1 The Rules of the Game (Criterion) A beautiful transfer of the greatest film ever made. Jean Renoir 's classic 1939 country house tragicomedy gets the full Criterion treatment: alternate ending, critical commentary, BBC documentary on Renoir, French television interview with Renoir by new wave director Jacques Rivette , interviews with actors, the set designer and Renoir's son, who was a camera assistant on the film. It was a good year for Renoir fans, since Criterion also released a great three-disc collection, Stage And Spectacle, that included his three great colour films from the 1950s, French Cancan, Elena And Her Men and The Golden Coach.
2 SCTV Network 90, Volume 1 (Shout Factory/SMV) After years of airing on the box chopped into syndicated half-hours, SCTV was finally issued on DVD, one of the year's triumphs. The first season of NBC episodes was restored to its original form, with all the connecting tissue and story arcs intact. The secret of SCTV is that while the parts are hilarious, the whole is even funnier. These shows aren't just random collections of sketches.
3 Fanny And Alexander (Criterion) If it was a good year for Renoir fans, it was a great year for Ingmar Bergman fans. MGM's boxed set brought us Persona, Shame and The Passion Of Anna, while Criterion, where Bergman is a franchise, released Smiles Of A Summer Night and two fat boxed sets devoted to Scenes From A Marriage and Fanny And Alexander, each providing the theatrical cut alongside the five-hour-plus television version. I'll take Fanny And Alexander as the funnest release of the two; you don't really watch the claustrophobic chamber drama of Scenes for pleasure.
4 Shadows, Lies And Private Eyes: The Film Noir Collection (Warner) Over the past two years, Warner Home Video has jumped to the fore in archival reissues. This year, they filled a major gap in the Hitchcock DVD filmography with their Hitchcock box, completed the Scorsese DVD filmography and gave us the overdue GoodFellas special edition and issued all the MGM Marx Brothers films. The crown jewel was The Film Noir Collection, a five-disc box with exquisite transfers of Out Of The Past , Gun Crazy , The Set-Up , Murder, My Sweet and The Asphalt Jungle , all classics and all DVD premieres.
5 The Simpsons: Complete Fourth Season (20th Century Fox) The Simpsons season boxes emerge exceedingly slowly from Fox because the creators want to get them right. For fans, it's frustrating - as Carrie Fisher once said, "The problem with instant gratification is that it's not fast enough" - but ultimately rewarding. Season Four - Marge Vs. The Monorail, A Streetcar Named Marge - was the first Conan O'Brien season and one of the greatest. The DVDs have cast and crew commentaries on every episode and a great assortment of extras. A couple of episodes even have unlisted second commentaries.
6 Videodrome (Criterion) David Cronenberg 's 1983 masterpiece may be the weirdest movie released by a major studio since the early 70s. If you doubt that, check the trailers on this great Criterion disc - Universal plainly couldn't figure out how to sell it. A McLuhanesque horror film about the potentially toxic effects of watching TV, like McLuhan it looks more prescient with the passage of time. Cronenberg supervised the transfer, and there are two commentaries and a full disc of extras, with special attention paid to the effects, as well as the complete versions of the films seen in snippets within the main film. The perfect complements to Videodrome are early Cronenberg features Stereo and Crimes Of The Future, which turned up this year on Blue Underground's special edition of Fast Company.
7 Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2 (Warner) What's Opera, Doc? One Froggy Evening. Porky In Wackyland. A full disc of Coyote-Roadrunner cartoons. A full disc of cartoons by Bob Clampett, "the man who put the 'looney' in Looney Tunes." The amazing thing about the Warner cartoon archive is that after eight DVDs and almost 120 cartoons, they're not scraping bottom. They're barely scraping middle. A terrific array of complementary features includes a documentary on Clampett, commentaries on more than half the cartoons, and oddities like the 1962 pilot for the Wile E. Coyote TV series.
8 Hellboy (Columbia/TriStar) With due respect to Spider-Man 2, Hellboy was the year's best comic-book adaptation, and the DVD offers two commentaries, interstitial car-toons by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola , the screenplay and script supervisor's notes in DVD-ROM format, a tw0-hour making-of documentary, animatics, multiple angle options - all those things that we've come to expect yet so seldom receive in the post-Lord Of The Rings extended editions world. Note that this is the two-disc special edition. The three-disc director's cut seems to have all the same material and more, but I've not seen it, even though it's sitting in my "to watch" pile.
9 The Battle Of Algiers (Criterion) Gillo Pontecorvo 's remarkable drama and classic piece of left-wing agitprop, anti-colonialist division, was thrust back into the spotlight after the Pentagon started screening it in-house to study Arab world liberation movements. Criterion's three-disc special edition has the usual material on the making and context of the film, but also includes featurettes with participants in the Algerian war against the French and discussions of terrorism with Richard Clarke , Clinton's and Bush's point man on anti-terrorism until Bush got sick of hearing about al Qaeda.
10 Master And Commander (20th Century Fox) This is one of the most geek-friendly of the year's major studio releases. The DVD's producers realize that if someone is actually going to watch a documentary on computer-generated effects or shipbuilding for movies, then they should make it as detailed and obsessive as possible. M&C gets knocked down the rankings, though, by its lack of a director's commentary.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb