Sunday, September 4, 2011

Movie Milestones: 25 Years of Top Gun

Can you believe it's been 25 years?!? One of the most iconic, quotable, and all-around fun movies of the 80's has over the years become one of my personal favorites. With one of the greatest casts top to bottom and some of the most memorable scenes in history, Top Gun definitely deserves the title of a "Movie Milestone."

This Tony Scott classic (don't get to put those three words together that often) stars a 24 year-old Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell as a fighter pilot sent to Top Gun to train and hone his dog fighting skills and become one of the navy's top pilots. His co-pilot is Goose (Anthony Edwards with a full head of hair and a cheesy mustache). His top competitor at Top Gun is Iceman (Val Kilmer), a bleach-haired, cocky hot shot that is out to take down Maverick. Along the way, Maverick falls for one of his instructors, Charlie (Kelly McGillis).
Best scene: This is so hard to choose. There are so many iconic scenes in this that can be quoted endlessly. Scenes like the first classroom scene where Maverick has to explain his stunt with the MIG. Or the volleyball scene as Maverick and Goose take their rivalry with Iceman and Slider to the volleyball court. Or any scene that takes place in the air as they fight each other and the enemies. However, if pressed to pick one best scene, it would have to be the bar scene. We get our first glimpse of the quirky relationship between Maverick and Goose, as well as get introduced to Iceman and his RIO Slider, who becomes the brunt of many of Goose's one-liners. You see how Iceman resents Maverick immediately for taking his best friend's spot at Top Gun, and you see Maverick's supreme arrogance that makes him such a great and often dangerous pilot. ("That's right, Ice . . . Man, I am dangerous.") We also get introduced to a game that, who knows how many times, Maverick and Goose have played. "OK, you have to have carnal knowledge, of a lady this time, on the premises." He makes his introduction to his target, who happens to be Charlie, by informing her that she has lost that loving feeling (a declaration that makes me worrisome about Tom Cruise starring in the musical Rock of Ages next year). I could watch that scene start to finish over and over and over . . .
Best line: I could quote this movie all day. "Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash." "I feel the need. The need for speed." "The plaque for the alternates is in the ladies' room." "I'm gonna hit the brakes, he'll blow right by us." "Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full." "Slider, you stink." "I could go on forever, baby." (Wrong movie, but I find it applicable to the current situation.) The line I have to go with as my favorite is actually a series of banter between Maverick and Goose as they explain to Charlie what they were doing inverted over the top of a MIG. "Communicating . . . Keeping up with foreign relations . . . Giving him the bird." Then Goose butts in while demonstrating, "You know, the finger!" Charlie replies, "Yes, I know the finger, Goose." Goose's response as he retracts his finger: "Oh, I'm sorry. I hate it when it does that." Classic.
Most Iconic Moment: Maverick is finally finding a way to cope with the death of Goose after a terrible accident in the air. He stands on the back of his air craft carrier with Goose's dog tags in his hand, the same dog tags he hadn't let go of since the accident. He is finally ready to move on which he shows by hurling Goose's dog tags in the ocean. For as action-packed as this movie is, it is hard to make it through that moment with Maverick with a dry eye.
The Time Tester: This is where we look at what, if anything, from this film has stood the test of time the best. For Top Gun, this answer is easy: the score and soundtrack. After 25 years, this remains one of my all-time favorite scores from top to bottom. Featuring such classic 80's anthems like "Danger Zone" and "Playing With the Boys," and ending with the classic score theme. The only way to describe it is, "Dum-dum-dum, duh-duh-duh-duh-dum-dum, duh-duh-dum, duh-duh-dum, duh-duh-dum-dum-dum." You know what I'm talking about! Put on top of that the boys belting at the top of their lungs "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and the Oscar-winning love song "Take My Breath Away," wow. I can't imagine ever topping that.
The Lasting Impact: Looking back on Top Gun, one of the biggest lasting impacts is the amount of careers it shot into superstar status. Tom Cruise had already been made a star after Risky Business, but this film made him a bankable legitimate movie star, following this up with a run of films no other actor can claim to their resume. This film also saw the launch of Val Kilmer's career, who has become one of the most eccentric talents of the last 25 years. Add to that supporting performances by Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins, and Meg Ryan, you have what turned out to be one of the most stacked casts of the 80's. After you look at the careers Top Gun launched, you then have to look at its lasting effect on movie making itself. Now I know it's no Citizen Kane or Casablanca, but to say it had no lasting effect on the way these types of films were made is simply pathetic. In many ways, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott have been trying to recreate something that brings about the iconic status that Top Gun has using the same formula, but nothing can ever quite match a standard-setter.

After 25 years, this film has definitely stood the test of time. I actually had this film running in the background while I wrote this article. Some things are a little dated. Top Gun takes place at the end of the Cold War, and we see a nameless, faceless enemy we could only assume is someone from the Cold War. However, one thing that makes it unique is the nameless, faceless enemy. The focus is not at all on the enemy, but on the people and the relationships built through the experiences they had at Top Gun and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. This seems appropriate to post here. Only a true fan could come up with it or appreciate it: