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Top Gun: 9 Thoughts I Had While Rewatching The Original Movie

Maverick close-up in Top Gun
(Image credit: Paramount+)

With Top Gun: Maverick currently taking over the box office in such a dominating way that isn’t fully surprising anyone — even if Tom Cruise’s titular character is used to only topping out at second place — many moviegoers across the country have spent a little time reconnecting with Tony Scott’s beloved original and all of its ‘80s glory. Having not watched Top Gun in its entirety in the past 15-20 years or so, I popped my nickname-emblazoned helmet on and jumped right into that Navy-sponsored bandwagon with gusto. (The 1986 classic available to stream with a Paramount+ subscription.) And, I was happy to find out the high-flying drama was nearly as enjoyable today as it was when I’d previously watched, which may or may not have involved the use of a VCR.

Of course, because I’m around two decades older than I was the last time I watched, and maybe five years more mature, my thoughts on Top Gun passed through a slightly different filter, even though some of those musings were likely similar to ones I’d had years ago. Without further ado, let’s embark down this reflection-filled highway to the danger zone…well, maybe not all the way into the danger zone, but somewhere on the outskirts. 

Iceman shirtless in the locker room in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Val Kilmer’s Iceman Is Top Gun’s True Protagonist 

In a military-geared movie like Top Gun, the true enemy is always going to be “another country’s soldiers,” but Val Kilmer’s Iceman is supposed to be seen as the central antagonist. On the one hand, it’s understandable, because Kilmer’s Tom Kazansky is so smugly confident, with a toothy smile whose core purpose is to gnaw through Mav's thin skin. 

But, that’s really about as far as his villainous behavior goes, because otherwise, Iceman essentially just dishes out good advice and repeatedly calls Maverick out for being a danger to himself and his fellow pilots. Plus, Iceman stayed on top of the rankings throughout the process, and in the film’s climactic sequence, he was out-maneuvering five different enemy planes at once ahead of Maverick “saving” him. Kilmer’s pilot got robbed as hard as any wrongly presented movie character ever has. Thankfully, the sequel gives Iceman his due in a certain sense, but I'm still going to start a #ReleaseTheIcemanCut campaign.

Maverick in the cockpit in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

I'd Never Make It Into Top Gun If I Had A Zillion Years Of Practice 

Considering I’m sitting here writing this article as opposed to breaking sound barriers in taxpayer-funded aircraft, it’s probably obvious that I’m not wearing a patch-covered jacket indicative of a decorated Naval pilot, due to not being a decorated pilot in any capacity. 

And, even though I know the real-life duties and responsibilities required dwarf the entirety of what we see happening in Top Gun — even if Tom Cruise is all about learning the craft himself — the movie’s events alone were enough to confirm that my handwriting probably isn’t even good enough to make it through that program. Give me a Top Gun video game, though, and…well, it would take a long time, but I could probably do okay with it, if it’s not THAT hard. 

Cougar sweating in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Characters Sweat At Troubling Levels All Too Often 

Even during some of its peak machismo moments, Top Gun is a fairly stressful movie that puts a lot of its characters through dire and sometimes life-threatening circumstances. I have to think the creative team felt that the best way to show off that distress without verbalizing it was to make it appear as if everyone just escaped an angry thunderstorm. 

James Tolkan as Commander Stinger in particular deserves some sort of ever-glistening award for his efforts. It’s 100% most apparent during scenes within the aircraft carrier, where all visible skin implied an epidemic of dehydration was imminent. One early sign of swampy and un-towel-able things to come was John Stockwell’s Cougar, both in the cockpit and when he was turning in his wings (as seen above). I know it’s not all real perspiration, mind you, but specifically within the fictional narrative, it’s pretty fucking weird for people everywhere to just sweat buckets out of their necks without wiping anything off, but then nobody’s suffering from their neck being all chafed from wet collars.

Maverick and Goose singing in bar in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Maverick’s Bar Serenade Remains Charming, Despite All Logic 

Looking past the dubiousness of an entire bar singing at a woman in the hope of one of them getting booty, and not thinking about how many other times Mav and Goose pulled that move in other (probably far less savory) locations, Top Gun’s use of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” still rocks. For most of my life, that song has instantly brought Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards to mind, with the group’s too-quick rendition just adding to the charm. I still think Kelly McGillis’ Charlie should have been around 70% less into it from the jump, but maybe it’s just because I haven’t had an entire bar singing directly at me out of nowhere.  

Maverick smiling in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

“Take My Breath Away” Is Both The Best And Worst Song Cue 

While we’re on the subject of music, Top Gun also turned Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” into a chart-topper, as it was rather iconically used during the film’s “sex” scene, which was really the “open-mouth tongue-tapping” scene. Can’t dispute how well-done that was, so good going, everyone. Bu-u-u-ut, that signature synth bassline quickly became a parody of itself every time it crept up elsewhere. By the end, it tapped into the same synonymous vibe as the “boww-chicka-bowwow” guitar lick of ‘70s porn. But I still kinda loved it every time? Plus, to say nothing of Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” serving as Top Gun: Maverick’s romantic hook, I did miss the synth during Tom Cruise’s scenes with Jennifer Connelly’s Penny. 

Maverick pretending not to hear Charlie in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Maverick Can Be A Real Turd 

I won’t directly echo the above thought that Iceman is a better Top Gun hero than Maverick, but I will expound upon the idea that Maverick is a total shithead sometimes. In watching the movie with my eleven-year-old daughter, I found myself wanting to tell her “You realize that Charlie is making the wrong choices here by playing into this ego-driven dude’s childish bullshit, right?” 

The number of times characters say “Goddammit!” because of Maverick’s actions would be more genuinely endearing in a movie whose protagonist was a winner amongst adversaries, instead of a narcissist amongst qualified professionals trying to thwart him from destroying expensive planes and people’s lives. Tom Cruise’s smile goes a long way, though.

Goose singing in sunglasses in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Goose’s Peer Pressure Skills Ultimately Killed Him As Much As Anything 

Over the years, I’d truly forgotten how much of a backseat influence Goose had on Maverick before his tragic death, and viewed him as more of a kindhearted innocent. I’m not victim-blaming here, but goddamn, Goose was absolutely guilty of goading Maverick and stoking his ego during their scenes together. Even the moments where Goose questioned his BFF quickly morphed into “Git ‘em, Mav!” rally cries, including his final flight. Had they not been feeding off of each other’s ramped-up intentions to show Iceman up, things wouldn’t have gone so fatally awry. Goose could have probably done more good than harm by talking sense into Maverick every so often, but nobody likes to talk about that, because Goose fucking rocks.

Cmdr Viper in baseball cap in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

I Wish Tom Skerritt Characters Were My Dad 

No matter who Tom Skerritt plays, from small town sheriff to Congressman to Naval Commander, that character will be known as a rule-enforcer first and foremost, but one with compassion to spare at the end of the day. And no disrespect to my own father — R.I.P. — but I feel like he’d agree that a Tom Skerritt character could probably do as well, if not better, than he did. Even when the actor is playing a truly ruthless character, I’m still projecting empathy onto him, so it still counts. 

Goose's dog tags in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Every Bit Of Mourning In Goose’s Name Is Justified 

For all the bazillions of cinematic deaths that have taken place in the past century, rare is it for characters to be given the time to formally grieve, at least in movies that aren’t specifically known for being grief-heavy dramas. But, Top Gun thankfully does right by its co-lead, and it’s legitimately surprising how much screen time (relatively speaking) is devoted to Maverick being bummed out that Goose is gone while dealing with the aftermath. 

Obviously, the Goose of it all is at the heart of the sequel, with Miles Teller playing his son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, which only bolsters the attention paid to mourning his death in the original film. You know what the best thing about Top Gun is? If you stop watching it halfway through, Goose never dies. 

Now that the original film has been completely recontextualized, or something slightly less dramatic sounding, everyone can feel free to go and witness the majesty of Top Gun: Maverick in theaters everywhere in just about every kind of format imaginable, and you cannot go wrong with a D-Box ticket in this case.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.