If ever there was a movie that deserved to be patted on the back and slapped in the face at the same time, it’s Iron Eagle. Man, this movie is conflicting. In fact, if I had a list of movies that are so bad, they’re good, this one would be pretty high on it.
Two Films That Rocked 1986
1986 was a banner year for Air Force movies. Iron Eagle came out in January, and it set the stage for the runaway hit Top Gun just a few months later. I first saw this movie as a young kid so I didn’t think I really understood it. All I knew was there was a cocky teenager who has to steal a plane to save his father from a bunch of bad guys. When I watched it years later, I realized that even as a child I understood this movie perfectly! That’s really all there is to it.
Iron Eagle actually teaches us that if we steal millions of dollars’ worth of government property, seriously damage and/or destroy that property, wreak havoc on oil prices by blowing up oil refineries and start a war, but do it all in the name of saving one prisoner of war, we’ll not only get off with a warning, but get a commendation to a top flight school. We must have the craziest government in the world!
Two Reasons Iron Eagle Succeeds
Oh, but every flaw in this movie can be forgiven because of two things: Louis Gossett Jr. and the film’s music. Seriously, Gossett Jr. has got to be the most likable unlikable character actor of all time. In this movie, he plays a wise, experienced pilot named Chappy who reluctantly teaches Doug, the aforementioned cocky teen, to fly a jet into a Middle East country to save his captured dad. I love every time Chappy opens his mouth because he’s always either saying exactly what I’m thinking or he’s making me laugh out loud with his wry humor.
Despite Gossett’s brilliant performance, Iron Eagle still would have failed if it hadn’t been for the music. The music in this movie just raises it to an entirely new level of awesomeness. Listening to it, I feel just like Red in The Shawshank Redemption. I don’t care what the songs are called, what the lyrics are saying or who’s singing them – I just love that they exist.
Two Awesome Scenes
Here’s an example that combines the two things I love in this movie. In an early scene, Chappy yells at Doug to shut off his music because he’s trying to train him on how to fly a jet, which is serious business, not a rock-and-roll concert. However, when Doug turns his music off, he’s unable to hit his targets. Chappy is ready to throw in the towel, but Doug turns his music back on and magically hits all his targets. He even hits one of them twice, just for good measure… or at least the poor editing makes it look like he does. He surprises Chappy so much that he lets out a shout that sounds eerily like the alien he played in Enemy Mine (another movie that’s so bad it’s good). You can check out that scene below.
Even when he’s in a flight simulator, Doug listens to the coolest music. It sets the stage for all the action in the movie and makes the flight scenes look even more impressive. I don’t know why, but every time I hear those tunes and see them connected to these visuals, I just get chills. It’s electrifying!
Two Jets vs. a Whole Country
As I said before, the plot of this movie is very simple. Some teenagers band together to trick the U.S. Air Force into sending two fighter jets to the Middle East to rescue Doug’s dad. Chappy trains Doug on how to fly, much like Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel to fight in The Karate Kid, except he uses planes, not paint brushes. They fly in, Chappy gets shot down, Doug does all sorts of damage, then he rescues his father, kills the villain and is recued himself by a full squadron. (Spoiler alert!) Chappy even survives, so everyone gets a happy ending.
If you keep your expectations low, you’ll enjoy this cheesy little piece of ‘80s nostalgia. It has lots of one-liners and comic dialogue that falls flat. But hold onto your hat when Chappy comes on screen or Doug pops a tape into his tape player. Man, are you in for a treat.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All footage from Iron Eagle is the copyright of TriStar Pictures. This article is the copyright of Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer.