20 Things You May Have Missed In Top Gun
Top Gun is one of the defining films of the 1980s, forever giving us a ‘need for speed’ as well as a love for Tom Cruise in his Navy uniform. This was the film that brought Tom Cruise to the attention of teenage girls everywhere, ensuring he was one of the biggest heartthrobs for years to come.
But did you pay attention when watching this classic 80s film? You’re about to find out, because here are 20 things you may have missed in Top Gun.
20. The film is dedicated to a stunt pilot who died during filming
You might have seen that the film Top Gun is dedicated to Art Scholl, but you might not know who that actually is.
Scholl was a hugely successful aerobatic pilot, aerial cameraman and flight instructor, who had been doing flight stunts ever since the early 1950s.
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Scholl worked on Top Gun and was revered as a cinema veteran and a huge source of knowledge among the cast.
Tragically, Scholl was killed during the production of the film when his plane went into a tailspin and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
- Credit: DailyMail.com
The movie was dedicated to him as a tribute, with the last line of the credits explaining that the movie is dedicated to his memory.
One of Scholl’s signature aircraft was relocated to the National Air and Space Museum shortly after, to further honour his legacy.
19. Goose’s real name is never revealed
One of the most iconic things about Top Gun is that none of the characters actually go by their real names.
Instead, they mostly opt for being known by their call signs, which include Maverick, Iceman and Goose.
If you watch the movie, it’s easy enough to figure out the names of several characters, but some are much harder to pick up on.
In particular, it’s impossible to guess Goose’s birth name from the film, as it’s not mentioned once throughout the movie’s runtime.
We do, however, know from the script what Goose’s real name actually is: Nick Bradshaw.
Is there a reason his name is never revealed, or is it just something that didn’t ever need adding in as the nicknames easily identify the different pilots?
18. The ‘upside-down’ stunt wouldn’t actually work
Top Gun is full of awesome flying sequences, including several stunts that were shot practically.
This means there’s a lot of actual realism, even when it seems as though nothing the pilots are doing in the air should actually be possible.
With that said, although a lot of the flying scenes are as real as can be, there are a few sequences that simply defy reality.
One of these is the scene where Maverick and Goose fly upside down and ‘greet’ another plane that flies below them.
In truth, this manoeuvre could never be replicated, as the rear of both planes would collide.
It still looks very cool though, and there is always room for a little bit of artistic licence to get the audience hooked by the action on-screen.
17. Cruise And Kilmer were rivals off-screen as well as on
Throughout movie history, there have been a lot of famous on-screen rivalries, where two of the film’s cast have just found it impossible to get along.
Actors with friction haven’t always played rivals or enemies, but in cases where they have, it has only made the on-screen relationship extra tense and realistic.
That’s exactly what happened on Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, as the two struggled to build a friendship right from the beginning.
Cruise and Kilmer never interacted on-set between takes, and gave each other a wide-berth whenever the cameras weren’t rolling.
Val Kilmer eventually revealed that he had cultivated the icy tension between them on purpose so that their relationship would be more believable on screen.
He made sure to clarify that it wasn’t at all personal, although the two didn’t suddenly develop a strong friendship once shooting was done.
16. Maverick doesn’t know how to work the sticks
Top Gun isn’t a documentary, so it makes sense that there are a few lapses in actual realism throughout the film.
With that said, the film gets certain things wrong that you would probably expect it to get right, such as the difference between slowing down and speeding up.
Every time Maverick ‘puts on the brakes’ in the film he pushes the throttle quadrant forward and pulls back on the stick.
This would actually have put him into a full climb, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be doing.
It’s strange that this never got picked up on and fixed, especially since there were several flight experts on set.
The main theory is just that to the untrained eye, pulling back on the stick just looks like it should act as a break, even though it does no such thing.
15. Flying made most of the actors sick
Lots of films require actors to go through uncomfortable ordeals, whether it’s filming in extreme cold and sizzling heat, or just having to spend hours in the make-up chair every morning.
Top Gun was no different, since each of the main cast had at least a few flying scenes, in which they reached uncomfortably high speeds and altitudes.
It would be unfair to say some of the cast took to it better than others, since literally everyone who flew ended up being sick at least once.
Even Tom Cruise, who would later go on to become famous for his extreme stunt work and commitment to mastering new skills, was queasy whenever he touched back down on the ground.
Anthony Edwards, who played Goose, is rumoured to have been the only actor who didn’t throw up when filming his aerial shots.
It must not have been much fun trying to film multiple takes at a time, when most actors couldn’t even get through one without hurling.
14. One shot of an aircraft carrier cost the production $25k
Top Gun definitely looks like a big-budget 80s action movie, with plenty of high-octane tension, romance and drama.
However, it doesn’t exactly have a huge budget to go along with the huge action, since it was made for only $15 million.
The planes were a large part of the expense, since the crew had to shell out $7,800 per hour for fuel whenever the aircraft were flown outside their normal duties.
In addition to that, it was reported that director Tony Scott had to write a $25,000 cheque in order to have an aircraft carrier moved.
The carrier was moved for a grand total of five minutes, just so Scott could get what he perceived as the perfect shot.
It’s difficult to know if it was worth it, but it shows that everyone on set was completely dedicated to bringing the vision to life.
13. The love scene was added as an afterthought…
The romance between Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Kelly McGillis is a large part of what has made Top Gun famous, but this subplot was initially much smaller.
While the film always followed the pair’s changing feelings for each other, the love scene between the two was entirely a product of reshoots.
The scene was added after the film was shown to test audiences, who apparently felt like they needed to see the couple’s relationship progress to the next level.
It is unclear if the scene would have been deemed necessary at all, had the audience not clamoured so hard for it.
The scene probably contributed to the movie getting mixed reviews from critics, who said certain sequences in the film felt cluttered and unfocused.
Still, the scene definitely made audiences happy, which in this case was apparently the goal of the studio.
12. …you can tell because McGillis’ hair is different
Reshoots are a fairly common part of the movie-making process, and they don’t always mean something has gone wrong.
Rather than making sweeping changes to the story or trying to switch up the tone completely, sometimes reshoots just consist of getting more coverage of a scene, or shooting close-ups that were out of focus the first time around.
However, bringing the actors back for reshoots can often come with their own host of problems, such as appearance changes.
This was an issue for Top Gun, since Kelly McGillis had already changed her hair for a different movie, and it looked completely different when she came back for reshoots.
As a result, director Tony Scott had to shoot the love scene in super low light, and hope it wasn’t noticeable.
Thankfully, it mostly just looked like a stylistic choice to make things seem more intimate, even though it was totally practical.
11. Tom Cruise wasn’t the first choice to play Maverick
Tom Cruise might seem like the perfect and only choice for Maverick now, but he was far from the first choice.
Top Gun’s producers and casting directors had kept many different actors in the running, including some unusual ones that you might not expect.
For example, Nicolas Cage and Patrick Swayze were both strongly in the running, as was Matthew Broderick.
Other 80s icons, like Back to the Future’s Michael J. Fox and The Sure Thing’s John Cusack, were also considered.
Sean Penn and Emilio Esteves were also considered to play Maverick, so the studio were clearly auditioning a whole bunch of different kinds of actors to play the role.
In the end though, Cruise got the part and ended up being the perfect actor for the role.
10. The studio worried audiences would get bored with all the flying
Given the subject matter of Top Gun, it’s unsurprising that it contains a lot of scenes depicting flying.
The sheer amount of flying did concern the movie’s producers though, who worred that no-one would want to sit through quite so many aerial sequences.
The producers warned director Tom Scott to think about trimming down the amount of time the characters spend in the air.
However, Scott did no such thing, rightly predicting that the flying sequences would be the strongest and most memorable parts of the movie.
When the movie hit cinemas and reviews started to pour in, most critics agreed that the scenes shot in the air were by far the best part.
Still, we probably missed out on a more character-driven movie, with more time spent firmly planted on the ground.
9. Tom Cruise is shorter than Kelly McGillis
Tom Cruise’s diminutive height might be considered a meme now, but back when Top Gun was filmed it was not such common knowledge.
That meant Top Gun;s producers could get away with having Tom Cruise tower over his co-star Kerry McGillis, even when in real life the opposite would happen.
Cruise definitely had to utilise some help in order to appear taller than his on-screen partner, since in reality he is shorter than her.
Producers had to take Cruise from three inches shorter than McGillis to a hair taller, which they did via lifts in his shoes as well as other methods.
It’s not the first time that Cruise has had this problem: he was famously a lot shorter than Nicole Kidman too, and had a similar issue when they starred in three films together.
Someone get that man a box to stand on, or at least a shorter love interest to play opposite next time!
8. The director was fired multiple times
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
It’s not unheard of for directors to get fired from projects, and there have even been occasions where multiple directors have been hired and then let go during the space of one shoot.
However, it’s less common for the same director to get hired and fired from a project multiple times.
- Credit: Paramount Pictures
Top Gun director Tony Scott was fired from the position three times and, even more surprisingly, those firings had nothing to do with the actual content of his work.
Instead, being fired multiple times was apparently a consequence of the producers, who constantly found reasons to disagree with the direction Scott’s work was going in.
Though the reasons for two of his firings have never been officially confirmed, the third was a result of his styling choices for Kelly McGillis.
The producers said Scott had made her look, in their words, “wh*rish”, and fired him as a result. Yikes. Fortunately, they rehired him again to complete the film.
7. The film was a great Navy recruitment tool
The US military has made deals with multiple movies and franchises, helping studios with resources and script consultancy in return for a positive portrayal.
With that said, it’s usually unclear what impact these deals have on recruiting numbers, especially when many of the films involved are science fiction or disaster movies.
In contrast, Top Gun actually had a concrete effect on Navy recruitment, with the military’s own numbers showing a difference once the movie was released.
The US Navy reported that after the film’s release they saw a 500% increase in young men interested in becoming Naval Aviators, a huge increase.
Apparently the movie made flying look so appealing that countless cinema-goers came out of the film wanting to make it their career.
Those interested should have talked to the cast and crew though, who could have confirmed that flying isn’t as glamourous as it looks.
6. Tom Cruise had never ridden a motorcycle before playing Maverick
Along with sprinting like a superhuman and being down to try and stunt or learn any new skill, Tom Cruise riding a motorcycle in a movie has become a meme all of its own.
It seems as though he can’t appear on the silver screen without getting on a motorbike at least once, no matter the genre of the film or how practical it is for him to be doing so.
Given his extensive motorcycle riding in recent movies, it might be a surprise to know that Cruise had never actually ridden one before shooting Top Gun.
Cruise rising to the challenge of learning on-set is already impressive, but it’s made even cooler by the exact model of motorcycle he learned to ride on.
The motorbike Tom Cruise’s character rides in the movie was a Kawasaki Ninja 900, which at the time was the fastest production motorcycle in the world.
That’s like learning to drive by getting behind the wheel of a Formula One Ferrari and having to pass your test with hundreds of people watching.
5. Bryan Adams declined to provide music for the film on the grounds he thought it glorified war
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Top Gun’s theme song is simply called the Top Gun Anthem, and was written by professional composer Harold Faltermeyer.
However, his composition wasn’t the first choice for the theme song, as the filmmakers were keen to go in another direction.
Specifically, the producers wanted to get Bryan Adams on board with the project, and to use his song Only the Strong Survive as the movie’s signature track.
Adams declined almost immediately after being told more about the project, on the grounds that he thought it glorified war.
Producers also asked if other tracks of his could appear throughout the soundtrack, but Adams turned down the opportunity completely.
Luckily, Faltermeyer’s composition became iconic in its own right and is now an indispensable part of the movie.
4. The movie’s sequel will arrive 35 years after the original
It’s been a long time coming, but Top Gun is finally getting the sequel that fans have been clamouring for for decades.
Though a sequel was discussed soon after the original’s release, the property was left dormant until sequel plans were finally discussed in 2010.
Tragically, the sequel was delayed again in 2010 after the death of Top Gun’s director Tony Scott, and its future seemed uncertain.
However, progress on Top Gun: Maverick has been in motion ever since 2017, and the movie now has a 2021 release date.
It follows Tom Cruise as an older Maverick, who has committed to training a new generation of Top Gun pilots.
Many other cast members are set to reprise their roles from the original, including Val Kilmer, who heavily campaigned to be involved.
3. It was the highest-grossing movie of 1986
For a movie about a niche subject with a modest budget, Top Gun blew all expectations of it out of the water.
Though it got a mixed response from critics, Top Gun did manage to make a whopping $356.8 million back, way more than its $15 million budget.
As if that wasn’t cool enough, the film also managed to be the highest-grossing movie of 1986.
To win that honour, Top Gun had to beat out Crocodile Dundee and Platoon, which came second and third respectively.
That year Top Gun also managed to beat out some much-beloved sequels, such as The Karate Kid Part II and Aliens.
It even managed to beat Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at the box office, despite that film’s status as a bonafide 80s classic.
2. They got the plane engines the wrong way round
During the scene where Maverick goes into a spin, you can hear a voice say “Engine one is out” as flames burst out on the right engine.
This is a mistake – they should have actually announced it was engine two, given that engine one is the engine to the left.
It’s hard to imagine the screenwriter making such a mistake accidentally and, even if they did, it’s difficult to imagine it wouldn’t have been corrected on set.
Given that there were flight experts all around during filming, it’s reasonable to expect that one of them would have noticed the mistake.
The only explanation that makes sense is that the filmmakers decided to fudge the real details to make it easier for the audience to understand.
Basically, if they had announced that it was Maverick’s second engine that was blown out, the audience would no doubt be wondering what happened to engine one.
1. The missile shots are repeated throughout the film
There are several scenes involving missiles in Top Gun but, for the most part, when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.
That’s not due to a lack of creativity on the part of the filmmakers, but is literally true due to the amount of repeated footage in the film.
The missiles in the movie were from F-14s lent to the shoot by the US Navy, who told filmmakers they were only allowed to fire them twice.
This led to a lot of reusing certain shots, since more missile footage was needed than what they were actually allowed to film.
However, given that missiles tend to look exactly the same every time they are fired, most people didn’t notice the replicated footage. Also, at least they did get to use some real missile footage, instead of attempting to avoid showing the missiles altogether.