Your favorite DVD commentary tracks?
December 8, 2023 1:05 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite DVD commentary tracks?
posted by mbrubeck to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: P.S. Happy 20th birthday Ask MetaFilter!
posted by mbrubeck at 1:07 PM on December 8, 2023 [19 favorites]

I would be hard pressed to pin down a specific one at this point because it's been years, but the commentary tracks for the Highlander TV show--and PARTICULARLY its ridiculous spinoff HIghlander the Raven--had some of the most bluntly honest stuff you've ever heard. Highlander the Raven was all about the anatomy of why the show sucked SO hard, mostly having to do with the lead actress dating some asshole liar scammer bad dude who was telling her all kinds of bad shit about her costar, leading the actress to be pretty asshole-y to her costar. At one point I remember two ladies doing commentary on one show--can't recall if it was Raven or the original series--and one of them yelling that the character "didn't have the sense God gave a penguin!"

Any commentary done by John Rogers on the Leverage TV show was always very good. I also appreciated any commentaries I heard Ronald D. Moore do on Battlestar back in the day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

David Milch's commentary tracks on Deadwood series dvds are really really special. There are other good ones in the series. But Milch's are very Best Of.
posted by MonsieurPEB at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

John Carpenter + Kurt Russell getting high and shooting the shit on _The Thing_ and _Big Trouble in Little China_.

John McTiernan on _Predator_.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:36 PM on December 8, 2023 [7 favorites]

Brother Bear animated movie, with the commentary track by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in character as Rutt and Tuke the mooses. Trample off, eh?
posted by evilmomlady at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Spinal Tap, where they stay in character the whole time. It's like a whole other movie.

UHF. Just amazing.

I love commentary tracks in general, particularly on content that was created before the invention of the DVD so it wasn't something they expected to need to include.
posted by jozxyqk at 1:58 PM on December 8, 2023 [16 favorites]

This is Spinal Tap famously has McKean, Guest, and Shearer remaining in character throughout the commentary.

Soderbergh does fantastic, digressive commentaries -- both for his own films and for others. The Limey is a personal favorite, with lots of banter between him and aggrieved screenwriter Lem Dobbs. Soderbergh's commentary with Tony Gilroy on The Third Man is one of the best.

Scorsese talking about any of his films is usually great, but I'd focus especially on the ones that also feature editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who provides the real insights. Editors and cinematographers almost always give the best commentaries. Roger Deakins on Fargo comes to mind.

I'm partial to film scholars -- David Bordwell (my old professor) did a great commentary on An Autumn Afternoon.
posted by theory at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2023 [7 favorites]

I liked the commentary for Stir of Echoes. It's one of the few commentary tracks I've heard that does what I want: it has the filmmaker describing how he approached a scene, what his goals were, and how he solved the various problems in camera.

The commentaries for the Futurama series are pretty good too, as might be expected when you have a crew full of voice actors.
posted by SPrintF at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

"The Philosopher's Commentary" on the Matrix, which is Cornel West and Ken Wilber (an Eastern spirituality guy). It's only on the Ultimate Matrix Collection but it's SO worth it. Extremely funny, insightful, and delightful, even if you're normally skeptical of Cornel West.
posted by branca at 2:27 PM on December 8, 2023

I think I may have watched Hot Fuzz more times with the commentary on than off. Fun fact: The Simon Pegg character had a girlfriend in an early draft of the screenplay, and when they dropped the love interest subplot later on they just gave most of her lines to Nick Frost as written.
posted by mochapickle at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2023 [6 favorites]

Monty Python and the Holy Grail has two great commentary tracks. Gilliam and Jones do one, and Cleese, Idle and Palin do the other.

I also remember enjoying the Life of Brian commentary tracks.
posted by Gorgik at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2023

The commentaries on the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition releases are a real treat; I particularly enjoy the cast commentaries. (Honestly, that entire release was a masterclass on how to do an excellent release of a bunch of Behind the Scenes material, and there is *so much* of it.)
posted by Aleyn at 3:03 PM on December 8, 2023 [7 favorites]

The commentary for Waking Life was so enjoyable and sociable, it almost almost got me to move to Austin, Texas. Until I noticed that all of Richard Linklater & Wiley Wiggins' references were for things that "used to be" in Austin, or what they and their friends did "when I was younger."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2023 [6 favorites]

Roger Ebert did a commentary for Dark City that absolutely rocked. In fact it’s been a while so I think I know what I’m doing tonight.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'll put Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi out there. He shot the movie on a shoestring (basically one take for every shot) and he explains all his filmmaking tricks.
posted by starman at 3:34 PM on December 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

That Spinal Tap MGM 2000 edition in character commentary track is the greatest commentary track ever made. Their hilarious petty snide reflections + Nigel loosing his train of thought and just randomly babbling about unrelated things. It's like the entire concept of what a commentary track is capable of is harnessed towards it's apotheosis.
posted by ovvl at 3:53 PM on December 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

Fight Club has a number of tracks and my favorite was the one featuring Chuck Palahniuk, author of the book, and Jim Uhls, author of the movie, and they have interesting conversations about how the story was created and rendered for page and screen.

Also, fun fact about Ebert's Dark City track: Late in life Roger Ebert lost his jaw due to cancer (that's not the fun part) and someone made him a speaking machine so he could still converse, and they were able to process the high quality vocal recordings of his Dark City commentary, take apart the vocal sounds, and integrate them so that Ebert's speaking machine would speak with his own voice.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Harold Ramis (rest in peace) did great commentaries. Groundhog Day and The Ice Harvest are both great.
posted by stennieville at 4:11 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger on Conan the Barbarian. I'm pretty sure they're both drunk; Milius is entirely high on huffing his own farts; Arnold misunderstands and misremembers significant chunks of the movies and more than once makes me wonder if he thinks that he actually is Conan.

I'm not a fan of either man generally but I love that commentary track like it was my own child.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:17 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Everybody always talks about the Spinal Tap commentary in character, but the two commentary tracks on the Voyager CD-ROM and Criterion laserdisc — one with the actors, not in character, and one with the production team — are also excellent. They’re lost to the mists of time, though, because MGM wouldn’t let Criterion renew its rights when the original contract ran out. So the Criterion edition is long out of print. FWIW the picture quality on the MGM release is good, perhaps because they knew the Criterion fans would come at them if it wasn’t.
posted by fedward at 4:31 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

The out-of-character commentary from the out-of-print DVD of This Is Spinal Tap can be heard here.

And here is the excellent The Third Man commentary by Steven Soderbergh and Tony Gilroy I mentioned earlier.
posted by theory at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

Seconding UHF. The Criterion Collection version of Charade is excellent too, very funny commentary track from the writer (Peter Stone) and director (Stanley Donen).
posted by Polycarp at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

Though it's obviously assembled from two existing interviews and therefore includes disconnects between what is appearing on screen and what is being discussed, the John McTiernan and Jackson De Govia (Production Designer) commentary track for Die Hard is very interesting.

Even if not as good as the John Carpenter and Kurt Russell commentaries, Carpenter and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's commentary for They Live is still pretty great.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 6:15 PM on December 8, 2023

King of the Hill did at least some of their commentaries in character, with a different pair for different episodes (or different disks? I don't remember exactly). It was all fun, but I remember the Peggy + Bobby tracks as being particularly outstanding.
posted by Flunkie at 6:20 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

WarGames screenwriters Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker along with director John Badham recorded a commentary track in 1998 that's full of interesting details about their research for the story and their development of the screenplay. They also talk about why they made certain creative decisions and, most importantly, answer the question of what the hell the dad was doing with that buttered bread and ear of corn.
posted by theory at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2023

"Kenneth Loring"'s commentary track on Blood Simple, going deep into production details. It consists entirely of deadpan outrageous lies. It is glorious.
posted by baf at 6:32 PM on December 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

Tropic Thunder: Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. appear on the commentary. True to his word, Robert Downey Jr. stays in character as the black Sgt. Lincoln Osiris… until the movie gets to that line where “Linc” says “I don’t break character until the DVD commentary!” So Ben Stiller asks him about it, and he breaks character… to become Kirk Lazarus, the Australian method actor.

Until the last third of the movie, where Osiris/Lazarus has an identity crisis, and on commentary Lazarus has another breakdown, and only then does RDJ emerge.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:43 PM on December 8, 2023 [7 favorites]

Also, I know opinions are not high on Joss Whedon, however the commentary track to the musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog… is itself an entirely separate musical with brand-new songs, entitled “Commentary! The Musical”
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:45 PM on December 8, 2023 [6 favorites]

I love commentary tracks, and director John Frankenheimer's commentary on the Ronin DVD is one of my favorites.
posted by xedrik at 6:57 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Apollo 13 commentary by the real Jim and Marilyn Lovell is hard to beat.
posted by Ookseer at 7:13 PM on December 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

Julian Fellowes' commentary for Gosford Park is wonderful.
posted by conrad53 at 9:09 PM on December 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I remember Incident at Loch Ness having a weird and entertaining commentary track that added a whole new layer to the mockumentary.
posted by music for skeletons at 9:47 PM on December 8, 2023

I can't believe I forgot the Val Kilmer commentary track for Spartan. The consistent mockery of David Mamet is so deadpan that it's hard to tell what's true and what's just a bit, and it includes observations like: "If you’re listening to this and watching the film for the first time, you’re really strange."
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 10:00 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

I love the commentary track on Titanic that features the two historical consultants on the film. If you're interested in the historical angle, it's fascinating.
posted by Threeve at 10:54 PM on December 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'll add to the chorus recommending the UHF track. You have a lovely, wholesome time hanging out with your gracious host, Weird Al.
posted by champers at 3:24 AM on December 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

Classic Doctor Who serials, in particular the ones featuring Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor) and Janet Fielding (Tegan).
posted by rjs at 5:24 AM on December 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

The drunken mess of a commentary on the 'Cannibal! The Musical' DVD is tremendously entertaining.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

Soderbergh was mentioned upthread. His track for Traffic is great.
posted by mmascolino at 7:58 AM on December 9, 2023

The Mystery Men commentary track by Kinka Usher (this was the first and only film he directed). It's a delightful mix of him sounding starstruck (nearly everyone was "super-nice") and some really frank commentary about why the movie is uneven and why some scenes that don't seem to go anywhere are in it--multiple scripts, changes due to focus group feedback, etc. One of the most informative in terms of "why is this movie like this" that I've ever watched.
posted by creepygirl at 10:54 AM on December 9, 2023

Exclusively on the VIP Limited Edition of Showgirls, that ambitious failure of a movie, is a track in which David Schmader, the monologist, re-creates his stage show in which he would show the movie and comment over it, very comedically walking through how the movie failed to live up to its hype and then failed to live up to mediocrity. It's really the only way to enjoy this film.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:06 AM on December 9, 2023

Back when Netflix sent DVDs through the mail, my wife and I watched Citizen Kane. The next day, we hadn't sent it back yet, and we noticed that Roger Ebert had done commentary for it, so we decided to watch the first scene again with the commentary on just to get a taste of his insights. We did not stop until the end of the movie two hours later.
posted by dfan at 12:07 PM on December 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

The Anchorman commentary has Will Farrell and the director Adam McKay, but the funny part is they just talk about everything except the movie almost the whole time. And random people like Kyle Gass from Tenacious D will just enter the recording room for a bit
posted by Jungo at 1:19 PM on December 9, 2023

I don't remember if the commentary for Monsters, Inc. is delightful throughout, but one highlight I seem to recall from the DVD commentary is that when it came to the scene where Mike takes his girlfriend Celia out for a fancy dinner which is interrupted by Boo, the team remembers that in an earlier script Mike was supposed to propose to her. They then wonder aloud why that part was removed, and call up a story editor during the commentary and put him on speakerphone to explain the script choice.

Also, the commentary for Conan The Barbarian was recorded many years after the film was completed (1982), and it becomes clear early on that neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor director John Milius recall much about the making of it, so they are in effect reacting to it as it triggers old memories ("Oh yah! This is the part with the big snake!" etc.)
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:10 PM on December 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

Without a doubt, John Waters for Mommie Dearest.
posted by thenewbrunette at 6:09 AM on December 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Just about anything with Eddie Muller (patron saint of Film Noir), especially the Columbia Noir flicks. (On a couple of them (e.g. The Lineup) he's teamed up with James Ellroy, who's not known for his...political correctness, so be warned).
posted by gtrwolf at 9:46 AM on December 10, 2023

I really enjoyed the commentary on season 1 of the wire
posted by bq at 1:59 PM on December 10, 2023

All of director Sidney Lumet's commentaries on films like The Verdict (very interesting on script development & use of color), Network, Fail Safe (available online, with much else), and the commentaries on his Twelve Angry Men, which are not by him.
posted by diodotos at 4:04 AM on December 12, 2023

Robert Pattinson's dismay at his own performance, dislike of the character he played, and endearing weirdness, overall, on the Twilight DVD commentary.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

The Farscape Collections manage to have regular commentary from all the main actors, as well as Brian Henson.

Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets From Space have commentary from Gonzo and Rizzo that adds an extra entertainment layer.
posted by Eikonaut at 9:27 AM on December 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

The original DVD release of the Matrix has a commentary track by the composer. IIRC, it plays with the soundtrack pulled forward in the mix and the dialog still present but quieter, interspersed with comments from the composer about sections of music coming up for just past.

It's been about 20 years since I last listened to it, so I can't speak to the quality of the commentary itself, but I always loved the idea of that as a commentary track and wondered why it wasn't something I saw anyone else ever do.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:15 PM on December 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

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