A story of boys, toys and sunglasses, “Top Gun” was a shiny, noisy, dumb hit. When it landed in 1986, it launched Tom Cruise into the superstar stratosphere and his decades-long action-flick flight plan. Depending on your point of view, the Tony Scott-directed “Top Gun” was harmless (mindless) fun, a gung-ho commercial for the military-industrial complex, a perfect distillation of the Reagan era or — with its sweaty, bare-chested high jinks — the most delectably homoerotic movie to come out of Hollywood, maybe ever.
With many of us now in coronavirus lockdown, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott thought it was time to revisit this absurd (great? misunderstood?) blockbuster with you, our dear readers. So we invited you to watch over the weekend and share your thoughts with us.
MANOHLA DARGIS So, Tony Scott — as friends and family know him — you had never seen “Top Gun,” unbelievably. What did you think?
A.O. SCOTT Even though some of our readers have questioned my credibility as a film critic, I’m not sorry I waited so long to see “Top Gun” for the first time. Back when I was a 20-year-old undergraduate film snob, I might not have been as susceptible to its charms or as tolerant of its limitations. Seen through middle-aged eyes, the movie takes on an extra glow of nostalgia, and also looks much stranger than it might have on a night out at the multiplex in 1986.
I’m intrigued by how divisive it still is, based on the comments we’ve received. They range from “What a bunch of hooey” to “landmark of cinematic excellence.” The glorification of the American military was inspiring to some, off-putting to others. One reader, Cheryl from Fullerton, Calif., remembered that “30 years ago this film blew me away” only to find it “trite, misogynistic and actually boring” when she rewatched it with her grandsons.
That a movie so well known can provoke such divergent responses after so many years is a sign that it’s still alive. I have no doubt that we’ll get into the sexual politics and the homoerotic … can we even call it a subtext? There are a lot of themes to unpack!