March 25, 2023

Quentin Tarantino’s scene in “Sleep With Me” has little to do with the rest of the film, but it sticks with people because, well, “Top Gun” is a surprisingly homoerotic movie. With the not-strictly-necessary shirtless volleyball scene and the “don’t tease me“-type throwaway lines, it’s not a surprise that a lot of gay men love it. In the 2016 essay, “Top Gun and the End of the Homoerotic Action Movie,” film critic Nico Lang described the movie as having “emerged at a fleeting cultural moment in which the action movie could be both very straight — in that all of the characters ostensibly have sex with women — and incredibly gay.” The article marvels at how, “Just six years prior to [‘Pulp Fiction’]’s release, a studio tentpole like ‘Top Gun’ could be both subtextually queer and yet completely oblivious of its explicit implications.”

Even today in 2023, it’s rare to see a big blockbuster movie be so comfortable with itself in this manner. For instance, 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gave us a wholesome friendship between Finn and Poe. The film’s creatives seemed to realize that a portion of the fanbase was interpreting their relationship through a queer lens, so they spent the next two sequels either keeping the pair separated or shoehorning in female love interests for each of them.

Meanwhile, the “Top Gun” creatives have shown a complete lack of defensiveness over potential queer interpretations of the film’s characters. Producer Jerry Brookheimer has referred to Tarantino’s interpretation as a perfectly valid interpretation, and the popularity of the rant seems to have had zero effect on how the sequel was written. The “Top Gun” movies might not be particularly progressive by most measurements, but the lack of overly-defensive “no homo” vibes is still refreshing to see.

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