The 'Top Gun' Musical Moments That Take Our Breath Away

Just as the original soundtrack defined the '80s, the sequel is poised to capture our current moment

BY Alan RantaPublished May 24, 2022

Promotional consideration provided by Paramount Pictures

Anyone who was around in the late '80s is probably having flashbacks right about now. Back then, the Top Gun soundtrack was everywhere: it topped charts and earned platinum sales figures around the world, hitting that benchmark five times over in Canada alone. It helped define the sound of the decade, and was a career pinnacle for Berlin and Kenny Loggins. Now, with long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick coming to theatres on May 27 through Paramount Pictures, the music of Top Gun is, once again, all around us.

The success of the original Top Gun soundtrack was thanks, in large part, to producer Giorgio Moroder. Throughout the '70s, Moroder established himself as one of the grandfathers of disco and EDM. He produced Donna Summer's best-known hits from the period, including the ageless "I Feel Love." That song, deemed significant enough to be preserved by the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry, helped inject purely electronic sound into the mainstream, as did his impressive catalogue of solo works.

In 1978, Moroder became aware of a young German composer with perfect pitch named Harold Faltermeyer and brought him under his wing to arrange the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-winning soundtrack for Midnight Express. Arguably the Goose to his Maverick, Faltermeyer would heavily collaborate with Moroder for the next decade.

Faltermeyer helped produce cutting-edge Moroder projects throughout the late '70s and early '80s such as E=MC², a proto-EDM effort from 1979 proclaimed to be the "first electronic live-to-digital album." Together, they produced Donna Summer's Bad Girls and Sparks' Terminal Jive, among other defining works. They basically soundtracked the '80s too, composing and arranging Blondie's "Call Me" for American Gigolo, which landed that soundtrack on the Billboard Top 10. 

Moroder eventually worked with David Bowie on the theme for Cat People, Limahl from Kajagoogoo for The NeverEnding Story, Irene Cara on the Oscar-winning theme for Flashdance, and Paul Engemann on the quintessential montage song from Scarface. Faltermeyer became renowned for creating "Alex F," the influential synthpop instrumental from Beverly Hills Cop that earned him his first Grammy. He also did the music for Tango & Cash, The Running Man, and Chevy Chase's Fletch movies, which were all pretty big at the time — but nothing was bigger than when they both put their stamp on Top Gun

Produced by Faltermeyer and performed by Cheap Trick, "Mighty Wings" possibly inspired Ken's theme song from Street Fighter II — impressive stuff, but Faltermeyer's greatest contribution to the Top Gun soundtrack is its "Anthem." Working with Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, the soaring epic Olympic resonance of "Top Gun Anthem" netted Faltermeyer his second Grammy. For Top Gun: Maverick, that iconic anthem gets a little refresh.

There is also a remote chance that Goose's moustache was a tribute to Moroder's, but we definitely know Moroder wrote several songs with lyricist Tom Whitlock for Top Gun. High octane fight-or-flight-or-both track "Danger Zone" practically became synonymous with the film. Slathered in the guitar work of Giant's Dann Huff, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart were among the names first floated to record its vocals, but the job eventually fell to Kenny Loggins. The song would become so intrinsic to Top Gun that Tom Cruise insisted it appear in the sequel.

Crediting the beautiful vocals of Berlin's Terri Nunn, Moroder eventually professed "Take My Breath Away" to be the thing he was most proud of in his entire career. Toto were originally lined up to perform "Danger Zone," and they wrote a song called "Only You" to be the film's love ballad, but after a legal dispute removed them from the project, and the Motels didn't pan out as a replacement, Berlin took a generation's breath away and earned Moroder another Oscar for Best Original Song.

Lady Gaga is poised to be the Berlin of Top Gun: Maverick with a love ballad of her own called "Hold My Hand." Produced by Benjamin Rice and BloodPop, the song showcases her bombastic emotionality. She obviously has Hollywood pedigree herself, having won awards for her powerful soundtrack contributions to the celebrated 2018 remake of A Star Is Born. (Interestingly, Loggins's first solo single was used in the 1976 version of A Star Is Born.)

Aside from "Danger Zone," Loggins also performed "Playing with the Boys" for the infamous beach volleyball scene in the original Top Gun. With its whistling, beach-ready vibe, "I Ain't Worried" by OneRepublic seems intended to fulfil a similar role in the sequel.

OneRepublic does not shape the film's sound like Gaga does, though. Gaga helped write the entire score with Harold Faltermeyer himself, alongside legendary film composer Hans Zimmer and his protégé Lorne Balfe. Winner of two Oscars himself, Zimmer scored a handful of original Top Gun director Tony Scott's best-known films, including Tom Cruise's NASCAR homage Days of Thunder and the Grammy-winning score for Crimson Tide. Balfe composed The Dilemma, Son of God and Megamind with Zimmer, but Cruise credits Lady Gaga for honing the musical heartbeat of Top Gun: Maverick.

Certainly, with a team like that behind it, keeping the nostalgic synergy going while injecting new energy and perspective, the music is destined to fly when Top Gun: Maverick swoops into cinemas May 27.

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