Top Gun (1986) Story Recap: Flying straight into your hearts – again!


‘Top Gun’ became one of the biggest commercial hits of its time. It was for the first time that audiences were seeing such an accurate, grand depiction of fighter jets in the sky. The action was truly riveting and enthralled audiences globally. The presence of a young Tom Cruise – his charm and good looks – certainly added a lot of interest from the younger demographic to the film.

Years after it was released, critics also came around to appreciate director Tony Scott for the scale of his vision and for showing modern successors the way forward to shoot such sequences and tell stories around these themes.

Almost thirty-seven years hence, a sequel is finally released. Tom Cruise returns in his original character, reprising the role of “Maverick”. This will be the first we will be seeing of him after 2018 when he was seen hanging from an airplane in ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’.

The four-year hiatus seems to have served him well, though. Most people who have seen the new ‘Top Gun’ film have called it Cruise’s best performance to date.

Well, if you have not watched the original ‘Top Gun’ yet, you are at the perfect place to get a quick story recap. This will serve as an explainer as well, explaining all the important plot points that you need to keep in mind going into the sequel. Happy reading!

Introducing Maverick and Goose: TOPGUN’s Newest Students

Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards), Aviator Lieutenant and Radio Interceptor Officer, are best buddies and fly in the same plane. We see their suave, lavish style and daring professional duties. For a minute there, the lifestyle seems to be all one could dream of. Not for long.

They’re soon called to wade off hostile approaches from an enemy combatant.¬†They team up to take on the MiGs, along with Cougar, their wingman. The tussle is tough and Cougar freezes right in the middle of the action. But Maverick isn’t one to leave his mates.

We see his true leadership skills when he defies orders to fly Cougar back to safety. Another skill that shines bright is Maverick’s unique skill with the craft. One of the manoeuvres – that we will see him pull off again in heroic fashion – is flying his plane inverted (now an iconic shot). He gets the stick for it but does not apologize for his quick decision-making.

The incident shakes Cougar up so much that his early retirement paves the way for Maverick – against his will – to attend the Fighter Weapons School, TOPGUN.

Maverick Shows his Rebellious Spirit

For someone in the defense forces, Maverick certainly acts out a lot. The first night in town brings Maverick to a bar where he tries to hit on a woman. Although he is unsuccessful in picking her up, he definitely gets a strike one as the woman, Charlotte Blackwood, is an instructor at Top Gun. His bad-boy antics in the training field continue.

Maverick jostles with another instructor, Jester Heatherly, leaving him behind and trailing during the drill.

Maverick does not heed the advice of those senior to him and faces the brunt of Chief Instructor Metcalf’s anger. Little does he know that Metcalf served with his father and notices the similarities in the way they perform and their attitudes. Although Maverick’s breaking the rules cannot be supported in the public eye, both instructors, Heatherly and Blackwood appreciate his flying skills and his courageousness.

The caveat here is to make sure that in combat, he does not break the rules of engagement to put the lives of his wingmen in danger.

Rivalry With Kazansky: Start of a Budding Friendship

Iceman Kazanksy is the nemesis every hero needs to elevate the dramatic effect in a film. Val Kilmer played the now-iconic character in the movie. He instantly develops an averseness to Maverick for his recklessness.

The other side of the coin is that Maverick does not believe in teamwork and prefers to be a lone wolf. His shortcomings surface in another training drill when Metcalf outmanoeuvres him by baiting him to take the risk and abandon his wingman. Maverick cannot help himself but take it.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, he starts a romantic relationship with Blackwood.

Iceman and Maverick are direct competitors for the school’s trophy. Their competitiveness extends to all aspects of their stay, including the training field and locker room. In one such instance, the two compete to save time in the drill to win more points.

Tragedy strikes as Maverick takes an unnecessary risk and it results in the death of his partner Goose. This event sinks him into depression and a guilt-ridden phase where he seriously thinks of quitting the force. Iceman wins the trophy due to Maverick’s loss of interest. But the larger win for him comes in the form of Maverick’s conversation with Metcalf.

He reveals that Maverick’s father was indeed a hero of the war and that it was his enterprising spirit that saved the lives of many soldiers on the ship. He urges the young aviator to not give up and get back into the field because the team needs him.

The Final Bow: Maverick’s Ultimate Test

An emergency situation arises that requires the instructors to send support from their graduating batch. Maverick and Iceman are both among those chosen, along with Hollywood. The three pilots fly F14s to take on six MiGs in hostile waters.

The tide is turned against them but their skill and courage help them stand defiant. Things do not have an optimistic start as Hollywood is shot down and Maverick is dangerously close to repeating the incident with Goose. This time, though, he is able to recover.

Iceman is left alone to fend off the enemy planes but Maverick returns to support him. In a tense battle scene, Iceman and Maverick are able to do significant damage to the enemy fleet, forcing the remaining planes to fly back and retreat. Their collaborative teamwork saves the day, finally bringing them closer to respecting each other.

In the final straw, Maverick lets go of Goose’s ashes and his guilt over his death. It gives him a big sigh of relief to have finally overcome the pain of losing his dear friend. He also accepts a role as an instructor at Top Gun, something we see in the sequel.


Thanks for reading our story recap for ‘Top Gun’. A heads up with respect to its digital release. Paramount rejected the offers it received from the likes of Netflix and Disney to sell the rights and instead, the movie will be released in the second week of July on Paramount+. Those who haven’t been able to see this film can catch it there.

What do you think of Top Gun’s story? Have we missed any crucial details in this recap? Do let us know in the comments below!

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