The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony was a historic event in the world of cinema, with several surprises, upsets, and emotional moments. One of the biggest wins of the evening was ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ earning the Best Sound Oscar, which atoned for the fact that the first ‘Top Gun’ was nominated but fell short in the same category 36 years prior.
When Tony Scott’s 1986 action film “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise, was released into theaters, it immediately became a classic. In order to prove himself and conquer his inner demons, Maverick, a gifted and rash fighter pilot, enrolls at the exclusive Top Gun Navy Flight School. The movie features some of the most iconic aerial action sequences in cinema history, including the famous “dogfight” scene between Maverick and his rival, Iceman, played by Val Kilmer.
Despite its box office success and favorable reviews, “Top Gun” was beaten out by “Platoon” for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Sound in 1987. The film’s sound design and editing were hailed as innovative at the time, thus many fans and critics were shocked and dismayed by the omission.
A Deserved Recognition
When the 93rd Academy Awards were held in 2023, “Top Gun: Maverick” finally won the praise it deserved by taking up the Best Sound Oscar. Thirty years after the events of the first movie, the sequel, which was directed by Joseph Kosinski and once again starred Tom Cruise, opens up with Maverick now a seasoned pilot instructing a fresh batch of Top Gun cadets.
The employment of cutting-edge technology to improve the sound design and editing of “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the film’s most significant changes. To create a completely immersive audio experience that would transport the audience inside the cockpit of a fighter plane, the filmmakers collaborated closely with sound designers and engineers.
The sound effects used in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ are a blend of recorded and synthetic sounds, meticulously crafted to recreate the roar of the engines, the whistling of the wind, and the explosive impact of missiles and gunfire. The team also incorporated real-life sounds from military aircraft, such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which plays a central role in the film’s story.
Creating a sense of depth and spatial awareness in the audio was one of the most difficult components of the “Top Gun: Maverick” sound design. Binaural recording, a method adopted by filmmakers, records sound in three dimensions, giving the audience a realistic sensation of movement and place. By using this strategy, the sound crew was able to put the audience in the center of the action, where they could hear the jets fly by and feel the vibrations of the engines.
What Made It Deserve the Oscar?
The use of innovative sound design and editing techniques in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is what made it special and deserving of the Best Sound Oscar. The film’s audio is not just a backdrop to the action but an integral part of the storytelling, conveying the intensity, excitement, and danger of aerial combat.
The music score of the movie, in addition to the technical mastery of the sound design, was extremely important in producing the emotional effect of the movie. Together with Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, composer Harold Faltermeyer, who also created the classic theme from the first “Top Gun”, returned to work on the score for the sequel. The soundtrack combines symphonic and electronic music, paying homage to the iconic themes from the first movie while also crafting brand-new, exciting compositions that complement the sequel’s contemporary look.
The Best Sound Oscar for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a significant achievement for the film’s sound team, including supervising sound editor Al Nelson, and re-recording mixers Gary Rizzo and Tom Johnson. It is also a vindication of the original ‘Top Gun’ movie, which despite its cultural impact, was overlooked by the Academy in 1987. The fact that it took 36 years for ‘Top Gun’ to finally win an Oscar is a testament to the enduring legacy of the film and the passion and dedication of its fans.
The Best Sound Oscar for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a well-deserved recognition of the film’s technical excellence and artistic achievement. The use of cutting-edge sound design and editing techniques, along with a thrilling music score, creates a fully immersive audio experience that transports the audience into the heart of the action. The victory also serves as a tribute to the original ‘Top Gun’ movie and its impact on popular culture, cementing its place as a classic of the action genre.
In fact, many critics point out that the overall experience of this movie wouldn´t have been that good if it wasn´t due to its sound effects. Especially for those that could enjoy it in the most modern theatres, where sound is quite surrounding, and in the right frequency to create a complete immersion in this surprisingly good sequel to the original classic of fighter jets movies.