Hot Shots! is a 1991 American 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, Bill Irwin, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.[2] The film is primarily a parody of Top Gun, with some scenes spoofing other popular films, including 9½ Weeks, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dances with Wolves, Marathon Man, Rocky, Superman, and Gone with the Wind. A sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux, was released in 1993, with Sheen, Golino, Bridges and Jerry Haleva reprising their roles.

Hot Shots!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJim Abrahams
Written byJim Abrahams
Pat Proft
Produced byBill Badalato
CinematographyBill Butler
Edited byJane Kurson
Eric A. Sears
Music bySylvester Levay
Peter V. Miller Investment Corp.
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]



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 senile and accident-prone Admiral Benson. Harley experiences intense psychological problems, especially when his father is mentioned. His therapist, Ramada, tries to stop Topper from flying, but she relents, and also starts to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, Topper gets into a feud with another fighter pilot, Kent Gregory, Mailman's son and a former boyfriend of Ramada, who blames Buzz Harley for his father's death and believes Topper is dangerous.

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 killed and Wash Out demoted 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.

Topper develops a strong emotional attachment to Ramada, but she is haunted 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 protest. 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 has a panic attack and is 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.

With his self-confidence restored, Topper single-handedly beats the Iraqi fighters and bombs the nuclear plant, dropping a bomb directly on Saddam Hussein. Back aboard the ship, Wilson's plan is revealed, and his standing with the military is lost. Back in port, Gregory hails Topper as a great pilot and gives his blessing to Ramada to be with Topper. The end credits show Dead Meat and Mailman in spirit with Dead Meat saluting and Mailman giving a thumbs up with Elvis Presley (who was mentioned earlier in the film).





Principal photography was filmed throughout California in locations such as Hollywood Forever Cemetery and San Diego.[3][4]

Critical reception


The film debuted at number one in the United States,[5][6][7][8] and grossed $180 million worldwide.[1] The film holds an 82% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 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".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[10] The film was chosen for the 1991 Royal Film Performance.


  1. ^ a b c "Hot Shots!". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Hot Shots!". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "Hollywood on Location (1990-1991)". Seeing stars. Retrieved 2022-12-08.
  4. ^ Benninger, Michael (2016-03-01). "Hot Shots". Pacific San Diego. Retrieved 2022-12-08.
  5. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-08-27). "Weekend Box Office : List-Toppers Are Listless". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  6. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1991-08-06). "Weekend Box Office : 'Terminator 2' Surrenders Top Spot". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-08-20). "Weekend Box Office : The Summer Doldrums Continue". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  9. ^ "Hot Shots!". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". 2018-12-20. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2020-07-28.