It should be so simple. The technology exists to distribute old movies, and there are people out there who want to see them. And yet every movie buff has had the experience of reading up on some great film or filmmaker, then hitting the video store and discovering that for one reason or another—rights issues, perhaps, or lack of broad public interest—the movies they want to see are unavailable on DVD.
The Star Wars Holiday Special. Yes it actually exists, and it might as well be the Trope Codifier. It was shown only once on television, never released to VHS, and never saw the light of day again. Thankfully VCRs were brand new and all the rage, and just about everyone taped it: Five seconds on Google or Bing will net you a copy. This one is also very much intentional: The film is Old Shame to everyone associated with the franchise who have fought to keep it buried, and only Bile Fascination keeps those tapes flying around.
A parody of The Matrix comissioned by Microsoft featuring Steve Ballmer as Neo and Bill Gates as Morpheus was shown at Comdex 2003, then shelved. It was only licensed from the production company for one showing. The beginning is available as a camcorder recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86j8zOsmNFE, as well as some spoilers made by those attending the showing.
1492: Conquest of Paradise: Despite being helmed by Ridley Scott, scored by Vangelis and starring a very well-rounded cast (including Gerard Depardieu, Sigourney Weaver and Frank Langella), it's still unclear why this 1992 film hasn't been released stateside. While official versions have been released in France (along with scores of unofficial bootlegs that come from Asia), the film hasn't been released since it appeared on laserdisc more than a decade-and-a-half ago. Rumors suggest that there was a planned "Special Edition" release back in 2004, but those plans were apparently scuttled at the last minute. There have been several reasons bandied about for the delay: that the film is Old Shame for Scott, the film's failure at the U.S. box office, claims of misrepresentation about Columbus' chronicled actions when he landed at the New World and the claim that a special 3-hour director's cut is being worked on. This one is less painful than most, because you can find it on Netflix, but good luck trying to source a physical copy with a decent transfer.
A lot of classic European movies from the 1930's through the 1950's have never been officially released on VHS or DVD in the United States. Case in point: Sara (Sarita) Montiel and Maria Felix; these two actresses are regarded worldwide as among the giants of Spanish-language cinema, but most of their classic films from the 1940's through the 1960's have never been released in the USA except by small labels which may or may not own the license to reproduce them commercially. Basically, the only way for an American fan to get ahold of these movies is to either order whatever DVD's may be available from foreign vendors (you'd better have a DVD player capable of playing discs from regions other than 1) or download them from more-or-less dodgy online sources as mentioned above.
Very few of the films of Danielle Darrieux (one of the acknowledged grande dames of French cinema, who is still working today after a career spanning nearly 80 years) are legitimately available in the United States. The same goes for Martine Carol and Diana Dors (called, respectively, France's and Britain's answers to Marilyn Monroe during the 1950's) or the Italian bombshell Silvana Pampanini.
Up until about three years ago, Romy Schneider's Sissi trilogy (which established her as an international star and contributed hugely to the postwar revival of German film) was unavailable on DVD or VHS in its full form in the United States; those wishing to see the movies had to order them from Canadian vendors, without any guarantee of getting a version dubbed or subtitled in English. Koch Lorber finally did fill the gap, however, with a box set containing not just the three full-length films but also the edited version released in America in the 1950's and Schneider's companion piece "The Young Victoria", which had never before been released in the U.S. Several of her other 1950's Period Pieces are still unavailable in America, however.
Many of the movies of Italian legend Gina Lollobrigida - La Donna Piu' Bella Del Mondo (The Most Beautiful Woman in the World), La morte ha fatto l'uovo (Death Lays An Egg, La Lollo's only excursion into the Giallo horror genre), Un Bellissimo Novembre (That Splendid November), Stuntman, Hotel Paradiso (with Alec Guinness), Woman of Straw (with Sean Connery), Anna di Brooklyn (Fast and Sexy), La Romana (Woman of Rome), Le Infedeli (The Unfaithfuls) and Les Belles de Nuit (with Gerard Philippe and the aforementioned Martine Carol) have never, ever been released on DVD in the U.S.
A significant chunk of Peter Sellers' British/European-produced output still isn't available on DVD in Region 1, including these star vehicles: The Battle of the Sexes, Only Two Can Play, Waltz of the Toreadors, Ghost in the Noonday Sun, and Soft Beds, Hard Battles. The Millionairess was briefly available on DVD in 1999, but it's long out of print. To make matters worse, the VHS releases of these films were mostly on independent labels and date back to the 1980s. Turner Classic Movies has occasionally aired a few of the 1960s titles, but the downtime between airings can be years.
The notorious 1976 version of The Blue Bird, in spite of an All-Star Cast headed up by Elizabeth Taylor and George Cukor as director, has never had a legit video release beyond Russia (the film was a U.S./U.S.S.R. coproduction). Since late 2011 it has occasionally turned up on Fox Movie Channel in the morning hours.
Cocksucker Blues, the infamous Rolling Stones documentary about the 1972 Exile On Main Street album tour (featuring lots of language, sex, and general mayhem). The band sued over the content of the film, and so it can't be shown in public without the director being present. (The director does hold frequent screenings.) This hasn't stopped it from being a mainstay on the bootlegging scene for many years.
Ten minutes of excerpts from Cocksucker Blues eventually found their way into 2010's Stones In Exile, but obviously it isn't anywhere near the same experience.
Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder wasn't popular during its initial release and is relatively unknown to this day. As such, it's only available on VHS and in limited supply.
The Beatles' documentary film Let It Be has been out of print for decades, but fans have been distributing it themselves for almost as long. The film was commissioned as a documentary about the recording of what ended up being the band's final album, but it ended up putting a spotlight on the many personal conflicts that led to their breakup. Since showing such an ugly side of The Beatles is not in the best interest of Apple Corps, the movie will probably never be released in it original form again. (This makes it an unusual example of a film that won an Academy Award — "Best Music, Original Song Score" for 1970 — going out of print.)
If you get the chance to watch it via some bootleg, illegal download, or legal 1981 Magnetic Video tape or disc, you might wonder what the fuss is about. The little sniping argument between Harrison and McCartney aside—"Whatever it takes to please you, I'll do it"—it really isn't that bad.
David Bowie's second leading man effort, and subsequent Old Shame, Just a Gigolo (1978) has only had a Region 2 DVD release in Germany. There are legit VHS copies from the late 1980s floating around in Region 1, taken from the slightly shorter (from 105 to 98 minutes) 1981 cut United Artists Classics released in the U.S. In any case, it's unlikely that the original 147-minute cut (pulled after a disastrous premiere in Germany) will ever resurface.
Once Upon a Time in America is considered one of the best films ever made...or one of the worst, depending on which version you watch. There's the amazing original cut (which runs nearly four hours) and the awful hackjob version that was released to theaters (which is barely half as long). If for some insane reason you want to see the theatrical version, too bad: it was never released to DVD and the studio seems understandably intent on pretending it was never made.
While the director's cut did make it to DVD, it's missing a controversial but important scene. Currently it can only be found on a special edition DVD set...in Brazil. And that STILL isn't the complete version of the movie, but the one that premiered at Cannes and was subsequently released in Europe. Leone's original version ran forty minutes longer. A restoration is in the works; it was supposed to premiere at Cannes in 2012, but only about half the footage was restored in time. Who knows when this will eventually been released?
The 1981 horror/slasher spoof Pandemonium, despite its cult status, has yet to be released. VHS copies are available and in high demand.
Toho's original cut of The Prophecies of Nostradamus has never been released on home video, even in Japan, due to pressure from Hiroshima survivor's groups. Even the heavily edited American version (The Last Days of Planet Earth) is only available on long out-of-print VHS tapes from the turn of The Nineties.
Toho's Half Human also remains unreleased for a similar reason — Ainu rights groups considered the film's depiction of their culture offensive.
The full-length version of Toho's 1973 disaster epic Nippon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks), which was released in the U.S. in severely edited form as Tidal Wave, has never been released in America in any format. (Not even following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which, while making the movie Harsher in Hindsight, would certainly have made it of considerable topical interest). The 2006 remake has also never been released in America.
Bob Dylan's epic documentary/concert film/experimental drama Renaldo and Clara. After the original four hour version was lambasted by critics upon its 1978 release and a two hour recut failed to stir up interest, it's been more or less kept out of circulation by Dylan, who holds the distribution rights. It did slightly better business in Europe and has been shown on TV a few times there. A multi-generation dub of a British TV broadcast of the longer version circulates among Dylan fans. A bonus DVD with two songs from the movie was included with the Live 1975 Bootleg Series album, but there's never been any sign that Dylan will ever release the whole movie on DVD. It didn't help when some critics used their reviews of I'm Not There to retroactively bash Renaldo, including critics who had never seen "Renaldo."
In a similar vein to Let It Be, the Dylan documentary called Eat The Document that's built from unused footage from the famous doc Don't Look Back. Dylan himself edited the excess footage together. The result was considered too surreal (read: incomprehensible) for mainstream audiences, and was thus never given official release. The film will likely never see a proper release, but bootlegs are handed around madly to this day.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes can only be seen as a bootleg due to MGM shelving the film a month before it was set to open (due to their financial issues). As a result, trailers and posters were all over theatres in 2008 for a film that was never released. However, strong reactions from the bootleg (taken from a festival version of the film) got the directors two studio films since the film was shelved (Quarantine and Devil).
And it is now available legally...through Blockbuster Online. Still no DVD or Blu Ray release.
David Cronenberg's feature film debut, Shivers (aka They Came From Within) has seen only scant and OOP video release over the years, despite Cronenberg's godlike status among horror fans and the general good success of his films (like The Fly, Scanners, and A History of Violence). It's odd that Anchor Bay released a special edition VHS, but didn't re-release it on DVD. Strange and infuriating.
Disney's Song of the South, since its last theater reissue in 1986, has canonically become Old Shame, so the only recordings you're likely to see are rips of scratchy, faded videocassettes or the Japanese LaserDisc release (possibly with Japanese subtitles on the songs in the case of the former). You can also find British VHS cassettes from when it was on sale in the UK, though it's less likely that A) you'll find one that's in good condition and B) you'll have something to play it on. The film is also shown occasionally by the BBC.
Some people have seen a bootleg DVD of the film at video game stores that also sell DVDs, typically with a white case and not much of a blurb on the back.
The first PG-rated Disney movie, Take Down. The copies that are seen on internet stores tend to be obscenely expensive, but that's your only hope of seeing this unknown film.
The only way to see the original version of The Thief and the Cobbler is to bootleg it. VHS copies of it have circulated for ages among animation fans and professionals. The reason for its popularity is that it is the only way to see Richard Williams' vision in its original form: The final released versions of the film had huge changes (Disneyfication and Lull Destruction, among others) due to Executive Meddling. The "Recobbled Cut" DVD is a fan-made effort to restore the workprint to higher quality.
The 1988 feature-length version of Mike Jittlov's The Wizard of Speed and Time. Fans have been distributing copies of the film online since it came out. The story of how Mike got nearly immediately screwed out of the rights to his own movie is depressing. Many of the tapes have been n-th hand VHS copies of an extremely-rare laserdisc copy owned by someone who was probably single-handedly keeping laserdisc repair shops in business. As of now, though, there are a couple of unofficial (but endorsed by Jittlov) high-quality DVD transfer "releases" floating around the net in download-and-burnable formats, which will hopefully allow the owner of the laserdisc to finally retire and move up to newer technology.
This can extend to special features from special or collector's edition sets that aren't ported over when the movie is released on a new format. If you don't have the out-of-print older version, you'll miss out on (sometimes very important) footage and material related to the film. These include:
Many laserdiscs from The Criterion Collection, which contain features which haven't been released on any other medium. Notable examples include:
The Madonna film Evita, which had a director commentary, TV spots, a music video, promotional footage, documentaries, interviews and archival footage of the real Evita that were never released again. It's easily the most complete package of the film. Some of those features (but not all) are on the newly released Blu-ray.
The Fisher King was last released on DVD in 2003 (sans extras). The Criterion laserdisc had a commentary track with Terry Gilliam, deleted scenes, costume tests and a scene-by-scene analysis of the entire film using storyboards, screenplay excerpts and behind-the-scenes photos.
The first three James Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger), which had commentaries (featuring the producers and creators of the series) that were subsequently banned from every printing after their first releases because they contained an excessive number of disparaging and inflammatory remarks. (In other Bond news, MGM/UA's Ultimate Edition of Die Another Day doesn't have all the extras from the original 2-disc release.)
This also happens when a film's license holder takes a film away from Criterion to make their own (often inferior) DVD release. For example, Akira Kurosawa's Ran was set to receive a Criterion Blu-Ray release in 2010 with new features in addition to the features on the DVD. However, its license holder requested that the Blu-Ray release be nullified and the DVD set be discontinued. They then released a Blu Ray of Ran with only a few of the DVD's special features. Fan response to the quality of the Blu Ray transfer varies, with some claiming it is inferior to the DVD release. The new home video rights holder also didn't bother to release a new DVD, making Ran one of only a few films that only has a Blu-Ray release currently in print. Thankfully, rights holders asking Criterion to pull their set off the market is rare, but its happened at least a dozen times in the past decade.
Se7en, which has a multi-commentary exploration of the title sequence, outtakes, Canadian TV spots and an isolated score that weren't included on the subsequent New Line Platinum Series edition.
She's Gotta Have It, Spike Lee's first feature-length film, which has been released in barebones editions for years. The Criterion laserdisc version had an exclusive director's cut version, deleted scenes, commentary, outtakes, music videos, still photo galleries and tie-in TV ads. Criterion doesn't own the rights to the film, and its DVD distributor (MGM) doesn't see fit to release a special edition for it, so you'll have to hunt for anything more than the barebones release.
This Is Spinal Tap is widely available on the Special Edition DVD released by MGM in 2000, but the movie had originally been released for home viewing on Criterion laserdisc in 1994 and 1998 (on Criterion DVD). The special features are substantially different between the different releases, in part because the Criterion version had the cast and crew speak as themselves while the MGM version had them in character. The Criterion release had two commentary tracks, several deleted scenes, performance footage and three short promotional films which were not included on the MGM release.
Criterion's DVD edition of The Man Who Fell to Earth was apparently so popular that it was one of their first four Blu-Ray releases! Both versions of the set are out of print. A 2011 Region 2 release from another company did port over some Criterion features...but not the commentary track originally recorded for the 1992 laserdisc featuring lead actor David Bowie (along with director Nicholas Roeg and co-star Buck Henry), which was the only special feature he participated in.
The recently-released Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set has pretty much everything and the kitchen sink in terms of extras from the previous DVD and VHS releases from the film...except for the Alternate Production Audio & Music track from the 1999 Alien Legacy DVD release of the original film, making it a valuable commodity. Also, the now-out-of-print Alien Saga DVD contains vintage featurettes from Aliens and uncensored screen test footage of Sigourney Weaver that weren't included on the Blu-Ray set.
Long Gone, the William Petersen Cult-Baseball Movie. Currently the film is unavailable in any format. Previously there was a DVD but it is now long out of print, and copies fetch about $200 on Amazon alone.
Tom Schiller's only feature film, Nothing Lasts Forever, has assumed near-legendary status both for being extremely rare and extremely odd (it includes Bill Murray as the conductor on a bus ride to the moon, Lauren Tom as an alien, and a political coup by the Manhattan Port Authority - all rendered with pseudo-1930s stylings). For unclear reasons, it received only a limited cinema release and has never been available on video or DVD.
At the end of the 1980s, the home video market collapsed due to an overabundance of low-quality product, resulting in the collapse of many independent VHS companies along with their libraries, some substantial and hosting many sought-after cult items. While a few of these libraries have been purchased (such as Media Home Entertainment and Vestron Video), more often than not the new parent companies will simply clamp down on the rights and keep potentially successful cult films out of circulation for unknown reasons (looking at YOU, Lionsgate).
When a Director's Cut of a film is released, the older theatrical release of the film is taken out of circulation, regarded as inferior version by the distributor(s) and director. Sometimes this can anger fans, and only recently have DVD companies wised up and included both versions on new DVD releases. An awful lot of movies, though, still have theatrical versions that have been left in the dust without the consent of fans.
The original theatrical cuts of the Star Wars Trilogy have flirted with this on many occasions. For a period of time between 1997 and 2006, VHS and DVD sets of the "Special Edition" trilogy were the only official releases on the market (with the 1995 "Faces" VHS set proudly boasting that it was the last release for the original films). The theatrical cuts came back into circulation for a limited time in 2006 as part of a (barely-advertised) set, which included a non-anamorphic laserdisc port (which was thrown in with the Special Edition cuts). The release of the Complete Saga Blu-Ray boxset has also knocked those sets out of circulation, so the theatrical cuts are once again unavailable unless you resort to the (highly active) fan community.
George Lucas also hasn't done the same for the theatrical version of THX 1138, his debut feature.
This was the case for many years with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, as the theatrical version's VHS was steadily rising in price for collectors. However, with the release of the Final Cut box set, all the cuts of his masterpiece are together at last.
The 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess has not been in release since the early 1970s. Sam Goldwyn leased the film rights for only 15 years, and renegotiating them with the Gershwin and Heyward estates has proved impossible.
The 2006 film version of Arsène Lupin, starring Kristin Scott Thomas as the Femme Fatale who interacts with the title character, has never been released in the U.S. for unknown reasons. However, Warner Brothers did release the movie on DVD in Canada with English subtitles.
F.W. Murnau's silent arthouse classic Sunrise (which won Best Picture, back when there were two Best Picture categories) was only available through mail-order in the United States. This release has gone out of print and commands a pretty penny on eBay and Amazon. The only places that it is in print are in two box sets (one is a box set of early Oscar winners from Fox Studios which despite costing under $30 is still pretty hard to come by. The second is a handsome set of films by Murnau and Frank Borzage...which commands a price of over $200). An interested viewer might be better off tracking it down on Turner Classic Movies these days.
This is not uncommon with silent films in general. Some films get poor-quality DVD distributions, others never see the light of day. Some of these films are also registered with the National Film Registry. Good luck finding The Wind or The Crowd on a format that isn't Laser Disc or VHS.
Sunrise will be getting a Blu Ray release at the beginning of 2014, if that helps. Other silent features (like Stroheim's legendary "Film/Greed") aren't so luck as of yet.
Infamous 1973 Turkish film 3 Dev Adam, which features Spiderman as a sadistic villain. It would be lost entirely were it not for someone who had the hindsight to record it when it was repeated on TV some time in the 80s. Unfortunately the video has degraded both visually and audibly as might be expected for a home recording of that vintage. There have been DVD releases, but they are all made from this recording.
Most prints of Bruce Lee's first film The Big Boss are missing several scenes that were in the original Mandarin version shown in theaters in 1971. Whilst some scenes were cut for being violent there are others which were removed for seemingly no reason, such as some which were featured in some of the film's trailers. Apparently the uncut version still exists, circulates amongst collectors and was even touted for an official release at one point, but nobody knows for sure.
The Surreal Horror film Paper House is another victim of Lionsgate's apathetic attitude towards 1980's films, but it is available on DVD in the UK.
That Night, a little-seen but acclaimed 1993 comedy with Juliette Lewis, C. Thomas Howell and a young Eliza Dushku (in her film debut) about a girl's romance told from the point of view of her neighbor, a 10 year-old wanting to know what love is. The film was released on VHS but is out-of-print and Warner Bros. has no plans to release it on DVD.
While The Childrens Hour has been released on VHS and DVD, the earlier These Three hasn't been released on anything since 1997. To make matters worse the VHS can be quite pricey.
A modern adaptation of Richard III, produced by and starring David Carradine, has its own wiki article and IMDb page ... but good luck finding anything else about it, let alone a copy, digital or not.
The Charge of the Light Brigade, a film directed by Michael Curtiz in 1936 (he later directed Casablanca) was alleged to have never been released on DVD even though Curtiz's other blockbusters have. The main reason is said to be trip wires used to trip the cavalry horses in the key battle sequence; they caused over a dozen deaths of said horses and forced the U.S. Congress to take action to ensure the safety of animals in motion pictures. It was released on DVD in 2007, though, and even this film was made available by CBS/Fox Video as part of their Key Video label's Errol Flynn collection, even receiving the "Ted Turner's Crayons" treatment in the mid-'80s.
Dragonworld was only released on VHS by Paramount Home Video in the `90s and never released on DVD. It's so obscure, This Very Wiki doesn't even have a page for it. The same goes for all of the Moonbeam titles; current rights holder Full Moon seems to reissue Puppet Master every few years but continues to screw their family-friendly Moonbeam line.
The 1981 Polish arthouse horror flick Possession is rather hard to find, having only been released on an out-of-print DVD by Anchor Bay. It's gained a cult following in recent years — to the point of Turner Classic Movies airing it in early 2012 as part of their Cult Classic showcase "TCM Underground" — so why can't it get an updated release?
A special edition has been in the works for a few years (by a company formed solely to release director Andrzej Zuwalski's films) but no date has ever been announced.
The 1996 HBO film Rasputin:Dark Servant of Destiny has never been released on DVD in Region 1, although a fairly rare Region 2 DVD and an even rarer VHS version do exist. The film stars Alan Rickman in the wonderful scene-chewing titular role. It also features Ian McKellen and Greta Scacchi in solid performances as Nicholas II and Alexandra as well as some excellent cinematography.
The infamously terrible threequel Addams Family Reunion, starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah as Gomez and Morticia, as well as some of the most appalling CGI work to see commercial release, has never been released outside of VHS — which, admittedly, can be found for dirt cheap in thrift stores and bookstores that still stock VHS tapes.
The Thorn, formerly known as The Divine Mr. J, is only available as out-of-print videocassettes from Magnum Entertainment due to Bette Midler liking absolutely none of its titles, and we do indeed mean absolutely none.
The 1982 Korean War movie Inchon is only availible on bootlegs, another case of an All-Star Cast film going missing in action (it featured Laurence Olivier — this was the film that named the trope Money, Dear Boy when he was asked about why he signed on — as General Douglas MacArthur, shored up by Jacqueline Bisset, David Jannsen, and others). A Box Office Bomb comparable to Heaven's Gate, it apparently sucked so much that it was pulled from theaters as fast as it came in, and the production company — which got most of its finances from religious leader Sun Myung Moon — won't even give it the dignity of a home video release. The now-defunct Good Life TV, which was owned by Moon, played the film a few times, but it has not been seen since.
However, Jerry Goldsmith's score to the film was popular enough to warrant a few releases (including a special edition CD from Intrada Records in 2006. This was the second release of the score from the label - the first was an expanded release, the second was a 2-CD set featuring the original album presentation on one disc and the complete score on the other).
Cult director Jim McBride's "The Wrong Man," staring Rosanna Arquette and Jon Lithgow. It received a theatrical release in Europe, while it premiered on Showtime in America. Released once on VHS, never rereleased on dvd and not available on Netflix.
It Came from Hollywood (1982) was a sort of proto-MST3K, with popular comedians from the late '70s and early '80s (like Dan Ackroyd, John Candy, Cheech and Chong, and Gilda Radner) paying tribute (both mockingly and lovingly) to old B-movies. The one VHS release goes for a minimum of $25 on Amazon, and laserdiscs go for $50. It hasn't had a home video release in years.
Not quite - it had a VERY, VERY brief DVD release (the cover of which is easily found online). However, finding a copy of said DVD generally costs (literally) thousands of dollars.
The theatrical cut of Scary Movie contains some dialogue that makes fun of the relationship between Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow that was cut from all of the home video versions as producer Harvey Weinstein felt that the dialogue towards Paltrow was less humorous and more of an outright attack towards her (since the dialogue referred to her as a "freak"). To date, the last time a version contained this dialogue was in a late 2000 theatrical reissue (though bootlegs of the rough cut do have the dialogue).
The 1991 film By The Sword, a film about fencing and revenge, and completed in 1991, wasn't released until 1993, where it bombed horribly to a box office of just above 6 grand. The movie was then released on a VERY limited VHS run, and never released on DVD in the United States. In order to have a copy today, you would have to pay over 45 dollars for a VHS tape or DVD. It can be found on the internet, however.
The 1999 and 2012 re-releases of Yellow Submarine cut out a twenty-second scene of the Beatles repelling a Blue Meanie resurgence (leading to Ringo being reunited with the Boob) and replaced it with the long-missing scene of the Beatles discussing the situation with Sgt. Pepper's band and the "Hey Bulldog" segment. The movie was first released in 1987 on VHS and Laserdisc; anyone who still has them will have the original twenty-second sequence but they won't be able to make copies if they have the VHS, which is copy protected.
The Substitute, a 1993 movie made for the USA Network which would have been likely forgotten...if not for the fact that it contains the acting debut of Mark Wahlberg (then known as Marky Mark). The film is so obscure that you can't even find it online.
X Games 3-D: The Movie, a film that holds the dubious distinction of having the worst openingnote $837,216 in August 2009, worldwide gross $1,472,747 in the history of Walt Disney Pictures, was never released on DVD or Blu-ray (though a Blu-ray 3-D release was planned) and outside of a few airings on Starz, has basically been MIA since its brief release in 2009. So if you like extreme sports, scour the pay cable listings.
The fondly-remembered 1995 TV movie Susie Q has never seen a VHS or DVD release. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a Disney Channel Original Movie, though it aired on the channel frequently from 1996-2000 and Disney still owns the rights to it today. It likely stopped airing because of its more mature themes, such as the title character dying in a drunk-driving car accident. It exists through torrents and bootleg DVD's of various VHS recordings of its Disney Channel broadcasts. These low-quality recordings can also be found on YouTube. It also aired on German network Super RTL in English in 2008. More bootleg DVD's were made from this broadcast which were much clearer in quality despite the movie's German title being displayed and a "Super RTL" bug present throughout. The film is sometimes made available on Disney Family Movies On-Demand, usually once a year around Halloween.
The 2004 TV movie Strip Search (starring Glenn Close and Maggie Gyllenhaal and directed by Sidney Lumet) ended up this way due to HBO wanting to avoid controversy over its scathing account of the U.S. post-9/11. Not only was the film heavily cut (Lumet's original cut ran two hours, HBO cut it down to under an hour) but HBO even went out of their way to pull future airings of the film (this stance was later reversed after subscribers complained and a few more airings were scheduled).
If for some insane reason you want to watch the infamous Rocky parody movie Ricky 1 (which was reviewed by The Angry Video Game Nerd during his feud with The Nostalgia Critic), look hard. The DVD release of this movie by Televista is actually a bootleg, and VHS copies of this movie are obscenely hard to find, though copies have been known to turn up with an even lower price tag than is usual for a hard-to-find title. However, it is on YouTube.
Richard Linklater's "SubUrbia." The Criterion Collection was promising a release for a long time, but it's looking unlikely they'll deliver. It was available on Netflix but has since been removed. You can find it on Amazon Instant, though.
"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is widely available and had a Blu Ray release in 2012. But worth noting is the fact that most home video releases don't include the deleted "When Love is Gone" song. It was removed from the theatrical cut (to Brian Henson's strong objections) but restored for the VHS. The original DVD release only included the theatrical version. A DVD reissue in 2005 did include the full length cut, but the aforementioned Blu Ray has knocked that release out of print. So the fans have to resort to circulating the old releases and screaming at Disney.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar, despite being a box office success and winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, has never been released on DVD nor Blu-ray to date and is currently only available on VHS and Laserdisc copies, a majority of which fetch a pretty penny on Amazon. A DVD copy has been made available on Amazon, but it's unknown if it's legit and it costs $199.99.