Top Gun – A Movie Retrospective

May 16, 2016


Top Gun was the hot movie of 1986. A love letter written about the U.S. Military, long before it was popular to portray the military in a shining light in movies. After all, the U.S. was still feeling the sting of the memory of the Vietnam war, so it was still normal to view the military with a suspicious eye. Fortunately, this military love letter was released well before the Iran-Contra affair was uncovered.

One could be forgiven for thinking this was a love letter specifically to the U.S. Air Force, because hey, jets. However, this movie focuses on the U.S. Navy. Yes, these are naval aviators, not Air Force pilots. Hence, the aircraft carrier that book-ends the movie.

This movie, more than any other, probably brought about the mass commercialization of the movie soundtrack. Let me tell you, this soundtrack has a lot of gold on it. It’s not a big soundtrack, but there is a song for every mood. Who can forget the #1 track, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins? Can you believe the band Toto was almost used to produce that track? I like to go against the grain. I think “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick is the better rock track. There are some good pop songs also, “Lead Me On” by Teena Marie and “Through the Fire” by Larry Greene being my other favorites. “Through the Fire” is still used in video game AMVs on YouTube. That’s fun.

I dislike love songs, so the other popular song of the movie, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, along with “Heaven In Your Eyes” by Loverboy never struck me as must-listen tracks, but if you’re in the mood, there they are. I found the other Kenny Loggins track, “Playing With The Boys” (volleyball theme) to be absolutely cringe-worthy. Ouch! And it comes early on, being the third track, so I could never just relax with this soundtrack. If the bad songs are at the end of the soundtrack, you can relax for all the songs you like, and then turn off the playback when it reaches the garbage, but with this soundtrack, the garbage comes right when you are settling in after the two rock anthems.

The 1999 Special Edition Soundtrack looks worthy, but the 2006 Deluxe Edition Soundtrack looks like it added random songs from the same year, that weren’t really in the movie. Bryan Adams almost added a track, but he did not like the military theme of the movie and wanted to avoid promoting the glamorization of war.

So, the movie? Arguably Tom Cruise at his pre-couch-jumping best. A run-of-the-mill hero adventure story with a decent man-versus-himself plot point in the middle. Top Gun has spawned multiple clones, parodies, and tropes that have been recycled endlessly ever since. It has been a big influence on movies and has given us a good action movie and two fun parodies.

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