The 11 best Blu-rays and 4K UHD releases of May 2023

Prepare to be patient. The calendar contains a treasure chest of physical media gems, they just happen to be buried at the end of the month. Our first pick doesn’t hit stores until May 16, and the bulk of our list drops on May 30th. But dear reader, patience is rewarded with updated Blu-rays and 4K discs for the cult film of the ‘90s, a proto-video game movie, and one of the most underrated masterpieces of the 1950s – referenced by some of our favorite modern filmmakers, from Spike Lee to Martin Scorsese.

Here’s how our monthly Blu-ray and 4K curation works: Each month, in an effort to help you find your next favorite discs, we curate a list of our most anticipated releases. We haven’t had the opportunity to try these discs just yet, but if you want the formal thumbs up, no worries — in the coming months we will begin our rolling list of the best Blu-rays and 4K UHD discs of the year. But each of these releases has potential and comes from a label we’ve enjoyed in the past.

Our most anticipated disc of May 2023

Gina Gershon tries to fake a smile in Showgirls. Image: MGM

Showgirls (4K UHD + Blu-ray) – End of May

This past weekend I went to a new movie in theaters and watched a demon possess a mother and slowly torture her children and younger sister. At one point, I saw a person choke on another human’s recently detached eyeball. In another instance, a cheese grater removed the flesh off a woman’s leg. This film was rated R by the MPAA. I mention this, because Paul Verhoeven’s erotic thriller Showgirls caused a months-long culture shitstorm in 1995 when the MPAA issued a rare NC-17 – making it the first and only film with the “adults only” label to get a major release across North America.

The film had a mediocre run at the box office, but blew up (no surprise) on home video, where adults could watch it in the comfort of their own homes. But when those grown-ups (and enterprising teenagers) hit play on the VHS, they were met with something unexpected. Showgirls isn’t pornography. Nor is it “erotic” or really even a “thriller.” Showgirls is camp in its most genuine form

Call it hyperbolic filmmaking (as Verhoeven did) or maximalist art or the physical manifestation of pre-9/11 decadence … or just call it a killer way to spend a Friday night with friends. The best way to watch Showgirls is in a crowded movie theater, but the second best way may be this promising 4k release from Vinegar Syndrome. The distributor, which cut its teeth on lost X-rated double features and ultra-violent 1980s horror, has branched in a variety of directions in recent years. Showgirls will be the latest release from its Ultra line. This feels like the perfect match of movie and physical media maker.

Most of its extras are still unannounced, but a promised 40-page “perfect bound book” and a 4K HDR disc on their own warrant the spot atop this month’s list.


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Prices taken at time of publishing.

The big Blu-ray and 4K releases for April 2023

A martian appears, bathed in green light, in Invaders from Mars. Image: Ignite Films

Invaders from Mars (4K UHD) – April 7

Sometimes small releases slip through the cracks. Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t heard about this seemingly disposable 1953 sci-fi matinee, nor its astonishing 4k restoration. Thank goodness it found me.

If you genuinely enjoy retro sci-fi, attend midnight movies, or like me, like to see what restorationists can do with modern technology, this is a must-own. From the drop, the film oozes style, with expressionistic shadows and bold, colorful lighting. As with a lot of older genre-fare, your enjoyment will increase the more you know about what went into the film’s creation. Ignite Films have included gobs of extras, including interviews with people who made the film and famous filmmakers, preservationists, and critics who admire it.

The movie itself, told from the perspective of a young boy, hints at directions Spielberg would take the genre decades later. This is why I love to write this column and physical media in general: discovering movies that would have otherwise been lost to time in a streamer’s endless catalog at best, and at worse, celluloid forgotten in some archive or personal collection.

A man in a white suit holds another man by his tie (through the other man’s open mouth) while firing a gun in Yakuza Graveyard. Image: Toei Co. Ltd.

Yakuza Graveyard (Blu-ray) – May 16

Before Kinji Fukasaku made a name for himself internationally with Battle Royale, he was celebrated in Japan for his violent and inventively shot yakuza films. The Battles Without Honor and Humanity series are the most famous of the bunch, but Yakuza Graveyard fits more still into a tighter runtime. His handheld camera is so loose that it’s practically drunk, occasionally slipping entirely sideways, like watching through the eyes of a hammered onlooker flat on the street.

If you like the way Quentin Tarantino and John Woo capture criminal life, Fukasaku is a key source. And for fans of Japanese film history, Yakuza Graveyard stars Tetsuya Watari, aged ten years from his breakout role in Tokyo Drifter.

You’ll find some thoughtful featurettes on the disc, but the real reason to give this a try is the restoration itself. This release, from Radiance, is the film’s first time on Blu-ray.

A sniper takes aim in the ‘60s thriller, Targets. Image: Criterion

Targets is one of those films from the late ‘60s I can’t imagine being made today. The plot follows two seemingly disconnected men: an aging actor who made his name in the golden era of horror (played by Frankenstein’s monster himself, Boris Karloff) and a young man who plans a killing spree across Los Angeles. The film captures a Hollywood interrogating its relationship with violence following five years of assassinations from JFK to Martin Luther King Jr. And it unwittingly visualizes the present state of American gun violence in a way few, if any, modern studio dramas dare.

The film is the fruit of Polly Platt’s partnership with Peter Bogdanovich – and the only one of which she’s correctly given credit for co-penning the story. (If you’re unfamiliar with Platt’s work, I can’t recommend enough this season of the film history podcast You Must Remember This.)

This is a film that benefited tremendously from context. Fortunately, the new Criterion disc promises just that, with a Bogdanovich commentary, an interview with filmmaker Richard Linkalater, excerpts from an interview with Platt, and an essay from one of my favorite active critics, Adam Nayman.


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Prices taken at time of publishing.

Michelle Yeoh points a gun in Yes, Madam Image: D&B Films

In the Line of Duty Collection (Blu-ray) – May 16

There’s a three-step test for whether or not you will enjoy this collection.

  • Do you enjoy action films? This collection’s probably for you.
  • Do you enjoy Hong Kong action films? It’s definitely for you.
  • Do you enjoy Hong Kong action films starring Michelle Yeoh? I’m sorry, why are you still here and not running to purchase this collection?

The bundle from 88 Films includes Yeoh-starring Yes, Madam and Royal Warriors, along with In the Line of Duty III and In the Line of Duty IV – which continued the series with a young Donnie Yen following Yeoh’s brief retirement from acting.

Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao hold epees vertically in Wheels on Meals. Image: Miramax

The Jackie Chan Collection, Vol. 2 (1983 – 1993) (Blu-ray) – April 25

This collection is already available but warrants a mention alongside the In the Line of Duty Collection. Last month, we spotlighted the release of Supercop: Police Story 3, an iconic action film that brought Yeoh and Chan into the same frame. These two collections show the two stars rapidly building their careers to that moment.

If you’re new to Chan’s early work and need a starting point, you can’t go wrong with Wheels on Meals, included in this volume. Come on, just check out this fight! And if you’re a longtime fan, the obvious starting point is The Jackie Chan Collection: Volume 1 1976 – 1982.

Robert Mitchum as Preacher Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955). Image: Turner Classic Movies

Night of the Hunter (4K UHD) – May 30

Charles Laughton performed over 60 roles across film and television, but he only directed one film. It’s one of the best of all time.

Night of the Hunter was such a spectacular failure in 1955 – with puzzled and negative reviews and diminutive ticket sales – that Laughton never directed again. What a shame, because few directors have created as many unforgettable images with so few reels of film. You have almost certainly seen the knuckle tattoos of Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell, or the many modern characters that reference them.

Opinion has changed dramatically. In 2012, the film ranked 63rd on Sight and Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time. Last year, Criterion added the film to its collection, but if you want the 4K experience, this disc from Kino Lorber is your best option. The package also includes a brand new audio commentary from Novelist and critic Tim Lucas and a handful of featurettes.

Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway holding a pistol in Blackhat. Photo: Frank Connor/Legendary Pictures-Universal Pictures

Blackhat (4K UHD) – May 30

Let’s pull off the Bandaid: this package doesn’t include the extended director’s cut. For people who prefer their Michael Mann films to begin on low-heat and gradually work their way to a boil, this will be a disappointment. But for everyone else who is fine (or even prefers) their thrillers open with a bang, this package (which includes the domestic and slightly-altered international versions) should be satisfied.

Like many of Mann’s films, from Miami Vice to Manhunter, Blackhat has benefited from a recent critical change of heart. It’s still unquestionably silly, watching the man who plays Thor play the role of a brainy expert hacker. But hey, we all contain multitudes.

The package, from Arrow Video, includes a refreshing abundance of new material: a new video interview with the film’s production designer, another with its cinematographer, and new commentary with critics Bryan Reesman and Max Every. Plus, you’ll get some older BTS featurettes, and a snazzy booklet with words from Andrew Graves.


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Prices taken at time of publishing.

A man drowns in Drowning By Numbers. Image: Prestige

Drowning by Numbers (4K UHD + Blu-ray) – May 30

The films of Welsh-director Peter Greenaway have been on my “to watch” list for years, but I’ve never gotten around to them – mostly because they’re difficult to find. If you’re neurotic, like I am, and want to watch movies with decent visuals and sound, then finding a decent copy is doubly difficult. Greenaway’s work, as inspired by classical painting technique as it is by film structure, warrants the fidelity.

This disc, from Severin Films, is the first 4K release of Drowning by Numbers, and the only way to watch the sexy mystery in the US without resorting to a DVD or buying a region-free Blu-ray player. It features audio commentary with Greenaway, along with a pair of interviews with the director and actor Bernard Hill.

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The Last Starfighter (4K UHD) – May 30

Is The Last Starfighter a great movie? I’m not so sure about that. Is it a well-loved nostalgia bomb? Absolutely. The appropriate level of obsession has been given to this release from Arrow.

For newcomers, prepare for a space opera about a teenager named Alex who gets plucked from Earth by aliens to save the day in an intergalactic showdown. Why Alex? Because he holds the high score in Starfighter at his local arcade. I mean, why else?

If you’re not a hardcore fan already, the package is ready to convert you. It includes audio commentary with star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest, commentary with Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast, archival audio commentary with director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb, and seven featurettes – most notably an interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game. Plus, a separate four-part documentary.

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Mexico Macabre (Blu-ray) – May 30

I have seen none of these films. Heck, I’m not sure I’ve seen any classic Almeda films and my experience with Mexican horror films – especially from this era – is thin. That’s why I can’t wait for this set. Indicator has assembled a little pod that will take me to a place I’ve never visited. It’s packed with all the commentaries and context a set like this demands, but honestly, I plan to just watch Black Pit of Dr. M and go from there.

Seriously, how do I pass on a synopsis like this?

Fernando Méndez’s Black Pit of Dr. M (Misterios de ultratumba) sees a doctor make a pact with his dying colleague in order to learn the secrets of the afterlife. In Chano Urueta’s The Witch’s Mirror (El espejo de la bruja), a murderer is tormented by the ghost of his dead wife, whilst in Urueta’s The Brainiac (El barón del terror), a nobleman executed for necromancy returns in diabolical form to eradicate the lineage of his killers… by sucking out their brains! Finally, in Rafael Baledón’s The Curse of the Crying Woman (La maldición de la Llorona), a young bride visits her aunt’s Gothic mansion, where she finds that she is the descendent of one of Mexican folklore’s most terrifying figures.

Yes, please!