I’ve collected disc-based home media releases of my favorite movies and television series for 23 years. I started in the summer of 1998 with DVDs, which I started buying even before I acquired my first DVD player and a fully compatible Samsung TV in early 2000.  Previously I had bought VHS videocassettes for 14 years, and by then I had roughly 90 or so titles in my video library – mostly theatrically-released films, although I had two episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series as well.
When I began buying DVDs, I started – naturally – with individual releases of theatrical films. And just as I do with 4K UHD discs now, I tried to alternate between buying titles I owned in one format and ones that were new to me. (For example, in 1999 I owned 1997’s Titanic in a two-tape set, but I did not have a VHS release of Saving Private Ryan. Those were the first major movies I bought on DVD.) Later, though, as multi-disc box sets dropped in price, I started to get season sets – I think 24 was the first TV show I bought season sets of – in 2002 and branched out into movie franchises with Paramount Home Media’s 4-disc The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Collection in 2003.
In 2009 I gradually shifted my focus from acquiring DVDs to buying Blu-ray discs (BDs). Again, I started with individual titles, then added box sets – either of entire TV series along the lines of Star Trek: Enterprise or multi-movie sets from franchises such as Jurassic Park, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, or Star Wars.
Yesterday, in my post On Movie Collections: In Praise of Box Sets, I told you why I love box sets and why I buy them.
Today, I’m going to share a list of my Top 10 box sets in Blu-ray (in both 2K and 4K UHD).
- Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (2020): A 27-disc (9 4K UHD, 18 2K BDs) limited edition Best Buy exclusive, this is the crown jewel of my Blu-ray collection. It’s – as of this writing – the largest box set I own, and at nearly $250, the most expensive one
- Band of Brothers (2008): This six-BD presentation of HBO’s 2001 10-part adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book about the WWII exploits of a company of 101st Airborne paratroopers is a magnificent upgrade of a box set I have on DVD. The DVD set was good for its time, but it lacked English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. The Blu-ray has SDH subtitles (among a host of other cool features) and better sound and picture quality
- The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns – 25th Anniversary Edition (2015): This was the last box set I bought when I still lived in Miami. It’s an upgrade of a PBS Distribution DVD set I bought in 2009 and it has been restored and color-corrected for high-definition TV for the 1990 documentary miniseries’ Silver Anniversary
- The Pacific (2010): Released in tandem with the DVD version, this 6-BD box set comes in a tin box just like its counterpart, Band of Brothers. This is another WWII-set miniseries based on a project that the late Stephen Ambrose began before his death in 2002 and was completed by his son Hugh (who died of cancer in 2015). It has many features found on the DVD box set (which I bought first), but has other extras (such as picture-in-picture commentaries) that are exclusive to Blu-ray
- Indiana Jones: The 4-Movie Collection (2021): Though Paramount Home Media Distribution’s rollout of the 40th Anniversary 4K UHD set was marred by logjams in the logistics industry thanks to COVID-19, the adventures of the archeologist/soldier of fortune have never looked better than in this remastered edition of the first four Indiana Jones films
- Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (2021): Purists will probably quibble about the wisdom of changing the aspect ratio of the classic 1994 documentary about America’s national sport from its original 4:3 ratio (for the 1994 nine-inning part) to 16:1 widescreen. I’m not thrilled about it; The Civil War had no such tweak when it was remastered six years ago. But streaming services and younger audiences love the widescreen format, so Burns and PBS obliged them in the same manner as Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Fremantle Media did when they remastered the 1970s-era The World at War for high definition reissues. Most of the footage actually looks better in this version, but interviewees who were filmed in “talking head” interviews sometimes lose parts of their heads (usually at the top or the chin) due to the cropping necessary
- Steven Spielberg: Director’s Collection (2014): This set was released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in conjunction with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Entertainment. Naturally, it features eight titles Spielberg directed for Universal over a 26-year period, starting with the 1971 TV movie Duel and going on to the first two films in the Jurassic Park franchise (1993’s Jurassic Park and 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park). I already had six of the titles in this set – The Sugarland Express, Jaws, 1941, E.T., Jurassic Park, and The Lost World – in individual BD releases, so the only new-to-me selections were Duel and 1989’s Always
- Jurassic World: 5- Movie Collection (2018): I must be either a big believer in redundancy or a completist (some might even label me a “complete idiot”), but I have three different Jurassic Park/Jurassic World box sets. I bought Universal’s Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy Gift Set a decade ago – when I was still living in Miami and caring for my sick mom – during the Christmas holiday buying rush. Last year I bought the Silver Anniversary Jurassic Park four-film collection with the original Jurassic Park trilogy and Jurassic World on both 4K UHD and 2K BDs. I should have left things alone, but earlier this year I splurged on this 2019 follow-up, which now bears the Jurassic World brand and includes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
- The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick (2017): PBS Distribution released this 10-disc set in September of 2017, almost as soon as PBS started airing this 10-part documentary about a war that dominated most of my childhood and aggravated the rift between liberals and conservatives in the U.S. and led to the current state of our country and its divided populace
- Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2011): This was the first box set that collected all six of the Star Wars films directly overseen by the saga’s creator George Lucas and the last compilation released by Lucasfilm Ltd. as an independent production company. Distributed by the now-vanished 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, this 9-disc set consists of the first two Skywalker Saga trilogies and three bonus discs full of nifty extra features. Supplanted – of course – last year by the 27- and 18-disc Skywalker Saga box sets, I still consider Star Wars: The Complete Saga as one of my all-time favorite sets, even though I have to fight the urge to “correct” its title by altering it to Star Wars: The Incomplete Saga
 Before I bought my first DVD, I asked one of my former East Wind Lake Village neighbors, Andreu Richardson, to build me a personal computer with a then-new DVD-ROM drive and the necessary drivers and software. Because I was on a tight budget and Andreu used inexpensive components for the PC, the playback performance was spotty. As I recall, it played cheap first-generation DVDs well enough, but it had…issues playing more “high-end” titles such as Saving Private Ryan and Titanic, which are the two oldest DVDs in my collection. It wouldn’t even play 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s The Longest Day, although – perversely – it did better with MGM Home Entertainment’s double-sided disc of A Bridge Too Far. Something to do with the encoding of the disc, I think it was.
I didn’t buy a DVD player in 1998 or 1999 because at the time, a good one cost, on average, between $300 to $250, not including Florida sales tax. I worked then for a lady who was trying to break into the children’s book business even though she had no talent for it, so I made enough money to afford the occasional “splurge.” Even so, I waited until DVD player prices dropped below $200. My first one (I owned two between 2000 and 2015) was a cheap (in the worst sense of the word) DVD player made by KLH Audio that I bought for $99.99. My friend Rogers Perez, who took me to the big box store to get it, saw a Panasonic player that was selling for $150 and said, “Alex, you should get that player instead.” I insisted on buying the KLH Audio player because I didn’t want to have a huge credit card bill; Rogers just shook his head sadly and said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”
At the time, I was unschooled in the ways of DVD players, audio-video input/output cables and jacks, so I thought that the player would work with any of the TVs we had in the townhouse I shared with my mom. I still had the input/output cable from my now-dead VCR, so I thought I could use that to connect the KLH Audio DVD player to one of the three TVs in the house, all of which were of 1980s vintage.
I was wrong. There wasn’t a workaround – at least none that Rogers and I could see – so after consulting with my mom (who, after all, was the head of the household), we headed back to the big box store – Circuit City, I believe it was – and bought a 26” Samsung TV which had the A/V jacks for the I/O cables that came with the DVD player. So instead of spending $100 (plus sales tax) that day, I ended up running up a credit card bill of $400.
At first, I was happy with the KLH player: I only had a few DVD titles and most of them played well. The only one that gave me issues was Saving Private Ryan; it would freeze or have problems with pixelation. As I acquired more DVDs that were manufactured after 2000, the playback problems worsened. I asked my techie friend Raci De Armas about it sometime in 2002 after the player refused to play one of Paramount’s Collector’s Edition Star Trek DVDs. He told me that KLH Audio – owned by Japan-based Kyocera at the time – used inexpensive components that were fine for early batches of DVDs but could not handle the newer DVDs with more complex menus and other features that required better electronic components. So in 2002 I bought a Samsung 5-disc player and gave Raci the KLH Audio player so his young daughter could have her own DVD player in her room.
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