When it comes to movies, like pretty much every single other thing, 2020 has certainly been … something. As COVID-19 has ground much of the movie industry to a halt, torpedoed the already leaky business models of major theater chains and made even the fattest of studio wallets appreciably lighter, there’s perhaps a—not silver, but perhaps zinc?—lining for any movie lovers feeling perpetually behind on their intake: there’s been ample time to catch up. For this year’s top 10 gifts for movie lovers, we’re staying focused on the fact that lovers gonna love, and avoiding gifts that might cause those who yearn for the big screen to burst into tears of frustration (ticket stub books, outdoor inflatable movie screens useless in any place they have a season called “winter,” etc.). Here are 10 solid gift ideas for loved ones, strangers who just need a gesture or for yourself, as 2020 has made a strong case that self-care may be the greatest gift you can give.
1. Happy Birthday, Federico Fellini – Criterion Essential Fellini ($199.96)
You really can’t, in good faith, have a guide to great gifts for movie lovers without Criterion appearing somewhere. But while the Criterion Collection is obviously a great destination for smaller gifts—for that definitive edition of that all-time favorite classic film—it’s also a can’t-fail resource for the big get, providing at least one massive collection a year. Last year brought us the King of Monsters, and in 2018, there was the 100th anniversary of birthday boy Ingmar Bergman’s films. This year, Criterion celebrates the centenary of Italian maestro Federico Fellini with a collection of 14 films, including new 4K restorations of 11 theatrical features, enough documentaries to be its own boxed set, and the elegance of design coupled with ample critical commentary and perspective that’s become a hallmark of the Criterion brand. The Essential Fellini is the type of gift that turns even the novice into a curator. When the plague has passed, celebrate by inviting friends over. La Dolce Vita, Amarcord, 8 ½ and so much more awaits. —Michael Burgin
2. My Precious … – Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit in 4K UHD ($89.99 each)
We’ve known for months that 2020 was a unique animal. It’s not just a weirder version of, say, 2019, like Hawaiian pizza is to all other pizza. No, 2020 is like someone said, “Let’s have lunch” and you answered “I could go for a big bowl of Pennzoil 10w40 … with whipped cream.” I didn’t expect to ever be absolutely okay with a studio releasing one of the most asked-for franchises on 4K UHD while at the same time announcing that a mere six months later, they’d be releasing the same thing, but with all-new extras and remastered BDs of Lord of the Rings (which has needed them for ages). 2019 me: “Greedy bastards! Cash grab!” 2020 me: “Meh … I’m totally cool with the extra spend.” Bottom line? It’s glorious. I was lucky enough to have been at what may have been the first NYC press screening of Fellowship in 2001 and having imagined the Shire for more than 30 years, I wept when I saw it. This release brought that feeling back to me. And really, what’s $90 if it gets you through a long, hard COVID-19 winter? -Mark Rabinowitz
3. Finally Something You Can Leave to Chance – Movie Night Dice ($27.90)
In the cursed year that is 2020, small decisions can seem overwhelming. After wrestling daily with schooling, social pressures, and 12 noses peeking out from above the masks of strangers, adding even the simplest decision to the pile can seem too much. Instead of playing the time-honored game of “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know … what do you want to do?” let the gods of chance intervene in something that doesn’t involve aerosol droplets and viral loads. —M.B.
4. Reading Time – Starting Point: 1979~1996 and Turning Point: 1997~2008
There is no shortage of fascinating books on moviemaking one can snap up, but if you’re looking for a gift for an anime lover, it’s hard to go wrong with these two volumes chronicling (up until 2008) the life and career of Hayao Miyazaki, the man behind probably the best known animation studio after Walt Disney. These books will help you wile away the hours—much as the Miyazaki’s films themselves do—of our current isolation. —M.B.
5. Your Pop Culture Skeleton Key – Funko
If we had to select only one source for a movies-related gift—a destination most likely to fit the largest possible range of both sides of the giving equation—it’d have to be Funko, right? The individual figures that represent the core of Funko’s brand identity are usually inexpensive, they come from every single possible nook and cranny of the cinematic mega-universe, and, probably most crucially, the person receiving the gift doesn’t need to be a cinephile or even that much of a movies person—they just need to like one thing. One single actor or actress. One single role. One single moment. One single iteration, even. Because there’s a good chance that somewhere there’s a Funko figure for it. It’s sometimes uncanny. It’s often perfect. It’s always Funko. —M.B.
6. Ackbar, Deckard, the Child and More – Timothy Anderson Design ($15 – $90+)
Within the oceans of fandom, there are countless smaller currents of taste and overlapping “sweet spots.” Over at Timothy Anderson Design, you can find the sure crowd pleasers new (a $15 mini-print of The Child from The Mandalorian) and old (well, hello, Admiral Ackbar), as well as a number of clever genre mish-mashes like the original trilogy, spaghetti western style ($25 – $90), a great national parks spin on Middle Earth ($15 – $25), and a retro-tech magazine cover featuring everyone’s favorite replicant-detecting tool ($20 – $30). —MB
7. Puzzle Me This – Mondo Movie Puzzles ($20)
What is it about licensing powerhouses ending with the letter “o”? Sure, there is perpetual Movies Top 10 inhabitant Funko, as well as that other mass market mammoth, Lego, but let’s not overlook Mondo. Starting as what they describe as a “quasi-bootleg t-shirt shop located in the basement storage hallway of a single-screen movie theater,” Mondo represents a smorgasbord of gift options for movie lovers, all stemming from the gorgeous array of alternative posters of some of pop cultures most current or most defining films. For this list, we’re going to stick with the toy/puzzle category of 2020—the jigsaw puzzle. Their current gift shop offerings include 1,000-piece puzzles of alternative artistic treatments of Beetlejuice, The Iron Giant, Thor: Ragnarok, Big Trouble in Little China, and more. Want gorgeous coffee table books? Have some The Art of Mondo ($150) or Batman: The Animated Series: The Phantom City Creative Collection ($60). Add T-shirts, vinyl records and good ol’ fashioned prints and Mondo makes “one-stop shopping” for film and TV lovers sound pretty obtainable. —M.B.
8. Thank You for Your Services – Disney+, MUBI, HBO Max, Criterion Channel, etc.
Nobody has it all. (At least, I don’t think they do?) After Netflix and Amazon Prime and, whenever a new season of The Mandalorian is out, Disney+, everyone has a different stew of streaming. Maybe free HBO Max came with your internet provider. Maybe Hulu just has your favorite shows. Regardless, no matter how rabid a movie lover your friend or loved one might be, you can be sure there’s a hole or two in their content. So fill it. Maybe they don’t have one of the high-end curated channels like Criterion Channel or MUBI. Maybe HBO Max got left out and your friends are, at this very moment, wondering how they are going to swing Wonder Woman 1984. You can help. You can bring them a measure of calm by providing them the gift that will keep giving for one year at least (and more if you forget to set it to non-renewing!).
9. At Least We Can Protect the Furniture … – Vintage Movie Coasters ($15.16)
You may not be having people over, getting haircuts or hanging out with friends—though, looking at COVID-19 infection rates, maybe you are?—but regardless, that doesn’t mean you should let that wooden side table develop unsightly moisture rings! Nor should you forget about the cheesy monster movies that came from a decade closer to the last global pandemic than this one. —M.B.
10. A Teaching Moment – MasterClass ($15/month)
With each year, the movie-related offerings of MasterClass make getting a gift subscription more of a no-brainer, even if just for the insight a class offers into the minds of some of the greats. The current “faculty” includes: Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Werner Herzog, Jodie Foster, David Lynch, Ken Burns, Ron Howard, Mira Nair, and more. Currently, MasterClass is offering its “buy one subscription, get one free” holiday sale, which makes this one of those gifts you can get for someone else and yourself, guilt-free. —M.B.