Richard Gere plays Zack Mayo, an aloof, taciturn man who aspires to be a navy pilot. Once he's arrived at training camp for his 13-week officer's course, Mayo runs afoul of abrasive, no-nonsense drill sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.). Mayo --or "Mayonnaise," as he is dubbed by the irascible Foley -- is an excellent cadet, but a little cold around the heart. Foley rides Mayo mercilessly, sensing that the young man would be prime officer material if he weren't so self-involved. Zack's affair with working girl Paula Pokrifi (Debra Winger) is likewise compromised by his unwillingness to give of himself. Only after Mayo's best friend Sid Worsley (David Keith) commits suicide over an unhappy romance does Zack come out of his shell and mature into a real human being. Take away the R-rated dialogue and the sex scenes, and Officer and a Gentleman could have been a 1937 MGM flick, maybe with Robert Taylor as Zack, Wallace Beery as Foley, and Jimmy Stewart as Sid. An Officer and a Gentleman was nominated for 7 Oscars, with wins to Gossett and to the hit song "Up Where We Belong." The closing scene has surely become a classic of movie romance.
by Hal Erickson synopsis