Top Gun Turns 25

2011 is the 25th anniversary of Top Gun and Paramount has released a Blu-ray + Digital Copy edition.

Top Gun is still a complete contradiction. It’s a total rush that features some of the best action sequences ever in a Hollywood movie, absolutely deserving of every last bit of its cultural influence. It’s also a total mess with a plot that doesn’t really make sense and only the weakest nod towards important stuff like motivation and character development.

Once you stop worrying about all the reasons why it’s not a very good movie, you can fully embrace just how awesome the Top Gun experience was in 1986 and how incredible it still is today.

The digital copy is the only new feature on this release but the recycled extras include a genuinely interesting commentary track featuring producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, one of the screenwriters and several of the Naval experts who helped make the movie. There’s also a making-of documentary called Danger Zone. It’s longer than the actual film and gives a lot of insight into exactly why Top Gun is so great and so lame at the same time.

There’s also a straight documentary about the Top Gun school, all the music videos made for the movie’s soundtrack, a selection of tv commercials and other assorted clips to pad out the disk.

25 years on, there are three factors that overwhelmingly contribute to Top Gun’s importance: someone in the Navy brass decided to give Hollywood filmmakers full access to their facilities and gear, the filmmakers realized that they didn’t understand Naval aviators and depended heavily on their technical advisors for everything from dialog to staging the flight sequences and (most importantly), Top Gun is almost completely free of digital effects.

Director Tony Scott freely admits that he had little interest in the plot and was heavily focused on the action sequences: most of the love story was tacked on in a one-day shoot after the picture was supposedly locked and finished.

All of the flying sequences are a combination of real F-14 and real Tiger II (dressed up as fictional MiG28s) footage combined with shots of model planes used to create the explosions and crashes. All the cockpit shots show the actors in a real plane with sky sequences projected on a screen behind them.

In addition, the editors talk about how Tony Scott’s storyboards for the combat scenes didn’t really make any sense and they were forced to carve some kind of story out of the footage they had with the assistance of their advisors. There’s a vigorous defense of why the “errors” (like how the planes flew way too close to each other or how there was no such thing as a Top Gun trophy) were necessary to make an exciting film.

What you end up with is a sharp contrast to something like Transformers or any other contemporary blockbuster. There’s an urgency and naturalness to all the fight scenes in Top Gun. That’s partially a consequence of the fact that they included every foot of usable film they had in the final cut and had to make some weird choices to make it all hang together. Michael Bay or James Cameron would just send the computer guys back to fix it so that everything matched the storyboards.

At the end of it all, Top Gun works because it tries to capture the swagger and energy of this corner of military culture. There’s an unhinged excitement about loud noises and the need for speed. There’s no way Hollywood would make an action picture today that feels like it’s held together with spit and baling wire, but that ramshackle charm and unbridled testosterone is what makes the movie hold up so well today. It’s better than it was the first time I saw it.

The images aren’t quite as spectacular as you’ve come to expect from Blu-ray, but the documentary does a great job of making you understand just how much of a miracle it is that the movie even got finished. The Digital Copy is just a download of the version for sale at iTunes. Like most of these versions, it doesn’t look anywhere near as good the disc copy.

CONTEST: If you want to win a copy of the Blu-ray, leave a comment below with your best Top Gun memory and we’ll pick three winners at random after we close the contest at midnight on Friday.

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33 Comments

  1. umich83 says:

    My best Top Gun memory is the carrier landing scene where Maverick talks the scared pilot down as he is running low on fuel. Great compassion!!

  2. Shawn says:

    My Top Gun memory is as a kid of about 5 sitting in the back of my parents truck at the drive thur watching the F-14 Tomcats fly around on screen and thinking how cool its was, and i wanted to do that when i grew up.

  3. Airfamer831 says:

    My Top Gun moment was I had the shot , there was no danger and I took it, You Go Mav!

  4. Michael says:

    “Tower this is qhost rider requesting a flyby. Negative ghost rider the pattern is full.” Pretty much sums up the best scene in the history of scenes. http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​g​S​R​n​g​c​Y​V​oM0

  5. DANIEL LEBRON says:

    YOU NEVER CLOSE YOUR EYES ANY MORE WHEN I KISS YOUR LIPS. THERE’S NO TENDERNESS LIKE BEFORE IN YOUR FINGER TIPS. YOUR TRYING HARD NOT TO SHOW IT. BABY. BUT BABY BELIEVE ME I KNOW IT. YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVIN FEELING!-BEST PICK UP SCENE EVER.-

  6. Lt. Alan Briley, RN says:

    Getting yelled at by other moviegoers when I yell at the end of the movie, “But Maverick is still a leg!” when I saw it in Fayetteville, NC. I was a Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division — on jump status, of course.

  7. RJ Abella says:

    One of my favorite quotes “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” Since I don’t have much cash I’m hoping I win a copy of the my favorite movie of all time.

  8. Allen Eiler says:

    Talk to me Goose, roger, I\‘ll clean and fry em.

    Some of the best arial flying I\‘ve ever seen, and I was in the Air Force when this movie came out..

    Would love to see a Top Gun II..

    • Allen Eiler says:

      One other great line is \“You don\‘t own that plane the Tax pages do\”..

      • Allen Eiler says:

        One other great line is \“You don\‘t own that plane the Tax payers do\”..Son your writing checks your body can\‘t cash.

  9. Evan Davis says:

    Highway to the danger zone!- she got you jumpin’ off the deck shovin’ into overdrive.
    this song and video of tomcats getting slung off the deck of a carrier were so inspiring as a kid. I remember thinking– “that’s what I want to do!”

  10. Pete Keyser says:

    You screw up this much and you“ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog crap out Hong Cong.

  11. John Kirkpatrick says:

    One of the things I remember about the movie was seeing it while we were TDY at Cold Lake Canada. A group of us went down to the West Edmonton Mall and we saw it in the theater there. I really liked the music from the movie.

  12. Christopher Arndt says:

    My first memory is remembering seeing the movie on premiere night in 1986 with two good friends, one of whom went on to fly F-14s, and sitting there with my jaw gaping open during the first scene of the movie with the gradually building sound and light.…

    My second memory is catching the movie in a theater showing last year, and having the same reaction. Sure, the plot doesn’t make much sense, but WOW what a movie.…

  13. Todd Porthouse says:

    My best memory was giving the fighter squadron aboard the Enterprise a good razing during filming because they used the squadron logo from Attack Squadron 25 (A-7E) (Fist of the Fleet) on the tail of the F-14 for the movie. I knew this because I was attached to that squadron on the USS Ranger. I gave it to the fighters pretty hard and kidded them about finally having some class by putting that Attack squadron logo on a fighter and on Val Kilmer’s flight gear. Like we always said…“There ain’t no slack in light attack”!!

  14. Chris Ehlers says:

    We had just installed our new surround system. I remember the floor shaking as the jets were getting ready to take off in the opening sequence, what a rush.

  15. Bob says:

    Top Gun came on TV in the lounge of our barracks at FMTB. within 5 min there were 40 people crammed in to a room that had a couch and two recliners.

  16. dragon891 says:

    I was in San Diego on a business convention the same day TOP GUN had its premier. I remember seeing a formation of F-14s flying over the Hotel del Coronado where I was staying.

  17. Kris Byman says:

    I remember seeing this movie with my mom in the theater and just bawling about seeing Goose die. I remember from that day forward that I wanted to be a pilot just like my Grandfather. Unfortunantly, that didn\‘t happen (became a nurse instead)… But now I show it to my son and turn on the speakers on the surround sound system and it just rumbles. Please let me continue on this tradition with my son.…

  18. joe says:

    When the Chinese Government was using shots of TOPGUN as video evidence for training missions and “advanced” Chinese gear

  19. Danny says:

    Topgun is a great movie, and made after I was HonDis in \’85. I remember all my friends saying \“Was that what it was like?\” LOL! Better movie was \“Flight of the Intruder\”, WHY? \“Cause I was in A-7E\‘s Light Attack. The famous line: \“Fighter pukes make movies. Bomber pilots make HISTORY.\”

  20. John says:

    Maverick: [spots Charlie for the first time] She’s lost that loving feeling.
    Goose: She’s lo… No she hasn’t.
    Maverick: Yes, she has.
    Goose: She’s not lost that lo…
    Maverick: Goose, she’s lost it, man.
    Goose: Come on!
    Goose: [to himself] Aw sh… I hate it when she does that.

  21. Steve Leonard says:

    The line I’ve used for 25 years: “Talk to me, Goose.” Just about everyone who’s come to me to ask advice, get guidance, or vent has heard those same four words.

  22. Carroll Lynn Cranston says:

    I liked the part of the USS RANGER CVA-61 taking the part of the Enterprise as top gun from then on but I was aboard the Ranger when it was the Lone Ranger I was a radioman and our call sign was GREY EAGLE.

  23. Wheels says:

    In 1986 I was beginning my Senior year of High School with not a clue what I wanted to do once I graduated. But after watching Top Gun I knew I wanted to join the Navy. Now 24+ years later I’m still going strong and occasionally will break out my old VHS tape of Top Gun.

  24. Viper: In case some of you are wondering who the best is, they are up here on this plaque.
    [turns to Maverick]
    Viper: Do you think your name will be on that plaque?
    Maverick: Yes, sir.
    Viper: That’s pretty arrogant, considering the company you’re in.
    Maverick: Yes, sir.
    Viper: I like that in a pilot.

    So true about the self-assured nature of fighter pilots—–I dated several! After all that excitement with fighter pilots, I decided instead to marry someone who is NOT a fighter pilot :) But MyHusband is pretty awesome when it comes to fixing things and having amazing spatial and mechanical and electronic knowledge&comprehension—–quite the genius!!! :) We now live a mere two-minute’s walk away from the flight line of the BIRTHPLACE OF NAVAL AVIATION :) Happy US Naval Aviation Centennial this year :)

  25. Scott Roehm says:

    When flying inverted to get a picture of our old enemy, the mig pilot. Awsome! Oh and flipping the guy off :)

  26. Maverick on the deck with Goose\‘s dog tags and the look on his face and then well tosses (throws) them out

    Makes me think you can overcome and go on.

  27. Michael Bird says:

    My best TOP GUN memory was that when the movie came out i was TDY in Tegucigalpa Honduras. I went and watched it at a local theater. The theater was packed and I had to sit on the floor. I did get to see it at a later date. It was just as good of a movie the second time around.

  28. Robert J La Roche says:

    Awesome and timeless footage. 25 years on, it still gets the adrenalin pumping. In 25 years time it will probably continue to excite existing and attract new viewers.
    Well done the entire team! Happy birthday.

  29. SemperFi2 says:

    The opening music, the roar, the focus on the flight deck operations personnel — remembering what it takes to launch and land…and remembering a Naval pilot (later a consultant on the B2) who flew all his missions over Viet Nam at night off a carrier.

  30. I was in the Cat Crew aboard the USS Constellation back in the 60’s. When I first expienced the opening scene of Top Gun with the F-14 turning up on the cat and going to full A/B it brought me right back to the flight deck and the pounding vibration which you felt right through your chest when the afterburners kicked in. We had F-4 Phantoms back then, but the experience was the same, indescribable, you just had to be there!