Shopping at Dollar Tree is always a crapshoot. Sometimes they carry those tongue-swelling salt rings known as Onyums (which I’m strangely addicted to), sometimes not.
The same thing goes for DVDs and Blu-rays. And even when they do choose to stock a few, more often than not, it's easy to see why they’re a dollar (or $1.25 these days). There are always a lot of Jesus flicks and cheap cartoon compilations at the Dollar Trees we frequent most.
But it pays to be vigilant because we score some absolute gems from time to time. The following is a list of the best Dollar Tree deals we have found by just being there at the right time. Some provided a cheap opportunity to upgrade a movie we love from DVD to Blu-ray, while others are titles we would have happily paid full price for but simply got lucky.
1. HOTEL MUMBAI (Blu-ray) - This is a gripping, disturbing and tension-filled retelling of the 2008 terror attack on the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, featuring an excellent ensemble cast led by Dev Patel. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t even aware of the incident until I saw this movie.
2. STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (Blu-ray) - The best Star Trek film to feature the “Next Generation” cast, I would even argue it’s one of the best in the entire franchise. Star Trek Insurrection was also available during the same visit, but since that one ranks among the series' worst, we opted to double up on pork rinds instead.
3. ROCKY (Blu-ray) - Most of Sly’s filmography belongs in a budget bin, so it’s sort of ironic that the one Stallone film we did find at Dollar Tree ranks among his greatest. Too bad the other Rocky movies weren’t available. The family room could use a few new drink coasters.
4. THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (Blu-ray) - This unapologetically violent satire of office politics gone insane may not win any awards for subtlety, but it’s gobs of disreputable fun, featuring a great cast.
5. BLACK HAWK DOWN (Blu-ray) - Until Dunkirk came along, Black Hawk Down was the best war movie of the 21st Century…certainly the bloodiest. Though pretty light on characterization, almost the entire movie is as intense and harrowing as the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
6. D.O.A. (DVD) - The original 1949 D.O.A. is a terrific little slab of film noir. I’d rather have a Blu-ray restoration, but for a buck at Dollar Tree? How can anyone pass that up? It comes with the forgettable 1988 remake with Dennis Quaid & Meg Ryan, a useless bonus feature I’d never be compelled to watch again (I don't care how cute they were together).
7. ELYSIUM (Blu-ray) - Like he did with District 9, director Neil Blomkamp examines the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots with another smart, gritty science-fiction film. Elevated expectations may be a reason for its muted critical reception, but considering the real-life fuckery of so many one-percenters, this one is just as topically relevant.
8. KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (Blu-ray) - Sometimes it pays to check Dollar Tree first. Just as I was considering shelling out $25 for Arrow Video’s special edition on Amazon, I found the original MGM Blu-ray buried under a few Kevin Sorbo fartfests. Sure, the Arrow video is remastered and loaded with extras, but we ain’t talking Seven Samurai here. Killer Klowns for a buck will do just fine.
9. VIRUS (DVD) - The only thing better than watching the world come to an end is watching it all go down for the same price as a frozen Dollar Tree egg roll. In light of COVID, this 1980 Japanese global disaster movie is particularly timely right now, especially in early scenes depicting dumbasses in denial.
10. UNKNOWN (Blu-ray) - Liam Neeson is the Charles Bronson of the 21st Century. Surely, a dollar is a paltry price to pay to enjoy watching him once again kick some ass in the name of senior citizens everywhere. Unknown isn't as much fun as Taken, but a masterpiece compared to the shit he’s cranked out lately.