Hot Shots

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In a World full of serious action movies, filled with huge explosions, improbably hot women, and angsty, tortured heroes with tragic backgrounds, one man stood up against the status quo and said, "No more! We don't have to sit here and endure the same plot over and over again! We deserve something more! Something better!" And he took the same plot we'd seen over and over again, and made us see it yet again, only this time, it was different... it was funny. It was... Hot Shots! (1991)

That man... was Jim Abrahams. And he is insane.

As one-third of the team that forever spoiled the airline disaster movie, Abrahams takes the fighter pilot action movie and turns it into something a couple degrees off center, just enough to catch us off-guard. At first blush, it appears to be a serious action movie, but then the whole thing spirals off into chaos.

Charlie Sheen stars as Topper Harley, an ex-Navyman who left the armed services to live with the Native Americans after the tragic death of his father. He is called back into service to help save a mission that is being sabotaged by a greedy weapons manufacturer. In the meantime, he must locate Saddam Hussein's cache of nukes and (more importantly) win the heart of his therapist Ramada Thompson (Valeria Golino) away from a rival pilot.

Hot Shots! was followed by a sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux, in 1993, which did for Rambo what the original did for Top Gun. This time the story is a near perfect recreation of Rambo III, where Topper has resigned himself to an Asian monk village. His commanding officer Colonel Walters arrives to recruit him for a rescue mission, which he refuses. When Walters is captured on the following rescue attempt, Topper agrees to go in and rescue everyone.

The original film was a major box office hit and was also well-liked by critics; the sequel was also a hit.


Tropes used in Hot Shots include:

The original movie contains examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Charlie Sheen's character lures enemies into a canyon and Top Gunning them by stepping on the brakes. Yes, he's piloting an airplane.
  • Anachronism Stew: Played for Laughs. Admiral Benson has apparently fought in every major battle of the past century or two, including Little Big Horn... or was it Wounded Knee?
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • All the Iraqi fighter pilots names and dialogue is just the names of Middle Eastern dishes.
    • The dialogue between Topper and his Native American friend is a bunch of gibberish (Minnesota towns and cities with Indian names) with some occasional English parsed in.
  • Bar Brawl: Again, parodied. As soon as Topper and Kent start shoving each other the entire bar spontaneously breaks out in violence that ends the moment Ramada stops the two rivals.
  • Bowdlerized:
    • The television broadcast edit of the first movie cut out almost the entirety of the 9½ Weeks-inspired foreplay scene.
    • One of DVD releases cuts out all of the funny foreplay and sex scene of the second film.
    • One television release cut out the chicken-ammo scene.
  • Brick Joke: The batteries for the chief's walkman.
  • Captain Crash: Admiral Benson has never landed a plane before in his life. To be fair, he wasn't trying to crash his plane...just that he got shot down on every single one of his 194 combat missions.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Kent is seen reading a copy of Esquire with Carey Elwes on the cover.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The web used to catch landing planes before they fall into the sea.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Admiral Benson.
  • Coming in Hot: Parodied.
  • Cool Plane: Parodied with the Oscar EW 5894, the "backbone of our proud American arsenal," portrayed in the film by the Folland Gnat jet-trainer, a plane that couldn't even break the sound barrier in real life.
  • Credits Gag: The recipe for the "topping for brownies."
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Destructo-Nookie: Ramada ends up in an imprint on her bed one morning.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty : "Your ego is writing cheques your body can't cash"
  • Dodge by Braking: Harley leads pursuing jets into a canyon, and then slams on the brakes, complete with brake-screeching noises.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: To Harley's credit, the little velvet case he keeps them in is nice...
  • Failed a Spot Check: Apparently a trademark of the ZAZ team.
  • Famous Last Words

Dead Meat: I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?

  • Fatal Family Photo: If that shirt were any redder, it would be outside the visible light spectrum...
  • Fish Eye Lens: A character is afflicted with "Walleye Vision" that makes the world appear this way. He's a pilot. Later on he gets corrective glasses... which are tiny aquariums with live fish in them, making them a literal example of this trope.
  • The Fun in Funeral: Ties in with Shell-Shocked Veteran (see below). Also, while delivering Dead Meat's eulogy, Benson starts to list off characters from The Godfather among good people who died young.
  • Funny Background Event: Another ZAZ trademark. These include:
    • Troop drills involving can-can dancing.
    • A man serving as the blood donor for another character slowly deflating.
  • Fun with Subtitles: When Topper tells his chief that he met a beautiful woman, but "she threw [him] a curve," the spoken word is "Hershiser".
    • When the subtitles say the characters are saying the word "English", the word they're actually saying is "Americanese".
  • Gilligan Cut: "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?" Cut to Dead Meat's funeral.
  • Having a Heart: "I have my father's eyes."
  • I Can See My House From Here
  • I'm a Humanitarian: If it makes you feel any better, Washout didn't have seconds.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Because Harley's been a good little fighter pilot.
  • In One Ear, Out the Other:
    • Tug Benson, using a handkerchief to demonstrate the side effects of one of his many war wounds.
    • Used on the movie poster -- see the page image.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted; when Topper and Kent fight each other, Topper punches Kent in the face, and both immediately cower in pain.

Kent: My FACE!
Topper: My HAND!

Jim "Wash Out" Pfaffenbach: "Thank you, Andre. I'll have the veal piccata." Splat.

  • One Degree of Separation: Parodied. When Kent reveals that his father died with Topper's in a crash, it sets off a series of revelations interconnecting everyone in the barracks.
  • One of the Boys: For a fun game, try to figure out if Kowalski is treated as if she was a man at every turn because somehow everyone thinks she is one or because there's some mad gender equality policy at work in the service.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Lampshaded; a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
  • Playing Possum: Spoofed.
  • Prophetic Name: "Dead Meat" and "Washout".
  • Red Shirt: Callsign "Dead Meat".
  • Retirony: Okay, we get it, Dead Meat won't survive the movie... yeesh.
  • Running Gag: The catalogue of Tug Benson's increasingly outlandish war wounds. Other running gags include fighter jets being used like cars and people sitting on a chihuahua.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Again, Dead Meat.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Played relatively straight here, but see below...
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Spoofed with Tug Benson. At a soldier's funeral he hears the 21-gun salute and returns fire.

"God, I love a good funeral!"

  • Shout-Out: So many, but unlike some recent movies, the shout outs still include jokes... okay mostly.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Ramada's musical number. Followed immediately by 'Falling Right Off A Piano'.
  • Spicy Latina: Ramada. Not Spanish, but damn close.
  • Tempting Fate: Mocked with Dead Meat, who meets his beautiful wife on the tarmac, carries the critical evidence about JFK in his pocket, came up with a solution for global warming, and tries to sign a life insurance policy before climbing in the cockpit... but his pen is out of ink. Oh, well, there'll be plenty of time for that later. His last words are, "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?" Hard cut to his funeral...
  • Throwing the Fight: Extreme example during the boxing match in the film; one punch is thrown, it misses by a mile, and the opponent drops immediately after.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kowalski and Ramada, respectively.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Topper has his father's eyes...

Put those away!
Eh, they're just for luck.

The sequel contains examples of:[edit | hide]

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Inverted; Topper's sword breaks when it hits a wax candle.
  • Actor Allusion: Topper Harley and Benjamin Willard meet (and monologue) briefly. "I loved you in Wall Street!"
    • What about Lloyd Bridges narrating his scuba diving?
    • Richard Crenna portrays a parody of his Rambo character, named after his Our Miss Brooks character.
  • Aside Glance: After Ramada tells Topper how she envisions their potential relationship.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In just as full force in the sequel; at one point a startled guard yells out "I'll have a hamburger!" in a thick accent. Later on, a group of not-Iraqis sounds like they're yelling in a foreign language; in fact, they're actually arguing with one another in English over who is following who, but speaking it really fast and with their voices overlapping so it sounds like a different language.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Saddam Hussein can melt down and reconstitute himself like the T-1000.
    • Hussein and President Benson duel with lightsabers.
  • Auto Erotica: Based on No Way Out.
  • Battle Cry: Parodied.

Soldier 1: (jumps out of plane) GERONIMOOOOOO!
Soldier 2: (jumps out of plane) GERONIMOOOOOO!
Geronimo: (jumps out of plane) MEEEEE!

  • BFG: "That's a hell of a gun."
  • Bloodless Carnage: This is a mainstream comedy, not an action film or a Black Comedy.
    • Lampshaded later on in the form of the various ridiculous weapons used to silently take down the guards, including a literal Rocket Punch launcher, a mallet on the end of a sniper rifle, and two extended fingers mounted on a rifle's bayonet lug.
  • Body Count Competition: Spoofed by comparing a shootout scene to the body counts of other action movies, ending with "BLOODIEST MOVIE EVER."
    • Although the numbers flashing up are high, the body count (114) really was a record at the time.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Used as well as hilariously subverted. Running up an insane body count far beyond the ammo he should have on him, Topper runs out only to see a group of bad guys gather behind him. Seeing a stockpile of loose bullets, he throws a handful at them with equal effectiveness.
    • Also while on board a patrol boat, when Topper fires so much ammo that he's buried up to his waist in shell casings and the boat starts sinking from the weight.
  • California Doubling: Spoofed, by putting a forest, a swamp, and a random family's back yard in Iraq.
  • The Cameo: Bob Vila appears as the man installing insulation in Topper's hut.
  • Cardboard Prison: One of the prisoners slips completely through the bars to grab the keys to unlock his door.
  • Casting Gag: Setting Colonel Walters as the analogue to Colonel Trautman from the Rambo movies is helped by being played by the same actor
  • Character as Himself: Saddam Hussein.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: President Benson.
  • Credits Gag: Many of them in the closing credits, including All You Need to Know About The Crying Game.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Parodied with Chinese finger cuffs.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Ramada and the mole, complete with the reverse treadmill, joust event, and theme music from American Gladiators.
  • Double Entendre: "You give Uncle Topper a nice big blow."
  • Dual-Wielding: Not-Saddam dual-wields machine pistols with Bottomless Magazines at the beginning of the move as he blindly rampages through the front yard.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A running gag in the monk village, where all of the celibate monks keep being distracted by a beautiful woman waltzing through their village, to amusingly painful results.
  • Electric Torture: Parodied by having it cause a Big Blackout and pop popcorn inside the guy's shirt.
  • Enemy Mine: Topper and a random Iraqi soldier team up to take on the Energizer Bunny.
  • Everything's Better with Chickens: Harley runs out of arrows for his compound bow, so he picks up a nearby chicken and fires that at the bad guys.
  • Fight Clubbing: A hilarious version.
  • Fridge Logic: Played for Laughs with the monk village: "These men have lived their lives in strict celibacy, just like their fathers and grandfathers before them."
  • Funetik Aksent: The alarm in the prison is labeled "Halarm."
  • Funny Background Event: Another ZAZ trademark. These include:
    • Four ex-presidents getting the crap beaten out of them.
    • Monks taking turns to impress the first girl they have seen in centuries.
    • The governor of Nebraska making a public apology for his state being so flat.
    • Whenever the camera pans across during Topper and Romada's Italian dinner, we see another table, where Michael Corleone is eating with Sollozzo and McClusky, the last thing we see is him getting up to go to the bathroom...
  • Groin Attack: Everyone cringes in pain... and walnuts come out of the guys mouth!
  • Handwraps of Awesome: Topper Harley wears these in his Dim Sum match early in the movie.
  • Helium Speech: Occurs after the president takes helium instead of oxygen to go diving.
  • History Marches On: The movie was released in 1993, and its context to modern culture has been amazingly consistent since. Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 and was executed in 2006. Films with political figures as the central villain (even parodies) tend to age very fast, but this movie stayed relevant for 13 YEARS after release. Of course, Saddam is shown watching The Arsenio Hall Show. However, the ending joust scene is from the original American Gladiators. That show went off the air in 1996 and its second incarnation aired in 2008, making THAT scene relevant again! Also, early in the film a Subway restaurant can be seen in Iraq. This would have been out of place in 1993 when the restaurant had very few branches outside America...but now the franchise has expanded so much that there actually ARE Subway stores in Iraq.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Averted, amazingly enough. Pay close attention to the way everyone handles weapons; nearly everyone is holding their weapons correctly and following the safety rules for handling firearms.
  • Improvised Weapon: Topper extends the antenna of a handphone to fence with Saddam. Walters later uses a fly swatter to knock out a guard, having quickly selected it from a pile of weapons including a several handguns, knives, and grenades.
    • After running out of ammo because the guard kept moving (picking up coins, etc) Topper resorts to shooting him with a chicken.
  • Innocent Innuendo: It certainly doesn't sound like Ramada and Michelle are talking about bungee-jumping - even the Colonel does a double-take at that particular reveal.
  • Insurmountable Waist High Fence: Multiple examples; the commando team is stymied by a wooden fence whose lock they can't blow, because "It's not our property." Earlier, Topper has to use a grappling hook and several seconds of difficult climbing to get over a knee height stone fence; even more hilarious, not five feet away is a path leading around the fence.
    • One of the POW's is imprisoned with twist ties and later the chinese finger trap. Another prisoner can't run because they've tied his shoelaces together.
  • I Will Fight No More Forever: Harbinger undergoes a Ten-Minute Retirement, lasting the entire span of a tender heart-to-heart with Harley, leading directly into War Is Glorious.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Energizer Bunny appears in one scene, only it's blue and not quite a rabbit. Still recognizable, and the voiceover is there.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The trailer, a parody of the teaser for Rambo: First Blood Part II, contains special shoot footage of Charlie Sheen suiting up as the film's Rambo parody. Also, an alternate version of the first scene in the White House is included.
  • More Dakka: Topper is up to his waist in spent shells by the time he's done shooting.
  • Non Sequitur Thud:

Topper Harley: "That's right, Lindsay, it's 20 minutes past the hour, and now here's the Buckinghams with 'Kind of a Drag'." Thud.

  • One-Man Army: Of course parodied. Topper takes out several hundred bad guys by himself, including a kill count at the bottom of the screen.
    • According to Movie Body Counts.com, Topper has the fourth highest kill count (103) for any single character in movie history.
  • Out of the Inferno: Parodied.

President Tug Benson: "My skin's made of asbestos. Tanning parlor accident at Dien Bien Phu."

Train Conductor: "Board! Board!"
Passenger: *Looks at watch, sees that it's not nearly time to leave, scoffs*
(The passenger then gets hit by a passing by man with some wooden boards, twice.)
Train Conductor: "Told ya. Told ya twice."

Topper: Out of all the jungles in all the world, you had to walk into mine.
Ramada: I didn't want to Topper but they made me, it was a sequel.
Topper: Do you have any idea what the critics will say? The same warmed over characters?
Ramada: Oh Topper. You're just using this casting thing to distract from your real issues.

    • Ramada's Action Girl upgrade is done shamelessly to fit her into the second movie. In the first movie, she is only a psychiatrist, here she knows kickboxing. Of course, Topper goes from being a pilot to a commando, so this is justified.
    • "Only" a psychiatrist is stretching it a bit. In part one we see her lounge singing, welding, trick horseback riding, and performing gymnastics. She's basically a female ace.
  • Serious Business: Bungie jumping is the entire reason behind why the mole betrays the team.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Gender reversed. Yes, you heard us correctly. A rather buff Topper Harley, in his lover's (rather lacy) gown, brushing his (long and silky) hair in front of a vanity mirror and smoking a Victoria Slim in a cigarette holder. It's all very masculine.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "I will kill you until you die from it!"
    • From the same scene: "We'll settle this the old navy way; The first guy to die, LOSES!"
  • Share the Male Pain: Topper Harley smacks an opponent in the 'nads in a duel. The entire crowd winces and holds their balls in sympathy.
  • Shout-Out:
    • to The Guns of Navarone, among others.
    • All female characters have the middle name "Rodham". Once, they don't even try to hide the target ("It's your wife, Hillary Rodham Hussein").
  • Sight Gag: A map of the operation shows that not-Saddam's country is located between the countries Iraq and Iran, except that Iran is renamed "A Hard Place".
  • Spaghetti Kiss: Complete with the meatball nudge. With Charlie Sheen's nose.
  • Special Effects Failure: Invoked. The heroes apparently arrive at base in a toy helicopter, which an officer immediately orders removed before someone trips on it.
  • Spy Speak: Parodied. The other guy has no clue what he's talking about.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Ramada's husband Dexter is pretty much one of these, from what her story of how they met sounds like.
  • Stealth Pun/Late to the Punchline: THE MOLE HAS A MOLE, also the final action takes place on the border of Iraq and A Hard Place.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: Harley has the coolest knife ever.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Topper and Ramada. Ramada becomes an Action Girl and Topper is basically a Rambo parody.
  • Train Station Goodbye: Parodied. After Topper's fiancee leaves him (in a parody of Casablanca), it starts raining at the train station...but only on him.
  • Typecasting: Fun fact: If you've ever seen an actor portray Saddam Hussein, its probably this guy. He pretty much did them all.
  • Visual Pun: A not-Iraqi interrogator with a Holiday Inn towel wrapped around his head. When Harley says he smells a rat, guess what crawls over his shoulder? The film, like the others from these creators, is full of these.
  • War Is Hell: But after a tearful talk with Harley...
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?:

Interrogator: I see you are no stranger to pain.
Colonel Walters: I've been married.
Interrogator: [nods in understanding]
Colonel Walters: Twice.
Interrogator: [horrified look] Ooy!

    • Also includes Dexter's shoelaces getting tied together.
  • With Catlike Tread: Parodied in the key scene. A series of loud noises is not enough to wake the guard...but a sneeze by a mouse is.
  • You Know What to Do:

Topper Harley: You're the only one that knows how to get to the copter pad. If I'm not there in 15 minutes, you know what to do.
Colonel Walters: Yeah, we get the hell out of here!
Topper Harley: No! Wait another 15 minutes!