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Top Gun (1986)


Tom Cruise is 5’7”, Val Kilmer is 6’0”, and Kelly McGillis is 5’10”. You would have no idea that is true watching Top Gun as Tom Cruise plays 6’. Is that important to the film, not really, but the film is not that important to the film. Cruise is hot shot fly boy Maverick with his RIO, radio intercept officer, Goose, Anthony Edwards. Val Kilmer plays Iceman, Maverick’s competition at the flight school Top Gun. Kelly McGillis is Charlie, a Ph.D. wielding astrophysicist who researches Soviet aircraft capabilities and as one of the only women in the film, Maverick’s female love interest.

I have talked about queer readings of films before and how they often feel like a stretch to me, but it feels appropriate here. I think Maverick and Iceman would make a great couple. The tension between them could easily be broken by a kiss or more. The film contains the most famous homoerotic volleyball scene and Maverick is wearing jeans! Multiple locker room scenes have Iceman and Maverick topless, sweaty, and with just a towel between them. Was the world ready for an exploration of homosexuality in naval aviation in the mid-1980s? No, but it would have been more interesting than the plot of Top Gun.

I have somewhat idolized this film because I work on jet engines and am an aviation geek. The dog fight scenes are still very entertaining and stand up to the test of time. Unfortunately, the F14 had the wrong engines, and oddly the two countries that ever flew them at the US and Iran. The film can still be worth a watch just for cool planes and that volleyball scene.

The plot of the film is thin, and the love story is a huge breach of protocol. Take My Breath Away is played on repeat anytime Maverick and Charlie are on screen together. The sex scene is laughable and seems to have been drawn up by someone who has never actually had sex, or maybe it was just to maintain a PG rating. As you can tell I had much more interest in the love story between Iceman and Maverick.

Top Gun is a classic, but it is not very good. I suspect that the new Top Gun film will surpass the original and replace it as the defining air combat film. Tom Cruise has come a long way, though his looks remain unchanged, in the last five decades and most certainly ensures his films are of a higher standard with developed characters and plots. The original Top Gun will always maintain a place in my heart, but those memories are far better than the film is.

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