Both Top Gun and its sequel, Top Gun: Maverick feature scenes with the franchise’s main characters in iconic beach environments, that draw many comparisons to one another. The original Top Gun was released in 1986 starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Anthony Edwards as pilots of the titular Top Gun fighter pilot school. The sequel came 36 years later, in 2022, and saw the return of Cruise as hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
Top Gun: Maverick was widely considered a massive improvement on its predecessor in several ways, being one of the few legacy sequels to capture the spirit of the original film while expanding on its story and characters. However, there is no denying that Top Gun: Maverick featured many callbacks to the first installment with none more overt than the beach sequence. Top Gun’s beach scene is one of the more iconic of the 1980s film, meaning a modern counterpart in Top Gun: Maverick was all but inescapable, but how do the two scenes compare, and which is better?
How Maverick’s Beach Scene Song Compares To Top Gun
One of the more prominent aspects of both Top Gun’s and Top Gun: Maverick’s beach sequences is the music choices. In terms of the former, director Tony Scott opts for yet another Kenny Loggins song to accompany the iconic “Danger Zone”: “Playing With The Boys”. The song’s usage in the scene makes sense in its lyrics, with Loggins singing about how one of life’s simple joys is playing with the boys and that all that ever matters is who is winning. Loggins created the song specifically for the Top Gun album, where it appeared alongside “Danger Zone” which Top Gun: Maverick also uses to great effect.
Top Gun: Maverick’s beach scene, on the other hand, is accompanied by a song from One Republic: “I Ain’t Worried”. Like Loggins’ song, “I Ain’t Worried” was made for the film after Cruise had turned down over 30 songs from various bands for the sequel. Cruise wanted a song to be made specifically for the beach scene, with Tedder (lead singer of One Republic) writing the song with the characters relaxing and bonding for the first time in mind. This is reflected in the lyrics, with the song being about not being worried about prior engagements and deadlines and simply living in the moment, emulating the message of the beach scene.
One of the core differences between each film’s beach scenes is the sport played. Top Gun has Maverick, Goose, Iceman, and Slider playing volleyball, whereas Top Gun: Maverick sees Maverick and his recruits playing dogfight football. Maverick states that dogfight football is simply regular football, the only difference being the simultaneous focus on defense and offense. One of the reasons for this ties into the scene’s narrative purpose, which will be explored later. Another reason, however, could be tied simply to filmmaking.
Football is a much more visceral, high-octane sport than volleyball, and would make for a much more dynamic scene than a volleyball match. In choosing to use football as Maverick’s beach scene, the filmmakers could make a much more action-based sequence, alongside its narrative elements, to create a more engaging scene than Top Gun’s original volleyball scene. This is shown in the more dynamic camera movements, the greater focus on the characters, and the overall tone of the scene.
How Stylistically Similar Maverick’s Beach Scene Is To Top Gun’s
Both scenes are interestingly stylistically different and similar to each other simultaneously. Top Gun’s, for example, is set against the backdrop of a bright blue sky and features fully visible shots of each player in action. Top Gun: Maverick features a slight difference in being set at dusk as the sun is going down, with lots of silhouette shots of each character against the sunset meaning they are not as clearly visible to open the scene. However, once the football match begins properly, the similarities between the scenes become clear.
Each scene features lots of slow-motion shots of their respective characters in action. Whether it be Top Gun’s Maverick and Goose in slow-motion celebrations or Maverick and Rooster in Top Gun: Maverick, the scenes have their fair share of slowed-down action shots. These elements, along with the beach environment and feel-good songs, mean that both scenes are very stylistically similar albeit with a few small differences. This allows Top Gun: Maverick’s beach scene to very clearly emulate the original through its stylistic similarities, while also being different and original enough to fit the modern take on the franchise, something that the film as a whole does perfectly.
Is Maverick’s Beach Scene As Homoerotic As Top Gun’s?
One of the more iconic elements of the original Top Gun’s beach scene is its homoerotic nature. The scene features four attractive, military men wearing nothing but jeans and aviators engaging in a game of volleyball. From the slow-motion flexing shots and the overabundance of sweat glistening in the sun right down to the slightly homoerotic nature of Kenny Loggins’ singing about playing with the boys on Top Gun’s soundtrack, the scene has become iconic.
One thing that is clear about Top Gun: Maverick’s beach scene is that it is not as homoerotic as its predecessors. That being said, there are a few similar elements that callback to this. As expected, the scene features a large group of military men, and women, performing a high-performance sport in nothing but jeans with very emulative slow-motion shots of them glistening in the sun. However, there are a few elements that mean that Top Gun: Maverick’s scene does not have the same 80s homoerotic nature of Top Gun’s.
For one, the narrative purpose of the scene means that it fits in the film’s story and has a reason for existing that suits the characters of Maverick, Penny, and the Top Gun cadets. This – combined with the modernized element of Top Gun featuring female recruits who share in the beach sports activities – and the conversation between Maverick and Vice Admiral Cyclone driving home the film’s narrative purpose means that Top Gun: Maverick’s beach scene does not have the same homoerotic elements of its predecessor, though with enough similarities to pay homage to the iconic Top Gun.
Maverick’s Beach Scene Has More Narrative Purpose Than Top Gun’s
The major thing that sets both scenes apart is that Top Gun: Maverick’s undoubtedly has more narrative purpose than Top Gun’s. Top Gun’s beach scene still has a small amount of story elements, in that it further establishes both Goose and Maverick’s strong bond with each other and furthers Maverick and Iceman’s pilot rivalry. However, beyond this, the scene holds no true purpose to the film, and it is hard to see how the movie as a whole would be negatively impacted narratively should the scene be removed.
Conversely, Top Gun: Maverick’s central story ties directly to the sequence. The entire plot of Maverick surrounds the titular character needing to train Top Gun’s cadets for a seemingly impossible mission. This means training them to be able to fly the mission successfully, while also teaching them to be a team and have each other’s backs in the sky. The latter part of this is where the beach scene comes into play. The majority of time spent with Top Gun: Maverick’s recruits before the beach scene shows a distinct tension between them, akin to Maverick and Iceman’s – whose return in Maverick was perfect – steely relationship from the first film
However, the beach scene is included in the film in order to bring the cadets together and allow them to see each other as brothers and sisters in arms rather than rivals of a top institute. This is summarized at the end of the scene, with Maverick being questioned on why he and his cadets are playing games when they are on a tight schedule for the mission by Cyclone. Maverick simply replies “You said to create a team, sir. There’s your team.” This is accompanied by shots of the recruits lifting the shy recruit Bob above their heads in their first true display of friendship in the film.
Why Top Gun: Maverick’s Beach Scene Is Better Than Top Gun’s
For this aforementioned narrative purpose alone, Top Gun: Maverick’s beach scene is an improvement on Top Gun’s, with Maverick often considered an improvement overall and one of Cruise’s best movies. While Top Gun’s scene is iconic in its own right and is perfectly emulative of the film’s cheesy 80s action movie tone that makes it so great, Top Gun: Maverick found a way to strike the same tone while making the scene crucial to the story and characters. This narrative element, combined with the more dynamic way the scene is filmed and the continued improvement of the film’s great characters, means that Top Gun: Maverick has the superior beach scene to its predecessor, Top Gun.