Question of the Week: What are your favorite Criterion Collection films?

By Ted Saydalavong

The Criterion Collection is a video-distribution company selling “important classic and contemporary films” to cinema lovers everywhere. It was founded back in 1984 and they only released their films on Laser Disc (remember those?) back when VHS was the king in home video market. Then later they released their films on DVD when that format became popular and now Blu-ray. I still have my Criterion Collection of Robocop on DVD, I spent $35 on it, that’s nothing though compare to the $100 price tag on the Laser Disc version.

The reason why the price is so high on these Criterion titles is because they preserve the original aspect ratio of films, back in the VHS days there weren’t many titles available in wide-screen format, so a lot of directors weren’t thrill when their films comes out on video and the picture got butchered with pan and scan option. Criterion also offer the director’s cut version of films which again back in the VHS days, you won’t be able to find one in video cassette format.

When DVD became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Criterion also included special features on their discs, a lot of behind the scenes stuff and commentary by the filmmakers. Their brand name took a hit sometime in the late 90s, early 2000s when they decided to release two Michael Bay films, Armageddon and The Rock. After that debacle they’ve decided to only release films that are considered classic or well respected by film critics and fans.

They started releasing their films on Blu-ray in late 2008, after the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray has ended. The prices for their discs are still high compare to other Blu-ray titles out in the market, but again they offer the best in quality when it comes to picture and sound. One of the best titles of Criterion Blu-ray—and one of my favorites— is The Thin Red Line (read my review). They went and restored the film to the highest quality with approval from the film’s director, Terrence Malick. Here’s a list of my favorite Criterion Collection, as you can see, another one of Malick’s films made my list:

  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
  • Days of Heaven (1978)
  • The Wages of Fear (1953)
  • Gomorrah (2008)
  • Walkabout (1971)
  • Red Desert (1964)

Wikipedia has the list of Criterion titles available on both DVD and Blu-ray. If you’re into classic films, then you’ll love those Criterion titles and if you have a Blu-ray player, get those films on that format. Here’s the link to list of Criterion films available on Blu-ray.

So what are your favorite Criterion Collection films?

35 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What are your favorite Criterion Collection films?

        1. Crap, maybe that’s not it? I stand corrected. I’ll check later on tonight. I have a copy of Citizen Kane, and I know they released a laserdisc version of it. But I’m not sure if they released a DVD version of it. What I have is a special 2 disc collection and I could’ve sworn it was an out of print Criterion.

  1. Great idea! I had a similar entry right around the holidays, where I listed my 10 favorites to mirror Criterion’s own “Top 10” series- found here:

    My list went (in order): The Fire Within/ Ikiru/ The Exterminating Angel/ The Seventh Seal/ Peeping Tom/ The Passion of Joan of Arc/ I Am Curious–Yellow/ Contempt/ Pépé le Moko/ Carnival of Souls.

    I also reigned myself in a little. I definitely would’ve included 2 or 3 more Bergmans (and another Bunuel or two) in there but for me, it was more about finding a diverse list that I enjoyed.

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  3. paula

    i suppose Black Narcissus, Le Samouraï and L’Eclisse are the ones i’ve watched the most. it’s fun to think about which films from now will end up in the Collection. Inception is one that i’d really like to see.

    1. I just saw Le Samourai not too long ago. And though it’s not exactly my fave, I appreciate how stylish it is in its minimalism. And yeah, Inception should make the Criterion Collection, surely.

  4. I could spend thousands on Criterion editions if left to my own devices. Actually a road trip to The States this summer was extra exciting since it meant I could take advantage of Barnes & Noble’s 50% off Criterion sale in July!

    Aside from my Criterion copy of TRAFFIC, which has been autographed by Steven Soderbergh…

    – M
    – CHE

    1. WOW, you’ve got an autographed copy of TRAFFIC?? Awesome Hatter! I LOVE The Thin Red Line, thanks to Ted who invited me over to watch it on his giant 100″ projector screen! It’d be in my fave CC list for sure.

  5. Funk

    It’s really tough to chose, all are top notch so I went with the ones I watch over and over again..
    Easy Rider
    Time Bandits
    The Last Emperor
    Ride With the Devil

    1. I saw The Last Emperor at the theater and was blown away by Bertollucci’s masterpiece. It was hard to watch at times but hauntingly beautiful.

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    1. PrairieGirl

      I really liked The Third Man too. Found out this past weekend as I was watching the commentary for the Dalton Bond film The Living Daylights (also liked a lot) that both movies used the same Prater Park in Vienna for their amusement park scenes. Very interesting to see the same setting right after the war, and then again almost 40 years later.

        1. PrairieGirl

          Loved it in Prater Park where the carny cut him off from continuing to shoot – the pros make it too easy! Doubt I’ll ever see all the JB films, so Sam’s wrap up was great to check out, a very good summary.

          1. PrairieGirl

            Saw Charade a LONG time ago, can’t totally recall it all but I remember both AH and CG were very good in it, shot in Paris I think? With a boat scene on the Seine?I’m sure it’s worth another view.

      1. paula

        isn’t that interesting? i just watched The Third Man, i will have to watch Living Daylights again and pay more attention. i don’t know why exactly, but i’ve probably seen some of it 5 or 6 times…whenever i run across it on TV i have to watch it. ???

        1. PrairieGirl

          paula, not sure if anyone could tell it’s the same park in both movies just by watching the scenes. In The Third Man it’s only about 2 years after WWII ended, the park is in half in ruble, deserted and shot in black/white. TLD was filmed 38 years later and in color, with it very much brought back to life. It wasn’t until I watched the commentary for TLD that I found out they were filmed in the same location.

  7. Just found out Ben-Hur is NOT part of CC, but Spartacus is???! Seriously, Ben-Hur is ten times the better film anyway you look at it… ah well, clearly it is still a very subjective list.

    1. Ted S

      My guess is that they probably couldn’t get the rights for Ben-Hur, otherwise it would’ve been part of their collections. I read somewhere that the people who owns the majority rights to the film aren’t fans of it. I’m sure they’re the ones who won’t sell the rights to Criterion.

    2. Indeed BEN-HUR isn’t in the collection…but have you seen the tripped-out, four-disc, bug-squashing edition of the film that Warner released a few years ago??

      Might as well be a CC for how much comes jam-packed inside!

      1. Oh no, I didn’t know about that. I better search for it even though I’d rather wait until the Blu-ray version is released. That chariot race would look smashing no doubt!

  8. Like some people pointed out Yojinbo, Sanjuro, and Seven Samurai are just awesome (I own the Blu Rays and they’re worth it).

    I’d love BEN HUR if that day should come.

    But one thing I never understood was the criteria behind which films get in the collection. It’s certainly a very odd collection of films that get the CC stamp.

    I mean they have lots of Kurosawa, some Wes Anderson, and 2, count them 2 Micheal Bay films, but Ben Hur, and anything from Scorsese and Spielberg is missing. What with that? And yes I own both of those Bay films:P

    1. Well since I don’t currently own any CC dvd/bd, Ben-Hur will most likely be the first one I’d buy from the collection. I think as Ted said below, it’s probably a rights issue from the studio.

      Ha..ha.. Marc, we all have our guilty pleasures, right? I gotta admit I quite like The Rock, I mean Connery, Cage, Ed Harris AND Michael Biehn? It certainly was good fun.

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