Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Shirtless: Top Gun
Film critic Pauline Kael once said Top Gun wasn’t so much a movie as it was an aspiration to be the movie’s iconic movie poster. We’re not sure that’s what director Tony Scott had in mind when he made the film, but we have to agree.
We’re also not sure that Scott realized that he’d also made one of the most homoerotic films in the American canon. To recap the plot: a group of hotshot, young Airforce pilots try to survive their training–and their hormones–to become the head of their class.
That’s it. Seriously.
Top Gun isn’t as big on plot so much as pageantry: in this case, that involves lots of majestic shots of the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise, action footage of fighter planes pulling wild stunts, and 80s heartthrobs looking trim and handsome in uniform. On that final front, the movie pulls no punches. Stars Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer and Tim Robbins have seldom looked this good. For that matter, director Scott also loves to show his boys in uniform out of uniform in several locker room scenes as well as in a now-notorious game of shirtless volleyball. Scott, Cruise, and company may have thought they were making a movie to appeal to a male demographic, and they did…though probably not the male demographic they had in mind.
Indeed, producer Jerry Bruckheimer seems to have embraced Top Gun‘s gay legacy. We hope that also extends to the forthcoming sequel, which sees Cruise reprise his role next year. Even if it doesn’t, we’ll always have the original, a prime example of high-gloss 1980s cinematic bombast, complete with a memorable performance by lesbian actress Kelly McGillis in the female lead, and a soundtrack of songs that have since become staples at karaoke parties. Given that Veteran’s Day also happened this week, we think this is a great time for a rewatch.
In no universe could we ever take Top Gun seriously as a drama. Thank goodness, then, that Tony Scott–wittingly or not–made a movie about men so obsessed with masculinity they’d probably be happier peacocking about at a circuit party. When these guys talk about their cockpits and sticks…we know what they really mean.
Streams on Amazon, Hulu, iTunes & VUDU.