High-Def Digest Holiday Gift Guide 2010: The Top 10 Classic Titles on Blu-ray

Posted Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 10:21 AM PST by

by Aaron Peck

It can be difficult to define the word "classic" when you're talking about Blu-ray releases. They don't always have to be old movies, although age helps when you're discussing a film. But heck, it doesn't even have to be a film. The term "classic" can be applied to TV shows that we remember fondly. In my mind, a classic is a production that sticks around through the ages. Something that transcends time and remains beloved by many. If a piece of entertainment can be remembered fondly and hold up long after its release, it has entered into the realm of a truly classic title.

Below is a list of the top ten classic releases on Blu-ray. Keep in mind that, yes, everyone will have a different list, different rankings, and different opinions. In my opinion this list represents a wide variety of classics that can now be savored in high definition. They range from movies that can be found on AFI's Top 100 Films of All-Time list, to one truly timeless television show.

10. 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (Warner Home Entertainment, Mel Stuart, 1971)

This is just one of those films that I can watch over and over without ever getting bored with it. Maybe that's why the film has survived in the minds and hearts of Americans ever since its debut in theaters in 1971. Gene Wilder is hilarious as always. I swear everyday I find myself, at least once, singing one of those catchy Oompa Loompa tunes. Our very own M. Enois Duarte gave the movie four and a half stars when he reviewed it here. He began his review with a sentence that I think encapsulates the movie perfectly, but also defines classic movies. "When you consider the sheer volume of films produced each year, very few truly ingrain themselves in our cultural consciousness." Isn't that the definition of classic? 'Willy Wonka,' ever since the 70s, has been ingrained into our culture and loved by millions. What'smore, the Blu-ray is dynamite!

9. 'Snow White' (Disney, David Hand, 1937)

The movie that made animation a viable medium for the film industry. The movie that thrust the Disney name and Walt Disney himself into the mainstream of American popular culture. Basically one of the most celebrated animated film ever created. Its Blu-ray debut was nothing short of astounding, making this classic animated feature film look like it was animated just yesterday. You can't deny the impact 'Snow White' had on the world of cinema. Its undeniable influence has given birth to each and every animated film we've seen since then. Yes, 'Snow White' has been loved for years by throngs of fans, and that makes it a classic, but it's the only movie on here that essentially invented an entirely new medium for telling stories.

8. '2001: A Space Odyssey' (Warner Home Entertainment, Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

I've only actually watched Oprah once voluntarily in my entire life. It was the special during which Oprah was invited into Roger Ebert's home. We got to see his massive library of books and movies. We got to see his amazing, retro-themed screening room. Most importantly though, Ebert gave a few recommendations of movies he thought every single movie collection should have. '2001: A Space Odyssey' was on that very short list, which also included 'Citizen Kane.' That's some pretty good company to be in. On another note: We need 'Citizen Kane' on Blu-ray, pronto!

7. 'Seven Samurai' (Criterion, Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

When the venerable Nate Boss reviewed the 'Seven Samurai' Criterion Edition he started off his review wanting to avoid the trap of spewing hyperbole about how great the movie is. Instead, he went on to discuss the fact that just about every outlet out there, from IMDb.com to Rotten Tomatoes, views it as one of the best films of all time. He's right. It would be easy to slip into a tirade of hyperbole and call 'Seven Samurai' "one of the most amazing, fascinating movies ever made by one of the best directors there has ever been." However, we're above that here.

6. 'North by Northwest' (Warner Home Entertainment, Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

Personally, I'm a fan of the digibooks that Warner Brothers puts out for special movies. I think they look great on a shelf and nicely present famed movies from the past. The 'North by Northwest' digibook is one of my absolute favorites. What a movie! It's one of those classics that you've seen a hundred times, but as soon as you re-watch it for the 101st time you catch something new that Hitchcock hid deep down in the movie. I'll never get sick of watching 'North by Northwest' in high-def. When David Krauss reviewed it for this site he gave it top marks in both the audio and video categories. It's safe to say this is the best looking, most accurate presentation you're going to get for this, one of the most famous thrillers in cinematic history.

5. 'The Wizard of Oz' (Warner Home Entertainment, Victor Fleming, 1939)

If ever there was a movie that deserved a gigantic special release for its 70th Anniversary this is it. 'The Wizard of Oz' has lived on in our collective minds since 1939. Now that's an achievement. In a business like Hollywood, most films don't last a few weeks, let alone the better part of a century. I'm flabbergasted that a movie this old has made it this long, gathering new fans with each generation. With near perfect marks in every category, this is a perfect presentation for a movie that will quite possibly live on forever.

4. 'Casablanca' (Warner Home Entertainment, Michael Curtiz, 1942)

'Casablanca' was one of the first major classic titles I can recall getting a Blu-ray release. After seeing what Blu-ray could do for a movie from 1942 I was stricken with an undying love for all things HD. As for defining this movie as a classic, I think Peter Bracke's review of the set for High-Def Digest does it justice: "'Casablanca' is more than a classic. It's an institution. It contains so many famous lines, characters and scenes that even those who have never seen it feel like they have by sheer osmosis; it is that ingrained in our shared cinematic consciousness."

3. 'Gone with the Wind' (Warner Home Entertainment, Victor Fleming, 1939)

Another movie from the 30s that has permeated the collective souls of film fans everywhere. It's one of those movies that's not only beloved by followers of cinema, but also regular everyday people who wouldn't consider themselves all that knowledgeable or aware of cinematic happenings. It's a movie that transcends fandom and has become a film that just about everyone needs to see. It was one of the first sweeping epics that have now become commonplace in today's cinema, but it's memory lives on forever through Blu-ray with perfect video and near-perfect audio.

2. 'The Godfather Collection' (Paramount Home Entertainment, Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, 1974, & 1990)

'The Godfather' and its first sequel are considered by many to be two of the finest moments in cinematic history. The 'Godfather' trilogy is a modern day classic. I say modern, because it hasn't lived since the 30s. It burst onto the scene some 30 or so years later in the 70s with an enthralling tale about the inner workings of organized crime. Like 'Casablanca,' even if you haven't seen 'The Godfather,' you may feel like you have. Even though many people, including myself, consider the third chapter in the trilogy to be a disappointment, I find myself always thinking about the trilogy as a whole. The third movie may not reach the bar set by the first two, but they're so amazing that they bolster the third one easily.

1. 'Twilight Zone: Season 1' (Image Entertainment, Rod Serling [Creator], 1959)

No, I'm not throwing this in at number one just so you'll revisit my amazingly thorough review and say, "Wow, that was amazingly thorough." In the world of Blu-ray, TV seasons usually come up short. Most of them seem rushed, haphazardly thrown together in order to squeeze out a few bucks. If they don't sell, the remaining seasons are thrown by the wayside, leaving customers and fans in the lurch. Image Entertainment, however, is a class act. They took a show, beloved by many, and created such an astounding and comprehensive Blu-ray package that I found myself almost lost in its maze of special features. It's a complete and perfect tribute to Rod Serling's television masterpiece. This is the only TV show that found its way onto this list, but it's fitting that it finds itself at number one. Image Entertainment took a classic television series, gave it a stellar audio and video presentation, loaded it with tons of extras and essentially said, "Here, someone still loves the fans. We do!"

There you have it. My list of the finest classic titles on Blu-ray, with a classic TV show bumping its way up into the top spot. Like I said, the term classic isn't just reserved for films. What are some of the movies or TV shows I left out that you would demand be put on this list?

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Tags: High-Def Retailing, Industry Trends, Aaron Peck, Holiday Guide 2010, HDD Holiday Gift Guide (all tags)