Ace pilot lieutenant Pete Mitchell “Maverick” and co-pilot lieutenant junior grade Nick Bradshaw “Goose” get an opportunity to attend one of the top flight school for Navy when the other candidate bails out. But Maverick is a daredevil hot head who rarely follows the rules, which can at times endanger others. Will Maverick, aided with best friend Goose win the award for the best Navy pilots of their cohort, against competing pilots such as Iceman, survive the school, beat the Soviets, and get the girl?
While Top Gun is a classic film, I don’t believe I had watched in consciously until the last Christmas holidays. I am happy to report that it is as every bit a 1980s movie as ever with a memorable soundtrack, great shots, and scenes that have become meme worthy in popular culture. I can understand how the cult around the jock culture of fighter pilots was probably enhanced by this film.
Interestingly, while a great advertisement for the American Navy, and to some extents, the Air Force, Top Gun probably annoys them by attracting the wrong kind of candidate who believes himself to be the embodiment of Maverick.
That is to say that the fiction and the lore are so rich in this simple movie with a predictable plot, that it must have inspired generations of boys to feel like junior Mavericks. By all contemporary measures, Top Gun is jingoistic, and fails the Bechdel test*, by having most women being nothing but accessories to enhance male characters. But that was a different time then.
What is remarkable about Top Gun is the imagery of the delightful Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft featured incredibly throughout the film. It’s the G.I. Joe jet**. How could a big kid like me not fall in love with this imagery? It feels to me that Top Gun has become the basic plot and example for many such films where the young hero is on a redemption path while being an adventurer who enjoys breaking rules.
As simple as this movie seems, I can understand how an entire generation was enthralled by it. I wonder why as a kid from that era, it never got to me, while I was so enamoured with G.I Joe who played in similar corners of fiction. So, I am not nostalgic for Top Gun, but I can understand how anyone would be. It’s a least worth a screening and an opportunity to marvel at all that 1980s score which did haunt my youth. Tom Cruise was good in it. It’s hard to imagine a better fool for the role looking at this film today.
*The Bedchel test helps determine if a fictional piece like a film, a comic, a novel, a game or a play has contents where women are independent of men, instead of being nothing but love interests whose entire being revolves around males and their relationships with them. It was coined by cartoonist Alison Bechdel who drew a comic strip about this test, after speaking with another female friend, Liz Wallace. The Bechdel test should probably be called the Wallace-Bechdel test.
**The Sky Striker which was an Air Force jet piloted by Ace was also a modified F-14 Tomcat introduced in 1984.