Back in the 'Danger Zone': 9 Facts About the Original 'Top Gun' Ahead of 'Top Gun 2'

RealClear Staff


Star Tom Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer released this photo of themselves from January 2016 all but announcing their teaming up for a sequel to their 1986 classic, "Top Gun." Here's some things you need to know as we count down to "Top Gun 2." 

1. It Was Inspired by a Magazine Article

The primary inspiration was the article "Top Guns" by Ehud Yonay, from the May 1983 issue of California magazine, about the life of fighter pilots at the Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, self-nicknamed as "Fightertown USA". 

2. It Was a Wildly Effective Recruiting Tool

After the film's release, the U.S. Navy stated that the number of young men who joined wanting to be Naval Aviators went up by 500 percent.

3. Culturally Significant? You Bet!

Believe it or not, in 2015 the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

4. Matthew Modine Turned Down Cruise's Role

Actor Matthew Modine turned down the role of Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (that went to Tom Cruise) because he felt the film's pro-military stance went against his politics. A year later, he would star in the anti-war film "Full Metal Jacket" (above), directed by Stanley Kubrick.

5. Kelly McGillis Character Was Inspired by 'Legs'

Kelly McGillis (left) played Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood, an astrophysicist and civilian Top Gun instructor, who became Maverick's love interest. In early drafts of the script, she was an aerobics instructor! But then the producers met Christine "Legs" Fox (right), a civilian mathematician who developed tactics for aircraft carrier defense. In 2013, President Obama appointed her as acting deputy defense secretary — the highest-ranking woman ever at the Pentagon.


6. Congressman an Inspiration, Too

Former Top Gun instructor pilot and Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was also an inspiration, although producers have denied that the characters of Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards was based on any specific Naval aviator.

7. The U.S. Navy Assigned the USS Enterprise to Assist in Filming

The Navy made several aircraft from F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 Screaming Eagles  available for the film as well. 

8. It Made an Influential Fashion Statement

 Bomber jacket sales and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses sales jumped 40 percent!

9. It's Box Office Would be About $1.5 Billion Today

"Top Gun" cost $15 million to make in 1986 -- big money then. It made $350 million worldwide and was the top-grossing movie of 1986. Additionally, it was one of the first breakout VHS sales, becoming one of the first VHS releases with a $20 list price.



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