10 things you didn't know about 'Top Gun' and its enduring appeal 30 years later
When you think of iconic movies of the ‘80s, which titles come to mind? The Breakfast Club. E.T. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Back to the Future. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Why isn’t Top Gun name-checked more often?
Top Gun turns 30 years old on May 16. The Cold War tale of a Navy aviator falling for his instructor at an elite military fighter school was the top grossing film of 1986. It solidified Tom Cruise as one of the top action film actors of the decade, and its red hot blood-pumping anthemic tunes turned singer Kenny Loggins into the king of ‘80s soundtracks.
I suspect that Top Gun really never has gone out of style, even if the “darn Russkies” plot line has faded over time and Cruise’s career hasn’t meshed well with his off-screen life with Scientology. The truth is that Top Gun was one of the most unlikely hits of the 1980s.
Did you know the film maintains a sketchy 55 percent “fresh rating” on Rotten Tomatoes?
The late film critic Roger Ebert wasn’t very impressed with Top Gun either, writing with disdain at the lack of chemistry between Cruise and Kelly McGillis: “Cruise and McGillis spend a lot of time squinting uneasily at each other and exchanging words as if they were weapons, and when they finally get physical, they look like the stars of one of those sexy new perfume ads. There's no flesh and blood here, which is remarkable, given the almost palpable physical presence McGillis had in Witness.”
And yet, he sums up the movie’s enduring appeal almost perfectly: “Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless.”
So good and so bad indeed. Here are 10 more things you probably didn’t know about Top Gun:
1. Several actors and musicians declined to appear in Top Gun because they believed the movie glorified war. Among those who disagreed with the politics: Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen.
2. Other actors and bands - including Ally Sheedy and Judas Priest - simply passed because they thought a movie about fighter pilots would be a bust.
3. Though Cruise was director Tony Scott’s first pick to play Maverick, the actor was reluctant to join up. Other actors who turned down the role include: Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Matthew Broderick, Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox, Scott Baio and Tom Hanks. (Seriously? Tom Hanks?)
4. Charlie Sheen was also considered for Top Gun but was deemed too young at the time. Sheen would go on to spoof the movie in 1991’s Hot Shots!
5. None of the cast enjoyed the required rides in the fighter jets. Anthony Edwards, who ironically was fresh off a starring role in Revenge of the Nerds, was the only actor to survive those adventures without vomiting.
6. Speaking of Edwards, does anyone remember the real name of “Goose?” It’s never spoken during the film, but eagle-eyed fans will spot the name “Nick Bradshaw” on his flight patch during a couple scenes.
7. Berlin's love anthem Take My Breath Away is nearly synonymous with Top Gun, but it was almost used by the movie 9 1/2 Weeks instead. And the theme song Danger Zone? The tune, written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock, was intended for Toto to perform. REO Speedwagon also passed on the song before it fell to Kenny Loggins. It rose as high as No. 2 on the Billboard charts that year.
8. After the movie’s release, the Navy witnessed a 500 percent increase in the number of recruits applying to enter into its aviation program.
9. A Top Gun 2 was actually in the works immediately after the release of the 1986, but Cruise’s salary demands were reportedly too high. Now 30 years later, reports continue to circulate over a sequel set decades later. Actor Val Kilmer has already announced he’s on board and producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Cruise have been taking meetings.
10. Top Gun is an incredibly quotable movie - the line “I feel the need - the need for speed!” is actually listed as No. 94 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest movie quotes of all time. But did you know that at the real Navy Fighter Weapons School, there’s a $5 fine for anyone on staff who quotes the movie?
Wave off, Maverick! Wave off!