The Criterion Collection is more than just a library of movies. It’s a repository of what are considered the best films ever made, and it includes some of the coolest features you never knew you wanted to see.
A Long History
Criterion made its debut in 1984 when it released its first films on laserdisc, which was essentially a giant DVD, and was the pinnacle of home viewing technology at the time. The films were Citizen Cane and King Kong. These two films are considered two of the greatest of all time, and the Criterion releases were met with much praise. But why? What’s so special about Criterion videos?
More than anything, Criterion strives to reproduce films as the directors and producers intended them to be viewed. Everything from the aspect ratio, film type, video and audio production, subtitles, production staff commentary, behind-the-scenes, supplementary content, and much more are considered for every title. To sum it up, Criterion ensures the ultimate viewing experience of your favorite films.
To fully understand the coolest features in Criterion videos, let’s look at one of their upcoming releases: WALL•E.
The Criterion edition of WALL•E features a new 4K master approved by Andrew Stanton, the film’s director. Dolby Vision/HDR presentation, and Dolby Atmos audio track, and alternate 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio and stereo soundtracks bring the film to life like you’ve never experienced. This is theater quality production, and the only thing that can make it better are the supplementary features.
Go Beyond The Film
Beyond the optimized film, you get some incredible extra features like a student short film by Andrew Stanton, a complimentary short called BURN•E from WALL•E lead animator Angus McLane, deleted scenes, and more than a dozen documentaries exploring the film and its production. It’s a flood of extra content, and we’re here for it!
But Wait, There’s More
For aspiring filmmakers and critics, you also get educational and professional resources that can help further your understanding and enjoyment of the film. The Criterion edition features additional artwork from the animation team, notes from the script, selected sketches from Stanton’s notebook, and even an essay from the director. Beyond that, you’ll love the Anatomy of a Scene feature that fully examines a key scene from the film.
How Criterion Special Features Are Chosen
Every Criterion release is assigned a director, whose main job is to reproduce the film as the original creators intended. They are also responsible for which special features are included in the release. This can be a daunting task for some older films, where additional content may not be available, or has been lost to history. Modern films are much more feature friendly because of their digital nature and large production and media teams. No matter the era a film was produced, the director does their best to offer as many special features as possible to give you as much insight into the film as possible.
How To Choose A Criterion Film
WIth more than 1,500 titles to choose from, the Criterion collection has something for everyone. Many film collectors begin their collections with their favorites, which is a great place to start. You can also lean into the classics, and build your collection that way. Or, collect Academy Award winners. The choice is yours, and you can’t go wrong with any of the Criterion titles. But, if you’re looking to kickstart your film collection, check out our list of the best Criterion collection sets to get some inspiration.