Top Gun not only had an incredibly prolific influence on modern pop culture, but is arguably one of the most awe-inspiring aviation movies ever made. Its story of one daredevil Tomcat pilot willing to buck the Navy system for guts and glory was responsible for a title wave of recruits in flight school after 1986, as well as the propulsion of Tom Cruise into the pantheon of action movie badasses. With its heart-pounding aerial footage, attractive stars, and pounding '80s music courtesy of Kenny Loggins, it left an impression on moviegoing audiences. A much-anticipated sequel is set for release in 2020.
As awesome as many fans think Top Gun is, it has flaws like any other blockbuster. There are numerous ways in which the substance of true Naval aviation was sacrificed for the stylistic choices of Maverick's piloting. There was the fact that Maverick was even allowed to go to the Top Gun school at all with his kind of report. And fuel gauges in the rear cockpit? Read all that and more, as we discuss 10 things that make no sense about Top Gun.
10 THE PLOT (OR LACK THEREOF)
The film opens with a flurry of insane aerial footage, and then proceeds to focus in on hotshot pilot Maverick's antics, which subsequently gets him chewed out, but also sent to the Top Gun school (because the Navy's only other top pilot could hold it together slightly less).
Maverick's sort of going for the Top Gun trophy (not a real thing), and sort of trying to work through his daddy issues, and totally hooking up with his teacher. There's a vague threat of "the Russians" with the MiG-28 subplot, but at its core, Top Gun has no real tension and no real plot, succeeding mostly as a fantastic recruitment ad and endorsement of male bonding.
9 MAVERICK NEVER LOSING HIS WINGS
Somehow, despite continuously doing things to royally upset his superiors and consistently putting his fellow pilots and RIOs in danger, Maverick never gets his wings clipped. Consider when he does a barrel-roll in full afterburner after the tower flyby.
That's a major violation of the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations), and we're almost certain Maverick didn't have an FAA waiver. He would have been chewed out, then he would have been thrown out. His report reads "wild card" and "unpredictable." No pilot with that fitness report would be keeping his wings.
8 GOOSE'S DEATH
When Goose indicates on the radio that the Tomcat holding him and Maverick has lost an engine, it's concerning for two reasons; one, because that means they're going to plummet to the ground in a hurry, and also because there's no engine instruments in the F-14 rear cockpit (so how did he discern that?).
Goose explains that their altitude is dropping, from 8,000 to 6,000 feet (his altimeter actually shows 2,200). He should have already ejected. In a flat spin that can be verified by altitude, increasing yaw rate, and G rate, with a lack of pitch, canopy jettison has to occur as per NATOPS specifications, then the RIO ejects. Had he followed procedures, he wouldn't have died.
7 THE CHAIN OF COMMAND
From the minute we see James Tolkan on the screen, his bald head glistening as he reads Maverick the riot act, we're immediately aware of two things: this guy has a superiority complex, and he's not adhering to proper Navy conduct.
The crew on Navy ships don't just walk in wearing cover unless they have watch duty on the bridge of the ship. Also, for someone who acts like he has so much authority, what is he exactly? A CO? A CAG? As an 0-5 in the film, he has a junior rank in the chain of command, but a really swanky stateroom.
6 THE MiG INFORMATION
When Maverick gets called into the ship's captain/0-5's fancy stateroom to get chewed out along with Goose, he tries to tell him about the MiGs they engaged. The 0-5 then states, "You can tell me about the MiG some other time," and then waves off the pair to go attend Top Gun.
Beyond the fact that these two probably wouldn't be going to Top Gun even if Cougar washed out, why would their superior officer commit career suicide like that? He failed to get the only information from their little pow wow that his superiors would be interested in.
5 MAVERICK'S HANDLING OF THE TOMCAT
In the film, in an effort to make it look like he knows what he's doing, Tom Cruise flips a bunch of switches and hits a bunch of toggles and nobs. He goes for a "missile lock" during a flight by turning a nob related to the mid-compression bypass, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Tomcat's weapons array.
And let's talk about that inverted maneuver. With his fancy 4-G inverted roll, if the two planes were really as close as they appear in the film, the MiG-28 would be getting jammed by the Tomcat's vertical stabs. Maverick also "hits the breaks" by moving the throttles forward, which would increase power.
4 TOP GUN
Besides the fact that it seems nebulous at best how two outliers like Goose and Maverick would even get a shot at Top Gun, there are a number of other entrants who don't seem like they belong there either. Like Slider, who's a lieutenant, and too junior for a spot at Top Gun.
Also, there isn't any Top Gun trophy that exists, so making that a focus for the pilots and RIOs seems pointless, especially since no one really cares when Ice Man wins it. It's Maverick's story after all, and even though he isn't the best pilot, he's more entertaining.
3 CHARLIE FALLING FOR MAVERICK
When Maverick and Charlie meet at the local bar, neither of them are really aware of each other's position at Top Gun. Charlie knows Maverick is a pilot and a hopeful graduate, but he has no idea that she's going to be giving the morning tactical briefing.
He doesn't start off as a catch; he doggedly pursues her all over the club, into the women's bathroom, and generally acts like an arrogant jerk. He then continues this arrogant display at her briefing, interrupting her left and right. When they finally go on a date, he's late and asks to "take a shower." What exactly does Charlie see in this cocky, disrespectful hot-shot?
2 THE BRIEFING
Why exactly is there a briefing in a hangar bay, exactly? Is this really the best option for flight briefs or detailed instruction from Charlie? Also there's all sorts of slack regulation when it comes to what the students are wearing, especially those in covers and those without.
Maverick was really particular about who he revealed his MiG information to (evidently no one higher up than himself), but he blurts out all sorts of details of his interaction with it to a very open hangar filled with people of all different levels of clearance.
1 CHARLIE COMING BACK TO MAVERICK
At the end of the film, we learn that Charlie is going to take a pretty prestigious gig in Washington D.C., leaving Maverick to decide what his next moves are. He seems to be leaning towards Top Gun instructor, though Lord knows why any brass would let him be responsible for shaping young minds.
And then just like that, Charlie is back, as it seems she couldn't stay away from Maverick and his wild, unpredictable ways. It would have been a perfect setup for her to leave and never come back, especially since Kelly McGillis has been replaced as Maverick's love interest in Top Gun 2. But also, why would she throw away such a big promotion on Maverick?