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Super-Sized Top Ten: Aaron’s Top-Quality Blu-ray Picks For 2018

Who’s ready for a killer Blu-ray list? Like previous years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), I’ve gone in-depth on what I enjoyed with this year in Blu-ray release. I still may not have a 4K setup like Why So Blu’s Brian and Brandon, or a region-free player like Gerard, but there was plenty to enjoy for a guy working with the regular old HD format. As usual, this list has a few rules that come with it. Regard for the film in question is obviously important. I have to have watched the movie for the sake of assessing the quality of the video and audio transfers. And I had to dive into the special features available. The last thing, I always try to keep films that may appear on my “Top 10 Films of the Year” list separate from the top ten Blu-rays. I do this to keep the post interesting, and I also have some extra sections to go over other highlights from the year. So, here we go:

The Criterion Collection

 

Each month features several releases from The Criterion Collection that generally deliver some high-quality goods. While I have a few saved for the final list, here are my favorite Criterion Blu-ray releases from the year, presented in alphabetical order. (Note: I did not get the “Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema” box set, which could easily be considered the best Blu-ray release of the year in the eyes of many.)

The Age of Innocence – Martin Scorsese’s terrific period romance has finally found a proper release.

Dead Man – Jim Jarmusch’s psychedelic western gets a release so good you may have to put a bounty on it. (Review)

The Magnificent Ambersons – Orson Welles had a surprisingly great year, and this fantastic release is just one of the reasons why.

The Princess Bride – Need a great new release of the Rob Reiner classic? As you wish. (Review)

A Raisin in the Sun – A wonderful theatrical adaptation has never looked better on Blu.

The Silence of the Lambs – A perfect release for one of the greatest horror-thrillers ever made.

Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder’s comedy classic comes to Criterion with style.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape – Steven Soderbergh didn’t miss the chance to supervise the Criterion release of his debut film.

The Virgin Spring – The Bergman film that’s been an inspiration to many, and has everything going for it here. (Review)

Classics / Cult Favorites

It’s been another year of terrific releases from the various studios that include Shout Factor, Arrow, and Kino Lorber. These films didn’t quite make my top ten, but they are releases that I was either anticipating heavily or very much wanted to check out for the first time, only to discover something new. And I’ll take this time to note that I would have never thought I’d be so interested in eventually picking up Urban Legend and its sequel, given Brandon’s reviews of both.

12 MonkeysTerry Gilliam’s most successful film, and one of his bests, got an all-new release, complete with a much-needed new transfer. No need to time travel to find this one.

The Burbs (Collector’s Edition)Tom Hanks starred in this cult favorite from director Joe Dante, in between Oscar-worthy performances, and here’s anew Blu-ray to celebrate it. (Review)

Creepshow (Collector’s Edition)George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Stephen King, and a wide range of actors made this killer anthology feature, and now it has a deluxe Scream Factory release. (Review)

The Day of the JackalI’m convinced Arrow released this for me, personally.

Drag Me to Hell (Collector’s Edition)Sam Raimi’s riot of a throwback to his own horror films gets a terrific Blu-ray update. (Review)

Get Shorty (Collector’s Edition) – The Elmore Leonard adaptation (which has also made for a solid TV series) gets a new restoration that was well worth the wait.

Murder by DeathSnuck in this hilarious Neil Simon mystery film sendup right in time.

The Spiral StaircaseKino put out this great horror-noir from director Robert Siodmak.

Starman (Collector’s Edition)One of John Carpenter’s biggest hits finally joins the rest of his collection in the Scream Factory archives. Glad to catch this one before the end of the year as well. (Review)

Wild at Heart (Collector’s Edition)Maybe I’m starting to evolve regarding how much I appreciate David Lynch, as this release is quite the wild ride. (Review)

Superheroes

 

Fittingly enough, several runners-up that all had stellar Blu-ray releases happened to be superhero films, so they get their own category. Blockbusters such as these tend to get excellent treatment when it comes to near reference audio and video quality, making them pitch-perfect flicks to put on to show off a nice home theater setup.

Avengers: Infinity WarYou’ve probably seen this $2 billion grosser, so I’ll just point out how insightful and entertaining the commentary track is on this one. (Review)

Black PantherWakanda forever! (Review)

Deadpool 2 (Super Duper $@%!#& Cut)The extended cut for this film gives you some even better action beats and a gag-heavy set of extras. (Review)

Incredibles 2 (Ultimate Collector’s Edition)Brad Bird didn’t let Disney stop him from packing this super sequel’s Blu-ray with all sorts of features crediting all the animators. (Review)

Thor: RagnarokMarvel’s most colorful and wacky feature has some wacky extras to match, and looks killer at home. (Review)

TV Shows

I don’t try hard to get TV shows on Blu-ray anymore, given all the streaming options out there, but I couldn’t resist obtaining some.

Ash vs. Evil Dead – The Complete CollectionTrade in an Evil Dead 4 for three seasons of a TV show with Campbell, Raimi, and Rob Tapert’s involvement? Yes! (Review)

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Complete SeriesOne of the best, animated TV series of all time finally came to Blu-ray.

The Shield: The Complete Series – One of my absolute favorite TV series ever has been completely remastered for Blu-ray, with a retrospective feature and more.

The Top Ten (+5 More)

Here it is…

15. Annihilation (Review)

Alex Garland’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Ex Machina was a trippy sci-fi feature (the first of a few on this list) with plenty of horror elements and psychological dread to keep you up at night. Of course, the film bombed at the box office, despite terrific critical praise, but that matters not now. The Blu-ray holds onto the fascinating visual look of the film while holding up the brilliant music and intense sound design. Even the extras, while a bit on the slim side, provide a good look at how the film was assembled.

It’s not destroying. It’s making something new. (Order HERE)

14. Batman Ninja (Review)

WB’s DC Animated Movie Universe decided to go wild with elseworld Batman tales this year. Gotham By Gaslight was solid, but Batman Ninja was totally my jam. Placing the Dark Knight (and company) in Feudal Japan, of all places, turned out to be terrifically fun, ambitious, and wild as far as the amount of imagination on display. Not hurting is the work of the animators behind another personal favorite of mine, Afro Samurai. They helped build this film into a real looker as far as seeing Batman in an anime world, and not skimping out on the many familiar areas in this sort of animated setting. Some key features make for great supplements as well, giving the filmmakers a chance to explain themselves when it came to this wacky Caped Crusader adventure.

This is madness. (Order HERE)

13. Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

I’m still very impressed with how great of a job Denis Villeneuve did in making a proper sequel to Blade Runner. 2049 runs with ideas that made the first into a classic and headed into a new direction to help the film truly stand on its own, while working as a solid follow-up, further expanding upon familiar themes. Roger Deakins finally won an Oscar for his efforts as a cinematographer, and it is easy to see why; especially considering just how great the film looks on Blu-ray. With so many great uses of color, shadows, and atmosphere, this is a hard film to match in terms of pure visual joy on such a grand level. And if you wanted to hear the sounds of Harrison Ford smacking Ryan Gosling around, this disc has you covered in that area as well. A nice touch was the inclusion of the multiple prologues, including the animated “Black Out,” which makes for a terrific additional supplement for those invested in this world.

Every memory has a piece of its artist. (Order HERE)

12. Ready Player One (Review)

This retro throwback by way of a dystopian sci-fi feature set mainly in the OASIS was a nice way for Steven Spielberg to say, “Hey, I’ve been watching these superhero action movies, and I have some notes on how you can construct CG-heavy action sequences.” There’re also the truckloads of easter eggs and visual joy to be had from watching this geeky novel come to life. Oh, and you can even enjoy Mark Rylance delivering some stellar work in a limited role as a way for Spielberg to critique current blockbuster culture. But enough about that. Here’s a Spielberg film that looks and sounds as amazing as you would hope, and there’s even a strong set of extras to explore how the making of this film was possible. That’s especially great considering the amazing sequence involving a heavy reference to The Shining.

Who is this Parzival and how the hell is he winning? (Order HERE)

11. The Endless (Review)

Another trippy sci-fi film from a director duo to watch. Having already scored well with Spring and Resolution (which is actually in a shared universe with this film), The Endless is a killer piece of low-budget work that makes excellent use of all the resources available to filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. To describe the film beyond the basic, “two brothers pay a visit to the cult they left,” would be a disservice to the surprises that come with this feature but suffice to say The Endless delivers. Plus, this Blu-ray is not afraid of providing even more great detail about how this little film was made.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. (Order HERE)

10. The Tree of Life (Criterion Collection) (Review)

Largely looked upon as one of the finest films of the decade, Terrence Malick made a return to The Criterion Collection with his stunning portrayal of the mystery of life. And not only that, The Tree of Life is back on Blu-ray with an all-new extended cut, further expanding upon Malick’s vision for his epic. The terrific transfer has allowed the film to arrive in this new Blu-ray package looking as good as it ever has, even when considering the use of CG dinosaurs, let alone spectacular depictions of the universe. Some terrific video essays and more come with this set as well, in an attempt to examine what it is Malick was aiming for. There is a lot to unpack, but what better way to do so than a release this wonderful.

Unless you love, your life will flash by. (Order HERE)

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Signature Edition)

Olive Films is a studio to look forward to when it comes to their Signature Edition releases. High Noon was a fantastic release a couple of years back, and now we have the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While Olive originally released the film back in 2012, this new edition adds a ton of extras that now make this the definitive release of the film. The paranoia classic has a lot to admire regarding what’s bubbling under the surface as far as thematic value, let alone what it added to the genre. However, getting to explore all of that by way of a fantastic set of supplements makes for a quintessential release for fans and cinephiles.

They’re here already! You’re next. You’re next! (Order HERE)

8. Phantom Thread (Review)

One of the irritating things about cramming so many films in at the end of the year is not having time to appreciate some of them truly. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is a film I have far more appreciation for now than when I first saw it, and I already liked it then. This romantic-darkly comedic-drama features masterful filmmaking capturing a trio of amazing performances. Seeing all of the natural lighting come through so well on this transfer only adds to the value of a film such as this. Plus, PTA has always had an interesting approach to his extras and seeing his edited versions of outtakes, deleted scenes, and more make for a fascinating look at his process, as well as the commitment that comes from Daniel Day-Lewis.

The tea is going out. The interruption is staying right here with me. (Order HERE)

7. Coco (Ultimate Collector’s Edition) (Review)

While just missing my top ten list last year, Pixar’s Coco is ideally suited for this list, as it is a spectacular release through and through. On top of being one of the animation studio’s best entries, all the warmth and joy that comes from the visual design of the film comes shining through on Blu. The incredible soundtrack and score are present and clear as well. Plus, the extras do a fantastic job of celebrating both the animation process and the culture that played such an essential role in bringing this story to life.

Remember me, though I have to say goodbye. Remember me, don’t let it make you cry. (Order HERE)

6. A Matter of Life and Death (Criterion Collection) (Review)

I was over the moon at the chance to enjoy Criterion’s presentation of this Powell and Pressburger classic. A Matter of Life and Death is a beautiful film that takes on a fantastical premise and delivers on how much emotion it can get out of it. Not to mention the many ambitious qualities for this film’s time, including the portrayal of the afterlife, and use of color. Unsurprisingly, a film that uses the visual language so impressively continues to impress in this newly restored Blu-ray. The substantial collection of extras only expands upon the impressive nature of this release.

This is the universe. Big, isn’t it? (Order HERE)

5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Review)

This is an action movie so thrilling and impressive that the Blu-ray comes with a booklet to explain how Tom Cruise could have died many times while making it. And yet, Cruise did make this film with his friend and director Christopher McQuarrie, and it delivered in spades. Mission: Impossible – Fallout arrived on a packed Blu-ray, which has everything I would want from such a high-class release, including three commentary tracks, and an isolated score track as well. The many breakdowns further detail the death-defying stunts and work that went into making such a terrific summer spectacle film. Choose to accept this Blu-ray.

I’m jumping out a window! (Order HERE)

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Review)

One of the most significant and best installments in the Star Wars saga was given a deluxe release to delve into the many layers of building such an epic feature. In addition to the terrific film that fully expands upon the universe we’ve come to know while paying plenty of tribute to what has come before it, the Blu-ray provides a sublime viewing experience. And not to be held down by mystery boxes, director/writer Rian Johnson has a full-on documentary and an excellent commentary to go into the challenges of making a film so key to providing the seeds of a new direction for the many more decades of Star Wars to come. This is a great motion picture that received the right sort of treatment for home viewing. (Note: Be sure to check out the review link to read Brandon’s fantastic breakdown of the film.)

This is not going to go the way you think. (Order HERE)

3. Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Review)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm nearly topped my list last year, so of course having the entire animated series on Blu-ray, finally, would allow for an equally significant impact for this year’s list. This 12-disc set has remastered all 85 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and threw in the two animated Batman movies along with it. All of it looks amazing. WB likes to do well by their Dark Knight, so here we are with another amazing looking superhero set. And how about the goodies? While there’s a new retrospective that is quite worthwhile, the bonus art cards and mini Pop figures is a nice touch, if a bit annoying, since it’s hard to stand them up. Regardless, this definitive portrayal of Batman has everything going for it, and it feels like a time to celebrate for all of us who have been waiting for this series to make it to Blu-ray.

I threw a rock at ‘em! It was a big rock. (Order HERE)

2. Candyman (Collector’s Edition) (Review)

One of, if not the best horror film of the 90s has finally come to Blu-ray and it did so in such a glorious manner. This deluxe release from Scream Factory has a newly restored version of the film, and its director’s cut. Tony Todd has never looked so frightening, but that’s not all. Hearing that lovely and haunting Philip Glass score only adds to the viewing pleasure of this excellent horror film. And then you have a robust assortment of extras, which includes several commentary tracks and plenty of new interviews that examine the film and its impact.  I was incredibly impressed by the amount of quality special features that came with this release and look forward to continuing to be able to revisit this film in the same way I do with many of my favorite horror flicks.

You were not content with the stories, so I was obliged to come. (Order HERE)

1. Night of the Living Dead (Criterion Collection) (Review)

Released back towards the beginning of the year, this was a release I had been heavily anticipating, and it did not disappoint. I have owned many versions of Night of the Living Dead, and I have never seen it look or sound as amazing as it does here. The black levels, alone, make this an immediate blind buy for anyone that somehow hasn’t already seen this horror classic (and genre establisher) from the late George A. Romero. But in addition to seeing this terrific horror movie the best way you ever have been able to, Criterion packed this set with all sorts of extras. Interviews with other filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro and Frank Darabont are welcome, as are archival interviews, visual essays, and so much more. There’s even the workprint cut, when the film was still Night of Anubis, for your viewing pleasure. This is a real movie lover’s ideal Blu-ray to own, as it’s a piece of film history that has been made available for everyone in the grandest of fashions. It’s also my favorite Blu-ray release of the year.

Now get the hell down in the cellar. You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here! (Order HERE)

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

10 Responses to “Super-Sized Top Ten: Aaron’s Top-Quality Blu-ray Picks For 2018”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Awesome list, Aaron!

    I was surprised to see Batman Ninja in there, wow!

  2. Brandon Peters

    Hahaha FULLY agree on them damn mini funko pops with the Batman TAS set!!! Mine are on my shelf displaying it drunk leaning backward to stay steady.

    Great list! Got some on there that I own and haven’t had the time to check out yet, so its great to see A) I will love them and B) them represented here. Like, A Matter of Life and Death. Filmstruck had I Know Where I’m Going when the service was active, I wonder if Criterion will be doing that in the near future. Coco won’t make my list cuz the Atmos on it was real bad.

    Exciting to read through yours as always and many thanks for all the shout outs and linkage!

  3. Brian White

    Outstanding and detailed list here as usual!
    I see a lot of stuff on here I STILL need to pick up!
    Loved seeing Annihilation on this list. That’s a title I would have loved to put on mine, but doesn’t mean it wont appear on another yet this year 🙂
    I agree with Brandon on the Atmos for Coco.
    The Last Jedi was another ‘sort of” weak one in the Atmos or oomph at all category for me with audio.
    I’ve been meaning to check out Endless so thanks for reminding me here!
    No Maximum Overdrive on the list? 🙂

  4. Aaron

    Maximum Overdrive feels like a real Brian/Gerard pick. 🙂

  5. Brian White

    Actually the price tag has kept me away, but add Brandon to that list too! I don’t think G has seen Max O yet.

  6. Aaron

    Between the multiple good reviews for Coco’s audio from Brandon and elsewhere, I don’t know what to think, but I know the Blu sounds great to my novice ears…that said, visuals, substantial extras, and the quality of the film help round out the release as far as my placement of the film is concerned. 🙂

  7. Aaron

    G, it’s funny, I seem to always find a way to shove as much Batman as possible onto my Blu-ray lists. 🙂

  8. Gregg

    MORE BATMAN!!!! Yes!! I just went from reading Gerard’s and being curious about The Endless only to be not so much now. You mentioned it’s trippy. Is it Annihilation trippy? That’s not my bag, to each their own. To this day I have not seen Candyman! Funny you mentioned Ash vs. The Evil Dead. I’ve never watched it, mostly because I never knew when it was on or what channel/service it was on. I had the Blu-ray set of season one in my hands the other day and put it back. Now the wheels are turning again. Great list!

  9. Gerard Iribe

    I’ve never seen Maximum Overdrive. I hear the soundtrack is all AC/DC, though.

  10. Aaron Neuwirth

    Gregg, I mean, I would say give it a chance, like anything, because what have you got to lose? That said, yeah, it’s a trippy flick.