Return to the ’80s Movies: Top Gun

Tom Cruise
Kelly McGillis
Val Kilmer
Anthony Edwards
Tom Skerritt

Rated PG

Runtime 110 minutes

Released May 16, 1986



Synopsis: 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. – imdb

Last time I had seen this? Maybe 10-20 years? I had seen this many, many times throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

Tom Cruise currently has a smash hit out in theaters right now – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. But, he has been in blockbuster films for over 30 years, including this movie. Did this movie deserve to be a hit? Let’s find out.

The movie begins with Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) in one F-14A Tomcat, and Cougar and Merlin in the other, on a mission over the Indian Ocean. They come across a Russian jet. No shots were fired, but Maverick and Goose chased it off. Both Maverick’s and Cougar’s plane were low on fuel, so they headed back to their aircraft carrier. However, Cougar had a meltdown, and panicked. Against orders, Maverick headed back out and helped bring Cougar back in.

It turns out that Cougar was intended to be going to Top Gun – school for the best of the best pilots. But, Cougar gave it up because he has an unborn child he wants to see. Despite his recklessness, Maverick is sent in Cougar’s place.

Not long into this, we already get the “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” serenade scene, where Maverick tries to woo Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). He gets shot down. It turns out that Charlie is a civilian Top Gun instructor.
imagesIn a combat game, Maverick beat the Lieutenant Commander of the school, Jester (Michael Ironside). However, he broke a rule to do it. Then he topped it off by doing a flyby really close to the control tower. Maverick and Goose get in trouble with the commander, Viper (Tom Skerritt). Maverick also finds a rival in Iceman (Val Kilmer), who doesn’t care for Maverick’s methods. We find out that Maverick’s recklessness comes from compensating for his father. His father, Duke Mitchell, was shot down and killed in the Vietnam War.

Then we have the beach volleyball scene. Yeah, that was critical to move the plot along. Actually, that scene was probably in the movie to draw in the female demographic. Poor Anthony Edwards was the only one to leave his shirt on. I wonder if he started taking his shirt off, then saw the other guys, and said, “Aw, forget it!”

Then we have a blooming romance between Maverick and Charlie. Charlie is conflicted, because she doesn’t date her students. But, this is Tom freakin’ Cruise! Decisions, decisions. In class, she used one of Maverick’s missions as an example of what not to do. Maverick doesn’t take to kindly to the criticism. The have a confrontation, which leads to Maverick’s bedroom.

Maverick get’s humbled by his commander, as Viper and Jester use teamwork to defeat him in a training exercise. Next there is a party where we meet Goose’s family, which includes Meg Ryan as his wife. Since we meet his family, we know something not good is going to happen.

In the next training mission, Maverick and Iceman are taking on Viper. Iceman is having a hard time getting a lock on Viper. Maverick keeps trying to tell Iceman to move, and let him take the shot. Iceman finally had enough of the nagging, so he moved. But in the process, the jetwash of Iceman’s plane causes Maverick’s engines to flameout. So, he and Goose are spinning out of control, and Maverick can’t regain control. They eject, but Goose hits the glass canopy of their jet, and dies instantly.

Although the formal board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilt for Goose’s death, and loses his confidence. Maverick considers retiring. Then he spoke with Viper, and Viper told him that he served with Maverick’s father in Vietnam, and tells him classified details that show that Duke Mitchell died heroically. He tells Maverick that he can graduate tomorrow, if he chooses. Maverick chooses to graduate, but Iceman wins the award for top pilot.

Oh, but the movie is not over yet! During the graduation party, a few of the pilots, including Iceman and Maverick, are ordered to report to the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. There is a crises situation where a communications ship drifted into hostile waters. There is an awesome air battle. Maverick learned from his mistakes, and even used one old trick. Celebration time! Maverick decides to become an instructor at the Top Gun school. At the bar near the school, Maverick has the place to himself. He plays “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” on the jukebox. Then Charlie walks in, and they are reunited. The end.

Does the movie stand the test of time?
Pretty much. The theme of personal growth is still appropriate. I don’t think movies, these days, have many music montages. Instead, I think there is a full movie about the beach volleyball scene. I believe the movie was called Magic Mike. Some other things don’t stand the test of time, although they were way better back then. First, the music is incredible. With Kenny Loggins, king of the ’80s movies soundtracks, performing a couple of songs, you know that this is an ’80s movie. They don’t have good music like that in movies these days. And second, no CGI was used. They used actual jets in the flight sequences. According to Wikipedia, “Paramount paid as much as $7,800 per hour for fuel and other operating costs whenever aircraft were flown outside their normal duties.” I’m sure some kind of CGI would be used in most movies. One major exception is the aforementioned Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which stars…Tom Cruise. Over the past month, all we have been hearing about, is that Tom Cruise actually did that stunt himself, on a real plane.

So, the final verdict is that this movie does stand the test of time, and more movies would do well these days if they took some notes from this movie.

Worth the Return?
It’s worth checking out again, if you haven’t seen it in a while. I felt that some parts were boring, but the action sequences were amazing. One funny thing I noticed was that I used to think Val Kilmer’s Iceman was an asshole in this movie. After just watching it again, I feel like I was on his side this time. But, I think him snapping his jaw at Maverick when Maverick said, “That’s right. I’m dangerous,” was one of the dumbest moments in movie history. So, I’m actually kind of mixed on this. Some parts were great, and other parts prevent this from being a perfect movie. One other note: Apparently, this movie caused a spike in Naval recruitment. I joined the Navy almost 3 years after this was released, and my decision definitely was NOT based on this movie.


Rating: 3 Dead Geese

What? Too soon?

You may have noticed that I did not really touch on the great music too much here. There is a reason for that. Tomorrow, Robert is going to take us on an in-depth journey of Top Gun‘s music. So, be sure to check back in tomorrow!

4 thoughts on “Return to the ’80s Movies: Top Gun”

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