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Plot Summary

Tom Cruise plays Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a cocky young United States Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot aboard the USS Enterprise. Maverick is the son of Duke Mitchell, a fighter pilot shot down during the Vietnam War and listed as missing in action with no details, a mystery which haunts Maverick. Former Top Gun instructor pilot (and later Member of Congress) Randy “Duke” Cunningham claimed to have been the inspiration for Maverick, although the movie's producer denied this, saying that the character was not based on any specific aviator.[1]

The film begins "somewhere in the Indian Ocean" with Maverick and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) "Goose" (Anthony Edwards) flying wing man to lead pilot "Cougar" and his RIO "Merlin" (Robbins), en route to intercept an unknown inbound aircraft (a bogey). It turns out to be two hostile MiG-28 aircraft; the country is unnamed, though the adversary pilots (masked by flight helmets) are presumably Soviet advisors flying for some country which is presumably equipped with Soviet equipment and having Soviet military advisors, such as South Yemen. Though restrained by rules of engagement against pre-emptive fire, and despite Cougar being outflown and trapped almost immediately, Maverick manages to intimidate both "bandits" into withdrawing by playing "chicken" with them—gaining a missile lock on the first and outflying the second by entering an inverted dive with the other pilot, as well as flipping him off. Despite this, Cougar is thoroughly shaken and does not obey return-to-base orders, despite his fighter's dwindling fuel supply. Maverick, also low on fuel, disobeys orders and risks his own plane to guide Cougar home.

She's lost that lovin' feeling
The famous scene where Maverick and Goose along with others sing Righteous Brothers' song You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' to Charlie in an attempt to charm her. The bar they sang in, which has since been demolished, was called "Roxy West."Cougar is deeply troubled by the incident, risking his life when he has a family to think about. He realizes he has "lost the edge" and "turns in his wings" (resigns). This is serendipitous timing for Maverick and Goose, now the top driver-RIO team in the squadron, as squadron commander Stinger has been called upon to send his best pilot-RIO team to send to the Navy's elite "TOPGUN" fighter pilot school (US Navy Fighter Weapons School) at NAS Miramar in San Diego, California. With Cougar gone, Stinger must send Maverick and Goose—something he is reluctant to do, not least because of Maverick's attitude.>

While testing his instructors' patience with his reckless flying (on his very first day, he outflies an instructor but breaks two major flight safety rules in the process) and establishing a rivalry with top student Tom "Iceman" Kazanski (Val Kilmer), Maverick falls in love with his beautiful female civilian instructor, astrophysicist Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Though a talented pilot, Maverick lives up to his name when called upon to be a team player. At one point, flying a mock combat mission with the pilot-RIO team of "Hollywood" and "Wolfman," he abandons his teammates to chase after TOPGUN's chief instructor, Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Though he gives the older pilot a run for his money, Viper's wingman, "Jester" (Michael Ironside), easily defeats first Hollywood and then Maverick himself, proving that teamwork outweights sheer flying ability.

One of the biggest sub-plots to the film is the love interest between the Cruise and McGillis characters. The MIG incident over the Indian Ocean sparks her initial interest. In an attempt to hear more details, Maverick utters to her a line now entrenched in American lexicon: "It's classified...I could tell you...but then I'd have to kill you."

F14's and Migs
Maverick contemplates whether he should return to the Navy.During the next engagement, Maverick and Iceman, ever competitive, chase the same target, with Maverick tailgating Iceman while the latter attempts to gain a missile lock. When Iceman gives up and pulls out, Maverick gets caught in his jet wash; his F-14's engines flame out, and he enters a flat spin from which he cannot recover (not unexpected behavior from the TF30 turbofan engines used in early-model F-14s). He and Goose are forced to eject; echoing a real-life accident, Goose hits the cockpit canopy and is killed. Although Maverick is officially exonerated of fault, he is overwhelmed with guilt and subsequently loses all competitive edge, refusing to take risks and engage enemy targets. During one training exercise, Jester deliberately makes himself an easy target and literally begs to be attacked; despite this, Maverick disengages and retreats.

Finally, unsure of his future and having alienated Charlie with his defeatist attitude, Maverick begins to wonder whether he should remain in the Navy. When he goes to Viper for advice, Viper tells him that he served with Maverick's father in Vietnam, with the VF-51 Screaming Eagles off USS Oriskany.
Maverick in the dogfight
During a fierce dogfight, Duke Mitchell's F-4 was hit, but he refused to disengage, saving three allied pilots before being downed himself. Unfortunately, the engagement took place "over the wrong line on some map," and the State Department, hoping to avoid an international incident, covered up the details. It is most likely that the dogfight took place over Laos or Cambodia where U.S. forces weren't allowed to go as of 1964 (when the dog fight took place) despite the fact that the Viet Cong ran supplies through these countires. Maverick decides that he will graduate from TOPGUN and remain a pilot.

During the post-graduation party, the best graduating teams—Iceman/Slider, Hollywood/Wolfman, and Maverick—are ordered to report to Enterprise. (Viper, to bolster Maverick's confidence, offers to fly as his RIO if no one else can be found; ultimately, Cougar's ex-RIO Merlin takes Maverick's back seat.) An intelligence-gathering ship has 'broken down' inside hostile waters and the pilots are to fly cover for it until repairs are completed, with the other two teams in the air and Maverick as back-up on Ready Five. While Hollywood and Iceman are on patrol, six MiGs ambush them, downing Hollywood's craft (the crew safely ejects) down and damaging Iceman's. When Maverick reaches the dogfight, he inadvertently flies through a MiG-28's jet wash and starts spinning out of control—circumstances identical to those that caused Goose's death. Though he manages to recover, his confidence is gone and he flees the scene. (The Enterprise cannot launch additional craft due to its catapults being "broken.") Clutching Goose's dog tags and begging his friend to speak to him one last time, Maverick finds his courage. He re-engages the enemy and downs three MiGs while covering Iceman (who scores a single kill of his own), employing both team thinking as well as his signature high-risk flying style. Returning to Enterprise a hero, Maverick is given his choice of any posting, and he decides to return to Miramar as an instructor, much to Stinger's amusement. On Maverick's return to Fightertown USA, he goes for a drink in the local bar when You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling starts playing on the jukebox. Charlie appears, and the two rekindle their romance as the movie closes.