When discussing iconic films of any decade there is a tendency to look at Oscar winners and highly recommended art house films that will set the tone for the following years. Then, there are films like Top Gun. Released in 1986 it became the highest-grossing film of the year and has seen its legend grow since then. Like many ˜cult’ films Top Gun has an impeachable place in the hearts and minds of a certain generation. As that generation grew up and themselves became film-makers and TV writers, references to it have appeared more and more frequently in popular culture. It was so popular in fact that it spawned two successful spoofs: Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Deux. How many films can claim a feat such as that?
Lieutenant Pete Maverick Mitchell (Tom Cruise) gains some notoriety after taking a photo of an unknown pilot in a MiG-28 somewhere over the Indian Sea. So impressed are his superior officers that they send Maverick and his friend Nick Goose Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) to the Top Gun training school. While involved in the training, they meet a cocky flyer known as Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Maverick begins a relationship with officer trainer Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Maverick and Goose face numerous trials throughout training, leading to a ˜crisis situation’ where Maverick must overcome his fears to try and save the day.
To be honest the plot of a film like Top Gun doesn’t really matter too much. It’s an exercise in action scenes involving good-looking people and by this measurement it’s a roaring success. This has never been more apparent than the now infamous volleyball scene, where greased up Hollywood stars play a sport in small pants and not a lot else (except Goose, who clearly wasn’t as confident of his muscles), while the whole time Kenny Loggins’ Playing with the Boys deafens the audience. If ever there was one scene that perfectly sums up an entire film it’s this one.
Director Tony Scott is clear in his intentions, this is not a film to test your brain or present any character depth, it is simply here to provide some fun lines, decent action and a classic soundtrack. In fact the handling of the flight scenes, which are notoriously tricky are not only handled well, but are probably the best scenes of this nature in cinema. Unfortunately not every scene can take place in the air and it’s the scenes of interaction and dialogue where Top Gun really suffers. The lines are stilted and there is almost no chemistry between any of the major players.
But again, these critiques no longer matter. Top Gun‘s place in history is assured, combining exciting dog fights with the most memorable 80s soundtrack available and two of Hollywood’s hottest stars butting heads and sweaty chests. To anyone who doesn’t have a fond nostalgic spot for the film it is clear that it is nothing more than a 90-minute music video. But it’s a pretty good music video.