Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski explains why the sequel has the same style opening as the original. The first Top Gun was released in 1986, helping to launch the careers of both Tom Cruise and director Tony Scott. The film featured an iconic soundtrack that has remained a defining aspect of the film, including the score by Harold Faltermeyer, who crafted the Top Gun theme. The opening sequence features footage of F-14 fighter jets taking off from an aircraft carrier while Faltermeyer’s score plays over it before leading into Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” another song that became synonymous with the film (and is also featured in the sequel).
Another aspect of Top Gun‘s opening that featured prominently was the opening card, which outlined the background of Top Gun as it relates to real life, relaying how the actual school the film is based on was formed on March 3rd, 1969 by the U.S. Navy. The purpose of the school was to teach the art of aerial combat to the top one percent of pilots in the Navy, ensuring that they are best fighter pilots in the world. The elite school was originally called the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, but was referred to as Top Gun by the pilots. Today, the program remains, but has been renamed The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (SFTI program) and is still referred to as Top Gun unofficially.
In an interview with THR, Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski says that the Faltermeyer score was a big influence in starting the film off the same as the first, as he considers it as iconic as Star Wars’ theme. While the same piece of Top Gun theme music that played in the original plays in Top Gun: Maverick, there is one notable difference in the title sequence, which involves the opening card. The original read “…to insure that the handful of men who graduated…” to “…to insure that the handful of men and women who graduated…” as there are now female fighter pilots (who began integrating into the Navy and Air Force in the early 90s). Here’s what Kosinski had to say about the changes and similarities of the opening:
Harold Faltermeyer’s score, is as iconic to me as Star Wars, which is why wanted to start the film in the same way as the first film. Well, everyone is saying it is the exact same [start] as the first film, but it’s not. I added “men and women” to the opening paragraph. I hope people notice that, because women do fly for Top Gun now.
Kosinski also discussed how he had to innovate in the same way that director Tony Scott did at the time of the first film’s production, capturing flight “in a way that had never been done before.” Kosinski’s first goal was to shoot Cruise in real F-18s (one of the Navy’s current in-use fighter jets), which turned into getting the entire cast of fighter pilot actors getting into the jets, which had Cruise designing a course that got all the actors prepared for the project. Being able to shoot all the actors in the cockpit of the F-18 while in flight “opens the whole movie up,” according to Kosinski, carrying the torch forward for the late Tony Scott in making Top Gun: Maverick something fresh and new for audiences.
The hype behind Top Gun: Maverick can’t be understated at this point. Great reviews and decades of anticipation have created an air of excitement, propelled by the footage and trailers already revealed that promise a return to what made the original a classic. Cruise’s commitment, along with the rest of the cast and crew, is looking to be delivering a summer blockbuster that’s long overdue.