Top Gun [SteelBook] – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Top Gun (1986)
Release Date: 2020
Runtime: 109 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray SteelBook
Release Date: 12/1/20
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Tim Robbins, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Clarence Gilyard Jr., James Tolkan, Meg Ryan
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Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“Top Gun” was a 1986 film directed by the late Tony Scott. At this point in his career, Tony, the brother of another director Ridley Scott, had only done one other film and that was a film called “The Hunger” (1983). For his sophomore effort, Tony went for something that would stand the test of time and hold up to be memorable some 33 years later and it’s safe to say — reviewing this — that it certainly is.
The motion picture was based on a 1983 California magazine article titled “Top Guns” written by Ehud Yanoy. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson optioned (bought) the rights to it and through a joint collaboration with the U.S. military, specifically, the Navy turned it into a major motion picture. The screenplay adaptation was co-written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. — as well as, unaccredited, technically co-written by Warren Skaaren. The late Skaaren is best known for his contributions to the screenplays for such films as “Batman” (1989), “Beetlejuice” (1988), and “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987). The other two screenwriters Cash and Epps collaborated on numerous films such as “Legal Eagles” (1986), “Turner and Hooch” (1989), the film adaptation of “Dick Tracy” (1990), and “Anaconda” (1997).
The story here to the movie involved a group of top gun, hotshot, pilots in the Navy attending a training school, stationed on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, where they specialize in combat maneuvers and even deal with some real-world scenarios, at the very same time. The protagonist here is one “Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell” (Tom Cruise) and (pun intended) along for the ride in his jet is his RIO (Radar Interceptor Officer) “Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw” (Anthony Edwards). Together, these two are one very somewhat lovable yet troublesome pair. In fact, Maverick and Goose have been known to clash with the top brass as well as with another rival pilot “Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky” (Val Kilmer) and his RIO pal “Ron ‘Slider’ Kerner” (Rick Rossovich). The top brass, not just so-to-speak, include the flight instructor “Mike “Viper” Metcalf” (Tom Skerritt) as well as instructor “Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly” (Michael Ironside) and CDR “Tom ‘Stinger’ Jardian” (James Tolkan).
So, it’s safe to say back in the 1986 era this type of place was “a man’s world” so-to-speak and quote the song: right? Well, there happened to have been female instructors, and “Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Blackwood” (Kelly McGillis) happens to be one that very quickly seems to attract the attention of and to our leading man. Let’s just leave it at that, to avoid the juicy details and stuff, okay? The real true story here is the friendship between a pilot in TOPGUN (the actual name) and his RIO (co-pilot in the backseat). You’ll learn to love that pair of Maverick and Goose, as well as the rivalry between Iceman. It’s just what makes this world what it is — or rather was.
There are some unforgettable performances here from some other supporting cast members as well like Meg Ryan (Goose’s wife “Carole”), John Stockwell (Maverick’s wingman “Bill ‘Cougar’ Cortell”), Barry Tubb (“Wolfman”), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (“Sundown”), Whip Hubley (“Hollywood”), and Tim Robbins (“Merlin”). I’ll leave it at that and let any of those few who have never seen this film as it is and enjoy it for what it is. To me, it’s something that was the highlight of the big late 1980s action films that blended some real-life drama into it.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
This movie is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown during its theatrical run. In the movie’s 4K UHD Blu-ray debut, “Top Gun” receives the HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms of High Dynamic Range.
Technical information time. The movie was shot on 35mm film via the Super 35 process using Panaflex cameras with Panavision lenses. A few other types of special cameras and camera-rigs were developed to shoot on the actual fighter jets and I’ll leave it really at that. It got pretty complex for its time when you could attach a little camera no bigger than a Rubex cube on something and film. Things have changed a whole lot since 1986. Let’s get that all straight, okay? Appreciate how hard it was to do for its time.
Next, in terms of the BD-66 disc, it is on, the film uses 55.1 gigabytes out of the 61.73 gigabytes total used on the disc, including bonus materials, menus, and such. So, that’s really not too bad when you take into consideration that the original 2008 Blu-ray only used 33.7 gigabytes itself, back then, for the film. That’s a pretty nice improvement there, just in the basic numbers alone. Lastly, it should be noted that this has received a 4K digital intermediate for the new 2020 restoration of the film.
Now, let’s first look at some comparison screenshots between the original 2008 Blu-ray and this 4K UHD Blu-ray (2020) to see how much 12 years can make in terms of technology and restoration efforts.
Blu-ray vs. 4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons:
SOURCES: 2008 Blu-ray (right), 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)
Plus, I’m now able to offer you a 2160p 4K slideshow to show screenshot comparisons via a YouTube video on the site’s channel, embedded below.
As you can visually tell from the screenshot examples (above) it’s obvious this time around you’re getting a more accurate, in my opinion, warm tone and not the overly cool tones mostly found in the original 2008 Blu-ray. You also will notice how much more defined fine film grain present all throughout and not just block noise, like before when the bandwidth couldn’t keep up with it on a Blu-ray as well. The black level is perfectly solid here, and the color corrections seem accurate to me and result in accurate flesh tones that have an obvious warm tone to them.
As the film starts up you’ll notice how crisp the opening credits are and most importantly a nice healthy amount of film grain preserved here all throughout the 4K presentation. It can of course seem soft at times, as was the case on previous home video releases, but this newfound detail shines through via the 4K (2160p) resolution, the bitrate (bandwidth), and the film itself’s use of the disc space. This all makes for the fine film grain getting to finally show off again as it did during the original 35MM theatrical run. The amount of film grain here feels true, in my honest opinion, and doesn’t come across as exaggerated or prove to be in any way bothersome. I don’t think that much DNR (digital noise reduction) has been applied to this 4K remaster visually if any, and it delivers a sharper than ever visual presentation — for a 1986 film.
All and all, Top Gun in its debut to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format makes one very impressive effort in terms of visuals from its 4K restoration effort. It’s not 100% perfect, to most average viewers of today that didn’t experience films from this time period, but it’s downright excellent in terms of 4K detail, preservation of film grain, and very nice use of high dynamic range to add quite a bit more. To me, personally (which matters), this is the best this film has ever looked and I consider it to be damn near perfect. With that being said, I have to give this the 5 rating for video quality that this unforgivable at times visual feast of excellence of film truly is. This stands up very well with numerous other films from 1986 that I own on this format and I’m glad to see its debut looking ever-so brilliant. I have to really hand it to the folks at Paramount on a job well done here.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio on the 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of “Top Gun” is presented in Dolby Atmos with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core, for those without the proper equipment to decode the lossless format mix.
So, let’s first look back at the history of this film on the Blu-ray format. On the original 2008 Blu-ray release of Top Gun it featured a choice of two lossless surround mixes with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 options. This 4K UHD Blu-ray debut features only one mix and that is a Dolby Atmos mix. Some may be upset they didn’t port over the original other audio mixes but I can’t say I find there really to be much reason to, because the Atmos here is superior to all of those older mixes by far. This film in Dolby Atmos makes excellent use of the height speakers from the very start of the film up until the end credits. It’s one hell of an intense thrill-ride with a whole lot of bass, mostly via your subwoofer, rattling things along the way.
As soon as the film opens, in the first four minutes roughly, you’ll be treated to this montage of footage of Navy jets landing on an aircraft carrier (along with their sound effects) as well as the song “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins — a song wrote specifically for the film’s soundtrack. Needless to say, for anyone who has seen this before, this is one intense intro and it makes full use of the height speakers for the sound effects and the music, however not the dialogue (in this case vocals). There’s a great use of the rear channels here for the music and sound effects all throughout the film, just as you’ve come to expect of it and love.
The film’s other original music, such as the original score composed by Harold Faltermeyer, all sounds just beautiful from start to finish — including the now unforgettable “Top Gun Anthem” he composed and co-performed. This was a film that had an unforgettable soundtrack, like most late 1980s and early 1990s films, and you’ll be happy to hear the music coming across as impressive as you’d expect and getting some use of the height channel speakers in this new Dolby Atmos sound mix.
Now, in terms of the sound effects in Dolby Atmos and making use of the height channels it’s one hell of a thrill ride during any of the aerial sequences all throughout the film and is sure to leave you even more on the edge of your seat. This is one excellent Dolby Atmos mix that makes a 1986 action film seem as intense as it should. I can’t really find anything wrong with this sound mix. All and all, this earns itself a perfect 5 rating for overall audio quality on this 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of Top Gun.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically and digitally on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film is included, which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes, VUDU, and FandangoNow. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed. Crucial Note: You can only pick one of the services mentioned above to redeem though, just know that. UPDATE: I had originally picked the iTunes service and the digital copy wasn’t but in just HD and from the original release, and I mentioned that previously had played a part in my overall bonus rating. Well, as of today (5/14) the iTunes copy is now playing in 4K /w HDR on my Apple TV 4K. However, it lacks that amazing Dolby Atmos sound mix? That’s a bit of a bummer. Needless to say, I’ve upped my rating for bonus in what I felt to be accordingly.
- A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included. It features the very same Dolby Atmos / Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound mix and all of the bonus materials – on the physical release – listed below.
The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes, in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (@224kbps) sound, the following extras:
- Audio Commentary by Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Director Tony Scott, Co-Screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr., and Naval Experts
- NEW The Legacy of Top Gun (5:39 – 4K) features an interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer looking back on making the film, and discussing how well it holds up to this day, as well as pays homage to the late director Tony Scott.
- On Your Six – Thirty Years of Top Gun (29:54 – HD) features a “play all” function or you can watch it by individual chapters: Looking Back, America’s Best, Into The Danger Zone, Going Ballistic, and Narrow Targets and the Future. This retrospective, which first appeared on the 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, features clips from the film, on set photography, archival training footage and such beside interviews with Tom Cruise (“Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell”) and Jerry Bruckheimer (producer).
The Blu-ray Disc is where the bonus materials are found, which are presented in a variety of SD (standard definition) and HD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (@224kbps) sound. These include the following:
- Audio Commentary by Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Director Tony Scott, Co-Screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr., and Naval Experts
- NEW The Legacy of Top Gun – is discussed above.
- On Your Six – Thirty Years of Top Gun – is discussed above.
- Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun (2:27:44 – SD) features a “play all” function or you can watch it by individual chapters. This includes archival extras that feature loads of behind-the-scenes and on set footage, as well as interviews with the following people: Tony Scott (director), Jerry Bruckheimer (producer), Tom Cruise (“Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell”), Jack Epps, Jr. (screenwriter), Admiral Mike ‘Wizard’ McCabe (former TOPGUN executive officer), Peter ‘Viper’ Pettigrew (technical advisor), Val Kilmer (“Iceman”), Barry Tubb (“Wolfman”), Rick Rossovich (“Slider”), Billy Weber (editor), Chris Lebenzon (editor), Michael Ironside (“Jester”), Jeffrey Kimball (director of photography), Captain Michael ‘Flex’ Galpin (MIG pilot), Lloyd ‘Bozo’ Abel (F-14 aerial coordinator), Gary Gutierrez (special photographic effects supervisor), Rick Fichter (director of photography: USFX), Harold Faltermeyer (composer), Bob Badami (music editor), Kenny Loggins (“Danger Zone” / “Playing with the Boys”), Giorgio Moroder (music producer), and Terri Nunn (“Take My Breath Away”).
- Multi-Angle Storyboards feature optional audio commentary by director Tony Scott describing what these are, which I would totally suggest. There are a total of two storyboards included, which are as follows:
- Flat Spin (4:02 – SD)
- Jester’s Dead (2:52 – SD)
- Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun (28:46 – SD) shows you how the real TOPGUN (AKA “Top Gun”) academy that the Navy has where they teach pilots. You’ll get to hear from instructors, the department head, students, and such via interviews as well as see some footage in the classrooms. This is fun to see included or anyone who watches this film and really does want to be a Navy pilot.
- Music Videos include:
- Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone” (3:48 – SD)
- Berlin “Take My Breath Away” (4:13 – SD)
- Loverboy “Heaven in Your Eyes” (4:05 – SD)
- Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens “Top Gun Anthem” (4:10 – SD)
- Original Theatrical Promotional Material includes:
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (5:31 – SD)
- Survival Training Featurette (7:31 – SD)
- Tom Cruise Interviews (6:42 – SD)
- TV Spots include Patriosm (0:31 – SD), Story (0:31 – SD), Male Action (0:31 – SD), Romance (0:31 – SD), Cruise / Action (0:31 – SD), Cruise / Moody (0:31 – SD), and Music (0:31 – SD).
Overall, you get well over three and a half hours of video extras as well as the audio commentary track on both discs. The fact you get a new 4K extra, actually on the disc, is cool even if it is just a short retrospective. It’s still new extras for this film. This version has the most extras the film ever has on home video and is sure to leave fans pleased after they’ve watched the film. UPDATED: As of today (5/14) the iTunes digital copy is in 4K with HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), however, it lacks the Dolby Atmos sound mix? So, as mentioned above, I’ve changed the overall rating for the bonus in a way that I feel merits the lack of full experience without the audio found on the physical release. That being said, it now goes from a 4.5 to a 4.75 rating for the extras here.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“Top Gun” was one very memorable film from 1986 that helped define the 1980s in terms of action films. The (late great) director Tony Scott and star Tom Cruise would team up again in 1990 with “Days of Thunder” — also out on 4K UHD Blu-ray the same day as this film.
In 2015 Top Gun was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry. The film, reportedly made on a budget somewhere around 14 million dollars, ended up as a success for the studio (Paramount) by grossing just a little over 356 million globally at the box office during its theatrical run. Not too shabby at the time for an action film, and it launched the careers for a lot of smaller name actors (back then) like Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, and of course Tim Robbins. Director Tony Scott, working on only his second film here, would go on to make a lot of other great memorable films, but sadly passed in 2012. After this, (of course) Tom Cruise would become a household name — as if he wasn’t already.
In terms of video quality, this is one perfect 4K restoration that comes with the soft nature it always had, however, it finally gets to have this beautiful color correction and seems more natural all throughout with accuracy. The HDR (via HDR10 or Dolby Vision) here works to also deliver a more impressive visual presentation especially in terms of the colors and the brightness or even at times darkness. This is by far the best this film has ever looked, perhaps since its original theatrical run.
Next, in terms of sound, this is one new Dolby Atmos mix that takes an action film with fighter jets, some cool rock music, and puts it all together and makes for one hell of a good time to be heard. This will make your sound system have some fun and put you right in the action a tad bit more than it ever has. It’s an excellent Atmos mix and feels perfect for this film.
Lastly, you get some new bonus material in the form of a new 4K retrospective video — found both on the 4K UHD Blu-ray and the newly pressed 2020 Blu-ray. You also get some of the original extras on that 4K disc but it’s mostly over on Blu-ray where you’ll find the bulk of the extras, and I do mean bulk. There are well over three and a half hours of bonus material included here. No joke. That’s really all I have to say and say that the only thing holding it back from a perfect rating for the bonus was that the digital copy turned out HD. That all said and accounted for, this is (I’m sure) arguably one Very Highly Recommended Upgrade of this film on 4K UHD Blu-ray. Fans will love this!
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials