Tony Scott’s 1986 film, “Top Gun,” is a fun action movie that follows F-14A Tomcat pilots at the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (later re-named Fighter Tactics Instructor program) at Miramar, CA, dubbed TOPGUN. Scott based the film on a screenplay by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., who adapted an article Ehud Yonay wrote for California Magazine in 1983 titled “Top Guns.” The film follows in the tradition of Tom Wolfe’s book and Philip Kaufman’s movie, “The Right Stuff,” though without as much meditation on the nature of the “right stuff” and its downsides. The film stars Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Kelly McGillis as Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, Val Kilmer as Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, Anthony Edwards as Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, Tom Skerritt as CDR Mike “Viper Metcalf, Michael Ironside as Lt. CDR Rick “Jester” Heatherly, Tim Robbins as Lt. JG Sam “Merlin” Wells, Clarence Gilyard as Lt. JG Marcus “Sundown” Williams, and Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw.
The overall plot of “Top Gun” blends elements of 1980s action films with the plot structure of a sports movie, including use of montages and a rivalry between Maverick and Iceman. Interestingly, there is no trophy at TOPGUN as it’s a training school, but that wouldn’t make for as engaging a film without some form of conflict. Also, several of the actions throughout the film would have turned the Cold War hot had they happened in real life. Otherwise, the aerial footage is brilliant, using actual Navy planes in carefully choreographed flights. Paired with Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and Harold Faltermeyer’s soundtrack, the result is a high-octane spectacle.
The film’s legacy included the television series “JAG” (and, by extension, the “NCIS” spinoffs). In fact, early in the production of “JAG,” the television studio re-used much of the stock footage from “Top Gun” as it was still some of the best footage over a decade later. Even elements of Maverick’s backstory influenced that of Harmon Rabb in “JAG.” Further, a “Top Gun” sequel is due later this year, so this is a great way to add the original to your home movie collection.