It was the F-14 engine that could, a tale of adrenaline-soaked dogfights, macho one-liners and heartfelt yearnings set to a mesmerizing soundtrack that grossed more than 20 times its budget and made stars of its leads, along with director Tony Scott. Let's see what the cast has been up to since Top Gun arrived with a sonic boom in May 1986:
Tom Cruise (Pete "Maverick" Mitchell)
The part of the hell-raising and haunted Maverick was tailor-made for the charismatic Tom Cruise, who became arguably one of the biggest movie stars in the world with his memorable roles in Rain Man (1988), A Few Good Men (1992), Jerry Maguire (1996), Magnolia (1999), Collateral (2004) and many other features. Along the way, there were the celebrity marriages to Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes and the couch-jumping antics that threatened to render him a caricature, but Cruise retained a singular focus on conquering all screen challenges, whether by going against type in the comedy Tropic Thunder (2008) or by plunging himself into the physical demands of filming the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Val Kilmer (Tom "Iceman" Kazansky)
Like Cruise, Val Kilmer rode his performance as Maverick's rival-turned-ally to the top of the pecking order with leading roles in Willow (1988), The Doors (1991), Tombstone (1993), Batman Forever (1995) and Heat (1995). But A-list stardom never quite fit the Julliard-trained actor, and he largely disappeared from the spotlight following the poorly received Red Planet (2000) to focus on smaller projects and a one-man stage play on the life of Mark Twain. Kilmer returned to the headlines after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014, and while a tracheotomy took away his old voice, he survived to tell his tale in the 2020 memoir I'm Your Huckleberry.
Kelly McGillis (Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood)
Her part of the MiG-obsessed love interest sandwiched between celebrated performances in Witness (1985) and The Accused (1988), Kelly McGillis was then on the upswing as one of the big screen's leading ladies. But the break with Hollywood came quickly, as the actress moved to Florida to open a restaurant in the 1990s and, following her own battles with substance abuse, went on to work at a rehab center in New Jersey. All the while she retained a love for her craft, and while the headlines came for her marriage to a woman and an encounter with a home intruder, McGillis also quietly found fulfillment on stage, in smaller screen roles and as an acting teacher.
Anthony Edwards (Nick "Goose" Bradshaw)
While the lovable Goose meets a sad end as Maverick's radar intercept officer (RIO), Anthony Edwards would reach impressive heights in a career that wove through films like Miracle Mile (1988) and Downtown (1990) to the Golden Globe-winning role of Dr. Mark Greene over eight seasons of ER. He took a step back to spend more time with his family but was back in the saddle to voice a character in Planes (2013), direct the comedy My Dead Boyfriend (2016) and make his Broadway debut in 2018. Edwards also revealed in a 2017 Medium essay that he had been sexually abused by a mentor, paving the way for his work as a spokesman for the survivor organization 1in6.
Tom Skerritt (Mike "Viper" Metcalf)
Already known for his contributions to M.A.S.H. (1970) and Alien (1979), Tom Skerritt followed his performance as the calm but no-nonsense TOPGUN flight school commander with high-profile parts in Steel Magnolias (1989) and A River Runs Through It (1992) and claimed an Emmy for the lead role of Sherriff Jimmy Brock in the prime-time drama Picket Fences. While he continued compiling credits through appearances in Contact (1997) and the series Brothers and Sisters, the veteran actor also turned to teaching with the formation of The Film School in 2003 and later launched the digital entertainment companies Heyou Media and Triple Squirrels.
Meg Ryan (Carole Bradshaw)
Showcasing an endearing pluckiness as Goose's wife, with roles the romcoms When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) and You've Got Mail (1998), Meg Ryan quickly became America's Sweetheart. But the typecasting proved difficult to shake, and after starring in the erotic thriller In the Cut (2003) and the boxing drama Against the Ropes (2004), she stepped away from the spotlight for a while. She focused on raising her son with ex-husband Dennis Quaid, adopted a daughter, embarked on an on-and-off-again relationship with John Mellencamp and worked on projects of her choosing, including her 2015 directorial debut, Ithaca.
Tim Robbins (Sam "Merlin" Wells)
Obscured by flight gear for most of his Top Gun screen time, Tim Robbins nevertheless became a familiar face by starring in Bull Durham (1988), The Player (1992), The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Mystic River (2003), the latter resulting in his first Oscar win. Robbins also proved adept at directing with Bob Roberts (1992) and Dead Man Walking (1995) and, after the end of his three-decade marriage to Susan Sarandon in 2009, dove into the folk-inspired album Tim Robbins & the Rogues Gallery Band (2010). He has since appeared in series like Castle Rock and films like Dark Waters (2019), while devoting time to inmate rehabilitation through The Actors' Gang Prison Project.
Michael Ironside (Rick "Jester" Heatherly)
Not far removed from his role in the sci-fi cult classic Scanners (1982), Michael Ironside was still in the early stages of an epic career when he appeared as the not-so-jolly flight instructor of Top Gun. Movie buffs would come to recognize his familiar face in Total Recall (1990), Starship Troopers (1997), The Machinist (2004) and Terminator Salvation (2009), while video gamers would pinpoint him as the voice behind Sam Fisher of the Splinter Cell series. Soldiering on through his battles with cancer, Ironside later added to his mind-boggling list of 300-plus screen credits with contributions to films like Turbo Kid (2015) and Knuckleball (2018).
James Tolkan (Tom "Stinger" Jardian)
A longtime stage actor, James Tolkan found new life on the screen as scary principal Mr. Strickland in Back to the Future (1985) before assuming the role of the tough-talking, cigar-smoking aircraft carrier commander who gives Maverick his shot at the big time. From there it was on to parts in Masters of the Universe (1987) and Dick Tracy (1990), along with series like the critically acclaimed A Nero Wolfe Mystery. Tolkan has since enjoyed a lengthy semi-retirement with wife Parmelee in upstate New York, occasionally leaving their artistic community to appear in films like Phil Spector (2013) and Bone Tomahawk (2016).
Rick Rossovich (Ron "Slider" Kerner)
Already familiar with Cruise through their time together in Losin' It (1983), Rick Rossovich enjoyed zinging his former co-star as Iceman's RIO and stud volleyball teammate. He went on to appear with Steve Martin in Roxanne (1987) and Charlie Sheen in Navy SEALs (1990), before rejoining Edwards on the first season of ER, and starring in three seasons of the crime drama Pacific Blue. Largely finished with the Hollywood cattle call by the early 2000s, Rossovich began spending more time with his wife and kids in her native Sweden, though he occasionally resurfaced in smaller features like Artworks (2003) and Sandbar (2012).