Maverick: I feel the need... Maverick and Goose: ...the need for speed!
Tom Cruise flies F-14 Tomcats and gives the Commie Landers the finger while playing volleyball.Okay, a bit more detail. Top Gun (1986) was inspired by a magazine article on Navy pilots. The screenwriters and director Tony Scott viewed it as "Sports Movie meets jets". In it, a hotshot pilot named "Maverick" (Cruise) is sent to the TOPGUNnote Which is the actual name of the real-life school - all caps, no space training school, a five-week workshop where pilots learn how to really kick ass in an Old-School Dogfight. Here Maverick has to deal with competition from fellow pilots, and conquer his own demons.The film had full cooperation from the Pentagon, and much of its aerial combat was shot "reel for real" using actual Navy hardware. (So real, somebody died making it.) It was an unanticipated success and caused an immediate boost in Navy enlistment figures, to the point that they started putting recruiting booths right there in the theatre.
Tropes contained therein:
Ace Pilot: Obviously. As far as particular styles:
Iceman is described as a Steamroller. To paraphrase Goose, he just stays on you and harries you relentlessly until you make a mistake.
During one exercise Viper and Jester collaborate as a Plugger and Bushwhacker/Sniper respectively, with Viper drawing an overeager Maverick off while Jester sneaks up on him from another direction.
Mav doesn't really have any particular style; he flies almost entirely on instinct. At one point he flat-out states to Charlie that, "You think, you're dead."
Actually Four Mooks: The MiG pilots like to fly in close formation to disguise their radar signatures as fewer planes than are actually present. This is Truth in Television, and has also been used by American pilots from time to time.
Anonymous Ringer: The nation whose air force the main characters fly against is never named. Speculation pegs it as South Yemen, a then Soviet client. IMDB suggests it was intended to be North Korea, which is rather unlikely as dialogue in the film establishes the setting as the Indian Ocean.
Maverick's CO, Stinger, also counts. He's built like a fireplug and he tears both Maverick and Goose a new asshole, but he begins with a soft "Maverick, you just did an incredibly brave thing..." and ends with "Good luck, Gentlemen."
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Maverick. He's too hotheaded for his own good, but he's one of the absolute best pilots around.
Buzzing The Tower: Maverick has a history of doing these over control towers, and one admiral's daughter. In the course of the film he does it twice more, both time causing the control Sergeant to spill coffee on himself.
Disappeared Dad: Maverick's father was shot down and killed in an unnamed conflict.
Disqualification-Induced Victory: The pilot Cougar loses his cool and turns in his wings. So Maverick and Goose get a slot at the Fighter Weapons school in his place. Their commander wanted to ground them both after their antics with Soviet Migs.
Dodge by Braking: The Trope Maker in modern filmmaking, Maverick uses this technique to make his enemies overshoot. It works every time.
So as not to give the wrong idea, he only does it twice, each time to a different opponent which is why it is listed above as a Chekhov's Skill.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Averted by the instructors at Top Gun; while they may be stern taskmasters at times, they never raise their voices very much and really have their students' best interests in mind.
The Dreaded: Viper. Oh, sure, he might just be an instructor, but even his presence on the field is enough to give the trainees pause.
Viper: ''Good morning, gentlemen. The temperature is 110 degrees..."
Due to the Dead: Maverick throws his dearly departed friend's dog tags into the sea after winning the dogfight.
Faceless Goons: With visors and masks, everyone is technically faceless in the fighting scenes, but the U.S. pilots wear coloured helmets with their names on them and rarely use their visors, while the enemy pilots just have black always-visored helmets with a red star on.
Notably, the U.S. pilots are also frequently shown flying with their oxygen masks dangling to the side. This provides a minor Lock and Load Montage - the pilots snap their masks in place when they are about to enter combat.
Fanservice: The volleyball scene, the shower scene(s).
Fatal Family Photo: Subverted — Cougar has such a photo, but Maverick prevents him from crashing. He then resigns his commission.
Inspired several imitators, including Fire Birds and the short-lived TV series Supercarrier, the long-running TV series JAG, as well as multiple air-combat video games.
The movie Navy SEALS with Charlie Sheen was requested by the Navy, who hoped it would provide a bump in enlistments the way Top Gun did.
The Navy also fully supported the production of The Hunt for Red October as they thought it would do for the submarine service what Top Gun did for Navy aviation.
Gatling Good: The shots of the MiGs firing their guns during the final dogfight cut to a shot of a Minigun firing. The F-14 carries an internal 20mm Vulcan cannon as well, but it's never used on-screen.
The General's Daughter: A high-speed pass over an admiral's daughter is mentioned a couple of times, but we never hear the whole story. It's within the realm of possibility that Maverick didn't literally do a high speed pass over the admiral's daughter, in fact it's strongly implied that Stinger was being figurative and that Mav had a fling with her.
Hot-Blooded: Maverick, who likes yanking stunts like the picture-taking with the MiG at dangerously close range and abandoning his wingman for a perfect shot. His ego's writing checks his body can't cash, and it's noted he got it from his father.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: While all pilots do wear helmets, none of the named characters have their sun visors covering their eyes while flying (not even strict "by the book" pilots like Jester or Viper).
Heroic BSOD: Maverick is stuck in one after Goose's death.
Cougar has one in-flight after an enemy fighter gets a missile lock on him.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Maverick and Goose. It is strongly implied that they have been friends and flight-team partners for quite some time, and at one point Maverick calls Goose "the only family I've got."
Introduction by Hookup: Mav tries to pick up a random blonde at a bar near the base. Next day the blonde, Charlie, is briefing him and the other Top Gun students on the performance differences between the MiG-28 and the American planes standing in for them. After he corrects her on something her intel says the 28 can't do but he saw it pull off:
Charlie: You never told me you were a famous MiG insulter. Maverick: Would it have made a difference? Charlie: Not in the ladies room, no.
Very much so. Most notably, all combat takes place within what the military would consider spitting distance; the flame-out scene, which is a real defect of the F-14, should have happened much earlier than it did. In all fairness, the military pilots doing the flying pointed this out, and the filmmakers agreed to try shooting actual aerial combat. The result was that you couldn't see anything, and Real Life bowed to Rule of Cool.
There is no such plane as the MiG-28. Even if there was, Soviet nomenclature conventions mean that it would be a bomber, not a fighter (since fighters are odd-numbered).
Love Theme: Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", which plays pretty much anytime Maverick and Charlie are together.
Missile Lock On: Constantly during the aerial combat scenes. Ironically, most of the dogfights in the film take place INSIDE the minimum effective range of the missiles carried by the aircraft in the film, as noted by several characters when 'switching to guns', yet they go back to missiles by the time they actually fire.
Nice Guy: Goose, in spades. A devoted family man, liked by everyone, and pretty much the only one who can rein his impetuous partner in. Naturally, he dies two-thirds of the way through the film.
Nintendo Hard: The NES video game, thanks to those bloody difficult carrier landings.
The Rival: Iceman for Maverick, who doesn't like Maverick's habit of abandoning his wingmen. Ice wins the Top Gun trophy, but Mav eventually earns his respect in the final battle when he at last learns to never abandon his wingman thereby saving Iceman's ass.
Running Gag: The Air Boss can't seem to keep his coffee in the cup when Maverick "buzzes the tower".
The Top Gun school left Miramar years ago. It's now based in Nevada under a different name and teaches both air combat -and- ground-attack.
F-14s, which feature so prominently in the film, have all been retired from service with the Navy. Similarly, the A-4s and F-5s flown by the instructors have since been replaced with F/A-18s and F-16s.
Despite still being a minority, it would now be very unusual for absolutely no women to be seen serving aboard a carrier.
Tragic Bromance: Goose dies in a training accident, and Maverick almost dies on the inside.
Unintentional Period Piece: The top box office gross of the year, two huge hit songs, and capturing just about everything that was special about the decade, Top Gun practically is 1986.
Weapons Understudies: A-4s and F-5s for MiGs. A-4s and F-5s were chosen by the actual TOPGUN training seminar for "Dissimilar Air Combat Training," which is military jargon for, "We can't get real MiGs, but these planes have similar flight characteristics to them, so they'll do." They did actually have some in the Constant Peg programme, but its existence was classified at that time.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Inverted. Maverick's dad died in air combat, and Maverick is constantly reassuring himself that his father was, indeed, the ace that he has told himself since childhood. Viper, whose role is partly Big Brother Mentor, eventually assures him that this was the case.
What the Hell, Hero?: Viper chews out Maverick over breaking the Top Gun rules of engagement and his flyby after the first hop.