May 16th marks 30 years to the day since Top Gun first flew into theaters and changed the face of military flight school films forever. Single handedly popularizing aviator sunglasses, bomber jackets and Tom Cruise, Top Gun is a quintessential ’80s movie filled to the cockpit with timeless power ballads, shirtless locker room scenes, and a whole lot of sunsets.
Following the wild maneuverings of devil-may-care hotshot Lieutenant Pete Mitchell and his loyal wingman Goose, the film introduced audiences to the U.S. fighter weapons program where an elite few learned the fine art of aerial combat along with love, loss, and epic high-fives. Basically a $15 million two-hour recruiting video for the Navy, Top Gun made war look cool, prompting young boys everywhere to become fighter pilots and play volleyball.
As we celebrate 30 years of having our need for speed satisfied and get ready to take flight again with Top Gun 2, let’s find out what happened to the cast after they earned their wings in this ’80s classic.
Here’s Where Are They Now? The Cast of Top Gun.
12. Val Kilmer (Lt. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazanski)
Already a rising star from Real Genius and Top Secret!, Val Kilmer originally wanted nothing to do with Top Gun and only appeared in it under contractual obligations. But it’s hard to imagine a better fit for the jaw-chomping, flat topped, flying ace Iceman.
By the mid-90s, Val Kilmer was one of Hollywood’s top leading men. Following his turn as Ice, he went on to star in the much-beloved Willow, play Jim Morrison in The Doors, appear in one of the best Westerns of all-time as Doc Holliday in Tombstone, before reaching the pinnacle of his fame as the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever. However, after a string of box office flops and a reputation for being difficult to work with, Kilmer’s star power began to wane. But that hasn’t kept him from working (a lot) in guest appearances and supporting roles.
Cruise and Kilmer were famously reported to have hated each other on the set of Top Gun, but all’s well that ends well. It appears the two have buried the hatchet enough to be each other’s wingmen once again, as it’s reported Kilmer will be reprising the role of Iceman in Top Gun 2.
11. Tom Skerritt (Cmdr. Mike ‘Viper’ Metcalf)
A 25-year veteran of the business, Tom Skerritt and his dashing mustache played the battle-tested chief flight instructor in Top Gun. Having known the young pilot’s father and flown in the classified mission in which he died, Viper takes it upon himself to guide Maverick as a sage mentor.
Prior to Top Gun, Skerritt most notably appeared in 1979’s Alien. Following it, he continued to work steadily in both TV and film, even comically playing himself in Ted. Now in his 80s, Skerritt still pops-up from time to time in small roles, most recently in The Good Wife, Madame Secretary and Tom Hank’s A Hologram for the King.
At the end of the day though, we’ll always remember Skerritt for helping Maverick find himself in the clouds above Miramar airfield. And that mustache.
10. Tim Robbins (Lt. JG Sam ‘Merlin’ Wells)
As Merlin, Tim Robbins had the thankless job of filling the shoes of Goose as Maverick’s co-pilot in the last epic dogfight of the film. Robbins’ role pretty much consisted of him frantically looking around the cockpit to spot MiGs for Tom Cruise to blow up and then smile upon their triumphant return to base. Luckily for Robbins, he would get a second chance that year to wow audiences in Howard the Duck.
Of course, Tim Robbins would eventually go on to bigger and better things, with critically acclaimed films like Bull Durham, The Player, The Shawshank Redemption and Mystic River, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He continues to work regularly today, having appeared in the Green Lantern and War of the Worlds, alongside Tom Cruise.
Tim Robbins has also directed, and famously spent 26 years happily unmarried to Susan Sarandon, until they separated in 2009. Most recently, he was in The Spoils of Babylon (with Val Kilmer) and the HBO series The Brink with Jack Black.
9. John Stockwell (Lt. Bill ‘Cougar’ Cortell)
Cougar was the man that set the plot of Top Gun in motion, after a mid-air freakout forced him to relinquish his spot at the flight academy. This made way for Maverick to shine, hookup with one of his instructors and then have a similar mid-air freak out. Though he appears on-screen the least of anyone here, without Cougar, there’d be no movie, and that means no Danger Zone.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the former-model John Stockwell would continue acting until he found his true calling as a director. He would go on to helm such films as Blue Crush, Crazy/Beautiful and the upcoming Kickboxer reboot starring Jean Claude Van Damme and Gina Carano.
8. Rick Rossovich (Lt. JG Ron ‘Slider’ Kerner)
Perhaps best known as that other guy from the shirtless volleyball scene, Rick Rossovich was Val Kilmer’s co-pilot in Top Gun. A wingman in every sense of the word, Slider was by Iceman’s side throughout the entire film, backing him up on every jab thrown Maverick’s way. Though Mav does have the most memorable comeback, when he lets Slider know just how much he stinks.
Over the span of his career, Rick Rossovich worked in over 40 films and TV shows. Prior to his stint as Slider, he was in The Terminator and Losin’ It, which also starred fellow Top Gun alums Tom Cruise and John Stockwell. Later on, Rossovich worked on TV shows ER and Pacific Blue, and appeared in films like Navy Seals. For the most part, Rick Rossovich is now retired, however for a while it was possible to keep tabs on him by enjoying the daily musings on his blog.
7. Michael Ironside (Lt. Cmdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly)
Aside from having one of the toughest sounding last names ever, Michael Ironside has had quite the career as an actor, director, screenwriter, producer and voice over artist. In Top Gun, he played a flight instructor who lets it be known in equal measure just how impressed and unimpressed he is with Maverick and his reckless seat-of-the-pants flying style.
Known typically for playing villains or hardened military types, Mr. Ironside has worked more than anyone else on this list. This includes 1990’s Total Recall, Scanners, Starship Troopers, Terminator Salvation, X-Men: First Class, Smallville and The Flash. A few probably also realize that the voice of Darkseid in Superman: The Animated Series, the super spy Sam Fisher in the video game Splinter Cell, and even Batman in an episode of The New Batman Adventures was from the same guy that helped train Tom Cruise to fly. And as a two-time cancer survivor, he’s just as tough in real life as his last name suggests.
6. Meg Ryan (Carole Bradshaw)
As the vivacious, candidly Southern-accented wife of Goose, Meg Ryan made a loud entrance into the world of cinema with Top Gun. Largely unknown prior, she makes the most of her brief time on screen by flexing her acting chops mourning her husband, singing Great Balls of Fire, and dishing out one of the most memorable lines of the movie with, “Take me to bed or lose me forever.”
Meg Ryan started her career in soaps, but once she struck it big in Top Gun quickly refined her cute persona into one of America’s top rom-com queens. Her endearing hits include When Harry Met Sally, French Kiss and the Tom Hanks-trilogy Joe vs the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. In real life, she briefly dated her on-screen Top Gun husband, Anthony Edwards, and had a rather public marriage, and divorce, to Dennis Quaid. After a brief break from the spotlight in the early 2000s, she has since returned in ensemble pieces and most recently made her directorial debut with Ithaca, starring Hanks.
Today, her appearance in Top Gun has been relegated to more of a “she’s in this?” role than anything else. But here’s hoping she returns for its sequel with Goose’s son in tow wanting to become a fighter pilot under the tutelage of a Tom Skerritt-mustached Maverick. Hey, it worked for
Rocky VII Creed.
5. F-14 Tomcat
Forget Tom Cruise, the real star of Top Gun was the F-14 Tomcat. Sure, the movie is best known for being an ’80s cultural benchmark, but above all else, it is fighter jet porn. The pride of the U.S. Navy and America, the F-14s used in the film led to the creation of some truly spectacular aerial footage. All the more impressive since it was done sans CGI, something that they’re fortunately looking to replicate for Top Gun 2.
But like a few of its fellow cast members, the F-14 eventually retired and was replaced in 2006 by a younger, faster, more confusingly named model – the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. In its prime, though, it was the fighter to beat, and deserved every bit of the screen time it got alongside fellow hotshots Maverick and Iceman. After all, this is probably the closest most of us will ever come to being in an F-14 dogfight with Val Kilmer.
4. Anthony Edwards (Lt. JG Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw)
Goose, aka Nick Bradshaw, aka the only one wearing a shirt in the otherwise shirtless volleyball scene, goes down in history as one of cinema’s greatest wingmen. Maverick’s radar intercept officer, Polaroid photographer and loyal friend, Goose was liked by everyone, even Iceman, which made his on-screen death so traumatizing. Anyone that can sing “Great Balls of Fire” that well and has the gumption to sport a mustache in the same film as Tom Skerritt deserves better.
Anthony Edwards already had two hits on hands with Revenge of the Nerds and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but after his history-making turn as Goose, he would most famously go on to play Dr. Mark Greene for eight seasons on E.R. Recently, he has ceremoniously returned to the skies, voicing the fighter jet Echo in Disney’s Planes, this time playing wingman to Val Kilmer’s Bravo.
But he’ll always be Goose in our hearts. Would it be too much to ask for him to return as a ghost, or genetically modified clone, in Top Gun 2? It wasn’t ridiculous at all when Ripley did it in Alien Resurrection.
3. Kelly McGillis (Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Blackwood)
As civilian contractor with a PhD in astrophysics, Charlie really just wanted to know about Mavericks’ inverted MiG encounter, but instead got her breath taken away by his wide grin and ability to make out with her on motorcycles. In a film swimming in machismo, Charlie swooped in with her wavy blonde hair, red lipstick and bunched up sleeves to epitomize ’80s style and feminine power. Also, it was important she was there so Tom Cruise could sing “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.”
Kelly McGillis had already caught her big break by the time Top Gun flew her way as Harrison Ford’s amish love interest in Witness, but she found iconic allure in Top Gun. Following her role as a cultural capstone, McGillis worked steadily throughout the ’80s and ’90s, most notably in The Accused with Jodie Foster. She would eventually take time away to raise her family and even worked full time at a drug rehab center. Today, she occasionally appears in films and TV, and teaches acting. In 2009 she came out, not long after turning in a well-received guest spot on Showtime’s The L Word.
In other news, the real life defense specialist who inspired Kelly McGillis’ character went on to become the highest-ever ranking female official at the Pentagon. It’s probably safe to say Charlie’s bomber jacket is the reason why.
2. Tony Scott (Director)
Brother of famed director Ridley Scott, Tony had an impressive career catapulted by the success of Top Gun, despite being fired and rehired three times during filming. He would go on to direct Beverly Hills Cop 2, True Romance, Unstoppable and a string of other very popular, frenetic, high octane action thrillers. He also worked with Tom Cruise again on Days of Thunder.
Known for sporting his trademark red baseball cap, Tony Scott often collaborated with Denzel Washington, started the award-winning Scott Free Production company with his brother, and had an amazing array of projects in the works such as a remake of The Wild Bunch, an adaptation of Mark Millar’s Nemesis and, most recently, Top Gun 2. Sadly however, Tony Scott died in 2012 at the age of 68 after taking his own life. Thankfully, he left behind a body of work that continues to entertain to this day, and includes one of the most iconic ’80s films ever made.
1. Tom Cruise (Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell)
Tom Cruise is, well, still Tom Cruise.
As Maverick, he played the recklessly daring fighter pilot haunted by his father’s legacy (but not that much) who after a close encounter with a MiG-28, heads off to compete against the Navy’s elite. With Goose in tow, he seduces his teacher, rides his motorcycle, sweats a lot, wins at volleyball, has softly-lit sex, loses Goose because Iceman’s a jerk, quits Top Gun, rejoins Top Gun, talks to Goose’s dog chains, decides to abandon Ice in a dogfight, refuses to leave Ice in the same dogfight, takes out three MiGs, throws away Goose’s dog chains and decides to become a Top Gun flight instructor. It’s quite a movie.
With the one-two punch of Risky Business and Top Gun (has anyone ever done more for the sunglass industry?), the career of Tom Cruise quickly skyrocketed into the stratosphere, making him one of the world’s premiere movie stars and one of Hollywood’s most successful. He is a three-time Oscar-nominated actor, with a resume containing Interview With a Vampire, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, Edge of Tomorrow and five Mission: Impossible‘s. Now in his 50s, the frighteningly ageless Cruise shows no signs of stopping, slated to appear in a slew of upcoming blockbusters including Mission: Impossible 6, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Edge of Tomorrow 2 and The Mummy reboot.
Personally, he’s gone through two marriages, two divorces, one infamous couch jumping, Scientology and a Suri. He continually remains fodder for the tabloids and has had his fair share of bad publicity. But whatever one thinks about him as a father, husband or person, all that really matters is that Top Gun is awesome.
What do you want to see in Top Gun 2? Sound off in the comments section.
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