In an interview with the Los Angeles Times when the film was released in 1986, Cruise was adamant that the game of muscle volleyball wasn’t just about exploiting beautiful male bodies: “I don’t take my shirt off. to sell tickets. The way I see it is that a good movie attracts audiences.” He points out that none of “Top Gun”‘s posters, commercials or publicity skills capitalize on his shirtless sex appeal. So when he shows off his muscular figure in the movie, it’s done with a purpose.
Cruise insists that “Top Gun” is first and foremost “a film about characters and the human element – not a picture of war. This film is about competition, not murder”, and the volleyball sequence makes part of that competitive spirit. He defends the scene as part of the story, not just a macho clip:
“This scene happens to be very important. First of all, it shows that for fighter pilots, physical prowess is very important. Also, the scene shows the constant competition between these guys – how they compete on all levels .”
It also captures Maverick’s friendship with Goose, his rivalry with Iceman, and his budding romance with Charlie. Torn between his homework and his heart, Maverick constantly checks his watch throughout the game as he wants to leave for his date with her.
Before the release of the long-awaited sequel “Top Gun: Maverick”, audiences wondered if there would be a reference to the famous volleyball scene and what kind of tone it would have.