Why exactly is everybody celebrating Top Gun Day today?

Top Gun wasn't even released on 13th May, so why is everybody talking about it? James Gill unpicks the story of another internet thing...

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The law of the internet dictates that every vaguely successful or meme-rich movie must have its own day. Today, apparently, is Top Gun Day.

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Excellent! Does that mean we can post topless photos of Tom Cruise and quote Goose all day? Apparently so…

Radio stations are running with it… 

Even actual airlines are getting involved.

Why is Top Gun Day actually today?

After all, a quick glance at IMDB will tell you that the film had its first premiere on Monday 12 May 1986 in New York, followed by another “premiere” in Los Angeles three days later. The general release was on Friday 16 May.

So why the 13th of May?

Well, the website www.topgunday.com – apparently the starting point for all this – has its own explanation.

“We intended for Top Gun Day to be observed on the day the movie was released, which was May 16th, 1986. Problem is, that’s Iron Eagle Day. I know, I know, that blows – the ugly step child gets the real day. Actually, that’s not true, and as far as I know there is no Iron Eagle Day. The real story is we screwed up when creating a few graphics and by the time we caught the error the word was already out. It turns out that choosing the 13th was somewhat serendipitous because Top Gun’s 25th anniversary is in 2011–and it just so happens that Top Gun Day lands on a Friday that year! Hemlock anyone?”

We’re pretty sure Top Gun trumps Iron Eagle in the internet meme stakes, but there’s nothing like spotting a mistake and still running with it. And they are mighty fine graphics…

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How long has this been going on?

Well, the original site was registered in October 2008, but most of the posts date from February 2009 (including the one explaining the date).

The first tweet mentioning the website name according to Who Tweeted It First came from from Alanagh McEleney of Scotland on 4 May 2009.

And Paul Dunning from Australia was the first person to use the hashtag #TopGunDay.

Even in its first year Top Gun Day had gone global.

Since 2009 the website itself has had very little TLC. The last ‘post’ we could find was dated 30 December 2009, meaning sadly these Top Gun Day t-shirts have probably been sold out for a while.

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But the Twitter and Facebook pages continue to be updated, meaning Top Gun Day lives on on social media.

Who’s responsible for all this?

As far as we can tell the original site was set up by Greg Shepherd of California – also the founder of Angry Birds community Angry Birds Nest. We’ve reached out to him to tell us more, and given how many companies seem to be cashing in on the Top Gun Day meme, he can be our wingman anytime.

So why do we keep marking it?

Because The Internet.

It’s quite heartening really that a website set up six years ago to mark a movie released 29 years ago on a day that has nothing to do with the movie can still get people across the world feeling the need for speed all over again.

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All it takes is one digital Maverick, and an awful lot of excited Gooses. Happy Top Gun Day everybody.