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7 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About the Top Gun Franchise

Published on June 8, 2022

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun

Since its release on May 27th, 2022, Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 classic, has been smashing box office records. The film grossed $557.2 million worldwide in its first 10 days, and it’s already become the highest-grossing film (domestically) of Tom Cruise’s career, surpassing his 2005 hit War of the Worlds by earning $296 million in North America so far. For all you Top Gun fans out there, we’ll be sharing seven fun facts you probably didn’t know about the franchise.

What You Need to Know About Top Gun: Maverick  

The inspiration for the 1986 film was the article “Top Guns” by Ehud Yonay, from the May 1983 issue of California magazine, which detailed the life of fighter pilots as they went through the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School training program (more popularly known as TOPGUN). The original Top Gun focused on hotshot fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (played by A 23-year-old Tom Cruise), who joined the school and learned some life lessons along the way.

Now, 36 years later, Maverick is back. With an all-star cast featuring Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell and of course, Mr. Cruise himself, and original music by Lady Gaga, Top Gun: Maverick has continued the beloved narrative more than 30 years after the original movie first hit theaters. The 2022 movie catches up with Cruise’s character as he trains a new group of pilots to complete a mission that will push them to their limits and require the ultimate sacrifice.  

Both the 1986 and 2022 versions of the film involved years of hard work, meticulous production decisions and millions of dollars to make. According to Bloomberg, Top Gun: Maverick is the result of eight years in development, two production years, five delays due to the pandemic, and $170 million in budget, but there’s little doubt that seeing Miles Teller frolic on the beach shirtless made it all worth it.

Fun Facts About the Top Gun Movies

With so many years spent developing the films, the Top Gun franchise is rich with facts and trivia. Here are just seven fun facts you might not have known about the movies:

1. Students of the Real TOPGUN School Get Fined for Quoting the Film

@cbs

Someone sign us up for the #TopGun Training School ASAP. ✈️ #LateLateShow #TomCruise #JamesCorden

♬ original sound – CBS

According to a book by retired TOPGUN instructor, Guy “Bus” Snodgrass titled TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit, students of the IRL school are fined $5 for quoting the film. As Snodgrass explains in the book, the fine is imposed in the name of maintaining a professional and no-nonsense attitude within an organization that prioritizes solid leadership. Fair enough!

2. The U.S. Navy Have Used Both Films as Recruitment Tools

U.S Navy Blue Angels in formation in sky
Photo by Matthew Tighe/Adobe Stock.

Back in 1986, the U.S. Navy set up recruitment booths outside movie theaters to catch hyped-up viewers on their way out, and they’re using the same strategy 36 years later for the release of Top Gun: Maverick. According to some reports, recruitment rates jumped 500% in the year following the original film’s release, so tapping into the emotional high the film produces is clearly an effective tactic.

3. It’s a Fact that Top Gun (1986) Launched the Home Video Industry 

Video tape on colored background, VHS, cassette
Photo by Turbo Yoda/Adobe Stock.

Here’s one of the interesting fun facts you might not know about Top Gun: Prior to the release of the original film, VHS tapes were primarily sold to video stores for $100 a pop. However, thanks to a Pepsi ad, Top Gun was able to price the VHS for people to own upon its release, which later became the norm for other films.

4. Actors Had to Shoot the Topless Beach Scene in Top Gun: Maverick Twice

One of the most iconic scenes to come out of both the 1986 and 2022 versions of the film was the montage of the actors playing topless volleyball and football, respectively, on the beach. According to the lead actors of the 2022 version, they all followed strict diet and workout plans to be in tip-top shape for the film. When it finally came time to film the topless beach scene, Powell commented that they all celebrated afterwards with milkshakes and tater tots, only to have Tom Cruise call for a re-shoot a week later.

5. Another Fact is that Miles Teller Wasn’t Born When the First Top Gun Came Out

Here’s another one of the fun facts you might not know about Top Gun: when the original movie first came out, Miles Teller, who plays Goose’s son in the new film, wasn’t even born yet. The first movie came out in 1986, and Teller was born a year later in 1987.

6. The Actors Underwent Rigorous Flight Training for Both Movies

For both the 1986 and 2022 versions of the film, the actors had to undergo intense training so they could look like real pros (and avoid tossing their cookies) once it came time to shoot the in-air scenes. Unsurprisingly, Tom Cruise was adamant about minimizing CGI effects in the new film, which is why he insisted on a lengthy flight training program for all the actors. By the end of the months-long program, which actor Danny Ramirez referred to as the “Tom Cruise School of Being a Badass,” all the actors were able to fly in the two-seat F/A-18 jets without feeling sick. The planes were still being piloted by real naval aviators who were ultimately edited out of the shot using CGI, but it was up to the actors to ensure everything from their makeup to the lighting looked good, since they couldn’t have a director up there with them to call the shots.

7. The Planes Cost More Than $11,000 an Hour to Rent

F-18 Maverick Top Gun aircraft flying over the sky
Photo by miglagoa/Adobe Stock.

Hoping to take an F/A-18 for a spin yourself? That’ll be a cool $11,000 per hour — $11,374 USD, to be exact. At least, that’s how much Paramount Pictures Studios had to pay to use the Super Hornet jets for the filming of Top Gun: Maverick. Let’s be real: this is chump change considering the film’s hefty budget, and even less significant when you consider how much it’s earned at the box office so far.

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Lead image: Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick. Photo courtesy of Skydance.

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.