The romantic drama An Officer and a Gentleman was a classic 80s testament to overcoming obstacles and finding love.
After his mother commits suicide, Zack Mayo is shipped off to the Philippines, where his naval officer father Byron (Robert Loggia), a womanizer with a drinking problem, is stationed. He would learn about life the hard way, growing up on the rough streets of Manila. As an adult, Zack (Richard Gere) defies his father’s drunken misgivings and joins the Port Rainier Academy for naval and aviation training. It’s there his hustler and survivor nature is tested under the sharp eye of Sargeant Foley (Lou Gossett Jr.), who sees Zack for what he is and for what he could become. The nearby town is home to women who would love to marry an aviation officer, and one local woman, Paula (Debra Winger), catches Zack’s eye. As his determination is tested and he trains to do the only thing that might save him, his heart leads him to Paula and difficult choices.
This romance and hard knocks story of a young man pulling himself out of dysfunction, tragedy and loss to invite true love into his life was a box office success as the highest-grossing film of 1982. Directed by Taylor Hackford and written by Douglas Day Stewart, An Officer and a Gentleman became a classic for performances by Gere, Winger and Gossett Jr., winning him the Best Supporting Actor award—a first for an African-American man. The film also won the Oscar for the theme song, “Up Where We Belong,” written by Canada’s Buffy St. Marie and Jack Nitzsche.