MOTW: Why "Top Gun" Will Always Be a Classic

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
November 4th, 2013

MOTW: Why "Top Gun" Will Always Be a Classic

Over the years, the film industry has seen plenty of movies similar to "Top Gun," which became an instant cult classic when it was released in May 1986. "Air Force One," "Hot Shots," and even "Mission: Impossible" all share similarities to director Tony Scott's '80s blockbuster. However, few movies have achieved status as cult classics. "Top Gun" is still a beloved part of every movie enthusiast's library and will always be a classic.


The soundtrack for "Top Gun" is considered one of the best movie soundtracks of all time. It reached first place on the Billboard Hot 200 for five weeks in the months after its release in 1986. Many music legends contributed to the soundtrack, including Harold Faltermeyer, Kenny Loggins, Giorgio Moroder, and Tom Whitlock. When the soundtrack was re-released in 2000, two songs from the Righteous Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis were added. Several other legends were considering participating in the soundtrack, including REO Speedwagon and Bryan Adams, but Adams decided not to participate because he believed "Top Gun" glorified war, and REO Speedwagon bowed out because they wouldn't be able to record their own composition. In spite of this, the soundtrack was widely popular and received plenty of praise from critics. Few soundtracks have received the same recognition.

Award Nominations and Winnings

The massive number of awards "Top Gun" was nominated for and received have helped cement it as a classic. Most of the awards were for the film's effects and soundtrack. "Top Gun" won one of the ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards for Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures. The film also won the 1987 Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song thanks to "Take My Breath Away" by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock. The Apex Scroll Awards gave "Top Gun" an Achievement in Sound Effects award. The coveted BRIT Award for Best Soundtrack went to "Top Gun" as well. "Top Gun" also won awards at the Golden Globe and Grammy Awards for its soundtrack. However, not all of its awards were for its soundtrack. The Award of the Japanese Academy for Best Foreign Language Film went to "Top Gun," and the film won the Favorite Motion Picture award at the People's Choice Awards. "Top Gun" was nominated for many other awards, including "Best Film Editing" and "Best Effects" at the Academy Awards.

Aircraft and Cinematography

Even with its all-star cast, awards, and mesmerizing soundtrack, "Top Gun" would have been nothing without its incredible cinematography. Back when "Top Gun" was filmed, technology was still fairly limited, but the camera crew still managed to get some incredible aerial shots of fighter jets. Paramount had to pay thousands of dollars every hour whenever the aircraft had to perform any extra work, and Tony Scott himself had to pay out of his own pocket for several classic shots. Some of the stunts for "Top Gun" were incredibly dangerous even for trained professionals, and Art Scholl, a famous aerobatic pilot who worked on the film, actually lost his life performing a flat spin. "Top Gun" was dedicated to his memory. Thanks to the work done by Scholl and other talented pilots, "Top Gun" remains one of the greatest aircraft movies of all time and still captures the imaginations of aircraft enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, after the film's release, the United States Navy reported a 500 percent increase in young men who wanted to become Naval Aviators.


Of course, "Top Gun" would have probably faded away like many other '80s films if it weren't for the talented cast. "Top Gun" was one of Tom Cruise's first major films and was partially responsible for launching his career. Cruise portrayed Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young and enthusiastic Naval Aviator. Kelly McGillis also had a starring role as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood, the main love interest of Lieutenant Mitchell. Val Kilmer portrayed Lieutenant Tom "Iceman" Kasansky, a top student who was not impressed by Maverick's potentially unsafe aerial maneuvers. Anthony Edwards had the role of Lieutenant Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, Lieutenant Mitchell's radar intercept officer and closest friend. These characters have excellent chemistry and plenty of tension, bringing depth to a story that might have otherwise been all about the aircraft instead of the pilots who put their lives on the line every day.