Top Gun (1986) / Drama-Action

MPAA Rated: PG for language, violence and sensuality
Running Time: 110 min.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan
Director: Tony Scott
Screenplay: Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.

Review published March 9, 1999

Top Gun is a quintessential Reagan-era by-product, a pure fantasy highlighted by typical concentration on materialism and superficiality. From the synthesized score by Harold Faltermeyer (Fletch, Beverly Hills Cop) to the synth-rock tunes of Berlin and Kenny Loggins, this film is about as deep as a kiddie pool. Even the much ballyhooed aerial scenes are obviously cut together in such a way that the fight scenes seem phony. Yet, even with all of the elements of cheese and bad melodrama, Top Gun just plain entertains.

Only the top 1% of all Navy fighter pilots get to attend Top Gun, the Navy's school for the crème de la crème. After a near fatal accident shakes up the best pilot in Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's (Cruise, Days of Thunder) squadron causing him to be chosen for Top Gun. Maverick is about as cocky as they come, but no more so than the rest of the pilots in the school, and they have a heated competition to see who is the best among them. While there, he falls for the civilian instructor (McGillis, Witness) and loses his co-pilot (Edwards, Gotcha!) in a tragic accident, causing him to question if he indeed has the right stuff.

There is so much laughable badness to Top Gun, I frankly can't understand why I recommend it. The romance is terribly developed, and about the only selling point to Tom Cruise's appeal is his ever-present smile. Val Kilmer (Top Secret!, True Romance) gives one of his worst performances in a film to date, seemingly in pain in every scene (reportedly Kilmer was forced to be in the film due to contractual obligations), and the entire plot is contrived beyond belief. Lots of shots with men standing around in their underwear, hugging each other, speaking almost nose-to-nose; the homo-erotic elements are too blatant to be denied.

Despite my assessment of the poor quality of many aspects of Top Gun, I have to admit, that it does hold my interest all of the way through, making up for its weaknesses with shear entertainment value.  You might call it a guilty escapist pleasure for me, or perhaps I'm just nostalgic for my high school days, during which this movie caused much imitation from my peers -- whatever. I enjoy watching every second of this piece of vapid, overblown crapola.

Qwipster's rating:

©1999 Vince Leo