Zack Mayo's mother committed suicide when he was 13 and he went to live in the Philippines, even though his father, a sailor, had no use for the boy. After completing college, Zach decides he wants to be a pilot. He sets his sights on the Naval Officer Candidate School, 13 weeks of grueling training designed to test his capacity for discipline, clear thinking, strength, teamwork and leadership ability.

Zach's drill instructor is Sgt. Foley, an unrelentingly tough taskmaster who pushes his charges to their physical, mental and emotional limits. Zach and his best friend Sid have a common goal — to prove to their fathers that they can make it as officers and gentlemen.

The two trainees don't have to look very hard for female companionship. Almost immediately, they meet Paula and Lynette, who work in a local factory and dream of marrying naval officers. Paula seems to be everything Zach has ever wanted in a woman; she's sexy, sensitive and not too pushy. But he's so intensely focused on his own goals that he often is not really there when they are together. Sid and Lynette spend so much time in bed that they never get to know each other.

Taylor Hackford directs An Officer and A Gentleman with a firm hand, alternating the rhythms of camp rigor with romantic weekends. Richard Gere puts in the best acting of his career as a loner who is humanized by his girlfriend and put in touch with the best parts of himself by Sgt. Foley. Louis Gosset, Jr., plays the latter with incredible élan and authority. Debra Winger, who was so appealing in Urban Cowboy, is even better here as Paula. She adjusts her love to the erratic zigzags in Zach's moods and then waits for him to realize just how much he needs her.

An Officer and a Gentleman succeeds as both a magical love story and as a convincing portrait of one individual's passage into manhood.

Special DVD features include a commentary by director Taylor Hackford.