Earlier this year, I took my mom to see Top Gun in theaters. I grew up with my mom quoting it non stop along with all her other favorite 80’s movies. It’s a movie we bonded over with a lot and one that remains one of my favorites of all time. So I saw no better film that would mark my return to theaters while simultaneously being an experience I can share with my mom on mothers day other than the 80’s classic, Top Gun!
WHY I LOVE TOP GUN
Top Gun is a movie that is before my time, but a film that I have lived with my entire life. Having a dad who was in the air force and a mom who has an affinity for the 80’s film itself, the film has been ingrained in my head for quite some time. From it’s visuals and its technical filmmaking to its quotable lines and heartfelt scenes. I love everything about it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is indeed… a masterpiece.
The term masterpiece gets thrown around pretty often. Sometimes on films that some deem aren’t worthy of the moniker. But that mostly comes from a lack of understanding for what the word means. It doesn’t mean “perfect” or “infallible”, but more so “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.” And in my opinion, Top Gun fits that description.
And maybe I’m high off seeing the movie on the big screen for the first time, but I truly feel that way. From the opening scene I felt like I was watching a Star Wars movie on opening night. To the slow buildup up of that Harold Faltermeyer score to the sound of jets engines blazing in the background, to finally seeing our first look at a F-14 Tomcat crawling through mist as it taxis on the aircraft carrier. I was in awe.
And the rest of the movie didn’t disappoint. I basically had the same ear to ear smile the entire time as I did from the beginning. From reciting the iconic quotes to anticipating the amazing flying sequences, the movie was a thrill from beginning to end.
As a kid you don’t really notice these things because you’re so engulfed in just the experience of the movie itself. But something that I’ve come to really respect in Top Gun is its cinematography. The entire film is painted with a beautiful orange sky. It really sets the tone and makes the film feel like it was set in that era. This isn’t to say the 80s had orange skies, but the color grading gives off a warm and fuzzy feeling, and that description is indicative of the fondness that people feel about that era.
And not just that, the way they shot the actual planes was masterful. They present them as these larger than life machines and make them feel almost heroic. And that only makes the pay off even greater when our heroes are seen flying them. From how they’re shot when they’re just taxi-ing on a runway to them actually flying, you never doubt that what you’re watching is 100% real.
No CGI was used and all the footage that you saw were real pilots flying those planes. They even commissioned new cameras that would show the exterior of the jets during the flying sequences. Overall, the film is just a treat to look at. Director Tony Scott was so committed to the visual style of the film that during the filming of the planes atop the aircraft carrier, Scott wrote the captain a $25,000 check so that the ship would stay its course so he could continue photographing the planes with the sunset as its backdrop.
SCORE AND SOUNDTRACK
They say a movie is just as good as its score (at least I do), and Top Gun is no exception. To accompany the beautiful visuals presented throughout the film is an equally beautiful score. And not just that, but a badass soundtrack as well. Harold Faltermeyser’s Top Gun theme is so recognizable and gives off such a heroic and inspiring sound. It plays during multiple times throughout the film and whenever it does you’re filled with as much excitement as the characters are. Whether they’re flipping the bird or buzzing the tower, when that theme hits, it’s nothing but smiles…
Faltermeyer’s score can’t get enough praise, both for his action sequences and for the smaller more emotional moments, but I’d be remised in not mentioning the killer soundtrack. With quite possibly the best 80’s soundtrack of any movie, the film is littered with back to back hits. From Teena Marie’s “Lead Me On” playing in the background as Maverick and his Navy buddies enter the bar, to Berlins “Take My Breath Away” when Maverick and Charlie make love with one another, to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” blasting on as the jets blast off with him. The soundtrack hits its beat every time…
STORY AND ACTING
On the surface, Top Gun is a cheesy 80’s action/adventure movie with hints of a ‘romcom’ in it. But to me it’s much more. In its essence Top Gun is a movie about a man who has to confront his demons. Pete Mitchel (Maverick) is a hot shot pilot who’s pride and hubris has awarded him many opportunities in life, but has also been his downfall. And it’s only until death of his best friend that Maverick is forced to confront that side of himself.
ONE OF THE BEST SCENES
This results in an emotional scene with Tom Cruise and Meg Ryan(Carole) where Maverick has to confront Goose’s wife after the death of her husband. Cruise plays this scene perfectly as Maverick approaches the room that Carole and her son are in, but stops himself in his tracks as he tries to compose himself with tears welling in his eyes. And when he finally does muster up the courage, you can tell he’s still struggling to avoid tears so he can stay strong for Carole. And when Carole says, “God, he loved flying with you, Maverick…” you can tell he’s about to break. Carole tries to do the same and comfort him, by giving him a hug, but when she touches his cheek even she can barely bare the weight of looking at Maverick because all she’s reminded of is the man she lost….
The scene is so perfect and has such little dialogue. It’s pure acting. And if you weren’t crying already, Harold Falterymeyers score kicks in to give it that final punch. I’ve always felt it doesn’t matter how well a death scene is done, it’s all about the mourning scene. And in the case of Top Gun, it’s firing on all afterburners!
I could talk about this movie for hours, I just love so much about it. Not only as a film itself, but the shared experiences it has brought me. To me its a masterpiece of a film. From great acting, to amazing action, to great comedy and romance. The film has it all. It’s exactly why you go to the theater. I’m glad I finally got the chance to see the way it was meant to be seen. On a big screen with “Danger Zone” blasting on those loud surround sound speakers! It was one of my favorite theater experiences to date. And I’m glad I got to share it with my mom. Happy (belated) Mother’s day by the way…
“You can be my wingman anytime!”
Top Gun stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Tom Skeritt, Anthony Edwards, and Meg Ryan. It was directed by Tony Scott and written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. It was released in 1986 under Paramount Pictures and was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.
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