Films, like diamonds, are forever. Lest any of us forget it, we've now got DVDs to remind us.We've already done our list of Top 10 Films of the Year, but since it's become clear that DVDs are where movies come to live — and what we best remember them by — it seems only right to introduce our first list of the Best DVDs of the Year.
Some of the very best DVDs released in '02 won't appear on this list, but that shouldn't discourage you from seeking them out — if your machine is capable of playing them, that is. In order to simplify things, we've restricted our best-of entries to titles released in the good ol' U.S.A., but I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that some of the year's most exciting releases hail from elsewhere. Any movie lover capable of viewing PAL or non-Region 1 should check out the phenomenal UK edition of Straw Dogs, the Italian disc of Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man), or the astonishing box sets from Hideo Teshigahara (Japan) and Hou Hsiou-Hsien (Taiwan). And don't forget that French DVD of Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us, which looks infinitely better than the U.S. release and contains a second disc of extras not available here.
America is still the king of the DVD world, though, and the 20 titles on this survey are only the tip of the gleaming digital iceberg that appeared in 2002. There were far too many runner-ups to mention them all, but we'd be completely remiss if we didn't at least tip a hat to Anchor Bay's groundbreaking Giallo Collection and their very cool Klaus Kinski/Werner Herzog box set, which is the best reissue of the year. And let's not forget Amelie, Wellspring's Fassbinder-ific Merchant of Four Seasons and Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Criterion's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and The Outer Limits: Season One, all fantastic discs to watch again and again.
1. Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Accept no substitute: New Line's four-disc edition of Peter Jackson's epic fantasy features an even longer and stronger cut of LOTR than the one we saw in theaters and on the standard two-disc set. The meticulously crafted 208-minute version presented here allows the film to breathe and soar in ways that was previously only hinted at. Add state-of-the-art production and two full discs jammed with fascinating extras, and you've got not just the best DVD of the year, but one of the best DVDs ever.
2. Children of Paradise Marcel Carne's epic of 19th century Parisian high life and low lives is often thought of as the Gone With the Wind of France. Frankly, it's an even better film than that. Criterion's exquisite double-disc set features Carne's 1945 masterpiece in a gorgeous high-definition transfer, along with two insightful commentaries, production designs, historical info, an intro by Terry Gilliam, and a slew of other tasty extras.
3. Sunset Boulevard One of the greatest American movies of all time, Billy Wilder's wickedly funny film noir comes to DVD in a meticulously restored transfer and a wealth of supplemental materials including a virtual reconstruction of the controversial and long unseen original opening sequence.
4. True Romance/Pulp Fiction/Jackie Brown Virtually everything that Quentin Tarantino ever breathed life into transformed into lavish DVD editions last year, complete with oodles of deleted and extended scenes, interviews, trivia, behind-the-scenes features, and, of course, stunning picture and sound. It's nice to see all these films put into context, with the Jackie Brown disc serving as a particularly superb shrine to Pam Grier.
5. Rashomon Akira Kurosawa's seminal film gets the deluxe Criterion treatment, and the world is a happier place. The film's superbly composed imagery is immaculately reproduced and complemented by Donald Ritchie's expert commentary, vintage interviews with Kurosawa and the Rashomon cinematographer, an introduction by Robert Altman, and a beautifully produced, 26-page booklet.
6. Mickey Mouse in Color/Mickey Mouse in Black and White Watch the birth and evolution of the world's most famous cartoon character unfold before your eyes in these two double-disc sets containing pretty much every snippet in which Disney's beloved rodent ever appeared. Wonderful extras like original pencil test footage and storyboard sequences make even Leonard Maltin's cloying input bearable.
7. Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon Jacques Tournier's multilayered tale of faith, reason and big, scary demons is one of the undisputed classics of horror cinema. Columbia TriStar's edition presents both the U.S. version and the longer, re-edited U.K. release in lovely transfers that highlight the film's elegantly atmospheric black-and-white camerawork.
8. Contempt An overheated Jack Palance, a nude Brigitte Bardot and a very curious appearance by Fritz Lang are only some of the sublime pleasures found in what is perhaps Jean-Luc Godard's most accessible (and, in its glossy way, most subversive) movie. Criterion's amazing two-disc set features a ravishing, anamorphic widescreen transfer, as well as a solid commentary track and a full disc of rare, vintage material devoted to Godard, Bardot and Lang.