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Movies to See Before the World Ends: Top Gun

By  · Published on March 30th, 2012

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained.

The Film: Top Gun (1986)

The Plot: Two renegade fighter pilots, the now iconic Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards), are selected to hone their skills as pilots (and as men) at an elite program known as: Top Gun. Veritable underdogs, Maverick and Goose find themselves testing their talent against advisories like Ice Man (Val Kilmer), their charm against love interests like Charlie (Kelly McGillis) and learning from veteran pilots like Viper (Tom Skerritt), all while discovering what it truly means to be the best of the best.

The Review: Released in 1986, this movie is ’80s through and through from Charlie’s hair to the slight acid wash on the guy’s jeans to the music (provided by the ever pulse pounding Kenny Loggins.) Top Gun is first and foremost an action film full of intense airborne combat sequences and while the pilots are learning within the “safe” confines of a training school, the stakes once they are above sea level are no joke. There are moments of humor and heart, but overall this film lives in the intense moments in the cockpit as these pilots make rapid fire decisions, switching between guns or missiles, to either win the Top Gun trophy or (even more serious) a battle they get called up to fight in.

Top Gun does not shy away from the heavier moments that deal with death, identity and finding your place in this world, but never does so in a heavy-handed way. Maverick is a rebel who acts like he answers to no one, but it becomes clear that his behavior stems from feeling like he has a safety net to fall back into. Once that safety net is compromised, you see how much a person can change when they feel like they have lost everything (a good lesson to have imparted on us as we find ourselves poised to face the same.)

Many jokes have been made (and I’m sure will continue to be made) about director Tony Scott’s penchant for scenes featuring these buff boys sans shirts, whether it be on the volley ball court or in the locker room, but as a lady who is a fan of the lads, I can’t say I have any complaints about Scott’s choices and these scenes are part of what make Top Gun what it is – a fun movie that is cheesy enough to keep its popcorn pedigree while still delivering some kick-ass action.

Yes – there are questionable undertones to Maverick and Goose’s best friendship and Maverick and Ice Man’s rivalry, but all jokes aside, Scott succeeded in creating a film about elite navy pilots that even those who have never been in a plane before can relate to. Those of us who are ’80s babies probably have a nostalgic place in our hearts for this film and if anything, you can spend two hours in the salad days of pre-crazy Cruise and pre-kilo packed Kilmer.

But why spend 98 minutes watching this film when you only have 494,127 minutes left to live?

As we prepare for the end, it is important to reflect back on where we have been (you know – the ‘80s.) Top Gun teaches us that sometimes you have to grab life by the balls (of fire) and buzz the tower, but it also imparts good life advice (“I’m not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass – a good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned”) and helps prepare us for our inevitable mortality (“First one dies, you die too, but there will be others, you can count on that.”) On the surface, it may seem like a goofy movie with throw away lines, over the top love scenes, silly call signs (Cougar, Merlin, Hollywood, Jester) and Edwards pretending to play the piano, but at its core, it is an engaging (pun!) story about what honor and courage really mean – two traits we will need as our world comes to an end. Plus all guys should take a tip from Maverick and serenade a lady in a bar with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” at least once before all is said and done.

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