They made us laugh and they made us cry. They made us cheer and they made us cringe. They gave us hope and they made us mad. They gave us soundtracks that thumped away in our Walkmans and we were privileged to see some of the movie stars move on to bigger and better things. These are none other than the Totally Awesome Movies of the 80s!
On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world. They succeeded. Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: TOP GUN.
Maverick is an incredibly talented pilot. He's also cocky and arrogant. Being cocky and arrogant when flying a multi-million dollar F-14 isn't wise. At the Top Gun Naval Flying School he fights the attitudes of the other pilots who, just like him, are training to be the best. He also fights the memory of his father, also a pilot who, in combat, killed others due to a mistake he made. When he meets Charlie, a female civilian instructor, he finds that not only is she attractive, but she could very well help him cope with one of his worst enemies: Himself.
"Top Gun" made its premiere in New York City on May 12, 1986. It would premiere again in Los Angeles three days later before making its broad US release on May 16 to more than 1000 theaters. The film earned over $8.1 million its opening weekend which really doesn't seem like that much. It's only competition on the same day of release was the film "Sweet Liberty" which was written, directed and starred M*A*S*H's Alan Alda ("Sweet Liberty" was released to over 1200 theaters the same weekend as "Top Gun" yet took in the low amount of $3.1 million during those three days). "Short Circuit" was released the week before "Top Gun" and before that audiences had already seen Tom Cruise in "Legend" which was released in mid-April. However, perhaps it was the combination of a hit soundtrack and hot guys in uniforms that had people flocking to the theaters to see "Top Gun" as it went on to become the #1 Box Office hit of 1986 earning over $176.7 million.
Directed by Tony Scott who had previously directed "The Hunger", "Top Gun" was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for Best Original Song, "Take My Breath Away" which also won a Golden Globe (the film was snubbed at the BAFTAs).
This enormous hit starred had the talented consisting Tom Cruise (Maverick), Kelly McGillis (Charlie), Val Kilmer (Iceman), Anthony Edwards (Goose), Tom Skerritt (Viper), Michael Ironside (Jester), and co-starred Meg Ryan (Carole). This was Meg Ryan's third film.
Filmed on the USS Carl Vinson in the Pacific Ocean, the USS Enterprise, the USS Ranger, and other locations throughout San Diego, here are some other fun facts regarding "Top Gun" you might appreciate...
1. The film was inspired by an article in the May 1983 issue of "California" magazine about the U.S. Navy's Top Gun School.
2. Both John Carpenter and David Cronenberg turned down the chance to direct.
3. Director Tony Scott was officially fired three times during production.
4. Matthew Modine turned down the Tom Cruise role because he objected to the film's Cold War politics. Also considered for the role of "Maverick" were Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Matthew Broderick, Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox, Scott Baio, Charlie Sheen, Jim Carrey, Rob Lowe, Eric Stoltz, Robert Downey, Jr., and Tom Hanks (Sheen would later go on to spoof the role in the 1991 comedy "Hot Shots!"). John Travolta was considered for the role, but his agent's asking price for him was too high, especially in lieu of his recent box-office flops.
5. Louis Gossett Jr. was considered for the role of Viper (Gossett, however, did play the older, mentor-type role in another 80s fighter jet film, "Iron Eagle"). Jon Voight was also considered for the role.
6. Michael Ironside was so convincing as an officer that when he heard someone running towards him below decks, he got on to the sailor who was running. The sailor saluted and slowed down until he got out of Ironside's line of sight and started running again. The sailor never knew that Ironside was an actor on the film.
7. In preparation for his role, Tom Cruise was allowed to take 3 rides in the F-14 Tomcat. He vomited during the first trip but was okay during the other two.
8. Anthony Edwards is the only actor who didn't vomit while in the fighter jets.
9. Val Kilmer did not want to be in this film, but was forced to by contractual obligations.
10. Just before the film started production, one of the producers announced that they wanted to use the Bruce Springsteen song "Born in the USA" but attempts to secure the song were unsuccessful.
11. Heavy metal rock band Judas Priest were asked to contribute the song "Reckless" to the soundtrack, but declined because they thought "Top Gun" would flop. Two years later, they contributed a cover of "Johnny Be Good" to the movie of the same name which, itself, was an actual flop at the theaters.
12. Kenny Loggins was not the first choice to record the song 'Danger Zone' for the film. 'Toto' and REO Speedwagon were two of the groups considered prior to Loggins.
13. The pilot that gets "flipped off" by Maverick and Goose is Admiral Robert Willard, the lead flight choreographer for the film. He was Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet (2007-2009) before transferring to United States Pacific Command.
14. The F-14 pilot that "flipped the bird" at the MiG pilot was Scott Altman of VF-51, who eventually became a NASA astronaut flying as pilot on two missions and as commander on two more missions.
15. Charlie's "older man" date at the officer's club is the real-life "Viper", Pete Pettigrew. He is a retired Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor, and shot down a MiG during the Vietnam War. He served as the technical consultant on the film.
16. The scene where Maverick follows Charlie into the bathroom was filmed at the Headquarters Building at Recruit Training Command, San Diego. The Naval Training Center installation was later demolished in the late 1990's to make way for more Navy housing. Before the headquarters building could be inspected for demolition, the bathroom counter that "Maverick" leans on and "stress tests" was stolen.
17. When the guys, as students, were first being spoken to by Charlie in the hanger, Maverick explains that he gave "the bird" to a MiG. She asks how he saw the MiG up close, and he says he was flying inverted. Right then, Ice coughs "bulls**t" and the guys laughed. The "bulls**t" line was ad libbed by Val Kilmer.
18. Tom Cruise actually had to wear lifts in his scenes with Kelly McGillis. Cruise is 5'7" while McGillis is 5'10".
19. Director Tony Scott wrote a quick check for $25,000 to the commander of the aircraft carrier in order to capture one vital external shot.
20. Most of the actors who portrayed F-14 crewmembers received backseat rides in the F-14, and several of the scenes which appear in the film were filmed with the actors in the air.
21. The aircraft used for the fictional MiG-28s are Northrop F-5E (single seat) and F (two seat) Tiger IIs, which were used by TOPGUN as aggressor aircraft.
22. After the car chase when Charlie tells Maverick that she didn't want anyone to find out she was falling for him, Maverick originally had a line to say. Tom Cruise forgot the line and "ad libbed" by kissing Kelly McGillis instead. Tony Scott liked it so much, he left the scene like that.
23. The love scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis was filmed after initial test screenings. Moviegoers complained that there was no love scene, so the company obliged. McGillis, however, had already dyed her hair darker for her next film. This is why the scene is tinted blue. Also noticeable as a subsequent shoot due to the longer length of Tom Cruise's hair (particularly in front). The elevator scene (where Maverick and Charlie meet after Mav's workout) was also filmed post-production which is why Kelly McGillis's was wearing a hat. Again, Tom Cruise's hair is longer in the shot as well.
24. The piano scene and the final bar/jukebox scene were shot in a San Diego restaurant called Kansas City BBQ, at the corner of Kettner Blvd and W. Harbor Drive. The restaurant housed many props and memorabilia from the film, including the jukebox and Maverick's flight helmet sits behind the bar in a locked display case. However, on June 26, 2008 Kansas City BBQ suffered a grease fire that destroyed much of the interior of the establishment. The restaurant has since been repaired to its original state, but all of the original "Top Gun" memorabilia on display was lost.
25. When Maverick receives his orders to the carrier following the graduation ceremony, there is a pilot standing behind him, with a mustache and wearing sunglasses. The pilot is "Heater" C.J. Heatley, a real-life former F-14 air show demonstration pilot and TOPGUN instructor.
26. An original draft of the script specified that the final showdown involved North Korean aircraft. The final script made the nationalities of the enemy planes unknown and simply specified they were MiGs over the Indian Ocean.
27. The film was originally going to have a scene near the end where Maverick visited Goose's grave. A filmed version of this scene was never released, however still screen shots from what such a scene would have looked like are available on the special edition DVD.
28. Popular 80s singer/musician Bryan Adams was asked to allow his song "Only the Strong Survive" on the soundtrack, but he refused because he felt that the film glorified war.
29. Following the movie, some of the F-5s used as the "MiG-28s" maintained their black paint schemes and served as "aggressor" aircraft simulating enemy planes in the real-life Top Gun program.
30. During the filming of some sequences from civilian aircraft, longtime Hollywood stunt pilot Art Scholl was killed. A biplane he was flying crashed off the Pacific Coast. The film is dedicated to his memory.
31. Riding on the back of this film's success, the US Navy set up recruiting booths in the major cinemas to try and catch some of the adrenaline charged guys leaving the screenings. They had the highest applications rate for years as a result.
And now you know.
A script for "Top Gun 2" was completed shortly after the release of the film, but it broke down in pre-production because 1) the military's technology had become updated and they didn't want camera crew anywhere near their new aircraft and 2) Tom Cruise did not want a sequel and finally agreed to star in one for a very high amount that was deemed "unaffordable." The script followed the further adventures of Maverick as an instructor at the Top Gun academy, the twist being a cocky female reminiscent of himself joining the team.
Enjoy these picture stills from the film which also include behind-the-scenes photos...
Stinger: They gave you your choice of duty, son. Anything, anywhere. Do you believe that shit? Where do you think you wanna go?