Top Gun

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This article is about the film. For other uses, see Top Gun (disambiguation).
Top Gun
Top Gun Movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by Jim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
Starring Tom Cruise
Kelly McGillis
Val Kilmer
Anthony Edwards
Tom Skerritt
Music by Harold Faltermeyer
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Billy Weber
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • May 12, 1986 (1986-05-12)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15,000,000
Box office $356,830,601[1]

Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., and was inspired by the article "Top Guns" written by Ehud Yonay for California magazine.

The film stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young Naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Edwards) are given the chance to train at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School at Miramar in San Diego.


United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) flies an F-14A Tomcat off USS Enterprise (CVN-65), with Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) as his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). Maverick and his wingman "Cougar" (John Stockwell) intercept (fictional) MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the standoff, one of the MiGs manages to get a missile lock on Cougar. Maverick realizes that the MiG is only trying to intimidate Cougar and drives it off, but Cougar is too shaken afterward to land. Maverick defies orders and shepherds Cougar back to the carrier as both planes run critically low on fuel. After they land, Cougar takes himself off flight status. Although disapproving of Maverick's reckless flying and repeated violations of rules, the Enterprise's CAG Tom "Stinger" Jordan (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, known as "Top Gun", at NAS Miramar.

Maverick's recklessness is partly due to his father, Duke Mitchell, who served with the VF-51 squadron aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War, and was killed in action when his Phantom was shot down. The official story, which Maverick refuses to believe, is that Duke made a mistake. Goose is much more cautious and devoted to his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners, with Maverick considering Goose his only family. At a bar the day before the Top Gun program starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman named Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), who he later learns is a civilian contractor with a Ph.D. in astrophysics serving as a Top Gun instructor.

Maverick's reckless flying both annoys and impresses Lieutenant Commander Rick "Jester" Heatherly (Michael Ironside) and other instructors. He defeats Jester in exercises, but violates two rules of engagement in the process and is strongly reprimanded by the chief instructor, Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Maverick continues to pursue Charlie and becomes a rival to top student Lieutenant Tom "Iceman" Kazanski (Val Kilmer), who considers Maverick's methods dangerous and unsafe. Although outwardly critical of Maverick's tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility. They begin a romantic relationship.

During one flight, Maverick goes one-on-one with Viper. Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester to maneuver around and "shoot" Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Near the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester. 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, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing both Maverick and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, which breaks his neck, killing him.

Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose's death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper's advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick's father and discloses classified details over his last mission, explaining how Duke stayed in the fight after his Phantom was hit and saved three planes before he died. Information about the dogfight was classified to avoid revealing that the American planes were not where they should have been.

During the graduation party, Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to the 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 Merlin are assigned to an F-14 as backup for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman's reservations over Maverick's state of mind. Iceman and Hollywood encounter six MiG-28s and Hollywood is shot down, though he and Wolfman survive. Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose's death. Upon rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the other two to flee, and return to the Enterprise, where the two men, with newfound respect for each other, finally become friends. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor. Later, he tosses Goose's dogtags into the ocean, finally freeing himself of guilt over Goose's death.

Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She reveals that she is in the bar and the two reunite.




The primary inspiration for the film was the article "Top Guns", by Ehud Yonay, from the May 1983 issue of California magazine, which also featured aerial photography by then-Lieutenant Commander Charles "Heater" Heatley.[2] The article detailed the fighter pilots at the Miramar Naval Air Station, located in San Diego, self-nicknamed as "Fightertown USA". Numerous screenwriters allegedly turned down the project.[2] 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.[3]

Actor Matthew Modine turned down the role of LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (that went to Tom Cruise) because he felt the film's pro-military stance went against his politics.[4]

The producers wanted the assistance of the US Navy in production of the film. The Navy was influential in relation to script approval, which resulting in changes being made. The opening dogfight was moved to international waters as opposed to Cuba, the language was toned down, and a scene that involved a crash on the deck of an aircraft carrier was also scrapped.[5] Maverick's love interest was also changed from a female enlisted member of the Navy to a civilian contractor with the Navy, due to the US military's prohibition of fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.[2] The "Charlie" character also replaced an aerobics instructor from an early draft as a love interest for Maverick after producers were introduced to Christine "Legs" Fox, a civilian mathematician employed by the Center for Naval Analyses as a specialist in Maritime Air Superiority (MAS), developing tactics for aircraft carrier defense.[6] Rear Admiral Pete "Viper" Pettigrew, a former Navy aviator, Vietnam War veteran, and Top Gun instructor served as a technical advisor on the film, and also made a cameo appearance in the film as a colleague of Charlie's.

Former Top Gun instructor pilot and Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham claimed to have been the inspiration for Pete Mitchell, although the film's producers have denied that the character was based on any specific Naval aviator.[7]


F-14A Tomcats of Fighter Squadrons VF-51 Screaming Eagles and VF-111 Sundowners, and F-5E/F Tiger IIs of the Navy Fighter Weapons School

The Navy made available several aircraft from F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 Screaming Eagles (which Tom Skerritt mentions in the scene at his home) for the film. Paramount paid as much as $7,800 per hour for fuel and other operating costs whenever aircraft were flown outside their normal duties. Shots of the aircraft carrier sequences were filmed aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), showing aircraft from F-14 squadrons VF-114 Aardvarks and VF-213 Black Lions.[8] The majority of the carrier flight deck shots were of normal aircraft operations and the film crew had to take what they could get, save for the occasional flyby which the film crew would request. During filming, 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.[9]

Most of the sequences of the aircraft maneuvering over land were shot at NAS Fallon, in Nevada, using ground-mounted cameras. Air-to-air shots were filmed using a Learjet. Grumman, manufacturer of the F-14, was commissioned by Paramount Pictures 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.[citation needed]

Renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl was hired to do in-flight camera work for the film. The original script called for a flat spin, which Scholl was to perform and capture on a camera on the aircraft. The aircraft was observed to spin through its recovery altitude, at which time Scholl radioed "I have a problem... I have a real problem". He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed his Pitts S-2 into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast near Carlsbad on September 16, 1985. Neither Scholl's body nor his aircraft were recovered, leaving the official cause of the accident unknown.[10] Top Gun was dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.[11]


Further information: Top Gun (soundtrack)

The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date, reaching 9× Platinum certification[12] and #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart for five nonconsecutive weeks in the summer and fall of 1986.[13] 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 "Take My Breath Away". Kenny Loggins performed 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 the band to international acclaim. After the release of Loggins's single "Danger Zone", sales of the album exploded, selling 7 million in the United States alone. On the re-release of the soundtrack in 2000, two songs that had been omitted from the original album (and had been released many years before the film was made), "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers, were added. The soundtrack also includes "Top Gun Anthem" and "Memories" by Steve Stevens/Faltermeyer and Faltermeyer. However, no soundtrack release to date has included the full Faltermeyer score.[citation needed]

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.[14] Likewise, REO Speedwagon was considered but backed down because they would not be allowed to record their own composition.[citation needed] The band Toto was originally meant to record "Danger Zone", and had also written and recorded a song "Only You" for the soundtrack. However, there was a dispute between Toto's lawyers and the producers of the film, paving the way for Loggins to record "Danger Zone" and "Only You" being omitted from the film entirely.[15]


Home media[edit]

In addition to its box office success, 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 Diet Pepsi commercial,[16] the advance 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.[17] 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.[18] The film also had boosted Navy recruitment. The Navy had recruitment booths in some theaters to attract enthusiastic patrons.[19]

IMAX 3D re-release[edit]

Top Gun was re-released in IMAX 3D on February 8, 2013, for six days.[20] A four-minute preview of the conversion, featuring the "Danger Zone" flight sequence, was screened at the 2012 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, Netherlands.[21] Subsequently, the film was released in Blu-ray 3D on February 19, 2013.[22]


Box office[edit]

The film opened in the United States in 1,028 theaters on May 16, 1986. It quickly became a success and was the highest grossing film of 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 an estimated $177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of $353,816,701.[23]

Critical response[edit]

Upon the film's original release, critical response was mixed. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 54% of 48 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10 and the critical consensus states: "Though it features some of the most memorable and electrifying aerial footage shot with an expert eye for action, Top Gun offers too little for non-adolescent viewers to chew on when its characters aren't in the air".[24]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times 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 dogfights are absolutely the best since Clint Eastwood's electrifying aerial scenes in Firefox. But look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another."[25]


The film was nominated for and won many awards, most prominently for its sound and effects. The film won the following awards:

Year Award Category – Recipient(s)
1987 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures – Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987 Academy Awards Best Music, Original Song – Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1986 Apex Scroll Awards Achievement in Sound Effects
1987 BRIT Awards Best Soundtrack
1987 Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song – Motion Picture – Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987 Golden Screen Award
1987 Grammy Awards Best Pop Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group or Soloist) – Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens for "Top Gun Anthem".
1987 Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects
1987 People's Choice Awards Favorite Motion Picture
1988 Award of the Japanese Academy Best Foreign Language Film

The film was nominated for the following awards:

  • Academy Awards (1987)[26]
  • 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 Awards (1987)
    • 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

Effect on military recruiting[edit]

Movie producer John Davis claimed that Top Gun was a recruiting video for the Navy, that people saw the movie and said, "Wow! I want to be a pilot." After the film's release, the US Navy stated that the number of young men who joined wanting to be Naval Aviators went up by 500 percent.[27]

Paramount Pictures offered to place a 90-second Navy recruiting advertisement at the beginning of the videocassette for Top Gun, in exchange for $1 million in credit towards their debt to the Navy for production assistance. An internal memo to the Pentagon from an advertising agency rejected the offer, noting that "Both movies are already wonderful recruiting tools for the military, particularly the Navy, and to add a recruiting commercial onto the head of what is already a two-hour recruiting commercial is redundant."[27]


Since its initial release, the film has made many top film lists and has been the subject of comedic interpretation. In 2008, the film was ranked at number 455 in Empire '​s list of the 500 greatest films of all time.[28] Yahoo! Movies ranked Top Gun #19 on their list of greatest action films of all-time.[29] The film has been nominated multiple times for various AFI lists, ranking only once. In 2005, the line "I feel the need... the need for speed!" was ranked 94 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes list.

American Film Institute lists

The 1991 film Hot Shots! was a comedy spoof of Top Gun.

The masculine theme of the film has been the subject of humorous examination, with the homoerotic subtext examined in a monologue performed by Quentin Tarantino in the 1994 film Sleep with Me.[34][35][36][37]

Top Gun is one of many war and action films, especially those by Jerry Bruckheimer, parodied in the 2004 comedy Team America: World Police.[38]

In the 2011 season opener, the Saturday Night Live crew did a sketch for the Top Gun 25th Anniversary DVD, featuring "never-before-seen screen tests". The SNL cast parodied Tony Danza, Alan Alda, Paula Abdul, Sinbad, and others.[39] The show had previously spoofed Top Gun in a 2000 episode hosted by Val Kilmer, doing a sketch in which Iceman had become a commercial airline pilot.[40]

The 2013 computer-animated film Planes pays homage to Top Gun, with Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards as voice cast.


On October 13, 2010, New York magazine reported that Paramount Pictures had made offers to Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott to make a sequel to Top Gun. Christopher McQuarrie had also received an offer to write the sequel's screenplay, which was rumored to have Cruise's character Maverick in a smaller role.[41] When asked about his idea for a new Top Gun film, Scott replied, "This world fascinated me, because it's so different from what it was originally. But I don't want to do a remake. I don't want to do a reinvention. I want to do a new movie."[42]

In December 2011, Tom Cruise stated that the sequel was in the works, and that he was in talks to reprise his role.[43] In March 2012, it was revealed by Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin F-35 program manager, that the F-35 Lightning II will be used and to be flown by Maverick as a test pilot in the sequel.[44]

On August 17, 2012, director Tony Scott and Tom Cruise met to scout locations in Fallon, Nevada for the sequel which was set to go into production in 2013 and expected for release in 2014. Jerry Bruckheimer would again produce and Peter Craig was in charge of writing script which is said to be nearly finished. According to reports, the plot of the movie would focus on the role of drones in modern aerial warfare.[45]

Since Scott's suicide, the sequel's future has remained in question. However, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has stated he "hasn't given up" on the sequel as all parties, including Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, are still interested in making the film. Mentioning he has wanted to make a sequel happen since the film came out 27 years ago, Bruckheimer confirmed the interest is still strong. "It's just figuring out how to do it," Bruckheimer said, "which I think we have a good handle on, and losing Tony slowed us down. But hopefully, we can pick up speed again."[46]

In June 2013, Bruckheimer stated that: "For 30 years we've been trying to make a sequel and we're not going to stop. We still want to do it with Tom [Cruise] and Paramount are still interested in making it. What Tom tells me is that no matter where he goes in the world, people refer to him as Maverick. It's something he is excited about so as long as he keeps his enthusiasm hopefully we'll get it made."[47]

On September 8, 2014, Paramount and Skydance revealed being in negotiations to have Justin Marks write the screenplay.[48]

Video games[edit]

Main article: Top Gun (video game)

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 GameCube 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. At E3 2011, it was announced that a new game, Top Gun: Hard Lock which was released in March 2012 for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3.

Mobile game publisher Hands-On Mobile (formerly known as Mforma) have published three mobile games based around Top Gun.[citation needed] 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 After Burner games.[citation needed]


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External links[edit]