You'd think that basically everybody in the U.S. Navy, and especially all Naval Aviators, must love Top Gun. It has to be their favorite movie, ever, right? And yet, don't go to Top Gun and start quoting Tom Cruise lines in Top Gun, because doing so will apparently cost you five bucks every time you do like you're dropping a quarter in the swear jar.
The new book Top Gun's Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit by Cmdr. Guy "Bus" Snodgrass, reveals (via Business Insider) that among the various rules one will find when attending the school that inspired Top Gun is one that requires pilots to pay $5 every time they are caught quoting the movie. They're expected to pay in cash the minute they get busted, no excuses. Snodgrass is a former instructor at the Navy's advanced Fighter Weapons School, formerly located at Miramar, California, now found in the Nevada desert.
So why is Top Gun so hard on Top Gun? Part of it could be the fact that, with the movie being over three decades old, literally everybody is just sick of hearing somebody shout "I feel the need, the need for speed" every time they get out of their fighter. But it seems there's a little more to it than that. While Fighter Weapons Scool actually looks sort of fun in Top Gun, it's really a very serious place where everybody is expected to be at the top of their game, and to show it. As Snodgrass explains...
But, when you get to TOPGUN, because it is such a professional organization and you want to emphasize that you are at the top of your game, that it's about professionalism, about good leadership, you don't turn TOPGUN into a joke by referencing the movie.
Everybody loves Top Gun, but it's a movie, and this is real life, and the U.S. Navy doesn't want its pilots making a joke out of the real thing by making jokes about the film. Having said that, the author says that basically everybody gets hit with the Top Gun fine at least once, as the movie is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of Naval Aviators that it's impossible for them to not quote it now and then.
I suppose this makes some sense. If you did run around quoting the movie while you were taking classes in the actual Fighter Weapons School you might give the impression that you weren't taking the whole thing seriously, and if the school is there to train the best of the best, you should probably act like it. Pulling off moves like flipping people off while inverted in a fighter jet makes for a great movie. The U.S. military probably really doesn't care for that sort of thing.
Of course, with a sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick on the way, there are likely going to be a bunch of new great lines to quote, and a bunch of pilots who are going to go see it, and it's so much harder not to quote a good movie when it's fresh in your mind. The U.S. Navy may be about to make a small fortune in pilot fines.