When "Top Gun" cruised into theatres in 1986, film critics were impressed with the high-octane jet action scenes, but panned the Tony Scott-directed film starring 24-year-old Tom Cruise.
"Top Gun" rates a lowly 55 per cent positive critical rating on the movie aggregation site RottenTomatoes.com. Yet, 30 years later, 1986's top-grossing film is still soaring in the hearts of movie viewers. And it's not alone. Four other films from 1986 — "Aliens," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Pretty in Pink' and 'Stand By Me" — remain fan favourites.
None of these films dominated at the Oscars, with Sigourney Weaver of Aliens earning the only acting nomination of the group. Critical-reception ran the gamut, but each film has a special place in the pop culture vernacular. In fact, 30 years later, they're flourishing.
"I marvel that these 30-year-old films have never gone away," says film historian Leonard Maltin. "They all touched hearts when they were new, even if they didn't get awards or, with some, great reviews. But they have never gone away. I've taken note of the movies being revived this summer, and it's interesting that these films have traction."
So much traction that celebrations, re-releases and tributes are planned:
• Director James Cameron will host an Aliens reunion panel at Comic-Con with Weaver and Bill Paxton on July 23, and a 30th anniversary Blu-ray is set for release in September.
• Brownsville, Ore., the setting for Rob Reiner's coming-of-age drama Stand By Me, will celebrate the film's 30th anniversary July 23 with activities including a pie-eating contest like the one memorably depicted on screen.
• Chicago celebrated Ferris Fest in May with a restaging of the Twist & Shout parade sequence from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The John Hughes-directed film also saw a theatrical re-release in May and a digital HD release.
• Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is working to secure a sequel for Top Gun, even talking it up with Cruise in the extras of the 30th anniversary digital HD release.
• Molly Ringwald's starring role in Pretty in Pink saw a February theatre re-release.
So why do these films endure and continue to resonate with generation after generation?
Keith Simanton, senior film editor for the movie website IMDb.com, says that many of the people whose hearts were touched at a young age are now passing this movie love onto their children — or in the case of filmmakers, onto a whole new audience.
"I refer to these movies as heirloom movies, movies people saw as teenagers then and now want to show their kids," says Simanton. "Films like" Children of A Lesser God" and "Out of Africa," darn good movies which won Oscars, were not seen by a certain impressionable age group. So they are not along on this emotional wagon train."
Helping this train roll along are iconic, often rebellious, lead characters, ranging from Matthew Broderick's school-skipping Ferris Bueller to Weaver's groundbreaking alien warrior Ripley to Cruise's hotshot pilot Maverick.
Bruckheimer points to this factor for long-term endurance. Fans watched "Top Gun" and wanted to be like Maverick, he says.
"Top Gun is a character-based piece, a character who overcomes his demons to triumph in the end. Everyone would love to do that," says Bruckheimer. "If we had a movie about speed and great dialogue, but you didn't care about the characters, we wouldn't be talking about this movie right now."
Great dialogue certainly helps, and this crop of films has plenty of it. Ferris Bueller's carpe diem manifesto remains resonant: "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." Maverick's line, "I feel the need, the need for speed" captured the adrenaline-fuelled love of "Top Gun."
"These are the lines that people were repeating to each other back then, when they were hanging out at night," says Erik Davis, managing editor of the ticket website Fandango.com. "Movies were all we had back then, no YouTube or Vine. Movies were like religious experiences for people. That stays."
So does the music, which helps to further cement memories in moviegoers' minds. Top Gun's soundtrack ensured the film spoke to an MTV generation and won an Oscar for the song "Take My Breath Away." Davis says the music is a powerful force.
"Who doesn't think of the movie "Stand By Me" when they hear Ben E. King singing Stand By Me?" says Davis. "People think of Ducky dancing in a record store when they hear Otis Redding's 'Try A Little Tenderness' or Ferris Bueller's parade when they hear 'Twist & Shout.'"
"These movies have endured not only because these characters are memorable, but because they are forever linked to these songs," Davis add