Top Gun

This review is sponsored by


Details At A Glance

Category Action None
Year Released 1986
Running Time 105:02 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (58:58)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Programme
Region 4 Director Tony Scott

Starring Tom Cruise
Kelly McGillis
Val Kilmer
Anthony Edwards
Tom Skerritt
RPI $39.95 Music Harold Faltermeyer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.00:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, at the start of the credits

Plot Synopsis

    I remember reading once that the production team of Don Simpson (deceased) and Jerry Bruckheimer must be sensorily impaired. That's why all their movies are LOUD, BIG and OVER-THE-TOP. Top Gun is no exception. One of the iconic movies of the 1980s, it reflected the macho, proud-to-be-American attitude of the times, and it featured some of the most amazing aerial photography ever seen, even to this day. Forget the clean, clinical computer-generated imagery of today's movies, these shots are REAL, and boy does it show in the finished product.

    Everything about Top Gun is clichéd, but PROUDLY and BRASHLY so, which is why it has stood the test of time. Forget political correctness, this is testosterone overload at its very best, from the spine-tingling opening sequence (one of my favourite laserdisc demo scenes) to the final climactic battle sequence.

    Top Gun is the story of a class of US Navy Marine pilots, all striving to be the best-of-the-best at fighter school, where only the elite Marine pilots are selected to undergo advanced jet fighter training. Maverick (Tom Cruise) is our hero, along with his sidekick Goose (Anthony Edwards). Our "bad guy", even though he is on the same side as Maverick, is Ice Man (Val Kilmer). Our tough commanding type is Viper (Tom Skerritt) and our token seducible female is Charlie (Kelly McGillis), but let's forget about the plot here, since it is secondary to the ACTION, and there's action aplenty on offer here.

    So, how does it scrub up on DVD?

Transfer Quality


    This DVD is oddly framed. The original aspect ratio of Top Gun was 2.35:1, and it was shot in Super 35. The DVD has been presented in a (measured) aspect ratio of 1.99:1 16x9 enhanced. In comparison to my fullscreen laserdisc version, the DVD presents more side information, and yet doesn't quite appear correctly framed vertically, with the very tops of many actors' heads being chopped off slightly unnaturally.

    Sharpness is variable thoughout this transfer, with the graininess inherent in the Super 35 process making frequent but uneven appearances, usually in scenes which show lots of sky. Real aerial footage is fairly easily discerned by the increase in granularity of the image and the decrease in image resolution, and fake composited aerial shots stand out like a sore thumb - a typical example is the Maverick/Jester dogfight at around the 30:00 minute mark, where the shots of flight through the hills are unnaturally sharp and detailed compared with other aerial shots. Another oddity was the sudden increase in grain during the beach volleyball sequence - the great majority of these shots are razor sharp, but Val Kilmer's close-ups are dramatically grainier than the shots surrounding them. I would say that this is the result of some optical zooming of these shots in post-production and thus the grain is inherent in the source material.

    Shadow detail is limited, with most darkly-lit scenes simply presenting a nondescript black which carries no image details, presumably due to film stock limitations of the mid-80s.

    There is no low level noise, and this is where this transfer wins hands down over all other media that this movie is available in. Whilst there is no shadow detail to speak of, at least the blacks are black, and not plagued with video noise, as is the VHS version and the laserdisc version. Better to see nothing at all than something that shouldn't be there in the first place.

    Colours are variably rendered by this transfer. Some scenes are very highly saturated, such as the aforementioned beach volleyball sequence, whilst others take on a very typical 80s movie muted colour palette.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen, pleasingly given the rather grainy nature of much of this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were not a problem. Film artefacts made an appearance at times, with some fairly large scratches being apparent from time-to-time in the image as well as occasional bursts of white flecks, but no more so than would be reasonably expected given the age of the material. The real aerial shots had many more film artefacts than the more conventionally shot stock, and I have no doubt that this is due to the fact that the production team would have wanted to use as much of this priceless footage as they possibly could.

    This DVD is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 58:58, between Chapters 18 and 19. It is quite jarring, but there seemed to be no more reasonable place to put it than this point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are five audio tracks on this DVD; English and French in Dolby Digital 5.1 at the lower bitrate of 384Kb/s and German, Spanish, and Italian in Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded at a bitrate of 192Kb/s.

    Dialogue is reasonably clear and easy to understand within the limits of a slightly dated-sounding and slightly muffled dialogue track. Surprisingly, no lines of dialogue were completely drowned out, even during the action sequences, which is a credit to the mixers. Dialogue was firmly locked in the centre channel.

    There were no audio sync problems.

    There was an audible pop at 37:22.

    Top Gun would not be Top Gun without its trademark Harold Faltermeyer score and series of hit songs, such as Take My Breath Away and Danger Zone. The score perfectly complements the on-screen action, driving the intense aerial combat sequences to perfection, and never gets in the way of the on-screen action. By the way, Anthony Edwards can't sing very well...

    The surround mix is a typical action movie mix; essentially monophonic during non-action sequences and bursting into over-the-top life for the action sequences. Of particular note is that a very wide front soundstage is created by this mix, with music and incidental foley effects being heavily directed into the front left and right channels, leaving the centre channel free for dialogue. This gave a somewhat discontinuous feel to the front soundstage (you could clearly hear 3 speakers across the front soundstage instead of an integrated whole) but it did mean that the dialogue was very intelligible. The rear surrounds only came to life for action sequences, where they provided ambient fill very nicely but very monophonically - the opportunity to use split surround effects has not been taken with this soundtrack.

    The subwoofer is interestingly used by the soundtrack. Music is supported perfectly by the subwoofer, with it never calling attention to itself except for during one song; Take My Breath Away, which was bass-heavy. The action sequences, however, were very bass-heavy, not to the point of distraction, but certainly to the point of noticeability.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Well, there's a menu...


R4 vs R1

    The R1 version of this DVD misses out on;     The R4 version of this DVD misses out on;     Both DVDs have similarly incorrectly framed widescreen versions, and are similarly featureless. In this case, the R4 version of this DVD is the version of choice because of its 16x9 enhancement.


    Loud, brash, and politically incorrect, Top Gun is a great movie for those times when you just need a great action movie to watch where you don't have to worry about little things like plot. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
21st April 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Denon DVD-3300, using RGB output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the RGB input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Denon AVD-1000 DTS AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials and the NTSC DVD version of The Ultimate DVD Demo Disc.
Amplification EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifier for Left & Right Front; Marantz MA6100 125W per channel monoblock amplifiers for Left & Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO Subwoofer