Top Gun Day: 35 facts to celebrate the movie's 35th anniversary

Today, we're feeling the need for speed as it's Top Gun Day. The Tom Cruise aerial classic is now 35 years old, and on that basis we're reaching for the Aviator shades and eighties mixtape.

In anticipation of the long-overdue sequel Top Gun: Maverick (due to arrive later this year), here are some fun Top Gun facts that will have you reaching for missile lock. (Well, if you have a fighter jet lying around, that is.)


1. Top Gun was inspired by a 1983 California magazine article named 'Top Guns', which showcased impressive aerial photography from then-Lieutenant Commander Charles 'Heater' Heatley.

2. In fact, the movie was based on a real flight school called U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School or TOPGUN, formerly based at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.

3. The movie's production costs were subsidized by the U.S. Government, and although it seemed like a good deal (studio Paramount was charged just $1.8 million for the use of planes and warships), this meant that Pentagon was able to exercise a strict level of control over the script.

4. Hence why Goose's (Anthony Edwards) death was changed from a mid-air collision to an ejection scene because "the Navy complained that too many pilots were crashing".

5. Other changes included moving the opening scene from Cuba to international waters, so as not to inflame political tensions.


6. Top Gun was one of the first movies to be produced by the duo of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, soon to become one of the most influential pairings in Hollywood. 

7. The Simpson/Bruckheimer brand emerged in the MTV era, famous for the flashy, glossy style as seen in Flashdance (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and others.

8. Matthew Modine was sought for the role of Maverick, but for political reasons turned it down in favour of Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam War drama Full Metal Jacket (released in 1987).

9. The role went to Tom Cruise, at that point best known for playing the cocky teen with the house to himself in Risky Business (1983).

10. Cruise netted himself a $2 million paycheck, his highest-paid acting gig to that point (later superseded by the $3 million he earned for 1988's Cocktail).


11. Given that the Navy discourages relationships between officers, Maverick's love interest was changed from a fellow Navy member to physicist Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).

12.In an early draft of the script, Maverick was set to be romancing an aerobics instructor.

13. Blackwood was based on a real person: Navy mathematician Christine Fox who worked at the Centre for Naval Analyses.

14, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg were both considered to direct before Tony Scott was hired by Bruckheimer and Simpson.

15. Scott was hired after impressing the producers with a commercial he had made for Saab.


16. Scott had only directed one movie prior to Top Gun: vampire movie The Hunger (1983), starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon.

17. Encouraged by filmmakers, the cast partied a whole lot during the San Diego-area shoot, in order to get into character. “I remember it being one giant weekend, as far as making the thing,” Kilmer recalled in the film’s DVD commentary

18. Ice Man actor Val Kilmer says that Tom Cruise refused to party with him off-screen, so dedicated was he to learning his lines and performing the stunts.

19. It was also suggested that this enhanced the frosty on-screen dynamic of their characters.

20. The US Navy later used Top Gun as a recruiting tool with 90% of applicants saying they'd signed up because of the movie.


21. Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Pete 'Viper' Pettigrew, a naval aviator and flight instructor at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, provided the inspiration for the call sign "Viper".

22. Among the Naval pilots selected to fly the film's F-14 fighter jets: Scott Altman, later to become a NASA astronaut.

23. Altman is the person seen 'flipping the bird' during the film's opening sequence.

24. Anthony Edwards, who plays goose, was reportedly the only one of the actors not to vomit when flying in the fighter jets.

25. Aerobatic pilot Art Scholl was hired to perform in-flight camera work but crashed off the southern California coast. His body was never recovered and the film is dedicated to his memory.


26. Navy aircraft carriers Ranger, Enterprise and Carl Vinson were used during the production.

27. While shooting on the USS Enterprise, Scott wrote a blank cheque for the amount of $25,000 to have the vessel change course, allowing the director to capture the sunset.

28. One of the notes the producers received from the studio, Paramount, was "Too much flying."

29. Kenny Loggins' anthem 'Danger Zone' is played three separate times in the movie – little wonder the song became synonymous with the picture.

30. By April 1987, 'Danger Zone' had gone platinum four times (in other words, it had sold four million), and by July 2000, after a 1999 special edition release that included some new songs, the soundtrack had sold nine million copies.


31. Berlin's love theme 'Take My Breath Away' (music by Giorgio Moroder) won the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating the likes of 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Somewhere Out There' from An American Tail.

32. During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, Tom Cruise claimed to have invented the concept of international premieres while touring the world with Top Gun: "I like premieres. When I saw the old photos of the Grauman's Chinese [Theatre] and those wonderful premieres. I came up with the idea of, 'Let's have premieres in different countries, and then kind of do it that way.'"

33. Top Gun was the highest-grossing movie of 1986, taking $356 million against its $15 million budget.

34. In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

35. Thinking of signing up? Unfortunately, the so-called 'Top Gun' award, as featured in the film, doesn't exist.


Hopefully that has got you primed for Top Gun: Maverick, which is set for release on 21st November 2021. Got some Top Gun facts of your own? Let us know @Cineworld.