1. I am looking to learn which scenes (starting from when through when) included footage of airplane physics that were not actually shot, but done in VFX including CGI.

  2. Even more so, I am looking to learn which scenes (starting from when through when) included airplane physics or dynamics that have not been verified to be at least possible by state of the art aviation tech.

Reasons for the question

I was unable to immerse myself in the movie. I am absolutely not anti-CGI or one who can't enjoy a good sci-fi — I can enjoy rewatching episodes Star Trek ENT or Strange New Worlds for that matter.

However, watching those movies, I accept the premise that the scenery, the visuals and overall the depicted reality is a projection of human fantasy, and I dwell into it.

For this very reason, I was able to enjoy the first scenes of the Mach 10 airplane very much. Knowing that it is sci-fi stuff (the SR-72 is an UAV, and it does far less than Mach 10). But I enjoyed it, very much so.

I also enjoyed Devotion recently with very old dog fights as well as the dog fights of Top Gun — the original.

However, the dog fights of Maverick, for lack of a better word really, I feel like entered something analogous to the idea of "uncanny valley".

Many of the arial stunts included physics that I can imagine possible yet highly doubt to actually be possible even in experiment with state of the art tech.

Since the visuals were stunning, and probably impossible to the unaided eye to differentiate, I found myself keep questioning whether what I see should shock me in a very real sense that what I see is the new frontier of military aviation, or "just" amaze as a great movie.

Not knowing if what I saw was real or CGI simply detached me in the recurring self-questioning instead of allowed me to immerse myself into the experience better.

I am hoping that allowing myself the knowledge which scenes were actual arial footage, and which were or included CGI or better yet: Knowing which physics and maneuvers are at least possible with tech we can ascertain to exist, would allow a much more enjoyable experience of these scenes to enjoy each for its own merits.

Examples of VFX/CGI disputed scenes

  1. Arial/space footages of the cabined SR-72 Darkstar;
  2. Maverick pulling a vertical and slowing down to end up above and then behind Goose in their second training session — the physics seem such that is questionable whether current fighter jets are capable of.
  3. Similar footage during the mission (vertical get-behind maneuver).
  • 5
    Where does the quote come from? Have you read any of the articles about the making of this movie? Cruise famously hates using CGI if anything can be done for real… including him recently actually riding a motorbike off a cliff as a base-jump, with parachute. Quote from Miles Teller; “There is no green screen in a Top Gun movie. Every shot, every stunt, was the result of the work, the real sweat, that we all put into it."
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 9:28
  • 2
    I don't know about that — the CGI hate. Edge of Tomorrow is, and Oblivion is one of my favorite sci-fis of all time. But this is besides the point: So are you saying that the airplanes sort of stopping midair to let the chasing one fly them pass by was an actual shot? Also, what about then the human-cabin on the SR-72 look alike at 9'6" (the background must be CGI or non) through or 9'43" through 9'44" the space shot? There are a lot of scenes that simply cannot be actual arial footage. (Not a quote, just wanted to proverbially put that section in parentheses for its secondary nature.)
    – Stellaris
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 9:37
  • 8
    This is indeed the best place for this question. It would be off-topic on SciFi.SE because Top Gun: Maverick, to the best of my understanding, isn't a sci-fi movie.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 10:02
  • 3
    I don't think specifics of whether a plane can do this or that manoeuvre in real life belong on here. We're movie buffs, not pilots. aviation.stackexchange.com/search?q=top+gun+maverick has a list of this type of question already. It's easy to find videos & magazine articles explaining how many of the shots were done, but I doubt you'll find anywhere with a list of CGI shots, outside the production studio.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 10:43
  • 4
    "the physics seem such that is questionable whether current fighter jets are capable of" – the maneuver was developed in Sweden in 1961–1963 using the Saab 35 (first flight in 1955) and independently discovered by accident in Syria in 1967 with a MiG-21F (1959), so at least it was possible with fighter jets from 67 years ago. Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 11:02

1 Answer 1



Plenty of behind the scenes videos explain the flying scenes were all practical. Perhaps what's messing with your viewing experience is that some of the manouevers are not realistic in combat. As per this answer on aviation.SE:

The "Cobra maneuver" is primarily an airshow stunt. To my knowledge it has never been performed or verified in actual combat.

Also, a comparative video of the falling leaflet maneuver of the movie and real life:

The videos also explain that:

  • They used camera trickery to make planes seem closer
  • There's CGI for stuff that can't be filmed (I suppose that includes jets exploding, probably missiles, etc)

As another blog explains, someone flew a real plane similar to the SR-72:

In May, a fictional craft (an F-18), allegedly similar to the SR-72, named the DarkStar, appeared in Top Gun:Maverick ...Tom Cruise’s character pilots the Darkstar in an attempt to hit Mach 10 speeds. The scene was created with direct assistance from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works lab – the same team responsible for the SR-72.

At 6:52 in this video you can see how they captured footage of the SR-72 look-alike (whether the in-cabin footage is VFX is unclear, but it could be practical since the aircraft is real)


it seems there's lots of VFX but the artists behind it are forbidden by the studios to talk about it or promote the film...


  • 1
    I remember seeing this video, and their behind-the-scene talks on that roof top ripping — such an amazing shot.
    – Stellaris
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 11:40
  • 1
    What is the "yes" an answer to? (@NapoleonWilson I was just performing that same edit :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 16:09
  • 1
    @rtaft any independent citation for the "flyable"? Everything I have seen on the prop is that its just that, a prop... Can taxi under its own power, but zero about it actually being flyable. Realistic prop, yes, actually flyable, no.
    – Moo
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 20:44
  • 1
    @rtaft given the Boeing Bird of Prey, a simple technology demo test bed using predominantly off the shelf parts, cost at least $67M to develop in the 1990s (that was just Boeings contribution), and had mediocre performance... I wouldnt see anyone developing something similar for a movie, let alone an actual flyable aircraft which "ripped the roof off" of anything. Im going to say that it was a metaphorical "ripped the roof off" for design and aesthetic reasons more than it actually flew.
    – Moo
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 21:12
  • 2
    @Moo found a source...the jet that flew over the set was an F-18... usatoday.com/story/entertainment/movies/2022/06/15/…
    – rtaft
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 21:21

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