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2001: The Year of DVD
The year 2001 was the best so far for the DVD format. The release of the Sony Playstation 2 didn't hurt matters, and made DVD more accessible to the casual user. The fall in price of stand-alone players also helped the machines to become the fastest growing consumer electronics product of all time in the UK. Now if only the software would follow suite…

The films below might not be your cup of tea, but to me they represent the best of the discs that I have seen this year. It might be because the film is great, or because of a fantastic audio/visual experience, or maybe because the extras are awesome, but I feel each disc warrants its place in this list.

So with out further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top ten discs of 2001.

Moulin Rouge Region 4

The film took me by surprise when I saw it at the cinema. Moulin Rouge did something that only a handful of musicals have ever managed – it held my attention. Baz Luhrmann’s sweeping tale of love set against the backdrop of 19th century Paris, features fantastic sets, costumes and songs that you’ll be singing long after the closing credits.

For the R4 release of Moulin Rouge, Fox pulled out all of the stops and provided buyers with a two-disc set complete with fantastic audio/visual quality and mountains of interesting additional material. It’s Fantastic value for money, and one of the top discs of the year.

Shrek Region 1

Another pleasant surprise at the cinema, Shrek became many people’s must have DVD upon its release. The tale of the giant green ogre with a heart of gold enchanted adults and children alike, although not our own Holly Ordway!

While poor R2 consumers had to put up with a single disc release, lucky R1 dwellers got a two-disc extravaganza, with flawless video, the choice of widescreen and pan & scan versions of the film, DTS audio and many more extras. One of the many reasons I own a multi-region player!

Superman: The Movie - Special Edition Region 2

Coming like a bolt from the blue we have Warner’s amazing edition of Superman. If only all Special Editions were like this one, then they would truly deserve their titles. Not content with restoring the video and giving us one of the best Dolby 5.1 mixes I’ve heard, they even went back and added some scenes deleted from the original theatrical cut!

When combined with some excellent special features, such as commentaries, interviews, documentaries and deleted scenes, it all goes towards making Superman one of the must have titles of 2001

Moulin Rouge, Shrek and Superman
Star Wars: Episode I Region 2

Critically panned it may have been, but the first instalment in the Star Wars saga came packaged in one of the best sets of the year. With a reference quality Dolby Digital track and nice visuals to match, The Phantom Menace never looked (or sounded) better.

What elevated the package above your average release was the awesome array of extras. The second disc houses pretty much everything a Star Wars fan could want, including documentaries, deleted scenes, TV spots and web videos, storyboards, trailers, featurettes, stills galleries and web links, all wrapped up in the most beautiful presentation you’re likely to see.

Manhunter: Limited Edition Region 1

Manhunter is an excellent film, and far better than The Silence of the Lambs as far as I’m concerned. Michael Mann’s stylish thriller about a serial killer and the FBI agent charged with hunting him down is genuinely scary in parts, and is beautifully filmed throughout.

The Anchor Bay LE comes with a great video transfer, which really shows off the fantastic cinematography, a good soundtrack and a smattering of extras. Unfortunately the included director’s cut leaves a lot to be desired in terms of image quality, but this doesn’t ruin what is a very good release.

Any Given Sunday Region 4

It will probably come as a surprise to many to find this on the list, but it really is an underrated film. Oliver Stone actually manages to make American Football exciting (no mean feat), and the acting is top notch.

The two-disc package comes with a huge amount of extras, most of which are very good. Commentaries fro Stone and cast and crew, deleted and extended scenes with commentary, music videos, behind the scenes footage, stills galleries, gag reels, an isolated score and more. If you combine this with great visuals and another one of the best sound mixes of the year, it all adds up to a winner.

Dogma: Special Edition Region 1

Now I liked Clerks, but that was the extent of my Kevin Smith exposure. After seeing this film on TV a number of times I was converted! Smith’s sense of humour maybe a little off centre, but he does make funny films.

This edition of Dogma comes in an excellent two-disc set that features hilarious commentaries, tones of deleted and extended scenes, interviews, easter eggs and great animated menus. The video and audio are also admirable, and this helps to make the package one of the most entertaining I've ever seen.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Region 3

Going back to the begining of the year, Crouching Tiger was one of the best films I'd seen in a while. Genuinely different from the Hollywood crap that one normally has to put up with, and featuring great acting combined with brilliant martial arts action.

The DVD was a winner in R3, with a good transfer, excellent audio in both the original Mandarin and English, good subtitles, an English commentary track and some nice extras. It also enabled fans to watch the film at home while the rest of the country struggled to find a cinema that was screening it.

Star Wars TPM, Dogma SE and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Battle Royale Region 3

Only the Japanese could have made this film. Concentrating on a group of troublesome teenagers who are exiled to an island and forced to brutally murder one another, this story is both shocking and compelling.

The disc, while not offering much in the way of extras, provided a reasonable video transfer and an excellent DTS soundtrack. The fantastic price (it's about £8.50 delivered) helped to seal its inclusion here.

Full Metal Jacket Region 2

Kubrick’s masterful film about the Vietnam War makes it onto the list by virtue of the film’s sheer brilliance. Although the disc is another featureless effort from Warner, the quality of the audio and video is first rate. The 5.1 mix is very engaging, with plenty of surround action, while the video is a clean and sharp as you could hope for. All in all a top transfer of a fantastic film, but the extras are a real letdown.

Honourable Mention

Final Fantasy: Special Edition Region 1
Although it was a box office disaster, I actually quite liked Final Fantasy. In fact it very nearly made the top ten, only losing out to Battle Royale at the last minute. Although the story does have its failings, Columbia Tristar’s Special Edition is excellent value for money.

The film’s evolutionary visuals have been brought to the small screen in style, with a great transfer, complemented by a good soundtrack. The extras spread across the two discs are very nice indeed, especially the ‘Thriller’ video.

Biggest Disappointment

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Region 1
I was so looking forward to the Director’s Edition of The Motion Picture. It’s promise of new scenes and special effects, whilst removing some of the more laboured moments of the original cut, intrigued me.

Things started well, with a nice sound mix, some good extras and an interesting commentary. Unfortunately they ruined the whole thing by not bothering to restore the video. The transfer is full of dust and scratches, and many scenes are badly out of focus (incredibly in some scenes only part of the picture is out of focus!). The whole sorry affair leaves you feeling cheated. We can only hope that Paramount learn their lesson for the R2 release…

Worst of 2001

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Region 2
Now I’m sure many of you will think I’m being harsh, but I haven’t seen ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ on DVD and I’m afraid that this was next in line. You can check out my review on the site for a more detailed account of what I thought of the film, but suffice to say it isn’t good.

A weak plot, poor audio, lacklustre extras and it’s been cut by the BBFC… Please, do yourself a favour and avoid it; one turkey at Christmas is enough for anyone.

Well, that’s my look at my favourite DVDs of the year. I hope you all enjoyed it, even if you don’t agree with the list! My I just take this opportunity to wish you all a happy 2002 – may it bring you all the DVDs you deserve!

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