The 100 Greatest DVDs

Time marches on. DVD software has steadily improved in its half-decade history, so you'll see lots of recent releases on this year's best-of list. The never-ending tide of discs keeps our perspective (while subjective) in a constant state of flux. Time, DVD's evolution, and the chance to plumb the most elaborate discs' untold depths have yielded some modified rankings from last year's list. As for our criteria, the film itself must be good, or at least good enough—or even so bad that it's back to good. Given DVD's storage potential, few movie-only discs made the cut. Picture and sound quality are essential, as are quantity, value, and originality of extras. Our comments cut right to the chase; so, if you want further insight, why not rent or buy the discs we list below to find out for yourself what makes a great DVD?

100 - Drive-In Discs (Elite)
Double features Screaming Skull and The Giant Leeches or The Wasp Woman and The Giant Gila Monster are reunited with cartoons, candy-stand ads, the countdown clock, and window-speaker-style Distorto Sound.

99 - The Third Man (Criterion)
A delicious bit of vintage black-and-white cinema in an impressive restoration, Man smuggles alternate and bonus audio, including Joseph Cotten's opening narration and two Third Man–themed radio programs.

98 - The Sopranos The Complete First and Second Seasons (HBO)
Creator David Chase's commentary on the first episode is a trip through the Lincoln Tunnel straight into Dullsville, but the four season-two directors fare better. These are two of the most entertaining discs I own.

97 - Enter the Dragon Special Edition (Warner Brothers)
Restoring three minutes not originally seen in the U.S., Dragon is the ultimate video homage to an action legend and his finest film. It features documentaries old and new, commentary by the producer and screenwriter, and an introduction by Lee's widow.

96 - Glory Special Edition (Columbia TriStar)
Picture-in-picture video commentary by director Edward Zwick and stars Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman is a real treat. Requisite care has been taken with the Oscar-winning picture and sound.

95 - Dr. Strangelove Special Edition (Columbia TriStar)
No doubt one of the great dark comedies of all time, celebrated with a host of priceless vintage promotional materials and a new documentary that offers a bit of insight on the reclusive Stanley Kubrick.

94 - Rushmore (Criterion)
The commentary, audition footage, and Charlie Rose Show seem to revere this sweet little movie, and the three clever segments from the 1998 MTV Movie Awards are a hoot.

93 - The Magnificent Seven (MGM/UA)
An American retelling of The Seven Samurai, with a memorable score and a once-in-a-lifetime cast. The commentary includes Oscar-winner James Coburn (one of the surviving septet) and Eli Wallach (the none-too-Mexican bandito).

92 - Tombstone Vista Series (Buena Vista)
An action-packed tale of loathsome villains and larger-than-life heroes, Tombstone has been honed to a THX-certified anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks. If you've got a hankerin' for more, mosey on up to the director's commentary and historical factoids.

91 - Lawrence of Arabia (Columbia TriStar)
Although it's lean on extras, Lawrence boasts a state-of-the-art audio/video transfer and the deserved praise of Steven Spielberg. The DVD-ROM features are nifty but a bit incongruous with a 1962 film.

90 - The Conversation (Paramount)
Francis Ford Coppola provides running chat for one of his best films. The audio has been remixed with the involvement of genius soundmeister Walter Murch, who provides his own commentary track.

89 - A Bug's Life Collector's Edition (Buena Vista)
Its after-the-fact recomposition from theatrical 2.35:1 to full-frame 1.33:1 is a home-video first, as virtual camera angles were modified and characters were moved closer together in an organic way that traditional panning and scanning could never match.

88 - Steely Dan's Two Against Nature (Image)
Here's your chance to party with the Grammy-winning Dan performing their hits in a small-club setting, with "you are there" Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel audio, plus simple stereo for those who aren't ready to break out of the '70s.

87 - Tommy (Columbia TriStar)
The only film ever released in discrete five-channel Quintaphonic audio, Tommy inspired a painstaking search and restoration for home video. Even in mono, this star-studded rock opera would still be a trippy ride.

86 - 81/2 (Criterion)
The semi-autobiographical comedy/drama by Federico Fellini has been digitally restored in 1.85:1 anamorphic black-and-white video and mono (Italian) audio, supplemented by a tag-team talk track, his rarely seen 1969 telefilm, and an introduction by none other than Terry Gilliam.

85 - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live In New York City (Columbia Music Video)
Bruce is a dish best served live, and this HBO special, shot with multiple HD cameras, includes a second disc that adds 11 never-before-seen performances (all anamorphic) in a surprising 5.1 mix.

84 - Say Anything (20th Century Fox)
This wonderfully produced disc is a "thank you" to loyal fans from writer/director Cameron Crowe. The stars join him on the commentary track, but the real heart-shaped box of candy here is the gallery of over two dozen deleted, extended, and alternate scenes.

83 - Atlantis: The Lost Empire Collector's Edition (Buena Vista)
The combination of cel and computer animation on this direct-to-digital 2.35:1 master results in some vibrant hues. Atlantis is also a sonic grabber from the first second in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, while access to the wealth of bonus features is almost as key as the features themselves.

82 - Best in Show (Warner Brothers)
This disc is a hysterical goldmine, with commentary by writing partners/costars Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy and more than half an hour of terrific deleted scenes with optional running insight.

81 - Men of Honor (20th Century Fox)
A sunken treasure waiting to be discovered on DVD, Men includes an alternate ending (although the official climax is hard to beat), animated storyboards, audio commentary with star Cuba Gooding, Jr. and others, and a documentary about the real Navy legend.