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My Favorite 2023 Physical Media Releases

courtesy of universal pictures

For those who reside within the physical media world, every year, we hear that the current year is either a golden age for home video or the death knell. And I’d like to show that physical media is not waving the white flag by listing some of my favorite 2023 physical media releases.

In the shadow of Barbenheimer, a subplot emerged with Christopher Nolan’s 4K UHD release of Oppenheimer. Not content with dominating the box office, Nolan’s three-hour juggernaut took over news outlets in another form with his comments on physical media and the absence of his 4K release in retail stores. While the story is somewhat overblown, Best Buy’s long out-of-print Oppenheimer steelbook is now fetching exorbitant prices on the resale market; it highlights that physical media continues to fight the good fight. 

Even as streaming attempts to bully its way as the be-all-end-all for home video viewing, 2023 showed that studio and boutique labels had plenty to offer those who enjoy DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD. Below are some of my favorite 2023 physical media releases that I added to my collection. Considering physical media is a pricey venture, I could not look at and add every release that came out throughout the year.

Plenty of 2023 physical media releases may not make my list for one reason or another; this is my personal list based on packaging, features, and the film itself. I also tried to spread the wealth to different labels to highlight different offerings.

Before we get into the list, I wanted to throw out two honorable mentions that slightly missed out on making the top ten.

Honorable Mention One: JFK (Shout Factory)

Jim aims a rifle toward the camera with Bill behind him.


Oliver Stone‘s JFK is my favorite film of all time. When Shout Factory announced that his 1991 political cinematic masterpiece would be hitting 4K UHD, I could pre-order the release fast enough. Even with Shout Factory somewhat falling by the wayside compared to other boutique labels, I crossed my fingers and hoped for a stacked release that a film such as this deserves. And Shout Factory delivered, somewhat.

Let’s start with the good: the packaging is one of their finest for a single-film release. You get a four-disc release spread over three cases, packaged into a hard case featuring the film’s theatrical artwork. It gives the packaging a pristine feel. Shout Factory ported over the features from the DVD edition: Oliver Stone’s commentary, multiple deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. There are also a handful of new interviews featuring Stone and a handful of the film’s crew. It’s a solid release with a slight caveat: only the director’s cut gets the 4K UHD treatment.

Whenever I’ve done a review for my column, Feature Presentations, I state I am not an A/V specialist. For me, most of the time, Blu-ray is plenty fine for me. Still, if you give the audience two cuts, both would hopefully get the 4K UHD treatment. While I’m not too bothered by the theatrical cut getting the short end of the 4K stick, that may irk other people. For this, JFK falls slightly outside my top ten of the year.

Honorable Mention Two: Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest (Arrow Video)

The box set design of Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest.

If I’m being honest with myself, Arrow Video’s box set, Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest, is the number one physical media release of 2023, and it’s not even close. Collecting Lee’s most famous films, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and Game of Death, Arrow Video went all out for Bruce Lee. Not content with compiling a “greatest hits” release, Arrow included Game of Death II, multiple cuts of different films, audio commentaries, documentaries, and plenty of other additional on-disc supplements. Beyond what you find on each 4K and Blu-ray, Arrow Video includes a 200-page hardbound book, glossy photos, posters, lobby cards, and more, housed in a sturdy box with custom artwork. 

Why did Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest only make my honorable mentions? All the goodies I mentioned make for a terrific package but also a hefty one. When this release dropped, many who purchased Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest received their package with damage varying from slight to severe. The weight of the box set and the questionable packing from Arrow created a perfect storm of damage among cinephiles looking for the ultimate Bruce Lee collection, myself included. While not one person or entity is entirely at fault for the imperfect release of Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest, the slightly botched shipping knocks this down to my honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention Three: Magic, Myth & Mutilation: The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy, 1967-2015 (Indicator)

The box set design for Magic, Myth & Mutilation.

Anybody who spends more than a passing moment in the world of physical media is aware of the boutique label Indicator. Based in Europe, the label has consistently been one of the most impressive physical media companies worldwide. Their box sets, in particular, have excelled with a balance of quality films with exceptional features.

I love the idea behind Magic, Myth & Mutilation: craft a complete box set filmography of an unknown director and shine a spotlight on someone that the masses are unfamiliar with. I applaud Indicator for bringing filmmaker Michael J. Murphy to the forefront; at the same time, in this writer’s opinion, the director’s skill set doesn’t match the effort put into the Indicator complete works collection.

Even if the director’s films do not excel as well as the box set, Magic, Myth & Mutilation deserves mention due to the sheer work Indicator put into this release. Indicator includes over 20 films from Michael J. Murphy and more than 34 hours of bonus material to pour over. There are too many features to list, but you get plenty of commentaries, interviews, and documentaries, plus a 120-page book to complete your fill of the life and career of Michael J. Murphy. I mentioned that Murphy was not a filmmaker who appealed to me, but I applaud Indicator for showcasing a forgotten filmmaker and will continue to support such an endeavor.

10. Oppenheimer (Warner Bros.)

Oppenheimer, in silhouette, placing his hand on the Trinity bomb.

What would a list of 2023 physical media releases be without a mention of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic? With an assist from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the three-hour retelling of the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his part in forming the atomic bomb became must-see cinema thanks to Nolan’s tireless persistence at getting butts in seats, preferably in IMAX. And Nolan continued that persuasive way about him with the 4K home video release of Oppenheimer.

As Christopher Nolan’s career has progressed, his contributions to physical media have had mixed results. On his earlier releases, Following, Memento, and Insomnia, he would sit down for a commentary and pack his releases with all types of features. Since he ventured into Gotham City with Batman Begins, there has been a lack of audio commentaries, with most of the supplemental material in the form of short documentaries and featurettes, similar to the bonus material on Steven Spielberg’s physical media releases.

And this is to say that while Oppenheimer dominated the stratosphere in theaters, the physical media release is on par with what to expect with a Christopher Nolan release. So, while the 4K UHD release of Oppenheimer is par for the course in the supplemental material department, and home video viewing doesn’t compare to IMAX, the financial and critical success of Oppenheimer in theaters and home video warrants its inclusion on my ten favorite physical media releases of the year.

9. Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares (Cinedigm)

The Blu-ray cover of Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares featuring all the roles of Robert Englund.

I’m a sucker for a documentary about Hollywood and those who inhabit that. Add on my affinity for horror and enjoyment of character actors, and it would be a no-brainer that the documentary Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares, chronicling the life and career of Robert Englund, would make my favorites list.

Instead of being a retrospective about his time as the Springwood Slasher, Freddy Krueger, Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares looks at the overall career of Englund and looks at the man himself. Listening to Robert Englund speak is always a treat, and this documentary offers plenty for the actor to chat about along with other contributors including his wife, Nancy Englund, and others within the film industry.

The physical media release features an additional look at additional movie monsters in Hollywood, an interview with the directors, and a short aside about working with Englund on the underrated TV series Nightmare Cafe. The release I purchased also features a lovely slipcover, while Wal-Mart also offers a store-exclusive steelbook. It doesn’t matter which version you choose because it’s what’s inside that counts. And what’s inside is marvelous.

8. After Hours (Criterion)

Paul looks at a drawing on a wall of a shark biting a man's penis.

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest cinematic directors of all time. With such classics as Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, or the recently released Killers of the Flower Moon under his belt, it’s only natural that some of his films fall by the wayside. And while it’s getting reevaluated now as an underrated classic, for a while, it seemed his 1985 black comedy, After Hours, may not get the love and attention it rightfully deserves. Thankfully, Criterion stepped up to the plate to correct that potential mistake.

I have a hot take: I need to address my feelings for Criterion and its output in the past few years. Criterion set a standard for how physical media should be released, but their attention to supplemental material is lacking and dwarfed by other labels who put out more extravagant releases. While I appreciate all they have done for physical media, their recent releases can be underwhelming for those looking beyond the feature film.

Thankfully, Criterion did a serviceable job with After Hours by porting over the existing supplements from the DVD release with a couple of newly created tidbits. Scorsese sits down to chat with writer Fran Lebowitz for an entertaining discussion, and you get a look at the costume and production design. Mix those with the archival commentary, documentary, and previously released deleted scenes, and you get a solid release for an overlooked gem.

7. The Dentist 1 & 2 (Vestron Video)

The Blu-ray cover of The Dentist 1 & 2.

Swinging wildly from Martin Scorsese, let’s venture over to Vestron Video and their release of The Dentist 1 & 2 collection. Vestron is one of the unsung heroes of physical media as they compile films of varying quality and give them solid transfers with plenty of features for an affordable price. Some may scoff at the titles in their repertoire, but every movie deserves a loving physical media release because of the work put into a production; every cinematic offering has its fans, regardless of perceived quality.

The Dentist 1 & 2 both come from director Brian Yunza, who has plenty of films released under Vestron and seems to enjoy contributing to physical media releases. Each film gets its own disc, with audio commentaries, isolated scores, and interviews with the cast and crew, including Corbin Bernsen as the titular Dentist. Add a slipcover with lovely artwork and a retail price of around $15.00, and, courtesy of Vestron Video, you have one of the best budget physical media releases of 2023.

6. Directed by Walter Hill (Imprint Films)

The discs, cases and box for the Directed by... Walter Hill set.
The contents of the Directed by… Walter Hill box set from the Imprint Films website.

I’ve already discussed the wonderful Directed by Walter Hill box set from Imprint Films. Compiling some of Hill’s lesser-known movies, this six-film collection highlights Hill‘s earlier works, Hard Times, The Driver and The Long Riders, late 80’s offerings such as Extreme Prejudice and Johnny Handsome closing out with the miniseries Broken Trail.

Imprint Films is an Australian boutique label and has been a personal favorite of mine. They have done terrific work with single releases, but their box sets are where they shine the brightest and Directed by Walter Hill is one of their finest moments yet. Each film gets a separate case, all housed in a sturdy top-loading box with a cover to complement the package. It’s a fantastic release and is another example of why Imprint Films is a boutique label every physical media fan needs to keep an eye on.

5. Messiah of Evil (Radiance Films) 

The box set design for Messiah of Evil.

1973’s Messiah of Evil has always been a film on my radar, but for one reason or another, it escaped me until 2023. Messiah of Evil has found its way onto physical media in the past, but the film never got the luxury treatment its fans felt it deserved. Thankfully, Radiance Films came to the rescue with a fabulous limited edition Blu-ray release that might have flown under some people’s radar.

With this release, I crossed Messiah of Evil off my must-see list. While it didn’t stick the landing for me, the over-reliance on mood and setting helped elevate the film into a work of cinema I appreciated without fully loving. For the appreciation I had towards the movie, it was ten-fold for how much effort Radiance Films put into this release.

Radiance Films is a relatively new boutique label spearheaded by some of the talent behind Arrow Video’s past releases. And you can see that loving treatment with their limited-to-3000 unit hardbox edition jammed with extras and an 80-page book featuring writings on the film by Bill Ackerman, Amanda Reyes, Joseph Dwyer, and others. The disc is no slouch either featuring a new audio commentary by horror experts Kim Newman and Steven Thrower, archival interviews, visual essays, and more. And the hardbox is more impressive in person. From the minimalist and tasteful art choices to the premium feel of the box, Radiance Films went all out, and you get your money’s worth with their limited edition release of Messiah of Evil.

4. Night of the Demons 3 (Scream Factory)

The Blu-ray design for Night of the Demons 3.

I’ll be honest; after the 1988 low-budget horror film Night of the Demons, I punched out of the series and never followed up with the sequels or remakes. I’d always heard that the second entry was the best of the series, but the third was unquestionably the worst. When Scream Factory announced the original trilogy would get a 4K/Blu-ray release earlier this year, I figured, “What the hell?”

So, why did Night of the Demons 3 make the list instead of the first two? It had one of the best line-up of features out of the three releases. The amount that Scream Factory packed onto their two-disc set is out of this world. You get two audio commentaries, multiple interviews with various cast and crew members, behind-the-scenes footage, the usual jazz. On top of that, you get the TV version, the director’s workprint, an alternate title sequence, and dailies. It’s a mind-boggling amount of features for a film that even most die-hards of the series watch with trepidation. Even though Night of the Demons 3 is ten-shades of awful, you have to stand back in awe and appreciate how loaded this release is.

3. A Blade in the Dark (Vinegar Syndrome)

The slipcover design for A Blade in the Dark.

I’m hot and cold regarding Gialli films, and when Vinegar Syndrome is the company releasing the disc, I raise an eyebrow even further. The scattershot nature of Vinegar Syndrome can be an attraction or a detractor in the quality of films they choose to release. For every Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 or Fade to Black, you get a Mutant Hunt or Master of the World. And with their Gialli releases, let’s just say I have plenty that will be finding a new home elsewhere.

Even though A Blade in the Dark is far from a top-tier Giallo, Vinegar Syndrome came through with one of their classiest releases ever. Packed into a slip box with a diagonal cut, the package slides open to reveal the four-disc, two-4K/two-Blu-ray case with a custom-designed slipcover and 42-page book. Holy lord, are you kidding me?

Then, when you dig into the special features, the insanity continues as Vinegar Syndrome includes two cuts of the film, two newly-recorded audio commentaries with The Hysteria Continues and author Kat Ellinger, interviews with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and director Lamberto Bava, among others, visual essays and a feature-length documentary digging into the Giallo subgenre. No matter your thoughts on the film, Vinegar Syndrome‘s A Blade in the Dark 4K is one of the most special releases of the year.

2. It Follows (Second Sight)

The limited edition design of It Follows.

In the past year or two, for my money, the boutique label that balances quality films with exceptional releases is Second Sight. From their definitive edition of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, through their breathtaking edition of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s 2011 masterpiece Drive, Second Sight continues to knock their physical media releases out of the park. And their 4K edition of It Follows is no different.

Before you even get into the discs, the package is luminous in the usage of black and blue colors onto the package’s rigid slipcase. The design is not overstuffed and sets the perfect mood for the feature film. Inside the package, Second Sight includes a set of art cards and a 150-page hardback book(!) featuring writings by Kat Ellinger, and Anne Billson, among many others.

When you dig into the on-disc supplements, the top-tier quality continues with two audio commentaries, multiple interviews with the cast and crew, and a visual essay looking at the film’s usage of loneliness. The limited edition Second Sight release of It Follows is one of those releases that, while the disc has almost everything you could want, it’s what’s included outside of the discs that elevate the release from solid to spectacular.

1. Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams (Arrow Video)

The contents of the box set for Enter the Video Store.
The contents of Enter the Video Store from the Arrow Video site.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I wanted to spread the wealth amongst many boutique labels because, if I didn’t, Arrow Video would easily dominate this list. I had to bite the bullet a bit and omit many stellar releases from the Psycho Collection to the Hellraiser: Quartet of Torment, the 4K UHD releases of The Lighthouse, or Carlito’s Way. There were plenty to choose from, and it was hard not to make this list Arrow-specific. When it came down to it, though, I couldn’t deny that my favorite physical media release of 2023 was Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams.

Bringing together five films from Charles Band’s Empire Pictures: The Dungeonmaster, Dolls, Cellar Dweller, Arena, and Robot JoxEnter the Video Store brought back memories of watching some of these Empire films from my childhood. I hadn’t seen some of these in many years, and there was no better way to revisit them than with this six-disc collection.

Starting with the packing, Arrow Video took it to the next level with a horizontal design resembling a video store on all sides of the package. The roof portion of the box is removable, with the disc cases and book resting inside. The 80-page book contains writings discussing each film featuring Lee Gambin, Megan Navarro, and others.

Each film gets its own respective Blu-ray cases that feature reversible newly commissioned and original artwork for each movie. Arrow Video includes art cards and a folded, double-sided poster featuring the Arrow art design and the original theatrical one-sheet designs inside each film case.

And we haven’t even gotten to the on-disc features yet! Each film gets plenty of time to shine with newly-created and archival supplemental material.

And when I say shine, I mean just that. No film gets the shaft. All come packed with new and archival features including commentaries, interviews, appreciations, and alternate versions, highlighted by three different cuts of The Dungeonmaster! You have to stand back in awe at how immersive this box set is, proving that every film, not just top-tier, A-list Hollywood blockbusters is worthy of appreciation on physical media. I knew the moment I held this box set in my hands that Enter the Video Store would compete for my top spot of favorite 2023 physical media releases.

Those are some of my favorite 2023 physical media releases. While I mentioned that it seems like every year warning bells sound for the death of home video, releases such as these and many others not mentioned show that if DVD, Blu-ray, and 4k are supposedly on the way out, they’re going out swinging with some of the finest physical media releases of all time. 

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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