One person's favorite DVD is another person's coffee-table coaster. Thus, our essential sports DVD list is not meant to denigrate any discs that are omitted; indeed, several DVDs that didn't make the cut are certainly worthy of being in any collection.
In terms of essential DVDs, we put the emphasis on a) entertainment value; b) historical significance; and, for lack of a better term, c) coolness factor. For instance, the History of Soccer set offers highlights of every goal scored in the World Cup final. Very nice.
We also emphasized extras, particularly as they pertain to movie DVDs. That's why some of the great sports movies are not on our list. Extras such as commentary tracks and deleted scenes make the difference in determining what's a great DVD and what's simply a great movie.
Meanwhile, some topics and sports that cry out for great DVDs have yet to be produced. We searched for the all-encompassing Wimbledon DVD but could not find one. Same for Lance Armstrong's Tour de France career. Sure, yearly highlight DVDs are available, but we want something more extensive. Perhaps after Lance's final ride in France, the definitive Lance DVD will be made.
Obviously, you may disagree with our list or think that we've overlooked some obvious choices. We certainly welcome your suggestions. Just go to the bottom of the list, fill in the reader feedback form, and e-mail us your choices. We'll post a readers' list in the near-future so fellow SI.com users can benefit from your wisdom.
Now, on to the essentials. (Note: All prices were taken from amazon.com prior to discounts):
RAGING BULL: Special Edition
Cost: $29.98 Basics:Martin Scorsese's black-and-white epic on boxer Jake LaMotta is considered one of the best moves of the 1980s. Robert DeNiro went the distance in portraying LaMotta from his athletic days to his overweight post-boxing career.
Extras: Scorsese can be found on one commentary track. Actor John Turturro leads an ensemble on another commentary and LaMotta appears on a third commentary (alas, no commentary track from DeNiro). In addition, there are numerous documentaries and featurettes, as well as newsreel footage of the real LaMotta.
FIELD OF DREAMS: 15th Anniversary Edition
Cost: $14.98 Basics: "If you build it, he will come." Those words mean as much in Field of Dreams as "Luke, I am your father" does in the Star Wars saga. Kevin Costner stars as Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, who is driven to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. The ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Moonlight Graham -- and Kinsella's father -- come alive in feel-good moments that made this 1989 movie a classic.
Extras: Costner supplied commentary for the Bull Durham DVD, but you won't find him on this commentary track -- that task is left to director Phil AldenRobinson and director of photography John Lindle. Still, this 15th anniversary edition is superior to the Bull Durham DVD, thanks to several features, such as Costner joining a roundtable discussion with some ex-baseball players (including Johnny Bench), as they talk about the film and the sport. There's also a feature involving favorite baseball moments between a father and son. A 90-minute documentary on the film is available, along with the Bravo Channel feature, From Page to Screen: Field of Dreams. Robinson also introduces 10 minutes of deleted scenes. In addition, there are features on Moonlight Graham's hometown, and the field in Iowa that still exists
THE LONGEST YARD: Lockdown Edition
Cost: $14.99 Basics:Burt Reynolds stars as Paul Crewe, the leader of a jailhouse football team known as the Mean Machine that must take on the prison guards. A remake with Adam Sandler as Crewe came out this summer, reinforcing the superiority of the original.
Extras: Thanks to that remake, The Longest Yard DVD has been beefed up. Reynolds and writer/producer Albert S. Ruddy supply a comentary track. Reynolds and Ruddy also are the focus of another feature, Doing Time, in which they discuss how the movie is made. And in a third feature, our own SI.com Michael Silver joins a group of sportswriters and players discussing why this is the best football movie ever made.
SLAP SHOT: 25th Anniversary Special Edition
Cost: $14.99 Basics:Caddyshack may offer more comedy schtick, but few scenes in any sports movie are funnier than those involving the Hanson Brothers. Paul Newman is great as the player/coach of a financially struggling minor-league team. Gritty dialogue means the little kids need to be tucked into bed first before you crank this up.
Extras: Unlike the bare-bones initial DVD release, the anniversary edition offers commentary from the Hanson brothers, along with a couple of extra Hanson-related features. We would've like to have seen more extras -- Newman commentary or perhaps a Where Are They Now? feature -- but the Hansons are good for plenty of laughs.