It's that time of year when movie fans and critics begin to fuss over which titles will take home little gold statues at Hollywood's biggest self-congratulatory party—the Academy Awards. Many Best Picture Oscar winners have debuted on Blu-ray—some more than once—but the following 12 are the ones we keep revisiting. If you are gearing up for the Oscars, here are 12 high-def winners to watch that got the royal Blu treatment.
No Country for Old Men: The Coen brothers returned triumphantly with this slow-cooking Western tale of a man (Josh Brolin) who comes across a large amount of cash at a crime scene, the weathered sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) on his tail, and the creepy villain (Javier Bardem) armed with an airgun who wants the loot. No Country for Old Men has already had a double dip on Blu-ray, so you'll want to pick the collector's edition with more bonus features.
The Departed: Martin Scorsese also took home the Best Director trophy for this Irish Mob drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga and many more that is available on BD with deleted scenes and several featurettes.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: All three chapters in Peter Jackson's Middle Earth odyssey are available on Blu-ray, but it was the climatic final chapter—The Return of the King—that picked up all the Oscars at the ceremony. The BD is loaded with bonus features, but you'll have to wait for the extended version in high definition—this disc is the theatrical version only.
Gladiator: Ridley Scott's Roman epic about a gladiator (Russell Crowe) who became more beloved than the emperor of Rome by winning the crowd at the Coliseum was released on Blu-ray in 2009. Many complained about the digital edge enhancements employed that ruined the natural graininess of the picture, so Paramount released a corrected version that restores its original glory.
This dark slice-of-life drama implores you to "look closer" at the life of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey
), a down-and-out man with a crummy job and a worse family life who rebels and decides to reclaim his vitality. On BD, those roses that Mena Suvari is swimming naked in on the ceiling during one of Lester's dream sequences have never looked redder.
The Silence of the Lambs: This is the movie that introduced the world to ambitious FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) who picks the brain of imprisoned Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) for clues to aid her in capturing a serial killer who has kidnapped a senator's daughter. The Silence of the Lambs is available individually on BD or as part of The Hannibal Lecter Collection, which also includes cinema's first look at the Hannibal character in Manhunter as well as Hannibal, Ridley Scott's sequel to The Silence of the Lambs.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: The epic battle of wills between mental patient R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) and icy Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is cinema legend. Warner Bros. went cuckoo for Cuckoo by releasing it on Blu-ray twice, the second time with the feature-length documentary "Completely Cuckoo" that was previously only available on laserdisc.
The Godfather and The Godfather Part II: All three movies in Francis Ford Coppola's epic trilogy about the Corleone Italian crime family were released on BD as part of The Godfather Collection in 2008, the first two chapters of which won Oscars for Best Picture. The transfers were disappointingly subpar and, in early 2010, Paramount released the superior The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration as part of its Sapphire Series to make a set no one could refuse.
The Bridge on the River Kwai: David Lean's classic World War II adventure starring Alec Guinness arrived on BD in a handsome package with a 32-page book on the production and replications of the original lobby cards. Bonus features include newly discovered archival audio of William Holden narrating the premiere, Holden and Guinness on The Steve Allen Show, and a picture-in-picture graphics track.
Here's looking at you, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The iconic black-and-white World War II romantic drama has never looked better on disc. The striking box set comes packed with a hardcover photo book, a luggage tag, passport case and collectible reproductions of Casablanca
lobby cards. The BD itself is packed with vintage footage and classic featurettes on the making of the film.
Gone With the Wind: Whether or not your give a damn about the highest-grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation), we're thankful this epic Civil War-era romance starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh has been preserved magnificently on Blu-ray. The BD has a nice selection of featurettes, including the new documentary "1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year."