Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., and was inspired by an article titled "Top Guns" published in California magazine three years earlier. The film stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. It also marked the debut of actor Adrian Pasdar. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He and his Radar Intercept Officer, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Edwards) are given the chance to train at the US Navy's Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.
Top Gun released on May 16, 1986. Upon its release, the film received generally mixed reviews from film critics but many particularly praised the action sequences, the effects, the aerial stunts, and the acting performances with Cruise and McGillis receiving the most praise. Four weeks after release, the number of theaters showing it increased by 45 percent. Despite its initial mixed critical reaction, the film was a huge commercial hit grossing US$356 million against a production budget of only US$15 million. The film maintained its popularity over the years and earned an IMAX 3D re-release in 2013. Additionally, the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Take My Breath Away" performed by Berlin.
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". The sequel, titled Top Gun: Maverick is released on May 27, 2022 in the United States.
The film begins with LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, LT Bill "Cougar" Cortell, and LTJG Sam "Merlin" Wells launching off the USS Enterprise to go on patrol in their F-14s. Two MiG-28s jump them and Maverick scares one of them off the other MiG gets on Cougar's tail and gets a radar lock on him. Maverick then messes with the other MiG, flies upside down, and flips the bird at him while Goose takes his picture and they scare him off and he leave Cougar alone. At this point both planes run low on fuel and CDR Tom "Stinger" Jardian orders them to land. Maverick disobeys orders by intentionally having a bolter and goes back up to get Cougar. Cougar struggles to land his jet and has a PTSD attack but Maverick talks him through it and Cougar lands.
Stinger of course is not impressed and orders the four pilots into his office. Merlin is placed in hack (house arrest and confined to quarters), Cougar turns in his wings and quits, and Maverick and Goose get busted for their stunt. Because Cougar quit and Merlin was placed in hack Maverick and Goose have to go to TOPGUN instead of Cougar and Merlin.
In NAS Miramar Maverick and Goose are introduced to their wingmen LT Tom "Iceman" Kazansky and his RIO LTJG Ron "Slider" Kerner, LT Rick "Hollywood" Neven and his RIO LTJG Leonard "Wolfman" Wolfe, LT Charles "Chipper" Piper and his RIO LTJG Marcus "Sundown" Williams, and instructors CDR Mike "Viper" Metcalf and LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly. Iceman wisecracks at them and says he will be the top pilot and Maverick says he is better.
That night the boys go to the bar where they meet Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood and Maverick tries to sing to her the other pilots join in and Sundown takes over for Maverick in their little karaoke stunt. On the first day of class Charlie is introduced as their instructor. Maverick tries to prove her wrong and tells her he is the best pilot and he can outrun MiGs. Charlie is not impressed and says Maverick has to prove it. Iceman comes over to Maverick and ask him who was watching Cougar while Maverick was showboating the MiG? Maverick tells Iceman "Cougar was doing fine" which we know is a lie because Maverick had to save him during that stunt.
Viper sends the boys up with Jester and they play tag. Maverick tries to get behind Jester but he breaks range rules and flies below and above the altitude of the course which is set at 10,000 Feet and almost hits a hill. Maverick finally gets behind Jester and calls "Jester's Dead" on the radio. Jester tells them to knock it off and head back to base. On the way back Maverick and Goose buzz the tower and spill coffee all over Johnson who is the tower commander. The boys later get rebuked by Viper who summons them into his office.
The tower commander goes to talk to Viper first and the mess cook spills coffee on him a second time. Viper tells Maverick he does not bend the rules and if Maverick does not fallow them he and Goose will be expelled and Viper will take their wings. As they leave Charlie is not impressed and has heard everything Viper said about them getting busted. Viper and Jester read Maverick's file and Viper tells Jester that he flew in Vietnam with Maverick's father Duke Mitchell who was his wingman. Viper tells Jester to send Maverick up again to test him.
That night Goose confronts Maverick and tells him this is no longer about trophies or showing off they need to graduate so they can support their families. Maverick tells Goose he will not let him down because he is the only family he's got after Maverick lost Duke in the war.
The next day Charlie and Maverick discus tactics and Maverick says he was disappointed that Charlie did not tell him who she was that night at the club. Charlie tells Maverick she does not date students but she will later regent it when she sends Maverick a note and ask him out for dinner. Slider of course is eavesdropping and Maverick tells him it is none of his business and he stinks.
That afternoon the boys have a volleyball match out on the beach against Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman. Maverick and Goose beat Iceman's team and Maverick tells Goose he has to leave because he is going to be late for his date. Maverick finally arrives at Charlie's house a few minutes late and excuses himself to freshen up after the volleyball match. Maverick and Charlie go on their date and Charlie ask Maverick about Duke and Maverick says he does not know much about Duke because he went MIA in Vietnam and the mission was classified and no one knows about the mission except for Viper. Maverick then leaves back to the barracks to take a shower and Charlie fallows him disguised. After they even things out they board the elevator and head to their rooms.
Later Goose meets up with his wife Carole and his son Bradley who have come to visit them. Goose spills the beans that Maverick is dating Charlie and Maverick ask him how did he find out? Goose tries to back out of it now that the secret is out and everyone knows Maverick is dating Charlie.
In class Viper gives the boys a maneuver test with Charlie also providing input. (in a deleted scene Maverick tells Viper that they can bag the MiGs with missiles if they are head on but Viper does not buy it.) Viper shows them that the MiGs are offensive and they have a radar lock and the F-14s are defensive. He tells Maverick when they freeze the image that you need to cut and run or the MiGs will blow you to bits and that Maverick made a bad choice with his selection. Charlie then steps up and shows another move that Maverick did. Maverick causes the MiG to miss and he takes him down with a missile but Charlie tells Maverick that this stunt was what should not have been done because Maverick was seconds from being shot down during the hop.
Later Charlie rebukes Maverick for his conduct in the TACTS and Maverick jumps on his bike and drives off. Charlie fallows him and almost causes an accident. Charlie tells Maverick that she was holding back and tells him that she loves him. Later that evening they make out while "Take My Breath Away" is playing in the background. When Charlie wakes up Maverick leaves her a note inside a paper airplane.
Later on the flight line Maverick and Goose get in their jet and Goose tells Maverick that Iceman got another one. They are tied with Iceman and Slider and to win they need to win Hop 19. They take off and now the flight is double threat when they find out Jester has brought Viper up with them. Maverick engages both jets with Hollywood backing him against Jester and Viper. Maverick then breaks a cardinal rule by abandoning his wingman to go after Viper, and in so doing Hollywood is "shot down" and then the same fate befalls Maverick when Jester gets on his tail and shoots him down and calls Maverick over the radio and tells him he is dead. Goose rebukes Maverick and tells him what he did was stupid. Viper tells them to knock it off and they head back to base.
In the showers Jester rebukes Maverick and tells him the next time he goes up to never abandon his wingman or they will both get shot down. Iceman adds that Mavericks ego is getting in the way of his flying and causing him to make mistakes. Maverick admits what he did was stupid and he is better then that and it won't happen again.
Maverick pulls a photo out of his wallet which shows him and Duke shortly before he disappeared and thinks he wants to impress his dad.
Later at the bar Goose is singing "Great Balls of Fire" and Bradley is there with him singing it. Maverick tells Goose to knock it off before he embarrasses himself and and Carole brings up the day that Maverick buzzed Penny Benjamin. Maverick shrugs it off and goes over to join Goose. Carole then tells Charlie that she has known Maverick for a long time and that Charlie is deeply in love with Maverick. Carole then joins Goose and they sing and it is even worse when Charlie joins them. Later that night Charlie and Maverick go to the marina.
Hop 31 begins but now it is three against three and this time Iceman goes up with them. Maverick, determined to win the school contest, angrily chews out Iceman for taking too long to attack an enemy craft; Maverick takes the shot, but when the two aircraft get close, the jet wash from Iceman's jet cripples Maverick's engines and the F-14 plunges toward the sea. Goose barely succeeds in yanking open the emergency ejection handles, but when the fighter's canopy pops open, the two aviators eject and Goose crashes into the canopy head first, killing him. Maverick and Goose are recovered by the coast guard but Goose is declared DOA when they recover him and Maverick.
Viper tries to comfort Maverick and tells him stuff like this happens and when he flew with Duke in Vietnam they lost eight planes in their squadron and ten pilots were killed. Viper then tells Maverick to let Goose go and he will assign him a new RIO. Charlie offers to help Maverick find out what went wrong and to present her evidence to the board of inquiry and tells him she will be there if he needs him. Maverick then packs up Goose's belongings and keeps his tags. He then confronts Carole and Rooster and tells them Goose is dead and that Carole is now a widow. Carole tells Maverick it was not his fault and Goose would have flown anyways despite the problems with their aircraft.
Maverick is devastated by Goose's death and though an inquiry clears him of wrongdoing his confidence is destroyed. Maverick is then teamed with Sundown as his replacement RIO but he looses it and bugs out. On the ground Maverick slugs Sundown and they have a falling out and Maverick still blames himself for Goose's death. Viper and Jester take notice and are concerned Maverick has lost it. Iceman then comes down to the locker room and apologizes to Maverick for the accidental death and Wolfman calls Charlie and tells her Maverick quit.
Maverick later confronts Charlie in the pilot lounge and tells him it was not his fault and she presented her findings to the board of inquiry. She admits flying is dangerous and stuff like this happens and she also tells Maverick he needs to let Goose go. Charlie says her goodbyes and heads back to the Pentagon.
Maverick later goes to talk to Viper at his house and the truth about Vietnam comes out. Viper tells Maverick that Duke is not MIA he was shot down and killed by the enemy and his plane was never found and the Pentagon classified the mission to cover it up and did not tell him at the time because he was not ready. Duke did manage to bag three planes before the honchos got him. Viper then gives Maverick his scores and tells him to come back. Maverick nonetheless graduates from TOPGUN and is reassigned to the USS Enterprise.
During the commencement, Sundown askes Chipper where Maverick is? Maverick does show up, but only watches as Iceman and Slider get their names engraved on the TOPGUN trophy. Viper then comes over and tells the boys the party is over and to put on their flight suits and head to the USS Enterprise immediately. Viper tells Maverick to report to Stinger once he arrives and he will be assigned his RIO once he is onboard. He also adds if Stinger does not give him a RIO he will fly out there personally and will be his RIO.
On the USS Enterprise 24 hours later, Stinger briefs them on the mission. The communications ship SS Layton has wondered into enemy territory and is being attacked by enemy MiGs who are armed with anti-ship missiles and intend to sink it and seize its data. Stinger sends up Iceman and Slider as part of 'Voodoo Flight' with Hollywood and Wolfman as their wingmen. Maverick will lead 'Ghost Rider Flight' with the rest of the pilots on alert five.
Iceman and Hollywood are launched to intercept a pair of MiGs but are jumped by four additional enemy. Hollywood is shot down and Iceman is hopelessly surrounded when Maverick is launched, now with Merlin as his RIO. Maverick quickly arrives at the scene of battle but is surrounded by the enemy and when he flies into one plane's jet wash his own fighter briefly stalls out - and though he regains control he flashes back to Goose's death and breaks off, leaving Iceman (who has long doubted Maverick's courage after Goose's death) trapped as Merlin desperately and furiously yells at Maverick to get back into battle.
Maverick reengages after a whispered sentence of "Talk to me, Goose," when he grasps Goose's dog tags and manages to destroy several of the enemy MiGs and drive off the last two.
Maverick returns to the ship and he and Iceman buzz the bridge on a parade pass to celebrate their victory and again dumping coffee into Johnson's lap.
When the jets return to the carrier, they're greeted with cheers and applause from the flight deck crew. After Maverick and Iceman exchange their form of thanks, Maverick throws Goose's tags off the back of the ship, showing he successfully was able to let him go.
Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to TOPGUN as an instructor. At a bar at Miramar, Maverick and Charlie reunite.
- Tom Cruise as LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, Naval Aviator.
- Anthony Edwards as LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, Maverick's RIO.
- Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw, Goose's wife.
- Kelly McGillis as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood, TOPGUN civilian contractor. The character is based on a real-life person, Christine Fox, who worked at the Miramar Naval Air Station.
- Val Kilmer as LT Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, Naval Aviator.
- Rick Rossovich as LTJG Ron "Slider" Kerner, Iceman's RIO.
- James Tolkan as CDR Tom "Stinger" Jardian, a Commander on the USS Enterprise.
- Tom Skerritt as CDR Mike "Viper" Metcalf, TOPGUN Instructor.
- Michael Ironside as LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly, TOPGUN Instructor.
- John Stockwell as LT Bill "Cougar" Cortell, Naval Aviator.
- Tim Robbins as LTJG Sam "Merlin" Wells, Cougar's RIO.
- Whip Hubley as LT Rick "Hollywood" Neven, Naval Aviator.
- Barry Tubb as LTJG Leonard "Wolfman" Wolfe, Hollywood's RIO.
- Adrian Pasdar as LT Charles "Chipper" Piper, Naval Aviator.
- Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as LTJG Marcus "Sundown" Williams, Chipper's RIO.
Errors and possible explanations
Internet Movie Database
- The distance between the aircraft after Goose takes the picture. The other pilot may have started to ease away.
Character Errors (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers)
- Stinger's exact role was not stated through the movie. He acts as if he's in charge of everything even at just Commander rank. In reality, there should be a Squadron Commander for Maverick, Goose, Merlin and Cougar. There should be a ship Captain at Captain O-6 rank and a battle group admiral at Rear Admiral rank.
- Navy rules state on tactical jets, oxygen masks shall be worn from takeoff until landing, a rule broken throughout the movie. Real Navy/Marine Corps pilots break this rule all the time as well.
- All Navy pilots must have NOMEX flight gloves with them. They are not required to (and in fact, do not always) wear them.
- When Maverick launches for the final dogfight scene, he shortly announces, "Maverick's supersonic. I'll be there in 30 seconds." The viewer may incorrectly think the air battle is taking place 150 miles away, which would mean it would take him almost 12 minutes to arrive (travelling at Mach one (at sea level, 761.2 mph, faster than it is at altitude). The battle is 150 miles away from the disabled communication ship SS Layton which is being rescued, not 150 miles from the carrier from which the Tomcats were launched.
- At the end of the movie, Maverick and the rescued crew meet up on the fight deck. The viewer may incorrectly think the engagement has taken place 120 miles away (making it impossible for the rescued crew to arrive so quickly). It in fact takes place 120 miles from the SS Layton, not the carrier (the viewer is not told how far from the carrier the battle occurs, though indications are that it is within 30 miles).
- Maverick's declaration of "I'm not leaving my wingman" may seem odd to some viewers, as the wingman's job is to follow the lead pilot. Maverick remembered the lesson that he learned when he lost a dogfight in school, as to why it is important to never leave your wingman. Had he done so, he would've put his crew and Iceman and Slider at risk.
- When turning in his wings at the beginning of the film, Cougar talks about 'almost orphaning' his new baby daughter. If he'd died she would still have a mother. An orphan is anyone who has lost one parent; you don't have to lose both parents to be orphaned.
- While the F-14 Tomcat was capable of simultaneously tracking and attacking six targets at once from long range, the rules of engagement for hostile situations arising during peacetime stipulate that the intercepting aircraft must first visually acquire the radar contacts, and verify their intentions. Had the MiGs turned away and headed for their home without firing a shot in anger, then the Tomcats would not have been allowed to shoot at them. If the Tomcats were responding to either a hostile action against friendly forces, or simply acting in self-defense, only then would they be allowed to shoot down the MiGs. All of this requires the crews to keep the MiGs in sight, thus negating the use of missiles from beyond visual range.
- Flight crews are seen throughout the film wearing golf shirts under their flight suits. While it is more common to wear a t-shirt under the flight suit, in the 1980's up until the early 2000's, crews did have the option to wear a golf shirt with their squadron colors under their flight suits.
- The Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) controller is sweating at 4:23. The interior is usually freezing to protect the electronics thus he would not sweat.
- Ground Control Intercept (GCI) controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.
- Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.
- RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. A 360-degree radar would spread radiation to the crew and other avionics.
- Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” He should have been briefed on the Rules of Engagement beforehand.
- As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.
Hollywood nonsense: The HUDs of the F-14As through out the movie are unrealistic.
- Goose wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.
- At the beginning when Maverick and Cougar are flying back to the ship and they are sweating running out of fuel before Maverick can talk Cougar down, this would not have been that much of a big deal. The carrier would have launched a tanker and refueled the planes. Even if Cougar was too shaken to land on the carrier, with the help of tankers, they could have diverted to a land based runway which is infinitely easier to land at. He may have been too shaken to complete the refueling procedure. Even if he was shaken, his F-14 was low on fuel and might have crashed. Similarly for Maverick's plane, there was little possibility of him launching up and talking Merlin down while Maverick was low on fuel
- Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude. Since he is shocked, removing his mask would remove oxygen and there would be little possibility of him flying of even landing with Maverick's coaxing.
- Despite his shock or PTSD, Cougar miraculously manages to lands without answering the Landing Signals Officer (LSO) - Maverick similarly so. Cougar's plane lands first, and does not taxi away. Maverick's would have crashed into it especially also low on fuel.
- Given Cougar's shock, the LSO or Air Boss would never have allowed him to land. The advise would be to divert or eject. Given that Cougar might not be able to successfully divert, Merlin could have ejected them.
- Stinger simply orders Maverick and Goose to TOPGUN and says “You can tell me about the MiG some other time.” As a Commander, he would want to hear about the Mig-28s and its abilities.
- The real TOPGUN is titled TOP GUN and 1)does not teach aviators to be arrogant but the opposite 2)there is no competition for a trophy - never is - students at TOP GUN are trained to fight together.
- Many of the other TOPGUN students like Slider, Wolfman, Sundown even Goose are of Lieutenant Junior Grade which is too junior for a TOPGUN slot.
- Aviators, on training or for combat do not get briefed in an open hangar for security reasons. A typical Hollywood intentional mistake.
- Charlie is talking nonsense - no such thing as “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” (Well the fake Mig-28s are F-5 and the thrust-to-weight ratio stuff doesn't exist.) She then says, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” What are inverted flight tanks?!
- Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.
- Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds..” A typical Hollywood mistake.
- Stinger already summarizes Maverick's irrational activities and in private Viper tells Jester similar stuff. Any such military pilot wouldn't be allowed to be flying, let alone in TOP GUN.
- Goose says, "They wouldn’t let you into the (Naval) Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” Rejection to any of the US armed services academy is not due to parents but due to low SAT scores. Maverick's father is a veteran; Maverick would be allowed though not allowed to fly given his attitude.
- Another Hollywood nonsense: "If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” "“But at that speed it’s too fast.” Another example is Hollywood (the character) eating an orange on the flight line.
- Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million.
- Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him.
- HUD looks nothing like the real thing. Most likely the directors and producers were not given access to the F-14A HUDs in the 1980s.
- Another Hollywood nonsense: Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the (fake) Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.
- While it might be a case of filing two different shots, a Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.
- Random Lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults. Even if so, the crew should have checked all catapults before even launching any aircraft.
- Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that. Also, such command and control would be performed by a E-2C Hawkeye or AEGIS cruiser, which would have wider radar coverage of the air and maritime combat.
- Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls. Iceman being the more rational pilot would not have elected to join Maverick. If he did so, his F-14 would suffer more damage and likely crash.
- Although an intentional Hollywood humour, why would the carrier's Air Boss be the same as the air tower boss from TOP GUN? Referring to Air Boss Johnson.
- Another Hollywood nonsense: Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with. This of course is in jest.
- None of the RIOs from Goose to Sundown perform of the roles that RIOs are suppose to perform in reality. RIOs are suppose to help pilots perform the checklist before launch, help navigate the pilot to position, liaise with AWAC or ground control intercept, indentify unknown aircraft and talk to the LSO and Air Boss during landing.
- After Maverick drops out of TOPGUN, Viper tells him: "That isn't something the State Department tells dependents when the battle happens on the wrong side of some line." The State Department does not notify military dependents of the death of a service member. The Defense Department does. Goose got it right when he joked in the cockpit after being nailed by Jester. While technically correct about which Executive Department sends notification to next of kin of deceased service members, its obvious from the context Viper means something else. When American military personnel are involved in "black" operations, or anything potentially embarrassing, e.g. combat "over the wrong line on some map" as Viper says, State would no doubt have some influence over the details released to family, being the department charged with overseeing our foreign relations. So what Viper most likely means is, "The State Department doesn't let the Defense department tell people the true story."
- In the scene where Maverick is in TOPGUN flying against Jester. In one scene he says he's going to hit the brakes. He hits the brakes and goes up so it look like Jester should fly underneath. In the next shot you can see Jester fly over Maverick. This is not a mistake, the Aircraft is pulling a high alpha maneuver, in this case 'hitting the brakes' by rapidly orienting the aircraft in a different direction, using the body and wings to slow the aircraft down rapidly. The Russian SU-27 Flanker is famous for this (search cobra maneuver) and the F-14 was capable of doing it as well. The aircraft continues in level flight even though the nose is oriented upwards (high angle of attack). As much as Top Gun makes mistakes with reference to aviation, this is not one of them.
- When the MiGs fire a missile, its not a Exocet, its a AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. In fact, nothing resembling an Exocet can be seen on the hardpoints of the MiGs when they roll. Exocet's are anti-ship missiles. They are not effective against other aircraft. The MiG's were not yet within firing range of the ship, but were involved in a dogfight, for which the air-to-air Sidewinder missile is the more effective weapon. Most aircraft are able to carry multiple munitions.
- In the two dog fight sequences, when Maverick uses his speed brakes to "bleed off" air speed to cause the MiGs on his tail to overshoot him, the nose of his Tomcat pitches up and the MiGs pass beneath him. When pilots do this maneuver to evade pursuit by faster aircraft, loss of airspeed results in loss of lift which cause the aircraft to nose down and lose altitude, and the pursuer to pass above them. Closing the speed brakes and applying afterburner then brought the nose back up in a position to fire missiles into the opponent aircraft's exhaust pipe. The speed brake on the Tomcat is on top of the fuselage, and when actuated causes the aircraft to momentarily pitch nose up.
- In the last battle. Maverick is ordered to launch on Alert Five. While hooking up to the catapult we see a man holding his left hand flat and placing two fingers sideways into it. That means you are plugging in an external power source. You would not do that during launch. You obviously haven't stood many alert 5's. Alert 5 or Alert 7 means that the aircraft must be able to be launched 5 (or 7) minutes from the time the order is given. This means that the crew has to be strapped into the aircraft, on the catapult and hooked up to external power in order to have the aircraft's systems checked and ready for immediate launch. Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) take several minutes to align. If they were not already aligned when the launch order was given, the crew would not be ready to launch on time. Once the order is given to launch, all you should have to do is start the motors, disconnect external power, wipe out the flight controls and hit the road. The man in this shot is requesting to disconnect the external power.
- During scene when Tom Cruise is considering his options to graduate with his class and looking over the Miramar run way as an F-14 passes by to land, it is shown with the tail hook extended down for landing on a ship. Navy pilots regularly practice landings with the tailhooks down. At certain Naval airbases such as Pax River, Oceana, Pensacola, etc., there are markings on the runways that resemble the carrier deck, and even include the IFOLS lighting system. This is not a mistake.
- In the scene at the beginning of the movie when the Admiral walks into to flight control room on the aircraft carrier and asks "Who's up there. Great, Maverick and Goose"; he is only wearing pilot wings on his uniform. As the scene progresses when Maverick and Cougar tangle with the MiGs, the admiral is in the control room and his uniform changes to being completely decorated. The subject that enters the scene is not an Admiral he is a Commander.
- Goose is killed by hitting the canopy of the F-14 during ejection. The way he hit the canopy should not be possible in real life. The first action of the seat, upon being fired by the crew member, is to secure the crew member to it securely. It does this by explosive charges which generate gas to operate two mechanisms which 1) pull the body back into the seat (you can see the straps that do this in the scene from the film) and 2) pull the legs back to contact with the seat. At this point it is assumed that the hands/arms are being used to operate either the seat pan handle or the face blind. So now we have all our body parts secure, the rest of the seat can be fired. If you look closely at Goose as he ejects, you can see he is not attached to the seat at all: he flops around and hits the canopy. If he had been strapped in correctly, his head would still have not hit the canopy as the top of the seat is above the top of his head (otherwise he could not use the face blind to fire the seat). The whole reason he was killed was due to a malfunction with the seat. It pulled him back initially as it should, but then released tension, allowing him to flop around and hit the canopy. Even with fail-safes and redundant safety features, if it's mechanical it can, and may, fail. Corrected by rswarrior. Further, as stated in the special features on the Blu-Ray release, Goose was supposed to have waited before ejecting the seats so the canopy has time to clear since modern canopies can't be punched through.
- While in the trailer reviewing Maverick's flying, "put on the brakes and he'll fly right by..." Charlie is wearing a grey skirt. In the next scene while she is out by Maverick's bike she is wearing a black skirt. Charlie is wearing an entirely different ensemble, not just a different skirt, as is Maverick. During the trailer briefing he is in uniform, but at his motorcycle he is in civilian clothing. This indicates a run-in at a later time.
- In the opening dog fight scene (which took all of a couple minutes) they go from bright sun (Cougar loses his bogey in the sun) to being almost night time when Maverick attempts to land on the carrier the first time. Two things: When an aircraft is at altitude, it will be brighter longer than down on sea level. Second, we don't know how long it took to fly back after the dog fight. If it was late afternoon for the dog fight, it could very well be getting dark on the return trip.
- Before "classes" begin, the pilots are told that they would be flying against planes that are faster than their F-14's. The F-14's top airspeed is over 500 mph faster than the F-5's, and more than DOUBLE that of the A-4. Corrected by John W Rosa The statement doesn't mean BOTH the F-5 and A-4 are faster. Only that the F-14s will fly against faster planes. And since the F5 isn't playing an F5 in the film, but is playing a fictitious MiG-28 made up for the story, no one can say it isn't faster.
- At TOPGUN, Maverick does a fly by of the tower. He flies by, the camera cuts to the guy drinking coffee who spills it on himself. Then the camera cuts back to the sky and Maverick flies by again. Corrected by John W Rosa This is an artistic choice to heighten the impact of the moment, not a mistake of editing, just as "slow-motion" isn't an accidental drop of film speed that makes everything happen unrealistically slow.
- When Cougar lost the edge after, he wouldn't have given his wings to his Commanding Officer. Handing in your wings is merely a phrase, not something people do. Corrected by John W Rosa Character choice. It may not be required, but it's certainly his option to hand them in, throw them out or even swallow them.
- During the opening sequence of "cat shots" off the carrier deck, an F-14 is hooked into a catapult. As it's being launched, the camera switches to a deck member ducking as it goes by in the background. However, the plane going by is actually an A-6 Intruder. Corrected by John W Rosa This is a montage of shots randomly depicting the daily routine of carrier duty on the deck. The shots are not meant to be a continuous stream of real time. No mistake.
- The film makes several references to a 'MiG-28' when in fact all MiG aircraft are odd-numbered. No 'MiG-28" ever did or ever will exist. Corrected by John W Rosa And "Maverick", "Goose" and "Iceman" don't exist either. The jet was actually an American F-5, not a MiG at all, and since it doesn't look like any real MiG, the makers created a fictitious MiG model for the fictitious pilots to fictitiously fight. It's a fantasy, not a documentary. The MiG-28 designation was intentional, not a "mistake".
- When Maverick and Goose are in the water after ejecting you can clearly see the boat that films them. Corrected by Jacob La Cour Not true!
- There is no way Maverick would have been pinned forward during the spin sequence, either - that's why shoulder harnesses are worn. In any case he should have been able to reach the second set of handles underneath his seat. In an F-14, the front seater is far forward of the aircraft center of gravity and in a flat spin WOULD be pinned forward in an 'eyeballs out' negative G type condition. This is amazingly accurate in this film; however, such forces would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach either of the ejection handles (upper or lower).
- In the final dogfight, Hollywood is being pursued by a MiG that has radar lock on him. A few seconds later the camera shot changes to the cockpit of the MiG showing his radar locking in on Hollywood's plane (again), but didn't he already have radar lock on him? That's the point. Hollywood supposedly broke radar lock, and the MiG had to reacquire him as the target.
- In the scene after Maverick goes to Viper's house to ask for "his options", he is shown sitting on his motorcycle at the end of a runway watching a plane coming in to land. The plane has its tailhook down, which should only be down while landing on the deck of a carrier. This obviously was footage of a carrier landing being reused. And in the very next shot it shows him watching the plane accelerating away with afterburners glowing, which contradicts the earlier shot of the plane landing. Corrected by Jazetopher Where do you think they practice the tailhook maneuver? If the first time that a pilot learned to use the tailhook was on a carrier, many a pilot might die flying off the end of it into the ocean. Remember that this is a "training" program for pilots as well. Also, the afterburners are bringing him up to speed, possibly to circle back and repeat the maneuver.
- The "hit the brakes and he'll fly right by" maneuver was invented by Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Vietnam ace and the first commanding officer of TOPGUN. The "hit the brakes and he'll fly right by" maneuver was used as far back as 1918 and was often used in WWII with greater effectiveness due to the invention of flaps. Cunningham may have resurrected it for the jet age but it has been around for a long time.
- In the volleyball scene, you will notice a burgundy "50's Chevy" type vehicle behind some bleachers just behind Maverick and Goose's side. During close-ups of Iceman and his partner diving for balls, you can see the same car behind their side. When Maverick is leaving, you finally see a far away shot of Iceman's side and the car is definitely not there. It seems as if the "action" shots were filmed on one side because they never switched sides. Corrected by shortdanzr Or they could have played a real volleyball game and switched sides.
- In the movie the MiG-28 was continually referred to. In reality there is no such thing as a MiG-28. Russian (or Soviet) MiG use odd numbers. This is true; the MiG-28 doesn't actually exist. However, in 1986, the newest MiG in production (which would therefore be of great interest to Charlie et al) would have been the MiG-29. At that time, however, the Cold War was still in full swing. There is absolutely no way that the producers would ever get their hands on one for a movie. The only alternative would have been to substitute an F-15 painted black with red stars on the rudders - and then we'd be all over the producers for passing off an F-15 as a MiG. They had to use something. why not make up a fictitious aircraft, and dress up a few F-5s (which are used in training as Op-For aircraft anyways) as MiGs? The Soviet Air Force's lack of cooperation doesn't really count as a mistake.
- At the end of the movie, how did the flight deck crew know to cheer about what happened in the air? There would be no way for the news to spread THAT quickly for them to cheer & surround the F-14's to congratulate them when they first land back on the carrier. Corrected by Toolio There is plenty of time for the crew to be informed of the news via headphones that the crew wore, PA system or just word of mouth.
- In the opening flight scene when Cougar is having a nervous breakdown and can't land his plane or talk, you hear the controller say 'Cougar you are at three quarters of a mile call the ball'. Cougar then replies 'roger ball' in a cool calm voice which is inconsistent with the previous scene showing a speechless, rattled Cougar. Cougar doesn't say "roger ball", the air traffic controller says "rise your ball". So it is the air traffic controller who sounds rather calm.
- Viper tells Maverick that he flew with his father, some 20 years previously. He then became the first TOPGUN trophy winner in 1969, and yet, after all this time he only holds the rank of Commander? Because he is doing the job he loves and doesn't care about promotion. I doubt the chances of promotion are that great doing his job anyway. And if he is good at his job, the powers-that-be would not promote him out of that position.
- The Libyan "MiG-28" is actually a Northrop F-20 Tigershark, an American fighter that was developed to serve as a fighter to sell to foreign allies and be less technologically advanced than the F-16. When President Ronald Reagan decided to make the F-16 readily available to U.S. allies, the F-20 was abandoned due to the fact that the F-16 was a better plane. This is incorrect. They were F-5's. The F-20 was only flown briefly for flight testing (prototyping.) No production articles were ever available.
- The MiG-28s supposedly carried Exocet Anti-Ship missiles. The Exocet are French and are used by NATO countries, not the Soviets. Also, there would never be a "MiG-28" since Soviet aircraft numbers are always odd (MiG-19, MiG-21, MiG-25, etc.). Plus, the Soviets used specialized anti-ship aircraft such as the Tu-22, not fighters, for such missions, and if the final dogfight took place far out in the ocean, where did the fighters come from? The Soviets did not have a carrier capable of launching fixed-wing aircraft at that time. It is never stated nor implied in the film that the MiGs are Soviet.
- Just before Goose and Maverick go down in a flat spin, they are flying over desert and mountains, yet somehow after the crash they have to be recovered by a rescue chopper out in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight. Corrected by William Bergquist You can hear Iceman on the radio saying that Maverick is in a flat spin and is headed out to sea. When they're rescued much of the horizon is obscured by spray thrown up by the helicopter.
- In the scene in the bathroom, you see Maverick walking through the doors, they say 'ladies room'. When they are in the bathroom, though, the writing should be backwards, as it is the back of the door and reflected in the mirror but it is written exactly the same, the words are on the wrong side of the doors as well. The writing on the back of the door would be backwards from the inside, but because it is reflected in the mirror it looks as if it is written properly.
- In the scene where Goose dies, when he is getting carried up to the helicopter his arm moves up to his chest and then itches it. He isn't dead at that stage, just seriously injured. He dies later in the base hospital.
- In the whole movie the pilots are controlling the throttle with their right hand. But in reality, the throttle is placed on the left hand side and the right hand is used to control the stick. At no time do the pilots control the throttle & joystick with the opposite hands, it only looks like it when they shoot the scene from the front looking back.
- Maverick is seen riding his motorcycle down the runway while jets go whipping by and he is not wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet on a naval base is mandatory, even in states which permit riders to go helmetless on the public streets. But we already know that Maverick is a rebel - he does a flyby after 'killing' Jester even though he was ordered not to.
- At TOPGUN, when Ice confronts Maverick wondering who was covering Cougar while Maverick was "show boating" with the MiG, Maverick should have pointed out that the first MiG had already "bugged out" and he was, in fact, covering Cougar by engaging the second MiG. There is no training school in the world that tells the pilot to engage an enemy aircraft by flying inverted above it. Maverick should have flown behind the plane and illuminated it with his missile control radar and attempted to achieve a lock-on in order to send a message to the MiG pilot. If the MiG pilot had fired at Cougar, Maverick would not have been able to engage the MiG from his position (apart from kamikazeing into it). He would therefore not have been able to stop the MiG from shooting again or to get revenge if Cougar had been hit. Iceman is correct when he asks who was covering Cougar.
- The guy in the tower drinking coffee works at both Miramar and the Enterprise? The air traffic control officer is a different person in the two scenes. It is just an amusing coincidence that they both happen to take a drink just before Maverick does his flyby.
- In the bar scene at the beginning of the movie when Iceman is talking to Maverick the camera is behind Maverick and shows him drinking a beer. The scene switches views to where the camera is behind Iceman and Maverick is not drinking, then the scene switches back behind Maverick and he is drinking from the bottle again. The bottle is merely being held out of frame. The bottle wouldn't have been held up to his face during the length of the conversation.
- Any pilot that disobeyed a direction by air traffic control and conducted a "fly by" would immediately lose their flying status, yet Maverick does it twice. Viper made it clear that he was cutting Maverick a break the first time he did a fly by, by not losing his flying status. The second time was at the end of the movie, so we don't see if he lost his flying status or not, although it is doubtful that they would take it away from him since he was a hero.
- In the scene where Charlie is introduced, you would not have to tell a bunch of experienced officers (i.e. Lieutenants), that they don't have to salute civilians. Corrected by Grumpy Scot Jester is informing them that the woman is a civilian, and not military personnel. They already know you don't salute civilians.
- Maverick followed Jester below the Hard Deck, yet only Maverick got into trouble. Corrected by wolfchild Because Jester was the target and could do that - Maverick followed him below the Hard Deck and then engaged his weapons - a direct violation of the rules. '
- If Viper had flown with Maverick's father in Vietnam then he would have rushed up and slapped Maverick on the back at the first chance, rather than being aloof and only finally putting his mind at rest about what happened after Maverick crashes a plane and loses the edge. Also as whatever happened to Maverick's father occurred some fifteen years previously, Viper wouldn't have hesitated in telling his dead mate's son what happened even if for some strange reason it was still classified. This isn't a film mistake - it's your opinion on how Viper should behave. Maybe he didn't like Maverick (or his father?) and wanted him to be uncomfortable.
- In the ejection scene where Goose buys the farm his helmet is clearly seen flying off during the sequence (it's even in slo-mo) yet when Maverick reaches him in the water he's wearing it. Goose's helmet does not go flying off. In the slo-mo section of the ejection scene look closely and you will see Goose's head (which is still in the helmet) get forced forward when it comes in contact with the canopy. At no time does the helmet ever come off his head.
- In the opening dog fight scene, the wings on his F-14 change continuously from "swept" to "unswept". "Swept" wings are a delta shape and "unswept" are more clearly open. The changes in shape are dependent upon speed and would not change so quickly between scenes. The wing sweep feature of the F-14 can be either computer controlled or pilot controlled, allowing for greater maneuverability during dogfights. Un-swept wings allow for tighter turns during a dogfight, especially when using the 20mm cannon.
- In the briefing just before the final dogfight the pilots are told that the "MiGs" carry the Exocet anti ship missile. This is actually a French missile. The French have sold this missile to countries that are hostile to the United States... for this reason the USS Stark, a Navy Frigate, was hit by an Exocet missile back some years ago.
- At the end Tom Cruise asks permission for a flyby. He is told "No, the pattern is full." There are only two planes and a helicopter in the air and the pattern is full? I think not. Conducting a flyby is purely at controller discretion. If that is the max traffic the controller feels comfortable handling then the pattern is full.
- In real life Maverick would have been about 5 inches too short to get into the navy as height restrictions still applied in the mid 1980s. Tom Cruise is 5'7". That average American man is only 5'10". I have a hard time believing that the Navy would have turned away everyone under 6'0" tall. That would have seriously limited their pool to choose from.
- In the opening dogfight, Cougar says "I'm gonna break high and right, see if he's really alone". During actual patrols, the two aircraft would never be on each others wingtip. Normal operation call for them to be about a mile apart and a thousand feet different in altitude - the better to see each others "six". When jet fighters come into battles in pairs, as the MiGs did in the first fight, they will often fly in tight formation to appear as one aircraft on radar so that when the battle begins, the enemy thinks that they're dealing with a single bogey, but are really dealing with two. When Cougar breaks away to see if he's really alone, this advantage continues because the MiG gets Cougar out of position at the beginning of the dogfight.
- In the final celebration scene aboard the carrier, there is a crowd of flight deck crewmen cheering, and if you listen and watch carefully, you can hear and see one of them yell, 'All right, Tom'. That could be due to the fact that Iceman's real name is Tom Kazansky.
- While the Goose is falling to the water after having broken his neck and died, he puts his arms up to direct his parachute. I just finished watching this movie and I'm pretty sure that the person directing the parachute is supposed to be Maverick.
- At the end of the movie, when Maverick's aircraft is launched, there's a shot from an F-14 looking back from at the ship. Maverick was supposedly launched from one of the bow catapults, but the shot was clearly taken from an aircraft that had just come off one of the waist cats. Also, the pilot of the aircraft does a roll as he climbs away from the ship, a useless maneuver that the movie's director insisted on because it looked cool. The shot was not take from an aircraft that had taken off from one of the waist cats, it was taken from an aircraft doing a fly by (look at the exhaust trail) on the carrier. An aircraft doesn't have the airspeed that short after take off to do a roll.
- Throughout the movie, Charlie keeps referring to Maverick as Lieutenant, even though his rank insignia (2 silver bars connected) is Captain. One silver bar is the rank for Lieutenant. Corrected by Bruce Minnick This is wrong. In the Air Force and the Army, the double silver bars are the insignia of a Captain (grade 0-3). In the Navy, the double silver bars are the insignia of a Lieutenant (grade 0-3). The Navy does have a Captain rank, but it is a few grades higher (O-6) and is represented by a silver eagle (like an Air Force or Army Colonel).
- A Navy Commander (O-5) will NEVER be the Commanding Officer of an aircraft carrier, he or she will ALWAYS be at least a Captain (O-6). The O-5 in the movie is not the commander of the carrier, he is the commander of the airwing (aka CAG by Navy terms). He is the officer in charge of all the squadrons on board the carrier. The Aircraft Carrier Commander is a completely separate individual, never portrayed in the movie. His job is to deal with driving the carrier around and the overall mission picture.
- When Maverick and Goose eject (and Goose is killed), notice how the hatch hovers over the plane for nearly a full second. Pretty tough thing to do at 750 mph, huh? In reality the hatch goes first, then there is a delay before the seats go, but there is NO WAY to collide with the hatch in mid air - when the F-14 canopy is jettisoned it flies straight back between the vertical stabs like a field goal kick in the NFL. There was an actual incident where a RIO was killed during ejection during a flat spin exactly as Goose died in the movie. This is where the idea for Goose's cause of death came from. Then the Tomcats ejection seats were fixed to incur a longer delay so this would not happen again.
- Maverick states that the song 'Sitting on the Dock of the Bay' was a favorite of both his parents. However, his father disappeared in 1965 and the song wasn't written until 1967. I believe he says it was his mother who loved the song and asked him to play it over and over. He says she died "shortly after him" but doesn't state exactly when. Corrected by Reformed Dispatcher.
- In the opening scene where Goose takes a photo of the the Russian MiG you can see that if he was inverted at such a close range the tails on the planes would be touching. This is an impossible move (and the cut of sequence looks a little rocky too). Not so...the F5 (Russian MiG) has a single tail. The F-14 has dual tails, so the MiG's would just slide between.
- Definitely the biggest mistake in the movie. Goose would have never died in the way that he did. On all of the F-14 models, including the F-14As that they were flying, the canopy has explosive bolts holding the glass to the metal on the canopy itself. When the ejection sequence is initiated, the bolts explode, shattering the canopy plexiglass. This was invented to prevent what happened to Goose. Actually this is not a mistake, it is based on a number of real-life incidents with the F-14, which did indeed have a problem which led to some severe injuries (and I believe at least one fatality) before it was corrected. The problem was that in a position where the aircraft was subjected to severe asymmetric thrust it would enter a flat spin (i.e. one where the nose is roughly level with the horizon). As there is little or no airflow over the control surfaces (the aircraft is moving rapidly downward, but has virtually no forward airspeed at all) it is a very difficult situation to recover from. The original F-14 ejection sequence discarded the canopy first, which was supposed to be blown backwards by the airflow. However in the flat spin situation this did not happen - the canopy remained in approximately the same position relative to the aircraft. When the seats blew a few seconds later, the pilot and RIO were ejected into the canopy. After several accidents of this type modifications were made, firstly to decrease the likelihood of a flat spin developing in the first place, and secondly to increase aircrew survivability in the event of a spin occurring. The second part of this included modifying the eject sequence so the canopy was shattered, rather than jettisoned.
- Goose could not have died by his head slamming into his cockpit. In addition to Tomcats having canopies that shatter automatically, the ejection chair is extremely tall, tall enough to protect the pilot's head. In the movie his chair is tiny. Tomcat canopies used to have explosive ejection. Only recent models introduced the shattering canopy.
- In the final battle scene the carrier's captain is told both of the ship's catapults are out, so no more planes can be launched to help Iceman and Maverick. The USS Enterprise has FOUR catapults. When the statement was made that both catapults were broken and no planes can be launched, that can be a true occurrence. If you have the Waist catapults go down on you, you can't just jump to the other two on the bow. In a situation where they were launching alerts, the bow would be fully loaded with other aircraft. The only time they would probably be open is if 3/4 of the jets were in the air already, which they weren't.
- When they are playing volleyball, you can see that between each scene sometimes they have dogtags on and some scenes they don't. Because of the jumping around while playing, the dogtags are flipping around from front to back. So, depending on the camera shot, you may not see the tags.
- In many of the mirror training scenes, there is a "hard deck" established - a flight level you cannot go below. Even though in one scene Maverick gets in trouble for breaking the hard deck, in other scenes all the planes are seen doing it and getting away with it. The hard deck can be the barometric altitude, not necessarily the altitude above ground level.
- In the scene where Maverick is preparing for launch as the "Alert 5" aircraft, he's shown to slide the canopy forward to close it. The Grumman F-14 has an aft-hinged, one piece canopy that locks in place when it closes, after being lowered into place. The canopy does not slide in any direction once closed. Actually this scene is correct (and actually filmed in a real F-14). The Tomcat's canopy comes down to the canopy rails and then slides forward about 3 inches to lock. The reverse happens when opening. It slides aft 3 inches and then lifts.