Q. I notice that people refer to a new Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection as if it’s something special. What makes a Criterion Collection release different from any other Blu-ray? — Edgar, Washington, D.C.

The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company that has a long history of working with filmmakers and film scholars to ensure that a classic film looks the way the director would want when it’s released on disc.

The company, which has been involved in film distribution and remastering since the LaserDisc days, won’t issue a new release unless it’s been thoroughly vetted by some of cinema’s top authorities.

See top-selling Criterion Collection Blu-ray titles here.

That’s not to say that your average, run-of-the-mill studio release is of poor quality. But the Criterion team spends more time and resources on quality control. It’s their trademark.

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Plus, a Criterion Blu-ray release will include supplemental material that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, the Criterion Blu-ray disc of Brazil (pictured above) features the following:

* Restored HD digital transfer of Terry Gilliam’s 142-minute director’s cut, supervised by Gilliam;
* Audio commentary by Gilliam;
* A 30-minute on-set documentary on the film;
* A 60-minute documentary on the controversy surrounding the film’s release;
* A 94-minute cut of the film produced by the studio to make it more “commercial.”
* A production notebook from Gilliam’s personal collection;

And a whole lot more.

As you can see, the Criterion release is for the true movie lover. Not only do you get to watch the movie in crystal-clear high-def, you get a chance to learn about its history, why it was made and what was done in the production process.

Buying a Criterion movie is like taking a course in film school.

Final note: FilmStruck, the streaming service for $6.99 a month, also features a collection of Criterion films.

The top three selling Criterion Blu-rays at Amazon today are: The Night of the Living Dead, The Silence of the Lambs. and The Passion of Joan of Arc. You can see the top 100 selling Criterion Blu-rays here.

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— Phillip Swann