Top Gun

The Navy Changed Goose’s Original Top Gun D.eath (& Made It Better)

Top Gun's script was changed by the Navy and this censorship resulted in Goose getting a more emotionally involving, effective death sequence.

Goose’s death in Top Gun ended up perfect – but this was only because the Navy refused to approve his original demise. The Navy had a large role in shaping Top Gun, resulting in behind-the-scenes cuts and alterations regarding the finished film. Director Tony Scott’s 1986 blockbuster proved to be a useful recruitment tool for the Navy upon release, with scouts setting up recruitment booths outside screenings of Top Gun and recruitment rates increasing by 500% in the year following Top Gun’s release.

Perhaps sensing the recruitment potential of the film, the military institution continued to play a big role in the first Top Gun movie’s development later in production. Originally, Maverick’s friend Goose died in a more spectacular midair collision that left flaming wreckage burning aboard an aircraft carrier, but the Navy censored this draft of the death. The Navy noted that two pilots careening into each other would make their recruits look bad, resulting in a new version of the death. This revision ended up making Goose’s death much more impactful and dramatically effective.

How Goose’s Death Changed In Top Gun

At the Navy’s command, Goose’s Top Gun death became a training exercise accident because, according to the Navy’s notes, too many pilots were crashing in the original script. It is not hard to see the logic behind the change, as Goose’s original Top Gun death did make the Navy look like they weren’t particularly competent at a pivotal point in the movie. However, this script change also made Goose a direct victim of Iceman and Maverick’s hubris and rivalry, rather than depicting two separate Navy pilots accidentally crashing into each other, thus improving Top Gun’s story as well as satisfying the Navy’s demands.

Why The Navy Could Change Top Gun’s Story

Like many American blockbusters, the first Top Gun movie received access to legitimate real-life military equipment in exchange for giving the Navy increased creative control. This meant that the Navy could change anything that made the institution look bad (which is why Top Gun’s famous “rip-off” Iron Eagle couldn’t get the Navy’s approval, since its story centered on a teen successfully stealing a plane from them). The Navy had a bigger hand in shaping Top Gun’s plot than most movies since the entire plot was reliant on access to then-cutting-edge technology and the production would have been brought to a standstill if this permission as denied.

The Pentagon’s script changes may also be the reason that Top Gun never explicitly names the country that its villains are from, as this could have been seen as pointless antagonism of real-life geopolitical rivals during the Cold War. However, this could also be because Top Gun’s creators followed John Carpenter’s advice when the legendary horror helmer turned down the chance to direct the movie. Carpenter noted that a dogfight between American and Soviet planes in 1986 – which was included in the original script for Top Gun – would have led to World War III, before telling the filmmakers to “get real”; a dressing down that might have led to the notably nation-less MiG-28s seen in the finished film.


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