Back Comments (41) Share:
Facebook Button
There is no doubt that 2004 has been a watershed year for DVD releases. Some of the biggest titles have hit shelves to ensure the cash keeps coming in for those shiny round discs we’ve all come to love. In our 2004 review we ask the DVDAnswers staff to come up with their top ten releases, as well as add their thoughts on how the next twelve months are going to shape up. Does the Return Of The King extended edition pull off a clean sweep of the votes? Is Star Wars as highly regarded as we might think? And what are some of the best releases of the year you might have overlooked? Read on…

2004 In Review
Pete Roberts

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Clerks X: 10th Anniversary Edition (R1)
3) Shaun Of The Dead (R2) review
4) Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (R1)
5) I, Robot: Special Edition (R4) review
6) The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary Edition (R1) review
7) The Cooler (R1)
8) Lost In Translation (R1)
9) Touching The Void (R1)
10) Cypher (R4) review

2005 Most Anticipated

  • South Park: Season Five (R1)
  • Garden State (R1)
  • Saw (R1)
  • Heat: Special Edition (R1)

Unreleased Wishlist

  • Bladerunner: Director’s Cut (Special Edition)
  • “Ed” – Series 1-4

2004 has been an interesting year, with three of the most popular trilogies of all time ( Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, Indiana Jones) hitting shelves and leaving DVD aficionados with little room left on their credit card for some of the other quality releases of the year. Naturally, you can’t go past the final installment of Peter Jackson’s epic extended edition for top spot. But when you look at some of the other discs it’s not as clear cut as it may seem.

Kevin Smith is responsible for millions of young blokes becoming interested in film in the first place, and thankfully the tenth anniversary edition of Clerks has everything the fanboys were after and more. Shaun Of The Dead received a great release in the UK where it all began so clinches number three by a whisker. The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection triumphs almost through sheer weight of numbers, with no less than nine films spread over ten discs. Fans of the classics should seek this one out, regardless of the inevitably high price tag.

The remaining six spots were extremely tough calls. You’ve got the surprisingly superior Region 4 release of I, Robot, a long-awaited special edition of half the population’s favourite film in The Shawshank Redemption, and the grossly underrated casino flick The Cooler filling the middle rungs. Lost In Translation earned its spot almost for the quality of the film alone, while the best documentary of the year, Touching The Void, is given a decent release on DVD. The final spot was an agonising decision, with Cypher getting the nod because it’s a quality flick still without a distributor in Region 1. The Region 4 release of All The Real Girls couldn’t live up to 2003’s Region 1 disc, so unfortunately the brilliant romance/drama misses out. Overall, these are the best of the best, ones that should slot automatically into your collection without a doubt.

Looking to the future, there are a few gems on the horizon. The best season of South Park hits shelves early on, while Garden State couldn’t make my list because it didn’t arrive in time enough for me to check it out. Throw in Saw and the long-awaited special edition of Heat and there’s plenty more spending to be had next year. And who knows, maybe we will finally see the whole rights issue sorted out with Bladerunner so that we can be treated to a high-quality release, and the syndication of the underrated (and now defunct) TV series Ed to kick-start a season-by-season DVD distribution. Fingers crossed for another stellar year like this one.

2004 In Review
Matthew Joseph

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
3) Universal Monsters Legacy Collections (R1)
4) Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition (R1) review
5) Master & Commander - The Far Side of the World: Collector's Edition (R1) review
6) The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary Edition (R1) review
7) Videodrome: The Criterion Collection (R1) review
8) THX-1138 Director's Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition (R1)
9) Aladdin: Disney Special Platinum Edition (R1)
10) Hellboy: Director's Cut (R1) review

2005 Most Anticipated

  • Miami Vice
  • Night Court
  • Kagemusha: The Criterion Collection
  • Hoosiers: Special Edition
  • The Incredibles
  • Donnie Darko: Director's Cut
  • Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow
  • Ice Pirates

Unreleased Wishlist

  • The Fly ('86): Special Edition
  • War of the Worlds (Seasons 1-2)
  • Tales from the Crypt (Seasons 1-7)
  • King Kong ('33): Special Edition
  • The Park Is Mine
  • House of Long Shadows
  • The Monster Squad
  • Rad
  • Starchaser: The Legend of Orin

In any previous year, even with its problems, the Star Wars trilogy would have been the best release. Even if you don’t care for Lucas’ special editions (you would have to pry The Star Wars Trilogy: Definitive Collection laserdiscs out of my cold, dead hands), you can’t deny that for the most part the video and audio quality of the set is phenomenal and make these twenty plus year-old films look as if they were filmed this year. The additional fourth disc that houses the extra features probably could have included more content as it feels a bit light, but what features are included are a real treat. As for the films themselves, they pretty much defined my childhood and are the main inspiration for my love of film and in saying this I know I'm not alone.

I must reiterate that in any previous year I would call it the best release, but this year saw the release of what may in fact be the single best set for a film the DVD format has ever seen in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Extended Edition. With immaculate video and audio, enough extras and commentaries spread across the four discs to choke an oliphant and a version of the Academy Award winning film that is even better than before, this is the top release of the year hands down and scores straight tens across the board. The package sets a new standard and is the one in which all others will now be judged as it truly is the one to rule them all.

While my other selections are fairly interchangeable between positions four through ten, I thought that the Universal Monster Legacy Collections deserved special merit in placing as the third best release. Whether or not you liked Van Helsing when it came out this past summer, no one can doubt that the best thing about its release was bringing these films out of moratorium to be used as a promotional tool. No horror film buff should be without this collection that features some of the horror genre’s luminary titles along with documentaries and commentaries among the extras that are alone nearly worth the price of each set.

2004 In Review
Bryan Rickert

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
3) Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (R1)
4) The Iron Giant: Special Edition (R1) review
5) The Simpsons Seasons 4 & 5 (R1)
6) Seinfeld Seasons 1-3 (R1)
7) Goodfellas Special Edition (R1)
8) The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary Edition (R1) review
9) Elf (R1) review
10) Gone With the Wind: Collectors Edition (R1)

2005 Most Anticipated

  • The Incredibles
  • Batman The Animated Series: Vol. 2
  • Superman Animated Series: Vol. 1
  • The Brak Show Vol. 1
  • Further Seinfeld Seasons
  • Further Simpsons Seasons
  • Heat: Special Edition
  • Batman: Special Edition
  • The Godfather: Part Two (Single Disc)

Unreleased Wishlist

  • Superman 2 Special Edition
  • The Wonder Years
  • Lifeboat

2004 marked a year of DVD releases in which many missing titles were finally released, starting with the Star Wars trilogy. While the version which was released may still be in dispute, the saga has finally made it onto the format coupled with modest extras and great film restoration to boot. Another notable most wanted title that has been scratched off are the Seinfeld seasons. Many long waits for special edition releases of films were also released including many from Warner Bros. The care that Warner Bros. put into their releases this year was generally top notch, and they get my vote for studio of the year. Their work on the Hitchcock titles and Gone With the Wind is breathtaking.

2004 In Review
Peter Martin

1) Shaun Of The Dead (R2) review
2) Spiderman 2: Special Edition (R1) review
3) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
4) Red Dwarf: Series V (R2)
5) School of Rock (R1) review
6) Elf (R1) review
7) The Simpsons Season Four (R1)
8) The Office Christmas Specials (R1) review
9) Kill Bill Volume Two (R1)
10) The Box of Delights (R2)

2005 Most Anticipated

  • The Simpsons Season Five (R2)
  • Leon Special Edition (R2)
  • Garden State (R2)
  • Man On Fire (R2)
  • Red Dwarf Series Six
  • Star Wars Episode III : Revenge of the Sith

Unreleased Wishlist

  • The Truman Show (Special Edition, any region)
  • Malcolm in the Middle Season Two (R1)

That’s right, my favourite disc of the year is Shaun of the Dead. Strange, considering I’m usually allergic to any film made in Britain. Fortunately, this is a hilarious, beautifully observed movie which has ranked as one of the most original features of the year. The DVD brilliantly captures the spirit of the feature with genuinely entertaining extras and a superb commentary from director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg. It may be a humble single-disc of a low-budget comedy, but it puts blockbusters with endless badly-made featurettes in the shade.

And now the inevitable questions; Where is The Matrix Collection? Where is The Return Of The King : Extended Edition? Not on my shelf, I’m afraid. While I’ve enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and am still a huge fan of the original Matrix feature, I have no interest in dozens of dull special effects featurettes which make up the majority of these multiple disc collections. So, if you’re looking for a trilogy box set from me, it has to be Star Wars release. Sadly nowhere near as comprehensive as I’d have liked but still an essential purchase (since The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are afforded dedicated extras discs, would it be too much to ask for one for each of the far, superior sequels?). Also disappointing, but still warranting a buy, were both halves of Kill Bill. A re-released extras-laden affair should put to rights the mistakes made by these, almost vanilla, discs.

If you haven’t guessed from that list, I’m a huge fan of TV discs, and season boxsets are always a must. One wishes that they’d just release them a little bit more regularly, but when the quality is as good as they are with The Simpsons or Red Dwarf, one quite complain too much.

2004 In Review
Benjamin Willcock

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
3) The Ultimate Matrix Collection (R1)
4) The Passion of the Christ (R2) review
5) Finding Nemo: Collector’s Edition (R2) review
6) Spiderman 2: Special Edition (R1) review
7) The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary Edition, 3-disc (R1) review
8) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (R1)
9) Kill Bill: Volume I & II (TIE)
10) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (R1) review / Shrek 2 (R1) review(TIE)

2005 Most Anticipated

  • The Incredibles
  • Hero
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • Babylon 5: Season Five
  • Gone with the Wind – Collectors Edition

Well, the list is complete, the shutters are almost down and a brand new year is upon us! 2004 has been an odd sort of year for the DVD platform, with a great many ups and downs and even some surprises along the way. But the way I see it, the only words that were on the tips of most tongues this year can be summed up in no less than two simple syllables; Star Wars. Yes, it was the year George Lucas unleashed his greatly lauded trilogy onto the format it was always destined to reach. Meanwhile, Peter Jackson and his legions of troops were tying up all the loose ends in Middle Earth in what was also poised to be the greatest release of the year. Who would prevail in this epic battle of the titans?

For me, and I suspect millions of others, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King gets the top spot with its brilliant Extended Edition release. Packed to the brink with thought provoking features and once again sporting premier class picture and sound presentation, this classic film has been graced with one of the best DVD’s ever released. Bravo! Mel Gibson’s controversial biblical epic The Passion of the Christ makes the top ten but is also somewhat of a disappointment. Once again, this is no error but rather the effect of a pinnacle DVD release that was met with a mixed reception. Yes, the film was beautifully presented but the total lack of extras proved most disappointing of all. Rumour has it that a special edition will be along shortly, but why couldn’t it have been bundled with this package?

Readers may also notice there are actually twelve titles in my top ten list. I do apologise for this, I really couldn’t help it and I outwardly confess I got a bit carried away. No matter, the titles that are there, in my opinion at least, deserve to be there. Elsewhere there were some DVD’s that just missed the mark and didn’t quite make it into the top ten. Releases such as The Office and Shaun of the Dead were prime examples of quality production, but sadly have to join the likes of 24: Season Three and Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition among the honoured mentions.

Looking ahead, there are some huge releases up and coming in the new year, none more so than Pixar’s sixth motion picture, The Incredibles. I make no pun when saying that I expect nothing less that an incredible DVD release for this film. Kung Fu also gets another classic in Jet Li’s Hero and Babylon 5 also draws to a close in its critically mixed fifth and final season. I am sure there are plenty of others, but as no release date yet exists, they cannot be included in the list.

2004 In Review
Gabriel Powers

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition (R1) review
3) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
4) Home Movies: Season 1 (R1)
5) Kill Bill Volume 1 (Uncut R3)
6) Spaced: Ultimate Edition (R2)
7) Videodrome: The Criterion Collection (R1) review
8) Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (R1)
9) Ed Wood (R1)
10) City Of God (R1)

2005 Most Anticipated

  • Spiderman 2: Extended Edition
  • Cemetary Man
  • Dario Argento's Trauma
  • A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Sin City
  • Batman Begins

Unreleased Wishlist

  • Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 Special Editions
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
  • The Original Ghostbusters (animated series)
  • Sifl and Olly Seasons 1 and 2
  • Frighteners: Special Edtion
  • Braindead (Dead/Alive): Special Edition

It was a toss up between Dawn of the Dead and The Return of the King for me this year. Though I'd been waiting years for Anchor Bay to finish their ultimate edition, and though it was an outstanding set, Peter Jackson's trilogy bookend really was the most spectacular DVD release of the year. With the extended footage, The Return of the King moved from my least favored (still loved) of the trilogy to the top, though I suppose it's hard to separate these films into three movies now that we've reached the end of all things.

As far as my other picks go, most of them were DVDs I'd waited a very long time for that actually delivered more just than serviceable special editions. Even though the Star Wars DVDs weren't what I'd exactly call definitive editions, there is no denying my sheer satisfaction in owning them, especially with that fine documentary. Home Movies and Spaced are both rather newly discovered television shows to me, and I couldn't be much happier with the DVD results (special thanks to some of the fellas on the site for encouragement in purchasing the rather expensive Spaced set). Kill Bill Volume 1 was meant to be seen in all its uncut, bloody, color glory, and the Japanese DVD has made my home a place of legend for owning it. Videodrome has needed special edition treatment for a very long time, so thank you Criterion, and please, lower your prices. Ed Wood was the amazing disappearing DVD last year but we finally got it here in the states, and though Interstella 5555 was technically released at the end of 2003, no stores carried it here until pretty far into the new year. My final choice is City of God, an amazing film that received a decent, if not great DVD treatment.

There were some disappointments throughout the year, discs which, despite clever labeling, have still not received the special edition treatments they deserve, though I should mention that The Iron Giant and Goodfellas are probably still worth the upgrade, and Saving Private Ryan comes in a really neat-o box.

2004 In Review
David Beamish

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Garden State (R1)
3) Lost In Translation (R1) review
4) Spiderman 2: Special Edition (R1) review
5) Aladdin: Disney Special Platinum Edition (R1)
6) Top Gun: Special Edition
7) Goodfellas Special Edition (R1)
8) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (R1)
9) Hero (R1)
10) House of Flying Daggers (R3)

Unreleased Wishlist

  • Star Wars - SEs with no added bits
  • Recall on Top Gun SE with better video quality
  • Scrubs

It's always hard to choose ten DVDs of the year. Especially when it isn't always the top films of the year that make the top DVDs. The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVDs have set a new standard in home viewing with incredibly well mastered video and audio with the added bonus of extra material not originally available, more extras than you could ever want and a beautiful slick presentation that is just the icing on the cake. A shame then that I found the editing in The Return of the King: Extended Edition to be quite choppy at times. Some of the extra material did not really add anything for me either, however this really is DVD of the year for me.

Garden State might be an odd and late choice and with such a late release date most people will not have it until 2005. I found it hard to believe that Zach Braff from Scrubs (one of my favourite TV shows) could actually act well, and not only that, but direct well too. In fact, I would rate his directing better than his acting. It’s a strange film in that not a lot really happens, even though there is a lot going on. It certainly isn’t the rip-roaring comedy the appalling advertising in the UK tried to have us believe, but it is a film I rated highly over the past year.

Spider-Man 2. Raimi. DTS. ‘Nuff said.

Aladdin is something I have waited for years to get on DVD. And I really do mean years! So as soon as it was announced I had a pre-order in for this and I must say, I very much enjoyed the songs, the presentation and the extra features. Probably my favourite non-Pixar Disney film, it is presented with the Disney Enhanced Home Cinema soundtrack and, while it is not as thumping as The Lion King, it adds a new dimension to "a kid film made for adults".

Top Gun is a film that was always crying out for a pumping DTS encoded soundtrack and now we finally have it my sub woofer has never been so happy. Unfortunately the same level of mastering was not given to the video transfer which is still a little ropey to be honest; a real shame. It is certainly no worse than the previous release but it’s just not really any better either. That does not stop me loving the DVD though! An anamorphic version of Goodfellas is something I have also wanted for a while (I'd still like a special edition of Casino if anyone out there with the power to produce it is reading?!). It is a violent film but tells an intriguing story of crime and relationships in the world of organised crime. It sits next to my Godfather box set, as it should do on your shelf.

Eternal Sunshine. What a whacked-out, tripped-out nutter of a film. Firstly I must say I really do not like this Carrey bloke who always seems to be cast in "comedies", however I was made to each my own words after seeing this and realising that he can actually act. Finally we get to Hero and House of Flying Daggers, two films that actually made it to the cinema here in the UK (in fact as I type I think House of Flying Daggers is just about to get its UK theatrical release). No matter, they were available for import months before they were anywhere near the UK cinemas. Both, especially Hero, are just beautiful films with staggering colours, wide open shots to complicated, intricate battle scenes. There are people out there who baulk at having to watch a film with subtitles, and it really is their loss. English isn't the only language in the world, and especially now with the internet allowing us to import these films so easily, we should really embrace other cultures and just see what's out there!

I have not paid much attention to the cinema this year so my choices for next year are going to be very limited. Of course I will be purchasing The Incredibles, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I think I even have a cheap pre-order for Alien vs. Predator (which apart from the last 20 minutes, I found to be quite enjoyable). I am also looking forward to Star Wars: Episode 3 which should be a nice dark film (in theory anyway! - who knows how many dancing CG aliens we might have to put up with) which will then with any luck allow me to put the six film Star Wars set on my Christmas list for next year. I'd hazard a guess that there will be a region 2 or 4 release of Scrubs next year. If there is, then it will surely be on the agenda. Its one of the few TV shows I have really enjoyed. Nothing too surprising there then really, but hopefully next year will sneakily reveal a few gems as this year did when I wasn't looking.

2004 In Review
Malcolm Campbell

1) Oldboy (R3)
2) Lost In Translation (R1)
3) Shaun Of The Dead (R2) review
4) Il Mare (R3)
5) April Story (R3)
6) Blue Spring (R2)
7) Three... Extremes (R3)
8) Kill Bill Vol. 1 (R3)
9) Spaced: Ultimate Edition (R2)
10) Undead (R4) review

2005 Most Anticipated

  • Dead Man's Shoes
  • Garden State
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Motorcycle Diaries

Most of my DVD selections have three common threads: they are visually impressive, have a strong supporting soundtrack and their stories tend to be slightly different to the norm. The number one title, Oldboy, was bought on a whim and turned out to be my biggest highlight this year; it's a Korean film with a dark story and some good action sequences. Universal have already snapped up the remake rights for Oldboy, and Warner will be remaking Il Mare (another brilliant title in my list), so there are plenty more Hollywood movies to come with an Asian influence.

Two of the titles I most looked forward to watching last year were Shaun of the Dead and Lost in Translation, and they definitely did not disappoint. In fact, after watching Shaun of the Dead I ended up blindly purchasing both series of Spaced and thoroughly enjoyed every episode.

Artsmagic sent me a few discs last year before I gave up reviewing, all of which I enjoyed but one in particular stood out. Blue Spring is essentially a Japanese youth-gone-bad movie accompanied by some tracks by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – it was very stylized. Artsmagic may be a small label in the DVD world but they put a lot of effort into obtaining good transfers for what are low budget releases.

Of the other titles I haven't discussed, April Story was purchased at the same time as Oldboy since it was going cheap and newly released. I didn't expect much but thought it was pretty good. Three... Extremes has got to be three of the most twisted short films I've seen in a long time. I added Undead at the end because I enjoy zombie films and remembered this one had a different take on the genre.

Dead Man's Shoes and Motorcycle Diaries are two Film Four titles that I'm looking forward to buying this year; the former is a deceptively rough Derbyshire based revenge flick, whilst the latter is a South American adventure depicting Che Guevara's earlier years. My other choice, Napoleon Dynamite is a strange film that's difficult to get into, but it's a brilliant cult comedy, and Garden State (which was released just too late to make the list) is quite simply a modern day classic. These are only a small number of highlights for the coming year; I'm sure there will be plenty more.

2004 In Review
Paul Cooke

1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Extended Edition (R1)
2) Star Wars Trilogy (R1) review
3) The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary Edition (R1) review
4) Seinfeld Seasons 1-3 (R1)
5) Aladdin: Disney Special Platinum Edition (R1)
6) The Office Christmas Specials (R1) review
7) Goodfellas Special Edition (R1)
8) Garden State (R1)
9) Batman: Animated Series - Vol. 1 (R1)
10) The Simpsons - Season 4 (R1)

2005 Most Anticipated

  • The Incredibles
  • Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
  • Farscape - The Peacekeeper Wars
  • Batman Begins
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Unreleased Wishlist

  • Scrubs
  • Batman: Special Edition
  • The African Queen

2004 saw the release of probably the most sought after movie(s) on DVD - the Star Wars Trilogy. Although it can be debated whether or not the final products are in their best form, it can't be denied that they look awesome. Ditto for the Seinfeld sets, most sought after, now released!

My lists include several finales. The Return Of The King is a grand finale and hands down the best DVD of the year on this earth, Middle Earth, or any other Earth for that matter! Another finale was the BBC release The Office Christmas Specials. A hilarious, fitting and poignant conclusion to an outstanding series. January will see Lion's Gate release the finale of one of the greatest science fiction shows ever, the miniseries Farscape- Peacekeeper Wars.

After handing us small piecemeal doses of the Batman Animated Series, Warner Brothers finally decided to do things right and splurge for sets which include upwards of twenty episodes each. That trend looks set to continue into 2005, and I predict this year will be the "Year of the Bat". To accompany the release of the new Batman Begins movie, look for Warner to also re-release the original 1989 Michael Keaton Batman with loads of extras. Warner also scores points for their releases of The Shawshank Redemption and Goodfellas. Breakout star of the year has to be Zach Braff and his brilliant writing and directing debut in Garden State. Now, if only Disney will get their act together and start releasing his laugh out loud medical comedy Scrubs.

Elsewhere on the TV side, Fox continues to be the most prolific supplier of TV on DVD, but their big name inventory appears to be dwindling. They have exhausted their Buffy product, Angel will soon be done, and other shows that people have been anticipating will also soon be completed (i.e. Roswell will end with its third season in 2005). On the plus side, there are enough seasons of The Simpsons to last them for another six years! Although many would argue that this year's season four was the shows best.

Overall, a great year for DVD. And 2005 looks to be just as good if not better. The only unknown? How will the next generation of DVD affect the current market and product? Time will tell.

So there you have it. Hopefully you’ve been able to check out most of the titles on the lists, and if not you can rest assured of their quality should you decide to pick them up. 2004 has given us no end of highlights, with many more to come next year. Feel free to add your thoughts on our picks, or let us know of your own top ten of the year. Bring on 2005!

Editorial by