Top Gun – 1986
Director – Tony Scott
Starring – Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, and Val Kilmer
Though there has been action in movies since the beginning of the art form, the action movie genre really blossomed and came into its own in the mid to late 1980’s. By the early 90’s the genre had been raised to an art form. Films like Die Hard, Total Recall, and Robocop, dominated the box office, and raised an entire generation of young movie goers (myself included). These films brimmed with coarse language, fantastic plotlines and an electric energy that their predecessors of the action genre couldn’t match, and as a result became the gold standard for masculinity. It may not have invented the genre, and it certainly isn’t the best film in it, but Top Gun is a pioneer certainly deserving of the crown that it’s earned.
The plot is simple enough, so simple in-fact, it’s barely referenced or paid attention to (even the characters in the movie). Tom Cruise plays Maverick, a hot-shot fighter pilot, incorrigible Lothario, and unrepentant rebel, who paired with his trusty sidekick, Goose (played by Revenge of the Nerd’s Anthony Edwards) are shipped off to the best flight school in the country, Top Gun. Once there, Maverick and Goose laugh in the face of danger, routinely go against authority, play shirtless volleyball with fellow pilots, and learn hard lessons about the consequences of being a fighter pilot. Maverick meets and falls for the responsible, yet sexy instructor, Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, and butts heads with the equally talented Iceman, played by Val Kilmer.
Got it? Doesn’t matter. From this point on, just sit back and watch planes flying fast, steamy love being made, rules being broken, and the occasional explosion. The stakes of the story don’t matter at all, the characters and the plot exist solely to dazzle the eyes and keep your butt in the seat. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You think I am poo-pooing, Top Gun for this reason. Wrong! This is one of the main reasons that I enjoyed it as much as I did. If there was a chance that Tom Cruise might fail, or if the Kenny Loggins song Danger Zone weren’t being drilled into my head, I very well may have lost interest and turned it off. The fact is, it was exactly this brazen assault on my memories of childhood that made Top Gun so attractive and fun.
Nurtured into life by the Uber-producing duo Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and directed to perfection by the one and only Tony Scott, this film set the bar for action movies for the next 10 years. Aside from asserting the testosterone filled masculinity that defined the action movies of this era, Top Gun paved the way for countless immitators, one-offs, and made the career of Tony Scott who would go on to direct other such classics as Crimson Tide, True Romance, and my personal favorite of his films, The Last Boyscout! If there was any doubt at all, this film washed away those deniers of Tom Cruise’s stranglehold on hollywood, a grip that would only relax much later when he came off as crazy for jumping on the couch at the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Having only recently seen Top Gun, I was surprised how different it was from its parody, Hot Shots. I have to admit, even after the character of Charlie (McGillis) was introduced I kept waiting for someone closer to the character of Ramada Thompson (Valaria Golino) to be introduced and get Maverick’s attention. Also, Tom Skerritt is no Lloyd Bridges, not that anyone is of course.
The long and short of it is this…Top Gun is not going to win any prizes for dedication to craft, but it will most likely distract you for 2 hours, and leave you with a pleasantly warm feeling afterwards.
If you liked Top Gun, check out these classics of the genre…
The Crow, Total Recall, The Last Boyscout, Hard to Kill, Hard Target, The Fugitive, Casino Royale, Big Trouble in Little China, The Rock, or Tango and Cash. All of these films are absolute gold*!
* Disclaimer…Your definition of “gold” may differ drastically from mine. Watch at your own risk!
“Mmmm….Iceman.” – Ashley