Why ‘Top Gun’ Features That ‘Soft Porn’ Volleyball Scene
It’s a scene that has lived in infamy - mocked, parodied and occasionally defended. Still, all these years after the movie's release, everyone remembers Top Gun’s volleyball scene.
From a pure plot standpoint, the scene - which features Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) going toe-to-toe on the sand court against their rivals Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Slider (Rick Rossovich) - makes little sense. The palpable tension between the pilots had already been established. Even on the day of filming, the volleyball match seemed like an afterthought.
"They dumped the sand in a parking lot, put up a net and all of a sudden we were doing it,” Rossovich explained to USA Today. "We just played in the sand. It was almost ethereal magic."
Director Tony Scott didn’t choreograph the scene or even clearly plan out his shots. Instead, he went in with a broad concept.
“I didn't have a vision of what I was doing other than just doing soft porn,” the director admitted on the Top Gun 30th anniversary DVD (via The Wrap). “I knew I had to show off all the guys, but I didn't have a point of view, so I just shot the shit out of it. I got the guys to get all their gear off and their pants and sprayed them in baby oil.”
Watch the Volleyball Scene From 'Top Gun'
Scott’s theory was that female moviegoers would appreciate the well-toned bodies the same way male viewers ogled bikini-clad eye candy. His inspiration came from Bruce Weber, a popular fashion photographer.
Adding to the scene’s ridiculousness was Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With the Boys” - a poppy, cheesy affair that was a far cry from the singer’s other Top Gun contribution, the adrenaline-pumping “Danger Zone.”
Despite much mocking, the volleyball game has had its defenders. Rossovich, for one, believed the scene served a clear narrative purpose. "I used the scene to cement Slider's bond with Iceman," the actor explained. "I was holding him all the time, sticking to like glue almost in a weird way. Because we were teammates."
While Top Gun became a massive blockbuster, earning $350 million at the box office and turning into one of the ‘80s' biggest hits, the volleyball scene has remained an oft-parodied cinematic moment. American Dad, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Workaholics and Big Mouth are some of the many shows that have spoofed the scene. Professional athletes have also recreated their own “Playing With the Boys” moments. Even local TV reporters have gotten in on the fun.
We've rounded up some of the most ridiculous Top Gun volleyball-scene parodies below.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (WARNING: Adult Content)
Hard Knocks (Houston Texans)