Thirty years ago today, the Tom Cruise-Val Kilmer classic brought us a poignant taxonomy of fraternal affections.
Top Gun, released 30 years ago today, is a classic for many reasons. Yes, it catapulted the steadily rising Tom Cruise into superstardom. Yes, the fighter-jet footage was unparalleled. Yes, it’s the best movie ever made about men with rad nicknames. But what made Top Gun stand out then, and what makes it stand out now, was that it was unabashedly pro-bromance.
Though the movie featured bros being bros with other bros, decades before anyone even thought that hard about bros, it knew better than to ignore what makes bro-hood so special: the deep-seated, undeniable fraternal affection. In honor of Top Gun‘s 30th birthday, we sorted through some of the best dude-to-dude friendships in the film.
The Big Bro/Little Bro Bromance: Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Bill “Cougar” Cortell
Mav, who ends up the hero of Top Gun, helps Cougar when Cougar suffers a panic attack during an interaction with an MiG. Sure, this ultimately ends in Cougar going home. But that meant Mav and Goose could go to Top Gun, which was the best result for all.
Viper even tells Mav what he’s needed to hear all his life. Viper also sports an amazing ‘stache, which is a key ingredient in a great Father-Figure Bromance.
Where have you seen the Big Bro/Little Bro Bromance? Well, Mav and Cougar are like a fictional version of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. James returned to Cleveland because he wanted to win a ring for the city; he thought Irving could be a big part of that, but it’s been a way bumpier ride than either imagined. James, who once lectured Irving for registering exactly zero assists during a game, is trying his best to make sure the end result is a championship for Cleveland. If Irving freaks out mid-game and has to be sent home, then so be it.
The Tough-Love Bromance: Tom “Stinger” Jordan and Maverick and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw
Stinger’s there to say things like “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash” and “You’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong” to them with a straight face—and then, after telling them how much he hates them, to wish them good luck at Top Gun. In that way, Stinger’s relationship with Mav and Goose is much like Usher’s with Justin Bieber: Usher discovered The Biebs and mentored him, and once said he’d “punch [Bieber] in the f*cking chest when I need to.” Though that was before Bieber got the dreadlocks.
The Bro-tastic Bromance: Iceman and Ron “Slider” Kerner
The Bro-tastic Bromance is all fun, all the time. Until it’s time to grow up and be a person, that is. In Top Gun, Iceman and his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) spend a lot of time wearing matching sunglasses indoors, and they’re amazing as a beach volleyball team. Ice and Slider would likely win the tiebreaker game if it weren’t for Mav ditching them to go listen to Berlin with Kelly McGillis.
The Bro-tastic Bromance is often observed on college campuses and in the film series that started in 2009 with The Hangover.
The Father-Figure Bromance: Maverick and Mike “Viper” Metcalf
A few years after Top Gun flew through theaters, we were all Saved by the Bell. Remember gifted, reckless Zack Morris? Who helped keep him on the straight and narrow? Richard Belding. When a zany Morris plot went wrong—which was pretty much every time—Belding was there to shake his fist. But in a fatherly, “I care” kind of way.
Viper takes on the same role for Mav. He explains that Mav shouldn’t blame himself for what happens to Goose, and that it’s okay to be rattled by the event. Viper even tells Mav what he’s needed to hear all his life: that his dad, Duke Mitchell, died honorably. Viper also sports an amazing ‘stache, which is a key ingredient in a great Father-Figure Bromance.
The Frenemy Bromance: Maverick and Iceman
The Frenemy Bromance involves two opposites who ultimately need to attract in order to ensure a positive outcome.
Back in the first season of True Detective, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) agreed on basically nothing, but came together in the end to defeat the Yellow King/deranged house painter; Mav and Iceman have plenty of friction too, but when it’s time save the world (maybe!) they form a brilliant alliance. The two also exchanged an epic dude hug — not too close, no open handsafter the mission’s over.
The BFF Bromance: Maverick and Goose
The friendship between Maverick and Goose is the Admiral-level bromance. Ben Affleck-and-Matt Damon level, even: When Affleck reached peak Bennifer with Gigli, who was there sticking by him through thick and thin? Damon. When Damon decided to participate in We Bought a Zoo but not Bourne Legacy, who was there? Affleck.
The bromance between Mav and Goose was just as strong. Goose knows to have that Polaroid camera ready when Mav flips that MiG the bird. Goose also shouts important, very technical pilot things when needed, like “Watch out for the mountains!” and “Okay Mav, let’s turn and burn!”
Not only are they bros in good times and bad, though, they’re also bros through brave decisions and dumb ones. Goose, ever the best friend, encourages the fateful move of advancing on Rick “Jester” Heatherly, which ultimately sends Mav and Goose’s F-14 into a jet wash. Mav can’t reach his ejection handle, so Goose does it for him. That’s right. Goose dies while saving Mav’s life. It truly doesn’t get more bromantic than that.
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