How ‘Top Gun’ Inspired an Entire Generation of Naval Aviators

by Shelby Scott

“Top Gun” is one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s. It’s also, arguably, one of Tom Cruise’s most iconic films of all time. However, ahead of the creation of the classic film’s sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” the original movie inspired an entire generation of naval aviators. Now, with the all-new film in theaters, its actors boast knowledge of real-life naval aviation. Additionally, some military personnel believe the “Top Gun” sequel will inspire yet another generation of naval aviators.

While speaking with CBS News, U.S. Navy veteran Jeff Gage recalled his experience with the Tom Cruise film and the way it inspired his decision to join the military.

According to the news outlet, Gage first watched the Tom Cruise film with his father—a Navy veteran—while in college. Gage later went on to serve in the U.S. Navy for 30 years. In speaking about the experience of watching the film for the first time, the U.S. veteran said, “[‘Top Gun’] absolutely was an influence in my decision to serve. I would not want to discount probably the more important motivators of, you know, just the sense of patriotism and service to country, but yeah, absolutely, I think that the movie did influence a lot of folks.”

As per CBS News, Gage worked as a “Top Gun” instructor for the film’s sequel. He also revealed the movie’s creators studied “for hours a day” to assure its authenticity. In making “Top Gun: Maverick,” producers utilized two Naval aircraft carriers and four bases. “Top Gun: Maverick” creators also enlisted the help of real naval aviators.

U.S. Commander ‘Very Impressed’ with ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

With all the influence the military had in the making of “Top Gun: Maverick,” it’s no surprise that Admiral Darryl Caudle, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, praised the movie. The outlet reports Caudle, as well as 800 other soldiers, was treated to a pre-screening of the new film on Saturday.

Caudle was reportedly “very impressed” with the sequel, stating it provides a “great glimpse” as to the realities of a U.S. naval aviator. He further added, “It really demonstrates naval combat power. I thought the storyline was fantastic. What an honor and privilege to be able to see it early.”

In order to further ensure the authenticity of the new film, moviemakers also had to submit the script for military review.

Given how much support “Top Gun” saw from naval aviators and the U.S. navy overall, it makes sense moviemakers spent a pretty penny to be able to utilize genuine military aircraft.

According to the outlet, it cost moviemakers more than $11,000 per hour to be able to use the aircraft. That doesn’t include expenses for the advanced camera technology used within the F-18 cockpits—which, interestingly, also marks a first.

Before the making of “Top Gun: Maverick,” moviemakers had never placed IMAX cameras inside the cockpit of an aircraft. For this film in particular though, there were as many as six cameras in the cockpit at one time.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is playing in theaters exclusively; so far there’s been no word of a streaming release.