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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: April 23rd, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1989

Steel Magnolias - 35th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: Matthew Hartman
The classic Drama/Comedy Steel Magnolias is here on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony. Herbert Ross’ wonderful weepie about life and loss and the power of friendship is just as emotionally potent, raw, and hilarious as it was 35 years ago. In 4K Dolby Vision, the film looks marvelous, sounds fantastic with three audio options, and offers a nice variety of extra features. Stock up on tissues and settle in - Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0
Release Date:
April 23rd, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


So if there’s a kind of film I hate to review it’s films like Herbert Ross’ 1989 adaptation of Robert Harling’s play Steel Magnolias. Not because I think it’s a terrible movie or it’s not my kind of flick, I hate it reviewing these movies because they’re so emotionally potent and raw and wonderful I don’t want to admit it made me cry like a baby. But I’m here now, so I guess I gotta come clean - Steel Magnolias made me cry. A lot. Now that I’m a parent, more than it ever made me cry in the last 35 years. 

For those who somehow missed this classic weepie, our film centers on a few lovely ladies residing in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. There’s M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) and her soon-to-be-married daughter Shelbie (Julia Roberts in an Oscar-nominated breakout performance). There’s the stylish and lovely beautician Truvy (Dolly Parton) and her new assistant Annelle (Daryl Hannah). Rounding out the group, is the stately and witty Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) and the resident sourpuss Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine). Together the women bond over all of life’s little peccadillos, but when tragedy strikes, they’re there when they need each other most. 

Steel Magnolias is one of those films I genuinely grew up with. As it was my older sister’s favorite film, it was one we owned a legit true VHS copy of that wasn’t recorded off a rental. When it came time for movie night every Friday, this film was a regular feature. As a six or seven-year-old at the time, it was one of the movies that had a bunch of talking, not a lot of action, that I actually enjoyed. As a kid, I could hang on for Tom Skeritt shooting a crossbow bolt of firecrackers at some birds and the hilarious interplay between Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis. That was enough, I could endure the rest. While my mom and sister cried their eyes out, I at least got a couple of laughs. As a grown man with a family, the film hits a lot harder now.

Every bit as wonderful as it was when it hit theaters in 1989, this is one of the finest ensemble casts. Everyone shines, everyone gets a genuine heartfelt moment, and no one is wasted. The only thing I’m genuinely flabbergasted by is how it was essentially ignored come awards season. Commanding only a Golden Globe nomination for Field, a win for Roberts, and only a Supporting Oscar nomination for Roberts, the film didn’t earn the statue accolades it deserved. 

Director Herbert Ross was in terrific form behind the camera. Not a flashy or stylish drama, the camera often sits back and lets this great cast work with Robert Harling’s screenplay for long emotionally fraught takes. Feelings run high, one minute you’re laughing your ass off, the next the hoses in your eyes won’t stop leaking, and then you’re laughing again. In lesser hands, this would have been a trite manipulative slog and quickly forgotten. But it’s nothing of the kind. 

Thanks to the great cast, Steel Magnolias is one of the most loved and memorable drama comedies of a generation. An attempt to remake it came and went and few paid any attention. I heard okay things about the 2012 version but I ultimately missed it entirely. Julia Roberts broke out into the A-list with her touching performance as the health-challenged Shelbie. You can see she had a lot to prove and went for it. Dolly Parton is well, Dolly. Amazing as ever she’s the heart of the show. Daryl Hannah may not get to do a lot, but she delivers when it counts most. Thanks to Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine, the film isn’t just a tragic slog and we have reason to laugh and enjoy the feature. The true standout to me has always been Sally Field. She’s the anchor of the whole film and carries it from start to finish. I’m not embedding the video here in case some haven’t seen the film, but all you have to do is see that scene near the end to understand she was robbed during award season. It’s a hell of a film, I doubt even the most cynical viewer out there can withstand its charms. 

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 
Celebrating its 35th Anniversary, Steel Magnolias comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a single-disc 4K UHD + Digital release from Sony. Pressed on a BD-100 disc, the disc is housed in a standard black case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options along the bottom of the screen and bonus features aligned on the right side.

Video Review


Steel Magnolia enters the 4K UHD scene with a splendid 1.85:1 2160p Dolby Vision HDR (and HDR10) transfer. For the last stretch of time, I’ve watched this film only on streaming and DVD. I missed out on the Twilight Time disc and then when Sony had that daffy MOD edition the $30 price point wasn't very attractive. To that end, this is the best I’ve seen the film. From the get-go, the transfer shines with clean details and bright bold colors. Film grain is retained without any sign of smoothing or edge enhancement. Fine lines, textures, all of that big ‘80s hair, and wild fashions all look tremendous. 

The Dolby Vision HDR grade is equally lovely breathing a lot of life into the image. Whites are brilliantly crisp and clean without blooming - there are plenty of wedding dresses, blouses, and one particular rabbit costume to show that off. The film spends a lot of time outside with natural lighting and the shading of nature and trees shows a great range of lighting and shadows. Blacks are nice and deep ink black without issues. Bitrates are nice and high throughout. 4.5/5

Audio Review


On the audio front, fans can enjoy three options - a DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1, and Dolby Atmos. For the main viewing experience I spent most of my time with the Dolby Atmos and it is very nice. The film is largely conversational with only a few flourishes for parties, a carnival, and a few other big active moments hitting the surrounds and height channels with a bit more rumble in the subs. Since most of the mix rests in the Front/Center range, the surrounds and heights are mostly used for accent and atmosphere and are not very aggressive. It’s a nice mix and those equipped should have a great time with it. To that end, I also spent quite a bit of time with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and found that one very impressive, as well. So much so that if all we had was the 5.1 track, I doubt there’d be any complaints. Without the hight spacing, the mix feels a bit tighter and maybe even a little more intimate. Depending on how you’re set up you’ll want to give that a whirl and see how it fits. I previewed a bit of the 2.0 track and it is nice, but the Atmos and 5.1 are certainly the more immersive options. 4.5/5

Special Features


As for the bonus features, Sony has assembled a nice little package of extras to dig into. At the top of the pile is Herbert Ross’ commentary track. I’m not sure how far back this dates, but it’s my first time listening and it’s a nice track. He kind of barrels right into it explaining the origins of the film, shooting on location, the cast, and all other aspects of the feature but it's informative and an interesting listen. Next into the featurettes, we have some archival pieces. The Remembering Steel Magnolias featurette is very good, but I would have loved a new cast interview retrospective since everyone except Olympia Dukakis is still with us. Next of interest is the TV Pilot from 1990 starring Sally Kirkland and Cindy Williams. A well-produced show, it picks up a year after the end of the first film, but it was missing some of the spark, authenticity, and heart of the original film - but that's a tough standard to meet. The deleted scenes are relatively brief, mere seconds, and most of them taking place before and after the opening wedding scenes. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Herbert Ross
  • In Full Bloom: Remembering Steel Magnolias (SD 23:20)
  • TV Pilot (SD 22:48)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD 6:03)
    • At the Window
    • Wedding Dance
    • I’m Always Right
    • Armadillos & Hell
    • In The Buffet
    • Frat Boy Tradition
    • Clean-up Blues
    • Honeymoon Chat
    • Wedding Wind-down
    • Christmas Carnival Parts 1 & 2
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:28)

Steel Magnolias is a hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride, but it’s a joyful one. One moment you’re bawling your eyes out and the next you’re checking your ass to see if it's still attached after laughing so damn hard. Thanks to its wonderful cast, this film has endured for 35 years and likely will do so for another 35. Sony returns to their deep well of catalog favorites for another winning release. The 4K Dolby Vision transfer is a beauty, all of the audio options are excellent, and the bonus features are worth checking out even if they're not numerous or extensive. If you missed out on the previous Blu-rays and are ready to get to know your emotions more intimately, this one is Highly Recommended 

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