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Iron Eagle is an action film released in 1986, starring Jason Gedrick and Louis Gossett Jr. It was followed by three sequels: Iron Eagle II (1988), Aces: Iron Eagle III (1992), and Iron Eagle IV (1995).
When Air Force Colonel Ted Masters is shot down by an anonymous Middle Eastern country and taken prisoner, his oldest son and hotshot wannabe pilot, Doug (Gedrick), becomes frustrated with the bureaucratic red tape in the effort to have his father released. Taking matters into their own hands, he and his friends turn to retired Colonel Charles "Chappy" Sinclair (Gossett Jr.) to mount their own rescue operation.
"Chappy" refuses at first, but identifies with Doug's pain, having seen his own friends left behind. He challenges Doug to demonstrate his skill, and is amazed to learn that the kid is a prodigy in the cockpit. Finally convinced, they use their connections on the base, a bit of cunning, and a bit of subterfuge to procure two F-16s, armed to the teeth, and proceed to launch an all-out assault on the enemy nation. However, when Chappy is shot down in a border skirmish, Doug is forced to muster the courage to go it alone. Cue epic air battles and lots of asskicking.
Of course, it turns out all right in the end, and the Air Force is so embarrassed that a bunch of kids and a grizzled vet evaded all their military security and carried out the rescue that they send Doug to the one place where they know he'll keep his big mouth shut: the Air Force Academy.
One of the iconic elements of the film is Doug's music - he's an expert pilot when amped up on Queen, not so much when forced to do without. If you remember nothing else about Iron Eagle, you'll still recall Doug blowing the crap out of Evil Foreigners to the tune of "One Vision".
The film was popular enough to spawn several sequels, with the continuity character oddly being Chappy instead of Doug. Iron Eagle II even goes so far as to kill Doug off in the first five minutes. It features a group of misfit American and Russian fighter pilots (led by Chappy) who reluctantly team up to defeat the nuclear ambitions of yet another anonymous Middle Eastern country. It also got some much-deserved parody courtesy of Hot Shots.
Aces: Iron Eagle III has Chappy uncovering a drug smuggling ring within his own base, leading to a confrontation in Peru, using vintage World War II warbirds.
Iron Eagle IV has Chappy running a flight school whose trainees stumble upon a group of Air Force officers dealing in toxic waste. It also notably brings back Doug Masters, albeit with a different actor.
Iron Eagle contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Doug and Chappy, not to mention Colonel Masters.
- Artistic License Military: Kids allowed to run around a military base unrestricted? Stealing two F-16s? A lot of personnel at that base must have gotten disciplined after the affair. This gets a subtle Hand Wave at the end when Doug is allowed to enroll in the Air Force Academy on the condition that he "keep his big mouth shut", implying that all were sworn to absolute secrecy to save the military the embarrassment of revealing what really happened.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Justified, since rank is supposed to indicate flying experience and proficiency. However, it's also subverted, as Doug, with no rank at all and zero combat experience, outflies everyone.
- Backed by the Pentagon: Averted; they thought the plot was ridiculous and refused to support the film. Instead, they were Backed By The Israelis (see Just Plane Wrong below).
- Big Damn Heroes: Doug and Chappy, of course.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Doug's gotten in enough trouble for fighting that one more incident will get him jailed or kicked out of school. Knotcher takes full advantage of this.
- The Cavalry: Shows up at the end, as Doug's aircraft is nearly out of fuel and ammo and being pursued by enemy fighters.
Doug: "They're ours, Dad! They're Americans!"
- Cool Old Guy: Chappy
- Congruent Memory: Doug learned to fly in a flight simulator while listening to music. Now he can't fly without listening to music.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: The more enemy fighters there are, the easier they are to shoot down.
- Creator Cameo: The leader of The Cavalry is played by the film's co-writer/executive producer Kevin Elders.
- Curb Stomp Battle: The damage to the Big Bad's country and air force is inflicted by a mere two F-16s in the hands of one combat veteran and one very skilled amateur pilot. Mostly the amateur pilot.
- Dare to Be Badass: Doug, of course.
- Dead Man Writing: Chappy records several taped messages for Doug in the event he goes down. They obviously get used.
- Eject! Eject! Eject!
- Ejection Seat: How Chappy survives, not to mention Colonel Masters in the beginning of the film.
- Final Battle: Doug vs. Col. Nakir Nakesh.
- Just a Flesh Wound: Col. Masters gets shot in the shoulder by a sniper to hinder Doug's rescue. Aside from being in pain, he doesn't seem to suffer at all from the shock, loss of blood, etc.
- Just a Kid: Doug Masters gets this from Chappy.
- Just Plane Wrong: Since the Pentagon refused to back the film, they had to use Israeli aircraft.
- Also the so-called "MiG-23" fighters used by the enemy pilots are in fact Kfirs, an Israeli-made version of the French Mirage fighter.
- Karma Houdini: Knotcher and his cohorts sabotage Doug's civilian plane--effectively attempted murder--to win a race, and we see the Jerkass get nothing more than a punch in the face. Of course, Doug and his friends were immediately distracted by news of Col. Masters' capture, but still...
- It gets worse: It's implied that this is probably what happened to the previous kid who attempted to race against Knotcher.
- Loved Ones Montage: Doug's inspiration to continue comes in large part from his buddies' spirit back home.
- Magic Feather: Doug's music is clearly this, but in an inversion of the usual trope, Chappy encourages Doug to use it when he learns how much better it makes him fly.
- Military Brat: Doug, oh so much. He's got a whole group of True Companions composed of them, actually.
- My Greatest Failure: Chappy never got over the loss of his comrades in the war, which is part of his motivation to help Doug.
- The Obi-Wan: Chappy, for obvious reasons, gets shot down during the mission, forcing Doug to go it alone.
- Oh Crap: Several such moments occur. The first is on the ground, after the first stage of the rescue is successful.
Doug: "Dad, will the Maverick fire while we're on the ground?"
Pilot: "Attention unidentified aircraft, this is Major Dwight Smiley of the United States Air Force. You are following one of our F-16s in international airspace. Do you wish to engage?"
- Percussive Maintenance: Chappy's jukebox operates this way, rather than by actual coins.
- Prepare to Die: Colonel Nakesh says, "Time to die, Iron Eagle." Ummm, no. Not for Doug, it wasn't.
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: In fighter jets.
- Rousing Speech: Chappy's taped messages to Doug, intended to be played posthumously.
- Say My Name: Doug's good at these. "CHAPPYYYYYYYYYYY!" *boom* . And after the sniper guns down Col. Masters, "DAAAADDD!"
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Chappy.
- Shoot the Fuel Tank: Sort of. One of the mission objectives is to bomb the enemy's oil refineries if they refuse to return Col. Masters.
Doug: "Looks like they'll be importing oil this year, Chappy."
- Sorry I Left the BGM On: A Running Gag throughout the movie, as much of the music we hear turns out to be from Doug's walkman. During the Flash Back when Doug is taking an illicit training flight with his dad, it gets a Lampshade Hanging when a fellow pilot questions Col. Masters about "hearing music".
- Storming the Castle: In this case, a whole nation.
- Theme Music Power-Up: Doug literally cannot fly well without his music. But crank up the Queen, and he can score perfect hits. So when the rock starts rolling, you know ass is about to be kicked. In fact, at one point, it is implied that Doug's music causes the jets to fly faster.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill
- Weapons Understudies: The Arab MiGs are played by Israeli and American jets.
- And of course, Israeli F-16s standing in for American ones.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Knotcher. He has Doug's Cessna sabotaged so the engine will sieze, very nearly causing it to crash (all so he can win a race over nothing but bragging rights). Soon after Doug limps out of his plane and punches Knotcher in the face, we find out that Doug's dad has been shot down, and we never see or hear Knotcher again.
Iron Eagle II contains examples of:
- Actually, That's My Assistant: The Russian commander misidentifies Chappy in this manner, with obvious racial overtones.
- Airstrike Impossible: The set up for the final battle.
- Artistic License Military: Nobody would ever be allowed to get away with the insubordinate behavior of some of these misfits. Which is sort of the point since the mission was set up to fail.
- Big Damn Heroes: When the Russians return to the final furball to aid their American comrades.
- Deadpan Snarker: Chappy.
- "I hear they shoot communists in the street in America." "In my hometown, Detroit, they shoot everybody in the street."
- Enemy Mine, Divided We Fall: The Russian and American pilots do not get along well, even when forced to work together. The finally bury the hatchet after a Rousing Speech from Chappy, and the knowledge that if they don't complete their mission, thousands will die.
- General Ripper: Stillmore.
- Just Plane Wrong: F-4s and Kifirs as MIG stand-ins, but considering the era it would have been impossible to get actual MIGs. Top Gun suffered the same problem.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Intentional -- the general in charge wants the mission to fail.
- Reds With Rockets: The second half of the task force, of course.
- Springtime for Hitler: Although intended to fail, the mission succeeds anyway.
- The Squadette: Valeri Zuyeniko...despite the fact that the Soviet Union stopped using female combat pilots after World War II. Averted in that it's Valeri that makes the final trench run shot, not Cooper.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Doug dies in the first two minutes, a fact the promotional material "accidentally" omits.
Aces: Iron Eagle III contains examples of:
- Ace Custom: Technically, all of the heros are flying Ace Customs, but The Dragon has a one-of-a-kind WWII vintage prototype German jet fighter.
- Drugs Are Bad
- Hot Amazon
- Rock Beats Laser and Schizo-Tech WWII fighter planes going up against jet fighters. Aided by them being refitted with laser-guided weapons.
Iron Eagle IV contains examples of:
- Gundamjack: Doug walks up to an F-16 preparing to take off and threatens the pilot with a shotgun and a witty one-liner.
Doug: That's a real nice plane you got there.
- The Other Darrin: Jason Gedrick was replaced by Jason Cadieux.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Did we mention that it's a flight school for juvenile delinquents? Chappie runs the school as a sort of reform program to keep the kids out of jail.
- Rock Beats Laser: Played with. Initially, the prop-driven trainers are able to get some cheap shots in on the F-16s sent after them because they fly too slow for the fast-moving jets to line up a shot on without overshooting. One of the pilots quickly figures out they are just using the wrong strategy, but gets shot down by Doug before he can apply what he had learned.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Doug Masters.
- Staying Alive: Doug survived his Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome from the second film.
- Also note that you'll never find a picture of a USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon where it has a desert camo paint job. American F-16s have always been painted grey-on-lighter grey.