How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?

How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?

Top Gun: Maverick soars to the next level by depicting what naval pilots and their killer jets are capable of in the skies. But it’s not just the aerial stunts that have captivated the audience. The first movie itself had generated traction for the suave pilot school determined to create heroes like Maverick.

It gets you to question how much of it is real and how much is just glamorized for the sake of the screen.

Both the Top Gun movies are based on a real-life US naval pilot school. Besides this, the US Department of Defense has also aided and overseen the production of both films.

I know you may have a few questions, so I covered all the bases to let you know how accurate the movie is. Let’s go!

Does a Top Gun school exist?

Top Gun is a real program whose official name is The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (SFTI program). So yes, the Top Gun school exists. In fact, it was an article on the school that inspired producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to create the first movie.

How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?
Top Gun | Source: IMDb

But how does it really go down in the Top Gun school? Do teams actually bond over shirtless beach dogfights? Sing at pubs together?

While the pilots would love to have their share of fun, more often than not, they’re on supremely tight schedules. As former naval flight officer Christopher Browne recalls, the program was filled with back-to-back lectures, flight training, and debriefs.

Sorry to burst your bubble further, but a Top Gun Trophy as depicted in the first movie does not exist either.

Other than this, Browne did comment that the depiction is as close to real life as a Hollywood movie inciting drama and emotion can get.

I must commend the films for all their authentic props and stunts. They are the real deal, so much so that the US Navy found China spying on a Top Gun: Maverick prop spy plane for any threats!

Are the missions in Top Gun 1 and 2 accurate?

The answer to this is a complicated yes and no. Real-life Top Gun pilots do take on dangerous missions, but very few use drastic tactics like in the movie.

How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?
Top Gun: Maverick | Source: IMDb

Two of the main missions in the franchise are highly dramatized. You probably won’t find a pilot taking down three MiGs as in Top Gun or flying below deck and then accelerating to 10gs like seen in Top Gun 2.  

Secondly, as Jim DiMatteo explained for the Robb Report, “stud” pilots (like Maverick) are not flown in suddenly to train other pilots for a certain mission.

Most Top Gun pilots are already trained with certain skill sets, then assigned their tasks. They have to handle any difficulties they may suddenly face all on their own.

The DOD Has Stakes in Top Gun

With so much about the navy being depicted in Top Gun, the US Department of Defense decided to invest in the film and assist it via the DOD Entertainment Media Office.

How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?
Top Gun: Maverick | Source: IMDb

This is not the first time the DOD has invested in military-related Hollywood endeavors; it started its investment gig back in 1927 with Wings. But Top Gun did prove to be one of its most successful projects.

As such, they even played a part in both the original and sequel, loaning out different forms of equipment (including jets and aircraft carriers) as well as personnel and technical expertise. Of course, in return, the DOD does oversee the script and even makes plot changes to suit its own publicity.

Which Top Gun characters are based on real-life persons?

It isn’t surprising that Top Gun’s leading face, Maverick, isn’t actually based on any real-life person. Maverick is highly skilled, but he also pushes the buttons when he really doesn’t need to.

How accurate is the Top Gun franchise to real life?
Tom Cruise | Source: IMDb

No matter how successful the outcome, his devil-may-care attitude would actually not be tolerated in the Top Gun school, where seniors had to be assured that their subordinates always followed through on the plan.

This doesn’t mean that all of Top Gun’s characters are created out of imagination. Top Gun’s Charlie was inspired by Christine “Legs” Fox, a civilian mathematician employed by the Center for Naval Analyses as a specialist in Maritime Air Superiority (MAS).

Tied to Charlie, we also have her on-screen colleague, Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, who is actually a real-life former Navy aviator, Vietnam War veteran, and Top Gun instructor.

He also served as a technical advisor on the film, so you can expect him to keep all the inaccuracies in check.

Watch Top Gun: Maverick on:

About Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is a Paramount film (and sequel) starring Tom Cruise who reprises his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell from the 1986 Top Gun. It is directed by Joseph Kosinski, with a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie and a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks.

Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer are part of the cast.

The film sees Maverick’s return to the US Navy pilots as he trains a new squad of aviators, preparing them for a dangerous mission. Upon release, the movie was a massive success and became the highest grossing film of Tom Cruise so far.