fantastic way to deliver all the stories you’d want in regards to the production. Being a Boyle film, there is a slick look as well, which is captured greatly on this Blu-ray disc.
Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra. (Order HERE)
8. High Noon: Signature Edition (Review)
Olive Films delivered a fantastic new Blu-ray for the classic western High Noon. Sourced from a recent 4K master, the film looks better than ever and sounds crystal clear. The set of extras included are quick, but provide great insight into the film’s history. And of course you have the film itself, which won Gary Cooper an Oscar for his portrayal of a retiring Marshal forced to take on a gang of outlaws by himself. Made in a unique way that built tension around its ticking clock structure, the film holds up very well and should be required viewing for any film fan.
I’ve got to, that’s the whole thing. (Order HERE)
I had to cheat a bit, as Shout Factory managed to release these two gritty 80s detective thrillers in the same year and do a great job with both. Directors (and kinda rivals) Michael Mann and William Friedkin both made films starring William Peterson, which have gone on to be influential cult favorites. One introduced us to Hannibal Lektor for the first time. The other has one of the all-time great car chases. Both are great for a variety of reasons (the music!) and the new extra features really add a whole extra level to the amount of insight that can be taken in with these great Blu-ray releases.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition (Review for Blu-ray Edition)
The initial Blu-ray release for the mega-blockbuster that was The Force Awakens was already pretty great, but Disney went ahead and double-dipped to make it even better. New featurettes, more deleted scenes, a 3D disc and best of all – a great commentary track; The Force Awakens easily became my favorite new mainstream film release on Blu-ray. The picture and sound are as incredible as one would expect and it means getting to watch this wonderfully enjoyable movie plenty of times at home.
Oh, really? You’re cold? (Order HERE)
An insane general puts America on the path to nuclear holocaust and it’s up to a roomful of inept politicians to stop it. That could only mean one thing – hilarity. Dr. Strangelove boasts many highlights, including a terrific Peter Sellers in three different roles in this fantastic film. Director Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant dark comedy satire finally found its way into The Criterion Collection and that means getting one of the best technical presentations possible, along with a full slate of great new and old extras. Always rewarding to get a new edition of one of my favorite films on Blu-ray and that is certainly the case here.
Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room. (Order HERE)
4. The Iron Giant: Signature Edition (Review)
This release wins the 2016 award for “It’s about time,” as The Iron Giant has had no reason to be delayed so long for a Blu-ray release. Regardless, it does mean getting the newer version of the film that features new scenes, some smoothed out effects and a terrific transfer for Blu-ray. It also means getting The Giants Dream, a documentary that goes over the early career of director Brad Bird and the history of The Iron Giant’s production and failed theatrical release. There are also plenty of extras from the previous DVD release to be seen and enjoyed, in addition to the film itself, which is still a delightful story of a boy and his giant robot.
You can fly? You can Fly! (Order HERE)
It did not take long for Criterion to put out my favorite film from 2014. Boyhood has not gotten any less brilliant. Director Richard Linklater’s epic and ambitious drama remains a fantastic look at life set over the course of 12 years with a filmmaking approach that shows an amazing level of commitment. This new release has everything one would want in looking at the making of the film, including a great commentary track and some extras that track the production over the 12 years it took to make it. Considering the near 3-hour runtime of a film shot on footage that ranges in age, it’s also great to note how superb the video transfer is, which only makes sense when we’re talking Criterion releases.
I hate squash! (Order HERE)
2. The Thing (Review)
Of course John Carpenter’s The Thing would be near the top of this list. Scream Factory knows fans have been waiting for them to put out the ultimate release of this horror classic and they delivered big. Given how packed these releases are, it’s always impressive to see a whole second disc devoted to so many great extras in an effort to preserve the quality of the picture on the first disc (let alone pack in the three commentary tracks). Also of note is the re-addition of the feature-length documentary Terror Takes Shape, not seen since the DVD release of the film. This is a fantastic new release and there is basically no better way to currently watch Kurt Russell and crew face off against an alien threat at home than this one.
Maybe we’re at war with Norway? (Order HERE)
1. (Tie) Blood Simple / Inside Llewyn Davis (Review)
I did it again. I had to do it. The Criterion Collection has been good to a few directors this year. Robert Altman and Guillermo del Toro were among them, but the Coen Brothers were treated like royalty with these fantastic Blu-ray releases for two of their great films. Blood Simple was the debut film from the Coens and it stands up today as one of the best indie film debuts out there. A terrific neo-noir with all new extras, including a really fun “live” commentary track from the Coens and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld. Inside Llewyn Davis was another great film from the filmmaking duo and getting a proper Blu-ray release makes it even more rewarding. In addition to watching this cyclical story of a downtrodden folk singer, you get a full folk concert movie and a wonderful conversation between the Coens and del Toro that examines their career. There’s even a terrific commentary featuring three authors who examine the film, the music and the themes. The Coens make immensely watchable films and I am completely happy putting two of the many great films they’ve made on the top of my list.