History, Legacy & Showmanship
Monday, 16 May 2016 13:35

Mighty Wings: Remembering “Top Gun” on its 30th Anniversary

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A publicity still from Top Gun



  • Winnipeg — Famous Players’ Metropolitan


  • Baltimore — Durkee’s Senator
  • Woodlawn — General Cinema Corporation’s Security Square Mall 4-plex


  • Boston — USA’s Charles Triplex


  • Ann Arbor — United Artists’ Fox Village 4-plex
  • Bloomfield Hills — Redstone’s Showcase 10-plex
  • Burton — Redstone’s Showcase 6-plex
  • Cascade Township — Redstone’s Showcase 10-plex
  • Dearborn — United Artists’ The Movies at Fairlane 10-plex
  • Harper Woods — Suburban Detroit’s Eastland 7-plex
  • Southfield — Suburban Detroit’s Northland Twin
  • Sterling Heights — Redstone’s Showcase 11-plex


  • Maplewood — United Artists’ The Movies at Maplewood II 6-plex


  • topgun 09Chesterfield — Wehrenberg’s Clarkson 6-plex
  • Independence — Mid-America’s Blue Ridge East 5-plex
  • Kansas City — Commonwealth’s Bannister Mall 5-plex


  • Las Vegas — Syufy’s Parkway Triplex


  • New York — Loews’ 34th Street Showplace Triplex
  • New York — Loews’ 84th Street 6-plex
  • New York — Loews’ Astor Plaza
  • New York — Loews’ Orpheum Twin
  • New York — Loews’ State Twin


  • Raleigh — Litchfield’s Mission Valley 5-plex


  • Halifax — Famous Players’ Scotia Square


  • Columbus — General Cinema Corporation’s Northland 8-plex <THX>
  • Dayton — Chakeres’ Dayton Mall 8-plex
  • Mentor — National’s Great Lakes Mall 5-plex
  • Springdale — Redstone’s Showcase 8-plex
  • Toledo — Redstone’s Showcase 5-plex
  • Westerville — American Multi-Cinema’s Westerville 6-plex


  • Oklahoma City — Commonwealth’s Quail Twin
  • Tulsa — United Artists’ Boman Twin


  • Hamilton — Famous Players’ Tivoli
  • London — Famous Players’ Park
  • Mississauga — Famous Players’ Square One 4-plex
  • North York — Famous Players’ Town & Countrye Twin
  • Ottawa — Famous Players’ Elgin Twin
  • Scarborough — Famous Players’ Cedarbrae 6-plex
  • Toronto — Famous Players’ Cumberland 4-plex <“La Reserve”/reserved seats>
  • Toronto — Famous Players’ Eglinton <THX>
  • Toronto — Famous Players’ Runnymede Twin
  • Toronto — Famous Players’ University


  • Portland — Moyer’s Bagdad Triplex


  • Montgomeryville — Budco’s 309 4-plex
  • Philadelphia — Budco’s Orleans 8-plex
  • Philadelphia — SamEric’s Sam’s Place Twin

A 70mm film frame from Top Gun


  • Dorval — United’s Dorval Triplex
  • Laval — United’s Laval 5-plex
  • Montreal — United’s Imperial <THX>


  • Knoxville — Simpson’s Capri 4-plex
  • Nashville — Carmike’s Belle Meade


  • Addison — United Artists’ Prestonwood Creek 5-plex <THX>
  • Arlington — Loews’ Lincoln Square 6-plex
  • Austin — American Multi-Cinema’s Americana
  • Austin — Presidio’s Arbor 4-plex <THX>
  • Dallas — Loews’ Park Central 4-plex
  • Dallas — United Artists’ Cine Twin
  • Dallas — United Artists’ Walnut Hill 6-plex
  • Fort Worth — United Artists’ Hulen 6-plex <THX>
  • Houston — Plitt’s West Oaks 7-plex
  • Houston — Plitt’s Woodlake Triplex
  • Hurst — United Artists’ North East 6-plex <THX>
  • Mesquite — American Multi-Cinema’s Towne Crossing 8-plex
  • San Antonio — Santikos’ Galaxy 10-plex <THX>
  • San Antonio — Santikos’ Northwest 10-plex <THX>


  • Salt Lake City — Mann’s Villa
  • Salt Lake City — Plitt’s Centre


  • Richmond — Neighborhood’s Ridge 7-plex


  • Bellevue — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Factoria 5-plex
  • Lynnwood — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Grand Cinemas Alderwood 7-plex
  • Seattle — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Cinerama
  • Seattle — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Oak Tree 6-plex <THX>
  • Spokane — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Lyons Avenue 4-plex
  • Tacoma — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Tacoma Mall Twin
  • Tukwila — Sterling Recreation Organization’s Lewis & Clark 7-plex


  • Brookfield — General Cinema Corporation’s Brookfield Square Twin



Special features producer Charles de Lauzirika

Charles de Lauzirika is the producer of Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun, which originally appeared on the 2004 Special Edition DVD release of Top Gun and subsequently ported over to the Blu-ray Disc releases of the film. Charles is an acclaimed film documentarian and DVD/Blu-ray producer with over 100 credits, including several of Tony Scott’s films (including Man on Fire, Revenge: Director’s Cut and Domino) and such essential home video box sets as Blade Runner, Twin Peaks, Prometheus and the Alien Anthology. His feature directorial debut Crave, starring Ron Perlman, was released in 2013, and won multiple awards at festivals around the world. He recently produced the Star Wars: Launch Bay featurette now playing at both Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, which explores the past, present and future of the Star Wars franchise.

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is Top Gun worthy of celebration on its 30th anniversary?

Charles de Lauzirika: I think that 30 years later, Top Gun is still referenced quite a bit in pop culture and even casual conversation, so even though it’s kind of an ’80s artifact, it’s still very relevant. I mean, look at the Resistance attack on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens. Some of those X-Wing-mounted camera angles are straight out of Top Gun. And that’s kind of a fun full-circle since Top Gun was inspired by Star Wars to a major degree. And let’s not get forget the recurring Danger Zone gags on Archer. Or all the other references, songs, visuals and lines of dialogue that get repeated over and over to this day.

Coate: When did you first see Top Gun and what did you think of it?

Lauzirika: I was living in Barcelona when it was released in 1986, and back then, American movies wouldn’t usually open abroad until several weeks or months later. But I moved back to Los Angeles a couple months into its theatrical run and my friends back home had really been hyping it up like it was the greatest movie ever. They were actually going around in public wearing aviator sunglasses and flight jackets emblazoned with various Top Gun and U.S. Navy patches. So when I finally saw it at the Mann National in Westwood, expectations were impossibly high. And I have to admit, after it was over, I was kind of disappointed initially. I mean, it was fun and really well-made. Beautifully shot with some truly exceptional aerial work. But it was also kind of goofy, cheesy and fluffy, which I wasn’t expecting. Eventually, I grew to enjoy it more and more over the years and now just accept it as a straight-up fun, energetic ’80s flick.

Visual effects unit on Top Gun shooting miniature aerial footage

Coate: Top Gun is among a fairly small group of movies in its success range to not have any sequels. Do you think there should be a sequel (remake, reboot, etc.)?


Lauzirika: I know there’s been quite a bit of work put into a sequel over the years. It could be very interesting, since aerial combat has changed over the last three decades, and today so much of the war on terror is waged by predator drones. So I think the current state of the world and the cutting edge technology in play would provide for some interesting new twists in the Top Gun formula. Ultimately, what’s most important is that they find a compelling story for the characters to be challenged by. I’m not sure how an older Maverick would adapt to the mentor role that Tom Skerritt’s Viper played in the first film. I just don’t see Maverick ever being that grounded. He’s a lot like Captain Kirk in that way. No matter how old he gets, he still wants to be in control, getting his hands dirty in the heat of battle. But I’d be curious to see how the old characters have evolved over time, and also how they relate to the next generation, who will probably be even more wild, arrogant and irresponsible than they were.


Coate: Top Gun was only director Tony Scott’s second feature film. How risky was it for him to be chosen to direct, and what did having a director with a fresh vision bring to the project compared with how the movie may have turned out if made by say a more experienced journeyman type?


Top Gun director Tony Scott and star Tom Cruise on set


Lauzirika: See, I think picking a director like Tony, coming off a dark, artsy film like The Hunger, shows the kind of vision and bravery that doesn’t really exist in quite the same way anymore. It’s funny because at the time, it seemed like Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were largely known as A-list hit makers, churning out popcorn blockbusters for the masses. But looking back at their work, I think they actually made some really brilliant artistic decisions in how they cultivated a whole roster of bold visualists like Tony, Michael Bay and others. And these directors were allowed to establish their own unique creative style that flourished even beyond their Simpson and Bruckheimer projects. So picking a filmmaker like Tony for Top Gun might have been a risk, but it was a smart risk. He had a cinematic style and personality all his own, which then influenced a whole other generation of filmmakers. When you watch a Tony Scott film, you damn well know who’s directing it. In the hands of another more journeyman director, I’m not sure Top Gun would be even a fraction as memorable as the film Tony made.


Coate: It’s been just over a decade since the DVD Special Edition and your Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun documentaries were made. What else would you like to do special edition-wise should another opportunity arise?


Lauzirika: I wish there was a way to resurrect those seemingly forever lost deleted scenes, like the one showing Goose’s funeral, but I’m afraid that will never come to pass. And yet I think the existing Top Gun disc is pretty comprehensive, all things considered. At this point, I think it would be more interesting to do a special edition for Days of Thunder. I’ve heard a lot of very interesting behind-the-scenes stories on that one. And with Tony and Don Simpson no longer with us, I think it would make for a nice tribute to their work.


Special features producer Charles de Lauzirika


Coate: Where do you think Top Gun ranks among director Tom Cruise’s body of work?


Lauzirika: I could try to rank it, but it would be futile. Tom Cruise just keeps making some really great, interesting, enjoyable films, so the ranking would always be fluid. I mean, Rogue Nation turned out to be my favorite Mission: Impossible movie, and it was the fifth in the series. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big movie star so laser-focused and deeply committed to entertaining audiences the way Cruise is. The guy is fearless and even when it might seem like he’s going off the rails, I would never bet against him. I certainly think Top Gun will always be remembered as one of his signature films.


Coate: Where do you think Top Gun ranks among director Tony Scott’s body of work?


Lauzirika: Top Gun put Tony on the map when it comes to blockbuster filmmaking. So it’s obviously an important milestone in his filmography. I think he made far more personal and daring films throughout his career, but Top Gun captures so much of what we, as an audience, know about what “a Tony Scott film” is. It’s stylish and sexy, fast and furious, and it beautifully combines Tony’s artistic sensibilities—like his love of blue-black desert skies, dark smoky rooms, long lenses and painterly grad filters—and fuses them with his one-of-a-kind rock-and-roll sense of insanity and playfulness. Whenever I think back on my meetings with Tony over the years, I remember his easy smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. In that regard, he and his films often like felt one and the same to me.


Coate: What is the legacy of Top Gun?


Lauzirika: I think at its most basic level, Top Gun will always be remembered as an essential ’80s movie that delivered high entertainment and show-stopping spectacle. I think there’s a variety of levels beneath its glossy surface to consider, even ironically. Just listen to Quentin Tarantino talk about it. But, ultimately, I think it’s a fun movie that intends to give you a good time, a few thrills, a few laughs, and send you on your way feeling better than you did beforehand. That’s what good movies do.

Coate: Thank you, Charlie, for participating and sharing your thoughts about Top Gun on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.


Top Gun on home video



Laura Baas, Don Beelik, Raymond Caple, Nick DiMaggio, Thomas Hauerslev, John Hazelton, Rusty Heckaman, Mike Heenan, Bobby Henderson, Sarah Kenyon, Bill Kretzel, Charles de Lauzirika, Ronald A. Lee, Mark Lensenmayer, Stan Malone, Tim Reed, Stephen Rice, Desirée Sharland, Alex Smith, Cliff Stephenson, John Stewart, Kurt Wahlner, and to all of the librarians who helped with the research for this project.



Primary references for this project were promotional material published in hundreds of daily newspapers archived digitally and/or on microfilm plus numerous articles published in film industry trade publications Billboard, Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety.



Copyright 1986 Paramount Pictures Corporation

All figures and data included in this article pertain to the United States and Canada except where stated otherwise.



  • Art Scholl (Stunt Pilot), 1931-1985
  • Warren Skaaren (Associate Producer/Uncredited Screenwriter), 1946-1990
  • Don Simpson (Producer), 1943-1996
  • Jim Cash (Screenwriter), 1941-2000
  • Teena Marie (Lead Me On vocalist), 1956-2010
  • Tony Scott (Director), 1944-2012

- Michael Coate

Michael Coate can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The cast & Navy pilot advisers of Top Gun



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