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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Top Gun (1986)

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Renegade pilot tries to take on the system to prove he's one of the best.

Plot Summary: Naval Aviator Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) after a brush with a MiG-28 is sent to the Navy’s Top Gun school with his RIO, LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. While at Top Gun, Maverick becomes involved with Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), a civilian instructor at the school, when she learns of his infamous reputation. Setting out to prove he's the best, Maverick finds a fierce rival in Tom "Ice-Man" Kazansky (Val Kilmer) for the right to the Top Gun trophy awarded to the top finisher in Top Gun schooling. However, after a heartbreaking loss, Maverick suddenly loses his confidence, and must find a way to fight through to prove to everyone who is truly the best.


  • Tony Scott as Director

  • Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr as Writers

  • Tom Cruise as LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell

  • Kelly McGillis as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood

  • Val Kilmer as LT Tom "Iceman" Kazansky

  • Anthony Edwards as LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw

  • Tom Skerritt as CDR Mike "Viper" Metcalf

  • Michael Ironside as LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly

  • John Stockwell as LT Bill "Cougar" Cortell

  • Barry Tubb as LTJG Henry "Wolfman" Ruth

  • Rick Rossovich as LTJG Ron "Slider" Kerner

  • Tim Robbins as LTJG Sam "Merlin" Wells

  • Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw


  • Top Gun opened on May 16, 1986. The film quickly became a success and was the highest-grossing film of 1986. It was number one on its first weekend with a gross of $8 million, and went on to a total domestic gross of US$176 million. Internationally, it took in an estimated $177 million for a worldwide box office total of $353 million.

  • In addition to its box office success, Top Gun went on to break further records in the then still-developing home video market. It was the first new-release blockbuster on video cassette to be priced as low as $26.95 and, backed by a massive $8 million marketing campaign, including a Top Gun-themed Diet Pepsi commercial, the advance demand was such that the film became the best-selling videocassette in the industry's history on pre-orders alone, with over 1.9 million units ordered before its launch on March 10, 1987. It eventually sold a record 2.9 million units.

  • Top Gun holds a 57% rating on RT and a 50% on Metacritic.

  • The film was nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Sound, Film Editing, Sound Effects Editing, and it won for the Original Song - Take My Breath Away by Berlin.

  • In 2008, the film was ranked at number 455 in Empire's list of the 500 greatest films of all time.

  • Yahoo! Movies ranked Top Gun number 19 on their list of greatest action films of all-time.

  • It was also ranked #94 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes for "I feel the need — the need for speed."

  • In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Did You Know:

  • The real Top Gun School imposes a $5 fine to any staff member that quotes the film.

  • Stunt pilot Art Scholl was killed during the production of the movie, aged 54. He died when his Pitts S-2 camera plane failed to recover from a flat spin and plunged into the Pacific Ocean. Scholl's last words over the radio were "I have a problem - I have a real problem." The exact cause of the crash was never determined, and neither the aircraft nor Scholl's body were ever recovered. The film is dedicated to him.

  • Val Kilmer did not want to be in this film, but was forced to by contractual obligations. However, it became one of his most iconic roles in his career.

  • Charlie's "older man" date at the officer's club is the real-life "Viper", Pete Pettigrew. He is a retired Navy pilot and TOP GUN instructor, and shot down a MiG during the Vietnam War. He served as the technical consultant on the film.

  • The Pentagon charged Paramount Pictures $1.8 million to use all of their planes and aircraft carriers for the film.

  • The character portrayed by Kelly McGillis is based on Christine Fox, a civilian flight instructor the producers met on a visit to Miramar while doing research to prepare for the film. Fox eventually rose through the ranks at the Pentagon, retiring in May 2014 as Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense, the highest post ever held by a woman at the Department of Defense.

  • Tom Cruise had to wear lifts in his scenes with Kelly McGillis. Cruise is 5'7" (1.70 m) while McGillis is 5'10" (1.78 m).

  • Numerous critics complained that the movie largely amounted to a Navy recruitment film. The U.S. Navy stated that the film's popularity resulted in a 500 percent increase in the number of recruits wanting to enter into their aviation program. Paramount offered to include a Navy Recruitment ad on the initial home video release in exchange for debits owed to the U.S. Navy for their cooperation. However, the ad agency who produced ads for the U.S. Military informed the Pentagon that the movie itself was enough of a propaganda tool, and that an official recruiting ad would be redundant.

Best Performance: Tom Cruise (Maverick) / Tom Skeritt (Viper) / Tony Scott (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Tony Scott (Director) / Harold Faltermeyer (Music)

Most Charismatic Award: Tom Cruise (Maverick) / Meg Ryan (Carole)

Best Scene:

  • Maverick Saves Cougar

  • You've Lost that Loving Feeling

  • Civilian Charlie

  • Taking Maverick to School

  • Goose Goes

  • Viper Reveals Duke Mitchell Demise

  • Crisis in the Indian Ocean

Favorite Scene: Great Balls of Fire / Civilian Charlie

Most Indelible Moment: Graduation / Goose Goes

In Memorium:

  • Fred Ward, 79, American Actor, (The Right Stuff, True Detective, Sweet Home Alabama, Naked Gun 33 1/3) [Obituary]

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Maverick: I feel the need...

Maverick, Goose: ...the need for speed!

Maverick: You're the only family I have. I won't let you down.

Jester: That was some of the best flying I've seen yet. Right up to the part where you got killed. You never, never leave your wing man.

Carole: Hey, Goose, you big stud!

Goose: That's me, honey.

Carole: Take me to bed or lose me forever.

Goose: Show me the way home, honey.

Charlie: It takes a lot more than just fancy flying.

Charlie: You're not going to be happy unless you're going Mach 2 with your hair on fire.

Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 8.33

Impact/Significance: 7.67

Novelty: 6.83

Classic-ness: 6.67

Rewatchability: 6

Audience Score: 8.55 (88% Google, 83% RT)

Total: 44.05

Remaining Questions:

  • Is Maverick cool or creepy when he follows Charlie into the Ladies' Room?

  • Does Charlie actually like Maverick at all?

  • Does Maverick end up taking two showers in the first scene at Charlie's?

  • Is that the worst sex scene of the 80s?

  • For what purpose does Charlie come back at the end? And would it have been better if she had just left?

  • Did there need to be a sequel?

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