Top Gun: Maverick’s Beach Scene Is Just As Good As Top Gun’s Volleyball

Despite the fact it’s a movie all about planes, the most memorable part of Top Gun has always been the volleyball scene. I’m sad to report that Top Gun: Maverick does not feature a homoerotic volleyball scene, but it does include some topless football, and if you’re here for the volleyball, that’s close enough.

As I mention in my review, Maverick is a little too loyal to nostalgia, and the football scene is yet another example of this. Taken as part of the wider movie, it seems a little indulgent, but it also feels like the people Top Gun: Maverick is most going to appeal to want to be indulged. Perhaps it works out then, even if the movie itself feels a little bit disjointed because of this loyalty.

The beach football scene comes just as training time for an upcoming mission is cut short, and happens under the guise of team building. In that sense, it’s successful – there’s a lot more camaraderie in this scene than the more competitive and cut throat nature of 1986’s – but then the only real friction in the movie at all is between Rooster and Hangman (and more broadly, Rooster and Maverick) and that’s not settled on the beach. Maybe to examine why the scene is there defeats the point of it, though. What’s important is merely that it exists.

Top Gun’s volleyball scene has been mocked and praised in equal measure for its homoerotic undertones. In some 20th century movies, the homoeroticism is a deliberate subversion of exceptions, a piece of transgressive rebellion against the repressive and homophobic nature of 20th century society. The implied but never stated gay couple in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope comes to mind, as do the undertones of Fight Club that echo out from Chuck Palahniuk’s original novel. Top Gun is not one of those movies. That’s just how masculinity was in the ‘80s.

With bare barrel chests, oiled muscles, thick moustaches, and tiny shorts the peak of masculinity in 1986, Top Gun was homoerotic by accident. It would have been very easy for Maverick to be embarrassed by this history, to hide it, to perhaps even rehabilitate it by straightifying the beach sports scene. Thankfully for those looking for the vintage Top Gun experience, Maverick is bold enough to bring back the tone of the original.

We see Miles Teller, shirtless and sweating, rocking the ‘tache, dancing in slow motion. We see very deliberate homoerotic shots on the men and much more simple, perfunctory shots on the female recruits – it would have been easy to have the women in bikinis to address the balance from Val Kilmer’s rippling pecs in 1986, but instead Top Gun: Maverick doubles down.

I don’t think, even as people meme about it, anyone is actually going to see Top Gun: Maverick for the volleyball scene. But at the same time, I think a lot of people are going to be glad it’s there. Not just because it’s fun to meme on, but because it’s an important part of Top Gun’s history, and it’s worth remembering as the series gets brought back to life.

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