Top Gun - Still Flying High After 34 years

In the day and age of flashy special effects and CGI, its refreshing to see that movies from the 80s are still some of the most beloved in film history. From The Goonies to Back To The Future to Indiana Jones. They are movies that you can watch over and over, never tiring of them. For some it is Star Wars, however for me, it has always been, and always will be Top Gun, a movie that is part of the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Let’s rewind back to the age of VHS and the launch of Top Gun. For a young kid who had never been truly exposed to fighter jets, the opening sequence was eye opening. So eye opening that when we visited New York City for the first time, I had to go see the U.S.S. Intrepid, the decommissioned aircraft carried that serves as a museum. To this day, my love for fighter jets has never wavered, but the F-14 Tomcat is still my favorite of all time.

Paramount and the film making team of Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Tony Scott had unprecedented access to the Navy that they felt they had to do the aircraft justice as best as they could. Now of course, the movie used the F-5 as a stand in for the MiG-28, which was a fictional aircraft created for the movie. The production team showcased what the Tomcat was built to do, and because of their access they were able to showcase the dogfights using practical effects. Back in 1986-1987 there were not a lot of movies that used computer special effect just because simply the technology was not there for it. For the production, the Navy allowed the film crew to shoot actual operations aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise which had two F-14 squadrons that were shown off, the VF-111 Aardvarks and the VF-213 Black Lions. The land based sequences were shot at NAS Fallon in Nevada where Top Gun is now located. The VF-51 Screaming Eagles were the squadron used for the land sequences. Maverick’s squadron, VF-1, is actually historically significant to the Tomcat as the real VF-1 Wolfpack was one of two squadrons to first fly the Tomcat.


Due to the commercial success of Top Gun, Paramount wanted a sequel right away, however the crew responsible for Top Gun did not want to do it, including Tom Cruise. In an interview with Tom Cruise for a documentary included with Top Gun, Tom stated they only wanted to do a sequel if the script and the situation felt right, which until now, it had not. Fast forward to present time, and the world is finally getting a sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. The world is a whole new place where Maverick has moved on to flying the F/A-18 Hornet, which replaced the Tomcat, and we find him as an instructor at Top Gun. In a nod to his old RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), Goose’s son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (portrayed by Miles Teller) is a pilot in the Top Gun program. There are a couple of things that stand out to me about the trailers and featurette that have been released so far. The first is that they are putting a huge focus on the practical effect, including putting cameras in the cockpit to really capture the actors as they are “flying”. The next big thing that I noticed is that they are using logos of squadrons that truly exist and also flew the F-14. The most prominently displayed one is that of the VFA-41 Black Aces, which you can see their logo on the flight suit of Phoenix, who is portrayed by actress Monica Barbaro. However, the biggest thing I noticed is the significance of the F-14 being shown off to open the second trailer combined with what seems to be an attack on a flight wing of FA/18s. One has to wonder how the F-14 will factor into the overall story. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the film has been moved from a summer release to 12/23/2020. In 7 months, we get to buzz the tower again, reliving our childhood, and introducing our kids to the Danger Zone.

Matt Diorio (CGN Host)
Matt Diorio (CGN Host)
Editor/Podcast Host/Content Creator