Whether you just scored a DVD player over the holidays or you bore your friends talking about anamorphic transfers, wide-screen ratios and Criterion editions, digital video discs are here to stay. But which DVDs are renters and which are keepers? Here's my dream list to compile the perfect DVD film library. Just in time for those long winter nights - just me, a bowl of popcorn and my remote control. You'll like them too.
No other piece of consumer electronics has ever caught on as quickly as the DVD. It took a decade for the VCR to achieve the 50 per cent market penetration the DVD player has reached in about six years. And the industry has reaped the benefits - studio hit releases can sell a million copies of a movie in a week, unimaginable 10 years ago. As the studios gradually dig into their vaults, movie buffs have also benefited. There are things out on DVD that I never expected to see again. And while all DVD transfers are not created equal, be grateful after 20 years of fuzzy, panned-and-scanned VHS tapes that people now make the effort to give us films in the proper aspect ratio.
This list is extremely subjective. It isn't a "50 greatest movies on DVD," which would be a different list, though it does include some pretty great films. It's 50 outstanding DVDs that would make up a collection from a wide range of genres and vintages.
My choice was also affected by the continuing and rapid changes in the DVD marketplace. For instance, I was about to include the French special edition of Jean Renoir's The Rules Of The Game, which I think is the greatest film of all time. Then Criterion announced that it's releasing a two-disc SE of the film at the end of the month - too late to include, as I've not seen it, but it certainly renders the French issue moot for this list. MGM has a big Ingmar Bergman box coming in February, including Persona and Shame and a boatload of extras. But I've not seen it, so al though it may well be essential, it's not on the list either .
Rather than trying to order the list (is Treasures From The American Film Archives "better" or "worse" than Fight Club: Special Edition?), I've broken it into categories that are pretty much arbitrary, except for the one listing films that require a multi-region player.
And if some of these reviews seem perfunctory, check my top-10 list for 2003.