Home > Films > T > Top Gun

Tuesday November 20th 2018

Top Gun | 1986

Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego
Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego | Photograph: Mal Davis

There’s been endless debate between smartarse critics whether the true love interest of the film is Charlie (Kelly McGillis) or Iceman (Val Kilmer) but, truth be told, human sexual orientation barely gets a look in. The real sex objects of Tony Scott’s gorgeously photographed actioner, are the gleaming hardware.

The movie is set in San Diego, home of the 11th Naval District HQ, one of the world’s largest navy bases, on Route 5, 120 miles south of Los Angeles. The Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it Top Gun. Well, ‘TOPGUN’ base (it’s actually one word), is Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. You can tour the facility.

Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) embarrass instructor Charlie Blackwood (McGillis) with a spectacularly tuneless rendition of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, supposedly in the Miramar Officers’ Club, MCAS Miramar, Building 4472, Anderson Avenue, San Diego.

In fact, the bar interior is the Mississippi Room of the boutique Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Boulevard in University Heights, to the north of the city.

In 1996, the Navy Fighter Weapons School relocated to the US Naval Air Station Fallon, east of the town of Fallon, on I-50, Nevada. The control tower buzzed by Maverick is at Fallon, and much of the aerial footage of the film was shot here.

Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego
Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego | Photograph: Mal Davis

The flyers’ hangout, where Goose hammers out Great Balls of Fire on the piano, and Maverick finally hooks up with Charlie, is the Kansas City BBQ, 600 West Harbor Drive at Kettner Boulevard, by the railroad tracks in downtown San Diego. The bar is not shy about celebrating its role in the film.

Unfortunately the bar was seriously damaged by fire in 2008 and some irreplaceable memorablia was lost, but it's since been restored to its former glory.

Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego
Top Gun filming location: Kansas City BBQ, West Harbor Drive, San Diego | Photograph: Mal Davis

Charlie’s beachfront home is 102 South Pacific Street at First Street, in Oceanside, on I-5 between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Zooming off in a huff, Maverick’s bike speeds along West Laurel Street, just east of the San Diego Freeway, leaping into the air at Union Street, where Charlie catches up with him and makes a surprising admission.

The bar with the great view of the airport runway, where Charlie finds a morose Maverick after the death of Goose, was the Windsock Bar and Grill, 2904 Pacific Highway. It was the upstairs bar of Jimsair Aviation, the private jet terminal alongside San Diego International Airport, but was torn down in 2002.