25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war


Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post about the heavy influence of the Pentagon on the funding and production of Hollywood movies, making them a little more than propaganda disguised as entertainment.

Americans are souring on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget is under siege as Congress looks for spending to cut. And the Army is reporting record suicide rates among soldiers. So who does the Pentagon enlist for help in such painful circumstances?


In June, the Army negotiated a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with the producers of “X-Men: First Class,” backing it up with ads telling potential recruits that they could live out superhero fantasies on real-life battlefields. Then, in recent days, word leaked that the White House has been working with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on an election-year film chronicling the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

A country questioning its overall military posture, and a military establishment engaging in a counter-campaign for hearts and minds — if this feels like deja vu, that’s because it’s taking place on the 25th anniversary of the release of “Top Gun.”

That Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, made in collaboration with the Pentagon, came out in the mid-1980s, when polls showed many Americans expressing doubts about the post-Vietnam military and about the constant saber rattling from the White House. But the movie’s celebration of sweat-shined martial machismo generated $344 million at the box office and proved to be a major force in resuscitating the military’s image.

Not only did enlistment spike when “Top Gun” was released, and not only did the Navy set up recruitment tables at theaters playing the movie, but polls soon showed rising confidence in the military. With Ronald Reagan wrapping military adventurism in the flag, with the armed forces scoring low-risk but high-profile victories in Libya and Grenada, America fell in love with Maverick, Iceman and other high-fivin’ silver-screen super-pilots as they traveled Mach 2 while screaming about “the need for speed.”

Today, “Top Gun” lives on in cable reruns, in the American psyche and, most important, in how it turned the Hollywood-Pentagon relationship into a full-on Mav-Goose bromance that ideologically slants films from their inception.

The 1986 movie, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, was the template for a new Military-Entertainment Complex. During production, the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with the filmmakers, reportedly charging Paramount Pictures just $1.8 million for the use of its warplanes and aircraft carriers. But that taxpayer-subsidized discount came at a price — the filmmakers were required to submit their script to Pentagon brass for meticulous line edits aimed at casting the military in the most positive light. (One example: Time magazine reported that Goose’s death was changed from a midair collision to an ejection scene, because “the Navy complained that too many pilots were crashing.”)

Although “Top Gun” was not the first movie to exchange creative input for Pentagon assistance and resources, its success set that bargain as a standard for other filmmakers, who began deluging the Pentagon with requests for collaboration. By the time the 1991 Persian Gulf War began, Phil Strub, the Pentagon’s liaison to the movie industry, told the Hollywood Reporter that he’d seen a 70 percent increase in the number of requests from filmmakers for assistance — effectively changing the way Hollywood works.

As Mace Neufeld, the producer of the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October,” later recounted to Variety, studios in the post-“Top Gun” era instituted an unstated rule telling screenwriters and directors to get military cooperation “or forget about making the picture.” Economics drives that directive, Time magazine reported in 1986. “Without such billion-dollar props, producers [have to]spend an inordinate amount of time and money searching for substitutes” and therefore might not be able to make the movie at all, the magazine noted.

Emboldened by Hollywood’s obsequiousness, military officials became increasingly blunt about how they deploy the carrot of subsidized hardware and the stick of denied access to get what they want. Strub described the approval process to Variety in 1994: “The main criteria we use is . . . how could the proposed production benefit the military . . . could it help in recruiting [and]is it in sync with present policy?”

Robert Anderson, the Navy’s Hollywood point person, put it even more clearly to PBS in 2006: “If you want full cooperation from the Navy, we have a considerable amount of power, because it’s our ships, it’s our cooperation, and until the script is in a form that we can approve, then the production doesn’t go forward.”

The result is an entertainment culture rigged to produce relatively few antiwar movies and dozens of blockbusters that glorify the military. For every “Hurt Locker” — a successful and critical war film made without Pentagon assistance — American moviegoers get a flood of pro-war agitprop, from “Armageddon,” to “Pearl Harbor,” to “Battle Los Angeles” to “X-Men.” And save for filmmakers’ obligatory thank you to the Pentagon in the credits, audiences are rarely aware that they may be watching government-subsidized propaganda.

Until this year, this Top Gun Effect seemed set in stone. But a quarter-century after that hagiographic tribute to the military’s “best of the best,” an odd alignment of partisan interests has prompted some in Congress to question the arrangement.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, recently sent letters to the CIA and the Defense Department demanding an investigation of the upcoming Bin Laden movie. He criticized the practice of granting ideologically compliant filmmakers access to government property and information that he says should be available to all. The “alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history,” he argued.

Considering King’s previous silence on such issues, it’s not clear whether he’s standing on principle; more likely, he is trying to prevent a particular piece of propaganda from aiding a political opponent. Yet, even if inadvertent, King’s efforts make possible a broader look at how the U.S. government uses taxpayer resources to suffuse popular culture with militarism.

If and when King holds hearings on the matter, we could finally get to the important questions: Why does the Pentagon treat public hardware as private property? Why does the government grant and deny access to that hardware based on a filmmaker’s willingness to let the Pentagon influence the script? And doesn’t such a practice violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against government abridging freedom of speech?


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106 Comments on "25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war"


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1 year 9 months ago

I think it's a great thing to have patriotic, even pro-war movies.

That being said, making films is not the governments business at all. And military property is public property, not private property. No filmmaker has any business making use of public property to make their own private films. I don't care what they are filming.

There is no fine line here, the government must not be involved in movies on any level at all.

2 years 4 months ago

The makers of Top Gun undoubtedly "sold out" to the Pentagon and made a Navy approved recruiting film.

But Cash and Epps, the screenwriters, and Tony Scott, the director, got in a lick or two in return.

As Quentin Tarantino correctly noted, they turned the entire film into a gay send-up.

Who came out on top? Hard to say.

4 years 7 months ago
at everyone in order to get to the truth of the present and the future you need to go back to the past and the real gospels you know the ones that are hidden from us and really read the hostory and im not talking HISTORY books or WIKIPEDIA that stuff is so diluted go to actual books that have been made by people who really know and have researched their history!!! its so crazy but it will open your eyes even more becaause you will understand from the beginning whats really going on book of enoch angel wars go… Read more »
4 years 7 months ago

What I find interesting is that every time a big event takes place — politically that is — be it a war, an attack, an invasion, an assassination — Hollywood comes out with a film about the event, as if to present the 'official' — and the one that goes with their agenda — to the masses, so when they look back in history, they remember the events filtered through the film. The power of film is incredible. Some people can't distinguish between real and REEL images.

4 years 8 months ago
America always used propaganda,through media and movies,does it makes sense to dupe your citizens to go to another Country(ies) to fight terrorism,when u don't know who the bad guy in any of the countries,so common sense will say that they out for natural resources and don't tell me its Osama and Al qaeeda cos Osama was Bushes friend way before 9-11 and Osama denied that he did 9-11 anyways Obama would fake kill Osama and still Americans sees that nothing benefited them cos Obama made empty promises at elections ,and bk on track Al qaeeda was a org who against… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago
America always used propaganda,through media and movies,does it makes sense to dupe your citizens to go to another Country(ies) to fight terrorism,when u don't know who the bad guy, in any of the countries,so common sense will say that they out for natural resources and don't tell me its Osama and Al qaeeda cos Osama was Bushes friend way before 9-11 and Osama denied he even did 9-11 so Obama could fake kill Osama,and al qaeeda was a org who against their afghani government,4 americans 2 barge in sum1s country n kill the innocent citizens because americans looking for a… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago

Propaganda through films seems pretty ineffective compared to training children for live combat through video games. How many thousands queued up to pay for Call of Duty?

I can just imagine all these little minds warped on ritalin and aspartame spending hours a day playing graphic war games only to become the Gestapo youth of the future.

If you have children.. do us a favour and give'm an empty box and crayons to play with.

4 years 8 months ago

Everybody share, reblog, write about this article, respond to the newspapers who publish it (while comments are still open). Tell them we see their games and we don't accept what they are doing. They can only continue doing this to us if we say nothing, it's as good as giving our permission for them to continue.

4 years 8 months ago

I love this website. Lots of facts here. To bad the majority of the public does not know. I friend/ex boyfriend of mine is hell bent on joining the Marines and I beg him not to. There is so much you can do with your life…

4 years 8 months ago

just wanted to comment that last night i heard on the radio, "the center for disease control may be knocking on your door soon." i told my brohter it would be a good way to get rid of anti-nwo/christians without anyone knowing what is really happening, scan them like in that will smith movie and then quarantine them, once you got them all together away from the ignorant ppl, try to reprogram or execute them.

The Peoples Grim Rea
4 years 8 months ago

Besides it's "obvisous" illuminati affilation, it's a great movie. But I'm sure America kids are influenced by the History there taught in school about American History, Its all about War, I'm guessing most of you are American, take a little responsibilty for it, getting involved in over seas wars that have nothing to with you. You ain't the World Police. Damn.

4 years 8 months ago

"Evil made fair-seeming." Propaganda mixed with dis-information, black arts couple with attractive actors to make it more appealing. NCIS was one of my favorite shows until I noticed that many of their episodes were making Islam and the Middle East = terrorist episodes. Once in a while some family member gets revenge or it involves greed/technology. The original Law & Order still rocks though on some occasions it follows a similar formula.

Maurice Rose
4 years 8 months ago

Whenever I watch Top-Gun, I imagine it's Canadian fighter aircraft shooting down American fighter jets.

4 years 8 months ago

I love TOP GUN. And I like war a little too much. Ha ha.

4 years 8 months ago
War just sickens me all together. What is the purpose of it? I mean, the purpose that the people have been brainwashed to believe of it. How does it even work? I killed more people than u, I win! ? This is 2011 not the 1500s. "dying for our country" yes. The country that could give a f if you die. The country that wants u dead. Looks like you accomplished that. Do we not understand that people are people no matter where in the world you are? I'm sure we all know people from foreign countries. What makes them… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago


I read your post, but the IRS came about after the formation of the (not)Federal Reserve in 1910.

Form 1040EZ was established afterwards. Before the Fed, there was no IRS.

C. M. Hamko
4 years 8 months ago

I watched a video exactly like this article on http://www.truthreporter.com and I'm convinced that Washington totally uses Hollywood as a propaganda tool. I just looked the video up. It's called Empire – Hollywood and the war machine. Check it out. An eyeopener.

4 years 8 months ago

Well, propaganda films disguised as hollywood movies is nothing new, that's what hollywood is for! The military has been doing this at least since WWII. I'm surprised this surprises anyone.

4 years 8 months ago

This is terrible. Truly, they are making us fight one another by using deception. But for what? For their entertainment? For the extinction of sane mankind?

Hope those boys will see the light.

better job
4 years 8 months ago

hey look at the house that was given to naomi campbell in a form of Horus eyes


4 years 8 months ago
When I first saw the picture, I thought "what was wrong with that?" It was cool architecture — big circular transparent dome with 25 rooms. But one of the pictures shows that it's in part of an oval, like the eye the commenter mentioned. The rest of the pictures show the whole thing in context. At that point, it's no longer cool, or accidental. It is clearly the Egyptian symbol, deliberately realized, and bigger than life. Or as one (Italian?) commentator said: "satânica!!!" I realize that Egyptians in general did not directly worship satan. But those series of pictures are… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago

Wow! She lives in that eye? Goodness I can't believe my eyes. Lol

Tango Cash
4 years 8 months ago

The military needs to go to war every ten years to use up its bombs and bullets. I'm pretty sure they have a "best before date" stamped on them. So, unlucky for whomever is the "enemy of the month", all that ordinance will be used on you. Then the government can buy more military supplies and keep the economy going. Eisenhower was right.

4 years 8 months ago
I remember how I first watched the movie with others from my sports team as a teenager in the mid 80s. It also had this effect on me that I was fascinated by planes for a while and I considered to study aviation and aerospace but decided not to because I did not want to end up constructing military planes that would be used to kill people. It was said however at the time that if you study this you more likely end up constructing cars. I also considered to study physics but then decided not to, because they said… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago
I was actually going to write wanting to go into aeronautical engineering as well! But that's because before I saw Top Gun, for a school book report I read the book "The Right Stuff,' which is supposed the idea behind the movie. The movie itself didn't impress me as much as the book did (more about the engineering, discipline, and political climate that went into that field of study rather than the personalities). (BTW, I decided on another major. Good thing too, as I learned later the aero/astro fields suffered tremendous cutbacks in the 1990s. One of the more prolific… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago

When they say 'christians' on USA news I believe they are referring to mostly catholics/Pope/Rome as they (american media) seem to basically worship the Pope or at least think very highly of the Pope. In my opinion the Pope orders 'wars'/control of land all over the place and throughout time. I think the nazis even took orders from the pope. These are not real 'christians'..plus the news lies so who knows what's going on.

Back to the topic, heh, my friends and I used to have a crush on Anthony Edwards Top Gun character 'Goose'

Wooska Bob
4 years 8 months ago

anti-war Christians? now I've seen everything!

I thought Christians totally supported the destruction of those filthy heathens ordered by their demi-god George W Bush

Wooska Bob
4 years 8 months ago

but Sarah Connor, Christians are the ones that got Dubya elected in the first place

there's no denying that the majority of Christians in America are gullible and will do whatever the party or politicians that claim to be on their side tell them to do without questioning it, just as they will follow the same old dogma that their pastors and preachers tell them to believe without reading the Bible and coming to their own conclusions

I wish more Christians did that, otherwise we may not be in the shape we are in today

4 years 8 months ago
you are making HUGE generalizations here. i believe i am not alone when i say, as a Christian i vote for the person who is "the least of the two evils". i have been aware most of my life that politics is a joke and it doesn't really matter who you vote for, the results are the same. most of the Christians i know vote mainly on the moral issues, which make sense, since Christians are generally the people who actually believe in having morals. but stating that they blindly follow a political "leader" is total rubbish. what are WE… Read more »
Sarah Connor
4 years 8 months ago

Agreed – but we are passing the indoctrination phase of humanity and are moving into the unveiling. There are many Christians waking up to this realization, and seeing the web of lies and deceit that has been placed around us…..with a loud voice I might add. It's a process. Breaking through decades of conditioning and confronting our cognitive dissonance is a bugger! agamble said it best, there IS hope.

Sarah Connor
4 years 8 months ago


George W is NO (neither is Perry FYI) Christian and only can claim he is 'born again' because of a ritual he went through in skull and bones. He is a practicing black magik occultist with so many skeletons in his closet they could populate a country. The USSA was duped, and many more are speaking up against the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned against than ever before.


4 years 8 months ago


I am changing my opinion of you:) You are spot on with this. I was beginning to believe the good Christians of the world were waiting for Christ's return with their eyes closed. There is hope.

4 years 8 months ago

That movie is called 'Wag The Dog'. Awesome movie.