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Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection - Best Pictures [23 Discs] [DVD]

  • SKU: 7118479
  • Release Date: 01/29/2013
  • Rating: R
  • 4.0 (1)
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For this film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Broadway hit, director Milos Forman returned to the city of Prague that he'd left behind during the Czech political crises of 1968, bringing along his usual cinematographer and fellow Czech expatriate, Miroslav Ondrícek. Amadeus is an expansion of a Viennese "urban legend" concerning the death of 18th century musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. From the vantage point of an insane asylum, aging royal composer Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) recalls the events of three decades earlier, when the young Mozart (Tom Hulce) first gained favor in the court of Austrian emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones). Salieri was incensed that God would bless so vulgar and obnoxious a young snipe as Mozart with divine genius. Why was Salieri -- so disciplined, so devoted to his art, and so willing to toady to his superiors -- not touched by God? Unable to match Mozart's talent, Salieri uses his influence in court to sabotage the young upstart's career. Disguising himself as a mysterious benefactor, Salieri commissions the backbreaking Requiem, which eventually costs Mozart his health, wealth, and life. Among the film's many pearls of dialogue, the best line goes to the emperor, who rejects a Mozart composition on the grounds that it has "too many notes." Amadeus won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham. In 2002, the film received a theatrical re-release as "Amadeus: The Director's Cut," a version that includes 20 minutes of additional footage. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Broadway Melody
This landmark MGM backstage musical of the early sound era about broken dreams on the Great White Way features a bevy of standards by the songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. Freed later became unit producer of the legendary Freed Unit at MGM, which is the reason many of the tunes from Broadway Melody --""You Were Meant For Me"", "Broadway Melody", ""The Wedding of the Painted Doll""-- later appeared in Freed's seminal MGM musical Singin' in the Rain. The nominal story concerns midwestern sister act The Mahoney Sisters --Queenie (Anita Page) and Hank (Bessie Love)-- who come to New York to try to make it big on Broadway. Hank's song-and-dance man boyfriend Eddie (Charles King) has promised the gals a part in the new Broadway revue in which he is soon to appear. When Hank and Queenie come to see him, Hank is pleasantly surprised at the way Queenie has filled out. Soon enough, Eddie is making advances to Queenie. Queenie is attracted to Eddie too, but she doesn't want to steal her sister's boyfriend. So she Queenie takes up with a lecherous playboy, leaving it to Hank to put all the confused love relationships in perspective. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

The Departed
Legendary director Martin Scorsese takes the helm for this tale of questionable loyalties and blurring identities set in the South Boston organized crime scene and inspired by the wildly popular 2002 Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs. As the police force attempts to reign in the increasingly powerful Irish mafia, authorities are faced with the prospect of sending in an undercover agent or seeing their already frail grip on the criminal underworld slip even further. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young cop looking to make a name for himself in the world of law enforcement. Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a street-smart criminal who has successfully infiltrated the police department with the sole intention of reporting their every move to ruthless syndicate head Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). When Costigan is assigned the task of working his way into Costello's tightly guarded inner circle, Sullivan is faced with the responsibility of rooting out the informer before things get out of hand. With the stakes constantly rising and time quickly running out for the undercover cop and his criminal counterpart, each man must work feverishly to reveal his counterpart before his identity is exposed by the other. Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Ray Winstone co-star, and writer William Monahan adapts a screenplay originally penned by Alan Mak and Felix Chong. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
With an insane asylum standing in for everyday society, Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is a comically sharp indictment of the Establishment urge to conform. Playing crazy to avoid prison work detail, manic free spirit Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent to the state mental hospital for evaluation. There he encounters a motley crew of mostly voluntary inmates, including cowed mama's boy Billy (Brad Dourif) and silent Native American Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), presided over by the icy Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Ratched and McMurphy recognize that each is the other's worst enemy: an authority figure who equates sanity with correct behavior, and a misfit who is charismatic enough to dismantle the system simply by living as he pleases. McMurphy proceeds to instigate group insurrections large and small, ranging from a restorative basketball game to an unfettered afternoon boat trip and a tragic after-hours party with hookers and booze. Nurse Ratched, however, has the machinery of power on her side to ensure that McMurphy will not defeat her. Still, McMurphy's message to live free or die is ultimately not lost on one inmate, revealing that escape is still possible even from the most oppressive conditions. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

The Best Years of Our Lives
The postwar classic The Best Years of Our Lives, based on a novel in verse by MacKinlay Kantor about the difficult readjustments of returning World War II veterans, tells the intertwined homecoming stories of ex-sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), former bombadier Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell). Having rubbed shoulders with blue-collar Joes for the first time in his life, Al finds it difficult to return to a banker's high-finance mindset, and he shocks his co-workers with a plan to provide no-collateral loans to veterans. Meanwhile, Al's children (Teresa Wright and Michael Hall) have virtually grown up in his absence. Fred discovers that his wartime heroics don't count for much in the postwar marketplace, and he finds himself unwillingly returning to his prewar job as a soda jerk. His wife (Virginia Mayo), expecting a thrilling marriage to a glamorous flyboy, is bored and embittered by her husband's inability to advance himself, and she begins living irresponsibly, like a showgirl. Homer has lost both of his hands in combat and has been fitted with hooks; although his family and his fiancée (Cathy O'Donnell) adjust to his wartime handicap, he finds it more difficult. Profoundly relevant in 1946, the film still offers a surprisingly intricate and ambivalent exploration of American daily life; and it features landmark deep-focus cinematography from Gregg Toland, who also shot Citizen Kane. The film won Oscars for, among others, Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for March, and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee whose hands had been blown off in a training accident. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Million Dollar Baby
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has devoted his life to the ring and has precious little to show for it; his daughter never answers his letters, and a fighter he's groomed into contender status has paid him back by signing with another manager, leaving Frankie high and dry. His best friend and faithful employee Eddie Dupris is a former fighter who Frankie trained. In his last fight, Eddie suffered a severe injury, a fact that brings Frankie great guilt. One day, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) enters Frankie's life, as well as his gym, and announces she needs a trainer. Frankie regards her as a dubious prospect, and isn't afraid to tell her why: he doesn't think much of women boxing, she's too old at 31, she lacks experience, and has no technique. However, Maggie sees boxing as the one part of her life that gives her meaning and won't give up easily. Finally won over by her determination, Frankie takes on Maggie, and as she slowly grows into a viable fighter, an emotional bond develops between them. When a tragedy befalls one of the three characters, each comes to a decision that shows how the relationships in the film have changed them. Adapted from a short story by F.X. Toole, a former corner man with years of experience in the fight game, Million Dollar Baby also stars Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie, and Mike Colter. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Around the World in 80 Days
Razzle-dazzle showman Michael Todd hocked everything he had to make this spectacular presentation of Jules Verne's 1872 novel Around the World in 80 Days, the second film to be lensed in the wide-screen Todd-AO production. Nearly as fascinating as the finished product are the many in-production anecdotes concerning Todd's efforts to pull the wool over the eyes of local authorities in order to cadge the film's round-the-world location shots--not to mention the wheeling and dealing to convince over forty top celebrities to appear in cameo roles. David Niven heads the huge cast as ultra-precise, supremely punctual Phileas Fogg, who places a 20,000-pound wager with several fellow members of London Reform Club, insisting that he can go around the world in eighty days (this, remember, is 1872). Together with his resourceful valet Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets out on his world-girdling journey from Paris via balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his 20,000 pounds from Bank of England. Diligent Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by the bank's president (Robert Morley) to bring Fogg to justice. Hopscotching around the globe, Fogg pauses in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight (a specialty of Cantinflas). In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine, in her third film) from being forced into committing suicide so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested by the diligent Inspector Fixx. Though exonerated of the bank robbery charges, he has lost everything--except the love of the winsome Aouda. But salvation is at hand when Passepartout discovers that, by crossing the International Date Line, there's still time to reach the Reform Club. Will they make it? See for yourself. Among the film's 46 guest stars, the most memorable include Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Jose Greco, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton, John Mills, and Beatrice Lillie. All were paid in barter--Ronald Colman did his brief bit for a new car. Newscaster Edward R. Murrow provides opening narration, and there's a tantalizing clip from Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon (1902). Offering a little something for everyone, Around the World in 80 Days is nothing less than an extravaganza, and it won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Cinematography. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

One of the most beloved American films, this captivating wartime adventure of romance and intrigue from director Michael Curtiz defies standard categorization. Simply put, it is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a world-weary ex-freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in Casablanca during the early part of WWII. Despite pressure from the local authorities, notably the crafty Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), Rick's café has become a haven for refugees looking to purchase illicit letters of transit which will allow them to escape to America. One day, to Rick's great surprise, he is approached by the famed rebel Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's true love who deserted him when the Nazis invaded Paris. She still wants Victor to escape to America, but now that she's renewed her love for Rick, she wants to stay behind in Casablanca. "You must do the thinking for both of us," she says to Rick. He does, and his plan brings the story to its satisfyingly logical, if not entirely happy, conclusion. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

Grand Hotel
Based on Vicki Baum's novel and produced by Irving Thalberg, this film is about the lavish Grand Hotel in Berlin, a place where "nothing ever happens." That statement proves to be false, however, as the story follows an intertwining cast of characters over the course of one tumultuous day. Greta Garbo is Grusinskaya, a ballerina whose jewels are coveted by Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore), a thief who fancies Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a stenographer and the mistress of Preysing (Wallace Beery), businessman boss of Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a terminally ill bookkeeper who is under the care of alcoholic physician Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone). Grand Hotel won Best Picture at the 1932 Academy Awards. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

This 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the tale of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who lives in Judea with his family during the time that Jesus Christ was becoming known for his "radical" teachings. Ben-Hur's childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) is now an ambitious Roman tribune; when Ben-Hur refuses to help Messala round up local dissidents on behalf of the emperor, Messala pounces on the first opportunity to exact revenge on his onetime friend. Tried on a trumped-up charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor (whose head was accidentally hit by a falling tile), Ben-Hur is condemned to the Roman galleys, while his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O'Donnell) are imprisoned. But during a sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of commander Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), who, in gratitude, adopts Ben-Hur as his son and gives him full control over his stable of racing horses. Ben-Hur never gives up trying to find his family or exact revenge on Messala. At crucial junctures in his life, he also crosses the path of Jesus, and each time he benefits from it. The highlight of the film's 212 minutes is its now-legendary chariot race, staged largely by stunt expert Yakima Canutt. Ben-Hur's Oscar haul included Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Supporting Actor for Welsh actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mutiny on the Bounty
The 1932 publication of Charles Nordhoff and James Norton Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty sparked a revival of interest in the titular 1789 ship mutiny, and this 1935 MGM movie version won the Oscar for Best Picture. Clark Gable stars as Fletcher Christian, first mate of the infamous HMS Bounty, skippered by Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the cruelest taskmaster on the Seven Seas. Bligh's villainy knows no bounds: he is even willing to flog a dead man if it will strengthen his hold over the crew. Christian despises Bligh and is sailing on the Bounty under protest. During the journey back to England, Bligh's cruelties become more than Christian can bear; and after the captain indirectly causes the death of the ship's doctor, the crew stages a mutiny, with Christian in charge. Bligh and a handful of officers loyal to him are set adrift in an open boat. Through sheer force of will, he guides the tiny vessel on a 49-day, 4000-mile journey to the Dutch East Indies without losing a man. Historians differ on whether Captain Bligh was truly such a monster or Christian such a paragon of virtue (some believe that the mutiny was largely inspired by Christian's lust for the Tahitian girls). The movie struck gold at the box office, and, in addition to the Best Picture Oscar, Gable, Laughton, and Franchot Tone as one of the Bounty's crew were all nominated for Best Actor (they all lost to Victor McLaglan in The Informer). The film was remade in 1962 and adapted into the "revisionist" 1984 feature The Bounty with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Leslie Caron plays Gigi, a young girl raised by two veteran Parisian courtesans (Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans) to be the mistress of wealthy young Gaston (Louis Jourdan). When Gaston falls in love with Gigi and asks her to be his wife, Jeans is appalled: never has anyone in their family ever stooped to anything so bourgeois as marriage! Weaving in and out of the story is Maurice Chevalier as an aging boulevardier who, years earlier, had been in love with Gingold's character. Chevalier gets most of the best Lerner & Loewe tunes, including Thank Heaven for Little Girls, I'm Glad I'm Not Young Any More, and his matchless duet with Gingold, I Remember it Well. Caron's best number (dubbed by Betty Wand) is The Night They Invented Champagne while Jourdan gets the honor of introducing the title song. Filmed on location in Paris, Gigi won several Oscars, including Best Picture; it also represented the successful American movie comeback of Chevalier, who thanks to this film was "forgiven" for his reputed collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mrs. Miniver
As Academy Award-winning films go, Mrs. Miniver has not weathered the years all that well. This prettified, idealized view of the upper-class British home front during World War II sometimes seems over-calculated and contrived when seen today. In particular, Greer Garson's Oscar-winning performance in the title role often comes off as artificial, especially when she nobly tends her rose garden while her stalwart husband (Walter Pidgeon) participates in the evacuation at Dunkirk. However, even if the film has lost a good portion of its ability to move and inspire audiences, it is easy to see why it was so popular in 1942-and why Winston Churchill was moved to comment that its propaganda value was worth a dozen battleships. Everyone in the audience-even English audiences, closer to the events depicted in the film than American filmgoers-liked to believe that he or she was capable of behaving with as much grace under pressure as the Miniver family. The film's setpieces-the Minivers huddling in their bomb shelter during a Luftwaffe attack, Mrs. Miniver confronting a downed Nazi paratrooper in her kitchen, an annual flower show being staged despite the exigencies of bombing raids, cleric Henry Wilcoxon's climactic call to arms from the pulpit of his ruined church-are masterfully staged and acted, allowing one to ever so briefly forget that this is, after all, slick propagandizing. In addition to Best Picture and Best Actress, Mrs. Miniver garnered Oscars for best supporting actress (Teresa Wright), best director (William Wyler), best script (Arthur Wimperis, George Froschel, James Hilton, Claudine West), best cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and best producer (Sidney Franklin). Sidebar: Richard Ney, who plays Greer Garson's son, later married the actress-and still later became a successful Wall Street financier. Mrs. Miniver was followed by a 1951 sequel, The Miniver Story, but without the wartime setting the bloom was off the rose. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Driving Miss Daisy
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Alfred Uhry, Driving Miss Daisy affectionately covers the 25-year relationship between a wealthy, strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) and her equally indomitable Black chauffeur, Hoke (Morgan Freeman). Both employer and employee are outsiders, Hoke because of the color of his skin, Miss Daisy because she is Jewish in a WASP-dominated society. At the same time, Hoke cannot fathom Miss Daisy's cloistered inability to grasp the social changes that are sweeping the South in the 1960s. Nor can Miss Daisy understand why Hoke's "people" are so indignant. It is only when Hoke is retired and Miss Daisy is confined to a home for the elderly that the two fully realize that they've been friends and kindred spirits all along. The supporting cast includes Esther Rolle as Miss Daisy's housekeeper and Dan Aykroyd as Miss Daisy's son, Boolie (reportedly, playwright Uhry based the character upon himself). Driving Miss Daisy won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Tandy), Best Screenplay (Uhry), and Best Makeup (Manlio Rochetti). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

An American in Paris
Gene Kelly does his patented Pal Joey bit as Jerry Mulligan, an opportunistic American painter living in Paris' "starving artists" colony. He is discovered by wealthy Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who becomes Jerry's patroness in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Jerry plays hookey on this setup by romancing waif-like Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) -- who, unbeknownst to him, is the object of the affections of his close friend Henri (Georges Guetary), a popular nightclub performer. (The film was supposed to make Guetary into "the New Chevalier." It didn't.) The thinnish plot is held together by the superlative production numbers and by the recycling of several vintage George Gershwin tunes, including "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Highlights include Guetary's rendition of "Stairway to Paradise"; Oscar Levant's fantasy of conducting and performing Gershwin's "Concerto in F" (Levant also appears as every member of the orchestra); and the closing 17-minute "American in Paris" ballet, in which Kelly and Caron dance before lavish backgrounds based on the works of famed French artists. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Chariots of Fire
Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire is the internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning drama of two very different men who compete as runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a serious Christian Scotsman, believes that he has to succeed as a testament to his undying religious faith. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), is a Jewish Englishman who wants desperately to be accepted and prove to the world that Jews are not inferior. The film crosscuts between each man's life as he trains for the competition, fueled by these very different desires. As compelling as the racing scenes are, it's really the depth of the two main characters that touches the viewer, as they forcefully drive home the theme that victory attained through devotion, commitment, integrity, and sacrifice is the most admirable feat that one can achieve. (Ian Holm was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in his role as Abrahams' coach), and this powerful film ended up with four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Life of Emile Zola
Dedicated to his mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner examines the mythic violence of the Western, taking on the ghosts of his own star past. Disgusted by Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett's decree that several ponies make up for a cowhand's slashing a whore's face, Big Whiskey prostitutes, led by fierce Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher), take justice into their own hands and put a $1000 bounty on the lives of the perpetrators. Notorious outlaw-turned-hog farmer William Munny (Eastwood) is sought out by neophyte gunslinger the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to go with him to Big Whiskey and collect the bounty. While Munny insists, "I ain't like that no more," he needs the bounty money for his children, and the two men convince Munny's clean-living comrade Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join them in righting a wrong done to a woman. Little Bill (Oscar-winner Gene Hackman), however, has no intention of letting any bounty hunters impinge on his iron-clad authority. When pompous gunman English Bob (Richard Harris) arrives in Big Whiskey with pulp biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) in tow, Little Bill beats Bob senseless and promises to tell Beauchamp the real story about violent frontier life and justice. But when Munny, the true unwritten legend, comes to town, everyone soon learns a harsh lesson about the price of vindictive bloodshed and the malleability of ideas like "justice." "I don't deserve this," pleads Little Bill. "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it," growls Munny, simultaneously summing up the insanity of western violence and the legacy of Eastwood's Man With No Name. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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