The 50 Best DVD boxsets

From Downton and Dickens to Sherlock and Skins, TV addict Liam O'Brien picks the sets that will keep you glued to the sofa

Liam O'Brien
Friday 21 September 2012 21:00 BST

The experts:

Dave Bradley is the editor-in-chief of sci-fi and cult magazine SFX

Rosie Fletcher is the associate editor at Total Film, and an avid DVD collector

Neela Debnath is the blogs editor at

Charles Dickens 200th Anniversary Collection (£45.95)

This collection has all the classics. Gillian Anderson's performances in Bleak House and Great Expectations won rave reviews, and Little Dorrit won seven Emmy awards across the pond. Timothy Spall's Fagin is brilliant.

Downton Abbey: Series One and Two (£39.99)

Julian Fellowes's Downton has a classic cast (including Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville), but don't be fooled. It's far less stuffy than you'd imagine, and followed The X Factor for a good reason – it's the same kind of fun.

Black Mirror (£19.99)

Snubbed at the Baftas, it's unlikely that Charlie Brooker will ever produce anything quite like this again. Rosie says: "It's rare to find British TV so challenging. Parts of the first episode, involving a Prime Minister and a pig, are quite difficult to watch. But the second has a sweet heart to it."

Sherlock: Complete Series One and Two (£28.59)

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman form an intelligent but entertaining pair as a present-day Sherlock and Watson. "This is television at its best," says Neela. "Plus there's a 60-minute pilot version to check out."

Spooks: Complete Series 1-6 (£156.79)

Thrilling British drama about MI5 agents. Dave says: "This BBC series became must-watch TV once it was clear no character was safe. The brutal, controversial second episode attracted a sack load of complaints but it went on for nine more uncompromising series."

This is England '86 & '88 (£29.99)

Shane Meadows's bleak look at life in Thatcher's Britain. The cinematography is unusually good, and the script has an uncommon ear for authentic conversation.

BBC Shakespeare (£204.25)

An ambitious project that ran between 1978 and 1985, BBC Shakespeare attempted to bring the classic plays to a new audience. Ideal fodder for Sunday afternoons. Standouts include Bob Hoskins's Iago.

Game of Thrones (£39.99)

The jewel in Sky Atlantic's crown, Game of Thrones marginalises the books' more far-fetched elements to make compelling drama. Neela says: "The fantasy show for people who don't like fantasy."

Sex and the City: The complete Seasons (£99.99)

Ignore the movies, the series is still incredible. Never had a mainstream show talked so openly about, well… sex. Neela says: "Use this box set to find out which of the girls you are."

Boardwalk Empire: Season 1 (£39.99)

Whenever Martin Scorsese is involved, you know it's going to be good. The Taxi Driver director helmed the $18m pilot episode, and the cast ensured there was no dip in form.

Mad Men: Seasons 1-4 (£69.99)

Mad Men is a tightly scripted, brilliantly acted drama about a New York ad agency in the 1960s. Jon Hamm's suave Don Draper is possibly the best alpha male to grace the television since Tony Soprano.

The Wire: The Complete Seasons 1-5 (£124.99)

Superior inner-city drama written by David Simon, a former crime reporter. Neela says: "Everyone has a different favourite series: mine is season four, which focuses on Baltimore's school system."

The Killing (£59.99)

This Danish police procedural is great for fans of knitwear. Actress Sofie Grabol sports a variety of jumpers to brighten a dark and gritty show. It follows Inspector Sarah Lund, whose retirement is postponed for a brutal rape case.

Deadwood: Complete Seasons 1-3 (from £24)

There are no classic Western heroes in this claustrophobic and foul-mouthed show that ran for three series from 2004 to 2006. It's not one for those offended by profanity – the 'f' word is aired 2,980 times.

Lost: The Complete Collection (178.99)

Nothing can dent the impact of the opening episode, the aftermath of a plane crash, and this remains one of the greatest achievements in US television. Neela says: "Re-live the adventure on the island."

Battlestar Galactica (£19.99)

This could strike you as being a bit geeky and involved, but dispel your fears. It's a rebooted, darker version of the 1970s series. Dave says: "It's The West Wing in space. The perfect thinking person's sci-fi."

Fringe: Season 4 (£49.99)

The best sci-fi show on TV, it's a crime that this series isn't more popular. Dave says: "It's a gripping tale of parallel universes and hidden identities. A series designed to reward patient watching."

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Seasons 1-7 (£149.99)

The series that made vampires fashionable again. Dave says: "Snappy dialogue and a sympathetic ensemble cast make this fantasy series both charming and exciting."

Firefly: The complete Series (£34.29)

Joss Whedon's much-loved sci-fi western. Dave says: "Brilliant special effects and wisecracking characters. No fan of outer space action lives without this box set."

Toy Story 1,2 and 3 (£34.99)

When Pixar's Toy Story arrived in 1995, it changed animation forever. The films form arguably the best trilogy of all time. Rosie says: "I was so sad Toy Story 3 didn't win the Best Picture at the Oscars."

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (£63.79)

The definitive adaptation of JRR Tolkien's epic fantasy series. Rosie says: "There's a lot of extra footage, but it's seamlessly woven in. In terms of extras, it's amazing."

Marvel's Avengers (£39.99)

Containing Avengers Assemble, Iron Man 1 and 2, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America. "The Avengers was such a great film, and this is a good way to get to know all the superheroes," says Rosie.

James Bond Complete Collection (£119.99)

"It's always good to have a Bond box set, though the quality of the films does vary," says Rosie. "Sam Mendes is looking to bring back some of the old humour in Skyfall."

Monty Python: The Movies (£34.99)

The Python films are comedy gold. Rosie says: "Holy Grail is great, but The Life of Brian is a classic. It's an intelligent comedy that's so different from some of today's rubbish."

Ultimate Westerns Collection (£29.49)

Eight of the best-loved are included here. The earliest, The Searchers (1956), is perhaps John Wayne's best – a moving tale that tackles racism and genocide.

The Planet Collection (£51.05)

The Blue Planet saw killer whales tossing a baby seal 60ft into the air, Planet Earth saw the rare snow leopard but Frozen Planet topped them all. Who can forget the thieving Adelie penguins?

The World at War (£79.99)

Narrated by Laurence Olivier, this acclaimed documentary series from 1973 began with the birth of the Nazi Germany and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. It explores the human consequences of the Second World War.

Louis Theroux: The Odd, the Bad and the Godly (£20.42)

No one is better at exploiting American subcultures for our collective horror. In this latest compilation, he encounters over-medicated children and learns the codes of a Miami jail.

The Michael Moore Collection (£29.99)

Moore's liberal agenda couldn't be clearer but that's probably a good thing. This collection (Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko) doesn't include Roger and Me, but is still worth picking up.

Community: Season 1 (£22.99)

Community is packed with pop culture references. The show centres on a college in Colorado, and among the cast is Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne. Much of his dialogue is improvised.

The Inbetweeners (£39.99)

If Skins was how teenagers wanted their lives to be, this was the sad – if hilarious – reality. Simon Bird is Will, who is dumped into the state school system when his mother can no longer afford private fees.

Angry Boys (£25.52)

Australia is lucky to have Chris Lilley, possibly the best scripted comedian on the planet. The latest series sees him once again dressing up as different characters for close-to-the-mark sketches.

Royle Family Complete Collection (£49.99)

The recent Christmas specials have been dire, but Caroline Aherne's first three series revolutionised the British sitcom. Not bad for a show that rarely left the living room.

Twenty Twelve (£20.42)

This brilliant satire on the suits organising London 2012 must have made a few people wary that the Olympics would ever come to fruition at all. Hugh Bonneville and Olivia Colman lead a quality cast.

Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Collection (£13.27)

From A Grand Day out to A Matter of Loaf and Death, these draw huge TV ratings for good reason. Most fondly remembered is The Wrong Trousers.

Black Books: Complete Series 1-3 (£29.99)

Follow the alcohol-fuelled misadventures of Bernard (Dylan Moran), who runs a bookshop. For all his kudos as a stand-up, it also remains Bill Bailey's best work.

The Big Bang Theory: Season 1-5 (£59.99)

This is from Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, so it's unashamedly populist – but there's nothing better on a duvet day than this sitcom about four geeky guys.

Thick of It (£35.73)

The first three series of Armando Iannucci's political satire didn't put a foot wrong. The Party's errant politicians are given regular sweary bashings by Peter Capaldi's brilliant Malcolm Tucker.

The Twilight Saga Quad Pack (£26.99)

They have their critics but these films are beautifully shot and then there's Taylor Lautner's torso. "Mills and Boon for tweens: a love triangle with a supernatural twist," says Neela.

Dragon Ball Z (£34.99)

This Japanese manga-based series from the late 1980s with its team of preening super-heroes is for boys aged between 11 and 13. It's an ideal bridge between children's TV and more adult material.

Skins: The Complete Series (£69.99)

Hardly an accurate reflection of teenagers, Skins characters were oversexed, beset by high rates of premature death and maintained a poor school attendance record. Series one and two are the best.

Harry Potter: Complete 8 Film Collection (£49.99)

It's a marvel how these films have managed to sustain their quality. "The Goblet of Fire is the best one, but you have to admire the later David Yates films. It's fun to see how much the actors improved," Rosie says.

The Brat Pack Collection (£15.79)

"The Breakfast Club was a seminal film for anyone in the 1980s. Screw Dawson's Creek, this is what you want to show your kids," says Rosie. Also included are About Last Night and St Elmo's Fire.

Saved by The Bell (£99.99)

The blueprint for every tween sitcom. Imagine a far more attractive version of Grange Hill. Neela says: "A great trip down memory lane watching Zack and Screech's antics. A great classic show much like the Fresh Prince and Sister Sister."

Akira Kurosawa: The Samurai Collection (£29.99)

This set of five films (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro) is the British Film Institute's top-selling box set. Brooding, intense musings.

Jacques Tati Collection (£25)

Tati's work was forgotten when Truffaut and Goddard came along. It's time to reassess his contribution. These five films include the Oscar-winning Mon Oncle.

David Lean Centenary Collection (£59.99)

A director who prioritised story over everything else, Lean's Brief Encounter, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are all among the 10 films collected here.

The Films of Michael Haneke (£74.99)

Ten of the Austrian director's films, including Funny Games and The Piano Teacher. Rosie says: "Hidden is my favourite Haneke film, about the carelessness of the characters' lives."

Alfred Hitchcock Box Set (£88.29)

There isn't a complete Hitchcock collection and this lacks North by NorthWest and Dial M for Murder, but Vertigo is there, and Rope shows the master's tight direction.

Stanley Kubrick: Special Edition Box Set (£48.99)

Including 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. "My favourite is The Shining – it's so frightening, but very clever," says Rosie.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in