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In 1986, smack dab in the middle of the bodacious decade of neon, headbangers and The Brat Pack, the movie Top Gun roared into theaters like an F-14 Tomcat. It got a missile lock on the box office and shot down just over $356 million, making it what would eventually be the 11th highest grossing movie of Tom Cruise’s career. The movie centers on Maverick, a hot shot pilot, who is sent to the US Navy Fighter Weapons school, and all of the drama, pride and testosterone that scenario entails.

History of Top Gun Day

The actual Navy Fighter Weapons School was formed in 1969, during the time of the Viet Nam War, by the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral, Thomas Hinman Moorer, at the recommendation of Captain Frank Ault. The realization came that the Navy’s fighter pilots needed more training. 

During Operation Rolling Thunder, the United States lost nearly 1,000 aircraft over North Vietnamese skies. The USAF and Navy both sought the causes, but came to two different conclusions. The Air Force believed that the fault was mechanical: that MiG pilots caught American pilots in a rear blind spot. The Navy decided that the failure was in training. The Air Force responded by developing new technology, while the Navy started the Top Gun school, eventually paving the way for 110 minutes of heart pounding action, backed by a roaring theme song.

Top Gun Day Timeline


Top Gun school admits its first class 

The Navy Fighter Weapons School is opened for extra combat training at the height of the Viet Nam war.[1]


Tom Cruise debuts on the big screen 

Playing a minor role in the film, Endless Love, Tom Cruise was beat out for the starring role (opposite Brooke Shields) by Martin Hewitt, an actor who would end up doing mostly random TV appearances afterward.[2]


Top Gun is released 

Quickly earning a deep love from audiences, Top Gun becomes the highest grossing film of the year.[3]


US Navy uses the film for recruiting 

In a “Join the Navy” commercial, songs from the movie are used along with shots that look like that came straight from Top Gun footage.[4]


Top Gun 2 

After waiting more than 30 years, the world finally gets to see Tom Cruise in action again as “Maverick”.[5]

How to Celebrate Top Gun Day

Top Gun Day celebrates the movie, but at its core is all about attitude. It teaches about the importance of teamwork…and shirtless volleyball. So how do you take the highway to the danger zone?

Get started with some of these ideas:

Reenact the best Top Gun Movie Scenes 

A good way to begin might be by reliving the adventures of Goose, Maverick and the Iceman. Go to a karaoke bar and sing “She’s Lost that Loving Feeling” and “Take My Breath Away.” Why not try to play a little volleyball with a group? Shirtlessness is optional, of course. Download some Kenny Loggins and blast “Danger Zone” out of those car windows as loud as is possible.

But maybe karaoke isn’t the thing and the weather isn’t good enough for sports. It is still possible to find other ways to enjoy the day!

Host a Top Gun Day Party

Get friends and family together for a cool party in honor of Top Gun Day. Invite people to dress up like their favorite characters. Entertain by playing Top Gun trivia games before settling in to watch the movie.

During the movie, don’t forget to grab a pair of dark aviator glasses and an old leather jacket. For an added challenge, try to find a pair of overalls to convert into a flight suit! It might even be fun to make it into a double feature with some other jet-fighter movies of the era, like the lesser known Iron Eagle, which actually came out a few months before Top Gun.

Snacks served at the party could include a variety of airplane and naval themed treats, such as patriotic m&ms in red, white and blue, cookies in the shapes of stars, airplanes or clouds, and even aviator glasses. Decorations can, of course, feature anything red, white and blue, stars & stripes, naval, airplanes, American flags or even quotes from the Top Gun movie.

Listen to the Top Gun Soundtrack

Of course, the music played at the Top Gun Day party is key. After all, the movie won more awards for its soundtrack and score than in any other category! It’s packed with quintessential 80s classic songs, like these:

  • Playing with the Boys by Kenny Loggins. Featuring in Tom Cruise’s shirtless beach volleyball scene, this song plays when Maverick (wearing full-length jeans) and Goose beat their adversaries. Of course, then Maverick bails because he has a date with his love interest, Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis. 
  • Take My Breath Away by Berlin. It must be good because this song plays in Top Gun no less than four times! Incidentally, the band named themselves Berlin in an attempt to make people think they were German, but they were really an American new wave band. 
  • Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins. Appearing in the movie three times, this is the ultimate fighter jet song. 
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The Righteous Brothers. This one is a classic from 1964 that made a comeback more than 20 years later because of the Top Gun Movie. It plays in the movie when Maverick and the other naval officers lip sync it to Charlie in the bar while it plays on the jukebox. 

Show Off with Top Gun Quotes

The Top Gun movie offers a ton of quotable lines that can be used to make an impression. For instance, you can ask your friends for permission to buzz the tower. If they say no, do it anyway. If they ask YOU to buzz the tower, be sure to say “Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.” Just be prepared for them to buzz you anyway.

Or, even easier, simply tell everyone you see that you have the need, the need for speed. “You can be my wingman forever”, “Let’s turn and burn!” and “Remember boys, no points for second place” are also some other great lines from the film.

Learn Some Fun Facts About Top Gun

Even those who consider themselves to be pretty big fans of the movie might have something new to learn when it comes to Top Gun Day trivia! Here are some fun facts to impress friends and coworkers alike on the day:

  • Top Gun is set in San Diego, California and many of the sites for filming can still be visited, including Charlie’s little blue house and Kansas City Barbeque, which still features Goose’s piano.

  • Tom Cruise, at only 5’7”, wore lifts in his shoes to balance out the taller 5’10” Kelly McGillis as his love interest in the movie.

  • The movie didn’t originally have a love scene. That scene between Maverick and Charlie was added later, after test audiences said it needed one.

  • Bryan Adams was invited to sing on the Academy Award winning soundtrack, but he backed out because he thought the movie promoted war.

Play Top Gun Video Games

There are also two Top Gun video games currently available. The first is simply called Top Gun and was released for iOS devices by Freeverse Software. The second is called Top Gun: Hardlock. It comes from 505 Games, and is playable on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Talk to a Member of the Armed Forces

There are many ways one could enjoy and relieve the excitement of the movie, but perhaps one of the more meaningful things you could do is to find a member of the armed forces, particularly an aviator, and thank them for keeping the skies safe. Ultimately, without someone up there, we might not have the movie, or the day, down here.

However you choose to celebrate, be sure to raise a glass for Goose, Maverick, Iceman and the rest of Top Gun class of 1986. Let the world know that you haven’t lost that loving feeling, even after all this time.

Top Gun Day FAQs

How old is Tom Cruise in Top Gun?

Top Gun was released when Tom Cruise was just 23 years old, just three years after his break-through role in Risky Business.[1]

Are Top Gun pilots real?

Yes! Top Gun was an actual pilot training school in San Diego, California, known as the Navy Fighter Weapons School, until it merged with another school and moved to Fallon, Nevada in 1996.[2]

When was Top Gun made?

The original Top Gun movie was made in 1986.[3]

What is the most famous song in Top Gun?

“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Other popular songs from the film include “Danger Zone” and “Playing with the Boys”, both by Kenny Loggins.[4]

Did Top Gun win any awards?

Top Gun won most of its awards for the music and sound, but other awards include a People’s Choice Award and an ASCAP Award.[5]

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