There’s no question that Criterion releases are expensive but the level of work that goes into each release makes many of them must-own films. I started buying Criterion Collection laserdiscs in 1989 and my collection has grown to over 300 titles and every month is like a trip to the candy store for movie aficionados. Criterion usually has a huge 50% sale in November so the timing of this couldn’t be better if you’re looking for Christmas/Chanukah gifts this year.
2021 has been a busy year for the Criterion Collection; movies fans have still not returned to theaters in massive numbers and their titles keep selling out as people are staying home.
Criterion’s first 4K Ultra HD releases are also available next week; a seven-film slate that includes Citizen Kane, Menace II Society, Uncut Gems, The Piano, Mulholland Dr., The Red Shoes, and A Hard Day’s Night. The first of these editions and their special features were detailed in the November announcement and there are more titles to follow.
The most dazzling debut in cinema history, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane was Criterion’s first laserdisc release 37 years ago. Buy it now or you will be waiting awhile for the refresh.
Criterion has had some interesting titles this year including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Merrily We Go to Hell which were released in May. If your marriage is on shaky ground — you may want to skip the Dorothy Arzner classic and focus more on Mr. Hand, Jeff Spicoli, and Phoebe Cates.
There are so many Criterion Collection titles to consider but we wanted to simplify the process and offer our picks that we think belong in any home video collection.
Adam Sandler’s surprising performance was completely ignored by the Oscars and there’s something criminal about that. The price is certainly wrong for Sandler in this dark tale of sports gambling, and shady jewelry dealers set in New York.
Beasts of No Nation
A truly harrowing film told through the eyes of a child soldier in a West African country torn apart by a bloody civil war. Idris Elba is beyond frightening as the guerrilla leader who turns the young boy into a ruthless killer.
Menace II Society
A film that played second fiddle to Boyz n the Hood but was actually much more visceral and honest about life in Watts in the 1990s. Samuel Jackson doesn’t have a huge role but he’s incredibly effective and heartless.
The Bad Sleep Well
One of the most underrated Kurosawa films staring Toshiro Mifune offers a less than flattering portrayal of post-war Japanese corporate greed and betrayal. Mifune never sees it coming and neither will you.
Even further evidence that Kurosawa’s greatest films were not his classic samurai fare but this life affirming tale about the acceptance of death. Takashi Shimura’s greatest achievement as an actor and a beautiful film with great meaning throughout.
To Be or Not to Be
Hollywood stopped making dark comedies like this Lubitsch classic starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in her final role. Not one ounce of political correctness which treats the Nazis with the contempt that they deserved.
Ace in the Hole
Turn off the news and turn back the clock as Billy Wilder crucifies the news media and our appetite for sensationalism in this hard hitting drama starring Kirk Douglas in one his best roles. This film made almost 71 years ago predicted our current state of affairs with frightening accuracy.
Samuel Fuller didn’t make subtle films; he usually hit you over the head with his subversive but always eye-opening commentaries on war, racism, mental illness, and obsession. It’s dark and nobody has a happy ending in this one.
The Lady Vanishes
Hitchcock made a lot of really big films after this one but few were as fun and there’s something about a caper on a train with enemy agents, murder, and a looming global conflict to make this one of his “must own” movies.