‘Top Gun’ 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – Landmark Tom Cruise Film Gets Five-Star Treatment

Top Gun is a movie that changed the careers of a lot of individuals when it debuted in 1986. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson had produced some bona fide hits prior to this with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, but the success of this movie sent them down a path of more high-octane flicks that shaped the 90s and 2000s. Director Tony Scott went from directing David Bowie in an interesting vampire film to box office hits like Days of Thunder and, personal favorite, Man on Fire. And, finally, a young Tom Cruise went from an up-and-coming delight in movies like Risky Business to an enduring box office star to this day. Top Gun was not only the top-grossing movie the year of its release; it is an iconic piece of filmmaking that has never dropped out of the cultural consciousness.

Top Gun is the story of Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and his partner, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), who is more like a brother to him. Maverick is a hotshot young aviator who takes insane risks in his flying, much to the ire of his superiors. Although he lacks discipline in his technique, his innate skills land Goose and him a spot in TOPGUN, the Naval Fighter Weapons School where only the best of the best attend. At the school, he strives to reach the top of his class under the watchful eye of benevolent Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt) and against his disapproving adversary Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). It is the training exercises at the school and the fallout from each of them that brings the intensity that makes this one such a crowd pleaser. Watching these aviators develop their skills and grow as men is very satisfying.

When not in the air, Maverick is pursuing a potential relationship Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), a beautiful woman he met at a bar that coincidentally ends up being a civilian instructor in the TOPGUN program. Romantic moments between Maverick and Charlie give the movie moments to breathe and develop the characters a bit further. McGillis is given more to do than a similarly thankless role Nicole Kidman would eventually inhabit in Days of Thunder, but her relationship with Maverick cannot hold a candle to the emotional core of the movie, Goose and Maverick. You can have an action movie with all of the best action sequences in the world, but the reason people keep returning to this movie is the bond between these two. Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards have an easy chemistry together that keeps you invested in the ups and downs they experience. There are a lot of emotional moments in the movie, and they are pretty much exclusively tied to these two.

Is Top Gun the most cinematically high-minded movie ever made? No, it is not. It is a heightened story about machismo and friendship that delicately teeters on the right side of cheesiness. Tony Scott does an excellent job of balancing the groundbreaking aerial action sequences with a story on the ground that gives it all emotional weight. When you watch this movie, you cannot help but be swept up in the excitement on screen. It is an intensely fun viewing experience that has aged incredibly well thanks to the practical way in which it was shot. Everything from the quotable dialogue to the hit soundtrack makes this one a winner. This film has a rightful place in the pantheon of landmark action movies.

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Video Quality  

Top Gun makes it debut on the 4K UHD format with an incredible 2160p/Dolby Vision UHD release. Similar to the new Days of Thunder release, this presentation mercifully goes for faithfulness to the source material over the flash of a crystal clear picture. There is a fine amount of natural film grain present throughout that provides a lovely amount of texture and detail to the picture. Subtle details in the production design are visible for the first time thanks to this transfer including the offices of the instructors and naval officers. Skin detail is very impressive with natural skin tones covered in very clearly defined sweat droplets. The few softer shots in the presentation are due more to the source material from shooting aerial footage or in difficult locations rather than any problems with the transfer itself. Black levels are deep and inky black with a great amount of depth. This is better than the film has ever looked, and a noteworthy upgrade from the outdated Blu-Ray that preceded the newly remastered one also included in this package.

Audio Quality

The audio track provided on this new 4K UHD may get you in trouble with your neighbors if they are quick to noise complaints. Top Gun comes to the format with a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack that is a house shaker. The aerial dogfight sequences give your entire setup a workout with pinpoint accurate sounds coming from all the appropriate directions with a real weight accompanying it. The track balances these noisy planes with the radio dialogue and soaring score surprisingly well, with none of these individual elements feeling overshadowed by the other. The hit soundtrack of the movie sounds more alive than ever with “Danger Zone” kicking in at the beginning of the movie with authority. The low end gets a chance to shine with the rumbling of the jet engines and missile strikes pulsing through your body. This is definitely a disc you are going to want to pull out to show off your sound system. 

Special Features 

  • The Legacy of Top Gun: A nearly six minute look back on the enduring cultural impact of the film featuring interviews with Tom Cruise, Jerry Bruckheimer, Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, and key members of that film’s cast sharing favorite moments plus a teaser of the upcoming sequel.
  • On Your Six – Thirty Years of Top Gun: A five-part, thirty minute retrospective with Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer discussing their experiences making the film, various very entertaining anecdotes and their feelings about making the sequel after all these years. This one is a lot of fun.
  • Audio Commentary: A commentary track has been pieced together with input from Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-screenwriter Jack Epps and some Naval experts.
  • Danger Zone – The Making of Top Gun: A two and a half hour deep dive into the making of Top Gun from start to finish. Includes sections on pre-production, production on the ground and in the air, visual effects, the music of the movie and the theatrical release of the film. If you have any unanswered questions after this, I don’t know what to tell you.
  • Multi-Angle Storyboards: Two sequences from the film are shown in storyboard form in comparison to the finished product. Both of these have optional commentary from director Tony Scott.
  • Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun: A thirty minute look into the real members that comprise the Top Gun program and comparisons to the movie version.
  • Music Videos: Four music videos of songs from the movie are presented here including Danger Zone, Take My Breath Away, Heaven In Your Eyes and the Top Gun Anthem
  • Original Theatrical Promotional Material: Includes a behind-the scenes featurette, a survival training featurette, a series of Tom Cruise interviews and seven TV spots. Very interesting to see the marketing machine at work during this initial run.
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Final Thoughts

Top Gun has been a beloved piece of popular culture since it first made a splash at the box office in 1986. The relationship between Maverick and Goose is one of the great bromances in cinematic history, and it gives a lot of heart to what easily could have been something unpalatably cheesy. As it stands, the movie serves up just the right amount of cheese with visceral action sequences the likes of which we rarely get to see on screen. The audio and visual presentation on this disc is of reference quality, and the special features provided are so in depth that it will make your head spin. This disc is a bright spot in any movie collection. Highly Recommended

Top Gun will be available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on May 19, 2020. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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