Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Top Gun (1986)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Top Gun (1986)

In director Tony Scott's jingoistic, dramatic action film, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer for Paramount Pictures - it became the highest-grossing film of 1986; the entire film was basically about male bonding, patriotism, fast action, and machismo (high-fives, a bare-chested volleyball game, locker room scenes); its major catchphrase was: "I feel the need, the need for speed." The homoerotic film featured grinning Tom Cruise in his first mega-star role. Besides the thin glossy love-plot and comic-book tone (all the nicknamed characters), the feverishly-choreographed film served as a recruitment tool for the USAF and its boy-toy fighter jets, and became the quintessential joy-ride action film of the 1980s, with its many death-defying, sensational, complex and competitive aerobatic dog-fight action in aerial sequences and a loud, pumped-up pop music soundtrack.

The film was developed after the publication of an article by Ehud Yonay titled 'Top Guns' about an elite training school for pilots in California Magazine (the May 1983 issue), known as the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, and located at Miramar Naval Air Station in Miramar, CA (nicknamed "Fightertown, U.S.A."); the film's four Academy Awards nominations (including Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing) resulted in one Best Original Song Oscar for the film's popular hit song: "Take My Breath Away":

  • the film's opening title card prologue described the meaning of the film's title: "On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world. They succeeded. Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: [Top Gun]"
  • the main character of the film was introduced in the opening sequence set in the present day - headstrong, arrogant, unorthodox, hot-shot young US Navy fighter pilot Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), who was stationed in the Indian Ocean near the Persian Gulf on the USS Enterprise; he was piloting an F-14 Tomcat during a training exercise with his best friend - fellow Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) pilot Lt. Nicholas "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards)
Hot-Shot Jet-Fighter Pilots - With Their Call-Signs on Their Helmets

Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise)

Lt. Nicholas "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) - RIO

Lt. Bill "Cougar" Cortell (John Stockwell)

Lt. Sam "Merlin" Wells (Tim Robbins) - RIO
  • during dogfights with two Russian MiG fighters over the ocean, one of the hostile MiGs locked onto and outmaneuvered a second F-14, piloted by wingman Lt. Bill "Cougar" Cortell (John Stockwell) with RIO Lt. Sam "Merlin" Wells (Tim Robbins) - and "Cougar" reacted in panic; Maverick flew upside down (with an inverted maneuver) over the MiG to scare it off; he joked that he was giving the enemy pilot "the birdie' (the finger), as "Goose" took a Polaroid picture
  • Maverick disobeyed orders to immediately land his Tomcat back on the carrier, and although low on fuel, he aborted his own landing and guided the rattled "Cougar" back onto the deck of the ship; as a result, "Cougar" relinquished his "wings" (a patch signifying his status) to the Enterprise's Airgroup Commander Tom "Stinger" Jardian (James Tolkan)
  • disciplinary action was dismissed against Maverick although "Stinger" was enraged at Maverick and busted him: ("Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash"); "Stinger" was reluctantly forced to appoint Maverick (and Goose) as a pair of Tomcat fighters to replace "Cougar" in a rigorous combat training program known as Top Gun at the US Navy's elite Fighter Weapon School, Miramar Naval Air Station, near San Diego; "Stinger" was aggravated that he had no choice: ("I gotta send somebody from this squadron to Miramar. I gotta do something here, I still can't believe it. I gotta give you your dream shot! I'm gonna send you up against the best. You two characters are going to Top Gun")
  • when training commenced, Maverick and Goose were introduced to instructor and Commanding Officer Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skerritt) - a Vietnam War veteran who had served in combat with "Duke" Mitchell, Maverick's father
  • it was obvious from the start that the two pilots were going to be challenged by the highly-competitive and talented rival air-ace Lt. Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky (Val Kilmer), who was partnered with his RIO Ron "Slider" Kerner (Rick Rossovich)
  • while at the local hang-out (during "Animal Night") after the first day of training, "Slider" asked Goose: "Whose butt did you kiss to get in here anyway?", and insinuated that they had been allowed into the training program only because "Cougar" had dropped out: (" guys slide into Cougar's spot....Guess you guys are lucky and famous, huh?")
  • at the bar, Maverick attempted to impress a pretty blonde - Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) by serenading her with "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"; he had a $20 bet with Goose that he could sexually seduce someone in the bar; he followed her into the ladies' room and proposed having sex with her on the formica counter top; although Maverick failed in his attempt, she played along and told Goose that Maverick had scored with her and that he was "magnificent"
  • the next day at the training, Maverick was thoroughly embarrassed to learn that "Charlie" was an astrophysicist with a PhD. and Top Gun's civilian consultant-instructor from the DOD; she lectured the pilots about incredulous claims made about the capabilities of Maverick's fighter jet with the MiGs during combat; he boasted: ("I moved in above him....Because I was inverted"); she was incredulous: ("You were in a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28?"), and asked what he was doing - and he responded: ("Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. I was, you know, giving him the bird")

Sensational Flying Exercises

Buzzing the Airfield's Control Tower
  • during exercises against the School's resident "enemy" pilot - Top Gun naval aviator Lt. Comm. Rick "Jester" Heatherly (Michael Ironside), Maverick and Goose defeated him with two incredibly daring and disobedient stunts; they flew below 10,000 feet (the minimum engagement altitude) during simulated combat, and then they deliberately "buzzed" the air field's control tower at top speed (over 400 knots) ("a circus-stunt flyby") without permission
  • during the subsequent locker-room sequence, Maverick and Goose claimed victory, although the two other pilots, "Iceman" and his partner "Slider" declared otherwise, and criticized Maverick's dangerous risk-taking: ("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")
  • Maverick and Goose were called up to commanding officer Viper's office where they were reprimanded for their unsafe behavior and disobedience; afterwards, Viper admitted to "Jester": ("He's a wild card. Flies by the seat of his pants")
  • Maverick's growing reputation as a risk-taking, gutsy hot-shot worried "Goose", who wanted to survive the training and graduate, and then become a family man with his wife Carole Bradshaw (Meg Ryan): ("I just hope we graduate. I got a family to think about. I can't afford to blow this"); Goose thought that Maverick's disobedience was because he was always flying against the "ghost" of his father's sullied reputation; Maverick promised him: "I'm not gonna let you down"
Flirtatious Dinner Invitation
  • the relationship between Maverick and Charlie began to heat up with flirtations and a 5:30 dinner invitation at her rented house; the next intercut scene the next scene was a gratuitous, bare-chested volleyball game to the tune of Kenny Loggins' "Playing with the Boys"; that evening at Charlie's beach house after a brief meal and wine-drinking, they spoke about Maverick's father who "disappeared in an F-4, November 5th, 1965"; the reports were that he "screwed up" but Maverick didn't believe it: ("No way. My old man was a great fighter pilot. But who the hell knows? It's all classified"); Charlie made a direct suggestion that his flying performances would improve if he would accept his father's death that he thought had been due to human error - she asked: "Is that why you're always second best up there?"; before he promptly left, she predicted: "This is gonna be complicated"
  • in class, Charlie openly admonished Maverick for his often foolhardy and aggressive maneuvers (that in fact had succeeded but was "an example of what not to do"); afterwards, she chased after him on his motorbike in her open sports car, and admitted that she had criticized him to cover over the fact of her true love for him (and that she wasn't showing him favoritism), and that she actually admired his skilled and genius flying: ("I see some real genius in your flying, Maverick, but I can't say that in there. I was afraid that everyone in the TACTS trailer would see right through me, and I just don't want anyone to know that I've fallen for you"); the scene concluded with love-making at her house, to the tune of "Take My Breath Away"
  • before the next mission, as Maverick and Goose walked across the tarmac to their jet fighter, they delivered the film's catchphrase line of dialogue together: (Maverick: "I feel the need..." Maverick and Goose: "...the need for speed") and then high-fived each other
  • during another flying session that would soon determine the TopGun trophy winner, Maverick >unwisely abandoned his wingman Lt. Rick "Hollywood" Neven (Whip Hubley) to impress "Viper" during an aerial chase ("I'm going after Viper...I want Viper"), but it left "Hollywood" vulnerable to being shot from behind by "Jester" - who also shot down Maverick ("Bingo, Maverick's dead. You're out of there, kid"); he was taught that he should prioritize teamwork rather than individual skill; afterwards in the locker room, "Jester" reinforced the lesson learned: "That was some of the best flying I've seen yet. Right up to the part where you got killed. You never, never leave your wing man"; Iceman found the opportunity to again criticize his main opponent: "Maverick, it's not your flying, it's your attitude. The enemy's dangerous, but right now you're worse. Dangerous and foolish. You may not like who's flying with you, but whose side are you on?"; Maverick admitted to Goose that he had made a big mistake: "That was stupid. I know better than that. It'll never happen again"
  • in the film's most dramatic and emotional sequence, "Iceman" and Maverick were competing in the top two spots for the flying trophy two weeks before graduation; Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" played as the jets took off at dawn; during an intense dogfight chase after "Jester", the highly-impatient Maverick flew too close and went through Iceman's wake of air turbulence from his thrusters, flamed out and stalled the engines; they went into an unrecoverable tailspin and were quickly losing altitude
  • with their plane crippled, Goose pulled Maverick's emergency ejection handle when he couldn't reach it, but suffered fatal head injuries during his own ejection when he slammed into the jettisoned plane's canopy head-first; both parachuted into the water, where Maverick cradled his dead buddy in his arms who was lying on top of him; he hesitated to let him go before he was hoisted up into a rescue helicopter
Maverick Holding His Dead Buddy "Goose" in Water Before the Arrival of a Rescue Helicopter to Hoist Goose Onboard
  • the death was devastating for the guilt-ridden and anxiety-stricken Maverick, and although officially cleared of blame for the incident that was not considered his fault, his subsequent flying performance suffered with a new partner Lt. Marcus "Sundown" Williams (Clarence Gilyard Jr.); Jester remarked: "He can't get back in the saddle. Won't engage...he just might not make it back"; unable to recover from Goose's death, Maverick contemplated quitting the training program; "Charlie" said her goodbyes to him - she was on her way to a new job in Washington DC, but she was supportive of him and urged him not to quit: ("You're one of the best pilots in the Navy...You've got to go on"), but he emphatically told her: "It's over"
  • the film's turning point came when Maverick visited "Viper's" home to speak with him - he had served with his father in Vietnam on the USS Oriskany; all along, Maverick had mistakenly believed official reports that "Duke" had died during combat in the war under non-heroic circumstances, and thus felt that he always had to prove himself; on the contrary, Maverick learned that "Duke" had died heroically (he was wounded and could have saved himself, but he sacrificed himself in a dogfight and saved three other planes - his actions were kept secret and "classified"); "Viper" realized Maverick's problem: ("The simple fact is you feel responsible for Goose and you have a confidence problem")

Viper's Description of Maverick's Father Duke's Sacrifice During the Vietnam War

"Viper" - "You have a confidence problem"
  • the revelatory news from "Viper" inspired Maverick's self-confidence, and he decided to attend graduation, where he congratulated the "Iceman" for being awarded the Top Gun trophy as "Best Fighter Pilot"
  • almost immediately, the newly-graduated pilots were given new assignments by "Viper" and "Jester" - Maverick, Iceman, and Hollywood were reassigned back to the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean, to serve on a rescue mission to save the drifting and disabled SS Layton, a communications ship
  • only 24 hours later, the F-14 fliers were on the carrier to offer air support during the rescue; they were given a pep talk by the carrier's commander "Stinger": "Gentlemen, this is the real thing. This is what you've been trained for. You are America's best. Make us proud"

Maneuvers in the Indian Ocean to Provide Air Support For the Disabled SS Layton

Maverick Grasping Goose's Dog Tags for Confidence

Maverick Targeting One of the Enemy MiGs to Save Iceman
  • Iceman and Hollywood intercepted a pair of MiGs, but then encountered ambush fire from four more MiGs; Hollywood was forced to eject from his flaming plane after being targeted, while Iceman was surrounded; providing backup, Maverick (flying with RIO Lt. Sam "Merlin" Wells) flew to the rescue, but they also found themselves surrounded and then briefly stalled before regaining control; Maverick's first impulse was to retreat and abandon Iceman (since the circumstances were similar to the aerial fight that led to Goose's death, when he flew through the jet wash), but then he grasped Goose's dog tags ("Talk to me, Goose") and summoned the courage to defend his fellow pilots and to assist Iceman as his wingman; four of the MiGs were shot down ("Scratch four") by Maverick's (and Iceman's) fancy maneuvers, prompting the other two remaining MiGs to retreat ("Remaining MiGs are bugging out")

Maverick Returning to the Carrier - Victorious

Iceman: "You can be my wingman any time"

Maverick: "Bulls--t. You can be mine"
  • upon the return of the pilots to the aircraft carrier, Iceman and Maverick exchanged the film's most quotable dialogue, when Iceman assured Maverick: "You are still dangerous. But you can be my wingman any time"; Maverick quipped: "Bulls--t! You can be mine"
  • later, Maverick tossed Goose's dog tags into the ocean, signifying that he finally accepted his friend's death; he became famous through newspaper accounts of his heroic actions; rewarded with a choice of any assignment, Maverick chose to return to the Top Gun training facility as an instructor, causing "Stinger" to exclaim: "God help us"
  • in the film's concluding sequence, Maverick and Charlie reunited at the Miramar diner-bar, where he heard her playing their favorite song ("You've Lost That Loving Feeling") on the jukebox; she had unexpectedly returned from her new Washington DC position to be with him, because he was reportedly "the best of the best"; he was doubtful: "This could be complicated. You know on the first one I crashed and burned"; she asked: "And the second?" and he turned hopeful: "I don't know, but uh, it's lookin' good so far"

Maverick's Inverted Flying Maneuver Over a Russian MiG

Maverick Racing on His Motorcycle Next to a Fighter Jet at Miramar

Hot-Shot Fighter Pilot-Trainee Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) in Classroom at Miramar

Commanding Officer Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skerritt)

Lt. Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky (Val Kilmer)

The Pretty Blonde at the Bar -- Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) - Top Gun's Civilian-Consultant and Instructor

Maverick in the Ladies Room with "Charlie"

Maverick Shocked to See "Charlie" Introduced as a Top Gun Instructor

2nd Day of Training - "Charlie" Appeared to Question Maverick's Inverted Flying Maneuver

Iceman's Criticism of Maverick as "Dangerous"

Macho Volleyball Game

"I feel the need, the need for speed"

Lt. Rick "Hollywood" Neven (Whip Hubley) - Abandoned by Maverick

"Viper" Flying Against Maverick During War Games

"Jester" - Came Up from Behind Maverick ("Bingo, Maverick's dead. You're out of there, kid")

Iceman's Worry About Maverick's Dangerous Attitude

Maverick Admitting His Mistake to Goose in the Locker Room

Family Man Goose With His Wife Carole (Meg Ryan)

Hot Romance Between Maverick and Charlie

'Iceman' Flying During War Games That Led to Goose's Tragic Preventable Death
Goose's Ejection From Cockpit Botched

Goodbyes to "Charlie" After Maverick Wanted to Quit the Navy Pilot Program

At Graduation, Maverick Congratulated Iceman For Winning the Top Gun Trophy

Film's Conclusion: Reunion of Charlie and Maverick


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