As most of you know, I own a prodigious DVD collection that I store in a rotating tower. I currently have over 285 titles that will likely be worth millions one day. Here are the top 5 DVDs from my collection:
5. Rambo III (1988): Rambo Trilogy Special Edition DVD Collection
I own every movie Sly Stallone has ever made. And for all his brilliance in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!, Spykids 3-D: Game Over, and other titles, Stallone was never better than during the 1 hour 42 minute thrill ride known as Rambo III. The movie can best be summed up by its tag line: “The first was for himself. The second was for his country. This time is for his friend.” While some consider Rocky IV the best Cold War movie of all-time, I prefer Rambo III, where Stallone goes an an undercover mission to rescue a friend who has been kidnapped by a Soviet general. It is the perfect capper to perhaps the greatest trilogy in cinematic history, and Stallone more than rises to the occasion.
Don’t scrimp with this one when purchasing the DVD. Go for the full Rambo Triology Special Edition, which comes in a case with a regal American Flag banner at the top. Also, you don’t want to watch Rambo III with no context, so it’s important to watch the first two installments to truly appreciate the final chapter’s splendor.
4. Dead Man on Campus (1998): Widescreen Version (Out of Print)
Seeing a dark-haired Zack Morris doing bong hits on the big screen was reason enough to see this movie. So we start there.
But let’s take a step back to consider the plot: Zack and Tom Everett Scott are both in danger of failing out of college. But, they concoct a plan to avoid failing out by trying to find a roommate who is likely to commit suicide. Most of the movie consists of them cycling through one roommate after another and trying to find ways to push each one over the edge. For one roomate, they buy rope, knives, and perscription medication that he can use to commit suicide. This is a comedy, mind you. Yet the plot is something that makes Thirteen Reasons Why look like Alvin and the Chipmunks by comparison.
Dead Man on Campus ultimately makes this list because it is a true collector’s item. The movie went out of print (presumably because of the plot), and a copy today will run you $60 on Amazon. I purchased it for a cool $10 at Kmart in 2002, so I’ve seen a six-fold increase on my investment. Even Warren Buffet would be proud of that kind of return.
3. Varsity Blues (1999): Deluxe Edition
“You’re dragging ass, and it’s fucking up my universe.”
In a world that runs short on real role models, we’ll always have coach Bud Kilmer—portrayed by Jon Voight in his finest 105 minutes of acting. The movie begins with a haunting rumination on the state of rural, football-loving America interspersed with shots of a Wal-Mart exterior and football action. It should have been the greatest movie ever made. All the ingredients were there.
And yet, the makers of Varsity Blues blew their shot at legendary status by making Jonathan Moxon the “hero” of this movie. The same Jonathan Moxon who reads overrated Kurt Vonnegut books during games, ruins his team’s season by organizing an all-night drinking party with the team’s best players, and stages a coup to take down a confirmed Texas high school football coaching legend. It’s absolutely disgusting, and it’s a topic I addressed at length in my essay, “Reconsidering Jonathan Moxon: How Varsity Blues Gave America its First Millennial,” which was included in my book. Nevertheless, Kilmer’s greatness shines so bright that the movie is still a must-watch. It’s also a huge “What If?” moment for FSU fans wondering how the 2000’s might have gone for their program had Lance Harbor not wrecked his knee.
I own three copies of Varsity Blues, and the Deluxe Edition is my favorite. It includes director’s commentary and various featurettes about making the movie. But if you are unable to afford such luxuries, the standard edition will do just fine.
2. The Patriot (2000): Extended Cut
Trigger warning for any British citizens who might be reading this. The Patriot is the most objective, historically-accurate portrayal of the Revolutionary War that you’ll ever see. In short, The Patriot teaches the audience that the British unleashed a series of horrifying war crimes on the United States in an attempt keep our fifty states under their authoritarian yoke. It’s enough to make you never want to drink tea or watch an Austin Powers movie again.
Luckily for the United States, we had two great, patriotic Americans—Mel Gibson and the late Heath Ledger—to reluctantly take up arms against the Redcoats and single-handedly turn the tide of the war. We owe them our freedom, and the best way to pay tribute is by watching The Patriot every Fourth of July.
The Extended Cut is the only option for watching The Patriot. I used to own other versions, but I felt obligated to get rid of them. Would you rather have 2 hours and 38 minutes of patriotism, or 2 hours and 48 minutes of patriotism? If your answer isn’t the latter, you should be prosecuted for treason.
1. The Skulls (2000): Collectors Edition, Widescreen
Where do you even begin with this absolute jewel of a movie? The final scene is a duel—a fucking duel in the year 2000—between Pacey Witter and Lance Harbor. The duel ends with Lance shooting his own father (Craig T. Nelson, no less) and attempting to shoot himself, only to have Pacey intervene and knock the gun out of his hand. But even before that climatic scene, we are treated to an endless string of cinematic mastery. Shooter McGavin, having secured a position as Yale’s provost, intentionally breaks the neck of a wounded undergraduate to silence him forever. Pacey is confined to (and breaks out of) a psych hospital evidently controlled by the Skull & Bones society. A sitting U.S. Senator hires a private detective to shoot and kill Shooter McGavin.
We don’t deserve a movie like The Skulls, but we still have it. Go to the value bin of the closest Wal-Mart and pick up a copy of this masterpiece today. You won’t regret it.
If possible, go with the Collectors Edition, which includes director’s commentary and twelve scintillating minutes of deleted scenes. Another solid option is to purchase the The Skulls trilogy, which also includes the direct-to-video sequels, The Skulls II and The Skulls III. Both are fine movies worth having on your shelf (if nothing else, it shows you can afford to purchase box sets), although not quite on the level of the original.