The Top Gun theme is playing—we're already hooked—and writing pops up on the screen.
In 1969, the Navy established an elite school for its top fighter pilots. The point of the school? To teach the "lost art" of aerial combat. The Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School, but the pilots know it as Top Gun.
After this little history lesson, planes are taxying and taking off. Soon, we're up in the air with two planes—Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) in one and Cougar (John Stockwell) and Merlin (Tim Robbins) in another.
The boys run into some enemy MiGs, but Maverick chases them off and heads for home. Cougar is shaken up, and Maverick disobeys orders to go back and coach him back to the aircraft carrier. He and Goose get yelled at, and their commanding officer, the always-irritated Stinger, sends them to Top Gun. (Cougar was supposed to go, too, but he quit.)
So now we're at Top Gun.
Maverick and Good are joined by other elite pilots, including the duo that will be their main rival for the Top Gun trophy: Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Slider (Rick Rossovich).
After a pep talk from the two head dudes at the school, Jester (Michael Ironside) and Viper (Tom Skerritt), the boys enjoy a night on the town. As you might expect from a guy named Maverick, he hits on a lonely woman at the bar. She promptly rejects him, and, in true Hollywood form, she turns out to be one of his teachers. Her name? Charlie.
Cue: lots of in-class Maverick/Charlie banter.
When Maverick and Goose and the rest of the fellas have their first training exercise, they cause trouble and "get" Jester; i.e., they lock onto him with their missiles but don't fire. It's like playing tag with fighter planes.
Not quite rule-abiding, and As a result, they're reprimanded by Viper. Goose visits Maverick to tell him to cool it.
Charlie and Maverick meet again in study hall. (Sexy, eh?) She invites him over for dinner, but before he takes off to her place, Maverick and Goose square off against Iceman and Slider in a series of epic volleyball games. Because why not?
At dinner, Maverick opens up about his father, who apparently screwed up big time in Vietnam. Charlie is clearly into him (and who would be? It's a young Tom Cruise)...but Maverick leaves her hanging.
With sexual tensions at an all-time hight, Charlie criticizes Maverick's flying in front of the entire class. He's not thrilled, but it's clear she only does it because she doesn't want anybody to know the truth: she's fallen for him.
They finally sleep together, and she wakes to find Maverick...gone.
Don't worry, he's not off to Cabo. He's gone because he has a hop to take. Viper is also participating, and Maverick leaves his wingman, Hollywood (Whip Hubley), to go after him. Maverick almost gets Viper (who praises Maverick's flying) in missile lock before Jester comes out of nowhere and takes him out.
In the locker room afterwards, Jester lectures Maverick about leaving his wingman even as he praises his flying. Iceman calls Maverick out for being dangerous, and Maverick apologizes to Goose, who's understandably not psyched.
During hop 31, Maverick and Goose are flying with Iceman and Slider. Iceman tries to get a lock on their "bogey," can't get it, and leaves. Maverick moves in, gets caught in Iceman's jet wash, and goes into an unrecoverable spin. As they eject from the jet, Goose flies right into the canopy.
Having lost his partner in crime, Maverick falls into a depression. He's cleared of responsibility but loses his edge and eventually quits...without saying goodbye to Charlie.
Maverick visits Viper (who flew with Maverick's father in Vietnam), and Viper tells him the truth about his father—and that he can graduate with his Top Gun class if he wants. Maverick goes back Charlie, but she's already taken off with a promotion. Maverick shows up for graduation, but he's immediately called back to the aircraft carrier with Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman. Viper tells Maverick that if he needs a partner, he'll fly with him.
The boys are briefed by Stinger aboard the carrier and are sent up. Hollywood is quickly shot down, and Maverick is sent up as his replacement.
At first, it looks like he still hasn't gotten it together after Goose's death. But he soon puts all doubts to rest and saves Iceman's life, shooting down three MiGs in the process. Iceman makes his peace with Maverick, and Maverick makes his peace with Goose's death, throwing his (Goose's) tags into the ocean.
To put the icing on the closure cake, back in Miramar, Charlie shows up to surprise Maverick.
And they live...kind of happily ever after.