I wasn’t quite sure at first how to tackle a list of the Best DVDs of the Year… by definition, aren’t the best dvds the ones containing the best movies? (Yes, they are.) We don’t want this to be a list of the year’s best movies though, so instead we’re looking at the best collections, box sets, and special editions. Obviously the quality of the movies or shows within still matter, but they’re just one aspect of a truly great dvd release. The other two most important things in a quality dvd are the extras and the packaging. The best dvds of the year should ideally have all three traits… awesome feature, awesome extras, awesome packaging. (At the very least they should have two out of three.)

So here we go. These are the Best DVDs of 2009!

AK100 (Criterion)

This may be considered cinematic heresy but I’ve only seen three of Akira Kurosawa’s many movies. Forgive me. Happily the fine folks at Criterion have long been supporters of the director, and this year they released the most comprehensive dvd set ever seen for any director. AK100 celebrates what would have been Kurosawa’s 100th birthday and includes 25 of his movies from a career that lasted half a century. It includes the ones I’ve seen (Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo) and several others including a few that have never even had an official dvd release. The films each come in their own case, and the set also comes with a beautiful book covering all 25 movies. It’s not a cheap box set, but if you love Kurosawa and/or Criterion’s treatment of films then you can’t go wrong with this collection.

Andy Barker PI: The Complete Series

No, this is not a mistake. As you can tell by the rest of this list I’m a fan of TV box sets that include the entire series (as opposed to a single season), and this smartly packaged set from Shout Factory is no different… even if the entire series only lasted six episodes. That’s actually what makes this collection so impressive. Shout Factory has included commentaries, interviews, and featurettes with star Andy Richter and co-creator Conan O’Brien as well as several other members of the cast and crew. And there’s a very funny outtakes reel which includes sweet, mild-tempered Richter dropping more f-bombs than you’d find in a Martin Scorsese movie. Hilarious show, hilarious extras, and some solid packaging make this a fantastic dvd release.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series

This set hits all three “best dvd” criteria dead on… it includes the complete series for one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen; each of the 25 discs is packed with extras including commentaries, deleted scenes and more; and it comes packaged in a fucking frakkin’ Cylon head. Now, the head/box is a bit big to fit on your usual DVD shelf, the extras are all exactly what you’ll find in the stand-alone season sets, and the discs are loose-sleeved instead of more sturdily stored… but I’d argue that the overall package combined with the complete series and extras make it a winner.

Farscape: The Complete Series

This show lacked the “popularity” of BSG, but it still has more than few rabid followers. Should it have come packaged in a box shaped liked Chiana’s head? Yes, but instead we get a more traditional square package. But it’s what you’ll find inside that matters, and here the set truly steps up… 26 discs, all 88 episodes, and over 15 hours of commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Each of the four seasons is housed in it’s own snap-case with a fifth case containing a wealth of additional bonus materials. I had never seen the show before receiving this set, and now I’m buried deep in a weird and wild world partially created by Jim Henson’s fantastic creature shop.

Futurama: The Complete Collection

I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many (or too much) head sets. This is actually a perfect companion for the BSG set above as both come housed in decapitated robot heads, although to be fair this show is a lot funnier than BSG. (I actually find Futurama to be funnier than The Simpsons too…) The possible downside to this set is that the 18 discs don’t come individually packaged but instead are slotted securely directly into Bender’s cranium. I’m okay with that though because they’re safe and most importantly they’re filled to the rims with hilarious shows and entertaining extras. Commentaries on every episode, deleted scenes, featurettes, hidden surprises, and the four feature-length Futurama movies… pair this on your shelf proudly beside the BSG skull and you’re ready to satisfy any sci-fi whim you may discover.

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