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Top Gun

1986 | 109 min | PG | 2.39:1

Top Gun


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Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 16 May, 1986
 03 October, 1986

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (converted)

Box office




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Top Gun


Screenshots from Top Gun Blu-ray

Top Gun Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 8, 2013

Looking to promote an upcoming Blu-ray release, Paramount has decided to make over the 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun” with some 3D mascara and IMAX blush, hoping to entice the faithful to once again pay money for a movie I assume most know by heart at this point. Indeed, the need for speed has returned to theaters for an exclusive one-week run, and while the takeoffs and landings show incredible dimension, the Kenny Loggins is cranked, and the roar of the jet engines could loosen fillings, it’s still the same old “Top Gun,” retaining every frame of ridiculousness and emphatic acting that turned the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production into a legend.

Arrogant, with a crippling need to prove himself, Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise), along with Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), has found his flying expertise challenged by enemy forces, using his unique skill to prevent disaster. Sent to Top Gun, a school for Naval Aviators to prove their mettle, Maverick and Goose find themselves surrounded by the best of the best, including competitor Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). With his instructor, CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt), holding out hope that Maverick is twice the pilot his celebrated father was, the young officer is instead drawn to civilian observer Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), trying to spark up a romance with the woman without compromising their professional obligations. As Maverick fights to cool his hotdog attitude and impress those in charge, his undeniable gift with flying keeps him on the edge, threatening the safety of those around him.

That “Top Gun” was such a monster success and cultural phenomenon during its initial theatrical release is no surprise. Catching the perfect wave of 1980’s stylistic excess, sheer star power in Cruise, and infiltrating a military occupation few features dared to explore, the movie was brilliantly packaged as cutting-edge entertainment for the summer season. Credit director Tony Scott (who tragically took his own life in 2012) for the glossiness of the viewing experience, guiding cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball to a gloriously apocalyptic look that drenches the frame in a liquid glow, bouncing off perpetually perspiring actors. There’s also the intensity of the combat and training sequences, with cockpit interactions exceptionally executed with swinging cameras that encourage the illusion of flight. “Top Gun” looks terrific, supported by composer Harold Faltermeyer’s synth-soaked heroic score and, of course, a few tracks from Kenny Loggins to supply a little MTV seasoning to the mix.

And any discussion of the film isn’t complete without a mention of Berlin’s atmospheric, Oscar-winning song, “Take My Breath Away,” used to generate sexual electricity between Maverick and Charlotte. However, Scott tends to treat the tune like a push-button function, starting and stopping the music without warning. Technically, “Top Gun” is solid stuff, soaring high into the heavens with convincing fighter jet footage. Dramatically, it’s silly, taking itself so seriously at times that it leans into self-parody. It’s not Cruise’s fault, who delivers a sincere performance of smarm and steely concentration, with his youthful appeal keeping the rest of the cast on target, with the possible exception of Edwards, whose presence as comic relief is nothing short of toxic. It’s the melodrama and forced broheim attitude that’s immensely infuriating, watching the ensemble try to pull off the Naval brotherhood routine while underwear modeling for Scott’s camera. The superficiality of the script is painful to endure, with such dogged commitment to the hoariest of clichés, while poor Cruise and McGillis don’t offer much in the way of chemistry as undercover lovers. “Top Gun” is mostly concerned with flying machines, hilariously vague enemies, and Maverick’s love for fast things, which is exactly where it should remain. Attempting to nurture character and conflict out of the material only makes it more cross-eyed, and there’s no amount of shirtless volleyball matches that can cover for tedious personal interactions and broad acts of storytelling manipulation.

And since we’re on the topic of shirtless volleyball, one doesn’t need a breathless Quentin Tarantino lecture to help isolate the strange homoerotic energy swirling around “Top Gun.” It permeates almost every scene, adding a fantastic spray of curiosity to an otherwise straightforward endeavor. There’s winky suggestion and then there’s Whip Hubley’s character “Hollywood” not entirely resistant to the prospect of seeing his partner’s erection during orientation. If only Scott had the guts to take it all the way.

For the big IMAX 3D show, “Top Gun” has been cranked up in a pleasing manner, with the sheer force of the fighter jet scenes booming around the theater, deafening those unprepared for the sonic upgrade. The movie sounds fantastic, looks a little fuzzy on the larger screen, and the 3D isn’t quite as exhaustive as imagined. Activity around aircraft carriers is marvelous, with the fresh sense of depth really bringing out a feeling of flight, holding on barrel rolls, which induce butterflies. The rest of the picture isn’t nearly as interesting, merely spacing out the characters from their backgrounds. Not that the image could be enlivened by such a trendy process, but there are a few moments here that are spectacular -- a cruel reminder that the rest of the conversion isn’t. However, the upgraded sound show is celebratory enough, bringing “Top Gun” to full attention for those who can stomach the rest of it.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside
Director: Tony Scott

» See full cast & crew

Top Gun, Forum Discussions

Last post
Top Gun 2 131 Apr 15, 2014
Top Gun 19 Aug 28, 2009
Top Gun: IMAX 3D Re-Release 11 Feb 04, 2013
Days of Thunder...Top Gun? 7 Aug 21, 2009

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