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Top Gun is a 1986 movie that was directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and "Brandon Bollinger" in association with the Paramount Pictures company. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., and was inspired by the article "Top Guns" written by Ehud Yonay for the California Magazine.

This movie stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan and Tom Skerritt. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young Naval aviator on board the aircraft carrier . He and his Naval Flight Officer (Radar Intercept Officer - the "RIO" - the "back seater" in the two-man F-14 Tomcat) Lt. j.g. Nick "Goose" Bradshaw are given the chance to train at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, after the pilot above him in the squadron rankings resigns from duty following a very stressful mission. This movie depicts Maverick's progress through the training, his romance with a female instructor, and his overcoming a crisis of confidence following a fatal training accident. The former Top Gun instructor pilot Randy "Duke" Cunningham claimed to have been the inspiration for Pete Mitchell, although the movie's producers have denied that this character was based on any specific Naval aviator.

This movie opened in the United Statesmarker on May 16, 1986, to mostly good reviews, with the aerial scenes being particularly praised. Similar praise followed soon afterward when the film broke records at the box office, becoming a smash hit at movie theaters. This movie earned an over $350 million gross income worldwide, and it broke home-video sales records.

Plot summary

The film starts with Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) along with Maverick's wingman "Cougar" and his RIO, "Merlin" (Tim Robbins), both piloting F-14A Tomcat, in conflict over the Indian Ocean against what are said to be Soviets, flying (fictional) Mikoyan-Gurevich-made MiG-28s. Cougar is engaged by one of the hostile aircraft and afterwards is too shaken to land, despite his aircraft being low on fuel. Maverick assists Cougar in landing, at risk to his own aircraft - which is also low on fuel. Following the incident Cougar resigns from active duty, citing his newborn child which he has never seen. Despite his antipathy for Maverick, the CAG, "Stinger" (James Tolkan) is forced to send Maverick—now his top pilot—to attend the Top Gun school.

Maverick tests his instructors' patience on the first day of training by flying recklessly (outflying instructor LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly (Michael Ironside), breaking two rules of engagement in the process), establishes a rivalry with top student Tom "Iceman" Kazanski (Val Kilmer), and becomes enamored with civilian instructor Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Maverick contradicts her briefing by regaling her with the story of the MiG encounter from the film's opening, but playfully withholds specific details.

During a dinner date at her place, which Charlie claims she instigated so she could ask him about the incident, Maverick reveals that his father was shot down in an F-4 Phantom II during the Vietnam War (precisely on the date of Nov 4th, 1965), but the details of which are classified. He rejects the official account, believing his father was too talented a pilot to have made a mistake.

During a later period of instruction, Charlie rejects a piloting suggestion by Maverick, embarrassing him in front of the class. A short time later, after a brief road chase, Charlie admits that she admires his tactics but criticized them to hide her feelings for him from the others.

During the flight portions of the class, Maverick lives up to his callsign when called upon to be a team player. During one training sortie he abandons "Hollywood", his wingman, in order to chase chief instructor, Cmdr. Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skeritt). Although Maverick gives the older pilot a run for his money, Viper is able to maneuver Maverick into a position from which his wingman "Jester", who has defeated Hollywood unseen, can "shoot down" Maverick from behind, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Maverick contemplating whether to return to Top Gun.
During a subsequent sortie, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester, Maverick closely following Iceman who attempts to gain a missile lock on the target. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off; Maverick's F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman's aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines (compressor stalls were an actual problem of the Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines used by early F-14A Tomcat models like those shown in the film), entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing him and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned cockpit canopy and is killed on impact. Although the inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he is overwhelmed with guilt, losing his competitive edge and refusing to take risks or engage enemy aircraft. hot dog's standing in the school wanes, he alienates Charlie (who is ready to soon leave for a job in Washington), and questions whether or not to remain in the Navy.

Unsure of his future, Maverick seeks Viper's advice, who reveals that he served with Maverick's father Duke Mitchell, and the truth of the latter's fate, despite the classified status of the information. He then informs Maverick that he can graduate Top Gun if he can get past his guilt about Goose's death, and his "confidence problem". Maverick chooses to stay, and ultimately graduates. However, Maverick's rival Iceman wins the Top Gun Competition.

During the graduation party Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, Wolfman, and Maverick are ordered to report to the USS Enterprise to deal with a "crisis situation", providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Cougar's RIO Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite the former's distaste. The subsequent hostile engagement sees Hollywood ambushed and shot down; Maverick is scrambled alone due to technical difficulties and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose's death. Upon finally rejoining Iceman, together they shoot down or drive off the aggressors and return triumphantly to the Enterprise. Maverick is then offered any duty he chooses, electing to return to Top Gun as an instructor. "God help us!" Stinger laughs.

The film ends with Maverick in a pub at NAS Miramarmarker, recalling the occasion when he first met Charlie. Charlie then enters the bar, having decided to remain at Miramar after hearing of Maverick's assignment there, and she plays You've Lost That Loving Feeling on the jukebox, signaling to Maverick her intention to remain with the Top Gun school, and to let her romance with Maverick flourish.



The primary inspiration for the film was the article "Top Guns," by Ehud Yonay, in the May 1983 issue of California magazine, which also featured aerial photography by then-Lieutenant Commander Charles "Heater" Heatley. The article detailed the TOPGUN fighter pilots at the Miramar Naval Air Stationmarker, located in San Diegomarker, self-nicknamed as "Fightertown USA". Numerous screenwriters allegedly turned down the project. Bruckheimer and Simpson went on to hire Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., to write the first draft. The research methods, by Epps, included an attendance at several declassified Top Gun classes at Miramar and gaining experience by being flown in an F-14. The first draft failed to impress Bruckheimer and Simpson, and is considered to be very different from the final product in numerous ways.

The producers wanted the assistance of the United States Navy in production of the film. The U.S. Navy was influential in relation to script approval, which saw changes being made. The opening dogfight was moved to international waters as opposed to Cubamarker, the language was toned down, and a scene that involved a crash on the deck of an aircraft carrier was also scrapped. Maverick's love interest was also changed from a female enlisted member of the Navy to an civilian contractor with the Navy, due to the U.S. Department of Defense's prohibition of fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel. The "Charlie" character also replaced an aerobics instructor from an early draft as a love interest for Maverick. Dawn Steel hated the character and refused to give the go-ahead for the making this movie until the role was improved.

Other changes included the addition of the semi-fictional Top Gun trophy [the Navy had dropped intraservice competition decades before the film was set, to discourage competitive flying ].

As a hindlight, the real-life TOPGUN flight school was moved to the Naval Air Station Fallonmarker, in Nevadamarker, in 1996. The entire NAS Miramar was also transferred from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Marine Corps, and it became the Marine Corps Air Station Miramarmarker.


The Navy committed the use of an entire F-14 fighter squadron to the film, which went through the standard 16-week Top Gun training curriculum. Paramount paid as much as $7,800 per hour for fuel and other operating costs whenever aircraft were flown outside of their normal duties. Shots of the aircraft carrier sequences were filmed aboard the USS Enterprise marker. The majority of the shots were of normal aircraft operations and the film crew had to make use of the shots they could, save for the occasional flyby which the film crew would request. During filming, the director Tony Scott wanted to shoot aircraft landing and taking off, back-lit by the sun. During one particular filming sequence, the ship's commanding officer changed the ship's course, thus changing the light. When Scott asked if they could continue on their previous course and speed, he was informed by the commander that it cost $25,000 to turn the ship, and to continue on course. Scott wrote the carrier's captain a $25,000 check so that the ship could be turned and he could continue shooting for another five minutes.

Most of the sequences of the aircraft maneuvering over land were shot at NAS Fallonmarker, in Nevadamarker, using ground-mounted cameras. Air-to-air shots were filmed using a Learjet. The Northrop Grumman company was commissioned by Paramount films to create camera pods to be placed upon the aircraft that could be pointed toward either the front or rear of the aircraft providing outside shots at high altitude. Hand-held cameras were used for some of the interior cabin shots. Navy F-14 pilots were used to fly the planes, changing helmets as needed. One of the Navy pilots, credited as "Lt. Scott 'D-Bear' Altman", later became a NASAmarker astronaut.

Many of the scenes were shot in and around the actual facilities at NAS Miramar and the (now demolished) Naval Training Center, which was located adjacent to San Diego's Lindbergh Field municipal airport. The filming was primarily conducted during the fall of 1985.



F-14 Tomcat. The Tomcat (the "A" model in particular) is the main aircraft featured in the movie, as the plane flown by the TOPGUN trainees. At the time of the film, the Tomcat was the U.S. Navy's primary air superiority fighter having replaced the F-4 Phantom II in this role. A misconception is that the ejection was done for dramatic effect, on the basis that this type of ejection would have launched the aviator through the canopy without its being detached from the aircraft. This is incorrect - canopies of modern jet aircraft are very strong and pilots cannot be ejected through them, the canopy has to be jettisoned before ejection. Additionally, the F-14 did experience problems with a low pressure area over the top of the aircraft, causing the canopy to sometimes dwell directly above the aircraft when jettisoned.A-4 Skyhawk. The A-4 Skyhawk (or "Scooter") is featured in the movie as the aircraft used by the TOPGUN instructors pitted against the trainees. As in real life, this aircraft was used in the Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) role for a short period in the 1980s.F-5E and F-5F Tiger II. F-5 Tiger IIs in a mock-up dark green paint scheme stand in for the fictional MiG-28s in the film. In reality the F-5 was also used in the DACT role at TOPGUN. Though referred to by Charlie, the U.S. Navy/Marine F-5 is not shown in this movie.A-7 Corsair. Although never used, a shot of a few A-7 Corsair aircraft are shown parked on the flight deck on the USS Enterprise near the end of the film.

The enemy aircraft are of unspecified nationality, but commentary on the movie's Special-Edition DVD release states that they were originally intended to be North Korean. Although the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design bureau was an actual Soviet Air Force aircraft manufacturer, that organization never produced an even-numbered fighter model. (Even numbers were used for test models of airplanes, just like the U.S. used YF-15 for the test airplane, and then F-15 for the production version.) The aircraft were decorated in temporary black "peel away" paint that could easily be removed once they were no longer needed for filming. Occasionally portions of the paint would come off in flight, and the fighter had to be landed for touch-up.

This movie also features U.S. Navy Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King and U.S. Coast Guard HH-3F Pelican helicopters conducting search and rescue operations.

In the brief airport terminal shots, McDonnell-Douglas DC-9-30 and Boeing 727-200 aircraft were seen in the background.


The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date, reaching #1 on The Billboard Top Pop Albums chart for five weeks. Harold Faltermeyer, who previously worked with both Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson on the films Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, was sent the script of Top Gun by Bruckheimer before filming began. Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock worked on numerous songs including the Oscar winning #1 "Take My Breath Away" and "Danger Zone". Kenny Loggins had two songs on the soundtrack; "Playing With the Boys", and "Danger Zone". Berlin recorded the song "Take My Breath Away", which would later win numerous awards, sending Berlin to international acclaim. After the release of Loggins' #2 single "Danger Zone", sales of the album exploded, selling 7 million in the United Statesmarker alone. On the re-release of the soundtrack in 2000, two songs that had been omitted from the original album, "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers, were added. The soundtrack does also include "Top Gun Anthem" and "Memories" by Steve Stevens/Faltermeyer and Faltermeyer. However, no soundtrack release to date has included the full Faltermeyer score.

Other artists were considered for the soundtrack project but did not participate. Bryan Adams was considered as a potential candidate but refused to participate because he felt the film glorified war. Likewise, REO Speedwagon was considered but backed down because they would not be allowed to record their own composition.

Fatal accident during filming

Renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl, 53, was hired to do in-flight camera work for the film. The original script called for a flat spin, which he was to perform and capture on a camera on the aircraft. The aircraft was observed to spin through its recovery altitude at which time he radioed "I have a problem...... I have a real problem". Scholl was unable to recover and crashed his Pitts S-2 into the Pacific Oceanmarker off the Southern California coast near Carlsbadmarker on September 16, 1985. Neither Scholl nor his aircraft were recovered, leaving the official cause of the accident unknown.

Top Gun was dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.

Fire at former set

The restaurant, Kansas City Barbeque, where the "sleazy bar scene" and final scene were filmed, had a fire that started in a large pit fire on June 26, 2008. Some photographs and props from the film were destroyed but the piano used by Goose and Maverick to sing "Great Balls of Fire" was spared.


The film opened in the United States in 1,028 cinemas on May 16, 1986. It was number one on its first weekend with a $8,193,052 gross, and went on to a total domestic figure of $176,786,701. Internationally it took in $177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of $353,816,701. The film was highly praised for the action sequences.

Top Gun went on to break further records in the then still-developing home video market. Backed by a massive $8 million marketing campaign including a Top Gun-themed Pepsi commercial, the advanced demand was such that the film became the best-selling videocassette in the industry's history on pre-orders alone. It was also one of the first video cassette releases in the $20 price range, previous cassettes sold closer to $80 at that time. Top Gun's home video success was again reflected by strong DVD sales, which were furthered by a special-edition release in 2004. Bomber jacket sales increased and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses jumped 40%, due to their use by characters in the film. The movie also boosted Air Force and Navy recruitment. This was evident in the fact that the Navy used its success by having recruitment booths in some theaters to lure enthusiastic patrons.

Critical reaction was mixed. Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, pointing out that "movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless." The film is currently rated at 43% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes list had the line "I feel the need — the need for speed!" from Top Gun at number 94 on the list.

The film also ranked at number 455 in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.

Yahoo! Movies recently ranked Top Gun #19 on their list of greatest action movies of all-time.

Awards and nominations

The film won the following awards:

Year Award Category - Recipient(s)
1987 ASCAP Film and Television Music Award Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures - Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987 Academy Award Best Music, Original Song - Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1986 Apex Scroll Award Achievement in Sound Effects
1987 BRIT Award Best Soundtrack
1987 Golden Globe Best Original Song - Motion Picture - Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987 Golden Screen
1987 Grammy Awards Best Pop Instrumental Performance - Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens for "Top Gun Anthem".
1987 Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects
1987 People's Choice Award Favorite Motion Picture
1988 Award of the Japanese Academy Best Foreign Language Film
No year AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes Won for the line, "I feel the need. The need for speed." Ranked 94th.

The film was nominated for the following awards:

  • Academy Award (1987)
    • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing - Cecelia Hall and George Watters II
    • Best Film Editing - Billy Weber and Chris Lebenzon
    • Best Sound - Donald O. Mitchell, Kevin O'Connell, Rick Kline and William B. Kaplan
    • Best Music, Original Song Giorgio Moroder (music), Tom Whitlock (lyrics)
  • Apex Scroll Awards (1986)
    • Actress in a Supporting Role- Meg Ryan
    • Film Editing - Billy Weber and Chris Lebenzon
    • Best Original Song - Motion Picture - Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
    • Best Picture - Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer
    • Achievement in Compilation Soundtrack
    • Achievement in Sound
  • Golden Globe (1988)
    • Best Original Score - Motion Picture - Harold Faltermeyer
  • Award of the Japanese Academy (1988)
    • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Fennecus Awards (1986)
    • Achievement in Compilation Soundtrack
    • Best Original Song - Motion Picture - Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
    • Film Editing - Billy Weber and Chris Lebenzon
    • Achievement in Sound
    • Achievement in Sound Effects

Video games

Top Gun also spawned a number of video games for various platforms. The original game was released in 1987 under the same title as the film. It was released on five platforms in total: PC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) (with an equivalent version for Nintendo's "VS." arcade cabinets). In the game, the player pilots an F-14 Tomcat fighter, and has to complete four missions. A sequel, Top Gun: The Second Mission, was released for the NES three years later.

Another game, Top Gun: Fire at Will, was released in 1996 for the PC and later for the Sony PlayStation platform. Top Gun: Hornet's Nest was released in 1998. Top Gun: Combat Zones was released for PlayStation 2 in 2001 and was ported to the Nintendo Game Cube and Windows PCs a year later. Combat Zones was considerably longer and more complex than its predecessors, and also featured other aircraft besides the F-14. In late 2005, a fifth game, simply titled Top Gun, was released for the Nintendo DS.

Mobile Game Publisher Hands-On Mobile (formerly known as Mforma) have published three mobile games based around Top Gun. The first two were top-down scrolling arcade shooters. The third game takes a different approach as a third-person perspective game, similar to Sega's Afterburner games.

The "Top Gun Anthem" is a downloadable song for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

References in popular culture

The success and resulting cultural influence of Top Gun has spawned many references. The use of the fighter pilot nicknames in masculine communication, particularly Maverick and Goose, is often replicated or parodied. The masculine theme of the film has been the subject of humorous examination, with the homoerotic subtext examined in a monologue by Quentin Tarantino in Sleep with Me. The film has also been the subject of a Rifftrax audio commentary with humorous effects.

Top Gun has also been spoofed in the 1991 comedy film Hot Shots!, and liberally borrowed from in the 2004 Bollywood film Agnipankh.

Tom Kazansky was the name of a Hero Character in the 1998 Hit PC game StarCraft.

The video to Will Young's Switch It On pays homage to Top Gun.

In the How I Met Your Mother season 1 episode Slutty Pumpkin, Barney dresses up as a fighter pilot for Halloween. He enters Ted's apartment with "Danger Zone" playing in the background, then makes several references to the film.

Top Gun is one of many war and action films, especially by Jerry Bruckheimer, parodied in the comedy Team America: World Police.

The U.S.marker Naval Academymarker Class of 1991 was known as the "Top Gun Class", as they were the first class selected to Annapolis following the movie's release in 1986. Many of the Midshipmen from that class year claimed the film was a major recruiting factor in applying to the Academy.

See also

Historical incidents similar to those in the film's climax:

Similar films:


  1. Top Gun Movie -The 80s Rewind «
  2. Special Edition DVD, Interview with Jack Epps
  3. Special Edition DVD, Interview with the producers
  4. Special Edition DVD, Interview with Tony Scott and Pete Pettigrew
  5. Ashurst, Sam (November 4, 2008). Hollywood’s deadliest stunts. Total Film.
  6. Taylor, Rod (March 1, 2005). High Flyer. Promo.
  7. Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon. The Guardian. August 29, 2001.
  8. Roger Ebert - Top Gun Review
  9. Top Gun. Rotten Tomatoes.
  10. The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. Empire.
  11. Yahoo! Movies All-Time Greatest Action Movies
  12. Bollywood's Top Gun. October 13, 2006.

External links

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