It may not have been his first movie, but if it wasn’t for Top Gun then I don’t think Tom Cruise would be as big a star as he is today. This film made Cruise a household name in 1986 and for the rest of the Eighties he was one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors.
Top Gun itself has also made itself part of popular culture history, at the time making Aviator sunglasses and bomber jackets cool and making the phrase “I feel the need… The need for speed” a much quoted line. It also got a generation of kids interested in becoming a fighter pilot, and is probably where a lot of people got their inspiration from when coming up with a cool sounding nickname when playing video games online!
Looking at the film today it still holds up well, mainly due to the fact that the footage of the jet planes flying about is actually jet planes flying about, not model shots or as it would be today, computer generated images. Indeed the film makers even managed to convince the US Navy to fire two real missiles, such were the lengths they went to for realism.
Of course Top Gun is still packed full of cliches, such as the will they-won’t they love affair of Cruise’s Maverick and Kelly McGillis’ flight instructor Charlie, and the doomed pilot Goose, who was so obviously going to die once his wife (played by Meg Ryan) turned up on the scene. Were these things cliches before Top Gun came along? Probably, but now whenever you see such a plot line in a film or TV show (whether serious or intended as a parody) you start to think about Top Gun.
Top Gun even inspired a duo of parody films in the form of Hot Shots and Hot Shots Part Deux, the former of which was pretty much a remake of Top Gun but with every scene being parodied in some way or another.
Besides all the macho fighter pilot action and tense battles of testosterone fuelled battles between Maverick and his rival Iceman (Val Kilmer) the film will also be remembered for having a great soundtrack, with Cruise’s version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and Goose’s rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” being part of the actual plot, and power ballard “Take My Breath Away”, which won the film’s only Oscar, working brilliantly as the theme tune to the film.