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A recent social media post shows that when it comes to Top Gun: Maverick the US Navy are protective of ‘their’ territory and don’t want the Air Force muscling in on the act.  The movie is expected to be the greatest military recruitment vehicle since… well, since the original Top Gun, and while the Air Force are keen to associate themselves with Maverick the Navy are not happy.

This conflict goes back to the original movie, when a Pentagon-funded survey carried out in the wake of its release found that audiences thought the ships belonged to the Navy but the aircraft were from the Air Force.  Even though the film went to great lengths to establish that these are Navy planes, flown by Navy pilots, the movie still resulted in a boost in recruitment for the Air Force.

So when the US Air Force posted a picture of an inverted F-35 quoting the ‘we were inverted’ line from Top Gun the US Navy felt they were muscling in on the action. They responded, ‘@usairforce Leave the #TopGun quotes to us’.

Air Force officials have spoken about their desire to associate the USAF with the movie, likely anticipating a similar recruitment bonus as they did back in the 1980s.  This has pitched them into a squabble with the Navy, which started when Tom Cruise first posted a picture from the set of the film back in June 2018.  In response to that picture the Air Force and Navy got into a spat over whose aircraft are faster, and this new insta-squabble is unlikely to be the end of the story.

I am anticipating that Top Gun Maverick will be the biggest movie of 2020, and could break through the $2 billion revenue mark.  As such, the co-branding opportunities for the US military branches are the type that come round once in a generation.  Given the predominance of smaller scale military movies focusing on a small band of special forces (think Lone Survivor or 12 Strong) Top Gun: Maverick is something of a throwback to films like Air Force One, where the military hardware is one of the stars of the show.  Even the last Transformers film focused on Navy SEALs rather than F-35s and aircraft carriers.

So it is no surprise to see the PR offices of the different military branches tripping over each others dicks to try to link and associate themselves with the new Top Gun.  I’m just hoping the sequel stays true to its roots as one of the gayest films Hollywood ever produced – at least until Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.


DOD Film Office file on Top Gun