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It’s the top-grossing movie of 2022 and the top-grossing military movie of all time. Suffice to say, there are a lot of people who, after more than 30 years, were ready to watch another installment of Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell feeling the need for speed in the long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick

And when it comes to pure entertainment, the film delivers. It’s got fast motorcycles, even faster F/A-18 Hornets, and, of course, a beach football scene. It’s the kind of movie that makes kids think their Navy parents are actually cool, and has the Navy setting up recruiting stands in theaters. It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to shout out “America, fuck yeah!” while bald eagles fly down from a mountaintop and whisk you away into the cockpit of a Navy jet. In short, it goes hard. 

Not every military movie does that. Some are somber reminders of the nature of warfare and its aftermath. Some are intensely realistic depictions of military service, while others seem to throw viewers into the midst of hellish combat. Some are the complete opposite of that, and make you wonder why Samuel L. Jackson is wearing a cape with his Army uniform … or maybe why the cape isn’t part of the standard issue uniform, because it looks pretty badass.

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The quote “there is no such thing as an anti-war movie” is often attributed to French filmmaker François Truffaut, meaning that the filmic depiction of warfare will inherently glamorize it. Think of the scene in Anthony Swofford’s autobiographical book Jarhead where the Marines cheer while watching Apocalypse Now. That’s probably not the reaction Francis Ford Coppola was hoping for in a movie about the horrors of the Vietnam War. 

Top Gun: Maverick isn’t really like that. It’s pretty unapologetic in being about how badass it is to fly Navy fighter jets. And watching that can be an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. 

So, what other movies go as hard as Top Gun: Maverick? What are the films that bring back your best memories, or — the horror — maybe even make you briefly consider reenlisting? Let us know in the comments, or email the author, max.hauptman@taskandpurpose.com, so we can add it to the streaming queue. 

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