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TOPGUN Graduates compare the real thing to the movie

“Top Gun” movies vs. reality

“Top Gun: Maverick” gets a reality check from real graduates


“Top Gun: Maverick” was one of the highest grossing and most recognized films of 2022 The revival of the Tom Cruise classic has given audiences another taste of flying the US Navy’s most advanced aircraft. But how accurate was it?

This week on 60 Minutes, Correspondent Norah O’Donnell interviews Admiral Samuel Paparo, Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet and TOPGUN graduate. O’Donnell Adm. Paparo asked how the Hollywood version compared to the real thing.

“I saw a few maneuvers and I turned to my kids and described what they were,” Adm. Paparo told 60 Minutes. “And there were a lot of techniques in air combat that were totally applicable…I thought the flying scenes in the first one were incredible. But ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ had more realism.”


Caption: Add. Samuel Paparo walks alongside the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Eric Karchner/60 Minutes

In his post, Adm. Paparo oversees about 200 ships and about 150,000 sailors and civilians, some of whom graduated from the Navy’s famed school for fighter pilots.

“Flying is fairly accurate, to some extent,” Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Tucker told O’Donnell. “The camera shots on the plane were…real. But as far as the fake mission, and kind of the story behind it, maybe not that accurate.”

Tucker said, a real TOPGUN wouldn’t ring a penny bell in a bar.

One thing the film gets right is that all naval aviators have call signs that they use in the air while flying. While on the USS Nimitz, 60 Minutes didn’t see a Maverick, Goose or Rooster, but a Frodo, Bubbles and Foggy Bear.

You can watch Norah O’Donnell’s two-part story on the US Navy and its preparations for potential military conflict below.

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The video at the top was produced by Keith Zubrow, Keith Sherman and Roxanne Feitel and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.

“Top Gun: Maverick” was produced by Paramount, CBS’ parent company.

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