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Tony Scott
Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt , Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins , Meg Ryan
Writing Credits:
Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.

As students at the United States Navy's elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 6.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $22.99
Release Date: 5/3/2016

• Audio Commentary from Director Tony Scott, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Co-Writer Jack Epps Jr., Captain Mike Galpin, Technical Advisor Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe
• “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun” Documentary
• Multi-Angle Storyboards with Optional Commentary by Director Tony Scott
• “Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun” Featurette
• Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Vintage “Survival Training” Featurette
• Vintage Tom Cruise Interviews
• Four Music Videos
• Seven TV Spots
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Top Gun: 30th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 21, 2016)

When you examine the top-grossing movie from each of the 1980s’ ten years, which hit comes across as the most ingrained in that era? I’d go with 1986’s Top Gun. Everything about it highlights the period’s big-budget excesses, and since it stars one of the decade’s icons in Tom Cruise, I think it’d be hard to top it as one of the definitive “Eighties flicks”.

The film introduces us to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise), a Navy pilot who lives up to his nickname. He flies with partner Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) and perpetually gets in trouble with his superiors.

They encounter tensions with the Commies over the Indian Ocean, an incident that freaks out fellow pilot Bill “Cougar” Cortell (John Stockwell). Maverick bucks his boss to go to Cougar’s psychological aid and winds up in hot water.

Cougar’s meltdown causes him to resign his commission, and that also means he forfeits his spot to the base at Miramar California, also known as the “Top Gun” school where they train the best of the best. Against his better judgment, their leader (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and Goose there.

They meet their commanding officer, Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt) and also encounter other pilots like Tom “Iceman” Kazanski (Val Kilmer) and Ron “Slider” Kerner (Rick Rossovich). We quickly see that Maverick and Iceman won’t care for each other and that they’ll become rivals.

Maverick meets Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) at a bar and tries to woo her. She toys with the arrogant aviator and leaves him without success. He feels like a fool the next day when he learns Charlie’s a civilian contractor and an aircraft expert who instructs pilots. This leads to some friction between the pair.

The rest of the movie follows a few threads. We see Maverick’s attempts to tame his rebellious instincts but remain true to himself while he gets through school. We also watch the romance between Maverick and Charlie as well as minor subplots.

For better or for worse, Maverick remains the defining role of Cruise’s career. “For better” because Top Gun made the actor a superstar. He’d already earned fame with 1983’s Risky Business but Cruise floundered after that. All the Right Moves did okay, though it coasted by mostly due to all the teen girls who dug Cruise. Made with director Ridley Scott, 1985’s Legend provided an expensive bomb that threatened to haul Cruise’s career down with it.

Happily for the actor, his pairing with Scott’s brother Tony on Top Gun proved radically more successful. The movie grossed $176 million in the US, a figure good enough to make it the year’s biggest hit. This also catapulted Cruise to the “A”-list, a status he hasn’t yet relinquished despite some duds along the way.

Where does the “for worse” enter the picture? It stems from the manner in which the film stereotyped Cruise. He’d find it very hard to get away from similar cocky roles, as the public continually viewed him as this sort of arrogant character.

Such is the price of success, I suppose. Of course, Cruise’s looks helped make Gun a crossover hit in that both males and females attended it and came away happy. I think the guys dug it more, though, as the movie tossed out so much testosterone that it acted almost as an ad for the Navy.

Granted, this was ironic testosterone, as audiences have seen in subsequent years. A distinct homoerotic vibe permeates Top Gun. This doesn’t come through simply via the many shots of shirtless men cavorting together or even the long, languid gazes between Maverick and Iceman.

Look at the relationship between Maverick and Charlie to see a rather strong sexual role reversal, as she comes across much more as the “male” in the couple. He’s moody and petulant and craves her approval, while she’s aggressive and no-nonsense. It’s an odd turn for this sort of flick, and one that seems to come from a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers to have fun with the subject.

Not that the audience at the time picked up on this vibe - I know I didn’t. Maybe you had to live through the Eighties to believe that audiences once took Top Gun seriously.

Boy, did this thing tap into the zeitgeist of the era. 1986 was a peak year for “morning in America” jingoism, and this flick connected with that tone. In retrospect, it’s very difficult to see the flick as anything other than campy and cheesy, though. What the hell were we thinking when we bought into this nonsense?

It may well be a mistake to read too much into Top Gun, as it truly offers little more than a live-action cartoon. The characters are one-dimensional and the story is utterly predictable. It shows a strong influence from 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman and comes across as a light version of that moderately dark tale. It’s kind of a remake without the dramatic subtext and believable characters. Gentleman has its own flaws, but at least it tries to present events that exist in the real world.

Contrast that with the little boy’s fantasy of Top Gun. When the movie focuses on that side of things - primarily via the action scenes - it does okay for itself. I don’t think the flight sequences are particularly thrilling, but they bring the film to life fairly well. Unfortunately, the character-driven moments drag it down and make it tedious. These leave Top Gun as a silly movie with only sporadic pleasures on display.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A/ Bonus A

Top Gun appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad presentation, but it lacked consistent strengths.

Sharpness usually worked fine. Some moderate softness interfered on occasion, mainly during interiors. Those issues remained reasonably minor, though, and the movie usually came across as pretty concise. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, but light edge enhancement popped up during the flick.

Print flaws never became massive, but they caused some distractions. Various examples of specks, marks, debris and nicks showed up at times. These weren’t dominant, but I’ve gotten used to much cleaner Blu-rays, so their presence here was a problem.

I also got the impression some moderate use of digital noise reduction occurred here. Top Gun looked grainy on its last DVD incarnation, but this one came with much less grain. This seemed to come from DNR and not from a lower generation print. After all, both the Blu-ray and the DVD shared similar levels of print defects; I’d not be surprised to learn they came from the same basic transfer but the Blu-ray just used DNR to make the image less grainy. The movie showed a sheen that often comes with DNR; that led to some unnatural visuals.

Colors were acceptable. Mid-80s movies don’t tend to boast great color vivacity, and these were somewhat murky. Nonetheless, they appeared fine for the most part. Blacks were fairly dense and tight, and low-light shots mainly came across with good clarity. They could look a little drab but not badly so. This was a pretty mediocre presentation that could use an update.

On the other hand, I felt few qualms about the excellent audio of Top Gun. The Blu-ray included both a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix. Both seemed terrific; I’d be hard-pressed to choose one over the other.

The movie exhibited a wide and involving soundfield. Not surprisingly, the many action sequences presented great opportunities for movement, and the audio used them well. Jets zoomed around the room convincingly, and the mix turned very active on those occasions. Ambient elements also fared well, while the almost-constant music presented good stereo imaging.

Not too many movies from the Eighties use the surrounds in a really dynamic manner, but Top Gun offered an exception. They offered a lot of action, especially during the flight sequences. The mix also made fine use of the split surround capabilities, as the jets and other elements popped up in appropriate locations in the rear. This was a terrific soundfield that worked much better than I expected given the movie’s vintage.

Audio quality also was solid. Speech sounded natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Music showed clean highs as well as taut, warm lows, and the pop songs were well-reproduced.

Effects also appeared bright and dynamic. They suffered from little distortion and replicated the source materials accurately. Low-end was especially impressive, as the mix used the subwoofer to great effect. Bass was tight and bold. The audio would seem positive for a movie made in 2016; that it accompanied a 30-year-old flick made the track all the more amazing.

How did this 2016 “30th Anniversary” release compare to the prior Blu-ray from 2011? Both were identical – literally. And the 2011 BD was just a reissue of the 2008 disc, which is why the platter still reads “copyright 2008” on it.

Because the “30th Anniversary” disc literally replicates the prior release, obviously that means it comes with the same extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-writer Jack Epps Jr., Navy Captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. Most of the participants sit on their own for this edited piece, but Galpin, McCabe and Pettigrew are all recorded together.

We learn a lot about a variety of issues. Scott discusses his participation in the project, run-ins with the studio, his visual approach to the film and a mix of concerns that occurred along the way. Bruckheimer and Epps talk about the origins of the project and its path to the screen as well as storytelling concerns and development.

The other three get into the film’s realism - or lack thereof - as well as true-life experiences and influences on the story. Those guys present the best elements of the commentary as they cut through the bull and give us a realistic view of the movie. We even hear of Pettigrew’s frustration since the filmmakers often ignored his advice. The commentary flows smoothly and offers a concise and informative examination of the flick.

The next big attraction comes from a six-part documentary called Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun. When viewed together via the “Play All” option, it runs an amazing two hours, 27 minutes and 42 seconds. We find the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews.

In “Zone”, we hear from Scott, Bruckheimer, Epps, McCabe, Pettigrew, Galpin, actors Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Michael Ironside, editors Chris Lebenzon and Billy Weber, director of photography Jeffrey Kimball, F-14 aerial coordinator Lloyd Abel, special photographic effects supervisor Gary Guttierez, USFX director of photography Rick Fichter, composer Harold Faltermeyer, music editor Bob Badami, singers Terri Nunn and Kenny Loggins, and music producer Giorgio Moroder. They discuss the project’s origins and development, Scott’s involvement and casting, training, the atmosphere on the set and actor interactions, attempts at realism and dealings with real pilots, shooting the film on land and on sea, visual design and plot elements, filming the flying sequences, visual effects, music, early screenings, editing and the flick’s reception.

Wow - what a great documentary! When I look at disappointing elements, I’d say it’s too bad that not all of the prominent actors appear in interviews, and we also don’t get a lot from Cruise. However, those are minor complaints that really don’t mar a thorough and thoroughly entertaining program.

We get all of the nuts and bolts elements we need, and we also find plenty of terrific anecdotes. Kilmer comes across especially well, as virtually everything he offers is provocative and amusing. The tone seems more frank than usual, and very little fluffiness affects the proceedings. Instead, we get an honest appraisal of the flick’s creation in this fast-paced and wholly involving program.

The next part of the disc presents two series of Multi-Angle Storyboards. We can check out “Flat Spin” (4:02) and “Jester’s Dead” (2:53). The two scenes can be viewed with just the storyboards or with a storyboard/final shot comparison. They also come with optional commentary from Tony Scott. He discusses his use of storyboards and their influence on shooting.

Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun looks at the fact behind the movie’s fiction. It goes for 28 minutes, 46 seconds and includes notes from Top Gun instructors Captain David “Chip” Berke and Lt. Brian “Wood” Becker, Top Gun Department Head CDR Richard “Rhett” Butler, Top Gun SFTI students Lt.Marcos “DB” Jasso, Lt. Shawn “Friday” Hall and Captain Chad “Mo” Vaughn, Top Gun adversary student Captain Matt “Tank” Taylor, Top Gun AIC student Lt. JG Amanda “Puddles” Cronin, and Top Gun AIC instructors OSC (SW) Brian “Doc” Bassett and OSC (AW/SW) Matthew “Shakey” Trimble.

“Best” delivers a take on life at flight school for the elite. We get a mix of thoughts about the training and other aspects of the experience. “Best” can be a bit dry – fighter pilots tend to be low-key in interviews – but it offers a nice view of the institution that inspired the film.

All the remaining materials show up in the “Vintage Gallery”. We open with a behind-the-scenes featurette. The five-minute and 30-second program includes the usual assortment of movie clips, shots from the set, and sound bites. We hear from Scott, Pettigrew, Bruckheimer and producer Don Simpson. A few decent glimpses behind the scenes appear, but mostly this is a fluffy promotional piece.

Another featurette looks at Survival Training. It runs seven minutes, 30 seconds and includes remarks from Cruise, Bruckheimer, Scott, Tubb, Simpson, and actors John Stockwell, Whip Hubley and Anthony Edwards. This one’s substantially more useful than its predecessor, as it offers a number of good shots from the actors’ training. It’s not nearly as puffy and it’s quite interesting to see.

Next come six minutes and 42 seconds of Tom Cruise interviews. He chats about his casting, his interest in flying and the flights he shot for the movie, and some other experiences. His remarks don’t fill out matters terribly well, though a few decent anecdotes appear.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of Top Gun. This reproduces the ”I Love the 80s” release from 2008 – and that version simply reissued Disc One from the 2004 “Special Collector’s Edition!

Only one new element comes from this 2016 “30th Anniversary Edition” of Top Gun: the discs reside in a steelbook case. That’s it – otherwise we just find the 2008 Blu-ray and the 2004 DVD.

A serious piece of Eighties cheese, Top Gun doesn’t hold up well after 30 years. Granted, I wasn’t wild about it in 1986, but all this time later, it looks even sillier than I recalled. The Blu-ray presents excellent audio and supplements but the picture quality disappoints; while not a bad transfer, it comes with definite room for improvement.

Which apparently will need to wait until the movie’s 40th anniversary, as this “30th Anniversary” Top Gun Blu-ray does nothing to alter or improve upon the original BD from 2008 – or the identical re-issues from 2011 and 2013. If you don’t already own Top Gun on Blu-ray, this re-release might be worth a look, but I’d recommend you simply buy whichever one’s cheapest. All four Blu-rays are completely identical.

To rate this film visit the Special Collector's Edition review of TOP GUN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main