Ah, the box set. There really is no better way to either collect a whole swath of work from a favorite musician or TV/film series or to make a deep dive introduction to something new. These collections have been around for a long time and could arguably be considered one of the foundations for the “binge-watching” phenomenon that has sprung up with the advent of streaming. But, unlike binge-watching via digital means, the box set is a physical medium with a tangibility and collectibility that you just can’t get out of streaming. Another benefit of a box set is that you don’t have to dedicate your immediate time to experiencing them, you can return to the set at your leisure.

To be worthwhile, a box set should be a compelling collection of work, and it should be A/V enhanced, in essence restoring and updating a song or movie in step with technological and entertainment advancements. And while 4K visuals and those beyond are becoming the norm, slowly, Blu-Ray’s are still quite effective in how they’ve managed to take old films and improve them visually and audially for newer devices that are more than capable of Blu-Ray playback, with some of even capable of 4K playback.

If you want the best rendition of a favorite movie, then a Blu-ray collection is what you’re looking for — and we think it’s worth keeping a Blu-ray player around for, without a doubt. While there are many Blu-ray box sets available, those from The Criterion Collection stand out from the others. Read on to learn about The Criterion Collection and the best Blu-ray collections they have to offer.

Guillermo del Toro is the type of brilliant filmmaker whose work envelope you so completely that you find yourself willingly lost in his adept storytelling. He is such a master at stunning visualization and detail that his films have to be viewed more than once to be appreciated, and with each viewing realization of his mastery only increases. Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro is a Blu-ray Criterion Collection set of three films that showcase del Toro and is a fitting acknowledgment of an at times, underappreciated filmmaker.

The three films included in the set are Cronos (1993, del Toro’s first feature-length film), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The three films are linked by the del Toro artistry of depicting an amalgam of reality with the fantastic as a gothic-infused backdrop for such themes as childhood in troubled times, loss, and innocence. These are the types of films that benefit from digital mastering, and it shows in how beautifully they are presented on Blu-ray. Along with the films, you get a ton of special features including audio commentaries, a 100-page book with introductions, essays, production notes, and sketches, among many others. The supplemental material is so tightly tailored to del Toro’s vision for these films that this set feels quite personal.

Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro is a movie collection that is the epitome of why any such collections exist. It is indeed one of the best Blu-ray sets from the Criterion Collection.

Key Features

  • 3-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Supplemental material
  • HD restoration
Specifications

  • Genre: Action/fantasy
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Run Time: 5 hours 19 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • Three films by Guillermo del Toro
  • 100-page hardcover book
  • Introductions by del Toro
Cons

  • One film is much more well-known than the others

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Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro

What is wonderful about film sets is that they are ready-made packages that usually present the best of a particular filmmaker. Such one-stop shopping can be great especially if the artist’s body of work is extensive. The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is a comprehensive collection of Bergman’s work and a film buff’s dream.

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is a massive collection of 39 Bergman films that showcase the filmmaker’s particular penchant for the depiction of human vulnerability, dysfunctional families, and loneliness in his uniquely personal way. Bergman films are art-house renditions about the soul and the psyche and the struggles we all face. The collection includes well-known works like The Seventh Seal (1957), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), and Persona (1966), but there are rarer additions like The Devil’s Eye (1960) and The Rite (1969). This Bergman library is a fitting presented in the set as a film festival with opening and closing nights flanking double features and centerpieces. Special features include a 248-page book with essays on the program and hours of supplemental features.

More than a collection of films, The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is a library dedicated to one of the most highly regarded filmmakers in the 20th century who took film and turned it into an art form. There is no better avenue to become familiar with and appreciate the extensive work of such an important filmmaker.

Key Features

  • 30-disc Blu-Ray set
  • 39 Ingmar Bergman films
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 74 hours and 37 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 248-page booklet
  • Arranged in film festival format
  • Audio commentaries
Cons

  • May be of interest primarily to true film buffs

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Famed director Akira Kurosawa has left an indelible mark on cinema with the influence of his work being seen in iconic movies like Fistful of Dollars, Magnificent Seven, and even Star Wars, among many others. One of Kurosawa’s most memorable characters whose motif has been repeated innumerable times is the mysterious and affable wandering samurai, Sanjuro whose character has been mimicked by Clint Eastwood, Kurt Russel, and Bruce Willis to name a few. The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Yojimbo & Sanjuro is an apt celebration of an iconic movie character.

Yojimbo & Sanjuro is a 2-disc set featuring Kurosawa films Yojimbo and its sequel Sanjuro. Yojimbo is the story of a crafty Ronin, Sanjuro pitting two warring clans against each other. The plot and character have been portrayed before, albeit unauthorized, in the movie A Fistful of Dollars. The character Sanjuro and his escapades are repeated in the sequel Sanjuro where he aids a group of young warriors weed out evil in their clan. Both movies are masterworks in storytelling, action, and visualization. The most impressive aspect of each film is how Sanjuro is portrayed by legendary actor Toshiro Mifume who transforms Sanjuro into one of the most indelible characters ever portrayed in movies. The collection also includes high-definition restoration, audio commentaries, documentaries on the making of both films, and much more.

The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Yojimbo & Sanjuro is not only a great two-disc set of two iconic films, but it is also an homage to excellent movie-making and characterizations. Yojimbo & Sanjuro is a jewel in the Kurosawa oeuvre excellently presented in Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.

Key Features

  • 2-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Action and adventure
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 3 hours 26 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 2 films by Akira Kurosawa
  • Documentaries on making the films
  • Audio commentaries

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Even if you’ve never seen a Bruce Lee movie, or even know who he was, you’ve no doubt encountered his iconography in cinematic and social culture. Bruce Lee left an enduring legacy by breaking Chinese cinematic stereotypes and the use of real martial arts in film. Fitting to the legacy is The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set of Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits. It is the type of film collection that will not only satiate the most fervent of Bruce Lee fans but also introduce a cinematic and cultural icon to new groups of enthusiastic fans.

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits is a seven-disc set featuring the five films of Lee’s cinematic and martial arts mastery, The Big Boss (1971), Fists of Fury (1972), The Way of the Dragon (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973), and Game of Death (1978). An excellent feature of the set is a documentary-like intro to each movie providing an engaging setup with contextual and historical nuggets on the film to come. The HD restorations in Blu-ray are phenomenal with eye-popping clarity and sharpness impossibly making Bruce Lee appear even faster in action-packed martial arts sequences. Special features also include the 1981 sequel, Game of Death II (made after Lee’s death in 1973), audio commentaries, and interviews.

The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits is much more than a film collection, it is a magnum opus to the legacy of one of the greatest martial arts actors and cultural icons in history. This is one of the best in the Blu-ray Criterion Collection set lineup because it is a delight for fans of Bruce Lee, established and new alike.

Key Features

  • 7-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Action and adventure
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Run Time: 8.5 hours
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • Includes 5 Bruce Lee films
  • 1981 sequel, Game of Death II
  • Attractive package
Cons

  • Some films are more re-watchable than the others

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Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits

I will unashamedly unleash my bias, I am a huge fan of Godzilla! I have gleefully sought for and savored every version of the King of Monsters for a good deal of my life. So, it’s no wonder that I am absolutely Kaiju-crazy about the Blu-ray Criterion Collection set Godzilla, the Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975. It is a monstrously big collection befitting a monstrously big cinematic titan.

Godzilla, the Showa-Era Films contains 15 HD-restored movies on 7 discs with the likes of the original Godzilla, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. King Kong, and many more. The set is presented in a display-worthy hardcover book-like package that holds the discs and is decorated in wonderfully fun Godzilla art. Special features include audio commentaries and featurettes on the unforgettable, if not at times silly special effects in the films. These Godzilla movies are the type of flicks you watch for larger-than-life fun that hearkens to the kid in all of us. The set is an excellent homage to one of the greats movie monsters of all time.

Some can view that Godzilla is not a worthy subject for a film collection, but I would argue otherwise. Godzilla and its ever-evolving franchise that has repeatedly proven its staying power through fun and spectacle. Any such cinematic stalwart is absolutely deserving of the collection treatment and this Criterion Collection Blu-ray set is one of the best. Godzilla! Nuf said.

Key Features

  • 8-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Science fiction and fantasy, horror
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 21.5 hours
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 15 Godzilla movies
  • Illustrated hardcover book
  • Interviews and essays
Cons

  • May be best for serious fans only (lesser-quality versions widely available)

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Godzilla, the Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975

Wikipedia defines a movie franchise as “a collection of related films in succession that share the same fictional universe.” Star Wars and Harry Potter are definitely film franchises, but neither comes close to the film total of one of the greatest film franchises that you’ve probably never heard of. Thankfully, Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman is on offer as one of the best Blu-ray Criterion Collection sets.

Zatoichi is a 25-film collection chronicling the travels and adventures of an itinerant blind, gambling masseur (Ichi) who also happens to be a skilled swordsman. All of the films in this 1962-1973 set follow the same template with Zatoichi helping the oppressed all the while facing his own demons. What is special about Zatoichi is that the films feature not only fantastic samurai sword action, there is also wonderful character development, particularly with the titular character being played by one actor, Shintaro Katsu, in every film. What is wonderful about this collection is that Criterion is presenting the entire franchise (save for Zatoichi: Darkness Is His Ally from 1989), not just a few films from the series. The set includes 9 discs in a hardcover slipcover booklet featuring art inspired by each film among other special features introducing and detailing not only the character but also the actor who played him. The Blu-ray restoration is visually and audibly beautiful and richly detailed.

There may be longer-running film series, but not many of them can boast the same actor in the title role for each and every film. The continuity of character and impactful filmmaking set the Zatoichi films as one of the best under-the-radar film franchises. The Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman Blu-ray collection from Criterion is a set not to be missed.

Key Features

  • 9-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Deluxe packaging
Specifications

  • Genre: Action and adventure
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 36.5 hours
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • Includes 25 films
  • Supplemental material
  • 1978 documentary about Shintaro Katsu
Cons

  • Docs may not be as re-watchable for some viewers

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Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

A lot of filmmakers use their work to anatomize and examine society and its foibles, but possibly none to the degree and insightful absurdity of the films by Luis Buñuel. Buñuel was a master at surrealism (what would you expect from a colleague of Salvador Dali?) and used it via free association to radically expose and assault societal norms. No other filmmaker has been as skilled at using the absurd to expose the absurd quite as Buñuel. Three Films by Luis Buñuel is a Blu-ray Criterion Collection set that showcases Buñuel at his surrealistic best.

This three-film set includes Buñuel’s final films: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, and That Obscure Object of Desire. Though not interconnected sequels, the films represent Buñuel’s surrealistic slant, if not scathing attacks on class pretension, moral hypocrisy, and the status quo, among other societal indiscretions. The digital restoration adds a warmness to the films’ A/V presentation which enhances the comedic and yet at times horrific undertones of Buñuel’s surrealism. Special features include documentaries on the films, interviews with screenwriters and actors, and more.

Three Films by Luis Buñuel is an HD-restored surrealistic study of the absurd. It is the type of collection that could go unnoticed but is thankfully presented as one of the best Blu-ray Criterion Collection sets.

Key Features

  • 3-disc Blu-Ray set
  • HD restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Comedy
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Run Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • Films by Luis Buñuel
  • Documentaries on Buñuel
  • Interviews with screenwriters and actors
Cons

  • May be a bit out-there for some viewers

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Three Films by Luis Buñuel

When a filmmaker is christened with an iconic name, s/he deserves an iconic collection of their work. Melvin van Peeples has been called the Godfather of Black Cinema and his being one of the first African American directors to work for a Hollywood studio and a trailblazer for American independent cinema, that title is richly deserved. The Blu-ray Criterion Collection Melvin Van Peebles” Essential Films is a proper acknowledgment of one of the greats.

Melvin Van Peeples may not be a household name in cinema, but his influence is. Van Peebles’ films ushered in the “Blaxploitation” film era and forever changed the perception black films could have on culture and the box office. Blaxploitation in Van Peebles films is not the stereotypical cinema trope, but instead a celebration of the obdurate black protagonist in the real world. His films rewrote the narratives on black life in America as absolutely attested to by the works included in this set Don’t Play Us Cheap, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, The Story of a Three Day Pass, Watermelon Man, and Don’t Play Us Cheap. The films are beautifully 4K-restored and special features include audio commentaries and interviews as well as Baadasssss!, a 2003 fictional feature film based on director Melvin Van Peebles’s diaries from the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.

The Blu-ray set Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films is one of the best from the Criterion Collection because these are not only important films by Melvin Van Peebles, but they are also essential American films.

Key Features

  • 5-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 6 hours 35 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 4 films by Melvin Van Peebles
  • 2003 feature film Baadasssss!
  • Audio commentaries and interviews
Cons

  • Less well known than some collections (but maybe that should change!)

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Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

There is a whole cinematic world outside of Hollywood and film collection sets are excellent avenues for introduction to the wonderful celluloid artistry that is out there. There is no better example of the value of collection sets than the Blu-ray Criterion Collection set World of Wong Kar Wai.

Wong Kar Wai is an internationally renowned Hong Kong filmmaker noted for producing films that are noted as having atmospheric music, nonlinear narratives, and striking cinematography presented in bold, saturated colors. The seven films included in this seven-disc collection are: As Tears Go By (1988), Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995), Happy Together (1997), In the Mood for Love (2000), and 2046 (2004). Though technically not sequels, each film bears so much of Wong Kar Wai’s style that they all seem emotionally and artistically connected. These films don’t so much tell a story as show it in visually and emotionally unforgettable ways. The 4K restoration wonderfully enhances, even more, the already stunning color palette that is indicative of Wong Kar Wai’s films. The beauty of Wong Kar Wai’s work is reflected in the stylish and beautiful French-fold book with essays, and collectible art prints, among many more special features.

Beautiful is the best, yet a seemingly inadequate term that can be used to describe not only the films in the Blu-ray Criterion Collection set World of Wong Kar Wai but also the package itself. It is a tremendous homage and introduction to one of the most highly regarded contemporary filmmakers that are not Hollywood regulars.

Key Features

  • 7-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Digital restoration
  • Supplemental material
Specifications

  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 12 hours
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 7 films by Wong Kar Wai
  • Beautiful collection package
  • Interviews with Wong Kar Wai
Cons

  • Nonlinear narratives not for everyone

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Every movie ever made has a backstory about how it was conceived, made, etc. Those backstories can be fascinating and maybe even tragic (a number of Terry Gilliam films come to mind). What can also be fascinating is the backstory of the filmmakers themselves and how they came to produce movies. The Blu-ray Criterion Collection set America Lost and Found: The BBS Story is not only a collection of movies from one particular production company, but it’s also an expose of that company and the era in which they made films. The BBS Story is essentially a collage-esque documentary development, success, and failure of BBS Productions. Formed by Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner from their successful and profitable invention of the TV pop group The Monkees, BBS Productions set out to cultivate new talent and new ideas for Hollywood. BBS Productions produced films that were reflective of the anti-establishment, disillusionment and unabated self-discovery of the turbulent ’60s and early ’70s. The included films, Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive He Said, A Safe Place, The Last Picture Show, and The King of Marvin Gardens are expose-type works on the counter-culture of the time. And just like the movements, when they accomplished what they set out to do, BBS faded into history. The films are brilliantly HD-restored and the supplemental material provides a good introduction to and insight not only on the time but BBS Productions as well. America Lost and Found: The BBS Story is a history lesson and one of the best Blu-ray sets from the Criterion Collection.

Key Features

  • 6-disc Blu-Ray set
  • Supplemental material
  • Digital restoration
Specifications

  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 11 hours 31 minutes
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
Pros

  • 7 films from BBS Productions
  • Commentary and screen tests featuring The Monkees
  • BBS documentary
Cons

  • May seem more informational and less entertaining to some viewers

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America Lost and Found: The BBS Story

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is, without question, one of the best collection sets by Criterion. Including 15 of Hitchcock’s greatest works at a terrific price, the set is made up of some of Hollywood’s most significant influences and has shaped film as we know it today.

The box set itself, as a Blu-Ray release, is very careful and detail-attentive in its sprucing-up of these cinematic classes. With crisper visuals and some clearer audio, the movies feel as they were meant to be felt. Often, they feel more visceral than their theater, VHS, and DVD counterparts, which works for movies like Psycho which hold up better in this format thanks to improved presentation.

Perhaps the most notable element of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is its sticker price. With 15 films, the collection is quite the steal, and combined with bonus content and commentary, Hitchcock fans and casuals alike will find something to enjoy with Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection.

The only real complaint one might make about this collection is that some of the films are more memorable than others. Of course, that would include movies like Psycho, Rear Window, and The Man Who Knew Too Much, which supersede some of the other films included in the collection.

At a budget-friendly price and comprised of 15 classic films sharpened for the new era, you can’t beat this Alfred Hitchcock movie collection.

Key Features

  • Includes 15 classic films
  • All included films have been given visual upgrades
  • Many, many extras
  • Highlights the best of Hitchcock’s work
Pros

  • Every film is great
  • Movies are hugely suspenseful
  • Great soundtracks
  • Terrific value
Cons

  • Some films are more memorable than others

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection

Criterion is a home video company that restores and distributes films. In Criterion’s own words, “The Criterion Collection is a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films on home video.” There’s an unfortunate perception that movies in the Criterion lineup are snobby, but their selections truly run the gamut of filmdom from Hollywood blockbusters and independent films all the way to horror “B” films and obscure titles. The only criterion for a Criterion Collection film is that the film is an exemplary film of its kind.

What Makes a Film “Criterion”?

Films in The Criterion Collection are given the “Criterion treatment” which includes restoration, supplemental material, and even packaging all intended to deepen a viewer’s understanding and appreciation of the film. Along with individual films with the Criterion treatment, The Criterion Collection also offers box sets. The Criterion Collection box sets represent curated collections of films from particular filmmakers, actors, genres, and more. With each film enhanced by the Criterion treatment, a box set from this collection is an entertaining, informative, and fully engrossing experience for cinephiles or anyone wanting an introduction to an unfamiliar aspect of the feature-film universe.

A good example of this would be, for instance, Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection—a collection of films that perfectly exemplify the works of Alfred Hitchcock. From Psycho to Rear Window, this collection in particular is a fantastic introduction to one of the best and most influential directors of all-time. Any Blu-Ray device owner would be remiss without this collection somewhere in their own personal library of Criterion collections.

While box sets in the Criterion Collection, like the individual films, come in DVD and Blu-ray format, it is the Blu-ray versions that fully exemplify what Criterion is all about. Blu-ray encoding offers the benefits of HD resolution, enhance audio, and interactivity making for an even more impressive immersive experience when viewing films that already stand out on their original merits. That Blu-ray goodness combined with clever packaging and supplemental material makes the Blu-ray Criterion Collection set a truly unique cinematic experience.

Some Guidance for Choosing the Best Criterion Collection Sets

Considering the uniqueness of the selections for the Blu-ray Criterion Collection sets, it can be somewhat difficult in choosing which one to opt for. To help in your foray into the world of enhanced, packaged cinema, we’ve put together a listing of the best Blu-ray Criterion Collection sets. Whatever your movie preference or interest, there is most certainly something for you in the Criterion Collection.

FAQ

Q: How much is the average Criterion collection?

This one truly depends. While some collections are on the relatively inexpensive, such as Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection with its 15 films, others will be found to be far more expensive with fewer films.

Q: Are non-Criterion collections just as good?

Sometimes, you may find the quality of the video and audio to be indistinguishable between Blu-Ray Criterion collections and non-Criterion-branded collections. However, there is often bonus content included in Criterion collections that is exclusive to it.

Q: What is the difference between Criterion collections and regular Blu-Ray collections?

Criterion collections appear nearly identical to regular Blu-Ray collections from the outset, merely including all entries of a particular franchise or director’s work. However, Criterion’s claim to fame is the care it applies to its technical enhancements of movies to fit the Blu-Ray, 4K, etc. formats.

Q: Are Criterion Blu-Rays 4K?

Criterion Blu-Rays, at times, are 4K, especially given that 4K is becoming the dominant visual standard for physical releases. However, some Criterion collections still come in 2K.

Q: Can Criterion movies be obtained elsewhere?

Yes, movies in Criterion Collections can absolutely be purchased separately. Sometimes, they are even released in separate Criterion Collections down the road.



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