It’s almost 29 years to the date since Tom Cruise took to the skies in Top Gun as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a justifiably arrogant Navy fighter pilot with a massive chip on his shoulder who was stuck living in his dead father’s shadow.
Along for every takeoff, dive and tailspin is Goose (Anthony Edwards), his right-hand man and best friend who joins him in the Top Gun program.
The film quickly goes from being a campy, cheesy 1980s action flick (with the best-damned beach volleyball scene ever filmed) to an inexplicably serious film about personal loss, accountability, and perseverance.
In between the air combat sequences and love scenes between Maverick and Charlie (Kelly McGillis), they managed to fit in some nice one-liners and dialogue, though. So here’s a list of the best lines from Top Gun:
“Watch the birdie!” – Goose
One of the best laughs of the film came early, when we’re first introduced to Paul “Maverick” Mitchell as a talented pilot who likes to showboat from time to time. This time around, he flies upside-down above another plane and flips them the bird to get a small sliver of victory since he can’t, you know, shoot them down in a simulation. His RIO, Goose, takes a picture to remember the special moment.
“But you remember one thing. You screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.” – Stinger
For every overconfident showboat you have to have a stern disciplinarian that’s constantly dealing with their mess. It’s a movie rule, and in Top Gun, that role is claimed by the CAG aboard Maverick and Goose’s ship that goes by the name of Stinger. After giving them the chance of a lifetime, he warns them to not mess it up and feigns reluctance even though he’s secretly proud of the two free-spirited fly-boys.
“It just doesn’t seem fair. To you, I mean. But, she’s lost that loving feeling.” – Maverick
This is our first time meeting Charlie, a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy and the immediate object of Maverick’s affection. Instead of using the same, boring “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” approach every other Joe Schmoe in the bar would, Maverick takes it one step further. Group participation points for everyone!
“So, you’re the one.” – Charlie
In just four short words, we see Charlie realize that the young, talented pilot she’s heard so much about is the same one that got an entire bar to play wingman. But for those in the know, which is only three people at this point, this means more. It means that Charlie’s impressed.
“Look, man, I know it’s tough for you. They wouldn’t let you in the academy because you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid. You have to live with that reputation. But it’s like every time we go up there you’re flying against a ghost. It makes me nervous.” – Goose
Goose, Maverick’s closest friend and confidant is used as he should here. To tell us things about Maverick that he’s too proud to explain right out. We get a brief, straight to the point explanation as to why Maverick’s such a risk-taking overachiever. There was really no simpler way to say it.
“I feel the need… [in unison with Goose] the need for speed!” – Maverick
Do you feel it? Don’t pretend like you haven’t used that line a hundred times.
“If you think, you’re dead.” – Maverick
Applicable all over the place.
“Bodies working overtime. […] Playing with the boys!” – Kenny Loggins
Not technically a line in the film, but who cares? No way the volleyball scene wasn’t gonna make it into this.
“I can see it’s dangerous for you. But if the government can trust me, maybe you could.” – Maverick
This is a pickup line that everyone that works for the government should use, at least once, maybe more. That goes all the way from the members of the military to mailmen. It’s worth a shot. It’s also a solid argument that you can’t really get around. It also doesn’t hurt to have a face like Tom Cruise has.
“I see some real genius in your flying, Maverick, but I can’t say that in there. I was afraid that everyone in that TACTS trailer would see right through me. And I just don’t want anyone to know that I’ve fallen for you.” – Charlie
As a practice, action movies from the 1980s and 1990s devoted a lot of time to having the hero and their love interest play a stubborn game of romantic chicken to se who breaks first. Top Gun is no different. In this scene, Charlie is the first to break. After all of the flirting and staring into each other’s eyes with “Take My Breath Away” constantly playing in the background, it’s about damn time.
“Maverick, it’s not your flying, it’s your attitude. The enemy is dangerous. But right now, you’re worse than the enemy. You’re dangerous and foolish. You may not like the guys flying with you, they may not like you, but whose side are you on?” – Iceman
You know, it’s often hard to hear the truth. And it’s even harder to hear the truth when it’s coming from the person you like least. Val Kilmer’s Iceman was Maverick’s rival and the only other pilot that was even in his league. But scenes like this show that he wasn’t all that bad. He just walked around with a dogmatic sense of entitlement and a competitive edge that Maverick couldn’t ignore.
“I’ve known Pete for a lot of years now and one thing’s for certain. There are hearts breaking wide open all over the world tonight. [Charlie: Why?] Because, unless you are a fool, that boy is off the market. He is 100 percent prime-time in love with you.” – Carole
So it’s not just me, right? Other people realize how much Maverick and Charlie are caught up in their 1986 movie romance too? After making Maverick look pretty bad in front of Charlie for his past dating habits, Carole makes up for it without him even knowing it.
“Great balls of fire!” – Maverick and Goose
It was a calling card, war cry, and verbal celebration often shared between Maverick and Goose. It came completely to life as we get a few seconds of the two singing it live in a bar. Little did we know this would be the last time we ever saw Goose happy.
“First one dies, you die to. But there will be others. You can count on it. You gotta let him go. You gotta let him go.” – Viper
Viper pretty much claimed the role of Maverick’s stand-in father figure after referencing his relationship with his father, not once, but twice. After the untimely passing of Goose in a freak flying accident, Viper attempts to console a grieving Maverick. Arguably not the best approach given that he just died what seems to be a few hours ago. But at least he tried.
“You! You’re still dangerous. You can be my wingman anytime.” – Iceman
“Bullsh*t, you can be mine.” – Maverick
After everything they’ve been through — the fights, the growth, the secret support — Iceman and Maverick are finally able to put their differences aside and celebrate their mutual victory.
“Top Gun?! God help us!” – Stinger
Stinger gives Maverick his approval, in his own Stinger way, after finding out that he’s going to teach the next generation of fighter pilots as an instructor at Top Gun.
“This could be complicated. You know, on the first one, I crashed and burned. [Charlie: And on the second?] I don’t know, but it’s looking good so far.”
In all honesty, Top Gun is a romantic comedy masquerading as an action film. The stars of our love story were Maverick and Charlie. After all of the ups and downs of their secret, but not really secret, relationship, the two come back together to close out the film, calling on the conversation they had when they first met.