In honor of the July 19th release of the bonus feature-laden Blu-ray/DVD Combo of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Edition, we’ve compiled a list of the best bonus features ever to grace a disc. As we’ve previously reported, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Edition contains both the 151 minute theatrical cut of the movie as well as a 181 minute Director's Cut. In addition, the set also contains over two hours of exclusive bonus features, giving viewers further insight into the newly expanded DC Extended Universe.
Though most of the movies in this list are easily accessible, some are hard to fine, out of print collector’s editions. One listed is even a Criterion Collection laserdisc that hasn't been around since 1998. Regardless of availability, this list compiles the best of insightful commentaries, documentaries, alternate edits, trivia tracks, and even a hilarious outtake reel featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars in one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.
Here are The 14 Best DVD/Blu-ray Special Features Ever.
14 Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy: Trivia Tracks
Though Shaun of the Dead did showcase a Red Cornetto (ice cream cone in Europe and Australia) it was viewed as a throw away joke in reference to a characters hangover cure. The joke however was expanded upon in Hot Fuzz with the line of dialogue being repeated, this time with a Blue Cornetto. When doing media promotion for Hot Fuzz, a journalist asked if this was the building blocks of a trilogy, to which Wright replied “Yes, it’s going to be like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Three Colours Trilogy.” Though it was a joke, the joke stuck and a Green Cornetto wrapper popped up during The World’s End.
The trilogy of films written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are deeply rooted in postmodernism, referencing the many inspirational precursors before them. This means that, regardless of how well-versed one is in film, music, and nerd culture, you’re still going to probably miss out on a joke here or there. Enter the trivia track. A pop-up graphic (and in TWE’s case, subtitle) track that quickly explains every in-joke and reference that the films make. Though TWE’s trivia track is easily accessible under the setup menu, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz’s are harder to find, buried in the U-Control sub-menu.
13 Boogie Nights, Criterion Collection Laserdisc: Exhausted Documentary (With PTA Commentary)
As we covered in a different list, at 17 years old, Paul Thomas Anderson became enamored with a documentary on porn star John Holmes. Taking inspiration from both it and the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, PTA took the camera given to him by his father and created The Dirk Diggler Story. This was the short movie that would eventually be the bedrock for one of the most well-regarded films of the 90s, Boogie Nights.
That documentary was Exhausted: John C. Holmes, the Real Story, and Anderson loved it so much that a stripped down 34 minute version of it (with all pornography removed) is included on the 1998 Criterion Laserdisc of Boogie Nights. What makes this version so much more special than the complete 72 minute, full documentary is that, included alongside it is an accompanying full commentary track by Anderson.
Though the bonus feature has been removed from all subsequent releases, it was included in the screener copies of the original DVD sent out to the press. However, according to reports, Julia St. Vincent was so upset by the use of it that she threatened New Line with lawsuits, resulting in the bonus feature getting pulled from all future releases.
12 Stranger Than Paradise - Criterion Collection: Permanent Vacation
Jim Jarmusch won the Caméra d'Or (the Cannes Film Festival Award for the best first feature film) for Stranger Than Paradise in 1984, despite it not being his first film. Back in 1980, the young director was attending New York University’s film school and turned in the 75 minute Permanent Vacation as his final thesis, even though he dropped out before receiving a degree. The film is considered a defining film in the No Wave movement of cinema, due not only to its content and talent, but to its being filmed in abandoned or dilapidated areas of New York in the early 80s.
The film follows the main character Allie through several vignettes of his life, most of which are shot in long takes, allowing the scene to play out without much editorial intervention. We wander around New York City with Allie, taking in the life of the young slacker who’s “on a permanent vacation.” Though the film is incredibly slow in parts, several scenes contain a frantic energy that’s hard to capture without the heavy handed assistance of an editor. One scene in particular that personifies this is a two minute sequence where star Chris Parker dances to Earl Bostic’s saxophone solo on "Up There in Orbit."
Jarmusch’s work elicits a love-it or hate-it reaction from most viewers, and even his biggest fans will admit that this is his weakest work. It might not be a movie worthy of purchase, but as a bonus feature on an already packed Criterion edition of the amazing Stranger Than Paradise? It’s well worth owning.
11 Clerks - Blu-ray: Snowball Effect
Polarizing, intelligent, and heartwarmingly strange, Clerks is the quintessential 90s film. Though it was shot in 16mm black and white and takes place (almost) entirely in a convenience store, the amazingly well-written characters struck a chord with audiences all over the world and the film launched Kevin Smith’s career. Taking a cue from comic-book culture, Smith based an entire slate of films around the universe he created in Clerks and created a franchise that includes other fan favorites such as Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Snowball Effect chronicles the journey of a young clerk in New Jersey who aspired to make his own film despite having no funding and no education in doing so. After meeting Vincent Pereira and being introduced to the world of independent cinema, Smith struck out to the Vancouver Film School to learn his craft. After meeting (future producer) Scott Mosier and (future cinematographer) Dave Klein, Smith opted to instead spend the next tuition payment on his own film and dropped out. He combined the money saved with a mass of credit card debt and financed the project to the tune of $27,000.
Shot by Chop Shop Entertainment (the team of Zak Knutson and Joey Figueroa) Snowball Effect is one of the best documentary bonus features ever made. The duo then went on to shoot several specials for Smith and most recently completed the documentary Milius, a study of the famed eccentric writer/director John Milius.
10 Evil Dead 2 - 2001 Region 1, Anchor Bay Edition - Open Matte 4:3 Cut
Evil Dead 2 is the benchmark of horror-comedy. Combining equal parts gore and Three Stooges style slapstick, the film is equally frightening as it is hilarious. In it, Bruce Campbell returns to the role of the incompetent hero Ash as he continues his fight against the Deadites. Though the film is wrongly considered by some to be a remake of the original, in reality the first 7 minutes of the movie serve as a condensed recap of the first film, while the rest is a continuation.
Shooting "Open Matte" is the process of achieving a different aspect ratio than the one you are shooting by masking part of the image. For example, when shooting 35mm, the image captured is a square. In order to make the picture widescreen, horizontal black bars are placed on top of the top and bottom of the screen. When we are rarely treated to an open-matte edition of a film, what is mostly revealed are technical goofs, however here, we are treated to a version that is just as well framed as its widescreen counterpart.
The original Evil Dead was shot in 4:3 (square) and was made into widescreen when the studio thoughtlessly placed black bars over the top and bottom of the image. To make sure this didn’t happen again, Raimi shot the movie with both full frame (for TV distribution) and widescreen (for theatrical) in mind. While watching the open matte version doesn’t change anything major in the movie, it is extremely refreshing for die-hard fans of the franchise to see more of the captured image than ever before.
9 Justice League: Doom - A League of One: The Dwayne McDuffie Story
In 2011 we lost a giant of both the comic book and animation world far too early. Justice League: Doom was the final project that Dwayne McDuffie completed, thus as a bonus feature, DC released an incredibly well-made 37 minute career retrospective documentary on him.
After getting his start at Marvel writing on the book Damage Control (soon coming to television) he quickly moved up the ranks and came to notoriety by creating the 90s incarnation of Deathlok. Being disappointed with the poor portrayal of ethnic minorities in comics, he and several other artists co-founded Milestone Media. There he created the comic Static, which, after the decline of the company, was adapted into the WB cartoon Static Shock, of which McDuffie was hired to be the main writer.
Once he had a foot in the door in the animation world, he went on to become a staff writer on the animated Justice League cartoon, and was promoted to story editor and producer when the series became Justice League Unlimited. After the demise of the show, McDuffie ultimately came to pen several of the best movies in the DC Animated Movie Universe, such as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, All-Star Superman, and the aforementioned Justice League: Doom.
8 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Criterion Collection: Commentary with Hunter S. Thompson
For years, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was considered un-filmable. Many tried and failed at various adaptations, one of which included Repo Man’s Alex Cox. As shown in the documentary Breakfast with Hunter, Thompson and the director notoriously butted heads over Cox turning Thompson’s favorite passage of the film into a “cartoon Mickey Mouse desert” and kicked him off the film. It wasn’t until Terry Gilliam stepped in and delivered a script that was almost verbatim to the book before filming got underway.
In the commentary, Thompson, his assistant Anita Bejmuk (who would later become his wife) and longtime friend/producer Laila Nabulsi speak at length about the Cox incident as well as other complications that arose during filming. Strangely, that’s not the most intriguing aspect of the commentary. After long periods of silence, Nabulsi will coax Thompson to speak. Suddenly the listener hears a long snort (presumably of a drug) and Thompson wails like a banshee into the microphone which delights the two women to no end. Not only is the back and forth hilarious, you can tell that the conversation is rooted in a deep, intimate friendship that we’re only getting a glimpse of.
Additional highlights here include Thompson calling Johnny Depp (where he reaches his voicemail, which is an audio clip from the movie) and Benicio Del Toro (whom he leaves a hilariously mean voicemail for).
7 Sherlock - Season 1 DVD and Blu-ray: Unaired Pilot
When it was announced in 2008 that the BBC was producing a new television show centered around Sherlock Holmes in modern day London, hopes were high. However, after nothing seemed to come of the £800,000 budgeted production starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, rumors began to swirl about its failure. Thankfully for all of us, that wasn’t the case and the BBC had enough faith in the concept to order three 90-minute episodes that required the pilot to be expanded upon and completely reshot.
While the pilot and the final product are largely the same script performed by the same actors, the most notable differences come from the absence of Mycroft and the mentioning of Moriarty. Overall the pilot has a less cinematic feel to it, more closely resembling a made-for-TV movie while missing the aggressively stylistic cinematography we have come to love. It should be mentioned as well that in the pilot, Sherlock is drugged and kidnapped rather than willingly going with the antagonist. A key change in the character’s personality.
If you’ve burned through the entire series several times while waiting for season 4, this pilot is a must-watch. While not quite a breath of fresh air, it is a new way to watch an old favorite.
6 Armageddon, Criterion Edition: Outtake Reel
With a cast featuring the talents of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson and more, Armageddon is one of the greatest ensemble casts ever created. Say what you will about its inclusion into the notoriously exclusive Criterion Collection, but the 1998 disaster movie directed by Michael Bay was a box office hit making four times its $140 million budget. The story, as Ben Affleck notoriously loves to point out in the hilarious commentary, revolves around it being easier to train deep-core drillers to be astronauts than vice versa.
Of all of the amazing bonus features provided by Criterion, it’s the gag reel that stands above the rest in terms of sheer hilarity. Shooting a blockbuster in a 16 week timeframe resulted in not only in high tension around the set, but the actors blowing off steam with hilarious blown lines. How many times can Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis find clever uses of the F-bomb? Let’s count. Willis turns in 8, with a particularly funny one involving an act with a Cocker Spaniel. Billy-Bob Thornton brings in 5, the best of which involves Willis’ *cough* mining activities.
Blockbuster movies are not usually included into the prestigious Criterion Collection, but in an essay accompanying the set, Michael Bay’s former professor (and film historian) Jeanine Basinger offers an explanation: “I see it as an epic form of the old Warner Brothers movies about working-class men who have to step up and rescue a situation through their courage, true grit, and knowledge of machines.”
5 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Super-Sized R-Rated Version
Originally announced in 2008, Anchorman 2 was long stuck in development hell (a term for films failing to begin production). Despite stars Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, and Steve Carell offering to take pay cuts to get the project moving, Paramount showed no interest in it. Still, director Adam McKay kept the fire alive by speaking out via Twitter and interviews about his desire to tackle the movie. Though it’s publicly unknown what changed, the studio changed their mind and agreed to finance the project in 2012.
Whether you loved or hated the sequel to 2004’s Anchorman, you’re in luck. For those of you who loved it, you’re treated to an all-new version with a claimed 763 new jokes. For those of you who felt it didn’t live up to the original, you’ve got a second bite at the apple to enjoy a film that left a sour taste in your mouth.
One of the best Blu-ray purchases you can make in terms of value, the set actually contains three versions of the movie: PG-13 Theatrical Cut (118 minutes), Unrated Cut (122 minutes), and the Super-Sized R-Rated Version (143 minutes).
4 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Commentary
Though he was already a famed script writer (Predator, Lethal Weapon, etc.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang marks Shane Black’s directorial debut. Based in part on the 1941 pulp-novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, the film debuted at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and through a limited theatrical run, did slightly better than breaking even at the box office with its $15 million budget. This hilarious and much-overlooked film stars Val Kilmer in one of his few comedic roles and Robert Downey Jr. before his comeback with Iron Man.
The commentary, done by Black, Kilmer, and Downey, is a refreshing love fest where all three dote on each other’s talent and mutual love of the movie. Early on, they realize how many times they’ve named-dropped famous actors and attempt to take count each time someone does so. Not only funny, it’s an incredibly insightful and laid back commentary that feels like you’re dropping in on a conversation between old friends watching a movie.
One of the stranger trivia facts Black drops is the revelation that it’s actor Lawrence Fishburne who voices the Genaros Beer Bear in an on-screen commercial.
3 Back to the Future Trilogy: The Ride
Back to the Future: The Ride’s origins can be traced back to 1987 and the opening of Disney’s Star Tours (a Star Wars immersive experience ride). According to lore, George Lucas took his pal to Anaheim for the day in order to show him the new attraction and afterwards, gloated to Spielberg that Universal (a company that Spielberg had a vested interest in) would never be able to create such a thing. Shortly thereafter, Spielberg got to work on a ride that was not only an enormous success, but breathed new life into the creation of a Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida.
In the interactive story, Doc Brown has opened the Institute for Future Technology and you are among the recruits for it set to go one day in the future. Inevitably, Biff Tannen shows up, commandeers a DeLorean and ruins the day. Though the entire bonus feature is 31 minutes, less than 5 of it is the actual ride. The rest of the footage comes from lobby videos that would play on monitors as you stood in line approaching the ride. In them, you get backstory on what Doc has been up to since the end of BttF 3. One of the highlights of which is a news reel film titled Doc on the March where he is inserted into various moments in invention history.
Unfortunately, the footage displayed here is only an estimated 20% of the actual 70mm IMAX size that was projected and features poor graphics pasted on top of even that. An amazing comparison video can be found here. Still, for those of us who never got to experience the ride, this special feature is a real treat.
2 Zombieland - Best Buy Exclusive, Nut Up or Shut Up Edition: Shootin' Zombies with Ruben Fleischer
Zombieland was written by the incredibly talented duo of Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Deadpool) and directed by Ruben Fleischer (30 Minutes or Less). One of the most memorable parts of the movie is that right off the bat, the viewer is treated to an incredible title sequence showcasing slow-motion footage of zombie attacks set over top of a musical bed of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. In that opening two minutes, it becomes abundantly clear that the movie will not only feature gross-out splatstick effects, but will do so with a comedic edge.
Phantom Camera footage is nothing short of amazing. With its ability to capture 1,000 frames per second you can make things as simple as a bee in flight look absolutely stunning. In this 20 minute bonus feature, you can see the joy in Fleischer’s eyes as he brags about the camera's capabilities. He narrates overtop of an entire piece that starts off by showing the audience test footage of him slapping himself in the face. The rest of the feature showcases unused takes from the opening credits and his analysis on why they were left on the cutting room floor.
With a sequel to Zombieland on the way, one can only hope that Sony will soon release a collector’s edition of the Blu-ray that includes this hard to find bonus feature as part of the package.
1 Memento - 2002 Two-disc Collector’s Edition: Chronological Edit
Though Christopher Nolan’s name became noteworthy in independent film circles with his debut movie Following, it was Memento that brought him mainstream success. The film stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia (the inability to create new memories) as he seeks revenge on the man who brutally killed his wife. The film is most well-known for its clever use of editing, utilizing one sequence told linearly in black and white, while another in color is told in reverse order to simulate the mental condition of the protagonist.
Though watching the story unfold chronologically would be a detriment for anyone unfamiliar with it, it offers a greater understanding and clarity to those who have. Not only does viewing it help to rectify any residual questions that a viewer may have, it also allows you to get a better grasp on the genius narrative device and how it was executed through telling the story in such a wildly jarring way.
The most interesting bonus feature on this list is also one of the least accessible. First, this edit is only available on the now out of print two-disc edition of Memento released in 2002. Second, the menu navigation on this set is purposefully difficult to access. Here are instructions to access it: Pop in the second disc. On the menu, choose the picture of the clock. Answer “C” five times. Put the pictures of changing a tire in REVERSE chronological order “3,4,1,2” and the movie will begin.
Can you think of any other special features worth bringing up? Let us know in the comments!
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