Poll: Favorite Blu-ray and DVD Bonus Features

Whether they come in the form of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, documentaries or other unique content, bonus features have been a staple of home video releases all through the DVD and Blu-ray era. What are your favorite types of disc supplements?

The concept of “added value content” on a movie disc was actually pioneered back in the early Laserdisc days. The first ever running audio commentary (by film historian Ronald Haver) appeared on the Criterion Collection edition of the classic ‘King Kong’, released on LD in 1984. Soon afterward blossomed the idea of the “Special Edition” loaded with documentaries, deleted scenes and other contextual information about the making of a movie. On Laserdisc, these features were typically relegated to expensive box sets that appealed to the die-hard fans and collectors. However, when DVD arrived in the late 1990s, supplements quickly became a standard feature and a primary selling point of almost every movie release.

That’s still true to some extent on Blu-ray today. We frequently hear complaints about “bare bones” discs, as if a lack of supplements means that the studio was too cheap and/or lazy to pull any content together. Yet I think that fan enthusiasm for these features has declined over the years, due to viewer burn-out and the shallow, repetitive nature of many (frequently promotional) featurettes common to modern movie releases.

Back in the day, I used to get very excited about watching all the features on every disc I bought, but these days I hardly ever watch supplements unless I’m professionally required to do so in order to review the disc. I might make an exception if it’s a movie that I really care about, but that’s becoming increasingly rare.

I favor quality over quantity. I prefer a single good documentary to a dozen fluffy featurettes. I find most commentaries boring, and will typically only give them about 15 minutes to win me over. If one hasn’t caught my interest in that time, I turn it off.

What are your favorite bonus features? Vote for as many options as you’d like in the poll, and tell us in the Comments about the best examples you’ve found on DVD and Blu-ray.

What Are Your Favorite Types of Bonus Features?

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24 comments

  1. Bill McClain

    I enjoy a good commentary track. I extract them to mp3 and listen offline as part of my audiobook rotation.

    But the very best bonus an extra feature film. It doesn’t have to be a great film. But I’ve enjoyed those extras on Forbidden Planet, Blow Out, and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

    -Bill

  2. Audio commentaries can be very informative and sometimes it’s really interesting to see director’s motivations for a certain scene. I may have interpreted a certain way, but the director will explain what his/her intent was and may help me appreciate what they were trying to do a little more. ( I very rarely listen to them, but like having them.)
    Deleted scenes I find to be intriguing and how the context of a scene can be manipulated by deleting them or editing them still gets my attention to this day. It can be frustrating at times because there’s some great scenes that get cut from a movie once in a while that would benefit the story telling. I am also amazed by the amount of work that goes into shooting a scene only to be cut out.
    As far as long documentaries go, I save those for the movies I really like, or if I know of it being a troubled production, it’s fascinating to get everyone’s perspective after the dust has settled.
    I love conceptual art for monsters, set designs, etc. I can’t get enough of that stuff.
    Since I’m a child of the 80’s, there is a very small part of me that kind of misses just having the movie with no bonus features, because all that bts stuff is kind of like a magician giving away their magic secrets. There was definitely more mystique back then. Anyways, in a nutshell, deleted/alternate scenes, a good audio commentary, conceptual art, retrospective documentaries are the bonus features that usually get my attention.

  3. I have to REALLY love the movie to want to do the audio commentaries. I could probably count the number of audio commentaries I’ve truly enjoyed on one hand.
    I do like the “making of” long-form documentary type features, again it has to be a movie I really love though. Sometimes I’ll watch the short ones just to see a particular feature but that’s it. Bonus features have never been a huge selling point for me.

  4. Jakdonark

    I used to watch every feature and listen to every commentary, then I got married and had a kid. My movie watching went from 7-10 movies a week (in addition to watching extras!) down to maybe 1 a week if I wake up early enough on a weekend. There is the very odd occasion where the family watches a movie together, and if there is a gag reel my wife usually enjoys those. I have a ton of movies I want to watch extras on, but right now I’m just trying to catch up on watching the movies themselves!

    I used to love listening to commentaries, especially unedited ones. Some are almost worth watching again! Ridley Scott and John Carpenter are my favorites. Especially JC with Kurt Russell. He did one with Keith Gordon on Christine which was excellent. It was fascinating to hear Gordon who has since become a director go back and observe some of the techniques JC used. I read there is a JC and Jeff Bridges commentary on Starman, which is only available in Europe. I’ll have to import it. I also like Tony Scott’s commentaries, and it’s sad we’ll never get commentaries for The Fan (very underrated IMO) and The Last Boy Scout (my second favorite Scott film after True Romance). I would have loved to hear Scott and Shane Black discuss the movie.

    It’s too bad Spielberg and De Palma don’t do commentaries, but at least Laurent Bouzereau does excellent documentaries for their films.

    It’s nice that iTunes extras carries over some of the features. It makes it a bit easier to watch some of the extras, but it would be nice if you could access them on an iPhone. Then I could listen to commentaries on the highway commute to work!

    • Chris B

      I love JC and Kurt Russell commentaries to, you can tell they actually enjoy each other’s company and are having a good time as opposed to some commentaries when it feels like all the parties involved are just there as a contractual obligation or something.

      As for the Starman commentary, I have an old Laserdisc release that I’ve never checked out the special features on, is it only available in Europe on Blu-Ray? or ither formats ad well?

  5. William Henley

    I think a lot of it has to do with how I feel about the movie. For example, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are loaded with bonus features, and I don’t think I have ever watched a single one. However, with the Harry Potter Blu-Rays and Lord of the Rings Blu-Rays, I have watched every single bonus feature. The Star Trek ones are kind of hit or miss – some of the classic bonus features (ported over from DVDs) with episode recaps, I find to be boring. I mean, you have an actor give like a 15 second spill over their favorite episode and why, followed by a minute or two of the episode in low resolution. Yawn.

    I RARELY listen to the audio commentaries – I just don’t have the patience to rewatch the entire movie again with somone talking over it. I would much rather have a 10-20 minute long feature with the person with them talking about stuff.

    Now, I actually REALLY liked the focus points on the Harry Potter movies, but I would rather have been able to access the content through a menu

  6. I was a big fan of picture in picture commentaries (remember when these were one of the big selling points for both HD DVD and Blu-ray), but those seem few and far between these days – and most of them are just featurette materials rather than screen/scene specific.

    So I guess audio commentaries are my favorite – although I do like the really in-depth longer documentaries (assuming they’re not ‘fluff’).

    I could care less about photo galleries, unless it’s poster artwork or sketches (models from the movie, storyboards, costume design, etc.). Why anyone wants to browse through 100 promotional photos of the actors has always been a head-scratcher for me.

    Vintage material can be fun if the movie is of a certain age.

  7. Jakdonark

    Oh! On the subject of commentaries, Stephen Sommers has two of the most hilarious ones. During the sandstorm scene in the Mummy, there is a shot behind Imhotep with his arms up and the sand wall in the background. Apparently they had to pan the shot up digitally after the fact because Arnold Vosloo was wearing a thing underneath his robes and the wind machine was blowing up the robe and you could see everything. And the part where the warden is ripping open his shirt after getting attacked by the scarab he got a little carried away and a part of his anatomy popped out of his clothing. Something you would never hear anywhere else I’m sure.

    Then on his commentary for The Jungle Book he talks about King Louis urinating all over the blue screen, and also about the lighting rigger who got sick in the monkey temple because he had been working in the moat and all the monkeys had been using it as a toilet! I wonder if it’s because of those comments the disc is out of print now?

  8. Opinionhaver

    My favorite special feature I have ever seen was on the FOX 5 Star DVD of Die Hard, in which you had 3 specific scenes that you could cut together with alternate takes/angles and play back your finished scene. One of the scenes was the “I’m going to count to 3” scene, and I got to decide how Takagi’s brain gets splattered on the glass doors! 🙂

  9. Ryan

    I used to always listen to the commentary tracks of my favorite movies. But I had a lot more time back then…so now I prefer a nice Making Of feature instead. It feels like less of a waste of time

  10. I like the Alternate Ending features. Kind I a “what might have been” for the movie you just watched. Sometimes they’re better than what the studio did, sometimes you’re glad they didn’t go that way, but they’re usually interesting.

  11. Best commentary I’ve heard so far is in Cannibal the Musical. They all get progressively more drunk as it goes along and some of the stories they tell are amazing. Most commentaries I skip, but this is worth it.
    Other than that nothing will ever beat the Lord of the Rings extended edition features. I still watch them every 3 or 4 months.

  12. Justin

    My absolute favorite is extended or alternate versions of a movie. Like Close Encounters, Terminator 2 or Blade Runner. I love that it’s not exactly the same movie every time you watch it. A favorite can be seen in a different light over multiple viewings. Second would be deleted scenes as it’s fun to form an opinion of what should’ve stayed or happiness over its exclusion.
    On a different note Men in Black and Muppets from Space (on DVD at least) had those cool Mystery Science Theater commentaries which were cool and really made the experience of watching the movie with the cast and/or crew more interesting.

  13. Daniel

    – Long form documentaries (especially those where you can watch individual or all together seamlessly) are my favorite. If you have any interest or liking towards Blade Runner I highly recommend watching the epic three and half hour documentary on the making of it. Incredible amount of archival footage.

    – Audio commentaries are a close second. If it’s a comedy and it’s the cast and crew just messing around that’s really fun. The only stand alone commentator I’ve continuously enjoyed is David Fincher. No matter what film it is he always has a great insight into not just the making of his own film, clearly, but also the process of making movies in general and the way the industry works.

  14. Chris B

    Speaking of special features, I was in HMV the other day and noticed that the steel books for Star Trek and Star Trek- Into Darkness are being reissued…right at the same time as the compendium is coming out. Anyone know if the steels are bare bones releases? Orrrr the difference in extras between them and the compendium?

  15. Audio commentaries are essential when they’re funny. ‘The Goonies’, ‘Superbad’, ‘Juno’ (etc.) all feature excellent tracks. The ‘Back to the Future’ movies have two each, but they’re both mediocre. One is Laurent Bouzereau interviewing Robert Zemeckis in a very thick French accent (Bouzereau, not Zemeckis!), which sadly isn’t screen-specific. The other one is, but features Bob Gale (who sounds bored) and Neil Canton (who hardly speaks at all). Apparently, Zemeckis had no interest in recording a real commentary for his breakthrough movie(s).

    Too bad, because the ‘Used Cars’ track – featuring Kurt Russell – is HILARIOUS!

  16. Guy

    The thing I love to hear about most, but gets the least focus is conception. Even on really exhaustive features suites, they always start with, “There was this great script…” and then move directly to talking about concept art, modeling and other preproduction stuff. I find all that interesting, but I love when the writers get to talk about what they had mind, how the idea came about and the evolution of the story.

  17. Clemery

    I’d argue that DVD was what killed interest in bonus features, as the format was saturated with them… making the term “special edition” suddenly not feel so special anymore. It is a rare day that I will actually invest time in ANY special features now, even deleted scenes (in most cases, I now find that they were deleted for good reason).

    If I am to watch special features, it is likely of an older film that used innovation and practical effects, rather than all this “we used a computer to achieve this, that and the other…” crap. The last time I remember going through the majority of supplements was when the Superman DC/SE (whichever it was) came out on DVD.

    I never listen to commentaries anymore (I tried to sit through the Watchmen visual commentary, but only got about 20 minutes in before being bored), however some of my favourites include:
    – Carrot Top’s commentary on The Rules Of Attraction DVD: only present on the US DVD, this remains (IMO) the funniest commentary of all time, with Carrot Top ad lobbing his way through (presumably) his first viewing of the movie!
    – Howard Suber’s breakdown of The graduate: I only remember this on laserdisc, however I have never forgotten it, as Suber’s examination of the film and techniques really helped me to understand the language of film much clearer in my impressionable years! There are likely countless similar commentary tracks, but that is the one that I will always remember.
    – “Kenneth Loring”‘s commentary on the Blood Simple DVD. This commentary track is amongst my favourites, pretty much for the same reasons a the above two titles… those who have heard it should know what I mean. Those who haven’t… do yourself a favour and track it down. This is how they used to make movies in the 80’s! 😛

  18. I do not care about the bonus features. I use to look at the deleted scenes but end up getting pissed because most of the times it should have been in the movie. Also those deleted scenes sometimes end up in a Director’s Cut, Unrated DVD/Blu-Ray that will come out the next year some times.

  19. I still buy DVDs/Blu-Rays with plenty of special features but rarely if ever watch them so I can see both sides of the story here but they are still a nice touch for me but then again that’s just me.

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