By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Warner Bros.): It's the collector's-set briefcase that seals the deal, a gunmetal-gray case that all but shouts "Completist dork!" Also: There's damned near every single version imaginable, plus a making-of doc almost as essential as any iteration of the movie itself. Film school in a box, grade A-plus.
Nosferatu: Ultimate Edition(Kino): Kino busted heads all year with its special editions of silent classics (see also: Battleship Potemkin). This gorgeous restoration practically made a new movie out of F.W. Murnau's Dracula prototype, and clips from other Murnau films show there's plenty more left in the vault.
Knocked Up (Universal) and Superbad (Sony) unrated, extended editions: For Judd Apatow, theatrical releases appear to be mere excuses for DVD extras — like Knocked Up's casting-call mockumentary, in which Apatow tries to play "young," and the Superbad audition short that tops anything in the actual movie.
Ford at Fox: The Collection (Fox): The John Holmes of holiday DVDs, this set of early Ford films bullied its way to stardom through sheer size. There's plenty worth watching (21 discs — how could there not be?) and a bit to read too: A hardcover book and well-made documentary make this a must-own for fans of early American films and those with lots of shelf space.
Ace in the Hole (Criterion): This ranks high among Billy Wilder's least-known offerings and stars Kirk Douglas as a loathsome, scheming journalist, for whom swapping a life for a headline ain't no big thing. With several wild-about-Billy docs, a Spike Lee outro, and other essentials, it's the year's most important release: history lesson as cautionary tale.
The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky (Anchor Bay): Here it is, folks: win, place, and show in the International What the Fuck? Film Festival. Long-cherished among people on drugs, these previously unavailable, weird-ass, and bloody art flicks will freak you out and confound you in equal measures.
House of Games (Criterion): Not David Mamet's best work, but this edition exists almost solely as a vehicle for the commentary track between Mamet and star/con-artist-consultant/coolest-man-on-earth Ricky Jay. Their freewheeling conversation on dramatic structure, fraud, and how to steal without a gun may be the first commentary that's better than the movie.
Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition (Paramount): After years of studio dicking around, the most uneven show in television history gets the full-bore treatment it deserves. The previously unavailable feature-length pilot alone would be reason enough to cheer, but the heavy helping of docs makes this set a classic. Of course, the second season still blows.
The First Films of Samuel Fuller (Criterion): Released the same year Brad Pitt dolled up and hammed it up as Jesse James, this box features Fuller's shorter, sharper take on Bob Ford's betrayal by bullet, I Shot Jesse James. Also: Vincent Price is The Baron of Arizona in his best performance outside of a Batman episode, while the director dons The Steel Helmet in 1951 for the first, best movie about the Korean War till M*A*S*H two decades later.
Planet Earth (BBC): The high-def version renders the big blue marble a three-dimensional trippy-trip, perfect for those who like to travel without getting any wetter than bong water. Educational too, so we're told, except that every time you try learning something — like, oh, how polar bears are riding out global warming — the visuals prove so intoxicating, it takes a good 12, 14 viewings for the substance to stick.