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The Top 'Top Gun' Locations in San Diego


In May 1986, a movie named "Top Gun" was released and it made Tom Cruise a movie icon and superstar. In fact, as a college journalist, I attended the film premiere held here in San Diego. But did you know that much of the movie was shot right here in San Diego? Some locations are long gone, but others still exist and are revered by the legions of "Top Gun" fans. Paramount recently celebrated the fly-boy movie with a 25th anniversary re-release of the action film, so in honor of its place in movie history, I've created a list of San Diego locales seen in the film, many of which can still be visited around town.

1. Kansas City Barbeque

© 1986 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved

Top Gun might have been all about fighter jets and fly boys, but it was the scene where Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards (along with Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan) bash out "Great Balls of Fire" on the piano. And it was filmed at the Kansas City Barbeque at 610 W. Market Street in the Gaslamp Quarter. The venerable rib joint became iconic in filmdom because if this scene, and is now a tourist attraction, even after a major fire. According to the owners, a location director was downtown, saw the place and stopped in for a beer. He liked the vibe, told director Tony Scott and Scott asked if they could close for a day of filming. And the rest is film history.

2. Miramar Air Station

Now the Marine Corps Air Station, the former Naval Air Station at Miramar was for years known as Fighter Town U.S.A. and the home of the Top Gun training school. The base is not readily accessible to the public, but if you're in the area along Mirarmar Road and I-15, you can see fighter jets doing manuevers in the sky (but maybe not the F-14s from the movie). The beefcake volleyball scene was shot on sand courts on the base. No longer in existence, the courts were located north of barracks 298-300. Hangar three at VF-124 was usd for many of the hangar scenes.

3. 102 Pacific Street in Oceanside (Charlie's House)

This little cottage in Oceanside was the house where Kelly McGillis' character, Charlie, lived. But the scene where Maverick and Charlie are sitting on the patio was actually filmed on the Paramount Studios lot. The house, in need of restoration, is in an area slated redevelopment, where a resort complex is planned. Because of the house's popularity, the structure is planned to be incorporated into the developer's plans.

4. Naval Training Center (now Liberty Station)

The former Naval Training Center is now the mixed use development called Liberty Station, but in the Top Gun era, it was still the place where Naval recruits went through boot camp training. Many of the historic buildings along the NTC Promenade on Old Decatur Road are similar - if not the same - as some of the exterior scenes from the movie, including the scene where Charlie runs after Maverick to his motorcycle after a classroom briefing. There was also a memorable scene where Cruise follows McGillis into a bathroom at a bar - this was filmed at NTC in the USO Building (no longer there).

5. West Laurel and Union Streets (Banker's Hill)

This is the location of teh spot in the movie where Charlie (McGillis) chases down Maverick (Cruise) in her Porsche and confronts him. As you go up the hill, there is a big palm tree where the scene was filmed.

6. Windsock Bar & Grill

In the scene where Maverick is sitting at a bar drinking a glass of water (?), Charlie finds him and asks "So, I am too late?" There's a big picture window with planes on a runway in the background. That scene was shot at the Windsock Bar & Grill, which is located right on the runway of Lindbergh Field at the Jimsair Charter Service.

7. Mission Beach Plunge

The venerable Plunge, the huge indoor pool at Belmont Park in Mission Beach, is where the locker room scenes were filmed (you know, where Iceman (Val Kilmer) confronts Maverick about being a cowboy: "You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous." "That's right! Ice... man. I am dangerous." And then Kilmer does his famous "bite" gesture.

8. Point Loma Coast Guard Lighthouse (Viper's House)

This facility, which is on the very tip of Point Loma, is run by the Coast Guard and not readily accessible to the public. Not to be confused with the Cabrillo National Monument lighthouse, this working lighthouse is on one of the most picturesque spots in the county and includes three main structures that house Coast Guard officers. In Top Gun, this is where Viper (Tom Skerritt) lives and is visited by Maverick (Cruise) in one scene. You can spot the lighthouse from certain vantage points above at the Cabrillo Monument.

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