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Film / Top Gun

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Maverick: I feel the need...
Maverick and Goose: ...the need for speed!

The movie in which Tom Cruise flies F-14 Tomcats, gives a MiG pilot the finger, and plays volleyball shirtless.

OK, there's more to the movie than that. Top Gun (1986) was inspired by a magazine article on Navy pilots. Director Tony Scott and the screenwriters viewed it as "Sports Movie meets jets". In it, hotshot pilot Peter "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) and his buddy "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) are sent to the TOPGUNnote  Naval Aviation 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, like his arch-rival "Iceman" (Val Kilmer), and conquer his own demons while still finding time to romance his civilian instructor Charlotte (Kelly McGillis).

Other actors in the film include a young Tim Robbins as another TOPGUN officer, and a young Meg Ryan as Carole, Goose's wife. 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.

In 1993, a Top Gun steel inverted roller coaster opened up at Paramount's Great America (now California's Great America) in Santa Clara, California, US, and King’s Island in Mason, Ohio, featuring music and voice lines from the film in the queue area. When Paramount sold the theme parks to Cedar Fair, the Top Gun branding was removed and the coasters were renamed to Flight Deck.note  The same thing happened to a similarly named (and subsequently renamed) inverted roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland, which initially opened in 1995.

A long-awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, was released in 2022.

Son, your ego's writing examples that your tropes can't cash:

  • Ace Pilot: Obviously. As far as particular styles go:
    • 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 being fewer planes than are actually present. This is Truth in Television, and has also been used by American pilots from time to time.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the film, as a reward for his outstanding performance in the final battle, Maverick is given the privilege of choosing his next tour of duty. He chooses to return to TOPGUN to become an instructor there, much to Stinger's amusement.
  • Anonymous Ringer: The nation whose air force the main characters fly against is never named, aside from the battle explicitly being set in the Indian Ocean. Speculation pegs it as South Yemen, a then-client of the Soviet Union. IMDB suggests it was intended to be North Korea. It should be noted that the film's climax was inspired by the 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident, in which two USN aircraft shot down two Libyan Air Force MiGs.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: From Iceman to Maverick: "While you were showboating with that MiG, who was covering Cougar’s six?" Arguably subverted, as Maverick was ostensibly working on scaring the MiG off of Cougar's six.
  • Artistic License – Geography: ACM exercises take place over the desert of Imperial and eastern San Diego Counties, with a "hard deck" of 10,000 feet. The highest point in San Diego, Hot Springs Peak, is only 6,800 feet, while Imperial’s mountains don’t even rise that high. So there wouldn’t be any need to "Watch the mountains!" if they’re above 10,000 feet. Flying as close to the ground as they do in an ACM training exercise is a major safety violation, which is the whole point of the "hard deck" rule. Small wonder Maverick is chewed out in the following scene.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • There's strict protocol on who gets to fly jets — Maverick, who's already noted for having issues with authority, most likely wouldn't have been a candidate. It's hand waved by him been vouched for by a well-respected officer (much to the officer's headache), who's somehow managed to shield Maverick from getting his rank busted down thrice. In real life, this is usually a death sentence for advancing in rank. But he's Maverick.
      • Furthermore, after Goose's death in a training accident, Maverick would in reality be immediately taken out of the program and into psychiatric evaluation.
    • The real TOPGUN is simply pass-fail, and there are no rankings or trophies to be won: due to the personalities of those accepted into the program, everyone would kill themselves pulling wild stunts to try and beat their fellow aviators, which was determined to be an unproductive way to produce trained (and/or living) fighter pilots.
    • The real TOPGUN wasn't solely for Tomcat crews — it was intended for all fighter squadrons, including Marine Corps fighter squadrons, to send a pilot there. Therefore, there should have been quite a few F/A-18 Hornet pilots and/or Marines pilots in the class. (It is, however, reserved for the Department of the Navy: Air Force jockeys have their own training program called "Red Flag".)
    • Since TOPGUN drew one aircrew from each squadron, Ice, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman shouldn't have returned to the Enterprise with Maverick. They should have returned to their original squadrons. Even if they were from different squadrons deployed on the Enterprise, they should have had no business telling Maverick's CO to ground him, nor should they have been in the same flight element on this sortie. Justified in the film by the fact that these pilots have just been empirically proven to be some of the nation's best and specially ordered to the Big E for an emergency mission (though in real life it would be extremely irregular to do this).
      • It's also possible that while Ice and Mav are from different squadrons, they could still be assigned to the same ship. US Navy Supercarriers typically carried at least two F-14 Squadrons onboard, sometimes three. Mav joining the fight to help Ice makes sense as he's on Alert 5, and will get sent wherever there's trouble. What is odd is for Ice and Hollywood to be in the same element. In reality, it would've been someone from Ice's own squadron flying as his wingman. However, this was likely done to avoid having to create a new character whose sole purpose would be to get shot down.
    • In the first combat hop, Maverick gets in trouble for pursuing Jester below the "hard deck." His excuse is that he was only below it for "a few seconds." The problem is, the "hard deck" represents the ground, so Maverick's excuse that he only flew underground for "a few seconds" suggests a certain amount of Artistic License – Physics in his head. Additionally, Jester's attitude of "Better to Die than Be Killed," as expressed by his decision to avoid getting "shot down" by "crashing," is not precisely the attitude you'd look for from an Ace Pilot, much less an instructor.
    • James Tolkan’s character’s billet is apparently "Generic Superior Officer." His rank (Commander) should make him a squadron CO, but he acts like the CAG (who would be a Captain) and uses an Admiral’s stateroom as his personal office.
    • Also, Stinger says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time”, casually brushing off valuable intelligence data about the newest OPFOR aircraft (including a photo of the cockpit layout).
    • Maverick’s penchant for Buzzing The Tower would have gotten him grounded (and possibly keel-hauled) in real life. In particular, when he does it at NAS Miramar, he violates so many aviation safety regulations (ignoring Air Traffic Control, unauthorized supersonic flight, supersonic flight over a populated area, etc.) that he would most likely wake up in a federal prison. Here, he gets away with a severe ass-chewing, twice.
    • In real life, any pilot who "turns in their wings" and voluntarily terminates their flight status does so permanently. They will never become pilots again, and requests for reinstatement will not be approved.
    • Almost all of the pilots and RIOs cool-sounding callsigns (Maverick, Iceman, Hollywood, etc.). In real life, a pilot will go through several, and will get a really humiliating and derogatory callsign early on. They can eventually earn their way to a less embarrassing one, but the really cool ones are almost exclusively reserved for senior aviators.
    • Basically, the Guy in Back or RIOs - including Goose, Slider, Wolfman, Merlin and Sundown - yell a lot, and some look at a 360-degree radar, which have never existed on any US Navy fighter aircraft.
    • None of the heads-up displays shown in the F-14s and so-called MiG-28s represent real-life heads-up displays.
    • The film misuses the term "bogey" for any enemy aircraft. In actuality, the term "bogey" is used for unidentified aircraft, and after identification, it's called either a "friendly" for friendly aircraft, "bandit" for non-friendly aircraft, or "hostile" for non-friendly aircraft that may be fired upon. In the US Navy's terminology, a non-friendly surface radar contact is called a "skunk".
  • Artistic License – Ships: The Forrestal-class carrier USS Ranger doubles for the USS Enterprise in some of the interior scenes, though the flight ops were filmed on the actual Big E.
  • As Himself: T.J. Cassidy as himself.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Take my breath awaaaaaaaaay..."
  • Badass Biker: Maverick, when he's not flying.
  • Badass Boast:
    Iceman: I don't like you because you're dangerous.
    Maverick: That's right, Ice... Man. I am dangerous.
  • Big "WHAT?!": During the climactic dogfight with the MiGs:
    Merlin: What are you doing? You're slowing down. You're slowing down!
    Maverick: I'm bringing him in closer.
    Merlin: You're gonna do WHAT?!?
  • Boy Meets Girl: A classic, if initially a little strange, example. Boy hits on girl in bar before finding out she's one of his instructors. Boy and girl fall for each other hard. Girl gets job in D.C. and leaves. Girl hears boy came back to be an instructor in his own right and flies out to see him.
  • Bruiser With A Soft Centre:
    • Maverick. He may be a man's man with a disregard for authority, but he's carrying around the grief of losing his father very young under classified circumstances under all that cockiness, and as Viper says, he has a confidence problem. He's also good with children, and is genuinely sweet towards Goose's son.
    • 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: Air Boss Johnson, who can't seem to catch a break with his spilled coffee.
  • 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 times causing the officer in charge to spill coffee on himself. To elaborate, he swoops the tower twice, much to the protests of his Guy in Back and the tower personnel: first after beating Jester in his first hop, and again after the final battle. Stinger mentions that Mav's done this repeatedly in the past over five other ATCs and "one admiral's daughter", although it's implied that that last case was figurative.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Merlin is surprisingly calm while trying to snap Cougar out of his Heroic BSoD, despite his own life hanging on the latter's ability to land the plane safely.
  • Chekhov's Skill: A couple of notable ones:
  • Classified Information: This comes up a number of times, typically Played for Laughs, but there's one big dramatic one: Maverick's father Duke Mitchell, a pilot himself, had his death during the Vietnam War classified. Military rules being what they are, this probably means that Duke screwed the pooch something fierce, and Maverick carries a chip on his shoulder as a result. Viper, who was actually there that day and flew with Mav's father, assures him that his father was a hero to the end, and the circumstances were only classified due him being shot down over enemy lines.
  • Code Name: Aviator callsigns, but here they're far cooler than RL examples. The credits demonstrate this.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The pilot-RIO pairings wear matching shirts beneath their flight suits to help identify who's in which plane when everyone has their oxygen masks on.
  • Commanding Coolness: Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf and Commander Tom "Stinger" Jordan definitely qualify.
  • Coming in Hot: Cougar goes a bit crazy after a close encounter with some MiGs, and has to be talked down, despite there being nothing wrong with his plane itself.
  • Cool Old Guy: Viper, one of the best pilots at TOPGUN who provides Mav with some much-needed advice and support at his lowest moments.
  • Cool Plane: Hell, this might as well be called Cool Planes: The Movie.
    • The F-14 Tomcat, being the jet that all our heroes fly, gets top honors in this regard.
    • The A-4 Skyhawk and F-5E Tiger II ("MiG-28") should also get at least an honorable mention.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Iceman's reaction to Maverick's MiG story, coughing "Bullshit!" and getting the rest of the class to giggle.
  • Crowd Song: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", when all the pilots at the bar join Maverick and Goose in singing it to help him hit on Charlie.
  • Cult Soundtrack: One of the best-selling of all-time, thanks to hits such as "Take My Breath Away", "Danger Zone" and "Playing With the Boys".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Goose, by a long shot.
    "Is this your idea of fun, Mav?"
    "The Defense Department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid."
  • Deadly Escape Mechanism: When Maverick and Goose are forced to eject from their out-of-control Tomcat, Goose smashes headfirst into the canopy, resulting in his death.
  • Defrosting Iceman: Iceman, by the end of the film.
  • Disappeared Dad: Maverick's father was shot down and killed in an unnamed conflict.
  • Disobeyed Orders, Not Punished: Played with. Maverick is very much a Military Maverick, and in the real Navy, someone with his initial attitude would have been busted down several times over, if he was ever allowed near a plane in the first place. It's even noted in the early part of the film that he's been held back from section leader three times. When he buzzes a tower without authorization, the worst he suffers is a severe ass-chewing, and most of it involves him and Goose standing outside the office at attention and listening to the tower commander shouting angrily at Viper.
    Viper: I think that just about covers the fly-by.
  • 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, but since they were the best pilots he had after Cougar washed out, off to TOPGUN they went.
  • 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. In actuality, this is a trick that has been taught at the real TOPGUN since its founding during the Vietnam War.
  • 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: (cheerfully) Good morning, gentlemen. The temperature is 110 degrees...
    Wolfman: Holy shit, it's Viper!
    Goose: Viper's up here? Great! ...oooh, shit!
    Maverick: Great, he's probably saying, "Holy shit, it's Maverick and Goose".
    Goose: Yeah, I'm sure he's saying that...
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Averted by the instructors at TOPGUN; while they may be stern taskmasters at times, they never raise their voices very much, and really do have their students' best interests in mind.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Maverick blows Charlie off by revving up his motorcycle when she tries to explain her technical dressing-down in an early debriefing. He drives off, and she gives chase in her sports car. They both blow a stop sign. But while Maverick goes through when it's clear, Charlie nearly T-bones two vehicles in the same intersection. This sets Maverick off, but gives Charlie a chance to explain things more, leading to her confessing she's fallen for him.
    Maverick: JESUS CHRIST! And you think I'm reckless? When I fly, I'll have you know that my crew, and my plane, come first!
  • Due to the Dead: Maverick throws his dearly departed friend's dog tags into the sea after winning the climactic final dogfight, finally letting him go.
  • Eject... Eject... Eject...: Maverick to Goose.
  • Expy: Maverick is supposedly one for Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the last naval aviator to make "Ace" by downing five enemy aircraft. He even used Maverick's "hit the brakes and he'll fly right by" Signature Move to earn that fifth aircraft kill.
  • 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 and the shower scene(s).
  • Fatal Family Photo: Downplayed. Cougar has such a photo, but Maverick prevents him from crashing. Cougar then turns in his wings, meaning he's resigning from being a pilot.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence:
    • The opening scene has the iconic shot of an F-14 on the flight deck of the Enterprise accompanied by a soft version of the movie's theme, which segues into Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" when the F-14 fires its afterburners and takes off.
    • Another F-14 launching scene occurs during the climax when the aviators head out to support a sea rescue and go into battle against the enemy MiGs.
  • Flipping the Bird: Maverick does it to the MiG pilot while inverted and snapping photos of him. Goose does it to the entire briefing room while telling the story of their aerobatic international relations.
  • Freudian Excuse: Maverick's father's disgraceful death is part of why Maverick is such a rebel in the cockpit.
    Stinger: And let's not bullshit, Maverick. Your family name ain't the best in the Navy. You need to be doing it better and cleaner than the other guy. Now what is it with you?
  • Gatling Good: The shots of the MiGs firing their guns during the final dogfight cuts 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 (though it's referenced a couple times when various planes get too close for missiles in the simulated dogfights). No MiG fighters in reality carry a Gatling gun; the only MiG plane to use one is the MiG-27, a ground attack airplane.
  • 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 just had a fling with her.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Viper (Gentle Touch), Jester (Firm Hand).
  • Glasses Pull: Maverick near constantly, and Goose once when it turns out that the woman he helped his buddy hit on the night before is a consultant at Top Gun.
  • God Help Us All: Stinger's semi-facetious response when Maverick suggests becoming a TOPGUN instructor.
  • Guy in Back: Goose for Maverick, here referred to as a RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). Slider, for Iceman. Later, Sundown and Merlin take Goose's place.
  • Hello, Sailor!: Okay, they're aviators, but it IS the Navy, and the film is rather infamous for its boatloads of Ho Yay.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Downplayed. 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).
    • Maverick defies common sense by driving his motorcycle without a helmet.
  • 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."
  • Hot-Blooded: Maverick, who likes pulling 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 this from his father.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Maverick, most of the time.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: Averted; the makers of the film were asked by the US Navy to change Maverick's love interest from a female enlisted member of the Navy to a civilian contractor with the Navy, due to the US military's prohibition of fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.
  • Insistent Terminology: Maverick corrects Charlie when she calls him a "pilot." This is Truth in Television, as the Navy has Aviators, not "pilots" for flying aircraft. A Navy pilot steers ships, not airplanes.
  • Introduction by Hookup: Mav tries to pick up a random blonde at a bar near the base. The 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 which he saw it pull off:
    Charlie: Lieutenant, why didn't you tell me you were a famous MiG insulter?
    Maverick: Would it have made a difference?
    Charlie: Not in the ladies' room, no.
  • Irony: At the end of a training exercise in which Maverick and Goose lose because of the former's unwise strategic decisions, Goose dryly remarks, "The Defense Department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid." He later dies in a complete accident through no fault of either.
  • It's All My Fault: Maverick spends the second half of the film believing that he's responsible for Goose's death, even after being cleared of any charges, with the official conclusion being that the accident was indeed just that and there was no way of knowing that the plane would've stalled and gone into a flat spin.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Iceman. 80's bully/rival he may be, but he really is concerned about the danger that Maverick is putting himself and everyone else in with his showy stunts, and he comes around on Mav by the end of the film.
    • Jerkass Has a Point: Iceman's criticisms of Maverick's flying habits (particularly those involving wingmen) are repeatedly shown to be accurate, to the point where most of Maverick's character growth involves them finally sinking in.
  • Just Plane Wrong: If you have the time, a real-life F-14 pilot compiled his own list. It’s a very long one.
    • 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, so Truth in Television gave way to Rule of Perception.
    • Speaking of Rule of Cool, the "beepbeepbeepboooooooooooooooooooo...." sound of the weapons tracking system is way, way wrong. Radar missiles have no tracking or lock-on tone at all, and the infrared-tracking Sidewinder missile has a very different tone characterized as a "growl" that turns into a harsher buzz when the missile can "see" enough heat to successfully guide.
    • There is no such plane as the MiG-28. MiG naming traditions mean that it would have an odd number in its designation. The only even-numbered Mikoyan-Gurevich plane was the -6, a ground-attack aircraft from World War II. Furthermore, the only fixed-wing Soviet naval aircraft in service at the time was the Yak-38, an underpowered Harrier knock-off: the direct counterpart to the F-14 were Soviet Air Force MiG-29s and Su-27s. The navalized derivatives Su-33 and MiG-29K were still in development, and didn't enter service until well after the breakup of the Soviet Union (the Indian Navy got the MiG-29K before the Russians did). This is Enforced, since the Pentagon obviously didn't let the filmmakers in about the real MiGs that they secretly had and actually had pilots practicing against in another, classified training program. So they deliberately went with a fictitious model with an assuredly nonexistent name. The only other US solution would have been to enlist the Air Force (the contemporary MiG-31 interceptor looks kind of like an F-15 if you squint). They could have at least gotten the name right, though: Mikoyan has never produced a MiG-33 (it was a Working Title for a couple of different unproduced aircraft).
    • Partially averted in the spin and crash. F-14As with the TF30 were legendary for their problems, including air-flow and flameouts. Add to that the Tomcat's nasty spin characteristics and the fact that a spin will push the crew forward away from the ejection handles (later models moved them), and one RIO died exactly the same way that Goose did. However, an aircraft in a flat spin has lost all lift and forward momentum, and thus will not "drift" anywhere except straight down.
    • Also an amusing In-Universe example when American intelligence on the fictional MiG-28 says that the plane has problems pulling negative Gs, except that in the opening sequence Mav followed, then got above, one through a -4G dive and was close enough to give the other pilot the finger from two meters above him. However, this scene is impossible because the distance between the two canopies is significantly less than the height of the vertical tail surfaces of the F-14 and faux-MiG. There’s also the fact that the physics of air flowing around two aircraft flying that close together in that relative attitude would cause a spectacular (and fatal) midair collision.
    • During the dogfight scene, the MiGs are shown repeatedly firing their Gatling guns. Not only are there no air superiority MiGs that have Gatling guns, but the guns are shown almost fully exposed so that the barrels can be seen rotating. Modern fighters that do have Gatling guns (actually rotary cannons) carry them internally, within the fuselage, so as not to interfere with the air flow over the plane. The cannons actually fire through a small opening and none of the cannon is exposed. The American-made F-5E, which "played" the MiG-28 on film, does have an internal M39 cannon, but they're a single barrel revolver cannons in the nose, whereas the MiGs are portrayed with tracer rounds bursting out of their wing roots. Also, since aircraft cannons typically fire explosive shells rather than solid slugs, the two hits to Iceman's plane wouldn't so much have stitched a nice pattern of bullet holes across the side as they would have ignited fuel tanks and hydraulic lines, shredding avionics with fragmentation.
    • The Techno Babble is almost all nonsense.
    • The use of F-5s to stand in for the fictional MiG-28 leads to a rather amusing one when Charlie claims that the MiG-28 has a better thrust-to-weight ratio than the F-5. Apparently black paint is much lighter than other colors.
  • Karma Houdini: Iceman was responsible for Goose's death, and yet it is Maverick who faces a board of inquiry instead of him. Thankfully, he's not an Idiot Houdini, as he at least recognizes how serious the fallout is and feels sorry for pushing Maverick dangerously close to the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Love Theme: Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", which plays pretty much anytime Maverick and Charlie are together.
  • Military Maverick: Buzzing the tower without permission, issues with authority that demoted him thrice, disobeying rules of engagement to prove he's a ace pilot... his call sign is "Maverick" for a reason.
  • 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.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: Tom Cruise for the girls, fighter jets and Kelly McGillis for the boys. The result was the highest-grossing movie of the year.
  • Negatives as a Positive: Ice Man had, at one point during Top Gun training, called out Maverick for living up to his namesake, telling him he was dangerous. At the end of the film, after Maverick saves Ice from MiGs, Ice calls him out on the flight deck.
    Ice Man: YOU! You are still dangerous.(Beat) You can be my wing man any time.
  • 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.
  • Nom de Guerre: All of the aviators, but Maverick is a special case. He introduces himself to Charlie using it, which gets a funny response, but it's implied he doesn't like using his full name because of his father dying in a classified incident. When Charlie leaves him at the airport, she deliberately calls him by his real name to mock him for quitting.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Apparently one reason Mav's still just a lieutenant (besides being a Bunny-Ears Lawyer) is because he hit on an admiral's daughter at one point. Or something to that effect.
    • Goose to Maverick: "You have to have carnal knowledge — of a lady this time — on the premises."
  • Number Two: Jester to Viper.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Wolfman's reaction to learning he's up against Viper, as well as Goose's.
    • Maverick and Goose's reaction when they realize that their new instructor is the woman they'd hit on the night before.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Goose's actual name is never said onscreen. Everyone, even his wife, just calls him Goose. His real name was Nick Bradshaw.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Both of the carrier's catapults break down in the climax, preventing the launch of more aircraft to assist Maverick and Iceman.
  • Pre-Meeting: Maverick first meets Charlie when he flirts with her at a bar (and crashes and burns) the night before she's introduced as a civilian instructor.
  • Rated M for Manly:
    • Personified in this quote:
      Wolfman (watching footage of of planes getting shot down): This gives me a hard-on.
    • Viper mentions that there's no reward for second place, and then the students look at a list of past trophy winners. Iceman jokes that the list of runner-ups is "in the ladies' room", much to the amusement of the others.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Maverick and Iceman, as well as Maverick and Goose.
    • However, Maverick wears a BLUE helmet, while Goose wears ORANGE.
  • 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".
    • "I'm sorry, I hate it when he/she/it does that."
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Also an Establishing Character Moment. In the beginning, Maverick aborts his landing to help the badly-shaken Cougar land his plane even though he's low on fuel himself.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Viper says it best during orientation:
    "Gentlemen, this school is about combat. There are no points for second place."
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the film, after the post-battle celebration, Mav mentions that he's returning to TOPGUN to become an instructor there. Cue sequel about three decades later.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Maverick picks up Charlie with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", featuring his wingman and the rest of the naval aviators as a backup chorus.
  • Shirtless Scene: The infamous beach volleyball scene is so infamous precisely because it's one of these.
  • Shown Their Work: With certain exceptions made because of Rule of Cool, this movie is a pretty accurate portrayal of US Naval aviation.
    • Special mention goes to the accident resulting in Goose's death; both the engine flameout due to jetwash and the danger to the RIO of ejecting during a flat spin are known faults of the F-14A.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: The relationship between Maverick and Charlie, especially at first, and punctuated with the argument after the early debriefing. They go from a fight so heated that it literally puts innocent lives in danger to one of the hottest sex scenes you'll find in a PG-rated film.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Cougar. It's because of his Heroic BSoD in the beginning that Maverick and Goose get to go to Top Gun.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Between Maverick and Charlie.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Iceman and Maverick, respectively. It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: When Maverick and Goose first meet Iceman and Slider at the bar, Slider says, "It's Mr. Iceman to you."
  • There Are No Global Consequences: While incidents like the dogfight in the movie opening happened in Real Life (F-14 dogfights with MiG-23s in the mid 1980s), actual engagement and shooting planes down over international waters would spark major backlash, if not outright war. Given a handwave: according to Stinger, the other side is apparently denying the fight even happened (possibly embarrassed at having sent six planes to battle two and a replacement, and losing four to the USN group's one).
  • Time Marches On:
    • 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. While the A-4 as a aggressor has also been retired, the Navy still uses the bad guys' plane, the MiG-28 (in reality the F-5), for aggressor combat.
    • A few years after the movie's release, F-14s were upgraded to F-14Bs, replacing the troublesome (like, flameout-prone) TF30 engines with much more reliable F110, and in 1991 there came the F-14D, further updated with new avionics. In short, the featured F-14A went from modern to almost outdated in about 5 years. They were then gradually phased out in favor of the F/A-18E and F Super Hornet, and were fully retired in 2006.
    • Despite still being a minority, it would now be very unusual for absolutely no women to be seen serving aboard a carrier.
    • The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) has since been deactivated. Construction has started on the next USS Enterprise (CVN-80). A Gerald R. Ford-class ship, this new Enterprise is anticipated to enter active service in 2028.
  • Token Minority: A black aviator with the callsign "Sundown" flies as Mav's Guy in Back for one hop after Goose is killed. He's the only named non-white character in the film.
  • Tomboyish Name: Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood.
  • Tragic Bromance: Goose dies in a training accident, and Maverick almost dies on the inside.
  • 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 MiGsnote , but these planes can be modified to have have similar flight characteristics to just about any Soviet fighternote , so they'll do."
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Poor Anthony Edwards, the only dude not deemed sufficiently muscular to participate in the beach volleyball scene where everyone else takes their shirt off. That must have stung. Maverick also gets a couple extra shirtless scenes here and there, and everyone is shown shirtless in shower scenes.
  • "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 he was since childhood. Viper, who was there during Duke Mitchell's death and whose role is partly Big Brother Mentor for Mav, eventually assures him that this was indeed the case. The incident was classified solely because it happened "over the wrong line on some map."
  • Wham Shot: Maverick and Goose finally eject from their falling fighter, only for Goose to fatally crash headfirst into the ejected canopy, snapping his neck. He's already dead when his parachute opens.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Maverick spends most of the movie flying unpredictably and/or recklessly, putting himself, his wingmen, and his aircraft at risk. Consequently, he ends up on the receiving end of these from his commanders, his peers, his girlfriend, and even Goose. Seemingly the only reason he hasn't been thrown out of the Navy altogether by now is because he's just that good.
    • First, Stinger gives him an earful after he risks his aircraft to rescue Cougar and Merlin.
      Stinger: Maverick, you just did an incredibly brave thing. WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE WAS LAND YOUR PLANE. You don’t own that plane, the taxpayers do! Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash. You’ve been busted and lost your qualifications as section leader THREE TIMES, put in hack twice by me, with a history of high-speed passes over five air-control towers, and one admiral’s daughter! … And let's not bullshit, Maverick, your family name ain’t the best in the Navy. You need to be doing it better and cleaner than the other guy.
    • Iceman tells Mav off in the locker room for his cowboy tendencies in the air on two separate occasions.
      Iceman: You guys really are cowboys. … You’re everyone’s problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you’re unsafe. I don’t like you because you’re dangerous.
      • Later, after Maverick leaves him to chase after Viper, resulting in both of them being shot down in the exercise:
      Iceman: Maverick, it’s not your flying, it’s your attitude. The enemy’s dangerous, but right now you’re worse than the enemy…you’re dangerous and foolish. You may not like the guys flying with you, and they may not like you. But whose side are you on?
    • Viper after Mav breaks the hard deck in the first TOPGUN exercise (and then buzzes the tower on the way back in).
      Viper: You took [the shot]…AND BROKE A MAJOR RULE OF ENGAGEMENT. Then you broke another one with that circus stunt fly-by. Gentlemen, TOPGUN rules of engagement exist for your safety and that of your team. They are not flexible, nor am I. Either obey them or you're history. Is that clear?
    • Goose expresses his concerns in their quarters after their trip to Viper’s office.
      Goose: When I realized we were off to TOPGUN, all I could think about was that trophy. I’ve got to be straight with you, Mav…right now, I just hope we graduate. I’ve got a family to think about, I can’t afford to blow this. I know the Academy rejected you because you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid and you have to live with that reputation. But it’s like you’re flying against a ghost. It makes me nervous.
    • Sundown gets on Maverick’s case when he refuses to take an easy shot at Jester after Goose’s death.
      Sundown: What do you mean, “It doesn’t look good?” It doesn’t GET to look any better than that!
      [after landing] Sundown: Hey, we could have had him…we could have HAD him, Mav!
      Maverick: [grabs Sundown] I will fire when I'm goddamn good and ready! You got that?!
    • Charlie confronts him in the airport lounge after he apparently quits TOPGUN.
      Charlie: So I’m too late. You’ve already left. You didn’t learn a damn thing, did you…except to quit. You’ve got that maneuver down real well. So long, Pete Mitchell.
    • While Mav is having his “Talk to me, Goose” moment during the climactic dogfight, Merlin is yelling at him in the background.
      Merlin: C’mon, Mav, get back to the fight! Ice is in trouble, what the hell are you doing??? He won’t last down there alone!
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Nicknames, really, but the effect is the same.
    Charlotte: I'm Charlotte Blackwood.
    Maverick: I'm Maverick.
    Charlotte: Maverick?! Did your mother not like you or something?
    Maverick: No, it's my call sign.

Johnson: Two of your snot-nosed jockeys were browsing TV Tropes Wiki at over 400 knots! I want somebody's butt! I want it now! I've had it!


Viper: Well, that just about covers the troping.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Top Gun The Second Mission



After Mav breaks the hard deck in the first TOPGUN exercise (and then buzzes the tower on the way back in).

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhatTheHellHero

Media sources: