A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Top Gun is a blockbuster thriller that's chock full of narrow escapes, chases, and battles -- just what older tweens and teens love to see. But parents beware: There are also some violent and upsetting scenes, chiefly the death of a main character, which make it intense for younger kids (especially in the 3-D version). There's one graphic-for-its-time sex scene, though no nudity, and in one iconic scene, there are quite a few naked male torsos on a beach volleyball court. Winning is the most important thing to all the pilots, who try to intimidate one another with plenty of posturing and banter -- though when push comes to shove, loyalty and friendship have important roles to play, too. While sexism is quite noticeable, two strong female characters help keep some of the objectification in check.
What's the story?
TOP GUN centers around Maverick (Tom Cruise), a troubled, cocky fighter pilot who's one of the best in the country. When another pilot loses his confidence in a standoff with an enemy MiG, Maverick and his buddy, Goose (Anthony Edwards), get the chance of a lifetime -- to attend the Top Gun Naval Flying School in Miramar, Calif. There, Maverick meets and tries to woo Charlie (Kelly McGillis); takes on his rival, Iceman (Val Kilmer), at the flying tests; and comes to terms with the mysterious death of his father, a naval fighter pilot whose death details have been kept confidential. But can Maverick temper his loose-canon ways to win the competition -- and the girl -- and cope with the death of someone close to him?
Is it any good?
Made at the peak of Tom Cruise's career in the 1980s, Top Gun is still exciting to watch. Here, Cruise really is a star in the best sense of the word, and the film is so well directed and acted that you forget his celebrity. For all the serious drama in this film, Top Gun is also heavy on explosions and charisma. Adults of a certain age will remember how this film spawned a fashion movement of aviator glasses and bomber jackets and what a huge star Cruise legitimately was.
More than The Color of Money or the Mission: Impossible franchise, Top Gun is the film in which Cruise proved that he could play more than an arrogant jerk with a killer smile. Cruise imbues Maverick with so much warmth and depth that you can't help rooting for him.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether they believe the moral of the story: "There are no points for second place." Is winning all that matters? What would you jeopardize to win?
Who do you think Top Gun is aimed at, audience wise? How do you think it might be different if it had been made today?
Do you think it was right for Charlie to pursue a romantic relationship with Maverick?
- In theaters: May 16, 1986
- On DVD or streaming: February 19, 2013
- Cast: Kelly McGillis, Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer
- Director: Tony Scott
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity and mild sexuality and peril
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.