Top Gun – The Need For Speed, 35 Years Later

A Navy pilot flies upside down above a Russian MiG taking a Polaroid picture of the pilot before flipping him the bird and thirty-five years later fans of Top Gun are still feeling the need for speed, but not all.

Released to theaters on May 16, 1986 Top Gun was directed by Tony Scott and starred Tom Cruise as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a young naval pilot who gets an opportunity to train at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School. The inspiration for the movie came from and article intitled “Top Guns”, from the May 1983 issue of California magazine. The article talked about the fighter pilots at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, self-nicknamed as “Fightertown USA”.

Several fighters from the F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 “Screaming Eagles” were made available for the film by the Navy. Paramount was responsible for the operating cost outside the aircraft’s normal duties while the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise was used to film all the carrier sequences for the movie. The film crew had to take what they could get while on board the USS Enterprise as most shots were normal day to day aircraft operations.

Tom Cruise was the only actor ever considered for the role of “Maverick” according to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but it took an arranged flight with the Blue Angels to convince Cruise to take the role after his success in “Risky Business.” In a recent interview with Variety, Bruckheimer talked about what it took to get Cruise to take the role.

“It wasn’t easy. We wanted Tom after we saw “Risky Business” and he kind of hemmed and hawed. So we arranged for him to fly with the Blue Angels at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. He drove up there on his motorcycle and he had just finished a movie with Ridley Scott, “Legend,” and his hair was long and in a ponytail. And they took one look at him and thought, we’re going to give this hippie a ride. They took him up on an F-14 and flipped him and did all kinds of stunts to turn him around and make sure he never got back in a cockpit. But it was just the opposite. He landed and he walked over to a phone booth and called me up and said, “Jerry. I’m making the movie. I love it.” He became an amazing aviator himself. He can fly just about any plane they can make.”

“Top Gun,” centers around fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a pilot who shirks authority but, with his wingman, Goose (Edwards), wants to be the best. Maverick’s main competition for the title of top pilot, or Top Gun, is Iceman played by Val Kilmer and his wingman, Slider (Rossovich). Of course, you can’t forget the love interest for the movie, enter Kelly McGillis as Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood an instructor of Top Gun. The character is based on a real-life female, Christine Fox, who worked at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Paramount held two premieres, one in New York City and another three days later in San Diego. The movie itself opened nationwide in the U.S. on May 16, 1986. It opened to mixed reviews, the action sequences receiving high praise with Cruise and McGillis performances attracting the most attention. On a $15 million dollar budget Top Gun went on to earn $356 million at the box office and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Take My Breath Away” performed by Berlin.

Top Gun Official Synopsis:

The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School is where the best of the best train to refine their elite flying skills. When hotshot fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent to the school, his reckless attitude and cocky demeanor put him at odds with the other pilots, especially the cool and collected Iceman (Val Kilmer). But Maverick isn’t only competing to be the top fighter pilot, he’s also fighting for the attention of his beautiful flight instructor, Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).

Reggie’s Take:
I did not see Top Gun until the fall of 1987 on VHS at a neighbor’s home. When I watched it the first time I remembered being entertained and I enjoyed the movie, now thirty-five years later when I watch Top Gun, I am still entertained, to a point.

If I were putting together a list of my top twenty action movies of all time, would Top Gun make my list? That would depend on how big my list was. If it were a top 20 or 25 list, I am not sure it would appear, if it were a top 50 list, it might have a chance. I know, every Top Gun hard core fan is now yelling at this post asking what am I thinking? I will tell you.

When I watch Top Gun now, 35 years later I find it an enjoyable, watchable movie, but I am not in love with the movie. I’m not saying Top Gun is bad, it is far from that, but personally I would rather pop in one of Tom Cruise’s, Mission Impossible movies before I would Top Gun. I realize Risky Business and Top Gun helped solidify Tom Cruise as a Hollywood movie star and good for Tom, but it does not mean I have to be completely in love with the movie.

The action sequences in the movie are fun to watch and having “Goose” Anthony Edwards character die in the movie helped Maverick feel more relatable as a human being. Goose is my favorite character from the movie and while I would of rather have not seen him killed, Goose’s death was necessary other wise Maverick, at least to me, would seem like an egotistical hot shot.

If someone who had never seen Top Gun asked me if they should watch it, I would tell them, yes by all means as I feel it is worth a watch. In some ways all movies are worth a watch at least once as it is up to the individual to decide for themselves whether to add it to their own movie library.

Does Top Gun still hold up 35 years after its release to theaters, sure. Just because I am not in love with the movie does not mean it automatically sucks, it does not. After all, “Top Gun Maverick” is the long-awaited sequel and is scheduled to hit theaters in November (2021) of this year and before you ask, yes, I am planning on seeing the movie.

If you are an avid fan of Top Gun for the last thirty-five years or watched it last year for the first time and you feel the “need for speed” then enjoy the movie and all the high-flying action the movie offers. As for myself, Top Gun will continue to be a part of my movie collection, it just won’t fly as often as other movies.



Categories: Movie Anniversaries

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