The 10 Best 4K and Blu-ray Releases of 2023: From James Cameron to Jackie Chan

Disney animated classics, underrated Martin Scorsese gems and a whole lot of Patrick Swayze got robust physical releases this year

Blue Steel

2023 was a fascinating year for physical media.

Major chains like Best Buy and Target announced that they were narrowing or canceling the sale of physical media altogether, while releases like the 4K Ultra HD disc for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” became sensations, selling out everywhere (including online). And the fact remains that titles can get removed and added to streaming services in endless cycles, as we have seen time and time again. But if you have a physical copy on your shelf nobody can take that away.

And it has been a great year for home video. Maybe one of the best ever. It was hard to narrow down the list of the best 4K and Blu-rays released in 2023.

10. “Road House” (Vinegar Syndrome, $49.98)

Patrick Swayze in "Road House"

Vinegar Syndrome, the boutique label run out of Bridgeport, Connecticut, has unleashed some truly mighty titles this year and we wait, with giddy excitement, for the titles they are going to drop on New Year’s Day. But if we had to pick a single must-own title from Vinegar Syndrome, it’d have to be “Road House.” Not only has Rowdy Herrington’s cult classic, about a rowdy bar and the “cooler” hired to make things calmer (played, with effortless charm, by Patrick Swayze), been lovingly restored in 4K but it has also been packed with special features, old and new (including several exclusive interviews with the cast and crew). It’s enough to make you appreciate the craftsmanship and skill behind one of the silliest – and most purely entertaining – movies of the 1980s. Bring on the remake.

Buy it here.

9. Paramount Scares: Volume 1 (Paramount Home Video, $125.99)

Paramount Scares Blu-ray Set Volume 1

Paramount has impressively doubled-down on its home video library, releasing a ton of catalog titles in 4K on their own (everything from “Terms of Endearment” to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) and licensing titles to everybody from Kino Lorber (like the recent “Face/Off” 4K) to Vinegar Syndrome (including a number of titles that Paramount had acquired thanks to a deal for the Miramax library, like David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ”) to Criterion (like their amazing new “Days of Heaven” 4K) to Arrow (their new “Warriors” box set). But the most fun Paramount Home Video release of the year has to be the Paramount Scares box set, which included gorgeous 4K editions of classic movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Pet Sematary” to recent favorites like “Crawl” and “Smile.” It even, incredibly, housed a secret movie – one that is available exclusively in the box set, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” And the movies are housed in a tremendous box set, with fun bits like a Fangoria magazine and limited-edition pins. Just wonderful.

Buy it here.

8. “JFK” (Shout Factory, $64.98)

Shout Studios

One of the last big catalog releases of the year is also one of the best. Timed to the 60th anniversary of the JFK assassination, Shout has re-released Oliver Stone’s groundbreaking, Oscar-winning historical thriller in a comprehensive package that’s less a special edition and more of a box set devoted to a single film. Not only does the 4K disc, containing the definitive director’s cut, look spectacular, but the additional discs (including Blu-rays of the theatrical edition and director’s cut, newly sourced) are just as great. Of particular interest are the new interviews presented on the bonus disc, with folks like cinematographer Robert Richardson and editor Hank Corwin giving their thoughts on the making of the movie – a landmark achievement that can still be felt today, in movies like David Fincher’s “Zodiac” or, yes, “Oppenheimer.” And if, by some chance, you’ve never seen Stone’s masterpiece, which stars Kevin Costner as a New Orleans district attorney who starts a new investigation years after the assassination (and years after the Warren Commission Report concluded that it was the work of a lone gunman), well, buckle up and get ready to meet your new favorite movie.

Buy it here.

7. “Titanic” (Paramount Home Video, $37.99)

Titanic 4K Blu-ray Collector’s Edition (Paramount Home Video)

Much has been made about several James Cameron favorites finally making their way to 4K. But those titles (most notably “True Lies” and “The Abyss”) first appeared via digital retailers, with some of the transfers coming under attack for looking truly iffy. But that same fate did not befall “Titanic.” It was released on 4K Ultra HD disc first. And it looked – and sounded! – flawless. That’s the main draw of this release, seeing and hearing Cameron’s Oscar-winning triumph in a version that is better than maybe ever before. But those looking for extras won’t be disappointed either, with a fine collection of vintage material (including three commentary tracks) and additional features new to this release, including a behind-the-scenes presentation from producer Jon Landau and another where Landau walks you through the marketing and advertising process, which was maybe more important here than in other movies given the constant drumbeat of negativity that dogged “Titanic’s” production. And if you haven’t gotten the 4K collector’s edition versions of “Avatar” and  “Avatar: The Way of Water,” you might want to get those too.

Buy the collector’s edition here.

6. “Prey” (Disney, $39.99)

20th Century

The 4K home video release of “Prey,” a whip-smart update on the “Predator” lore and one of the best movies of last year, is notable for a number of reasons. But the biggest is that “Prey” was a Hulu original movie and one that, if we’re going by conventional wisdom, would have probably stayed on Hulu for eternity. The fact that Dan Trachtenberg’s film (set in the 18th century and following a Native woman who battles a more primitive version of the alien hunter) was released on physical media is a huge deal. But the fact that it was so well-presented, with perfect picture and sound and a lovely array of special features, including a Q&A conducted by “Moonlight” director (and “Prey” superfan) Barry Jenkins, makes the release all the more powerful. It’s proof that there is a market for physical versions of movies that debuted on streaming and also that the “Predator” franchise is far from moribund. If you haven’t seen “Prey,” this is the definitive version of the movie and a must-own disc.

Buy it here.

5. “Point Break” (Shout Factory, $39.98) / “Blue Steel” (Lionsgate, $21.99)

Point Break (1991)
20th Century

For a woman who won the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, it’s startling how few of Kathryn Bigelow’s movies have decent home video releases. Thankfully, there were minor inroads in 2023. For one, we got a 4K Ultra HD release of her Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves action extravaganza “Point Break,” which looked and sounded like a million bucks. (Points are deducted, but only because there weren’t any new special features. Those old special features are still pretty good though.)

But even more excitingly we finally got a Blu-ray release of “Blue Steel,” her bizarre and galvanizing 1990 thriller made with much of the team that made her 1987 vampire movie “Near Dark” (damnably out of print). “Blue Steel” stars Jamie Lee Curtis as a New York cop who shoots a criminal and sets of a devastating chain of events that ripples throughout the city. It’s wild. And, as the voluminous special features suggest, something of a feminist classic. The movie still feels gutsy and strange, even if you aren’t factoring in the subtext, with Curtis giving a riveting performance. It’s just nice to have “Blue Steel” in print and readily available. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if it was in 4K too. Now what do we have to do to get a decent version of “Strange Days” and “The Weight of Water” on disc?

Buy “Point Break” here.

Buy “Blue Steel” here.

4. Jack Chan Box Sets – “The Jackie Chan Collection, Vol. 1 and 2” (Shout Factory, $99.98 and $69.99) and “Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar” (Criterion, $124.95)

The Protector
Warner Bros.

2023 was a landmark year for quality Jackie Chan releases on home video. There were excellent standalone editions of things like “Hand of Death” and “Police Story III: Supercop.” But the real highlights were these box sets. The Shout collections included huge Chan breakthroughs like “Dragon Lord” (which Chan also co-wrote and directed), “Armor of God” (and its impressive sequel) and “Battle Creek Brawl,” the 1980 movie that first attempted to introduce American audiences to Chan (in a film directed by “Enter the Dragon” filmmaker Robert Clouse), plus more esoteric fare like guilty pleasure “The Protector,” which saw Chan star alongside Danny Aiello in an extremely 1980’s crime movie. Each movie was ladled with special features and international cuts. And the Criterion box set, with some of the best box art of the year, followed Chan as he went from anonymous action star to one of the most important performers (and filmmakers) of his generation, through movies like “The Fearless Hyena” (and its sequel) and “Half a Loaf of Kung Fu.” We live in a truly blessed time.

Buy “The Jackie Chan Collection, Vol. 1 and 2” here.

Buy “Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar” here.

3. “After Hours” (Criterion, $49.95)

After Hours
Warner Bros.

Martin Scorsese had a great 2023. He released his magnum opus “Killers of the Flower Moon” to widespread critical acclaim and also saw the Criterion Collection release two of his older films on 4K Ultra HD disc (“Mean Streets” and “After Hours”). “After Hours” is the better and more exciting of the two releases, in part because its placement in the Criterion Collections feels like redemption. When the movie was released in 1985 it was a commercial disappointment. And the last time it was released on any kind of home video format was almost 20 years ago on DVD. This release, which looks and sounds spectacular, also cements “After Hours” as one of Scorsese’s greatest accomplishments.

The story of an office drone (Griffin Dunne), who spends an insane night in New York City, is full of twists and turns, dark humor and absurd subplots. It’s easy to see how it could have been marginalized. But as the Criterion release double underlines, it’s as good as anything Scorsese has ever done. (Just listen to that brilliant metronomic Howard Shore score.) There are archival and new supplements, sometimes in the same moment – a 2004 commentary track with Scorsese includes new remarks made by Dunne earlier this year. It’s just amazing. One of the must-own discs of the year. And definitely grab “Mean Streets” too.

Buy it here.

2. “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (Disney, $24.99 each)

"Snow White" (Photo credit: Disney)

Disney’s animated classics have been released on home video so many times it’s almost comical. (There was a “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Blu-ray released just last year.) But the fact that “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” two of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ best, most popular features, have finally arrived on 4K Ultra HD disc, is reason enough to buy them again. But most importantly, some of the restorations of Disney animated classics, particularly in the DVD and Blu-ray era, wore away some of the fine details and rich colors of the original releases. These restorations left the original movies looking flatter and more muted. But the 4K restorations seen on these discs, supervised with help from some 2D animators still at the company, are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

If you were one of the devoted who went and saw the movies every seven years during their theatrical re-releases, then you’ll understand the difference between that presentation and the later home video versions. While there aren’t any new special features, they are festooned with previously produced supplements that are all excellent. (There’s a making-of documentary on “Cinderella” that is particularly enjoyable and lasts more than an hour.) The presentations alone are worth these two discs being considered some of the best of the year. Hopefully they sold well enough for Disney to make more. “Pinocchio” please?

Buy “Cinderella” here.

Buy “Snow White” here.

1. “Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart” (Criterion, $39.95)

Dim Sum

Part of what makes physical media so essential is the sense of discovery. There’s something about wandering into a store and pulling something off the shelf, or being intrigued by a title you might not know but is put out by one of your favorite boutique labels. (The twice-a-year Barnes & Noble 50% off sales on Criterion titles are huge events for movie freaks.) “Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart” is one of the movies that people discovered in 2023, thanks to Criterion. It’s an understated family drama, directed by Wayne Wang after his breakthrough sensation “Chan is Missing,” that follows an elderly woman (Kim Chew) and her loving daughter (real-life daughter Laureen Chew) as they navigate life in modern San Francisco while also longing to return to their Chinese homeland. That’s basically it. It’s a real slice-of-life movie, filled with naturalistic dialogue (from writer Terrel Seltzer) and beautiful but unshowy cinematography (by Michael Chin), plus outstanding performances that give the movie real heart and energy (Victor Wong, who you might remember from a few John Carpenter movies, gives a heartbreaking job as the uncle and owner of a local bar).

Most importantly, it’s the kind of movie that you probably would have never come across if Criterion hadn’t decided to give it the special edition Blu-ray treatment (there’s a half-hour conversation with Wang that is among my favorite supplements of the year). Rescued from obscurity and now canonized, “Dim Sum” isn’t just the best home video release of 2023 but one of our favorite discoveries period. What a film. What a disc.

Buy it here.


3 responses to “The 10 Best 4K and Blu-ray Releases of 2023: From James Cameron to Jackie Chan”

  1. Raul Avatar

    Good list but you used the wrong picture for the JFK 4K Blu-ray set from Shout Factory. You used a picture of the old Warner Bros. Blu-ray box-set.

  2. cadavra Avatar

    20th Century made an enormous mistake by not releasing PREY to theatres first. They left a serious amount of money on the table, considering that it was clearly designed for the big screen and got the best reviews since the original.

  3. Dj Ritty Avatar
    Dj Ritty

    After Hours is garbage and Scorsese is the most overrated director ever.

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