Behind the Set Secrets from Top Gun

Blockbuster Movie

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Top Gun was a blockbuster hit when it came out in the 1980’s. It was the first major hit Tom Cruise had starred in and created many pop culture references such as “I feel the need for speed.” Not only was the movie fantastic, but the soundtrack is one of the best selling soundtracks.

“Danger Zone”

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Kenny Loggins almost didn’t sing the famous track “Danger Zone.” The song was written specifically for the movie at the request of Jerry Bruckheimer, the movie’s producer. Columbia Records, once it was written and composed, originally asked for a Columbia Records artist to sing the song.

U.S. Navy Recruitment

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Once the song was recorded, the Navy produced a video to go along with the song in hopes of getting more people to join.

RIP Art Scholl

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One of the most famous scenes from Top Gun is when a jet plane comes crashing down into the ocean. Both of the pilots had to eject themselves from the plane. Unfortunately, only one survived.

The film itself is dedicated to famous stuntman, Art Scholl. He died at the age of 53 in an aviation accident while the film was in production.


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Thanks to the handsome and brave role of Maverick, Tom Cruise’s career would never be the same. He shot to stardom and all eyes were on him. Just a year after the film was released, he married his first wife, Mimi Rogers. It was his wife who introduced him to Scientology. They divorced just three years later.

Anthony Edwards

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Anthony Edwards played Goose in the film. It wasn’t his first time on the big screen. He had recently starred in Revenge of the Nerds and had a hit television series, It Takes Two. It was his role in Top Gun that seared his name into popular culture forever.

Barf Bags

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According to the crew, Anthony Edwards was the only actor who didn’t barf on set while filming. Most of the actors hurled while flying in jets piloted by actual military pilots so they would know what it was actually like.

Admitting to Getting Sick

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Tom Cruise wasn’t shy about getting sick while on set. On Jimmy Kimmel he said, “Anyway, we did all the training, and then came the day that we’ve got to fly. We set up the cameras, and it wasn’t like today. It was really challenging – quite brilliant of Tony Scott, how he figured out how to do it. But the guy who flew me in the first flight, his name was Bozo. The pilot’s name was Bozo! So, I’m strapping in and we’re getting in there, and you see the helmet go on that says ‘Bozo.’ I’m like, ‘Bozo?’” Before taking off, Cruise noticed that an emergency light was on. “I remember saying, ‘Bozo, these lights… there’s a lot of red lights.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ He starts turning them off. I’m like, ‘Okay.’ He’s like, ‘They don’t call me Bozo for nothing.’

“My head was on the ground! I was pressed on the floor holding my vomit. I’m trying to press the talk button; it was on the foot. I kept going, ‘Bozo! Bozo! Bozo!’ I was choking, he just kept pulling up and up and up. Finally, he released and we were going straight ahead,” Cruise explains.

Kelly McGillis

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Kelly McGillis played Charlie in the film. Before Top Gun, she received a Golden Globe nomination for her work in Witness. Everyone loved McGillis as Maverick’s love interest. Before starring in films, she attending Julliard and the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.

Meg Ryan

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Meg Ryan played Carole Bradshaw, Goose’s wife, in the movie. While her role in this film wasn’t her best known, she went on to star in Armed and Dangerous, which made her a household name.

Coming Up with Top Gun

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The original idea for the movie came from an article titled “Top Guns.” It was about fighter pilots in California. When Jerry Bruckheimer pitched the script, he described it as “Star Wars on earth.”

Help from the Navy

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The producers asked for help from the U.S. Navy. They looked over the script and gave their expertise. One change they made was in the opening scene. Instead of the fight taking place in Cuba, it took place in international waters. They were also very helpful with cockpit dialogue.

Changing Course

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Tony Scott, the film’s cinematographer, boarded the USS Enterprise to catch some shots of jets taking off and landing. He really wanted a shot with the sun behind the jets. This caused the ship to change course. After getting the shots he asked to turn the ship back on its original course. The captain informed him that it would cost $25,000 to do that. Scott was happy to pay that amount.

Movie Mistakes

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Even with help from the U.S. Navy, there are still some mistakes throughout the movie. Someone even created a website that lists 79 inaccuracies found in the movie.

Real Friends

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Before filming, the cast would bond over long nights out on the town in San Diego. “I remember it being one giant weekend, as far as making the thing,” Kilmer said.

Tony Scott

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You may know director Tony Scott’s brother, Ridley Scott. They worked together on many movies. However, Tony killed himself in 2012 when he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge. While Top Gun is his most successful film, he was fired three times throughout filming.

Intimate Scene

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Originally, there wasn’t going to be a love scene between Maverick and Charlie. It was later filmed after production and added to the movie. The audience felt there needed to be one. The scene is tinted blue to hide the fact that McGillis had already dyed her hair for another role.

Shirtless Scenes

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Shirtless scenes were also added after filming had ended in order to bring more women to the movie. The volleyball scene and locker room scene were added to make this happen.


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The scene were Val Kilmer coughed a curse word was ad-libbed. It’s one of the more memorable scenes from the film.

Anthony and Meg

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While they played a married couple, they actually started dating in real life. The two had about a yearlong relationship and even moved in together. It’s speculated that Anthony proposed to Meg, but she turned him down.

Two Officers

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Charlie was originally supposed to be an Officer. However, the Navy disapproved of two Officers falling in love. So, the writers changed the script so that she was a Navy consultant.

Specific Look

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The “look” of Top Gun was inspired by Bruce Weber’s photography. Specifically his first book of photos of almost nude male models in military settings.

Maverick Was Written for Cruise

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Tom Cruise was the actor in mind when writing the character of Maverick. His performance in All the Right Moves inspired the writers for the character. Cruise wasn’t sure if he would take the part until he flew with the Blue Angels.

RIP Goose

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At first, Goose was supposed to die in a midair crash. However, the Navy didn’t feel that this was plausible in real life. So, they changed his death to hitting the cockpit opening while ejecting himself from the jet.

Flight School

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The flight school TOPGUN was the inspiration for the movie. It was founded in the late 1960’s during the Vietnam War and was located in San Diego. It was later moved to Fallon, Nevada in the mid-90s. Talking about Top Gun is banned in the school. If a student mentions or references the movie, they have to pay $5.

Tom Cruise Now

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Cruise went on to star in many other successful films including Mission Impossible and Toby Maguire. He has been divorced three times and is still an active member in Scientology. He has a biological daughter with ex-wife Katie Holmes and two adopted children with ex-wife Nicole Kidman.

Anthony Edwards Now

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Anthony Edwards went on to star as Dr. Mark Greene in ER for eight years. He also won a People’s Choice Award, a Golden Globe, and six Screen Actors Guild Awards and was nominated four times for an Emmy. He got married in 1994 and has four kids. He is also on the board for Shoe4Africa.

Kelly McGillis Now

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After Top Gun McGillis appeared in a number of shows and movies. She was married twice before coming out as gay in 2009 when she was with Melanie Leis. McGillis has had some pretty scary encounters when in 1982 she was raped and attacked in her New York apartment and in 2016 when a woman broke into her house and tried to attack her. McGillis now has a concealed weapon permit, understandably.

Meg Ryan Now

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Meg Ryan’s career only went up from Top Gun. She went on to star in You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. She married Dennis Quaid in 1991 and gave birth to her son Jack. They divorced shortly after. She has been in a relationship with John Mellencamp and adopted a daughter with him.

Amusement Parks

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The movie inspired a roller coaster at Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio. “Danger Zone” would play while people waited in line for the ride. The name has been changed to “Flight Deck” after ownership of the park changed hands.

Going International

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When the film came out, Cruise traveled to Japan, France, and Italy to promote the film for four months. It was actually Cruise’s idea to promote the film internationally and was one of the first films to do so. Now, almost every blockbuster film is promoted overseas.

Faking Height

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While Tom Cruise set the standards for good looks with his role in Top Gun most didn’t notice his actual height. He stands at 5’7’’ and had to wear lifts to appear taller than McGillis who is 5’10’


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Fans question why there hasn’t been a sequel made for the film since it do so well. There are some rumors of a sequel being made. In 2016 Cruise met up with Jerry Bruckheimer to talk about it.

Script Already Written

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It’s pretty likely that there will be a sequel. The script has already been written! It was about Maverick as an instructor in the school and teaching a female pilot that he sees himself in.

The Bar

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The bar that the scene where Maverick and Goose sing is an actual bar you can go do in San Diego. It’s called Kansas City BBQ. The bar burnt down in 2008, but the original piano survived.

Ray Bans

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Tom Cruise brought Ray-Ban Aviators in style with this movie. Sales had dropped in the 70s, but when people saw Maverick wearing them, sales spiked almost 40%.


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There are a variety of aircraft that appear in the film. However, to get a hold of these jets to film it would cost the $10,000 per hour. If the film were produced today, it would cost $32 million!

Ally Sheedy

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Ally Sheedy was originally offered the role of Charlie. Her response to turning it down? “Who wants to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane?” She probably regrets turning down that role now.

Too Much Flying

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Producers felt that there was too much flying in the film. While the movie was about the Top Gun program, they felt that there needed to be more storyline.

Critics and Reviews

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While many people loved the movie, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 55% while the audience scored it an 83%. “Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless. The dogfighters are the best since Clint Eastwood’s electrifying aerial scenes in Firefox. But look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another,” Roger Ebert wrote.

Intended Audience

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One day during filming, some Navy officers told Tony Scott that the characters had too many patches on their uniforms to be believable. He replied, “We’re not making this movie for Navy fighter pilots, we’re making it for Kansas wheat farmers who don’t know the difference.”

Box Office Hit

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Top Gun was the highest grossing movie in 1986 raking in a total of $177 million just in the U.S. It made $353 million worldwide.

Recruiting Film

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The U.S. Navy sees the film as a great recruitment tool. John Davis, one of the film’s producers agreed that it would have a positive impact on enrollment. When the film was released, the number of people who said they wanted to be Naval Aviators rose 500%.

Only Two Missiles Allowed

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Tony Scott only received two missiles to shoot off. So, he used the same shot of the missiles shooting over and over again in the movie.

No Bryan Adams Songs

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When asked if his song “Only the Strong Survive” could he used in the movie, he denied their request. He didn’t want his song to be associated with a film that glorified war and violence.


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When Disney came out with the animated film, Planes, they paid homage to Top Gun. Actors Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer voiced two of the characters in the movie.

Stolen by China

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The Chinese government took footage from the film and declared it as their own when they broadcast it to their citizens in 2011. They claimed that it was their Navy attacking an enemy.

VHS Commercial

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Top Gun was the first VHS movie to have a commercial put before the movie. It was a Diet Pepsi commercial that last for one minute. This resulted in the VHS to be sold for $3 less than it would have originally.

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While Top Gun was pretty expensive to film, Charlie Sheen’s parody Hot Shots! was even more expensive. It cost $26 million to film and only earned $181 million worldwide.