Super-Sized Top Ten: Aaron’s First-Class Blu-ray Picks For 2017

Another year and another list of great Blu-ray releases. Like previous years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), 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 2017 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. Why So Blu’s Brian and Brandon may have their 4K setups to work with, but this works for me, so here we go:

The Criterion Collection

Every month The Criterion Collection releases several great films that are generally top ten worthy, so it made sense to give them their own special section. Not counting any that may have made my final top ten list, here are my favorite Criterion Blu-ray releases from this year presented separately and in alphabetical order (and be sure to check out my list for the best original Criterion Collection artwork from this year):

Being ThereA terrific Peter Sellers comedy. (Review)

Blow-UpMichelangelo Antonioni’s mysterious and ambiguous new wave drama. (Review)

ElectionA modern comedy classic from director Alexander Payne. (Review)

Ghost WorldA teenage cult favorite based on Daniel Clowes indie comic.

HopscotchA fantastic spy comedy with Walter Matthau. (Review)

L’argentRobert Bresson’s terrific real-world drama following a counterfeit bill. (Review)

Lost in AmericaI want more Albert Brooks films on Blu-ray, and this is a great start!

Mildred PierceA fine blend of film noir and character drama from director Michael Curtiz. (Review)

The Philadelphia StoryA screwball comedy classic with Hepburn, Stewart, and Grant.

The Umbrellas of CherbourgThe classic French musical that’s has been a key influence on many films since. (Review)

Classic/Cult Classic/Horror Archival Mentions

Thanks to the work of studios such as Shout Factory, Arrow and Warner Archive, I felt it necessary to single out some great titles that have been brought to Blu-ray but didn’t quite make my top ten list. It’s because of these studios that cult classics, horror favorites, and classic releases, in general, get to be seen by audiences young and old who may not have known about them otherwise or are happy to revisit them.

The Apartment (Limited Edition)This is one of my favorite films ever and the only thing stopping it from being on my top ten is that it releases next week and I haven’t gotten to see this new edition yet.

Bad Day at Black RockA terrific western noir of sorts with Spencer Tracy delivering big time.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (50th Anniversary Edition) – The classic comedy-drama focused on race, with essential performances from Tracy, Poitier, and Hepburn.

Joe Versus the VolcanoThe best Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan collaboration and a wonderfully odd comedy, in general, has finally arrived on Blu-ray!

Pinocchio: the Signature CollectionA re-release from Disney that adds new extras. It was a thrill to see this again for the first time in years. (Review)

The Sheik/The Son of the SheikThese two silent film box office hits with Rudolph Valentino received solid releases from Kino Lorber worth mentioned for sure.

ScarecrowThis older cult comedy-drama favorite featuring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino is an obscure film with strong performances from both actors in their prime.

Waiting for GuffmanChristopher Guest’s wonderfully bizarre comedy that gave us memorable characters and more has arrived on Blu-ray.

Honorable Mentions

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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:

Alien: CovenantWhile not the follow-up to Prometheus I was hoping for, Ridley Scott knows how to deliver a solid home release and Alien: Covenant is no different. (Review)

Baby DriverI’m cheating a bit, as Baby Driver will be making its way to another list, I can’t not mention another excellent home release from Edgar Wright that is packed with bonus material. (Review)

Dawn of the Dead (Collector’s Edition)Zack Snyder’s first and best film has a snazzy new release thanks to Scream Factory. Great new interviews are a real plus here. (Review)

Deepwater HorizonThe underseen disaster drama from Peter Berg got a demo-worthy release, complete with bonus VR commentary sequences that are worth checking out. (Review)

Doctor Strange 3D (Cinematic Universe Edition)The best 3D experience came with this fairly standard Marvel film, making it worthy of a mention. (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 3D (Cinematic Universe Edition)Marvel’s most colorful and cinematic effort (even if it was a step down from the first film) looks fantastic on Blu-ray. (Review)

John Wick: Chapter 2It was between this and another movie as far as the final ten, but John Wick: Chapter 2 received a fantastic Blu-ray release for all action fans. (Review)

Juice (25th Anniversary Edition)This underrated urban thriller was given a proper anniversary release, complete with terrific new extras and a reason to put that killer soundtrack back on the playlist. (Review)

Land of the Dead (Collector’s Edition)George A. Romero’s 4th Dead film has been deserving of reevaluation and Scream Factory has certainly provided the means for fans to pick up on how good this movie is. (Review)

LoganWith a fantastic commentary track and the black & white version of the film, Logan: Noir, this was another tremendous release matching a very entertaining superhero drama. (Review)

Moana 3D (Ultimate Collector’s Edition)This future Disney classic was stuffed with extra content, but also looks and sounds extraordinary. (Review)

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryI would like to think one day we will get a fuller release with a commentary track and more behind-the-scenes stories (however unlikely), but Star Wars once again delivers a great Blu-ray. (Review)

Slither (Collector’s Edition)James Gunn’s horror-comedy finally gets a proper Blu-ray, and the film surprised me with how great it looks for a low-budget creature feature. (Review)

Shin Godzilla (シン・ゴジラ / Godzilla Resurgence)I’m thrilled to have this Japanese Academy Award-winning Godzilla film, as it is very entertaining.

War for the Planet of the ApesI’m happy Fox does great by their blockbusters because these Apes films have always been given excellent releases. (Review)

The Top Ten

Here it is…

10. La La Land (Review)

One of the best films of 2016 arrived on Blu-ray, and it looks and sounds great. Lionsgate knew what they had and made sure audiences would be just as satisfied at home, if not more thanks to a fantastic audio track that does well by its surround sound balance. This musical comedy-drama has plenty to offer as a forward-thinking ode to the golden age of Hollywood and Los Angeles in general, with plenty of great song and dance numbers. The Blu-ray manages to go all out with the extensive behind-the-scenes material, an excellent commentary track and more. This Blu-ray was shining just for everyone.

It’s conflict, and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting! (Order HERE)


9. Lost Horizon (80th Anniversary Edition) (Review)

This 1937 Frank Capra adventure picture has found its way to Blu-ray in its most complete form yet. Famously cut down from its original length, Lost Horizon is presented with a new 4K restoration that has restored a couple of minutes of footage, as well as inserts of still images from lost scenes with restored audio. It all sounds complicated, but the film, which tells a meditative story about a group of plane crash survivors who arrive in Shangri La, is the sort of unique Capra film that may be less popular than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and other notable efforts, but easily fits as an essential piece of cinematic history. Having an incredible release like this will undoubtedly put a smile on any cinephile’s face.

I think I’m going to like it here. (Order HERE)


8. Suspiria (Limited Edition)

Wow! This late addition to the list just made the cut, but I’m pleased Suspiria was delivered when it was. The classic Italian horror film from Dario Argento has been remastered, and it looks and sounds fantastic. Pure cinema is on display here, with an astonishing use of color that makes this entire experience so mesmerizing. The soundtrack by The Goblins is, of course, fantastic as well. Those who see this acclaimed film for the first time may wonder what horror fans love about it so much at first, but just let the mood of this film wash over, as it’s less about storytelling and more about what is created by the craft on display. And for all the fans, this Synapse release is packed with extra material and various versions of the film. It’s all any fan could ask for.

Susie, do you know anything about…witches? (Order HERE)


7. Jerry Maguire (20th Anniversary Edition) (Review)

A nearly two-and-a-half hour romantic comedy-drama about a sports agent? That’s the Tom Cruise I remember, and this film is still fantastic. Cameron Crowe’s excellent Jerry Maguire celebrated its 20th anniversary, and Sony decided to go all out for it. A new transfer remastered in 4K and a new 5.1 lossless soundtrack does everything to make this film look and sound better than ever. And that’s not all! Jerry Maguire also received brand-new extras, in addition to the great Pip commentary track with the stars and Crowe. An hour of deleted scenes and a 3-part retrospective featuring audition footage with Robin Williams, along with the film’s soundtrack on an additional CD. This was a spectacular re-release done right for a movie that’s far more than just the memorable quotes that came from it.

This is going to change everything. (Order HERE)


6. (Tie) Ronin / Heat (Director’s Definitive Edition) (Review)

I had to do it. This had to be a tie because two great Robert De Niro movies were given excellent new Blu-ray releases and there was no way I could leave either off this list. Ronin is a fantastic action film with some all-time great car chases. Arrow did a tremendous job developing a brand-new transfer for this film, easily outshining the original MGM release. Heat is Michael Mann’s exemplary LA crime epic, and the film has received a new release boasting the Mann-approved 4K restoration. It’s all for the better, as the film does so much to highlight the moves Mann was making in a pre-digital camera world and this transfer smooths out some areas that have looked rough in the past. Plus, a bonus in-depth conversation between Mann, Pacino and De Niro, moderated by Christopher Nolan (I was lucky enough to be at the attendance of this recording) is a genuinely great way to understand more about the film and its legacy. These are two great films, and they are great ones to own.

I do what I do best; I take scores. You do what you do best, try to stop guys like me. (Order HERE and HERE)


5. Re-Animator (Limited Edition)

Another terrific release from Arrow that’s so good I should probably be ranking it higher. Re-Animator is a wonderful horror-comedy that explores the wild extremes some will go in scientifically exploring life after death through the lens of an H.P. Lovecraft story. It’s a cult favorite, and this epic release is a two-disc set featuring three different versions of the film, which all look and sound amazing. The level of detail is astounding here, as you see how great the gore effects were on a movie that is far better made than some may expect. And then there are the extras! Both discs are packed with basically everything you’d ever want involving Re-Animator, short of the sequels, which had their own releases recently as well. Plus, there’s even the full comic adaptation of the film, along with some stills on heavy cardstock that make for nice physical extras as well, rounding out an excellent package housed in a sturdy box. This release has been given life!

Who’s going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow. (Order HERE)


4. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

One of the best Batman films ever made finally received a Blu-ray release courtesy of Warner Archive. It may not feature any extra features aside from the trailer, but as a Batfan who has been eagerly waiting for this to happen, I was not unsatisfied with the results. The effort was put into making this animated classic look and sound fantastic while cleaning it up considerably. While it could have easily been just another DVD port, the folks at Warner Archive strived to make this a worthwhile Blu-ray for the fans who recognize the brilliance of what Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Kevin Altieri did with Batman: The Animated Series. This is a great Batman-focused story complete with another great Mark Hamill joker performance and an entirely new villain that has become a favorite in its own right.

Your Angel of Death awaits. (Order HERE)


3. The Before Trilogy

After years of rumors, The Criterion Collection followed up their terrific Boyhood release from last year with a wonderful box set for Richard Linklater’s acclaimed Before Trilogy. The series of films starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have been praised for their simplicity, performances, and commentary on life and thanks to the efforts of Criterion, fans are now able to own this set of films that involve multiple studios and other factors that likely made this an arduous journey. All three are given proper treatment, with superb transfers making for a great technical experience. There’s also the collection of extras spread across all three discs, which includes excellent conversations/documentaries that are lengthy and cover each of the three films from various angles. Criterion really does know how to spoil people.

You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details. (Order HERE)


2. Le Samouraï (Review)

I’ve already mentioned this plenty in my review, but Le Samouraï is one of the coolest films ever made. It’s the film that has gone on to inspire so many movies about hitmen and assassins that people consider to be cool today and it does all that with little in the way of sensationalism. This is a stylish yet minimal film, and I could not wait for Criterion to give it a Blu-ray upgrade finally. They have delivered, as the film looks fantastic, with a solid transfer truly preserving the film’s aesthetic, even if some of the darker scenes are a bit iffy. While there’s only one somewhat new extra added for this release, it’s still packed with enough bonus material to provide fans with all they’d want to know about Jean-Pierre Melville’s process for making this film and what Alain Delon added as the venerable professional Jef Costello. This is a great cinematic effort that serves as another important piece of cinema history.

I never lose. Never really. (Order HERE)


1. The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) (Review)

Some years have presented obvious picks for the top spot when it comes to fantastic Blu-ray releases. I was not as sure about this year, and the more I thought about which Blu-ray release has really had the most significant effect on me, the more apparent it became that The Red Turtle deserved this acknowledgment. The Oscar-nominated animated film from Dutch filmmaker Michael Dudok de Wit and Studio Ghibli has only grown on me since first seeing it in theaters. 2016 was a fantastic year for animated features, and The Red Turtle was undoubtedly one of the biggest standouts. Told entirely without dialogue, this fantastical and simple tale runs deep with emotional beats built out of music and sound effects. It’s creative and surreal without being overbearing. It’s meaningful without feeling pretentious. The Blu-ray preserves the film’s filmmaking qualities by properly representing the use of color and the terrific score. The extra material goes far more in-depth than I would have expected as well; providing thoughts on the film’s themes, in addition to a look at the original designs and concepts. There’s even a great commentary track that explores the director’s thoughts on the film from all angles. I may have underrated The Red Turtle at the time, but it’s an extraordinary film with a Blu-ray that does a marvelous job representing a piece of work that made little impact on the box office. That’s the mark of a studio (in this case Sony Pictures Classics) that knows what a good thing is and chooses to let viewers enjoy it as best they can at home.

Hey! (Order HERE)


6 Responses to “Super-Sized Top Ten: Aaron’s First-Class Blu-ray Picks For 2017”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Good stuff here, Aaron. I own 6, 3, and 4. I have no clue what Red Turtle is, though. Gonna have to check it out!

  2. Brian White

    Great in-depth list as always!
    I see what you did with Baby Driver there 🙂
    I feel bad as I only have 1 on your Top 10 list.
    I have heard of Turtle though unlike Gerard and I’m intrigued.

  3. Jason Coleman

    Definitely have to check out The Red Turtle – thanks for the movie head’s up!

  4. Brandon Peters

    So much good stuff here! There’s alternate Top 10s within this whole thing that are top notch lists as well. I, too, mention Arrow’s The Apartment release on mine as being something that could have potentially made it, but it isn’t coming til after mine posts.

    There are a lot of titles here that I’m glad are getting mentioned as they were cuts on mine. Another year and just too much great stuff to have to contain in a ‘Top 10’ list. But you manage to cover a lot of ground and I love it.

  5. Gregg

    If I can find The Red Turtle for a decent price, I’ll blind-buy it. I’d never heard of it but it sounds really interesting. I didn’t know Re-Animator came out on Blu-ray this year! I definitely need to revisit that film!

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    Thanks guys. I’d love to hear some follow-up on The Red Turtle if you guys do get a chance to see it!