In less than a month, Tom Cruise will finally soar back into theaters in Top Gun: Maverick, and if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably been chomping at the bit to see some badass dogfights.
With Maverick getting pushed back several times because of COVID-19, the wait has been excruciating. Here are five movies with the best dogfight scenes, to temporarily slake your thirst for aerial combat.
Christopher Nolan’s unorthodox take on Operation Dynamo follows three different stories along three different timelines as they converge in an epic conclusion to one of his most powerful films. One-third of the film follows a sortie of British RAF Spitfire pilots as they fight to protect the British Expeditionary Force trapped on Dunkirk’s beaches.
The Spitfire pilots take on the Luftwaffe in a series of dramatic dogfights, but it’s the second engagement that flies above the rest. Shooting with Imax cameras and real Spitfires, Nolan manages to create one of the most realistic dogfights ever put to film. The rickety sounds from inside the cockpit mixed with the eerie silence between hammering bursts of machine guns give the impression you’re watching real combat footage.
The 2006 World War I air-combat movie Flyboys is a nostalgic nod to popular airplane movies of the 1940s and ’50s. But for all its cliches, Flyboys has some pretty spectacular dogfight scenes. The slow-moving, open-cockpit airplanes of World War I up the drama during the duels over France. In this memorable scene, a squadron of American pilots flying for France takes on a wave of German triplanes.
This over-the-top 1980s action flick came out six months before Top Gun, and although Maverick and Iceman blew it out of the skies, it managed to spawn three equally campy sequels. The movie follows a teenage military brat as he hijacks an F-16 and takes on a fictional Middle Eastern air force. The story isn’t remotely plausible, but the air-combat sequences are pretty rad. Iron Eagle will scratch your ’80s-action itch until Maverick hits theaters.
I know. Pearl Harbor sucks. But despite its cringy love triangle and awful Michael Bay color gradients, it actually has some solid air-combat scenes. Two high-flying American bros get into some harrowing dogfights against Japanese Zeros during the attack on Pearl Harbor, then go on to participate in the daring Doolittle Raid.
‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’
For being more than 50 years old, the special effects in Tora! Tora! Tora! hold up remarkably well. With dozens of real aircraft flying choreographed fight scenes, the depictions of air combat over Pearl Harbor still look like the real deal. With a runtime of nearly two and a half hours, it’s not a quick watch, but it certainly has plenty of air combat to keep you satisfied until the Top Gun premiere on May 27.