How Top Gun Set the Stage for a Military Coup in Movies


Financing a film that involves military-grade vehicles, weapons, and other gear is an expensive business for producers, especially if realism and authenticity are a goal for the filmmakers. As for “Top Gun” in particular, it involved dozens of jet planes, four aircraft carriers at sea, and allowed filming of the entire Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego. According to a 1986 report by Time Magazine, the film’s producers paid $1.8 million to license these assets directly from the Pentagon because finding substitutes or trying to manufacture these assets would be so costly that the film would not would not have been realized.

However, the cost of military assets turns out to be more than just financial value. Where filmmakers agree to borrow resources directly from the Pentagon, there is also an agreement that the Pentagon is allowed to make creative input into how they are portrayed in each respective film, by directly approving scripts. This is where the Department of Defense and its public affairs officers come in, and there are entire offices dedicated to the various armed forces and their respective collaborations with Hollywood. Although the DOD claims to primarily verify the accuracy and removal of sensitive information, it’s not a huge leap that there is a bias towards films that present the military in a positive light.


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