As great as the film as a whole is, the Top Gun sex scene is an awkward mess that seems to have been pulled out of another, lesser movie – and there is good reason for that. Released in 1986, Top Gun was a massive success that catapulted star Tom Cruise to superstardom. The movie may not have won universal critical acclaim, but Top Gun was soon regarded as an action classic thanks to its propulsive story and breathtaking visuals.


Top Gun director Tony Scott ensured that the story of Maverick, a reckless test pilot with a “need for speed,” looked beautiful and moved fast enough for viewers. However, there was one scene that soon became infamous for how awkward and out-of-place it was. Top Gun’s lone sex scene is infamously awkward, leading many viewers to wonder over the years just how it ended up so bizarrely shot and lit. A black-and-blue series of silhouetted shots see Maverick and Charlie passionate yet strange entanglement. The Top Gun sex scene was hastily added in reshoots long after the movie wrapped at the behest of test audiences. As a result, it stands out of an odd addition to the beloved movie.

Test Audiences And Rushed Production Caused The Top Gun Sex Scene

Maverick singing to Charlie in Top Gun

The effect is off-putting, to say the least, and the Top Gun sex scene regularly ranks alongside Showgirls’ more intentionally campy pool-set romp as one of Hollywood’s most embarrassing sex scenes. Ironically, director Tony Scott accidentally played into Tarantino’s famous theory about Top Gun when he portrayed Maverick and company in a much more flattering light during another scene from the film. As explained in WBUR’s Top Gun retrospective, Scott was unsure how to make the volleyball sequence visually interesting and appealing for viewers, resulting in the action cinema veteran opting to “slick the boys up with baby oil,” a too-effective tactic that resulted in many fans calling this sequence a sexier scene than the movie’s actual sex scene.

In fairness to Scott, the love scene is at least memorably weird and, given the circumstances (shooting a full five months after the film wrapped with a pair of cast members who no longer resembled their respective characters), the result is not unimpressive. However, Top Gun’s lone love scene remains a testament to how misguided it can be to follow the demands of test audiences, and Charlie’s absence from Top Gun: Maverick further proves that the original movie never needed a romantic subplot in the first place. Top Gun is simply about one man, Maverick, and his love of flying/hate of authority – despite what one softly-lit, Berlin-soundtracked scene may try to imply.

Top Gun 2 Wisely Avoided Making The Same Sex Scene Mistake

Penny and Maverick standing close together in Top Gun 2

Fortunately, no such awkward sex scene exists in Top Gun: Maverick, probably as a direct result of how infamous the original one became. The main relationship of the movie is the tension between Maverick and Rooster (Miles Teller) which delivers the emotional core of the movie. Though Maverick’s romantic pairing with Penny (Jennifer Connelly) is a significant subplot and there are some romantic scenes between them, no random sex scene occurs. Ironically, though Maverick’s romance with Penny is less prominent in the sequel, most fans felt that it was a far more effective relationship than the one between Maverick and Charlie in the original Top Gun.

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