Top Gun's Guide to Courtship

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, pre gay

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, pre gay

A sweet 80s movie reveals lost knowledge of an ancient civilization.


Top Gun came out 25 years ago this week. The film quickly became a cultural phenomenon and the highest grossing movie of 1986 because jets are awesome and people respected Tom Cruise back then. But the unspoken reason for Top Gun’s success is that it remains one of the few movies that honestly depicts the intricacies of human courtship, a rarity in Hollywood’s worship of Cinderallas and betas. This depiction is made through dynamic between the characters Maverick and Charlie. So let’s analyze their mating process in the film to learn what we can do to make girls want us as if we were an 80′s Tom Cruise.

Maverick first meets Charlie in the Navy bar in what has become the iconic scene from the movie. Maverick, along with the help of his Top Gun class, serenades Charlie with an atonal rendition of You Lost That Loving Feeling. Yes, this approach says, “I’m totally in a movie right now,” but it also says, “My life is a lot of fun, so you totally need me.” This is a helpful thought to have in your head when first interacting with a girl.

After the two make harmless chit chat, Charlie tries to make fun of Maverick to the best of her ability, and because Charlie is a girl, that ability is pretty weak.

Charlie: Listen, can I ask you a personal question?
Maverick: That depends.
Charlie: Are you a good pilot?
Maverick: I can hold my own.
Charlie: Great, then I won’t have to worry about you making your living as a singer.

Since Maverick doesn’t derive his value from what girls say, he sees Charlie’s raillery for what it is: an indication that she’s already in love with him.

Then Charlie leaves to sit down with, uh oh, another guy. Now’s when most guys would give up and think, “well at least I tried, I wonder what my mom’s up to?” But as we learned a few months ago, the only way to recover from the failure of a bold move is to follow it up with an even bolder moveso Maverick follows Charlie into the ladies room.

Charlie: What do you wanna do? Just drop down on the tile and go for it?
Maverick: No, actually I had this counter in mind.
Charlie: Great, that would be very, very comfortable, yeah.
Maverick: It could be. Actually I came in here to save you from making a big mistake with that older guy.
Charlie: Really? So I could go on to a bigger one with a young guy like yourself?
Maverick: Maybe.

Maverick fails again, which is a good thing. Quality girls will reject you at first (and at second and third), especially if you’re being aggressive. They do this to see if you’re confident enough to move things forward. And if your night is geared toward having fun rather than achieving a specific outcome, then you will be confident enough to move things forward.


The next day, Maverick finds out that Charlie is actually his Top Gun instructor. Where most guys would feel ashamed by their sexual advancements of the previous night, Maverick cranks the tension by disagreeing with Charlie while at the same time bragging about how awesome he is.

Charlie: Excuse me, Lieutenant. Is there something wrong?
Maverick: Yes ma’am, the data on the MiG is inaccurate.
Charlie: How’s that, Lieutenant?
Maverick: Well, I just happened to see a MiG 28 do a…
Goose: We!
Maverick: Uh, sorry, Goose. *We* happened to see a MiG 28 do a 4g negative dive.
Charlie: Where did you see this?
Maverick: Uh, that’s classified.
Charlie: It’s what?
Maverick: It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

A few minutes later, after Charlie realizes what an awesome pilot Maverick is, she calls him “The One.” Don’t worry, girls don’t have to employ cheesy movie clichés before they will sleep with you.

Here’s the whole scene if you are inclined.

It’s clear that by now Charlie is all hosed up. As if women are the most predictable creatures in the world if you know which buttons to press, she approaches Maverick after class.

Charlie: Lieutenant, why didn’t you tell me you were a famous MIG fighter
Maverick: Would it have made any difference?
Charlie: Not in the ladies room, no.
Maverick: What would have?
Charlie: I’m an instructor at this school, I see 20 new hot shots every week, now I’m sure you could figure that out—look lieutenant, I’d just really like to hear about the MIG sometime.
Maverick: You’ve got security clearance. You can read about it.

As soon as Charlie shows interest in Maverick, and basically asks him out on a date, he pulls away by blowing her off. What’s particularly interesting about this encounter is that he blows her off with a knowing smile as if to say he’s blowing her off on purpose because he knows it will drive her crazy, and it still drives her crazy. This doesn’t make sense, but women don’t make sense, so then it does make sense.

For their next encounter, Charlie, who is teaching a class, looks over the work that Maverick is doing in order to create an opportunity to talk. It’s a desperate plea, which isn’t lost on Maverick.

Charlie: A rolling reversal would look well in that situation.
Maverick: If I reversed in a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.
Charlie: Yeah, but at that speed it’s too fast. It’s a little bit too aggressive.
Maverick: Too aggressive, yeah I guess when I see something I go right after it.

Since Maverick sees that Charlie is begging for it, he throws her a bone. Good thing they’re at a fighter jet school where metaphors abound.

Maverick: You didn’t tell me who you were the other night.
Charlie: You didn’t give me a chance, did you? You deserved it.
Maverick: I know, but you were tempted to ask me out for dinner.
Charlie: No
Maverick: No?
Charlie: No, I don’t date students.
Maverick: I can see it’s dangerous for you, but if the government trusts me, maybe you could.
Charlie: It takes a lot more than just fancy flying.

Charlie cannot take the tension any longer, and so as she says this last line, she invites Maverick over to dinner with the surreptitious drop of a note. As with most girls, a single act of confidence or charm will make them smile, but they’ll forget about you soon after. If you want girls to chase you, however, you have to lay on the machismo thick and with persistence, right from the first “hello,” yet never jump at the first opening.

Sitting at the desk in front of Maverick, the eavesdropping Slider doesn’t know what’s going on, who’s loving that Maverick seemingly got rejected yet again.

Slider: Crashed and burned! Huh, Mav?
Maverick: Hey, Slider. [Sniffs]. You stink.

It’d be difficult for most guys to not rub the secret invitation into Slider’s face, but Maverick keeps his cool. Here, it's made clear that Maverick is persistent with Charlie because he wants to get to know her better, not so he can give his classmates high fives. This is important---all confidence is eventually deflated when it’s built on a foundation of social approval.

Later on their date at Charlie’s house (after Tom Cruise puts on one of his greatest acting performances of his life by playing beach volleyball with other men while doing a pretty good job of covering up his flamboyance):

Charlie: I’m trying for this big promotion at work, and if I get it I’m not going to be here much longer.
Maverick: Seems to me like you’ve got it all figured out, except you did forget the wine.

Girls usually do this, even on first dates. They talk about how they’re moving onto bigger and better things. Guys usually take this faux ambition as a slight against them: “Why is she talking about moving away, doesn’t she like me?” Not Maverick, he only gives her a knowing smile, and then he makes fun of her for not being able to even prepare a decent meal.

Now that Charlie knows that she can trust Maverick, she tries to forge a connection:

Charlie: What happened to your father?
Maverick: I figured with your security clearance you’d know more about him than I do.
Charlie: I didn’t get that far.
Maverick: Well it’s a big mystery. The stink of it was he screwed up. No way. My old man was a great fighter pilot. But who the hell knows? It’s all classified.
Charlie: Somebody must know.
Maverick: Somebody knows everything.
Charlie: Is that why you’re always second best up there?
Maverick: You are direct, aren’t you?
Charlie: I’m sorry for being direct.
Maverick: No apologies.
Charlie: This is going to be complicated.
[Maverick gets up to leave.]
Charlie: Where are you going?
Maverick: I’m going to take a shower.

Maverick sees that Charlie wants it too hard, so he’s not going to give it to her. He has a unique power, and he knows the destruction that power can wreak on a woman who’s in a precarious state of mind. Whether this is true is mostly irrelevant. What matters is that’s how Maverick is acting, and it’s magnetic.

The next morning in the elevator:

Charlie: It looks like you need another shower.
Maverick: Right.
Charlie: I’m going to be honest with you. Your MIG sighting is important to my work but, um, I don’t normally invite students to my house. But please understand I still have a job to do.
[An officer gets on the elevator, and behind his back Maverick looks at Charlie in a way that indicates he knows what's going on. The officer gets off, and and when the door closes, leaving the budding couple in the elevator alone once again, Maverick moves to hold the door closed button, then leans into Charlie like he’s going to kiss her, but he stops short.]
Maverick: I’m glad we got that straight.

What Maverick is saying here, through his extreme level of comfort around Charlie, is that he could kiss her, and of course she’d enjoy it very much, but he’s not going to. This is cheesy to everyone except a girl who’s hot and bothered.

At this point, Charlie has no problem risking her life and her Kharmann Ghia to chase after Maverick to confess her love for him. And if you incorporate Maverick’s self-control, his ability to keep tension on the line, and his ability to distinguish between what girls say and what they mean, girls will confess their love for you as well, though usually after a few drinks instead of a car chase.

DatingMark Derian