[The Editor's Top 25]

The following are the editor's top 25 DVDs to ever hit the street. If the following tends to differ from the top-selling discs out there, it's because this is all about movies, and there is little point in discussing how good a particular DVD looks or sounds if the film is crap — there is no point in watching bad films more than once. Yr. hmb. ed. will take a slightly damaged print of The Philadelphia Story with a mono soundtrack on DVD over Starship Troopers any day.

That said, all of these discs are of excellent quality, and besides featuring great films, they all include some sort of "special edition" content, which is required to get on the Top 25. You will probably disagree with some of these picks, but make no mistake — if you just bought a DVD player or you've got a few bucks to burn, each one of these discs deserves a place in your personal collection.

Counting backwards...

25. Die Hard: Five Star Collection

Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan virtually re-invented the action film for the '80s and beyond with this Christmas favorite, which also features Alan Rickman as one of the best baddies in Hollywood history. Fox's two-disc Die Hard: Five Star Collection features a solid transfer, two commentary tracks, a third text-only track, expanded and deleted scenes, outtakes, raw newscast footage, magazine-article reprints, a scene-editing and an audio-mixing workshop, and a great "Slide Show" with digressive presentations of outtakes, blueprints and behind-the-scenes footage. And while you're here, check out the complete screenplay. "Yippie-ki-yay," DVD lovers!

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24. North By Northwest

Classic films require definitive DVD editions, and Warner's North By Northwest is sure to satisfy the most ardent Hitchcock buffs. Along with the beautiful anamorphic transfer and new DD 5.1 mix, features include the 40-minute documentary "Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North By Northwest," hosted by Eva Marie Saint, a commentary by scenarist Ernest Lehman, both the theatrical trailer and the traditionally droll Hitchcock teaser, as well as a 60-second TV spot (all three anamorphic), a stills gallery, and Bernard Hermann's unmistakable score on a isolated track. Buy it now — we're not kidding.

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23. The Adventures of Robin Hood

All the storybook thrills are here in plenty, boisterously decked out with grand pageantry, Lincoln green tights, peaked feathered hats, and jewel-lined doublets. The heroics are served straight up with absolutely no subtexual messages or "postmodern irony." The Adventures of Robin Hood is corny in all the right ways and exists purely for the joy of being entertaining. If you swaggered through your life as unself-conscious as this movie, you'd get arrested or have your own TV show. Warner's DVD features the documentary "Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of the Adventures of Robin Hood", a documentary on the Technicolor process, a music-only track, two Looney Tunes cartoons, the short films "Cavalcade of Archery" and "The Cruise of the Zaca," and more.

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22. The Star Wars Trilogy

Devoted fans can continue to carp about George Lucas's 1997 "Special Editions" of his famous space-opera trilogy that spanned 1977-83, and the 2004 DVD release will do nothing to placate them, with even more alterations, some technical, some for the sake of making the story more cohesive with his latter-day prequels. But still, we're ultimately talking about maybe 10 minutes of noticeable changes in a 388-minute story, and one that continues to enthrall audiences. In addition to the three films, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the fourth disc in this set includes a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage, some of which is simply jaw-droppingly stunning. While this collection may have its flaws (including a reported snafu with the score), it's still Star Wars. And short of having the 1995 THX-remastered Laserdiscs, there's no better way to see the saga again.

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21a. This Is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection
21b. This is Spinal Tap (MGM version)

Criterion's DVD of Rob Reiner's classic This Is Spinal Tap was only available for a matter of months before it was withdrawn. Many months later, MGM released a new DVD with additional supplements. Put them together and you have three commentary tracks, the original 20-minute "Spinal Tap" short, an hour of outtakes, music videos, fake commercials, a TV appearance, and more. If you own both Criterion's and MGM's Spinal Tap, we say the pair goes to 11.

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20. Lawrence of Arabia: Limited Edition

Plagued by a production shoot that dragged on for more than two years, David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia could have been a financial disaster; instead, it's one of Hollywood's happiest accidents, a brilliant epic about a British adventurer who remains a mystery to all who know him. Columbia TriStar's two-disc "limited edition" features the 1988 restored version of the film, and also included are the documentary The Making of Lawrence of Arabia, four original featurettes from the film's production, a brief "conversation" with Steven Spielberg (who had a part in the restoration), newsreel footage of the New York premiere, a slide show of advertising campaign images, and more. The dual-DVD digipak — which looks and feels like a hard-bound book — is pretty nifty too.

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19. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Special Edition

The critical firmament is in near total agreement on John Huston's paean to the destructive power of greed — The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a model of clean narrative invention, unimpeachably great acting, and unfussy direction. One of the bleakest assessments of human nature to ever escape Hollywood's conforming grasp, it's sustained by Humphrey Bogart's performance, perhaps the finest example of a movie star fearlessly going against type in the history of film. Warner's two-disc special edition features a commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax, a "Warner Night at the Movies, 1948" option, the documentary "John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick," a Looney Tunes short, and a 1949 radio broadcast of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with stars Bogart and Walter Huston.

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18. Singin' in the Rain: 50th Anniversary Edition

The greatest movie musical gets the royal treatment. Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds star in a funny, affectionate, romantic spoof of 1920s Hollywood, specifically the troubled transition between silent and sound cinema. Exquisite picture and audio plus enough commentary, documentaries, and other extras to supply a film school course on the subject.

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17. The Third Man: The Criterion Collection

Uniting several enormous talents on one single production — director Carol Reed, scenarist Graham Greene, producers Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick, and actors Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten — 1949's The Third Man is a landmark of international cinema, with a slow-burning noir plot and expressionist stylistics. Criterion's 2007 DVD release improves upon the 1999 original with a slightly improved transfer, two commentaries (one featuring Steven Soderbergh), an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, a restoration demonstration, an abridged version of the novel on an alternate track, the 1951 Lux Radio version of The Third Man starring Cotten, a radio episode of "The Lives of Harry Lime," written by and starring Welles, both the U.S. and U.K. introductions to the film, the U.S. theatrical trailer, production notes, a promo reel of Anton Karas and his amazing zither, and an archival segment on the Vienna sewer system. Few DVD releases are this definitive.

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16. Jules and Jim: The Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection has given François Truffaut's masterpiece the treatment it richly deserves. War, marriage, infidelity, and the simple, enervating passage of time play upon his three lead characters, yet the governing mood remains one of giddiness. The director tells his story in a mad collision of fast moving images and detached third-person narration, cramming three decades' worth of incident into 105 minutes so effortlessly that the film plays as revelatory today as it must have at the time of its release. Criterion's two-disc edition offers a gorgeous transfer with crisp audio, two audio commentaries, documentary excerpts and interviews, stills, a trailer, and essays, including Pauline Kael's legendary review.

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15. King Kong: Collector's Edition (1933)

That big ape's fingerprints are everywhere. Jack Kerouac gave King Kong (along with Lamont Cranston, Popeye, and the Marx Brothers) credit for originating the Beat Generation. "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?" asks The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Without Kong, the movies that showcased Ray Harryhausen's effects work in the 1950s and '60s would have never been made, movies that inspired later filmmakers such as Landis, Lucas, and Spielberg. Like religious iconography, some elements from movie history have achieved a sort of transcendence. Chaplin's Little Tramp. Darth Vader's mask. That big ape might be the biggest. Warner's two-disc King Kong: Collector's Edition offers a strong transfer from pleasantly restored materials, while a wealth of documentaries and retrospectives are included, all in an attractive tin case.

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14. Vertigo: Collector's Edition

Regarded by many Hitchcock critics to be his finest film, Universal's Vertigo is a stellar achievement. Transferred from the meticulously restored print, the image is sharp and colorful, and the numerous extras include a commentary by associate producer Herbert Coleman, restoration team members Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, and others; the American Movie Classics documentary "Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Alfred Hitchcock's Masterpiece"; the alternate ending from censored foreign editions; and storyboards, production drawings, production photographs, and advertising materials. The use of Saul Bass's original theatrical poster for the boxcover art was a nice touch on the initial release.

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13. Taxi Driver: Collector's Edition

One of Martin Scorsese's best films — featuring one of Robert De Niro's most whacked-out performances — gets the five-star DVD treatment. Fantastic transfer, and extras include a "making-of" documentary, the full screenplay with interactive access to corresponding scenes, a theatrical trailer, advertising materials, storyboards of the climactic sequence, a photo montage, a portrait gallery, and textual supplements.

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12. Se7en: Platinum Series (second edition)

The first DVD edition of Se7en was released in March of 1997, when the DVD format was just getting off the launching pad, and fans of the film always found the disc lacking. So New Line came up with a two-disc Se7en in 2000, with a new transfer overseen by director David Fincher, and features include no less than four audio commentaries, a multi-angle "exploration" of the opening credit sequence, seven deleted scenes and extended takes, two alternate endings, an animated still gallery of the seven crime scenes with commentary, production photos, DVD-ROM content, and a lot more.

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11. Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition

Ridley Scott's perfect blend of sci-fi and horror, transferred with a great source print and tons of extras, including a commentary track with Scott, trailers and TV spots, and enough production stills, conceptual art, and storyboards to keep you occupied for hours. Also features hidden extras, including biographies of the Nostromo crew and an analysis of the alien reproduction cycle — but you'll have to look for 'em.

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10. The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Edition

A masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and one of the 10 best films ever made, John Ford's 1956 The Searchers tells the story of a five-year long search by Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) for the remnants of his family, killed in an Indian attack. The film is marvelously cohesive, even while being mysterious, with the inscrutable Edwards at its core. Film buffs will be grateful to have this masterpiece at hand. Warner's "50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition" features a commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, a second disc full of supplemental materials, and even publicity stills and a vintage comic-book reproduction in the slipcase.

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9. The Rules of the Game: The Criterion Collection

Jean Renoir's savage 1939 satire on the haute bourgeoisie of pre-war France was condemned, banned, and consigned to the ash-heap of history just months after its premiere, but by 1952 it was ranked by Sight and Sound readers as one of the ten greatest films of all time, and a 1959 restoration was the highlight of that year's Venice Film Festival. Criterion's two-disc DVD release features a good transfer of the restored version along with a scholarly commentary track, documentaries, comparisons between the film's three separate cuts, and Renoir's original shooting script.

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8. Psycho: Collector's Edition

The Hitchcock film that defined the horror genre, and Universal should be commended for getting this one out on DVD right away when their other Hitch classics were still languishing in the back of the vault. Great transfer from a pristine source print and enough extras to stuff in the trunk of your car, including a feature-length documentary and Hitchcock's original Psycho trailer, wherein The Master gives his audience a whimsical tour of the Bates Motel. Skip the Gus Van Sant remake — this is Psycho. Is anything sacred anymore? Buy this in protest, keep it for a lifetime.

7. Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection

Criterion's second DVD edition of Akira Kurosawa's classic 16th-century action film is carefully restored and in the best condition yet to arrive on home video. It's an inspirational work for a legion of American filmmakers, and if you haven't seen this one, don't even pretend to be a cinema buff. The three-disc set breaks the feature film across two discs (at the intermission), and it includes the justly renowned comentary track by Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck (which goes all the way back to Criterion's Laserdisc edition), as well as a new critic's round-table and several documentary features on the third disc.

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6. Citizen Kane

Orson Welles's 1941 landmark is widely considered the greatest of all American films, and Warner has delivered a new transfer that is superior to the Criterion Laserdisc (the former gold standard for this title). The extras are not the best to be found on DVD, but the transfer makes this one worth the money, and features include the full-length PBS documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, commentary tracks from Peter Bogdanovich and Roger Ebert, the four-minute trailer, newsreel footage, storyboards, several still galleries, and notes across a two-disc set. (Did we mention that this is Citizen Kane?)

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5. Rear Window: Collector's Edition

Perhaps the finest Hitchcock film, 1954's Rear Window explores some of the responsibilities and consequences of our natural curiosity. It's about the subterranean darkness beneath the surface of our lives, the world that few see. Jimmy Stewart may never have had a finer role; Grace Kelly may never have been more alluring. Universal's "Collector's Edition" DVD offers a clean transfer of the restored print, along with the 55-minute documentary "Rear Window Ethics," a still gallery, and more. A movie that effortlessly can be watched again and again — and that's what DVD is all about.

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4a. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition
4b. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Extended Edition
4c. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Extended Edition

New Line's Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings series will serve as a standard-bearer for special-edition DVDs for some time to come, with new versions of the films — taken as a whole, it's arguably is an even better movie now. Along with the exceptional transfer and Dolby Digital EX 5.1 audio, commentary tracks and hours of bonus material round out the sets.

Click here for review [Fellowship of the Ring]
Click here for review [The Two Towers]
Click here for review [Return of the King]

3. The Godfather DVD Collection

Paramount stacks the deck a bit by including The Godfather Parts I - III in one package with a bonus disc, but we've always considered the first two films part of a longer epic — and if the third film is disappointing, at least there's an additional DVD crammed with features. Along with clean transfers and commentary tracks from Francis Ford Coppola on all of the films, supplements include a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary, a production-design featurette, Coppola's "notebook," a look at the music, a textual chronology of events, a "family tree," two photo galleries, a gallery of Academy Award footage, and no less than 34 deleted scenes. Also watch for two Easter eggs, one featuring the cast of HBO's "The Sopranos."

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2. Fight Club

Who needs to see Fight Club over and over again, or know so much about it? Well, guys do, because it taps into the stifled male rage many feel at the moral corruption of contemporary consumerist society. It's a gob of spit in the eye of American self-satisfaction. It's a Bretonian act of defiance. It's an energized lament over betrayal and lost power. And it's simply one of the best DVDs to ever show up. Along with the entire film and four commentary tracks, supplements on this two-disc set include three trailers, six alternative special effects sequences, a short location home-movie, nine visual effects features, seven deleted or alternate scenes, TV spots, Internet spots, a music video, six still galleries, a digital press-kit, lobby card galleries, and an interview transcript with Edward Norton, all in a cool fold-out digipak case.

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1. Brazil: The Criterion Collection

Have no doubt about two things: Brazil is a great film, probably Terry Gilliam's best, and the three-disc Brazil: The Criterion Collection is the most impressive DVD package to ever hit the street. Two complete versions of the film are included (with commentary tracks), and there are numerous extras, including documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage. More expensive than most DVD releases, but worth every cent. Get it and cancel your weekend plans.

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Honorable Mention

8-1/2: The Criterion Collection
The 400 Blows: The Criterion Collection
The Abyss: Special Edition
Ace in the Hole: The Criterion Collection
Aliens: Special Edition
All About Eve: Fox Studio Classics
American Graffiti: Collector's Edition
Anatomy of a Murder
Apocalypse Now
The Battle of Algiers: The Criterion Collection
Beauty and the Beast: The Criterion Collection
Bicycle Thieves: The Criterion Collection
The Big Red One: The Reconstruction
The Big Sleep
The Birds: Collector's Edition
Bride of Frankenstein: Classic Monster Collection
The Bridge on the River Kwai: Limited Edition
Bringing Up Baby: Special Edition
A Bug's Life: Collector's Edition
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Fox Studio Classics
Dazed and Confused: The Criterion Collection
The Dirty Dozen: Special Edition
Do the Right Thing: The Criterion Collection
Double Indemnity: Legacy Series
Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler
Dr. Strangelove: 40th Anniversary Special Edition
La Dolce Vita: Collector's Edition
East of Eden: Special Edition
The Filth and the Fury
The Fly: Collector's Edition (1986)
The French Connection: Five Star Collection
Ghost World
Ghostbusters: Special Edition
Giant: Special Edition
Gods and Monsters: Collector's Edition
The Gold Rush: The Chaplin Collection
Gone With the Wind: Collector's Edition
Goodfellas: Special Edition
Gosford Park: Collector's Edition
The Grapes of Wrath: Fox Studio Classics
The Great Dictator: The Chaplin Collection
Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection
Heat: Special Edition
His Girl Friday
How Green Was My Valley: Fox Studio Classics
In the Mood for Love: The Criterion Collection
Insomnia (2002)
The Iron Giant
It Happened One Night
John Cassavetes: Five Films: The Criterion Collection
Kagemusha: The Criterion Collection
The Kids Are Alright: Special Edition
The Killing Fields
Knife in the Water: The Criterion Collection
The Lady Eve: The Criterion Collection
The Leopard: The Criterion Collection
The Limey
M: The Criterion Collection
The Maltese Falcon: Special Edition
The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection
The Matrix
Meet Me in St. Louis: Special Edition
Modern Times: The Chaplin Collection
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Special Edition
Notorious: The Criterion Collection
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Pulp Fiction: Collector's Edition
The Philadelphia Story: Special Edition
Raging Bull: Special Edition
Rashomon: The Criterion Collection
Rebecca: The Criterion Collection
Rebel Without a Cause
The Red Shoes: The Criterion Collection
The Remains of the Day: Special Edition
Rio Bravo: Special Edition
Roman Holiday
Romper Stomper
The Royal Tenenbaums: The Criterion Collection
Rushmore: The Criterion Collection
Sabrina (1954)
Saving Private Ryan: Special Limited Edition
Shakespeare in Love: Collector's Series
The Sixth Sense: Collector's Edition
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition
Some Like It Hot: Collector's Edition
Spartacus: The Criterion Collection
Stagecoach: Special Edition
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Director's Edition
The Sting: Legacy Series
La Strada: The Criterion Collection
A Streetcar Named Desire: Special Edition
Sunset Boulevard
Three Kings
Tokyo Olympiad: The Criterion Collection
Traffic: The Criterion Collection
Trouble in Paradise: The Criterion Collection
Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition
The Usual Suspects: Special Edition
The Wages of Fear: The Criterion Collection
The Way of the Gun
The Wild Bunch: Special Edition
The Wizard of Oz: Collector's Edition
Yojimbo: The Criterion Collection

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