Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun (1986) Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

This week, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, I hope you’ll follow me ”up there with the Best of the Best”. That’s right! I’m taking a look at the classic 80’s movie Top Gun and I’m sure some of you are right now thinking: “What? Top Gun? A forgotten flick?” I would argue that, yes… yes it is! And my argument would be that, when asked, I think most youngsters will recognize the title and go: “Yeah, it’s that pilot-movie with Tom Cruise, right?” BUT… have they actually seen it?

It was the highest grossing movie of 1986 and helped boost the career of Tom Cruise (Rain Man, The Color of Money) as well as a lot of the other cast members’ careers too, I’ll imagine. It sure as hell didn’t hurt it none, that’s for sure. Remember that during this time most of them were relative new to the scene, so to speak.

Opening credits shot onboard the U.S.S Enterprise

Opening credits shot onboard the U.S.S Enterprise

Ok, so some of the instructors at Top Gun are played by already established actors like Tom Skerritt (Alien, The Dead Zone) as Viper, and one I’ve mentioned once or twice before, namely Michael Ironside. He’s known from The Machinist and Total Recall among others and he plays Jester. Btw, if you think you recognize some of the younger actors here you’re absolutely right. You’ll see Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan in smaller parts and even Adrian Pasdar in his first role!

Tom Cruise is Maverick, a young cocky pilot, who together with his best friend, Goose, is sent to Miramar Naval Air Station, nicknamed Top Gun, to fine-tune their skills. The pilots there are already among the top one percent of the finest fighter pilots in the world, but as Viper says: “We’ll make you better!”

In the role as Goose you’ll recognize Anthony Edwards from Revenge of the Nerds and Gotcha!, and later he was Dr. Greene in E.R. Another ace pilot here with the call-sign Iceman, is played by Val Kilmer (Willow, Top Secret!) and he doesn’t like Maverick at all. He feels he’s unpredictable and dangerous when he’s flying, but I think he most of all just feels threatened by Maverick. Egos, you know! Those two, Iceman and Maverick, are considered to be the best fighter pilots of the lot and let’s just say that it’s a bit frosty between them.

Iceman playing with his ball...

Iceman playing with his ball…

One evening at a local bar which the pilots usually frequent, Maverick meets and tries to impress a beautiful lady with a little musical number. It ends with the whole bar singing along! She’s not as impressed as he’d wanted her to be, but she’s not entirely put off either. She’s played by Kelly McGillis (Witness, The Accused) and as it turns out she’s a civilian specialist instructor, call sign Charlie, at Top Gun. This is cause for some embarrassment as Maverick had tried to impress her with being a pilot or, as he puts it, a naval aviator. But, of course, she falls for him and he, for her and since she’s an instructor and he a student, it makes for some complication.

In between this and all the machismo Top Gun is full of, we get the spectacular aerial scenes. And when I say spectacular, I mean SPECTACULAR!

The best part about it is that there’s no CGI involved, those are all real planes flying around. The dog-fighting scenes look amazing and couldn’t have been made without the co-operation of the US Navy. The technical advisor on the shoot was a former fighter pilot and “Top Gun” instructor by the name of Pete Pettigrew, so as to make it more authentic. There has, of course, been creative licenses taken, but for the most part it’s fairly accurate.

Maverick and Goose - I feel the need... the need for speed!

Maverick and Goose – I feel the need… the need for speed!

I was 18 years old when I first saw this and didn’t really care about accuracy. I just thought it looked damn cool and apparently so did a lot of other young people, because the US Navy saw an increase of the recruitment numbers in the following years. Interestingly enough it also increased the sale of Ray Ban sunglasses and changed hair-styles and fashion, so Top Gun had quite the impact in the late 80’s.

The soundtrack was also a big deal and the album reached number 1 in the charts for five weeks. The love-theme “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin even won an Academy Award for best original song. Harold Faltermeyer wrote the awesome “Top Gun Anthem”, Loverboy performed “Heaven In Your Eyes” and of course Kenny Loggins with “Danger Zone” and “Playing With The Boys”. It really was/is a great soundtrack!

She's lost that loving feeling...

She’s lost that loving feeling…

And while we’re on the topic of Kenny Loggins and “Playing With The Boys”, let’s talk about the scene that it plays over… That’s right, boys and girls, the volley-ball scene! The scene where our four main guys, Maverick and Goose, Iceman and Slider (played by Rick Rossovich from Roxanne, The Terminator) plays a game of beach volley in the glaring sun. Young, fit, virile bodies glistening with sweat and striking poses. It doesn’t get much more homo-erotic than this! Not that there’s anything wrong with that. No, no, not at all! I just find it hilarious that it’s so obvious.

Even the director Tony Scott (The Hunger, Days of Thunder), says so on the bonus material on the DVD. He didn’t have a clear vision for this scene, so he just covered the actors in baby-oil and shot some, as he puts it, soft porn. This scene apparently got voted a favorite scene in any movie for three years in a row by “Suck Magazine”!!? At this point I was laughing right along with him as he told that story.

I watched Top Gun twice in the theaters here in Sweden and during a visit in Copenhagen, Denmark with my cousin Susanne, we decided to go see a movie. Not knowing I’d seen it before, she asked if we could watch Top Gun. I didn’t tell her until the movie started, that I’d actually already seen it twice before. She wondered why I didn’t say anything beforehand, so we could have chosen something else and I just told her that I LOVE THIS MOVIE! And to this day, those opening credits with that awesome anthem, STILL gives me goose-bumps!

Until next time my friends… Do you have any Top Gun related thoughts or memories you’d like to share with us? If so, please do in the comment section below.

Peter Nielsen Bio

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About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

4 comments to Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Top Gun (1986)

  • Great review Peter. I liked it as a kid for many of the same reasons you list and the opening credits still get me jazzed up. I remember the school administrators in my Junior High putting this movie on a TV/VCR in the cafeteria for our end-of-year party. It got all the way through the love scene with Tom and Kelly when they stopped it and said it was inappropriate. The funny part I remember was that 99% of us had seen it multiple times and pleaded with them that all of the sex scenes were over and it was fine from there on out, but they wouldn’t restart it. :-)

  • Hello Peter, great review as usual. As you might expect, I am a huge fan of Top Gun as well and you hit on many of the reasons, but there are many more subtle ones that I always appreciate as well. Not buying the “forgotten flick” part, but still enjoyed none the less.

  • Peter Nielsen

    Thank you guys… I’m glad you liked it!

  • [...] sulla famosa scena del beach volley, il regista spiegava: “non avevo un’idea chiara di questa scena, perciò ho coperto gli attori di olio e [...]

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