1. Jaws (1975, PG) Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (1981–2008, PG, PG-13)
Steven Spielberg had an excellent year on the big screen with Lincoln. But the maestro had an even better 2012 on Blu-ray, as two of his greatest white-knuckle popcorn movies (Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark) were treated to stunning high-def face-lifts. Whether it was the sight of Roy Scheider’s Chief Brody reeling back on the stern of the Orca and famously muttering ”You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” or Harrison Ford’s fedora-clad Indy outrunning an insanely large boulder, we felt 12 years old again. Which, when it comes right down to it, is what going to the movies is all about.
2. Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Edition (1942, PG)
Hands down, the greatest love story ever captured on celluloid, Casablanca is more than just a canon-enshrined classic. It’s the dreamy definition of romance writ large on a movie screen (or, in the case of this extras-stuffed box set, your TV). As Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart gave voice to the American male during wartime. He was willing to sacrifice his heart for a cause greater than himself. (”It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”) And as Ilsa, Ingrid Bergman was the kind of woman who could make even the most stoic man turn to mush whenever he hears ”As Time Goes By.”
3. Battle Royale (2000, Not rated)
Thanks to the popularity of the similarly themed The Hunger Games (and the good folks at Anchor Bay), this Japanese cult flick about a group of teens forced to fight to the death found new life on a sensational (and long-overdue) three-disc set. Battle Royale is a darker, loopier, and more violent film than the one Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss was in. But who’s to say that’s a bad thing?
4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968, R)
Criterion is the gold standard when it comes to releasing pristine, supplement-festooned editions of ”important films” on DVD and Blu-ray. And this year was another doozy, with Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder, and Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Top honors, though, go to Roman Polanski’s paranoid pregnancy chiller, Rosemary’s Baby. Rediscovering this satanic gem (and Mia Farrow’s fragile yet feral performance) was one of the highlights of my year.
5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, PG)
Proof that they just don’t make ’em like they used to. It’s a cliché, sure. But when watching David Lean’s haunting wide-screen epic, it’s also a movie lover’s lament. Peter O’Toole, who shows he’s still a sly fox at age 80 on the set’s extras, is magical as history’s most eccentric war hero. Enjoy it on as big a screen as your credit card will allow.
The Worst DVDs of the Year
1. Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (2011, R)
Aggressively unfunny and as sour as a rancid pickle, Nick Swardson’s buck-toothed simp–turned–porn stud may be the ickiest character of the decade.
2. Dark Tide (2012, PG-13)
Call it the anti-Jaws. Halle Berry sleepwalks as a bikini-clad shark expert in this rank, chum-scented ”thriller.” Her real-life beau, Olivier Martinez, costars. Glub, glub!
3. Vamps (2012, PG-13)
Clueless director Amy Heckerling reteams with Alicia Silverstone in a tone-deaf vampire comedy (costarring Krysten Ritter) whose jokes feel as stale as the inside of a coffin.