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The best TV and film DVD gifts of 2014

The Wonder Years, newly on DVD from StarVista, is one of the DVD releases of the year.
The Wonder Years, newly on DVD from StarVista, is one of the DVD releases of the year.
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Ever since DVDs hit the mass market, the DVD box set has made for a great gift, either for someone you care about, or someone you can't figure out a good present for.

But physical media is on the way out. Increasingly, people stream what they watch, and many of them don't want big, bulky DVD sets clogging up their shelves. So if you're going to go the DVD box set route, you're going to need something worth taking up that shelf space.

Here are ten 2014 box set releases (in both DVD and BluRay) that will make someone's holidays merry and bright.

Five from film

Herzog: The Collection: One of the best uses of the DVD box set is to become familiar with the work of a director you've just never watched the movies of. And from that perspective, Shout! Factory's (you'll see this name a lot) set celebrating German director Werner Herzog is a steal. It collects 16 of his films, across all of his career, at a reasonable price. And Herzog's career has been so eclectic that even if you don't like one of his classics (like, say, Aguirre: The Wrath of God), you'll find some other movie entirely that might be perfect for you.

Steven Spielberg Director's Collection: Okay, so Steven Spielberg isn't exactly as obscure as Werner Herzog. But this lovely set brings together his early TV film Duel, his first feature, Sugarland Express; and his breakout hit, Jaws with five other films he made under the aegis of Universal Pictures. Sure, Always is a dog, but E.T. and Jurassic Park are well worth the price.

The Complete Jacques Tati: The Criterion Collection puts out terrific work, but this new box set might be some of its best stuff yet. Collecting all six films of the famed French comedy director (and performer) Jacques Tati, the set will help viewers get to know a director who's a bit obscure but instantly accessible to just about anyone. All of his films are must sees, but start with Mon Oncle to see just how dazzlingly clever and funny he could be with minimal dialogue.

Halloween: The Complete Collection: Or maybe you know a budding horror fan who'd love to see the peaks and valleys of one of the most enduring horror franchises. In that case, consider this collection, also from Shout!, which goes from John Carpenter's amazing, classic first film through just about every possible iteration of the slasher genre onward. There are a lot of bad films here, but it's still fascinating to watch how the franchise changes over time.

Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection: Versions of this set have been sold since the dawn of the DVD era, but this year's version is beautifully remastered for BluRay and features many of the greatest films ever made. It's expensive, sure, but it features Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and several other stone-cold classics. It's worth it.

Five from TV

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series: StarVista's lovingly presented (in a metal locker!) version of this '80s nostalgia trip was the TV on DVD release of 2014, both for how it finally put on DVD a show fans have been clamoring for and for how it managed to do so while keeping much of what made the show great (the music!) intact. If you were at all a fan of Kevin Arnold and his family, this set makes a great addition to your DVD library.

Sgt. Bilko — The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series: Or if you have a budding TV historian on your list, here's a great pick. Shout! collects the entire run of Silvers's immortal 1950s series about an always-scheming army sergeant, living out a life in peacetime America by launching constant attempts to get rich. The comedy is surprisingly modern, even if the show's in black and white, and Shout has done a great job of placing the series in loving detail.

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery: One of the most influential TV series ever made, the weird supernatural mystery soap Twin Peaks finally gets a high-definition release with this set, which doesn't collect just the series but also the follow-up movie, the international version of the pilot (which was recut to stand alone as a feature film), and over an hour of deleted scenes from the film. Even if you've seen Twin Peaks, it's worth it to see David Lynch's haunting images in HD.

The Sopranos: The Complete Series: Here's another influential, important series that finally came to BluRay this year. This mob drama was the series generally credited with kicking off the antihero trend we're still living through now, and it boasts some of the best filmmaking in the history of television. Check it out to see just how stunning this show can look in HD, or give it to a friend who's never seen it.

WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series: Like Wonder Years, this was a show TV fans had been clamoring to see on DVD for a while, one that was also held up by seemingly impenetrable music licensing problems. Well, Shout! managed to bring the show onto DVD with most of the music intact, and it's a revelatory set, which restores the show to its proper place in the American sitcom pantheon. If you've never seen one of the last great sitcoms of the 1970s (the best era for American sitcoms), you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

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