Q. I’ve read that Criterion movies are very cool because they have extra features like documentaries about the film. But I notice that they sometimes cost more. So, are they really worth the extra money? And what exactly is Criterion? Is that a company? — Cynthia, Detroit.
Cynthia, 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.
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 The Silence of the Lambs (pictured above) features the following:
* New 4K digital restoration
* Audio commentary featuring Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Tally and John Douglas
* 38 minutes of deleted scenes
* Hours of interviews, behind-the-scenes featurette, plus an introduction by Foster.
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.
However, like film school, you have to pay for the privilege of learning. Criterion Blu-rays almost always cost more. For example, the Criterion Blu-ray of The Silence of the Lambs costs $21.12 today at Amazon while you can get the regular Blu-ray edition of the film for just $8.99. That’s quite a difference. But if you’re really into movies — particularly that movie — it’s worth it.
By the way, the top three selling Criterion Blu-rays at Amazon today are: Notorious, The Ingmar Bergman Collection, and Detour. You can see the top 100 selling Criterion Blu-rays here.
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It’s worth noting that Eureka Video in the UK produces DVDs and Blu rays of Criterion quality, especially in their Masters of Cinema series, that are a lot less pricey. (The independent CriterionForum.org even has a sub-section devoted to Eureka.) Some of them are even for the same movies, and sometimes they license some of the same extras.
Americans will need a region-free player to watch them, but those can be bought pretty inexpensively nowadays, and if you’re a big-time film lover, you should have one anyway – it really opens up your viewing possibilities. That goes even for movies that are available in the U.S. For an example, the recent UK blu ray of Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW has better extras than the Criterion disc, and for a lower price.