Top Gun Maverick: How the Movies Became the Military’s Most Important Promotional Tool

This week, the critically acclaimed one top gun Sequel arrives at a time when US diplomacy might as well be stuck in the 1980s: Russia is on the rise, the threat of nuclear war looms over geopolitics like a toxic cloud, and Tom Cruise sits as Pete “Maverick.” “ back in the cockpit ” Mitchell, who looked barely a day older than when he first donned aviator goggles in 1986. His quintessentially American cool and fetishistic patriotism also reinforces a very modern trend in film around the world: cinema as a military recruiting tool.

More than 800 Hollywood films have been heavily supported by the US military over the last century, dating back to the 1927 Academy Award winner for Best Picture wing and the misfires The Green Berets (1968), a corny White House-sanctioned Vietnam War film released at the height of the conflict. However, not until we first heard the callsigns of Goose, Jester and Iceman in the original top gun that this “quid pro quo” really hit the mark: The film’s combination of dizzying dogfights, pounding MTV-friendly soundtrack, and shirtless beach volleyball helped boost US Navy recruitment by 500 percent upon its release . Directed by the late Tony Scott, this testosterone sandwich from a movie was such a successful piece of marketing that recruiting booths were installed in movie theaters to capitalize on the hype.

The prospect of a similar PR boost via Top Gun: Maverick It couldn’t have come at a better time for US frontrunners, who are currently facing some of their biggest recruiting challenges in decades. In April, state senators were told how the US Army was facing a “war for talent” amid shrinking battalion numbers, echoing Air Force officials’ admission that their own pool of qualified candidates had shrunk by half since Covid began . Things weren’t looking too rosy for the Navy either, which said in February that 5,000 to 6,000 sailors were at sea. A month before those statements, Chinese ships were in pursuit of a US warship in the South China Sea and warned it of “serious consequences” after it allegedly entered illegal waters.

So it’s no wonder that Uncle Sam has once again welcomed Paramount Pictures with open arms loner, and grants Director Joseph Kosinski and his crew unrestricted access to highly sensitive naval installations, including a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. World-class technicians provided the cast with world-class fighter pilot training right through to seat ejection, and the actors took to the skies as production crews placed cameras in F/A-18 Super Hornets.

In return, as in the original film, the Navy received script clearance. That could also explain why Top Gun: Maverick never goes into detail about its villains – instead, the audience is simply informed that “the enemy” is a rogue state hell-bent on enriching uranium. Let’s say it rhymes with “Diran”.

Another coup for the Top Gun: Maverick production team an opportunity to work directly with American gun manufacturer Lockheed Martin and its secretive division Skunk Works. Keyboards were lit when one of the film’s early trailers teased the Darkstar hypersonic aircraft, a modern-day Cold War-era variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. The plane wasn’t a real prototype, but China shouldn’t know that. Corresponding top gun Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the Chinese moved one of their spy satellites to photograph the prop plane during filming, believing it was real. “They thought it was real,” he said Sandboxx news. “It looks so real.”

Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick

(Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures)

In a world of increasing technological superiority, where Russian state television is soberly simulating the devastation of Britain by a radioactive tsunami, information (and even disinformation) is king. The bigger the audience, the bigger the message, making the expanding global box office the ideal place for more subterfuge and showmanship.

In fact, Department of Defense (DOD) support. Top Gun: Maverick will be petty change compared to some of the numbers China has been pumping into state-sponsored cinema lately. The film about the Korean War The Battle of Changjin Lake, which was released in 2021, was funded almost entirely by Beijing’s propaganda department at £160m and became the highest-grossing film in Chinese history at £730m. It even spawned a sequel – Water Gate Bridge – which topped the domestic box office that year. But it also faced stiff competition from another piece of anti-American propaganda packaged as a fantastic Korean War film: sniper, about legendary real-life Chinese sniper Zhang Taofang, who inflicted 214 confirmed killings of US soldiers in less than 40 days. Significantly, the film’s tagline was “Send Them All Back To Hell!”

From the sheer number of tickets sold, it’s clear that there is a thirst for this kind of revisionist entertainment. In Russia, cinema audiences do not exactly reject nationalistic offers on the big screen. Take 2019 T-34, a bombastic fictional drama about a group of Russian POWs who escape from a Nazi concentration camp in a Soviet T-34 tank. It is currently the third highest-grossing Russian film in history. As pointed as the phallic arsenal that is regularly paraded up and down Red Square, the film was made as part of a Kremlin program to restore pride among young people. As seen in the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin was anxious to bring home the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany as much as possible with a hammer and sickle.

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While certainly not as stodgy as their international counterparts, many of this century’s most successful Hollywood blockbusters have been produced in collaboration with the Pentagon, including avatar, the Transformers franchise and many Marvel films. In the lead up to 2008 iron mana real Captain America — Captain Christian Hodge, the military’s on-set handler — excitedly told his superiors that “the Air Force is going to look like rock stars.” iron man may be a comic book adaptation, but maybe we should have known that a movie about an American arms supplier who designs a super suit to travel to Afghanistan and kill terrorists is a bit on the nose. Somehow, however, this unlikely partnership between the MCU and the DOD managed to fly under the radar for the better part of a decade.

That was of course until 2019 Captain Marvel. Starring Brie Larson as an Air Force ace with otherworldly superpowers, it was pilloried in many circles for playing out like a military recruiting film. And rightly so in many respects. The film is unashamedly “Team America”: The US Air Force helped with script research, filming locations and technical advice, and commissioned recruitment ads featuring female Air Force pilots that ran in US theaters prior to the film. At the film’s world premiere, serving pilots lined the red carpet and an elite squadron performed a flyover. It’s no coincidence that the military was trying to diversify its talent pool at the time, but for all of the film’s feminist undertones, it still opened a can of worms for Disney.

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel


In the local area, British cinemas have also been seen as fertile ground for military recruitment in recent years, with armed forces advertising now as synonymous with a trip to multiplex as sticky floors and expensive pick ‘n’ mix. “I’m Kevin, I was born in a provincial town, but I was born on this giant aircraft carrier in the Baltic Sea,” explains the typical voiceover type. Whether they’re from the Royal Navy or the Marine Commandos, each seems more cinematic than the last. In 2018, as part of the British Army’s This Is Belonging campaign, bespoke ads for blockbusters were shown in specially equipped 4DX cinemas, targeting people aged 16-24. Advertising company Digital Cinema Media said the collaboration “proved a perfect creative fit – enabling the Army to drive awareness, message uptake and consideration in a unique, engaging and uncluttered setting.”

Who knows? Maybe as you settle down to watch the return of Maverick, who fires it in midair, you’ll feel compelled to climb into a fighter jet yourself. Or maybe you’re just feeling nostalgic for a CGI-Lite blockbuster that feels like a real throwback. Either way, as appetites for action movies and armament contracts soar, you can expect the big screen to play a leading role in military strategy for the considerable future. Navy chiefs haven’t lost that loving feeling yet. Top Gun Maverick: How the Movies Became the Military’s Most Important Promotional Tool


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