"The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, presents..."
— The back of every Criterion release ever
The Criterion Collection is a series of video releases of, in its words, "important classic and contemporary films". Its first releases were LaserDiscs
of Citizen Kane
and King Kong
; it currently releases DVD
editions of films. The films the above description covers range from cult classics
to internationally acknowledged masterpieces, and from the silent era to the Present Day
; no genre or country of origin is left unturned.
Founded in 1984 by arthouse film distributor Janus Films, Criterion pioneered much of what is now taken for granted on DVD and Blu-ray releases: the use of letterboxing
to preserve the correct Aspect Ratio
of a film, audio commentaries
(which they essentially created
on the laserdisc of King Kong
), director's cuts
, and including supplemental materials
. And when it comes to supplements, they have supplements
— every trailer and TV spot that can be scrounged up, vintage and new documentaries, thick booklets of critical essays — even print copies of the source material if the film was an adaptation of a short story or novel... Criterion are also noted for the intense care they take to clean up the film prints and for the quality of their finished products.
Criterion licenses titles from their studios, so the releases occasionally go out of print... taking their bonus features with them
. Also note that Up Marketing
applies to the collection, due in part to the relatively small audiences for many of these films; with rare exceptions, a single-disc title is $30 (U.S.)...and many, many
Criterion releases are multi-disc sets. Currently they also offer two sublines:
- Essential Art House: A budget line consisting of particularly famous Collection films without bonus features for $20 each.
- Eclipse: Box sets that collect thematically-linked titles. Common themes inclue the more obscure work of particularly prolific major filmmakers (i.e., a set of early Ingmar Bergman titles) and the work of lesser-known but innovative ones. More specific sets include the four horror movies made by Japanese studio Shochiku in The Sixties and a sampling of the output of England's Gainsborough Pictures, whose period piece Melodramas were among the country's most popular films in the 1940s. These collections allow a look into styles and eras of world cinema that often go neglected. Another Vanilla Edition line, but these movies would likely never see the light of The Present Day otherwise.
In The New Tens
, Criterion is notable as one of the few distributors that continues to release non-Vanilla Edition
discs of pre-1980s and/or foreign-language films to DVD, as the Great Recession resulted in many studio-based distributors severely cutting back on so-called "catalog" titles aside from those that fall under Small Reference Pools
The Criterion Collection has released hundreds upon hundreds of films on DVD. Each film has a spine number, ostensibly to denote the order in which Criterion released it to the format. Updated versions of a Criterion release inherit the spine number from the previous version. For instance, Seven Samurai
has a spine number of "2", denoting that it was the second DVD Criterion released (the first, for those keeping score at home, was The Grand Illusion
). When Criterion issued a three-disc set for Seven Samurai
in 2006, it supplanted that earlier (and now out of print) DVD from the late '90s. Blu-ray releases of these titles inherit the spine number from their original DVD release.
Many Criterion films are available (minus the extras, of course) for online streaming via Hulu
Plus or as 1080p downloads via iTunes. Beginning in November 2013, most new Criterion titles are released in dual-format editions
with DVD and Blu-ray discs in the same package.
Criterion DVDs and Blu-rays are Region 1 encoded (North America only); Eureka Video's Masters of Cinema
series could be regarded as the UK equivalent. Turner Classic Movies
is something of a television equivalent and has aired many, many Criterion titles over the years.
They also released Armageddon
. No, really
, they did
Directors frequently included in the Criterion Collection:
Films released in The Criterion Collection include: