MOTW: "Top Gun" Review

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The hit action drama starring Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a daring young flyer who's out to become the best of the best. Kelly McGillis sizzles as the civilian instructor who teaches Maverick a few things you can't learn in a classroom. Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards & Meg Ryan also star.

MOTW: "Top Gun" Review

Rating: PG
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: May 16, 1986
Directed by: Tony Scott
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance

Almost three decades after its release, "Top Gun" remains an American classic. The film has appeared on many greatest-films-of-all-time lists, and it is easy to see why when you consider the huge cultural impact the movie had on the American public during the 1980s. "Top Gun" is also notable for providing the breakthrough film role for lead actor Tom Cruise. Up until that point in time, Cruise had appeared in numerous film productions, but it was his portrayal of Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in this film that catapulted him into the national spotlight and turned him into a Hollywood icon.

Apart from Cruise, Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer also appeared in the film. Both actors have gone on to achieve considerable fame as a result of appearing in "Top Gun." The late Tony Scott was roped in as director, while Jerry Bruckheimer was tasked with co-producing the film.

"Top Gun" was inspired by a magazine article from 1983. Author Ehud Yonay detailed the lives of fighter pilots at an air station and included aerial photography. Bruckheimer and fellow producer Don Simpson struggled to hire screenwriters to pen a script, but they finally hired Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., to write a draft. The producers were not impressed by the initial effort, so the United States Navy was asked for assistance in writing a script that was real and believable.

After several changes to the plot with the help of the US Navy, filming began in earnest in late 1985. Because several fighter aircraft and ships were required as part of the set, production company Paramount Pictures had to fork out thousands of dollars per hour to use these machines for filming purposes.

The film begins with Maverick (Cruise) flying an F-14A Tomcat with Nick Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) as his radar intercept officer. While in the Indian Ocean, Maverick disobeys orders by helping his wingman, Cougar (John Stockwell), back to the carrier. As a result, Maverick and Bradshaw, otherwise known as Goose, are sent to attend the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, commonly known as "Top Gun."

The audience learns that Maverick flies recklessly because he refuses to believe his father was shot down in Vietnam due to his own mistake. On the other hand, Goose is much more cautious, explaining that he has a wife and child to look after.

While Maverick becomes known as a bit of a hotshot around the school, others are less impressed due to his reckless nature. At the same time, Maverick attempts to pursue a woman, Charlie (Kelly McGillis), who he met the night before the Top Gun program began. Maverick forms an unhealthy rivalry with top student Iceman (Val Kilmer), and both seem intent on besting the other.

During a regular training flight, an unfortunate accident occurs, and Maverick's good friend Goose dies after ejecting from Maverick's F-14. Although the death is ruled accidental, Maverick feels responsible and considers leaving the Navy. While talking things over with Iceman, it is revealed that Maverick's father actually died while saving three planes. This information convinces Maverick to carry on.

During the graduation party, Iceman and Maverick, among others, are called to deal with a crisis situation. Iceman is unsure about Maverick's state of mind, but the pair manages to shoot down four MiGs and cause the rest to flee. This results in newfound respect for Maverick, giving him the choice of any assignment he wishes. Maverick chooses to remain at Top Gun as an instructor. During one of the last scenes, Maverick tosses Goose's dog tags into the ocean after finally getting over the guilt he felt immediately following the crash.

"Top Gun" opened on May 16, 1986, and quickly became a hit with moviegoers. All together, the film brought in more than $350 million in revenue worldwide, making it the highest grossing film that year. This is despite many mixed reviews of the film. Considering that the film only had a production and marketing budget of $15 million, bringing in more than 23 times this figure means the film was ultimately judged by viewers to be a resounding success.

The film went on to be nominated for many awards, mostly for sound and effects. "Top Gun" did win one Academy Award—for Best Music and Original Song (Take My Breath Away)—as well as a Golden Globe Award and Grammy Award. Although not much was expected of "Top Gun" when it was released, the truth is that the film will forever be an American icon.

Rated 3.5 of 5 stars