Riding on the back of this film's success, the US Navy set up recruiting booths in the major cinemas to try and catch some of the adrenaline charged guys leaving the screenings. They had the highest applications rate for years as a result.
The Navy only authorized two actual missile shots to be filmed for the movie. You can clearly pick out these two shots, ultimately shot from several angles each in order to use both shots repeatedly during the dogfighting scenes, because the aircraft firing the missile is holding a steady altitude and heading, something that would never happen in a real close-in dogfight. All other missile shots shown in the movie were conducted using miniatures of both the planes and rockets. The company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Dept. of the Navy conducted a preliminary investigation into whether any additional live firings of missiles, beyond the two originally authorized, were done for the filmmakers.
When the guys, as students, were first being spoken to by Charlie in the hanger, Maverick explains that he gave "the bird" to a MiG. She asks how he saw the MiG up close, and he says he was flying inverted. Right then, Ice coughs "bullshit" and the guys laughed. The "bullshit" line was ad libbed by Val Kilmer.
When Maverick receives his orders to the carrier following the graduation ceremony, there is a pilot standing behind him, with a mustache and wearing sunglasses. The pilot is "Heater" C.J. Heatley, a real-life former F-14 air show demonstration pilot and TOPGUN instructor.
Charlie's "older man" date at the officer's club is the real-life "Viper", Pete Pettigrew. He is a retired Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor, and shot down a MiG during the Vietnam War. He served as the technical consultant on the film.
Judas Priest were asked to contribute the song "Reckless" to the soundtrack, but declined because they thought the movie would flop. Two years later, they contributed a cover of Johnny Be Good (1988) to the movie of the same name, which turned out to be a flop.
After the "Car chase" when Charlie tells Maverick that she didn't want anyone to find out she was falling for him, Maverick originally had a line to say. Tom Cruise forgot the line and "ad libbed" by kissing Kelly McGillis instead. Tony Scott liked it so much, he left the scene like that.
Paramount Pictures commissioned Grumman, the makers of the F-14, to develop and install special camera mounts on the plane. This allowed the filmmakers to use real aerial point-of-view footage of the Tomcat in flight.
Rick Rossovich stated in the DVD commentary that he was kicked off of the ship used for filming because he smarted off to an officer. Rossovich had gone to sleep in the bunk (more commonly called a rack) he was assigned to, but didn't like being so close to the nuclear reactors that powered the ship, so he moved. When he smarted off to the officer who wanted his bunk back, Rossovich was told to report to the captain who ordered him thrown off the ship for disrespect.
Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's first name was Evan in early scripts of the film. It was later changed to Pete as an homage to Pete Pettigrew, who worked on the film (Pettigrew appears in the bar scene early in the film as Charlie's older male date.)
The character portrayed by Kelly McGillis is based on Christine Fox, a civilian flight instructor the producers met on a visit to Miramar while doing research to prepare for the movie. Fox eventually rose through the ranks at the Pentagon, retiring in May 2014 as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, the highest post ever held by a woman at the Department of Defense.
The love scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis was filmed after initial test screenings. Moviegoers complained that there was no love scene, so the company obliged. McGillis, however, had already dyed her hair darker for her next film. This is why the scene is tinted blue. Also noticeable as a subsequent shoot due to the longer length of Tom Cruise's hair (particularly in front).
During the filming of some sequences from civilian aircraft, longtime Hollywood stunt pilot Art Scholl was killed. A biplane he was flying crashed off the Pacific Coast. The film is dedicated to his memory.
The pilot that gets "flipped off" by Maverick and Goose is Admiral Robert Willard, the lead flight choreographer for the film. He was Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet (2007-2009) before transferring to United States Pacific Command.
Michael Ironside stated in the DVD commentary that he was so convincing as an officer that when he heard someone running towards him below decks, he got on to the sailor who was running. The sailor saluted and slowed down until he got out of Ironside's line of sight and started running again. The sailor never knew that Ironside was an actor on the film.
The piano scene and the final bar/jukebox scene were shot in a San Diego restaurant called Kansas City BBQ, at the corner of Kettner Blvd and W. Harbor Drive. The restaurant housed many props and memorabilia from the film. However, on June 26, 2008 Kansas City BBQ suffered a grease fire that destroyed much of the interior of the establishment. The restaurant has since been repaired to its original state, but much of the Top Gun memorabilia on display was damaged and some destroyed. The two most prominent pieces that remain are the piano (relocated to another corner of the bar) and one of the original Maverick flight helmets used during filming, which sits in a locked display case behind the bar. The helmet shows some slight damage, as the heat from the fire caused the plastic visor to bubble and warp.
In several locker scenes, one of the lockers is labeled as belonging to "TEX". This is the call sign for one of the top gun instructors and Mig pilots that worked on the film, Lt. "Tex" William Spence.
The ship that Viper served on with Maverick's father, the Oriskany. Was the first United States warship slated to become an artificial reef, under authority granted by the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 108-136). It was sunk with controlled charges 24 mi (39 km) south of Pensacola on 17 May 2006. It is now popularly known as the "Great Carrier Reef", a reference to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The elevator scene (where Maverick and Charlie meet after Mav's workout) was filmed post-production. Kelly McGillis's hair had already been colored for another movie role, which is why she is wearing a hat. Tom Cruise's hair is longer in the shot as well.
Giorgio Moroder wrote most of the music for the songs on the soundtrack. Tom Whitlock, who wrote the majority of the lyrics to these songs, was actually the mechanic who worked on Moroder's sports car.
Don Simpson was known for being a very hands-on producer but was noticeably absent during the making of Top Gun. This was mainly due to the fact that he was in rehab, being treated for his major dependency on prescription drugs. His use of illegal narcotics also led to him becoming increasingly paranoid, to the extent that he rarely left his home.
An original draft of the script specified that the final showdown involved North Korean aircraft. The final script made the nationalities of the enemy planes unknown and simply specified they were MiGs over the Indian Ocean.
The callsign 'Ghostrider' that Maverick uses for his plane was the name of a real F-14 squadron (VF-142), and a model of a Tomcat from that squadron can be seen behind Sundown in the shot where Maverick tells Slider he stinks.
While many terms used in the movie either match or are closely based on real terms used by naval aviators and the pilots in general, the term "going ballistic" is a real phrase that was wrongly used to describe a pilot successfully reaching maximum speed, when it actually meant that the pilot was going too slow to control of his aircraft, i.e., the aircraft is ballistic like a ball thrown in the air and will be influenced by gravity rather than the control surfaces as there is too little airflow over them. The phrase is used in Air Combat Maneuvers where the aircraft is put into a vertical or nearly-vertical climb and slows below an acceptable control speed. The pilot is then just along for the ride as gravity takes over and the airplane begins to descend and accelerate back to flying speed. The call is given over the radio to warn other pilots that the aircraft cannot maneuver to avoid a collision.
Other real names of the pilots/RIOs were that are not otherwise mentioned in the movie, but only by their callsigns are: Hollywood: Lt. Rick Neven; Wolfman: Lt(jg) Leonard Wolfe; Slider: Lt(jg) Ron Kerner; Cougar: Lt . Bill Cortell; Merlin: Lt(jg) Sam Wells.
During the pilot briefing before the final furball, Stinger mentions that the MiGs carry the Exocet anti-ship missile. This is a real missile, however, it is of French manufacture and has never been used by the Soviet Union, Russia, or any of the countries that made up the Soviet Union.
The scene where Maverick follows Charlie into the bathroom was filmed at the Headquarters Building at Recruit Training Command, San Diego. [The Naval Training Center installation was later demolished in the late 1990's to make way for more Navy housing. Before the headquarters building could be inspected for demolition, the bathroom counter that "Maverick" leans on and "stress tests" was stolen.]
The call sign 'Sundown' is a reference to VF-111, a squadron of F-14s called The Sundowners that have the same sundown graphic on their tail fins as on Sundown's helmet. VF-111 supplied the F-14s used for Maverick & Goose and Iceman & Hollywood's Tomcats. In some shots 'VF-111' is visible on the under-engine fins of the F-14s.
One of the first films to be selected for the Cinema 52 project, in which a subject watches a film 52 times over the course of a year. Revelations of note about Top Gun resulting from this experiment include: Tom Cruise blinks 469 times, the word "the" is spoken 223 times, and the average time between Air Boss Johnson coffee spills is 27 minutes and 23 seconds.
Two video games based very loosely on the movie were released on the Nintendo NES. While the first game really had no storyline, the second actually served as a "sequel" storyline, regarding Maverick going up against a new group of villains.
A number of critics complained that the movie largely amounted to a Navy recruitment film. The US Navy stated that the film's popularity resulted in a 500 percent increase in the number of recruits wanting to enter into their aviation program. Paramount offered to include a Navy Recruitment ad on the initial home video release in exchange for debits owed the US Navy for their cooperation. However, the ad agency who produced ads for the US Military informed the Pentagon that the movie itself was enough of a propaganda tool, and that an official recruiting ad would be redundant.
The original soundtrack release initially only included original songs written expressly for the movie. In 2000, the soundtrack was re-released to include "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", "Great Balls of Fire" and "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", existing songs which were prominently featured in the movie.
In the 1954 movie and novel, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri", written by James Michener were based on actual missions flown against the railroad bridges at Majon-ni and Samdong-ni, North Korea, when he was a news correspondent aboard the aircraft carriers USS Essex and USS Oriskany.
"Men of the Fighting Lady" (also known as Panther Squadron) was filmed aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) aircraft carrier in 1954 written by U.S. Navy Commander Harry A. Burns. It was inspired by a Saturday Evening Post article, "The Forgotten Heroes of Korea" by James A. Michener. Michener wrote the novel and screenplay "The Bridges at Toko-Ri"
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
A script for "Top Gun 2" was completed shortly after the release of the film, but it broke down in pre-production because 1) the military's technology had become updated and they didn't want camera crew anywhere near their new aircraft and 2) Tom Cruise did not want a sequel and finally agreed to star in one for a very high amount that was deemed "unaffordable." The script followed the further adventures of Maverick as an instructor at the Top Gun academy, the twist being a cocky female reminiscent of himself joining the team.
Goose's real name is Nick Bradshaw. His name is briefly seen on a flight patch on top of his dresser when Maverick goes to retrieve Goose's belongings after he dies. It can also be seen numerous times written on the side of the F-14 he and Maverick fly. It is most noticeable when Goose hits the canopy after ejecting.
The film was originally going to have a scene near the end where Maverick visited Goose's grave. A filmed version of this scene was never released, however still screen shots from what such a scene would have looked like are available on the special edition DVD.