Zack is a new member of the U.S. Naval Aviator Academy whose rough life has left him an emotionally broken man. Fortunately, a sometimes brutal Marine sergeant and a local girl (Paula) provide him an epiphany.
I have a theory as to the success of this movie. Yes, you can’t help but love the story of an underdog triumphant, and there were engaging performances by all of the principals — Richard Gere, Louis Gossett Jr., and Debra Winger.
However, beyond that, I believe this movie resonated with many of us because it was released at a time (early in the Reagan administration) when the military service as an institution was finally regaining respect in this country after the dark years of the Vietnam war era.
Here, at the close of the movie, Zack (literally) sweeps Paula off her feet, away from her dreary factory job and into the sunset.
Personal connection: a friend of mine is a commercial airline pilot and also a former naval aviator — just like Zack. His real-life Marine sergeant — the Gossett character — served as an advisor to this film.