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Outstanding DVD Releases of the Decade



The decade has seen the release of some outstanding movies on DVD, and I've made a list of those I found to be the best. My criteria included the artistic merit of the content, the enhancement value of the bonus materials, and the picture and sound quality. The list is ordered by DVD release date from the most recent to the oldest.

'The Seventh Seal' (Criterion Collection 2009)

'The Seventh Seal' DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) was arguably the seminal film in what became a wave of subtitled foreign movies that large numbers of Americans went to see in specialty theaters known as art houses. Later, Bergman's masterpiece was seen at home by many more on television, videotape, laserdisc and the 1999 Criterion Collection single-disc DVD. On June 16, 2009, Criterion released a new two-disc DVD version of The Seventh Seal that is superior to the 1999 edition in every way and includes an audio commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie.

DVD Release Date: June 16, 2009

'The Godfather Collection — The Coppola Restoration'

'The Godfather' Collection — The Coppola Restoration' DVD Cover Art
© 2008 Paramount Pictures
Directed by Francis Coppola, The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) comprise what is arguably the greatest film trilogy of all time. They chronicle the life of Mafia boss Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who accumulates great wealth and power, but fares poorly as a family man. And as his father (Marlon Brando) says, "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." The DVD set contains all three movies (with fully restored versions of the two 1970s films), audio commentary by Coppola that exceeds nine hours and over four hours of other extras.

DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008

'Battleship Potemkin' (Kino Two-DVD Boxed Set)

'Battleship Potemkin' DVD Cover Art
© Kino
Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) is an important silent film, both in terms of cinema history and world history. This DVD set contains the 2005 restoration of the movie, which incorporates all known footage, has good picture quality, and has the score from the 1926 Berlin premiere in 5.1 stereo. The DVDs contain two slightly different versions of Potemkin, one with English intertitles, the other with Russian intertitles (with English subtitles available). Also, there's an informative documentary describing how the restorers tried to come as close as possible to Eisenstein's intentions.

DVD Release Date: October 23, 2007

‘Pandora's Box’ (Criterion Collection Two-Disc DVD Set)

© The Criterion Collection
Pandora's Box DVD Cover
American actress Louise Brooks gives an unforgettable performance in G.W. Pabst's psychologically complex, hypnotically resonant silent masterpiece Pandora's Box (1929), and this DVD set is one of the best of all time. The picture quality of the feature film is very good, and there is a choice of four musical scores. The outstanding extras include a documentary on Brooks, an interview with her when she was about 65, an informative scholarly audio commentary and a 96-page booklet with excellent essays.

DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006

'Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier' DVD

'Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier' DVD Cover Art
© 2006 by Paramount Pictures / © 1979 Omni Zoetrope / © 2000 Zoetrope Corporation
Beginning with winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola stunned the film world in 1979 with his brilliant Apocalypse Now. Years later, the footage shot in the 1970s was reedited and released in 2001 under the title Apocalypse Now Redux. The main difference between the versions is that Redux contains 49 minutes of footage not included in the earlier release. Both versions are available on this DVD set. I've always been fascinated by Coppola's masterpiece, and Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier has deepened my understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary film.

DVD Release Date: August 15, 2006

'The 400 Blows' (Criterion Collection) DVD

'The 400 Blows' DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
One of best movies ever made about adolescence, The 400 Blows (1959) is a lyrical and accessible movie that appears on most lists of great films. The movie is semi-autobiographical, and I imagine that's one of the reasons it has such a strong emotional pull. It feels free-flowing and spontaneous, and even though writer-director François Truffaut avoids sentimentality, he fills his movie with warmth and humor. The Criterion Collection includes two audio commentaries: one by Truffaut's longtime friend Robert Lachenay and the other by cinema professor Brian Stonehill.

DVD Release Date: May 9, 2006

'Mr. Arkadin' (Criterion Collection Three-Disc DVD Set)

'Mr. Arkadin' DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
Long before there was a Sundance film festival, Orson Welles was forced to become an independent filmmaker. So it's not surprising Welles' Mr. Arkadin (1955) is fresher and more entertaining than many new movies. With its mix of melodrama, pulpiness, and Wellesian theatricality, this is one of the strangest films I've ever seen, but I found it fascinating. This highly stylized movie is visually striking, the superb dialogue is laced with sardonic humor, and the narrative is compelling. The DVD set has a variety of extras, including three different film versions of Mr. Arkadin.

'Fanny and Alexander' (Criterion Collection Five-Disc DVD Set)

'Fanny and Alexander' DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
The Swedish-language Fanny and Alexander (1982) was Ingmar Bergman's final masterpiece, serving as a sort of summing up of his body of work. The theatrical version takes up only one disc in this five-disc set, and it comes with a feature-length commentary by Peter Cowie. Two of the discs are consumed by the television version of Fanny and Alexander, which runs 312 minutes. This leaves two discs for bonus materials, including Bergman's 110-minute making-of documentary.

DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004

'The Leopard' (Criterion Collection Three-Disc DVD Set)

The Leopard DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
I think Luchino Visconti's The Leopard (1963) is one of the great all-time movies, and Burt Lancaster gives an unforgettable performance in it. Disc 1 has the wonderful Italian-language version of the feature film, optionally accompanied by feature-length commentary by Peter Cowie. Disc 2 contains bonus materials, including a making-of, a producer interview, and historical background. Disc 3 has the abridged English-language version of the movie, which I regard as merely a curiosity.

DVD Release Date: June 8, 2004

'The Rules of the Game' (Criterion Collection Two-Disc DVD Set)

'The Rules of the Game'  DVD Cover Art
© The Criterion Collection
I rate Jean Renoir's French-language The Rules of the Game (1939) one of the two or three greatest films of all time, and it features an unforgettable performance by Marcel Dalio. Criterion Collection released it as a two-disc set, where Disc 1 has the feature film and a feature-length scholarly audio commentary by Alexander Sesonske. Disc 2 contains a number of bonus materials, including a BBC documentary on Renoir and a French TV program where the director discusses his movie.

DVD Release Date: January 20, 2004

'The Decalogue' (Facets Three-Disc DVD Set)

'The Decalogue' DVD Cover Art
© Facets
The Decalogue is a drama cycle consisting of 10 episodes originally made for Polish TV, and I believe watching it is an experience no thoughtful person will want to miss. The driving creative force behind The Decalogue was Krzysztof Kieslowski, who co-wrote and directed all 10 episodes, which are inspired by the Ten Commandants. But the biblical origins of the idea for the episodes notwithstanding, the cycle is humanistic rather than religious. The Decalogue comes as a three-disc set that includes an introduction by film critic Roger Ebert, a booklet and more.

DVD Release Date: August 19, 2003

'Citizen Kane' Special Edition DVD

"Citizen Kane" DVD Cover Art
© Warner Home Video
Citizen Kane (1941) is an enduring masterpiece that is considered by many -- myself included -- to be the greatest movie ever made. Welles' portrayal of the title character is unexcelled. I think that the visual style of "Citizen Kane" looks stunningly fresh and inventive even today. Film critic Roger Ebert's audio commentary is probably the best I've heard on any DVD so far. Also included is the documentary "The Battle over Citizen Kane" and an additional commentary by Peter Bogdanovich.

DVD Release Date: September 25, 2001
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