10 Essential Films to Pick Up in Our Semi-Annual Criterion Sale

The Criterion Collection continues to represent the very top of the line when it comes to classic and cult films on DVD and Blu-ray. Every month, Criterion releases a new set of films well worth a first or second look, each presented with the best possible image and audio quality, and a wealth of enlightening supplemental material to help you understand why movies matter.

Throughout November, all Criterion titles are 50 percent off at Barnes & Noble, making this the perfect time to stock up on some of the greatest movies ever made. Here are 10 recent releases that belong in every collection.

Barry Lyndon
Over a long career, late, legendary director Stanley Kubrick proved he could master any genre to which he turned his camera. Barry Lyndon aimed to do for the historical drama what 2001: A Space Odyssey did for science fiction, but it was met with mixed reviews upon its initial release in 1975. It’s reputation has grown over the years, however, as viewers have come to appreciate its measured pacing, wry tone, gorgeous sets and costuming, and immaculately composed visuals, all of which shine in this newly remastered edition. The story of the title character’s journey from a farm in Ireland through war and high society in the late 18th century, it’s a grand adventure with Kubrick’s customary sense of moral ambiguity, and quite possibly the most beautiful move he ever made.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Who would’ve imagined that we’d still be talking about Twin Peaks in 2017? When it was released in the wake of the unceremonious cancelation of early ’90s cult TV sensation, Fire Walk with Me was met with a befuddled critical response, and outright vitriol from many viewers, who’d hoped it would answer questions left dangling by the show’s cliffhanger ending. Over the ensuing quarter century, critics and fans alike have come around on the story of Laura Palmer’s fateful final days. While the series was largely about the shadow cast by her death, the movie firmly establishes Laura as the hero of the Twin Peaks universe, a young woman who sacrificed everything to fight the darkness. The Criterion edition also includes The Missing Pieces, a assemblage of almost 90 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes.

The Philadelphia Story
The film that gave Katherine Hepburn her most famous role is widely regarded as the pinnacle of screwball comedy, and one of the best films ever made. Already regarded as “box office poison” thanks to a Hollywood smear campaign, Hepburn’s career had all but fizzled out when, seeing an opportunity, she acquired the rights to a popular Broadway play, planning to make it her comeback vehicle. It worked, and no one ever questioned her star power again. George Cukor directs the story of Tracy Lord, a formidable society divorcee caught in a love triangle between her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reporter (James Stewart). Newly restored for Criterion, this black and white gem shines like never before.

Orson Welles wears many hats in our collective imagination—actor, director, iconoclast, aging punchline—and his brilliant adaptions of Shakespeare are, sadly, frequently overshadowed by other parts of his legacy. If he hadn’t lead such a colorful life with such a varied career, he’d likely still be famous for his stage adaptions of the work of the Bard, and for the films they inspired. Uncompromising in his vision, Welles spent years to bringing his Othello to life onscreen, crossing continents in the process. He directs himself in an audacious lead performance.This edition includes two cuts of the film: the 1952 European version, and the one released in the U.S. in 1955.

Hitchcock’s first film in Hollywood (following a successful career in England) represents a fascinating compromise: new to the scene, Hitch sacrificed more control than he ever had before (or would again) in order to collaborate with legendary producer David O. Selznick. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star in the creepy, gorgeous, dreamlike adaption of Daphne du Maurier’s novel about the new wife of a rich gentleman who comes to live in his ancestral estate, where she is haunted by his late first wife. Though Hitch wasn’t crazy about working with Selznick, this was the only one of the master’s films to claim the Best Picture Oscar.

David Lynch: The Art Life
Though he’s an elder statesman of the dreamlike, the challenging, and the weird, David Lynch the person is not very well understood. The Art Life doesn’t promise to make clear every dark and surreal pathway Lynch has travelled, but it does offer unprecedented access to the filmmaker and painter through a series of candid, intimate conversations in which he discusses the many influences that made him one of the essential artists of modern media.

Terry Gilliam’s 20-year passion project, the notoriously troublesome The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, is finally (maybe) making its way to theaters next year, so it’s as good a time as any to revisit the beginning of his storied directorial career. Gilliam followed up his gig as co-director on Monty Python and the Holy Grail with this bit of inspired nonsense starring fellow Python Michael Palin. Indeed, it plays like a Python film in all but name, based on the Lewis Carroll poem, and at least as silly. This edition features a new documentary on the making of the film and a 2001 commentary track featuring Gilliam and Palin.

Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer produced this early take on vampire lore just a year after the release of the Bela Lugosi classic Dracula. This one is an altogether less literal tale, and straddles genres as it follows the exploits of student of the occult Allan Gray, who comes face to face with the supernatural in a village outside of Paris. The film was all but forgotten for decades, but has gained in reputation in recent years for its surreal and nightmarish imagery.

Walter Matthau teams with Glenda Jackson for a comedic thriller that’s also a parody of the paranoid spy films of the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Matthau is a retired CIA agent who has no qualms at all about publishing the tell-all memoir revealing the secrets behind the worlds’ major spy agencies. What follows is an around-the-globe chase as the agent dodges his former colleagues with some help from an old partner.

Sid & Nancy
The story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen is also the story of the rise and fall (and rise) of the trans-Atlantic punk scene of the late 1970s. Director Alex Cox’s film, featuring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb in the title roles, has become almost as iconic as the era it portrays: a time of incredible music and stunning excess that could only have ended tragically. Criterion’s new restoration marks the film’s high-def debut.

Shop the entire Criterion Collection, 50 percent off November 1-30, 2017.

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