Hot Shots!

Hot Shots! is a 1991 American Navy comedy film directed by Jim Abrahams, co-writer and co-director of Airplane!, and written by Abrahams and Pat Proft. It stars Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges, Jon Cryer, Kevin Dunn, Kristy Swanson, and Bill Irwin.[2] The film is primarily a parody of Top Gun, with some scenes spoofing other popular films, including 9 12 Weeks, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dances with Wolves, Marathon Man, Rocky, Superman and Gone with the Wind.

Hot Shots!
Hot Shots 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJim Abrahams
Produced byBill Badalato
Pat Proft
Written byJim Abrahams
Pat Proft
Music bySylvester Levay
CinematographyBill Butler
Edited byJane Kurson
Eric A. Sears
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 31, 1991 (1991-07-31)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million[1]
Box office$181.1 million[1]

A sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux, was released in 1993, with Sheen reprising his role.


The film begins at Flemner Air Base 20 years in the past. A pilot named Leland "Buzz" Harley loses control of his plane and ejects, leaving his co-pilot Dominic "Mailman" Farnham to crash. Although Mailman survives, he is mistaken for a deer owing to the branches stuck to his helmet and is shot by a hunter.

Topper Harley wakes up from a nightmare he is having about the event when Lt. Commander Block asks him to return to active duty as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, to help on a new top secret mission: Operation Sleepy Weasel, commanded by the incompetent and oblivious Admiral Benson. Harley starts to show some psychological problems, especially when his father is mentioned. His therapist, Ramada, tries to keep Topper from flying, but she relents, and also starts to build a budding romance with Topper. Meanwhile, Topper gets into a rivalry with another fighter pilot, Kent Gregory, a former lover of Ramada and Mailman's son, who blames Buzz Harley for his father's death and believes Topper cannot handle combat pressure.

Meanwhile, Block starts privately meeting with an airplane tycoon, Mr. Wilson, who has recently built a new "Super Fighter" that will make the American pilots superior. Block reveals that he brought back Topper for the reason of making Sleepy Weasel fail. Block would then report that it was the Navy's planes that were the real reason for the mission failure and that they need to be replaced with Wilson's planes. During one of the last training missions, an accident between Pete "Dead Meat" Thompson and Jim "Wash-Out" Pfaffenbach leaves Dead Meat dead and Wash Out reassigned to radar operator. Block believes this is enough to convince the Navy to buy new fighters, but Wilson calls it a "minor incident", saying the planes need to fail in combat.

Meanwhile, Topper starts to show more feelings for Ramada, but she is conflicted by her past with Gregory. On the carrier S.S. Essess, Benson reveals the mission to be an attack of an Iraqi nuclear plant and Block assigns Topper to lead the mission, much to Gregory's chagrin. Wilson, who is also on board, instructs a crew member to sabotage the planes, putting the pilots' lives at risk. In the midst of the mission, Block mentions Buzz Harley to Topper, who becomes overcome with emotion and unable to lead. Block just starts to call out for the mission to be aborted when Iraqi fighters attack the squadron. All the planes' weapons fail, and Block, realizing what has happened, tells Topper that he saw what really happened with Buzz and Mailman: That Buzz tried to do everything possible to save Mailman, but ended up falling out of the plane, failing in his attempts.

Inspired, Topper single-handedly beats the Iraqi fighters and bombs the nuclear plant, dropping a bomb directly on Saddam Hussein (who was taking a sunbath at the plant). Back aboard ship, Wilson's plan is revealed, and his standing with the military is lost. Back in port, Gregory accepts Topper as a great pilot and lets Ramada be with Topper. The end credits show Dead Meat and Mailman in spirit with Dead Meat saluting and Mailman giving a thumbs up.


Critical receptionEdit

The film debuted at number one in the United States.[3][4][5][6] Hot Shots was both a critical and commercial success, grossing over $180 million worldwide.[1] The film holds an 83% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Hot Shots! hits most of its parodic targets with aplomb, excelling as a daffy good time thanks to inspired gags and Charlie Sheen's crack comedic timing".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[8] The film was chosen for the 1991 Royal Film Performance.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times named five key differences between the film and The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, and why he preferred the former over the latter:

[...] somehow, these two films are different. One of them makes you laugh, the other, to put it kindly, does not. In the interest of consumer sanity, should you find yourself in the position of trying to remember which is which, what follows is Five Reasons Why Hot Shots! Is the One to See If You're Seeing Only One:

  • Reason No. 1: Hot Shots! parodies something specific. Though other flyboy movies get a nod, Abrahams and Proft clearly had the bombastic Top Gun in mind when they penned this story of disgraced flyer Topper Harley who gets a second chance to be the best of the best when he joins Operation Sleepy Weasel and meets up with such wild boys of the air as Jim (Wash Out) Pfaffenbach (Jon Cryer) and Pete (Dead Meat) Thompson (William O'Leary.)
  • Reason No. 2: Charlie Sheen is back and Hot Shots! has him. Though Sheen has not exactly made a career out of comedy, those who remember his brief bit in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off know his abilities in that area. Now, after a recent stint co-starring with Clint Eastwood, Sheen has his deadpan delivery down to an exact science--and as the regretful renegade Topper he knows just how to use it. When a Navy man knocks at his tepee (yes, tepee) and asks if he indeed is the legendary Harley, Sheen's "Once, perhaps" is delivered with an uninflected blankness that would do credit to Dirty Harry himself.
  • Reason No. 3: Amusing references to other films are frequent and funny. Not content with parodying Top Gun, Hot Shots! takes on Dances With Wolves, Diner, 9 1/2 Weeks, The Fabulous Baker Boys, even Gone With the Wind. Again, even pratfall humor works better when there is a reason for the fall.
  • Reason No. 4: Sheen and Valeria Golino are a most engaging couple. Though the Grey Panthers may picket about this one, there was definitely something ossified about the romance between Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley in Naked Gun 2 1/2. Golino, best known as Tom Cruise’s girlfriend in Rain Man, brings some welcome radiance to her role as the base psychiatrist who can't decide between Topper and old flame Kent Gregory (Cary Elwes), who in turn blames the T-man for the death of his father in an airplane-hunting accident years before. Don't ask.
  • Reason No. 5: Hot Shots! has an aircraft carrier and Naked Gun 2 1/2 doesn't. No kidding, aircraft carriers can be the source of a great deal of visual fun, and this film fills one with everything from luggage carts to leaf blowers. No doubt the people from Gun are kicking themselves at this very moment at such a grievous oversight, but those are the breaks.[9]


The fictional carrier-based "Oscar EW-5894 Phallus Tactical Fighter Bomber" were Folland Gnats flown by U.S. Navy pilots.[10] The enemy planes in the third act were the Northrop F-5 and Northrop T-38 Talon, the same types used to represent the 'MIG 28s' in Top Gun.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Hot Shots!". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Hot Shots!". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-08-27). "Weekend Box Office : List-Toppers Are Listless". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  4. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1991-08-06). "Weekend Box Office : 'Terminator 2' Surrenders Top Spot". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  5. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-08-13). "In the Wake of 'Terminator 2,' a Slow Season : Box office: With three weeks to go in the summer, it appears there will be no records set. But it may yet prove to be the third-best summer on record". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  6. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-08-20). "Weekend Box Office : The Summer Doldrums Continue". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  7. ^ "Hot Shots!". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  9. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1991-07-31). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Hot Shots!' Breaks the Laff Barrier". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  10. ^ "Hot Shots! (1991)." IMDB. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Hot Shots! (1991)." IMPDB. Retrieved 17 April 2020.

External linksEdit