Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

In the aftermath of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and Tom Cruise inventing karaoke, Charlie is impressed by Maverick’s singing, but gently brushes him off. Maverick doesn’t take “no” easily, so he follows Charlie into the ladies’ bathroom. Conveniently, Charlie has finished her bathroom business and is not still in the stall, mid-fart, when Maverick comes in. Since this is a movie, she unleashes a few quips in his direction rather than a gallon of pepper spray.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

Any chance for romance is quashed the next day when it’s revealed that Charlie is one of Top Gun’s instructors.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

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Any normal person would sink into their chair and pray to L. Ron Hubbard that Charlie didn’t notice them or make a comment about the failed flirtation or bathroom stalking, but not Maverick. He finds a way to brag about how he flew an inverted dive with a MiG-28 and flipped the other pilot the finger. The other pilots don’t believe Maverick, and think he’s just bluffing.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

Aviation Cowboy is not impressed.

However, Charlie recognizes the story, and is finally impressed, so she takes Maverick aside to say she’d like to hear more about the MiG sometime. Maverick flirts with her a little before heading off to his training exercises.

Maverick and Goose win their mock battle against some guy named Jester, and to celebrate, Maverick does an unauthorized flyby of the tower. Obviously, this lands him and Goose in hot water with Viper. Viper isn’t just mad about the flyby stunt; he points out that Maverick and Goose broke two major rules of engagement in their mock battle. Viper warns them that if they mess up again, they’ll be kicked out of Top Gun.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

That evening, Goose goes to Maverick’s room and tells him they need to get serious, because Goose wants to graduate from Top Gun and provide a good life for his family. Wow, sounds like he’s got a suspiciously lot to live for. He also delivers some exposition about how Maverick feels pressure because his father, Duke Mitchell, was also a great pilot. “It’s like you’re flying against a ghost and that makes me nervous,” Goose says.

Maverick promises that he won’t let Goose down anymore. (Heh, goose down.)

The next day, Charlie catches Maverick when he’s making up flight patterns or something (I really don’t understand the aviation aspects of this movie). She suggests that he pull back a certain move because it’s too aggressive. Maverick says, “Yeah, I guess when I see something I want, I go after it.”

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

“Could you not go ‘after it’ in the ladies room, though?”

Maverick knows that she wants to go out with him, but Charlie insists she doesn’t date students. However, she slips him a note inviting him to dinner at her house that evening. And now I know why men are always complaining about women’s mixed signals.

Speaking of mixed signals, the movie kills time between the invitation and the actual date with the #2 most famously homoerotic scene of the 1980s: Tom Cruise vs. Val Kilmer at beach volleyball.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

Pictured: #1

Over at Charlie’s house, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” plays in the background, so we’re all assured this is a strictly heterosexual scene. Maverick attempts to get the sex going by asking if he can take a shower (*bow chick-a wow wow*) while Charlie cooks, and Charlie is like, “This is not a porno. We’re actually going to have a coherent conversation before we get to the sex stuff.”

Over dinner, Charlie explains that she’s up for a promotion that would take her away from Top Gun, so it wouldn’t be a conflict of interest if she and Maverick boned. Maverick tells Charlie about how his father was shot down in an undisclosed incident, and the Navy wrote it off as a pilot error, because that’s the sort of thing that happened all the time in the Cold War. Sadly, naked snuggles do not ensue.

The next day, Maverick bumps into Charlie in the elevator, and she tells him how under no circumstances can she date a student, and she only invited Maverick over to dinner to ask him about the MiG-28. However, “Take My Breath Away” plays again in the background, so you know she’s into him and he’s into her.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

Okay, this isn’t them looking very lovey-dovey, but I just thought Charlie’s outfit in this scene was cute.

In class, the subject of the day is Maverick’s MiG maneuver. Charlie asks what he was thinking at the time, and Maverick replies that he wasn’t. “You don’t have time to think up there,” he says. “You think–you’re dead.”

Charlie announces to the class that while Maverick’s move was a success, it’s an example of what not to do. An angry Maverick storms off after class, but Charlie chases after him. She admits she’s impressed by Maverick’s flying skills, but couldn’t admit it in class, lest everyone figure out that she’s fallen for him. And finally, after “Take My Breath Away” plays for the fifty millionth time in the background, those two crazy kids have a slow, sensual, blue-lit ’80s sex scene.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

Or maybe they’re doing interpretive dance; I can’t quite tell.

Top Gun training is halfway over, and Iceman is in the lead for the Top Gun Trophy, with Maverick in second place. On their next combat test, Maverick’s hopes to move up are dashed when he finds out he’s up against Top Gun Instructor Viper. They’re supposed to be protecting some guy named Hollywood, but Maverick insists on going off course to take out Viper.

Maverick matches Viper move for move, but realizes too late that Viper’s wingman, Jester, has caught them from behind. Maverick and Goose lose the fight, much to their disappointment. In the locker room, Iceman tells Maverick that he’s too reckless and too individualistic to be a great fighter pilot.

Maverick and Charlie then join Goose, his wife Meg Ryan, and their son for lunch.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 2 of 3)

As Maverick and Goose play around on the diner’s piano (why does a diner have a piano, anyway?), Meg Ryan tells Charlie that Maverick is in love with her. “I should know, I’ve been in over a dozen rom-coms,” she says.

Part 3 of this recap coming soon!

Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

Multi-Part Article: Top Gun: a recap

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  • Dex_Meridian

    Wow, when it’s outlined like this, I finally realize how much the romance in this movie totally stops the training plot cold.
    Also, personally, I’ve always found that sex scene (and the one upcoming after the diner) to be so absurdly bombastic. The overcooked lighting and music ranks this somewhere in between the on-screen sex depicted in the “hallelujah” scene from Watchmen and Tommy Wiseau’s butt gyrations in The Room.

  • Gallen Dugall

    “Since this is a movie, she unleashes a few quips in his direction rather than a gallon of pepper spray.”
    And that’s why we don’t need bathroom legislation.
    “I really don’t understand the aviation aspects of this movie”
    Don’t worry, neither does the movie.
    “the Navy wrote it off as a pilot error, because that’s the sort of thing that happened all the time in the Cold War”
    Actually during the Cold War they would write losses during covert ops off as “training accident”
    “Pilot error” was the phrase they used for both “catastrophic design flaw” to save the manufacturer from getting sued, and actual pilot error.

  • ussafs3

    It’s true at Top Gun there’s no trophy for second place. There’s also no trophy for FIRST place. The real TOPGUN (one word) is not a competition for title “best of the best.” Its function is to teach advanced aerial combat techniques to top pilots, who in turn then go back to their squadrons and pass on what they learned to their squadron mates. Maverick NEVER would have been selected if for no other reason his whole “Lone Wolf McQuade” act makes him a poor candidate to teach anything to anybody. And after his ass was grounded for the FIRST “flyby” he would have been re-earning his carrier qualifications, not running off to school. After the second, his ass would have been out of TOPGUN and probably out of naval aviation.

    Somebody could write a book on all the continuity errors, procedural errors, factual errors, and just bullshit in this movie, i.e. F-14 radar scopes don’t have a rotating sweep trace, the radar is in the nose and only looks forward in about a 30 degree sweep; the “hard deck” for their first hop is 10,000 feet and they show the planes flying about 50 feet off the ground: back then TOPGUN trained over the Imperial Valley, which is at sea level; Goose gets killed hitting the canopy while ejecting: The ejection seat has a headrest higher than your head in case the canopy doesn’t eject, so you can eject THROUGH IT, and the canopy would have been a mile or so behind them when they actually ejected.

    True or not, back in the 80s rumor was the whole love story was tacked on because the studio execs thought the movie was the most homoerotic thing ever made by a major studio. Regardless it sure FEELS tacked on. Another rumor was the romance was added so women would have a reason to go see the movie. If seeing Tom Cruise and more oiled-up beefcake outside a Chippendale’s didn’t entice the female element, seeing The Cruiser sex up the mom from “Witness” sure wasn’t going to do it. Regardless, both times I sat through this in a theater full of sailors, when Charlie gives her “I’ve fallen for you” speech, the entire audience said “oh, puh-leez!” Yes I hate this movie, not because it’s so schmaltzy, but because it gets nearly every technical detail wrong.

    • Dex_Meridian

      Yes, thank you! For years I’ve been laughing at Goose’s death, and people watching with me have probably thought I was a psychopath. But I was laughing at the idea that his ejection seat somehow propelled him upward into the canopy at a velocity faster than that of the supersonic jet fighter’s path (however wonky that flat spin would have been).
      If I remember right, Viper actually cites the many RIO deaths during Vietnam from this type of thing. Since it sounds like you have a history with the Navy, if not Naval Aviation, can you confirm if that’s total BS?

      • ussafs3

        Most cases where pilots or backseaters died ejecting were due to things like hitting the aircraft or faulty seats. The navy didn’t standardize on Martin-Baker ejection seats until the late 1960s and a lot of planes used manufacturer-designed or procured seats that weren’t reliable. Up until the 1970s ejecting was a crapshoot. I think the first 20 or so pilots to eject from F-86s in Korea were all killed. Ejection seats made in the 60s were intended for high-altitude supersonic escapes that almost never occur. The navy began using “zero-zero” seats (zero altitude/zero airspeed) because over 90% of navy ejections occur during launch or recovery.

        About the only thing the movie got right is they really did train against A-4 Skyhawks and F-5s (which played the MiG-28s) to learn Dissimilar Air Combat Training, which they started because F-4 Phantoms were getting smoked by MiG-17s which were two generations older. I think aggressor squadrons fly F-16s now. Also TOPGUN is in Fallon, Nevada.

        That dive bar that stood in for the officers club was on the strip outside the main naval base. It was a real shithole.

        • Greenhornet

          Allow me to add to the ejection death matter.
          I was in the AirForce in the late seventies as a SP (Security Police). During the Cheyenne rodeo celebration, the Thunder Birds performed. Whe it was done, they flew out, but one of the F4’s engines quit during take-off. The pilot ejected OK, but the Crew Chief ejected AHEAD of the plane (They said) and was smashed. The fighter itself plowed between two trailers parked at the fairgrounds but luckily hit nothing. My squadron, the 90thSPS, was assigned to guard the wreckage.
          After the investigation, the plane was used by the FE Warren af base fire fighters for training.

    • Olaf_the_Lofty

      Very interested (and not all that surprised) to learn that this film is technically a load of rubbish. I have *no military experience*, but I understand that one of the crucial lessons is to be part of a whole and co-operate, not go out for individual glory. One of the reasons the Romans were successful is that their army was disciplined instead of just being a lot of people who charged at the enemy with their own ideas. Hollywood, though, has “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

  • Gaurav

    What I was exactly thinking while watching the movie:
    What does she want?
    Let’s connect intellectually and then we can get naked.
    Let dim the lights, so that it looks more romantic!

    And now I know why men are always complaining about women’s mixed signals.
    “This is not a porno. We’re actually going to have a coherent conversation before we get to the sex stuff.”
    “Take My Breath Away” plays for the fifty millionth time in the background, those two crazy kids have a slow, sensual, blue-lit ’80s sex scene.

    I think you have expressed your views in a way what most people would have thought off.

  • Greenhornet

    Let’s remake this tripe. Only instead of falling in love with “the hero”, the lady instructor opens her class with this:
    “Well, well. Another batch of starry-eyed hot shots who all think they have telephone poles for dicks. I like to start the first class by telling you Richard Bong wanna-bes a little trivia to put you in the proper mood for the task ahead: the ‘Red Barron’ was killed by a single shot from an infantryman’s rifle.”

    • Dex_Meridian

      I desperately want a remake where the investigation into Goose’s death and the accident just becomes the surprise third act of the movie. Out of nowhere, this high-octane action movie shifts gears and becomes a military courtroom drama.
      Iceman has to testify against Maverick, but he feels guilty about his involvement and his unrequited crush on Maverick. Viper reveals Maverick’s father’s history in court, making it public record and ending Viper’s career. This would give the movie actual stakes. After all, this is a movie where a husband and father DIES in a training accident, and the most stakes that the movie can drum up is Maverick’s shattered confidence.

      • ussafs3

        I wanna see a remake where at the end Maverick and Ice start making out since that’s where the movie seemed headed before they tacked the “romance” on. Call it “Brokeback Flight Deck.”

        • Greenhornet

          I’m furiously scribbling all this down…

  • Tyche

    What do you mean homoerotic? The beach volleyball scene is the primary reason why my friends and I loved this movie back in the day (ok, that and the cool planes). How could you not have a picture of it??? Not one of us girls gave a crap about the stupid romance plot.

    Also, even as teenage girls we had the sense to suspect something was funny with the whole killed while ejecting thing.

    I wish they would remake this movie, so long as it still has the beach volleyball scene. I guess now a days Maverick would have to be a woman, though. They did it to Starbuck, after all.