The holidays are upon us once again, which means it’s time to stress out about what you’re going to buy everyone on your shopping list. Fortunately, we have plenty of great ideas for the movie buff or TV fanatic in your life with some of our favorite Blu-ray and 4K releases from the past year. Check out our selections below, complete with easy-to-buy links to Amazon.
Game of Thrones: The Complete Series
Hating on “Game of Thrones” may be popular these days (you can thank toxic fan culture for that), but it remains one of the best shows in modern TV history thanks to its exciting storytelling, incredible performances, stunning visuals and show-stopping moments. There aren’t many shows capable of captivating the attention of so many different types of viewers, but that’s what made “Game of Thrones” such a global phenomenon year after year, culminating in what was arguably the TV event of 2019. Though the final season triggered strong reactions from fans, it’s hard to deny that even when it wasn’t firing on all cylinders, “Game of Thrones” was top-notch entertainment worthy of its pop culture dominance. We’ll probably never get a show like it again, which is why we can’t wait to own this complete series box set with all 73 episodes and previously released bonus material, as well as an all-new reunion special hosted by Conan O’Brien. Additionally, for those who want something a little more special to mark the occassion, the limited-edition, custom-designed Complete Collection is definitely worth the premium price.
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series
Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s immensely popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” ended its 12-season run earlier this year, earning a spot in television history as the longest-running multicamera comedy. It’s only fitting that the show receives a complete series collection worthy of that milestone, and Warner Bros. has certainly delivered with this 25-disc limited edition box set that includes all 279 episodes of the Emmy-winning series along with the original bonus features and an additional disc that contains three brand new featurettes. However, for those who already own the individual seasons, you’re not really getting enough value here to warrant a double dip. The included lay-flat book that houses all the discs is definitely an improvement over the usual packaging, and the inclusion of a digital copy is great for those who want to watch their favorite episodes on the go, but this set feels like it was designed more for those who don’t yet own the show in its entirety.
There’s not much you could say about Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” that hasn’t already been said. While it’s not our favorite Kubrick movie, it’s easy to see why it has attained cult status throughout the years. Not only does it feature an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson, who dials up the crazy to 11, but it does an incredible job of building tension and suspense over the course of its admittedly long runtime. In addition, the movie is so technically impressive – from the production design and sound design to the editing and score – that it makes some of the flaws a little easier to swallow. (This is more evident than ever in the newly remastered 4K version, which looks better than most films shot this decade.) “The Shining” isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s yet another example of Kubrick’s master craftsmanship and why he’ll forever be remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation.
Scarface: The World Is Yours Limited Edition
Any list of classic guy movies would be incomplete without an appearance from Brian De Palma’s “Scarface.” The film that supplies immortal quotes like “I always tell the truth, even when I lie” and “Say hello to my little friend!” also gives life to one of the most magnetic characters in movie history, Tony Montana. Truly great movies endure because they appeal to past, present and future generations, and “Scarface” is no different. Nearly four decades after its original release, De Palma’s crime drama continues to thrive because of its exceptional performances, gripping storyline and compelling script. This is a film that’s been calling out for a 4K release ever since the format debuted, and the new transfer looks better than ever, making this limited edition set – complete with a collectible “The World Is Yours” statue replica and a newly restored version of the 1932 original – the perfect gift for diehard fans.
007: The Daniel Craig Collection
Like everyone who came before him, Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond has been pretty hit and miss. The actor has played the British secret agent four times (with a fifth film due out in 2020), and of those, only two of them are really good – 2006’s “Casino Royale” and 2012’s “Skyfall.” In fact, they’re arguably two of the best Bond movies ever made. The other two films (2008’s “Quantum of Solace” and 2015’s “Spectre”) are fairly mediocre installments in the Bond franchise that never really got the best out of its protagonist, even if they do have their individual moments. All of the movies are great from a visual standpoint, however, which makes this new 4K box set a must-have for any diehard fan. Though it may seem a bit premature since it’s not quite the definitive Daniel Craig collection, it’s a convenient and affordable way to own all these films in a format befitting of their craftsmanship.
Batman: 4-Film Collection: 1989-1997
Everyone has a favorite Batman, and more specifically, a favorite Batman movie, and for those who came of age during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, chances are that it was directed by Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher. Though the Christopher Nolan trilogy remains the best of the Batman franchise, these films all have their own strengths (except maybe “Batman and Robin”), particularly in the villain department. 1989’s “Batman” wouldn’t be remembered quite so fondly today were it not for Jack Nicholson’s lively performance as The Joker; “Batman Returns” delivers one of the great comic book movie baddies in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman; and Jim Carrey is perfectly cast as The Riddler in 1995’s hyper-stylized “Batman Forever.” None of these films have aged particularly well, but the newly remastered 4K versions do enough from a technical standpoint to satisfy diehard fans.
Guillermo del Toro may have won two Academy Awards for directing and producing 2016’s “The Shape of Water,” but it’s the 2006 fantasy/horror flick “Pan’s Labyrinth” that remains his best work to date. The world of make-believe can serve up some pretty scary stuff, and “Pan’s Labyrinth” doesn’t hold back in the slightest, delivering a dark and twisted fairy tale where the imagination of a young child is more violent than the war-torn reality she’s trying to escape. The performances are solid across the board, but it’s the technical achievements that make “Pan’s Labyrinth” soar, creating a film so rich and visually stunning that it’s impossible to look away – even when someone is getting their face smashed in with a bottle or being chased by a child-eating monster. Beautiful and terrifying in equal measure, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is truly one of a kind.
The Wizard of Oz
When it comes to movie classics, there is perhaps none more beloved than Victor Fleming’s 1939 musical fantasy, “The Wizard of Oz.” Based on the popular children’s book by L. Frank Baum, the film continues to captivate audiences of all ages thanks to its memorable musical numbers and charming cast of characters. For a movie that’s 80 years old, “The Wizard of Oz” still holds up remarkably well, even if it is a bit cheesy and cloying. Nevertheless, it’s a classic for a reason, and this long-awaited 4K release – fully restored using a new 8K, 16-bit scan of the original Technicolor camera negative – looks amazing for its age. Though the film has been remastered several times over the years, the clarity and detail of this latest transfer is truly impressive, which marks a big win for both Warner Bros. and fans alike.
The Haunting of Hill House
Mike Flanagan has fast become one of Hollywood’s go-to horror directors, but it’s his work on the small screen with this critically acclaimed Netflix series that really shows off his talent behind the camera. Loosely based on the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House” is a chilling modern ghost story that expertly balances atmospheric horror with human drama. Effectively creepy without being overtly scary, Flanagan’s show is less about the actual scares than how the characters have been affected long after the fact, unearthing the deep-seated trauma that has shaped their adult lives. It’s not at all what you’d expect from a traditional horror story, but that’s also what makes it so engrossing. In addition, the show boasts some great performances and stunning visuals, both of which are on full display in the much-discussed, technically impressive sixth episode. Though the series certainly has its faults, they’re mostly minor complaints in what is otherwise must-see television.
Cobra Kai: Seasons 1 & 2
This YouTube original series is such an obvious and fitting continuation of the “Karate Kid” story that it’s amazing someone didn’t think of it sooner. Designed as a direct sequel to the original film, “Cobra Kai” brings back Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence to revisit the rivalry that seemingly ended after that fateful match at the 1984 Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament. Though it takes a few episodes to get going, “Cobra Kai” is actually pretty entertaining for what it is. The acting and writing could be better, but it’s a fun twist on the “Karate Kid” mythos that offers a new perspective on previous events and evolves its characters in interesting ways. Lord knows why Sony decided to only release this on DVD, but unless you plan on purchasing it digitally – and fans of the franchise will definitely want to add this show to their collection – you don’t really have a choice.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Series
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang first debuted on television because the animated series, which was a hallmark of many people’s childhood, still holds up remarkably well with its blend of comedy, mystery and adventure. Though the show has been available on DVD in the past, this is the first time that it’s been released on Blu-ray. The limited edition set includes both seasons of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!,” as well as the unofficial third season comprised of episodes from “The Scooby-Doo Show” and “Scooby’s All-Stars,” packaged in a cool haunted mansion box that diehard fans will love. In addition to a pocket-sized encyclopedia and a Funko Pop! Scooby-Doo keychain, extras include all-new featurettes on the show’s legacy and Frank Welker’s decades-long voice work on the franchise.
Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection
Abbott and Costello are one of the greatest comedy duos in history, and like many performers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, they spent a large chunk of their careers under contract at a single studio – in their case, Universal Pictures. That collaboration resulted in a number of popular movies from 1940-1965, including “Buck Privates,” “Who Done It?” and the Universal monster flicks, particularly “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the duo’s film debut, “One Night in the Tropics,” Shout! Factory has released this definitive, 15-disc box set containing all 28 movies made under the Universal Pictures banner. It’s a really nice collection that also includes audio commentaries on more than half the films, a collectible book and over eight hours of bonus features honoring Abbott and Costello’s legacy. They don’t make funny like they used to, and this box set is a testament to that.
Peanuts 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection
The Peanuts holiday specials have become an annual tradition in most American households, particularly “It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Though this isn’t the first time that these movies have been packaged together in one collection (there’s even a 4K version out now that’s perfect for videophiles), this limited edition set celebrating the 70th anniversary of Charles M. Schulz’s legendary comic strip also contains six additional TV specials that have been remastered, brand new commentary tracks on all three films, a collectible book filled with holiday-themed “Peanuts” strips from the 1960s and 1970s, and an exclusive Snoopy figurine. Best of all, the whole set comes packaged inside a really cool cardboard Snoopy house that makes a great decoration during the holidays or any time of year.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Following their 2007 oddball comedy “Hot Rod,” audiences were eager to see what the comedy trio known as The Lonely Island would cook up next. It took nearly a decade, but the wait was well worth it because “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a hilarious and surprisingly insightful satire on the vapid, celebrity-obsessed pop music scene. Not every joke lands, but “Popstar” does more than enough to keep you entertained with its goofy but catchy songs, musician cameos and a great lead performance by Andy Samberg, who channels Derek Zoolander as the clueless, self-confident popstar. Though it doesn’t match the comic genius of Rob Reiner’s similarly themed cult classic, “This Is Spinal Tap,” it’s the closest that any parody about the music business has ever come. Shout! Factory’s re-release of the film doesn’t include any new bonus material, but it does come in a limited edition SteelBook packaging that features some appropriately ridiculous cover art that fans will get a kick out of.