With Thanksgiving just now in the rearview mirror, it’s not too late to be thankful for friends—and even more precisely, to be thankful for friends who love movies, and thus make easy targets for gift-giving. Sure, Dad may be a nightmare to buy something for (“There’s nothing I really need.”), but if you have a friend or family member who loves movies, it’s a target-rich environment. We’ll take some time and present the wider field of options in our catch-all gift guide in a week or so, but first, here are our Top 10 picks for 2017.
10. Forever Funko – The Licensing that Knows No Boundaries ($8.99-$10.99)
If we had a Movie Gifts Hall of Fame, Funko would likely be in its inaugural class. There is practically no pop culture nook or cranny that Funko hasn’t mined to produce their signature figures. It’s so ubiquitous that even that coworker who otherwise “doesn’t watch much” is likely to have one. (Because in this day and age, there’s really no such thing as someone who has been untouched by the content from the silver screen.) This year, you can focus on the holiday spirit if you want—there are Buddy, Jovie and the narwhal from Elf, or Kevin, Harry (with burnt scalp) and Marv from Home Alone—or you can just cast about among the hundreds of other options. Add to this the presence of Dorbz, plushes and other product lines, and you can be assured you’ll have a knick-knack of note to give. —Michael Burgin
9. MasterClass Continues to Add to Its Faculty ($90/single class or $180/one-year full access, MasterClass)
Last year, MasterClass made for a great gift for friends and family who want to learn more about screenwriting (Aaron Sorkin), acting (Dustin Hoffman), film scoring (Hans Zimmer) or “Herzogging” (Werner Herzog). A year later, MasterClass is even more appealing as a gift. It’s added (or will soon add) teachers such as Helen Mirren, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard. Even better, it’s added a season pass option in case you or someone you know would like to dive headlong into all the online school has to offer. —M.B.
8. An Olympic Achievement Thanks to Criterion ($319.96, Criterion)
is another repeat “offender” on our Top 10 gift guides, its position as the compiler of the most important aspects of film past and present unrivaled. But even so, this year, Criterion is offering something truly special, even by its already lofty standards: 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012. This mammoth collection includes 53 films spanning 41 editions of the Olympic Games. All of the movies are newly restored, with a number of important films receiving 4K restorations. There’s also a gorgeous 216-page hardcover book. (Even the traditional writeup gets an upgrade!) This is one of those cross-over gifts—sports lovers, film buffs and even that niche, “just the Olympics” fan stand to be blown away by the sheer scope of this set. And oh yeah, Criterion is also still minting plenty of other film classics, and there’s that subscription service from them you’ll find in the next entry. —M.B.
7. FilmStruck (TCM and the Criterion Collection, $6.99/month to $99/year, varied)
While you’re unlikely to find the oeuvre of Michael Bay on this streaming service from TCM and The Criterion Collection, for serious film fans (and not just fans of serious films), it’s hard to beat. That’s not to say that Fandor and MUBI don’t have their virtues but in addition to an impressive and ever-changing library of classic, foreign, art house and documentary films, FilmStruck also offers access to the Criterion Channel, the streaming home of the Criterion Collection, giving FilmStruck a huge check mark in the “Pros” column. The service also features copious other film-related content, including programs like John Pierson’s seminal 1997-2001 TV series Split Screen, and regular curated specials like Tuesday’s “Short + Feature,” Wednesday’s “Criterion Collection Editions” (featuring the films and all the supplements that appear on the CC DVDs and blu-rays) and “Friday Night Double Features,” making this service a must have. Available on: Desktop, Android handsets & tablets, iPhones and iPad, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV 4th gen, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku devices, with more coming (check site for version requirements.
Special holiday promo through 12/31 (while supplies last): Purchase a $99 gift subscription and get a free Roku Express. —Mark Rabinowitz
6. A Wes Anderson Whiff of Whimsy (Belly Kids, £7)
Most of the items on this list are big in breadth of interest covered, price point or both. But sometimes, the perfect gift is all about finding that certain somewhat strange something that fits just right. The folks at Belly Kids have just the thing for the Wes Anderson fan in your life. This trump car game doesn’t redefine the card game or the film-related memento—but if you know someone who like the stylish director or any of his films, this might do just the trick. —M.B.
5. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $99.98 list)
is one of the true masters of cinema, and unless Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal get together and put out a combined box set (hint: ain’t gonna happen) no single compilation is going to truly be “ultimate,” and if you take marketing language literally, you have more fish to fry than “why doesn’t this set include To Catch a Thief?” But I digress. This impressive set contains 15 films and 10 TV episodes on 17 discs with a whopping 15 hours of bonus content as well as a neat little collectible mini-book. The included films are a mix of widely-known classics (Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest), a pair from the early 1940s (Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt), the innovative Rope, the 1955 comedy-thriller The Trouble With Harry, the 1956 remake of his own 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much and the final 5 features of his career: Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. The final two discs include seven episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents and three from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. All in all, a pretty great snapshot of one of the true geniuses in the history of cinema. —M.R.
4. The Flip Side to Watching What You Eat—The Eat What You Watch Cookbook, ($17.58)
A simple solution for the loved one who likes movies and likes to cook—or maybe just for the food lover who wants to cook some things for others who like movies, The Eat What You Watch Cookbook by YouTube personality Andrew Rea provides 40+ recipes to help you either recreate iconic scenes or specific dishes. —M.B.
3. May the Force of Propaganda Be With You (Barnes and Nobles, $12.98)
Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy came out last year, but this collection of in-universe propaganda posters remains a great gift idea for even the most merched of Star Wars fanatics. Plus, what kind of gift guide would this be without at least one entry from the land that Lucas built (and then marred, and then sold)? —M.B.
2. Wield Thor’s Hammer and Prove Thyself Worthy (of Fixing Things), ThinkGeek, $99)
ThinkGeek has long been a resource for those fond of science, Star Wars and stuff otherwise considered nerdish in nature. Now, joining such instant classic as the Annoy-a-tron and the Tauntaun sleeping bag, there is this 44-piece tool set. Let the bad jokes, clever puns and useful fixes to household problems be summoned by this mighty all-in-one container! —M.B.
1. Introduce Your Loved One to the Wonders of 4K Ultra HD
With the increase in 4K content and hardware, we decided to see if we could put together a quality TV, player and sound bar for a reasonable price and spoiler alert: Yep! In 2013, a decent receiver, speaker system and 51” HD TV ran us about $1,600, with no player. Fast-forward four years and we achieve far more for quite a bit less and the kicker is, they’re all excellent.
The TV: TCL 55P607 Roku TV ($650, $600 at Best Buy without an enhanced remote)
The TV is the most important and likely the most expensive part of any home entertainment setup. Spending $500 on a UHD player and $250 on an off-brand TV is like making a bourbon and coke with 23-year-old Pappy. Sure, you can do it, but why would you?
TCL’s $650 TV plays like $1,500 with many of the bells and whistles of more expensive sets. With a picture that was a winner almost right out of the box, we were able to produce an incredible 4K experience from both Netflix and UHD blu-ray discs with only a modicum of tweaking. (Unless you’re the professional calibration type, you’ll be happy to stop here.) That said, while you can make basic adjustments (sharpness, backlighting, picture mode, etc.) using the remote, more detailed tweaking can be done with Roku’s smartphone app, which is a tiny price to pay for an entry-level set that produces a picture this great.
At the risk of getting slightly too technical, it has both HDR10 and Dolby Vision high dynamic range formats as well as local dimming (a feature usually reserved for significantly more expensive sets) and it’s a Roku TV. Setup is a breeze and we are now full on Roku converts. The enhanced remote is not as fully functional as you might be used to (no number pad), but it does come with voice search and a nifty headphone jack, instantly ending bedtime fights across the land. If you were on the fence about 4K, this set will knock you right off.
The Player: Samsung UBD-M9500 (Samsung, $250)
It seems like easy setup is the trend these days and Samsung’s top-of-the line player is no exception. It was out of the box and playing content in no time. If you’re one of the millions who stream content from multiple devices, you won’t be disappointed, as the M9500 has Bluetooth, WiFi and ethernet, as well as HDR10, the ability to play multiple audio and video formats and its surround output includes DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD. In a true rarity, you can also stream content to your Samsung mobile devices, so you can watch a Blu-ray on your mobile while your roommate watches Netflix on the TV. The player does lack support for Dolby Vision, but that won’t be a deal-breaker for the vast majority of buyers. (At least not yet.) As for upsampling, 1080p blu-rays look great and to be honest, even our Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs looked fine.
The Sound Bar: Vizio SB3651-E6 ($170 at Vizio.com)
We have absolutely nothing bad to say about the performance of this sound bar. If you can find a better budget 5.1 sound source, we’ll eat our hats. This is the third Vizio sound bar we’ve owned, and we see no reason to switch. It outputs Dolby Digital and multiple DTS formats, has four digital inputs (HDMI, HDMI ARC, optical and coaxial) and the rear speakers and subwoofer are smaller than previous models. While the rear speakers are wired, they connect to the subwoofer (which in turn connects to the bar via Bluetooth) so the wires should be behind your couch. The only quibbles we have, everyone has: the front display is a hard-to-decipher series of dots and the lack of a backlit remote. Thankfully, you can use your smartphone as a remote by downloading the Vizio Smartcast app. At $170, this defines no-brainer.
If you really feel the need to splurge, the Samsung Frame is an incredible feat of design,Oppo has a magnificent looking $550 UHD player and Samsung has a $1,200 Dolby Atmos sound bar but for most of us, $1,070 all-in is perfect! —M.R.