I want to hear great commentary from directors or other people
October 12, 2008 3:20 AM   Subscribe

What movies have great director's commentary?

I've listened to Joss Whedon's director's commentary of Serenity (and Objects in Space and The Train Job) over and over and over again. I could listen to these again, but what other movies have commentary that speaks interestingly about either film-as-art or film-as-moviemaking? Kurt Wimmer's commentary on Equilibrium was also enjoyable just from the down-and-dirty aspect of making an actual movie. Conversely, Brad Anderson's commentary of The Machinist and Aronofsky's commentary of The Fountain were excruciatingly boring and uninteresting commentaries of otherwise interesting and thematic films.
posted by 0xFCAF to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Kevin Smith usually puts on an interesting commentary, and you can follow his career up (?) from $30,000 credit card-financed film project through heady small-budget failure to big-budget Hollywood flick. There's often drinking and Ben Affleck to boot.

Another fan favorite who hits on film-as-art and film-as-moviemaking is Terry Gilliam. Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Brothers Grimm, just to name a few from the wide spectrum. The documentary Lost in La Mancha is sort of a big, fat director's commentary from Gilliam on film-as-moviemaking-disaster.

As is Burden of Dreams, but for Werner Herzog. Herzog in general is a good bet for commentaries, though my mind tends to wander through his style of speech.
posted by carsonb at 3:34 AM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, check in these previous threads:

What are your favorite DVD commentary tracks?

Your favorite DVD commentary tracks?
posted by carsonb at 3:37 AM on October 12, 2008

Jim and Marilyn Lovell's commentary on Apollo 13 is memorable as they reality check the movie made about their lives. Not about the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, but a unique perspective into the concessions made when filming a biopic (and how rarely they made them in the film).
posted by Ookseer at 3:45 AM on October 12, 2008

All three Godfather films, and The Conversation. (I can listen to Coppola talk all day.)
Citizen Kane has 2 good commentaries, one by Roger Ebert and one by Peter Bogdanovich.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:04 AM on October 12, 2008

'Chopper' has an amazing commentary by Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read himself. A great commentary by director Andrew Dominik also comes on the DVD, but Chopper on Chopper?! Priceless
posted by 0bvious at 4:14 AM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ridley Scott is always good value, goes into every aspect of film making. I still own two different version of Alien as his commentary tracks are different on each one.

For anecdotal conversational stuff you can't beat John Carpenter and Kirk Russel on The Thing and especially Escape From New York.

I also liked Quentin Tarantino's commentary on True Romance.

Also recommend the umpteen commentaries on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Espcially the two sardonic coppers who were technical advisers of the latter ('No ones going to be listening to this')

(That's off the top of my head; I've got a sad addiction to commentaries. I've got to really hate a film not to watch them)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:28 AM on October 12, 2008

Steven Soderberg and Robert Rodriguez are both pretty great with the commentary.

As far as non-director commentaries go, I loved LHC Atlas Physicist Brain Cox's commentary on Sunshine and Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church's on Sideways.

And just for fun, don't miss the track on Bowling for Columbine one delivered by interns and receptionists!
posted by sexymofo at 5:09 AM on October 12, 2008

Usual Suspects had a great one, with Brian Singer and whoever the producer was. There's all kinds of little things going on in the background of that movie I wouldn't have known about.
posted by mannequito at 5:10 AM on October 12, 2008

I came in here to say "Ridley Scott", and then fearfulsymmetry was all like "nyah nyah, got there first didn't it?". So seconded, I guess, pretty well all of his are great, much less "Ha ha remember that time wossname fell over?" and much more about technical aspects with the odd neat little anecdote about how something or other came to be as it is (and also how pudgy Joaquin Phoenix was getting when they get back to Rome in "Gladiator", and why).

Also, not a director's commentary, but I cannot recommend Roger Ebert's commentary tracks highly enough. His one for "Dark City" is completely fascinating.
posted by biscotti at 6:40 AM on October 12, 2008

I'd actually dissent on Ridley Scott. His Blade Runner commentary was atrociously obnoxious.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:02 AM on October 12, 2008

Way of the Gun has a great commentary by writer/director Chris McQuarry. He has his friend (and the movie's composer) with him, asking just the right questions. It's a great breakdown of the movie that reveals a lot of backstory as well as the nitty gritty of the actual film making process. You can tell he's been stung by the process (I believe he begins the commentary by thanking the listener for being one of the 2 people buying the DVD) and it makes for a nicely honest listen. Really good stuff.

I have someone else on the tip of my tongue for commentary but can't remember just now. Will check back if it comes to me.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:36 AM on October 12, 2008

One of my absolute fave commentary tracks is on the live-action version of Spawn.

Mark Dippé, Steve Williams and Clint Goldman, the director, effects supervisor and producer, have a conversation which is truly better than the movie itself. Lots of great inside dirt about ILM, their alma mater.
posted by dbiedny at 7:45 AM on October 12, 2008

Soderbergh provides excellent commentary. He partnered with Mike Nichols, the director of Catch 22 on the commentary of thar film (or maybe he partnered with the cinematographer, but it's excellent).

Soderbergh's commentary on Solaris is priceless because he does it with the producer, James Cameron.

JC: "I remember arguing with you abou that shot. You wanted to do it without any sound but I thought there should be an explosion."

SS: "Right. That would have been horrible."

For a twist, check out the commentary for Schizopolis, where Soderbergh interviews himself.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:52 AM on October 12, 2008

Ameilie has a great commentary track, as do most Tim Burton movies.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2008

My favorite DVD commentary is Carrie Fisher's on the semi-autobiographical Postcards From the Edge. Hilarious and touching, if not particularly insightful about the film making process.
posted by Zahara at 10:24 AM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most of my favourite commentaries are actually television shows instead of movies. As you mentioned, Joss Whedon's commentaries are excellent, although I'm more a Buffy fan than a Browncoat.

The Simpsons has great commentaries (every episode!).

My favourite (although not actually "great") is Jonathan Frakes doing the commentary for Star Trek First Contact. Dude is druuuuuuuuunk.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:26 AM on October 12, 2008

I love the commentary in You've got mail. Nora Ephron is fantastic, and she comments a lot on the different locations in New York, which I like a lot. I actually watch that with the commentary kind of often. Also seconding Amelie, and endorsing Joss's commentary on the Buffy DVDs (not a movie, I know, but he once said that he created each episode to play like a one hour movie, so...).
posted by mewithoutyou at 11:59 AM on October 12, 2008

I like David Fincher's commentary on the Criterion copy of Se7en; it explains a lot about how the movie came to be. Oliver Stone's commentary on Natural Born Killers is great. He explains a lot about his decisions ("I used a green backlight in this scene to represent disease and sickness"). The Futurama DVDs have very entertaining commentary tracks.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 12:20 PM on October 12, 2008

The commentary on Flesh Gordon is hilarious and much more entertaining that the film itself. Not so much a commentary on the film but just the director telling you all about the scrapes he got into making it - 'And then we all arrested'; 'My wife had to go back to stripping'; 'I broke in and stole the negatives'; 'We nearly won an Oscar for special effects'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:24 PM on October 12, 2008

Across the Universe has a fantastic commentary. If you already love Julie Taymor after just watching the film, you'll definitely want to have her baby after listening to the commentary. Inspiring, insightful, and entertaining. It's one of those commentaries where I wish the director could pause the film but keep talking about the scene, because there is so much there to take in.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:29 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The 40 Year Old Virgin has hilarious commentary - it's like an extra movie, because they just basically joke around for each other, and just occasionally acknowledge the movie. It is the only time I've watched a movie with the commentary on all the way through.
posted by deliquescent at 1:06 PM on October 12, 2008

agreeing with the suggestions of ridley scott (at least for blade runner, haven't heard his others) and kevin smith. some others that i've enjoyed are leonard nimoy (w/shatner) on star trek iv and michael mann on heat, miami vice, and collateral. you also might check out pt anderson on boogie nights.
posted by puritycontrol at 1:10 PM on October 12, 2008

Mel Gibson's commentary on Braveheart stood out for me.
posted by Jeff Howard at 4:32 PM on October 12, 2008

I particularly enjoyed the commentary on Aliens, Cameron was fantastic, especially when explaining some of the now outdated special effects technology. The actor's also partake, and Bill Paxton is hilarious. I'll second puritycontrol's recommendation of Michael Mann, never a dull commentary moment in Heat or Collateral.
posted by Mr Mister at 4:54 PM on October 12, 2008

Off the top of my head, I've really enjoyed the commentary tracks for these three movies that I consider true classics:
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe),
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton and Paul Reubens)
The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, the DVD also contains a great video diary from Cary Elwes, in which we learn my all-time favorite movie-related factoid, which is that a young Andre the Giant was driven to school for a time by Samuel Beckett, who was the only one in the neighborhood with a big enough car!)
posted by KatlaDragon at 4:54 PM on October 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far. My Netflix queue runneth over. I can't believe I didn't bother searching for just "commentary" before...
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2008

Camille Paglia's commentary on Basic Instinct is alternately insightful and hilariously dissident.
posted by dhammond at 6:07 PM on October 12, 2008

Stir of Echoes has exactly the sort of commentary I like: a director (David Koepp) who really likes making movies talks about the nuts and bolts of making a film.
posted by SPrintF at 6:11 PM on October 12, 2008

Perhaps one of the funniest things you will ever see is the director's + Arnold schwartzenegar's commentary on the first Conan the Barbarian movie. You'll be wetting your pants before the title sequence and exhausted from laughter by the time the final credits roll.
posted by quadog at 11:35 PM on October 12, 2008

Director's commentary: Black Caesar has a good commentary on guerilla film-making in NYC from Larry Cohen.

Producer's commentary: Horror of the Blood Monsters has a good commentary on the pain of being an independent producer dealing with the film distribution business and the dubious joys of creating movies from scraps with Al Adamson from producer Sam Sherman. He also does one for the movie The Blood Drinkers which is pretty good.

I think David F. Friedman's commentary on Trader Hornee is pretty good. It's mainly about censorship battles in the 70s.
posted by aninom at 1:20 AM on October 13, 2008

I find commentaries on older classic movies tend to be good, as they tend to be done by film scholors/critics and there's less ego involved (so you don't get endless 'I'd just like to thank/they were so great to work with).

For instance I recently listened to the commentary on Errol Flynn's The Adventures Of Robin Hood and it's crammed full of information on film making during the classic Hollywood period. I seem to remember the one for Casablanca was similarly good.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:56 AM on October 13, 2008

Ebert's commentary on Casablanca makes me want to hug the man and then buy him a beer.

Arlo Guthrie's commentary on Alice's Restaurant is fun and candid.

The commentaries on Futurama dazzle me because I had no idea that many smart people could write for one television show.

In those other threads I want to point out dobbs' comment as pure AskMe gold.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

This Is Spinal Tap features a commentary from all of the lead actors IN CHARACTER.

posted by softlord at 7:12 AM on October 13, 2008

Fight Club.
posted by Hogshead at 8:27 AM on October 13, 2008

Secondong Spinal Tap -- funny as all hell, no kidding.

The Monty Python films generally have great commentary by the Pythons.

Young Frankenstein has a really great commentary track by Mel Brooks. It's just hom, alone, aand that's al lyou need. Funny, insightful, never boring.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:59 AM on October 13, 2008

I can't spell for crap today.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:03 AM on October 13, 2008

Guillermo del Toro does excellent commentary (can't wait to get MoC's Vampyr). Tim Lucas does exemplary work providing commentary for a number of Mario Bava films.
posted by lilnemo at 3:38 PM on October 17, 2008

Dodgeball has a commentary in which Vince Vaughan gets drunk, Ben Stiller arrives late and acts like a prima donna, Rawson Marshall Thurber (the director) complains incessently about Stiller, and all three leave half-way through the movie, at which point the engineers take over and come up with an unexpected solution to complete the commentary.

It's something different, that's for sure. Very entertaining.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 12:45 AM on October 19, 2008

Paleyellowwithorange: There is also a real commentary track for the movie as a hidden Easter Egg.

Another commentary track that I thought of recently is the Oliver Stone commentary for Platoon. It's really fascinating to find out how much of that movie is based on what actually happened to Stone himself in Vietnam.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:16 AM on October 19, 2008

John Waters' commentaries are always gold. The commentary that he and Ricki Lake give for the original Hairspray is truly magical.
posted by hermitosis at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2009

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