Each year, we publish a Top 10 list of Great Gifts for Movie Lovers. But, as is the case every year, we recognize that is just the tip of what’s out there. Every holiday season sees a flood of new compilations and manifestations of film favorites. (And frankly, that’s just taking into account Criterion and Shout.) With this list, we provide you with the rest of the iceberg, so to speak. If you do not come away from this list with at least one gift idea for yourself or others, I’m afraid you’d just not trying.
Boxed Sets/Special Editions
The Hunger Games
: Complete 4-Film Collection (Lionsgate)
Much as with lovers of Tolkien, filmgoing fans of the The Hunger Games have little to look forward to on the horizon for everyone’s favorite child-murdering dystopia. Unlike those lucky Potterheads with their fantastic beast-laden prequels, if you love Katniss-Peeta-Gale and the world of Panem, you’ll just need to dive deeper into existing material. That would be where Lionsgate’s Complete 4-Film Collection comes in handy. Overall, the collection contains 27 deleted scenes, 72 featurettes and buckets of commentaries, music videos, etc. (That’s fourteen hours of bonus features—the same amount of time it took you to read the books in the first place!) Until they eventually and inevitably make a batch of prequels, or introduce holo-technology that “demands” a re-release, this collection provides a good end destination for fans of the series. —Michael Burgin
Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition ($75.99, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Films become classics for a reason and this one is no different, and I am ashamed to admit that even as a massive David Bowie fan, I had not seen this film in at least 20 years. It’s a straightforward enough plot, but the real differences here are the combination of Jim Henson and David Bowie. When you put two creative geniuses together, they don’t always mix but here, they created magic. Bowie’s prowess as an actor is not often discussed, but here he is frequently praised as such in the great extras on this disc (including a new “Remembering The Goblin King” entry) while his professionalism as an artist is frequently paralleled with Henson’s own dedication to his work, revealing what appears to have been a fast and firm friendship between the two legends. The script by Monty Python’s own Terry Jones is loaded with clever touches, many of which I missed as a callow 17-year-old and was happy to revisit. (And as always, Funko is on the case. —Mark Rabinowitz
Independence Day 20th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($69.99 SRP, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Let’s be honest, most of Roland Emmerich’s movies are pretty terrible. Once you get past the first act disaster (there’s almost always a first act disaster) they tend to get increasingly sillier to the point where it’s impossible to suspend disbelief. Independence Day is not one of those and is actually a pretty solid sci-fi actioner. Not only that, but this extended edition adds a few more welcome notes of humor. Sure it’s got its share of silly moments, but it’s fun, eminently watchable and this restored edition is stunning. Not only that, but it’s loaded with extras, including a new 30-minute documentary, the original theatrical and extended cuts, a gag real and commentary with director Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin (listening to the occasionally off-his-rocker Emmerich is almost worth the price, alone) and more. Top it off with a pretty cool model of one of the aliens’ attacker ships, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great set, which can be found for significantly less than the MSRP. —M.R.
Star Trek: Beyond
w/USS Franklin Collectible ( $39.99 Amazon Exclusive, Paramount)
I’m a massive Star Trek fan, but I’m on record as not being a big fan of the reboot/alternate timeline bollocks. I am much more excited about the upcoming ST: Discovery than I was about this film, so much so that I didn’t see it in the theater. Big mistake. By far the best film in the reboot series and the most true to the original Trek’s vision, Star Trek: Beyond does more than put its foot on the gas early and often, it also reminds us of the guiding principals of the United Federation of Planets, created by Gene Roddenberry so long ago. If Paramount and Bad Robot can keep this up, they will continue to do well by the legacy of Star Trek’s creator. —M.R.
The Bourne Ultimate Collection ($89.99, USHE)
If like me you loved the first three films in this collection, hated the 4th and enjoyed the 5th well enough, this collection is worth the $50 you can find it for (especially since it includes digital versions of all 5 and another, unrelated free Universal film…I chose the 1970 classic Airport). It’s loaded with extras and honestly, Mission: Impossible notwithstanding, what other franchise gives you this many watchable films? Hell, even 42% of Star Wars films are complete crap! —M.R.
Stuff a Stocking with a Movie
Captain America: Civil War (19.99, Walt Disney Studios)
When your “worst” film is ranked at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes (Thor: The Dark World and a rating I disagree with—Iron Man 2 is farworse), you’re doing pretty well, so does it surprise anyone that this is a great film? It made like eight bajillion dollars at the box office, so I don’t really need to go into too much detail here, but yeah … this one’s required owning, and along with Winter Soldier is a perfect example of how big super hero popcorn movies can be highly intelligent political thrillers, too. —M.R.
: Holiday Edition ($39.99, 20th Century Fox)
Another film I missed in the theater (shame on me, right?) I think it’s fair to say that Deadpool may be the funniest film of the year, assuming you like your humor dark as pitch and twice as dirty. (For kids, this ain’t.) Loaded with some pretty great extras, the only difference between this edition and the regular release is the special slip-cover and the holiday card from the man himself. —M.R.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
For many filmgoers, Ang Lee’s 2000 film was both revelation and introduction to the Chinese wuxia genre. Much like The Iron Giant (also on this list), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of those films that belongs in any library. As breath-taking as its fight choreography is, Lee’s film is made all the more memorable by the quiet moments interspersed throughout. This newest edition provides some never-before-seen deleted scenes, a retrospective and audio commentary, as well as an Ultraviolet download. This film is one of those that has not received the lush edition treatment some classics have. It does not need it—the film itself is lush enough. —M.B.
Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition ($14.99, 20th Century Fox)
This one’s a little problematic. Clearly it’s a classic, but is there enough new stuff here to justify the buy? I’d say it’s a qualified yes. First of all, if you don’t yet own Aliens and don’t want to spring for the anthology set because you hate the 4th film, like most people, then this is a no-brainer. It’s a fantastic film and includes both the original theatrical and director’s cuts. If you already own all of that, then really the only new extra are some admittedly cool reproductions of director James Cameron’s original artwork and a 30-minute, streaming-only doc with Cameron entitled: The Inspiration of Aliens. While this is indeed an interesting piece, the fact that it’s streaming only is a pretty major negative (and the link expires in 2019, so it’s not even permanent. Why did Fox do it this way? I can’t say for sure, but with Alien: Covenant due next year, my bet is a massive box set with all 6 films set in the Alien universe. Bottom line? You can do much worse for a lousy fifteen bucks. —M.R.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition ($29.99, Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Note to studios: If you’re going to release home video versions of the same film twice in the same year, this is how you do it. And I couldn’t give a womp rat’s ass about the 3D version (I can’t see in 3D, but I hear it’s great). This set is worth it for the new JJ Abrams commentary alone, but beyond that, you’ve got new deleted scenes, a featurette about the Foley artists, costumers, sound designers and prop masters behind this excellent film. These expert craftspeople are who make these epic motion pictures that we love some much, and it’s always great to see them get the attention they are due. Hollywood is famous for their bald-faced merchandising money grabs but this is not one of them. —M.R.
A Veritable Smorgasbord of Classics
It’s a Wonderful Life Platinum Anniversary Edition
There were a window in the 1970s and 1980s when, thanks to a clerical error involving the copyright of It’s a Wonderful Life, that you could catch Frank Capra’s beloved classic multiple times every Christmas season. Alas, that’s no longer the case, with the movie now relegated to Rudolph or Charlie Brown Christmas status, basically airing twice. If you’re someone who grew up treating the movie like holiday comfort food, it’s probably best for all involved if you just keep your own copy. This year’s Platinum Anniversary Edition is just the thing, providing both black-and-white and colorized versions. While there are a few additional features, including some limited edition art cards, adding this to your collection is no different than keeping stocked up on hot cocoa—you never know when you’re going to need some warmth this holiday season. —M.B.
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town 80th Anniversary Edition ($19.99, Sony Pictures)
According to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, more than 90% of films made prior to 1929 have been lost and the Library of Congress estimates that 75% of all silent films are gone forever, so when a studio decides to preserve and restore a classic film like Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a cause for celebration. —M.R.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) ($29.95, Kino Lorber)
I can’t remember the first time I saw this one, but it wasn’t too long after it was released. I grew up in New York City and a lot of the film was shot in my neighborhood. The 1970s were a pretty brutal time. The city was basically lawless – It was almost bankrupt, riddled with garbage, graffiti, violence…the streets were paved with dog shit and it was a far cry from a glistening world capital of culture. By far the best film made with a patently absurd premise (a group of armed men hijack a New York City subway train) Joe Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is also one of the most suspenseful and well-plotted films of that classic decade. New extras include interviews with star Hector Elizondo and the exceptional score composer David Shire (The Conversation, All The President’s Men, Oscar winner for Norma Rae). The cast is insane (Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Elizondo, James Broderick, Tony Roberts, Jerry Stiller, Earl Hindman and Kenneth McMillan) and should have gotten a special award for Lee Wallace’s unreal impression of NYC mayor Ed Koch… four years before he was elected. —M.R.
Highlander 30th anniversary ($9.99, Lionsgate)
While I can’t vouch for the blu-ray transfer (the press copy we received was DVD-only) I have read that the new 4K transfer made by StudioCanal Is exceptional and that there are quite a few cool new extras, including interviews with director Russell Mulcahy and actor Christopher Lambert, a brand-new “making of” documentary, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy. Please don’t confuse this with any of its terrible sequels. Highlander is a legitimate classic and Queen’s soundtrack contains two legitimate classics, “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “Princes of the Universe.” —M.R.
Taxi Driver 40th Anniversary Edition ($9.99, Sony Pictures)
Talk about bang for your buck! Not only do you get a flawless 1080p video and 5.1 DTS-HD sound, the extras on this 2-disc set are beyond copious. In addition to all the supplements from the previous BD release (including a commentary recorded by The Criterion Collection with Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader from 1986), there’s an all-new 40-minute Q&A from the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and more. I dare say that short of a winning lottery ticket, this may be the best $10 you’ll ever spend and for an extra $25 or so, you can bag this Travis Bickle figure from Funko. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: This company is delightfully odd-ball. —M.R.
Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection ($41.49, UPHE)
If you’re a Marx Brothers fan (and if you’re not, why not?) then this is a must. All five films (The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup) starring the four best known brothers (Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo) have been restored in 1080p and Animal Crackers features footage never-before seen by American audiences, due to edits made to meet standards set by the Motion Picture Production Code. Three of these films made the AFI’s list of the 100 funniest films in American cinema and The Marx Brothers are considered by many to be among the most influential comedians of all time. Extras include al all-new feature-length documentary about the brothers, five new commentaries and interviews from the Today Show vault. I can’t rate this one highly enough! —M.R.