The first DVD movie changed the game for home entertainment. With superior quality, interactive features, greater storage capacity, and a sleeker design, the DVD stood out as infinitely superior to its video storage predecessors.

With its official launch in Japan in 1996 and subsequent introduction to the United States just a few months later, the DVD quickly gained popularity and became the world’s favorite way to store and consume media. But what was the first DVD movie? We explore what the DVD is, when it came out, and what the first DVD movies to hit the shelves were in this article.


Before we take a look at some of the first DVD movies, let’s take a second to learn how they came about.

A DVD — or a Digital Versatile Disc — is an optical disc storage format used to store high-capacity files like video. Introduced in the mid-1990s, it offers higher storage capacity than previous media, like VHS tapes, allowing for movies to be of higher quality.

Before the first DVD movie came along, the home video market was dominated by the VHS (Video Home System) tape, which had been the norm for about 20 years. However, while revolutionary for their time, VHS tapes had several limitations, including lower video and audio quality, and were susceptible to wear and tear. The LaserDisc, introduced in the late 1970s, provided better quality but was expensive and bulky, and didn’t take off as a mainstream option.

The development of the DVD was a collaborative effort by major technology companies, including Sony, Philips, Toshiba, and Panasonic, who wanted to improve upon the capabilities of existing formats. The first DVD movie and DVD players hit the market in 1996, and the format quickly gained popularity due to its higher resolution video, superior audio quality, and enhanced durability compared to VHS.

Additionally, movies on DVD offered interactive features, such as menus and bonus content, making them even more appealing to consumers. By the early 2000s, DVDs had largely replaced VHS tapes as the preferred medium for home entertainment.


The first DVDs and players were released in Japan in November 1996. Just a few months later, in March 1997, DVDs made their debut in the United States. The release was timed to be on the same day as the Academy Awards ceremony.

It didn’t take long for the DVD format to gain widespread popularity and become entrenched as a default medium for movie releases around the world.


There is actually no ‘first DVD movie’ as multiple titles were released simultaneously and they varied by country.


Originally, DVD releases in Japan were used for music videos. It wasn’t until six weeks after they launched, in December 1996, that four movies were released on DVD for the consumption of the Japanese public: The Fugitive, Blade Runner: Director’s Cut, Eraser, and Assassins.

One benefit of DVDs, when compared to VHS, was the ability to have multiple digital audio tracks that the audience could choose from, allowing for various language options on one DVD.


DVDs launched in the US in March 1997, the same day as the Academy Awards ceremony. The first DVD movies included 32 titles, as marketers wanted to provide a diverse selection of popular movies, ensuring the format’s appeal to a wide audience.

Some of these titles included Twister, A Streetcar Named Desire: Director’s Cut, Space Jam, Rocky, Goodfellas, and Batman. In the following months, many more classics and newer releases were given the DVD treatment, including Batman Returns and Chariots of Fire.

Almost immediately, movie and home entertainment distributors adopted the DVD as a preferred format for new releases. By 2001, DVD players outsold VCRs for the first time in the United States, and one in four American homes had a DVD player.


Though the first DVD movies were all bestsellers, none of the 32 titles kept the momentum going to maintain the title of ‘best-selling DVD of all time’.

The list of the top 25 bestselling DVDs is unlikely to ever change. From 2007 to 2008, DVD sales slumped 26%, spurred on by the recession. After that, consumers turned to digital formats and streaming when consuming home entertainment.

The best-selling movies on DVD are:

1. Finding Nemo (2003)
2. Cars (2006)
3. Spider-Man (2002)
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
5. Avatar (2009)


DVDs offer a range of benefits that make them an excellent choice for video storage and playback:

  • Superior quality: DVDs provide significantly better picture and sound quality compared to older formats like VHS tapes.
  • Durability: VHS tapes and other analog formats degrade over time, resulting in loss of quality and, eventually, unusable footage. Properly stored DVDs can last for decades without significant loss of quality. It’s also safer to have a hard copy of treasured videos, rather than just digital.
  • Higher storage capacity: A single DVD can store up to 4.7 GB of data, allowing for longer videos or more files, and higher resolution content.
  • Compact size: DVDs are smaller and easier to store than VHS tapes, making them more convenient for collectors and libraries.

Digitizing older formats to DVD is a great way of preserving video content because it combines these benefits with the ability to safeguard aging media. By transferring this content to DVDs, you ensure longevity, convenience, and the preservation of quality

At EverPresent, we’re in the business of preserving treasured memories so you’ll be able to hold onto them forever. To learn more, here’s everything you need to know about our digitization services. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions!