Top Gun (1986)

Starring -Tom Cruise & Kelly McGillis

Macho navy pilot Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is sent to Miramar Naval Air Station for advanced training where he competes with ‘Iceman’ (Val Kilmer) for the coveted Top Gun award.

He seduces a civilian consultant played by Kelly McGillis but the real excitement in the movie comes from the stunning flying sequences which combined real footage with state of the art scale models.

Mitchell looses the Top Gun honour to his rival after being shaken up by the death of a friend. Worried that he may have lost his nerve he redeems himself on a real mission to rescue a damaged US vessel and the rivals become friends… aahhh!

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 an article titled “Top Guns” published in California magazine three years earlier. The film stars Tom CruiseKelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. It also marked the debut of actor Adrian Pasdar.

Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a young naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He and his Radar Intercept Officer, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Edwards) are given the chance to train at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.

Top Gun was released on May 16, 1986. Upon its release, the film received generally mixed reviews from film critics but many particularly praised the action sequences, the effects, the aerial stunts, and the acting performances with Cruise and McGillis receiving the most praise. Four weeks after release, the number of theaters showing it increased by 45 percent.

Despite its initial mixed critical reaction, the film was a huge commercial hit grossing US$356 million against a production budget of only US$15 million. The film maintained its popularity over the years and earned an IMAX 3D re-release in 2013. Additionally, the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Take My Breath Away” performed by Berlin.

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. A sequel, titled Top Gun: Maverick is scheduled for release on June 26, 2020.

Cast

  • Tom Cruise as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
  • Kelly McGillis as Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood. The character is based on a real-life person, Christine Fox, who worked at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
  • 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
  • Clarence Gilyard as LTJG Marcus “Sundown” Williams
  • Whip Hubley as LT Rick “Hollywood” Neven
  • James Tolkan as CDR Tom “Stinger” Jardian
  • Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw
  • Adrian Pasdar as LT Charles “Chipper” Piper

The primary inspiration for the film was the article “Top Guns” by Ehud Yonay, from the May 1983 issue of California magazine, which featured aerial photography by then-Lieutenant Commander Charles “Heater” Heatley. The article detailed the life of fighter pilots at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, 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 attendance at several declassified Topgun 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.

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. The character of Chipper Piper was created just for Pasdar as Scott loved his performance.

The Navy made several aircraft from F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 “Screaming Eagles” (which Tom Skerritt mentions in the scene at his home) available for the film. Paramount paid as much as US$7,800 per hour (equivalent to $18,500 today) 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, showing aircraft from F-14 squadrons VF-114 “Aardvarks” and VF-213 “Black Lions”

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 US$25,000 (equivalent to $59,000 today) to turn the ship, and to continue on course. Scott wrote the carrier’s captain a US$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 Naval Air Station Fallon, in Nevada, using ground-mounted cameras. Air-to-air shots were filmed using a Learjet, piloted by Astrovision inventor and legendary pilot Clay Lacy. His name is misspelled in the closing credits, as Clay Lacey. 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.

The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date, reaching 9× Platinum certification and #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart for five nonconsecutive weeks in the summer and fall of 1986Harold Faltermeyer, who previously worked with both Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson on 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.

The film quickly became a success and was the highest-grossing film of 1986. It would be six months before its theater count dropped below that of its opening week. It was number one on its first weekend with a gross of US$8,193,052, and went on to a total domestic gross of US$176,781,728. Internationally it took in an estimated US$177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of US$353,811,728. The film sold an estimated 47,650,100 tickets in North America in its initial theatrical run.

The film grossed an additional US$3,018,873 in its IMAX re-release in 2013 bringing its domestic gross to US$179,800,601 and its worldwide gross to US$356,830,601.

Memories of “Top Gun (1986)” in The 80s

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