Top Gun (1986): One of the Best Action Flight Movies of All Time


Image provided by Skydance Media.

Tom Cruise – aka Maverick – takes to the skies once again in a 2022 reboot of Top Gun, titled Top Gun: Maverick.

With the revival of the Top Gun series coming soon with Top Gun: Maverick, it’s worth taking a look back at the original film. A classic action film from the 1980s, the crew on Top Gun worked with the best technology they could muster with the funds they had. 

Still from Top Gun: Maverick, set to release on Friday, May 27, 2022. The cast includes some members of the original cast, namely Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. (Image provided by Skydance Media.)

Top Gun introduced the fantasy of flying a supersonic aircraft in aerial combat to the public. Within a year of the film’s release, there was a 500% explosion of recruitment in the Navy. Top Gun is also a very well made movie for its time. The film features authentic F-14s, advanced visuals, as well as real aircraft carriers and training grounds. Prior to Top Gun, there weren’t any other modern military flight films.

Based on a real top-of-the-line unit called Top Gun, the film focuses on the Navy’s best combat pilots. The relationship of copilots Maverick and Goose takes centerstage as Goose is Maverick’s communication and weapons instructor. Given their brotherly relationship, it’s clear that the two pilots are the best of friends. With Maverick and Goose being the most skilled combat pilots, they become targets for competition. Given their egos, Iceman and Slider were also eager to prove their worth as pilots. They grind each other down by engaging in constant bullying.

However, only one flight crew makes it to Top Gun, and they are recognized as the best combat pilots on the planet.

 From the sky to local bars and volleyball courts, the conflict between flight crews plays out in a number of ways. For both duos, even the smallest wins are worth bragging rights as they slowly compete for the top seat in the program. One of the first tests after classroom time is a combat simulation with the instructors of a strike team consisting of two crews in F-14s. Their mission was to stay in formation and cover their wingman’s back and vice versa. Both Maverick and Goose, as well as Iceman and Slider, are looking to win and gain the top seat. The victors are likely to go down in history as the best combat pilots of modern times.

Top Gun was incredibly profitable, earning $357 million upon its release. It cost $10 million for the usage of the Navy’s assets, jets, aircraft carriers and the training airfield. The film’s production was remarkable for its time due to actual in-flight filming at high speeds. For many, this was their first up-close experience with these weapons of war.  

Movie Poster from Top Gun (1986). (ehollinshead via

Tom Cruise, who plays Maverick, became the action star that he is today because of Top Gun. In his role as Iceman, Val Kilmer also had an acting career launched due to this film. The  flight instructor, Viper, played by Tom Skerrit, is also based on an actual Top Gun instructor.

Top Gun is one of, if not the best, action flight movies of all time. It remains to be seen whether or not the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which comes out on May 27, will be as influential. With a 38-year cool down period between releases, it’s exciting to imagine a fresh installment to the franchise with higher tech equipment, more resources at their fingertips and an all-star cast that blends new faces with the old.