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 had 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 with Airplane!, 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 by Admiral Benson (Lloyd Bridges) 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, Kent Gregory (Cary Elwes).
Hot Shots! was followed by a sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux.
The movie contains examples of:
- The Ace: Played for laughs with Ramada Thompson. She's a psychologist, but in her spare time she does trick horseback riding... or works as a lounge singer... or does some welding...
- 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.
- All Women Are Lustful: Ramada is very sexually open, even by the standards of The '90s.
- Ambiguous Syntax:
- Admiral Benson is easily confused:Benson: I love soup. I mean, I think I love soup. Son-of-a-bitch in hell. It's either soup or duck. Which one do you shoot?
Block: Duck, sir.
[Benson slams his head, "ducking" onto the desk]
- When Ramada invites Topper into her apartment:Topper: What about your landlady? (in reference to her being nosy)
Ramada: Don't worry, you can do her, too. (Topper misses his next step)
- Ramada tells a joke using this - "What do you do with an elephant with three balls? You walk him and pitch to the rhino."
- Admiral Benson is easily confused:
- 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 Bighorn... or was it Okinawa?
- Argument of Contradictions: A bickering match between Topper Harley and Kent Gregory:Topper: Are too, too, too, too, too, too, too, too, too, too, too...
Kent: Not, not, not, not, not, not, not, not, not...
Topper: Are too times ten.
- Artistic License Military: Military justice version. 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. But that's not as funny.
- 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 are 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.
- Assurance Backfire: Washout gets a different career as radar operator, assuring Kent that "I'll be your eyes on the ground!" He is suffering from wall-eye vision and can barely see.
- Bar Brawl: Again, parodied. As soon as Topper and Kent start shoving each other, the entire bar spontaneously breaks out in violence. The brawl ends the moment Ramada stops the two rivals.
- Bowdlerise: The television broadcast edit of the first movie, cut out almost the entirety of the 9½ Weeks-inspired foreplay scene.
- Saddam Hussein's gag cameo sometimes gets edited out.... which doesn't make a lot of sense, because most networks seem fine with airing the sequel where the Saddam caricature has a more prominent role as the main villain.
- Bond One-Liner: When Topper takes out two Iraqi fighters by striking their wings with his, he quips "Fell for that one."
- Brick Joke:
- When Topper leaves his Native American tribe at the beginning of the film, Chief Owatonna asks him to bring back some batteries for his Walkman. In the epilogue scene, when Topper returns, he hands over the batteries.Owatonna: [subtitled] It's about fucking time!
- Kent and Ramada, who are less-than-Amicable Exes, get into an argument in front of Topper over a borrowed chafing dish. Towards the end of the film, when it seems like neither guy will get the girl, Topper walks off with Kent asking what a chafing dish is.
- During an early training mission, Topper has a Heroic BSoD when Block mentions his father and crashes through a billboard. He is then asked what happened. He replies that he thought he saw Elvis. Just before the ending credits when characters who died during the film are shown, Elvis is one of them.
- Ramada receives the Native name "Little Sizzling Belly", in reference to a sex scene much earlier in the film.
- When Topper leaves his Native American tribe at the beginning of the film, Chief Owatonna asks him to bring back some batteries for his Walkman. In the epilogue scene, when Topper returns, he hands over the batteries.
- 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.
- Casual Kink: Dropped in a casual way, when Ramada tells Kent they just hurt each other in a relationship.Kent: I thought that's the way you wanted it?
- Catapult Nightmare: The film begins with a pilot crashing their jet plane and being accidentally killed. The scene cuts to Topper Harley waking up and sitting bolt upright in bed. The entire flying sequence was Topper having a nightmare about the death of his father's navigator during a training mission where his father lost control of the plane.
- Chekhov's Gun: The web used to catch landing planes before they fall into the sea.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Admiral Benson. Always confused about his surroundings, the identities of the people who talk to him, and even his own past.
- Comically Cross-Eyed: Washout has both crossed and Fish Eyes. When he becomes an air traffic controller he wears glasses note .
- The Comically Serious: Like with Airplane! and The Naked Gun, everyone says the most ridiculous lines in a deadpan manner.
- Coming in Hot: Parodied.
- At the end of the first flight, Washout starts losing his eyesight right as he comes in for a landing. He then receives orders from the tower that confuse him even further. He somehow manages to land safely anyway, only to discover that he has landed on the Las Vegas Strip.
- Near the end of the movie, when Topper's plane is limping back from the mission and Washout is trying to help him land safely, he narrates a litany of system failures. First his landing gear is busted, then the radar goes, then he runs out of fuel, then a wing falls off, and then the other wing falls off. What is left of the plane then drops to the deck like a stone. Topper is just fine, of course.
- 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: Recipes for desserts are scattered throughout, as well as a list of things to do after the movie, the briefly-spoofed characters getting their own credits (e.g. "Rhett Butler - Charlie Sheen"), and finally...
- "If you left this theater when these credits started, you'd be home by now."
- 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.
- Death by Ambulance: Dead Meat survives a plane crash only to be hit by an ambulance. Whether that or the Trauma Conga Line he endured afterward was the cause of his death is uncertain.
- Deconstructor Fleet: The film doesn't just stick to parody/deconstruct Top Gun, which is the main target at first glance, but it sinks its meathooks into any trope it can find and folds and spindles it to shreds.
- Depraved Dentist: Wilson's fate at the end. He is punched down the stairs by Benson and lands in a dentist's chair. The dentist asks, "Is it safe?" and begins drilling Wilson's teeth.
- Destructo-Nookie: Ramada ends up in a Ramada-shaped imprint on her mattress the morning after she and Topper do the deed.
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The goal of the villains was to make sure their model of jet was selected to replace the current model the Navy uses. Block managed to accomplish that with Harley freezing up in combat, but the contractors also sabotaged the jets, leading to Block getting injured and giving Topper some Epiphany Therapy.
- Dodge by Braking: Harley leads pursuing jets into a canyon, and then slams on the brakes, complete with screeching noises.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty : "Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash"
- 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 debilitating panic attacks every time he is compared to his disgraced father, who was also a pilot. At the end of the movie, he learns the truth, that his father was a hero. Suddenly Topper is ready to fly circles around the enemy.
- Everyone Hates Mimes: The secondary targets of Operation: Sleepy Weasel are an accordian factory and a mime school.
- Excited Movie Title!
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Harley has his father's eyes (in a nice little velvet case).Ramada: Put those away!
- Failed a Spot Check: Apparently a trademark of the ZAZ team.
- Famous Last WordsDead Meat: I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?
[hard cut to Dead Meat's funeral]
- Fatal Family Photo: Just in case you weren't 100% convinced Dead Meat is doomed, he meets his pretty wife on the tarmac just before the fatal mission.
- 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!".
- Fish-Eye Lens: Washout is afflicted with "Wall Eye Vision" that makes the world appear this way. He's a pilot. Later on he gets corrective glasses... which when he starts crying towards the end of the movie, become tiny aquariums with live fish in them, making them a literal example of this trope.
- Freudian Excuse: Ramada diagnoses Topper with Paternal Conflict Syndrome. Every time Block mentions Buzz to Topper, Topper shuts down. Edwards notes that they're years away from a vaccine for the condition.
- 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 Acronyms: "Ladies and gentlemen! Twelve rounds of boxing for the WBA WBC WPA RSVP Heavyweight Championship of the World!"
- Fun with Subtitles: The faux Native language is rife with these.
- 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".
- "Batteries" apparently translates to "Latoya Tito Jermaine."
- 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: pilot Dominic "Mailman" Farnham was accidentally killed by a hunter, and used as a meal for the hunter's family. 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.
- It's All Junk: Parodying a similar scene in Top Gun, Harley chucks his father's eyes into the ocean.
- Lady in Red: Ramada in her musical scene.
- 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: Topper Harley left the armed services due to his family's shame but is called back into service to help save a mission.
- Meaningful Name: "Dead Meat" and "Washout". "Topper" Harley is the most outrageously skilled pilot alive, and drives a Harley. Also, Commander Block's call sign is "Eyewitness", as lampshaded in his flashback.
- Misguided Missile: Pulled off by Harley in the finale.
- Moral Myopia: Admiral Benson gives a dressing down to the man responsible for the airplane sabotage.Benson: You risked the lives of some damn fine pilots! That's my job!
- Ms. Fanservice:
- Kowalski, who appears lined up for inspection with the bunk's other pilots similarly without a shirt — but with a bra, of course. Thing is, though, the other characters in the movie think she's a man, which means that in-universe she's effectively topless. (The camp's Drill Sergeant Nasty tells "him", "Suck in that chest!")
- And Ramada, due partially to being sexually open enough that even Topper is a bit intimidated, stumbling over his own feet or letting out a Loud Gulp from one of her flirtatious remarks.
- 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 Washout slams head first into an ambulance door, he has this to say when he is congratulated for showing up:Jim "Washout" 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.Everybody in barracks: Eagle River?!
- One of the Boys: For a fun game, try to figure out if Kowalski (played by Ms. Fanservice Kristy Swanson) 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.Kowalski: You're quite a guy!
Topper: Ah, so are you!
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Topper's actual first name is Sean, but you won't know that unless you pay attention to his uniform's name tag because absolutely no-one ever uses it.
- 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.
- Ow, My Body Part!: When Kent meets Ramada at the bar, he picks her up and spins her around. Her handbag hits a waitress, causing a seeming chain of collisions leading to somebody yelling, "Ow, my eye!"
- The above mentioned fight between Kent and Topper.
- Parrot Exposition: Lampshaded.Ramada: I am the shrink.
Topper: You're the shrink?
Ramada: That's what the diploma says.
- Playing Possum: Spoofed.
- Precision F-Strike: "Fuck" is said twice in the film:
- "I don't have a clue what you're talkin' about, Phil. Don't have a fuckin' clue."
- When Topper gives the batteries to Owatonna at the end, Owatonna replies in subtitles, "It's about fucking time."
- Prophetic Name: "Dead Meat" and "Washout".
- Publicly Discussing the Secret: The two conspirators have their Overt Rendezvous at a noisy boxing match.
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: In traditional Abrahams fashion.
- Red Shirt: Dead Meat. The film telegraphs his upcoming death so hard that it would be more shocking if he didn't die.
- 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, people falling off an aircraft carrier's flight deck, and other people accidentally sitting on the chihuahua (five times, and always the same dog).
- Sacrificial Lamb: Again, Dead Meat.
- Sexy Shirt Switch: Played relatively straight here, but see the sequel...
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Spoofed with Tug Benson. At a soldier's funeral he hears the 21-gun salute and returns fire.Benson: 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: While the film primarily spoofs Top Gun, it also draws material from films like Dances with Wolves, Rocky, Superman, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, and many more.
- During an early training scene, one of the platoons starts chanting the lyrics to The Brady Bunch theme song.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Dead Meat and his wife.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: When Topper insinuates that Lt. Cmdr. Block might be trying to sabotage the mission, we get this gem.Topper: My uncle used to tell me that not playing to win is like sleeping with your sister. Sure, she's a great piece of tail with a blouse full of goodies, but it's... it's just illegal... Then you get into that whole inbred thing. Kids with no teeth who play the banjo, eat applesauce through a straw, pork farm animals... I hope you get my point, sir.
- Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Ramada's musical number. Followed immediately by "Falling Sexy Right Off A Piano", and including, somehow, "Walking Sexy On The Upright Piano Cover".
- Sound Off: Parodied by a group shouting lines from "I Have a Little Dreidel" and The Brady Bunch theme. Thing is, it works."I had a little dreidel!" "I made it out of clay!" "And when it's dry and ready..." "My dreidel I will play!"
"Here's the story..." "Of a lovely lady!" "Who was bringing up..." "...Three very lovely girls!" "All of them had hair of gold..." "Like her mother!" "The youngest one..." "In curls!" "Here's the story..." "Of a man named Brady!"
- Spicy Latina: Ramada. Not Spanish (the actress playing her was half-Italian and half-Greek), but damn close.
- Talking Animal:
- The birds that are almost hit by the jets in the beginning."Hey, you singed my tailfeathers."
- The duck that Washout accidentally sets his sights on during the training exercise audibly exclaims "Uh oh!" when it notices it has a jet fighter bearing down on it.
- The birds that are almost hit by the jets in the beginning.
- Talking in Your Sleep: Mailman, after his plane crashes and he just woke up from being passed out: "You're French, aren't ya?"
- Tempting Fate: Mocked with Dead Meat, who meets his beautiful wife on the tarmac and has a black cat cross his path as she informs him that they've just closed on their dream home. Additionally,he's carrying 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...
- 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?
- Three-Volley Flinch: Parodied at Dead Meat's funeral. While his widow does the (understandable) flinching from hearing the salute, Admiral Benson all of a sudden thinks that the funeral is under attack and retaliates in kind with his sidearm and some grenades he carried just in case... while "protecting" the tearful, freaking-out widow.Benson: God, I love a good funeral!
- Throwing the Fight: Extreme example during the boxing match in the film; one punch is thrown, it misses by a mile, and the "struck" boxer waits a full second before he drops. 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. Kowalski is a fighter pilot who is treated as one of the guys. Ramada is a military psychiatrist and always dresses in revealing clothes.
- Tragic Keepsake: Topper has his father's eyes... literally.Ramada: Put those away!
Topper: Eh, they're just for luck.
- Visual Pun: "I've got a Bogie on my tail!"
- Weapons Understudies: The Oscar EW-5894 Fallus Tactical Fighter Bomber flown by the protagonists is really a Folland Gnat, a British jet trainer (except in one case where it is a HAL Ajeet, a minor Indian Air Force fighter derived from the Gnat). The Iraqi Air Force jets are repainted Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainers, except for one which is the T-38's sister design the F-5 Tiger II (the same plane that played the MiG-28 in Top Gun).
- Wronski Feint: Topper leads a couple of heat-seeking missiles to Saddam's base to use as extra ordnance.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Several of Dead Meat's lines end with "What could go wrong?" — including his last one.Dead Meat: I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?
- X-Ray Sparks: Topper Harley walks out of an office into a hallway filled with electrical wires that are giving off sparks. He closes the door, and through the door's translucent window pane the audience sees Harley's skeleton as he's electrocuted. The skeleton then falls to the ground bone by bone. When the office's door is opened, Harley is whole again but has frazzled hair.