Film: Hot Shots!

In a World full of serious action movies, filled with huge explosions, improbably hot women, and angsty, tortured heroes with tragic backgrounds, one man stood up against the status quo and said, "No more! We don't have to sit here and endure the same plot over and over again! We deserve something more! Something better!" And he took the same plot we'd seen over and over again, and made us see it yet again, only this time, it was different... it was funny. It was... Hot Shots! (1991)

That man... was Jim Abrahams. And he is insane.

As one-third of the team that forever spoiled the airline disaster movie, Abrahams takes the fighter pilot action movie and turns it into something a couple degrees off center, just enough to catch us off-guard. At first blush, it appears to be a serious action movie, but then the whole thing spirals off into chaos.

Charlie Sheen stars as Topper Harley, an ex-Navyman who left the armed services to live with the Native Americans after the tragic death of his father. He is called back into service to help save a mission that is being sabotaged by a greedy weapons manufacturer. In the meantime, he must locate Saddam Hussein's cache of nukes and (more importantly) win the heart of his therapist Ramada Thompson (Valeria Golino) away from a rival pilot.

Hot Shots! was followed by a sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux.

The original movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Admiral Tug Benson can never seem to remember Lt. Cmr. James Block's first name. Or last name. Or rank. Frequently, he calls him by three or four completely random names in the same conversation.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Topper lures enemies into a canyon and evades them by stepping on the brakes, complete with brake pedal.
  • Anachronism Stew: Played for Laughs. Admiral Benson has apparently fought in every major battle of the past century or two, including being wounded by a bazooka at Little Big Horn... or was it Okinawa?
  • Argument of Contradictions: A bickering match between Topper Harley and Kent Gregory:
    Topper Harley: Are too too too too too too too too too too too...
    Kent Gregory: Not not not not not not not not not...
    Topper Harley: Are too times ten.
  • Artistic License - Military Justice: After being kicked out of the unit, impersonating another officer, hijacking a military aircraft, and directly causing the death of a second fellow officer during a training exercise, Washout would most likely be ruthlessly court-martialed. Not granted a transfer to a new occupation (let's forget about all the new training he would require to go from pilot to radar op) on the very same mission he was just thrown off of.
  • Aside Glance: After the bar, when Ramada tells Topper that she "can go all night like a lumberjack".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • All the Iraqi fighter pilots names and dialogue is just the names of Middle Eastern dishes.
    • The dialogue between Topper and his Native American friend is a bunch of gibberish (Minnesota towns and cities with Indian names, and the names of Jackson siblings) with some occasional English parsed in.
  • Bar Brawl: Again, parodied. As soon as Topper and Kent start shoving each other the entire bar spontaneously breaks out in violence that ends the moment Ramada stops the two rivals.
  • Bowdlerized:
    • The television broadcast edit of the first movie cut out almost the entirety of the 9 Weeks-inspired foreplay scene.
    • One of DVD releases cuts out all of the funny foreplay and sex scene of the second film.
    • One television release cut out the chicken-ammo scene.
  • Brick Joke: The batteries for the chief's walkman. Also, Topper asks Kent, towards the end of the film, what a "chafing dish" is. Something Kent had taken from Ramada's house much earlier in the film.
  • Captain Crash: Admiral Benson has never landed a plane before in his life. He isn't even that bad a pilot... it's just that he got shot down on every single one of his 194 combat missions.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Kent is seen reading a copy of Esquire with Carey Elwes on the cover.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The web used to catch landing planes before they fall into the sea.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Admiral Benson.
  • The Comically Serious: Like with Airplane and The Naked Gun, everyone says the most ridiculous lines in a deadpan manner.
  • Coming In Hot: Parodied.
  • Cool Plane: Parodied with the Oscar EW 5894, the "backbone of our proud American arsenal," portrayed in the film by the Folland Gnat jet-trainer, a plane that couldn't even break the sound barrier in real life.
  • Credits Gag: The recipe for the "topping for brownies."
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Done in the sequel. With a Chinese finger trap.
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Parodied. Dead Meat tells his wife he can save talking about his life insurance, his solution to global warming, and his JFK assassination evidence until after he returns from his mission.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Ramada ends up in a Ramada-shaped imprint on her mattress the morning after she and Topper do the deed.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty : "Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash"
  • Dodge by Braking: Harley leads pursuing jets into a canyon, and then slams on the brakes, complete with brake-screeching noises.
  • Eject...Eject...Eject...: Parodied. When a plane is going down, the pilot screams "Eject! EJECT!" Then a videotape pops out.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Played mostly straight. Topper suffers panic attacks every time he is compared to his disgraced father who was also a pilot. At the end of the movie in the middle of one of these attacks he's told the truth, that his father was a hero. Suddenly Topper is ready to fly circles around the enemy.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: To Harley's credit, the little velvet case he keeps them in is nice...
  • Failed a Spot Check: Apparently a trademark of the ZAZ team.
  • Famous Last Words
    Dead Meat: I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?
  • Fatal Family Photo: If that shirt were any redder, it would be outside the visible light spectrum...
    • Dead Meat is the living embodiment of this trope.
  • A Father to His Men: Spoofed: Admiral Benson is furious that the bad guy risked his men's lives in battle, because "That's my job!".
  • Fisheye Lens: Washout is afflicted with "Walleye Vision" that makes the world appear this way. He's a pilot. Later on he gets corrective glasses... which are tiny aquariums with live fish in them, making them a literal example of this trope.
    • Only when he starts crying towards the end of the movie. At first they're just very thick glasses.
  • The Fun in Funeral: Ties in with Shell-Shocked Veteran (see below). Also, while delivering Dead Meat's eulogy, Benson starts to list off characters from The Godfather among good people who died young.
  • Funny Background Event: Another ZAZ trademark. These include:
    • Troop drills involving can-can dancing.
    • A man serving as the blood donor for another character slowly deflating.
    • A funny verbal background event ... it's easy to miss Benson's voiceover informing us that the EW-5894 plane is called the Phallus.
  • Fun with Subtitles: When Topper tells his chief that he met a beautiful woman, but "she threw [him] a curve," the spoken word is "Hershiser".
    • When the subtitles say the characters are saying the word "English", the word they're actually saying is "Americanese".
  • Gilligan Cut: "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?" Cut to Dead Meat's funeral.
  • Having a Heart: "I have my father's eyes."
  • I Can See My House from Here
  • I'm a Humanitarian: If it makes you feel any better, Washout didn't have seconds.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Because Harley's been a good little fighter pilot.
  • In One Ear, Out the Other:
    • Tug Benson, using a handkerchief to demonstrate the side effects of one of his many war wounds.
    • Used on the movie poster — see the page image.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted; when Topper and Kent fight each other, Topper punches Kent in the face, and both immediately cower in pain.
    Kent: My FACE!
    Topper: My HAND!
  • It's All Junk: Parodying a similar scene in Top Gun, Harley chucks his father's eyes into the ocean.
  • Leave Him to Me: Mocked.
  • Lock and Load Montage: Parodied.
  • Made of Iron: Admiral Benson. Most of his body parts have been replaced with prosthetics or transplants due to war wounds or general accidents.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Both movies.
  • Meaningful Name: "Dead Meat" and "Washout". "Topper" Harley is the most outrageously skilled pilot alive, and drives a Harley.
    • Commander Block's call sign is "Eyewitness", as Lamp Shaded in his flashback.
  • Misguided Missile: Pulled off by Harley in the finale.
  • Moral Myopia: "You risked the lives of some damn fine pilots! That's my job!"
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Inverted.
  • Nom de Guerre: All the pilots, as befitting a (parody of a) military action movie.
  • Non Sequitur Thud: After Pfaffenbach slams head first into an ambulance door, he has this to say when he is congratulated for showing up:
    Jim "Wash Out" Pfaffenbach: "Thank you, Andre. I'll have the veal piccata." Splat.
  • One Degree of Separation: Parodied. When Kent reveals that his father died with Topper's in a crash, it sets off a series of revelations interconnecting everyone in the barracks.
  • One of the Boys: For a fun game, try to figure out if Kowalski is treated as if she was a man at every turn because somehow everyone thinks she is one or because there's some mad gender equality policy at work in the service.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Lampshaded; a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
  • Parrot Exposition: Lampshaded.
    Ramada: "I am the shrink."
    Topper: "You're the shrink?"
  • Playing Possum: Spoofed.
  • Prophetic Name: "Dead Meat" and "Washout".
  • Pun
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: In traditional Abrahams fashion.
  • Red Shirt: Callsign "Dead Meat".
  • Retirony: Okay, we get it, Dead Meat won't survive the movie... yeesh.
  • Running Gag: The catalogue of Tug Benson's increasingly outlandish war wounds. Other running gags include fighter jets being used like cars and people sitting on a chihuahua.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Again, Dead Meat.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Played relatively straight here, but see below...
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Spoofed with Tug Benson. At a soldier's funeral he hears the 21-gun salute and returns fire.
    "God, I love a good funeral!"
  • She's Got Legs: Ramada.
    Topper: Nice legs.
    Ramada: Thanks, I just got them lengthened. Now they go all the way up.
  • Shout-Out / Reference Overdosed: But unlike some recent movies, the shout outs still include jokes... okay mostly.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Ramada's musical number. Followed immediately by 'Falling Right Off A Piano'.
  • Sound Off: parodied by a group shouting lines from The Brady Bunch theme.
  • Spicy Latina: Ramada. Not Spanish (the actress playing her was half-Italian and half-Greek), but damn close.
  • Tempting Fate: Mocked with Dead Meat, who meets his beautiful wife on the tarmac, carries the critical evidence about JFK in his pocket, came up with a solution for global warming, and tries to sign a life insurance policy before climbing in the cockpit... but his pen is out of ink. Oh, well, there'll be plenty of time for that later. His last words are, "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?" Hard cut to his funeral...
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: At the end of one scene:
    Benson: By the way. I want to thank you for having us over for dinner the other night. Cheryl and I thought the stroganoff was marvelous.
    Sid: Sir, we didn't have dinner the other night.
    Benson: Really? Then where the hell was I? And who's this Cheryl?
  • Throwing the Fight: Extreme example during the boxing match in the film; one punch is thrown, it misses by a mile, and both fighters drop immediately after. As setup for the joke, Wilson says "This should be a good match. Both men work for Don King".
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kowalski and Ramada, respectively.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Topper has his father's eyes... literally.
    Put those away!
    Eh, they're just for luck.
  • Wronski Feint: Topper leads a couple of heat-seeking missiles to Saddam's base to use as extra ordnance.
  • X-Ray Sparks