When it comes to the "gift that keeps on giving," there's nothing like a great DVD set that people will want to watch over and over. Here's the motherlode of Blu-rays and DVDs with fantastic adventures, amazing extras and more.
Firefly — The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Just a plug, right off the bat, for this pretty great deal — Amazon is selling this Firefly box set on Blu-ray for just $25 today. (It says "offer ends December 4, so I'm not sure if the offer continues all day tomorrow, or just ends sometime tomorrow.) If you have any friends whom you've been meaning to drag into the ranks of Browncoats, now's a darn good time to get it for them. (Just make sure they have a Blu-ray player.)
Batman Beyond: The Complete Series
Note to any of my loved ones reading this — this is probably the box set I'm most lusting after personally. Batman Beyond wasn't just another Batman show, or just "Batman in a science fiction milieu," or whatever. It was one of the coolest things ever to happen to Batman, and a really amazing extension of the Bat-mythos. (Unlike many of the other attempts to do similar things over the years with Bats.) In Batman Beyond, teenager Terry McGuinness stumbles into the Batcave and meets an old, bitter Bruce Wayne who's retired from being Batman. Terry gets hold of a cybernetic Batsuit and uses it to fight crime, with Bruce finally stepping up to become his mentor. I never thought another "future Batman" series would come close to replacing The Dark Knight Returns in my heart, but this show did, largely thanks to how well Bruce mentoring a new Batman actually works. Unfortunately, this box set does not include the TV movie, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker, nor is there the Justice League Unlimited episode that serves as a de facto series finale. (In which, if memory serves, you find out that Terry and Bruce are more closely connected than we first realized.) But it's still great to have the whole thing in one place, and there are a few featurettes, plus creator commentaries and season retrospectives.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
Come to think of it, somebody is napping at the switch — or how else do you explain the absence of a single box set collecting the entire David Tennant era of Doctor Who in one place? They could throw in the never-released-on-DVD "Tardisodes" from series two, and then all the completist dweebs like me would have to buy it. (Update: Someone points out the first four series, but not the specials, are collected in a boxset that's only available in England.)
In any case, in the absence of a Tennant mega-set, you should be buying all your friends this collection of the most recent season, featuring new star Matt Smith and new showrunner Steven Moffat. The show got a whole new lease on life, even down to a new color palette and a new "fairy tale" feel. It's a great gift for your friends who haven't gotten into the show yet, and there are some nifty extras including a couple of deleted scenes and a disc of "making of" featurettes for each episode. A full review of the boxset is here.
Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set
This is the other Doctor Who box set you could consider getting — and this is the ideal gift for the Who fan who already has everything. So far, this box set is released only in England — so you have to order it from overseas, and make sure your giftee has a region-free DVD player. Chances are, any serious fan stateside already has two of the three stories in this set, but only in a relatively feature-poor, less nice-looking form. And they're considered two of the show's best episodes — "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and "The Caves of Androzani" (although the portrayal of Chinese people in "Talons" will horrify anybody with even a smidge of awareness of the history of Asian stereotypes.) This time around, they're presented in lovely picture quality, with some drool-worthy extras, including hints about what Philip Hinchcliffe, the original series' best producer, would have done if he'd stayed for another season. And the third story, the 1996 TV movie, isn't out yet on DVD in the U.S. (although it will be next year) and it's amusing to revisit the first, unworthy stab at bringing the show back.
Ultimate Machine Girl: Collectors Tin
Few films exemplify the Japanese "ero-guro" (erotic/grotesque) aesthetic as much as Machine Girl, the story of a girl who becomes a gruesomely sexy cyborg to take down a yakuza gang whose associates killed her brother and a friend. (Along with films like Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl and Robo-Geisha, which have also gotten nice DVD releases lately.) This 3-disc box set might be the perfect gift for your friend who's into weird Japanese movies but can't quite justify buying the deluxe edition for him- or herself. You get the uncut movie on one disc, the "uncut Ultimate Machine Girl 1.5" on the second disc, and a ton of previously unavailable extras on the third disc. That's a lot of cyborg bloodshed.
Lost: The Complete Collection.
Many of us will probably never watch Lost again, after that final episode. But you might not be in the same boat. And maybe one of your friends has never seen the series at all, or has been hit on the head and has forgotten everything that happened. Or is from a "flash-sideways" world where it never aired. In any case, this is the way to own Lost on Blu-Ray or DVD. It's 36 discs, with all six seasons, plus a raft of bonus features. There are new featurettes about the making of the show, including a look inside the "prop house." There are deleted scenes. There's a retrospective. Celebrity fans get in the faces of the producers and ask questions about the final season. There's also a "recovered Black Rock journal entry" (maybe explaining how that journal got off the island?), an ankh containing a message from Jacob (probably along the lines of "Got your money!") and a collectible Senet game, as played in the final season. Relive the madness and the mystery, with a goodly helping of shwag. Plus it's been out long enough that it's cheap now — it's $100 off at Amazon, for example.
Drive-In Movie Classics - 32 Movie Set
We're suckers for these cheapo box sets of equally cheap movies — and this one is a pretty great bargain. It's showing up on various sites for around $12 for 32 movies. Not all of them are science fiction, but you could get just three or four scifi gems for $12 and still consider it a good deal. Includes Blood Mania, Bloodlust, The Creeping Terror, The Devil's Hand, Land of the Minotaur, The Pink Angels, They Saved Hitler's Brain and Lurkers. How can you say no?
Pure Terror — 50 Movie Pack
Ooh, and speaking of cheapo box sets of trashy movies... This one's also about $12 (on Amazon at least), and it's got 50 gems on it! Including The Amazing Transparent Man, Doctor Jekyll and the Werewolf, The House That Screamed, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Night of the Blood Beast, Satan's Slave, They Saved Hitler's Brain (again!), Vampire's Night Orgy, Guru the Mad Monk, and so many more. You should really get these as stocking stuffers for everybody you know.
Big Screen Bombshells: 12 Movie Collection
Just one more of these cheapo collections — this one is only $6.50 on Amazon, and it's worth getting for just one film: Galaxina, the cheapo softcore porn Star Wars ripoff starring Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten. You can pretty much regard the rest of the box set as just DVD extras, since Galaxina is worth at least $7 or $8 on its own. (Watch a clip from Galaxina here.) But there's also Superchick, a weird-sounding R-rated superhero movie about a flight attendant who takes off her mousy brown wig and turns into a blonde bombshell who fights crime, whenever she's not on duty. (So she wears a "mousy brown wig" the entire time she's working? Including on long-haul flights? No wonder flight attendants get cranky.)