Next year will see the release of Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 movie Top Gun. Featuring the return of Tom Cruise as Maverick – the pilot who arguably helped launch his blockbuster career – the sequel will show fans of the original what the greatest naval pilot in cinematic history has been up to and how he’d adjust to a changing world.
There’s no better time than now to revisit the original movie in all of its outdated and cheesy glory, since Top Gun did not age well at all. That’s not to say that Top Gun doesn’t deserve the reverence it enjoys today, but it’s worth noting that there are parts of it that really show their age. So before Maverick and friends fly again, here’s a look back at 10 things from Top Gun that didn’t age well.
10 The Navy Recruitment Ad
When Top Gun was first released, film critic Pauline Kael lambasted the movie for being a blatant recruitment ad for the US Navy. Her sentiments were initially laughed off but time proved her right.
Today, Top Gun is often mocked for being a transparently patriotic and militaristic cheese-fest. In fact, the movie is better remembered better for the jokes it inspired rather than its actual cinematic value. There’s a reason why modern military recruitment movies like 12 Strong or American Sniper aim for the opposite of what Top Gun did.
9 The Nationless MiG Pilots
Being made in the Cold War, Top Gun is unsurprisingly patriotic and one could infer that the enemy aircraft hail from the Soviet Union. Thing is, the movie never outright states what country Maverick and company are fighting, instead referring to it as “The Enemy.”
Depending on what reading you apply, this can either be seen as the writers playing things too safe or them giving the other side of the Cold War a dehumanizing representation. All in all, this makes the enemy pilots a weak threat that’s almost non-existent up until Maverick needs to shoot something down.
8 The Fighter Jets
Though the movie had Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in the lead, the F-14 Tomcats are arguably the real stars of Top Gun. Every minute that the fighter jets are onscreen is dedicated to emphasizing how cool and state-of-the-art the might of the US Navy is.
But as the decades went by, not only were the Tomcats replaced by more advanced aircraft but fighter jets in general have been all but phased out by unmanned combat drones. Interestingly, this end of an era is a central theme in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick.
7 The Tragedy of Maverick’s Father
For the longest time, Maverick believed that his father was a disgraced pilot he had to surpass. But as it turns out, his father was a war hero whose deeds had to be erased due to bad luck and national border laws.
Top Gun may not be the first ‘80s action movie to give its hero a tragic backstory involving their family, but it solidified the melodramatic trope so much that it’s been frequently parodied. Case in point: Gary from Team America: World Police had a brother who was mauled by a bunch of gorillas at the zoo’s gorilla exhibit.
6 You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
To get Charlie’s affection, Maverick and his best friend Goose set up an elaborate singing routine that culminates in the whole bar of navy men serenading a single woman to the tune of The Righteous Brothers’ song You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.
There’s nothing wrong with the scene and it can be charming for some viewers, but it’s also one of the cheesiest sequences to unfold in Top Gun. There’s a reason why anyone who tries to seriously reenact it today would be described as “old-school” at best and “lame” at worst.
5 The Danger Zone
Top Gun is synonymous to the Kenny Loggins song Danger Zone, which plays whenever fighter jets take off or when Maverick rides his motorcycle on the way to the Top Gun academy. The track itself is great for a retro soundtrip but it’s hard to take Danger Zone seriously thanks to how the movie overuses it.
This is worse for media independent of Top Gun, where Danger Zone is almost always played in the background for comedic effect. None of this is Kenny Loggins’ fault but his most famous song is still a cheesy soundbite from a bygone decade.
4 The Volleyball Game
Top Gun may be filled with amazingly shot aerial dogfights but what people best remember the movie for are its noncombat scenes, like the volleyball match. Midway through the movie, the pilots play volleyball to kill time before Maverick meets Charlie.
Not only is the ball game unnecessary but it’s become the source of many parodies and homoerotic readings – none of which were the intent of the filmmakers. Thanks to scenes like this that ogle at the male physique, it’s almost laughable to think that Top Gun was written and filmed as an ode to conservatism and traditional masculinity.
3 Maverick and Charlie
While Maverick is actually one of the more mature ‘80s action heroes as proven by his character growth, he’s still prone to strains of immaturity. This is best seen in how he courts Charlie, who’s an instructor at Top Gun.
The worst Maverick does is give Charlie crap for not saying her staff position, despite him never asking in the first place. Their ensuing “Will They, Won’t They” romance is cheesy and predictable at best, having more in common with highschoolers’ young love than something one would expect from a serious profession like the US Navy.
2 Maverick vs Iceman
If Maverick is the cocky hotshot, Iceman is his cold law-abiding foil. Because of their differing combat philosophies and raging egos, the two clash and get on each other’s nerves more often than not.
Yet for whatever reason, grown men Maverick and Iceman insult each other with all the viciousness of angry schoolboys. Their bickering was so childish that it was expertly parodied in Hot Shots! (released only five years after Top Gun) by having their stand-ins yell “Did not!” and “Did to!” for a minute, thus perfectly recapturing the original movie’s air of animosity.
1 “You Can Be My Wingman Anytime”
After spending most of the movie on each other’s bad sides, Iceman and Maverick finally put their differences aside and become an unstoppable fighter pilot tag team. The cement this partnership by saying that they can be each other’s wingman anytime.
On film, Iceman and Maverick just declared their totally heterosexual respect for one another while most everybody in modern audiences sees this as a coded declaration of love. Top Gun was made in a time when being gay was considered subversive and even immoral by some, so seeing how badly its depiction of masculinity aged is humorously cathartic.