Tom Cruise's 'Top Gun' still soars high three decades later

Tom Cruise was playing Ethan Hunt in the “Mission Impossible” films for almost a quarter-century and has become well-known for doing his own stunts.

But there was a time when he was an up-and-coming young star in the 80s with hits such as “The Outsiders” and “Risky Business.”

Generations of fans will name 1986's “Top Gun” his most iconic performance as naval Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is stationed aboard the USS Enterprise.

Maverick is not your basic lieutenant, as he is known for his adventurous attitude and the “need for speed.”

Maverick and his radar intercept officer, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, played by Anthony Edwards, are sent to train at the Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun, at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego after a near-disastrous interception with two hostile MiG-28s.

Cougar, Maverick's wingman, was too shaken to land his jet and Maverick defied his superior's orders to shepherd Cougar back to the carrier. Citing the newborn child he had not seen yet, Cougar gives up his wings.

The film's excellent supporting cast includes Kelly McGillis as Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, Val Kilmer as Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky and Tom Skerritt as Cdr. Mike “Viper” Metcalf.

The day before training begins, Maverick approaches Charlie at a bar and learns the next day that she is an astrophysicist and civilian Top Gun instructor.

When she hears about his inverted maneuver, she becomes interested in him, thanks to his flying skills and even though she objects to his recklessness, they eventually begin a romantic relationship.

For 1986, the action sequences and aerial stunts are some of the best in movie history. If you remember watching “Top Gun” in theaters, you knew how immersive all of the flying sequences were. You felt that you actually were up in the air with Maverick and crew.

For a lot of fun the film brings, there is one notable gut-wrenching scene that pretty much impacts everyone who has watched it: Goose's death.

When Maverick and Goose's jet gets caught up in Iceman's jet wash, both engines burn out and the jet goes into a flat spin. Maverick and Goose eject, but Goose hits his head on the canopy at a strong force and it kills him on impact.

Maverick is cleared by the Board of Responsibility for the accident, but he is grief-stricken and his flight skills start to diminish after witnessing his best friend perish.

He eventually regains his confidence and is able to graduate with his class after some wise words from Viper, who reveals that he served with Maverick's father, Duke, who was shot down in Vietnam.

The soundtrack is top-notch and is arguably the best from the 80s featuring plenty of electronic beats and powerful strings plus Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” and the Oscar-winning song “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. The score was composed by Harold Faltermeyer, best known for “Beverly Hills Cop,” and Giorgio Moroder.

A sequel, entitled “Top Gun: Maverick,” soars into theaters in July 2020. Cruise and Kilmer are reprising their roles as Maverick and Iceman.

If you have never seen this high-flying classic, you should place it at the top of your viewing list and you have plenty of time to catch up before the sequel.

Blaine Clamon is sports reporter for the Athens Daily Review.