Study Guide

Top Gun Production Design

Production Design

The High 80s (Were Low Tech)

Top Gun was released in 1986. It would about another 12-15 years before digital reality became a viable medium, which means Top Gun was shot using good old-fashioned film. Not only that, most of the footage you see in Top Gun is totally, legitimately, real—real planes, real flight footage, real aircraft carrier decks, and so on.

The actors all took rides in real fighter jets, and many of the scenes were shot on location in actual locker rooms, bars, hangars, and so on (mostly in San Diego and Nevada). You can check out a list of the different filming locations. Did we mention that the Navy actually helped Tony Scott and Co. out with this film, authorizing two actual missile firings and allowing the crew to film lots of F-14's from both the ground and the confines of a Lear Jet?

Staging the Basics

While there is a lot of real footage in Top Gun, there's also some stuff that was staged, and also some stuff that was done in front of the (in)famous blue screen. So, for example, a lot of the cockpit scenes with Maverick, Iceman, and their pals were actually shot in an old cockpit in front of a blue screen, with background features added in later.

Since the Navy only authorized a few actual missile shots, the Top Gun team had to use them multiple times (from different angles, that is). In some cases, they had to get creative. Model plans and rockets were used for some of the other scenes. The Navy launched a preliminary investigation as the fake shots looked incredibly real.

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