Rain Man (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Oct 09, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Rain Man (4K UHD Review)


Barry Levinson

Release Date(s)

1988 (June 13, 2023)


MGM/UA (MVD Marquee Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Rain Man (4K UHD)



Barry Levinson’s Academy Award-winning Rain Man emerged out of a protracted development process to become an unexpected box office hit in 1988. It started slow on its opening weekend but kept building thanks to strong word-of-mouth, pulling in $172 domestic million by the end of its run. It became the #1 film from 1988, outgrossing even Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, and Big. It continued that momentum through awards season, taking home the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor. Yet interestingly enough, Rain Man is arguably a bit overlooked today—not necessarily forgotten, but the world has definitely moved on from its once groundbreaking portrayal of autism. The disorder is much better understood these days than it was in 1988, even for the general public, so Rain Man can feel like a historical artifact rather than possessing the timeless quality that keeps some films perpetually fresh throughout the years.

The screenplay for Rain Man by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass offers Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) as an audience surrogate, a man who understands nothing whatsoever about autism or savant syndrome. He provides a window into that world, as well as a plausible excuse to have experts repeatedly explain the nature of both disorders for viewers. (In that respect he’s essentially Jamie Gertz in Twister, although in this case at least he’s still an integral part of the overall narrative.) Charlie is upset to discover that his recently deceased father has left him nothing more than a 1949 Buick Roadmaster, with the rest of the estate now under the control of a trustee on behalf of a local institution. Charlie also learns that he has an autistic savant brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) who’s been under the care of the institution, so he more or less kidnaps Raymond and hits the road—he’s hoping to gain custody in order to gain access to the money. As they travel together, Charlie learns more about the nature of his brother’s disabilities, first trying to exploit them for his own gain, but eventually gaining real affection for Raymond. Rain Man also stars Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen, and Levinson. (Watch for Bonnie Hunt in a small role as a waitress.)

To its credit, Rain Man did raise awareness about autism in 1988, but it’s always been a bit of a double-edged sword in that regard. The final shooting script doesn’t always clearly distinguish between autism and savant syndrome, so it inadvertently ended up conflating the two in the minds of some viewers. Not all savants are autistic, and most people with autism aren’t savants, but you wouldn’t necessarily glean that fact from Rain Man unless you’re paying close attention. That means that the film provides a somewhat sanitized Hollywood version of autism, without fully delving into all of the challenges that family members can actually face. (Raymond’s handful of hysterical breakdowns in Rain Man are relatively mild compared to what some parents and guardians go through on a daily basis.) It’s disability as wish-fulfillment, with an added veneer of wealth and privilege to keep everything as palatable as possible for mainstream audiences.

Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance is also something of a double-edged sword. He did a remarkable job of absorbing all of the tics and quirks of savants like Raymond, but he never quite disappears into the role, either. He’s still great in the part, but arguably a bit too mannered and precise to allow full suspension of disbelief—he always feels like Dustin Hoffman playing Raymond instead of simply Raymond. Hoffman and Tom Cruise do have genuine chemistry together, however, and their growing relationship provides the heart and soul of Rain Man. Cruise has always been at his best when he’s playing off another strong actor like Paul Newman, Robert Duvall, or Jamie Foxx. (His nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia is thanks in no small part to April Grace.) He definitely brought his A-game for working with Dustin Hoffman, so Rain Man always remains compelling despite any flaws or dated elements. Setting everything else aside, it’s an effective tale of two long-lost brothers reconnecting with each other.

Cinematographer John Seale shot Rain Man on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras with Panavision Primo spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. This version uses a new 16-bit 4K scan of the original camera negative, with a new High Dynamic Range for both Dolby Vision and HDR10, approved by Barry Levinson. The opening titles display the usual softness due to the generational loss from optical printing, but once they’re over, everything is as sharp and detailed as it can be—with the caveat that there really wasn’t an abundance of detail inherent to the original cinematography in the first place. Some textures like the suits worn by Tom Cruise do look better resolved in 4K than in 1080p, but for the most part the differences aren’t that drastic. It’s still a faithful representation of the look that Seale and Levinson intended, and it resists the temptation to revise anything for the new format. That means that the HDR grade is suitably restrained, and aside from a few highlights, it’s not substantially different than the SDR grade on the Blu-ray. There’s just a bit of noise mixed in with some of the grain at times, but otherwise there isn’t any damage or other artifacts on display. Rain Man isn’t exactly dazzling in 4K with HDR, but frankly, it shouldn’t be.

Primary audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. Rain Man was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, but the original matrix encoded two-channel surround mix hasn’t been included here. The 5.1 track sounds like a pretty straightforward discrete encoding of the original four channels from that Dolby Stereo mix, so it’s not really an issue. There are barely any surround effects at all, let alone split ones, with most of the sonic energy focused on the front channels as was typical for Dolby Stereo during the Eighties. The surrounds are mostly confined to light ambient and reverberant effects. Otherwise, the dialogue is clear, and the score by Hans Zimmer shines through. Additional audio options include French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 mono, both DTS-HD Master Audio.

The MVD Marquee Collection 4K Ultra HD release of Rain Man is a two-disc set that includes a remastered Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film. Aside from the commentary tracks and the theatrical trailer, the extras are confined to the Blu-ray only:


  • Audio Commentary by Barry Levinson
  • Audio Commentary by Barry Morrow
  • Audio Commentary by Ronald Bass
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:16)


  • Audio Commentary by Barry Levinson
  • Audio Commentary by Barry Morrow
  • Audio Commentary by Ronald Bass
  • The Journey of Rain Man (Upscaled SD – 22:09)
  • Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism (Upscaled SD – 20:15)
  • Deleted Scene (Upscaled SD – 2:13)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:16)

All of the extras were originally created for the 2004 DVD releases of Rain Man from MGM. There’s not one, not two, but three different commentaries featuring Levinson, original screenwriter Barry Morrow, and re-writer Ronald Bass. Levinson’s track provides the broadest overall examination of the film, with one major caveat: he frequently lapses into silence, so there are some extended gaps throughout. Morrow covers his original script and the changes to it, while Bass explains how those changes came about. Needless to say, there’s a lot of repetition between the three tracks, so it may have been better to have had all three of the participants sit down together instead. On the other hand, given the nature of the production, there’s probably a good reason why that didn’t happen. At a bare minimum, it would have been preferable to have edited all three of them into a single curated commentary like Criterion used to offer, but that style was already falling out of vogue by 2004, so it is what it is.

The Journey of Rain Man is a making-of featurette that includes interviews with Levinson, Morrow, Bass, Hans Zimmer, Valeria Golino, and technical consultant Diane Bass, plus producers Mark Johnson, Gerald R. Molen, and Gail Mutrux. It covers everything from the lengthy development process for the film (Levinson was the fourth director attached to the project) to its eventual release and the awards attention that it garnered. While it’s a bit cursory, it still provides a decent overview of the film for anyone unfamiliar with the background behind Rain Man. Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism is an examination of the nature of both autism and savant syndrome. It features interviews with experts like Dr. Bernard Rimland, Dr. Ruth Sullivan, Dr. Arnold Rosen, and Dr. Darold Treffert. More interestingly, it has interviews with autistic savants Joseph Sullivan and Peter Guthrie, both of whom served as models for Dustin Hoffman, as well as Mark Rimland. (Sullivan has the mathematical gifts while Guthrie has the memory for statistics.) Finally, the Deleted Scene offers an extended moment after Raymond had wandered off in the middle of the film, with him struggling to navigate a convenience store on his own.

There aren’t any new extras, but frankly the old ones were already a bit too much. The real selling point here is the new 4K master, and it’s definitely the best that Rain Man has ever looked on home video—even if it’s not quite a revelation, either. Still, if you’re a fan, MVD’s 4K Ultra HD version of Rain Man is well worth adding to your collection.

- Stephen Bjork

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