The Last Starfighter


See more details, packaging, or compare


Greetings Starfighter! You have been recruited by Arrow Video to experience the 1984 sci-fi classic as you've never experienced it before! Directed by Nick Castle, the man behind the Michael Myers mask in the original Halloween, The Last Starfighter tells the story Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), an arcade game whizz-kid whose wildest dreams come true when he finds himself enlisted to fight in an interstellar war.

Now newly restored from a 4K scan of the original negative and featuring a 4.1 mix originally created for the film's 70mm release, The Last Starfighter arrives loaded with exclusive and archival bonus features. Strap yourself in: the Ultra HD adventure of a lifetime is about to begin!

Picture 8/10

Arrow Video upgrades their 2020 special edition for Nick Castle’s The Last Starfighter to 4K UHD, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on a triple-layer disc. The 2160p/24 ultra high-definition encode is sourced from the same 4K restoration Arrow used for their Blu-ray, taken from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative (for the most part, anyways), and is presented with Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible).

I found it odd that Arrow didn’t release the film in 4K in 2020, as their restoration was impressive, but I figured they had a reason for the decision. That reason, I had assumed, was more than likely around the film’s CGI effects, which represent an early use of the technology and look rough compared to its modern usage, thanks to it all being rendered in a lower resolution. With Arrow still being new to the format at the time, I could see where they might think the film wouldn’t benefit. In the end, I don’t know if they had all that much to worry about. Yes, some of the same artifacts evident on the Blu-ray are still clear as day here during the sequences using computer renders of the era, from aliasing artifacts to jaggies and banding. Still, I can’t say they’re any worse than what the Blu-ray’s high-definition presentation already shows. In a handful of cases, I think the wider contrast afforded by HDR does help hide some of the digital anomalies.

Ultimately, where the picture most benefits from the upgrade is in the application of HDR, which is used subtly. It’s scarce for things to appear too bright, and it helps more when cleaning up highlights and rendering black levels and shadow detail. Nighttime shots with a single light source (like the campsite sign, for example) could look a little murky and gray on the Blu-ray looking back at it now, while those same shots feature deeper blacks here, with the light dissipating into the darkness more cleanly. It also appears to clean up some smokey interiors, and the light reflecting off metallic surfaces also looks incredible.

That said, the presentation ultimately disappoints (if only by a little) because outside of the improved contrast and dynamic range, it doesn’t provide any other notable improvements over the Blu-ray. Part of that is simply because the Blu-ray’s picture is so strong to begin with. Yet, in a few cases, I felt this presentation highlights some of the other source-related shortcomings unrelated to the early CGI effects. This is best shown in several sequences where optical effects are employed. Though they could have a dupey look on the Blu-ray, they seem to look a bit fuzzier here, and I almost feel it’s simply because the higher resolution makes it more obvious when jumping from sharper moments to the optical ones. This has nothing to do with the encoding or the digital presentation, and it’s also not the fault of the restoration since the elements are limited already. But compared to the Blu-ray, the boost in quality ends up being minimal, outside of the notable boost afforded by HDR. I want to stress that it still looks pretty great and is a considerable improvement over Universal’s previous releases. It’s just not the giant leap from Arrow’s already impressive Blu-ray edition that I would have hoped.

Audio 8/10

Arrow includes the same three soundtracks they did on the previous Blu-ray: a 2.0 stereo surround soundtrack (that I had incorrectly listed as PCM originally), the 5.1 remix, and the film’s original 70mm 4.1 surround soundtrack, all three in DTS-HD MA. I only listened to the 4.1 and 5.1 soundtracks.

Though the 5.1 remix makes some minor use of the split rear channels, I didn’t detect much difference between the 4.1 and 5.1 presentations. Range is relatively wide on both, the volume levels mixed appropriately, and the lower channel pops up effectively when required without drowning things out. Objects move about the viewer naturally, and some explosions and action scenes feature impressive direction. Still, I didn’t find the mix all that surprising, and it’s still front-heavy. The sound quality is excellent, in any case.

Extras 9/10

Everything from Arrow’s Blu-ray (which also ported over content from Universal’s releases) makes it over. This is, of course, all well and good, but as I noted for the Blu-ray edition, this leads to overkill, which is most obvious through the inclusion of several audio commentaries. These start out with the commentary originally recorded for the Universal Collector’s Edition DVD, featuring director Nick Castle and production designer Rob Cobb. The track is, as expected, very technical in nature, covering the film’s look and the computer effects to a staggering degree, including fear around how the new CGI effects may not even work in the end and they hadn't filmed any protections (he mentions if the effects didn’t work the film would have looked like “Gumby in outer space”). But I rather enjoyed Castle’s comments on the changes that were made to the script (there were a few aspects that felt too Spilebergian and he didn’t want to draw comparisons), along with his comments about how he originally wanted to be a musical director and how those sensibilities ended up being used in this film. The planned sequel (that never happened) also gets mentioned here, though it comes up in other features found on the disc.

Though never surprising or revelatory, the track is fine and worth listening to if one hasn't done so. For those that have already listened to that track, Arrow provides two new ones. The first of these is a “cute” idea, bringing together actor Lance Guest and his 16-year-old son Jackson to watch and talk about the film. The track has its moments, like when Lance talks about his personal experiences around making the movie or Jackson talks about how the film holds up for his generation (where video games are more mainstream than they were in the 80s). Those aspects make it worthwhile and entertaining, but there’s a general looseness to the track (I assume no planning went into it, and the two just sat to watch and talk about the film) that can make it feel unfocused and scattershot. This also leads to a large amount of dead space (Lance Guest does mention early on that he feels weird talking over actors in the film) and random conversations that more than likely mean more to the two of them than those of us listening in. Still, I like the idea of the cross-generational points of view for the film, and in that regard, the track works. There's some amusement to be found in their father-son interaction as well (there are a couple of times where I could swear I could hear Jackson Guest's eyes roll at his father's jokes).

Mike White, from the Projection Booth podcast, provides the second Arrow commentary. This one is more like a “fan” track, and White mostly serves up trivia about the film's production, fanbase, and influence. He even touches on the film's computer effects and just how revelatory they are (he really feels they don't get enough appreciation). But he expands out from this and covers other subjects, which includes placing the film in the context of its time, including the area of video games, which were looked down upon at the time of the film's release that followed the "video game crash" that occurred in 1983, almost killing the industry. White has done his research and is well-prepared, managing to fill the time, but it did lack a certain passion I would have expected because of its “checklist” feel, which made it a little hard to sit through. Of course, by this point, going through around 5-hours’ worth of commentary tracks (which I had foolishly done in one sitting with the Blu-ray edition), I was already tapping out, so this could just come down to me not being in the mood by this point.

Following those tracks, Arrow has also recorded new interview material, most of it conducted over teleconferencing software due to COVID. Catherine Mary Stewart (9 minutes) first pops up to recall the casting process and share stories about what it was like working on an early film that would be incorporating CGI effects. Composer Craig Safan (12-minutes) also shares what it was like working on a score for one of the first films to incorporate CGI effects that had yet to be added to the finished product: he had to compose a score for sequences that were nothing but a black screen and white dots bouncing around. He also talks about John Williams’ inspiration and his use of electronic instruments, which were done in a subtle way.

Screenwriter John Betuel (9 minutes) gives some background on the script, which was inspired by the King Arthur legend and written in 4 days. Betuel also talks a little about an idea for a “continuation” of the film. Effects supervisor Kevin Pike (10 minutes) then shows up to give some love for the film’s practical effects (which do sadly go largely ignored otherwise) that appear in the film.

Sci-fi author Greg Bear then provides an 8-minute audio essay of sorts going over his 1983 visit to Digital Productions, the graphics and effect company that would work on the computer effects for The Last Starfighter, providing a number of photos and video around his trip and from behind-the-scenes material, some of which was for an article he was working on (it ultimately wasn’t published, but it does appear in the booklet for this release). And in an amusing little touch, Arrow then includes a 7-minute interview featuring fan Estil Vance talking about his reproduction of the Starfighter arcade game found in the film. He talks about the history of the “video game” that was promised and never released and how his desire for the game was to not only create the console but program the game. These last two are the better of the new content.

Two archival documentaries are then included: Crossing the Frontier (from the 1998 Universal DVD) and Heroes of the Screen (from the 25th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray releases), running 32 minutes and 24 minutes, respectively. The two documentaries more-or-less cover the same material in different manners and to different extents (the 1998 one probably covers the effects work a bit more). Crossing is hosted (sort of) by Lance Guest, who narrates us through the production and is accompanied by behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Castle and other crew members. Heroes is a more standard making-of, grouping a bunch of talking-head interviews with behind-the-scene footage and slicker editing. Both are fine and do manage to have their own unique material. One amusing element to having both documentaries, though, is seeing visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun in both; though each of his interviews were filmed 10 years apart, he looks exactly the same.

The disc finishes things off with some standards: a theatrical and teaser trailer and a very large image gallery. The galleries include cast photos, photos of the arcade game within the film, photos of the various sets and props (including the Star Car and Gunstar ship), and all of the bad guys. There are also photos from an alternate ending (dumped to make the final sequences a little grander), photos around the effects, including wireframes, and then photos showing various promotional materials. In all, there are a few hundred photos.

Arrow then closes the release with a 38-page booklet, which looks to replicate the one Arrow included with their Blu-ray. On top of an essay around the film by Amanda Reyes (placing the film in the context of representing blue-collar workers in Reagan-era America), the booklet also features a previously unpublished article written by Greg Bear for Omni magazine in 1983, covering his visit to Digital Productions. He writes about their work in the advancement of digital graphics and imagery, and Bear is obviously taken by all of it, excited by the possibilities of the technology. Some of this material (and the accompanying photos) appear in the related feature on the disc, but the full article makes for a wonderful read, and I think it’s incredible that Arrow saw fit to include it here.

Again, there’s a little overkill here, but it’s clear much love and thought went into the features, the material around Digital Productions, and the film’s early computer effects still being the strongest material.


It’s still a solid restoration and presentation that bests Universal’s previous editions. Still, I didn’t find this 4K presentation to offer that large of an upgrade over Arrow’s already sharp-looking Blu-ray.


Directed by: Nick Castle
Year: 1984
Time: 100 min.
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 30 2023
MSRP: $49.95
4K UHD Blu-ray
1 Disc | UHD-100
2.39:1 ratio
English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Surround
English 4.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 Audio commentary with star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest   Audio commentary with Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast   Feature Commentary with Director Nick Castle and Production Designer Ron Cobb   Maggie's Memories: Revisiting The Last Starfighter - interview with actor Catherine Mary Stewart   Into the Starscape: Composing The Last Starfighter - interview with composer Craig Safan   Incredible Odds: Writing The Last Starfighter - interview with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel   Interstellar Hit-Beast: Creating the Special Effects - interview with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike   Excalibur Test: Inside Digital Productions - interview with sci-fi author Greg Bear on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in The Last Starfighter   Greetings Starfighter! Inside the Arcade Game, an interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game   Heroes of the Screen   Crossing the Frontier: Making "The Last Starfighter"   Image Galleries   Teaser Trailer   Theatrical Trailer   Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes and sci-fi author Greg Bear's never-before-published Omni magazine article on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in The Last Starfighter