Hop in and buckle up: It’s going to be a wild ride.

Amazon Studios’ new documentary The Blue Angels offers an inside look at the Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron, placing viewers in the cockpit for a thrilling display of aerial derring-do from the world’s premier jet team.

The documentary takes audiences behind the scenes for a revealing, in-depth look at what it takes to become a Blue Angel.

The documentary will play exclusively in IMAX theaters for one week beginning May 17 and will be available to stream globally on Prime Video beginning May 23. It showcases never-before-seen footage of what it takes to join this rarefied group of pilots and gives viewers a firsthand view of the Blue Angels’ breathtaking precision maneuvers.

What was it like to film such high-flying action? We spoke with director Paul Crowder to get the lowdown on all the behind-the-scenes dish—from the tech (some of it borrowed from the Top Gun: Maverick set) to how the team bonded on the ground.

“I was completely surprised by how affected I was—how enamored and appreciative,” Crowder, a onetime member of the punk band Flogging Molly, said of living among the military.

Beyond the staggering aerial feats captured in The Blue Angels documentary, he hopes viewers will also walk away with a deeper understanding of the team’s singular devotion to their craft—and one another.

Check out these fun facts from the making of the film:

1. The Blue Angels crew used tech from the Top Gun: Maverick set to film.

A photo of a Blue Angels squadron in formation
Photo by Amazon MGM Studios

To outmaneuver an otherwise expensive and lengthy nine-month production, The Blue Angels documentary team instead tracked down the military-grade tech used to film 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick and its dizzying aerial shots. By simply flying military personnel from their home base in Pensacola to handle attaching and removing the pylons used to mount cameras to the aircraft, the documentary team avoided “months of paperwork,” Crowder explained.

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2. This documentary marks the first time a civilian aircraft was allowed inside the Blue Angels formations.

In an unprecedented move, a commercial helicopter was permitted to fly inside the Blue Angels flight routine for the first time, Crowder revealed. The military had one condition: that a former Blue Angel, Lt. Lance Benson, be in the chopper. Benson was joined by helicopter pilot Kevin LaRosa and cameraman Michael Fitz Maurice. 

The result? Mind-blowing, never-before-seen shots of the Blue Angels’ most iconic performances. LaRosa—a third-generation pilot who also worked on Top Gun: Maverick, The Avengers, and Transformers: The Last Knight—quickly earned the Blue Angels' trust with his flawless flying. “They knew he had his chops about him, and he’s not going to do something stupid and get in the way,” Crowder said, which paved the way for even closer aerial shots.

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3. The crew witnessed the selection of the first female Blue Angels demonstration pilot.

Fortuitously, the documentary crew chronicled the historic selection of the first female Blue Angels demonstration pilot, Amanda Lee. Lee—the No. 3, Left Wing demo pilot—was chosen in the summer of 2022 to fly in the diamond formation, which requires the best and most experienced pilots. Blue Angels are chosen by unanimous vote and it’s a process the team prizes, as they select those they feel they can trust.

4. A particularly tricky shot took the crew months to nail.

A photo of Blue Angels pilots in plane cockpits
Photo by Amazon MGM Studios

One early July morning, as Crowder and his crew acclimatized their camera equipment to the humidity (an hourlong process to avoid condensation gathering on the lens), they discovered a rare view: all six of the Blue Angels jets arranged in the morning light—“golden, half blue, half orange.” For months, they tried to recreate it. On the last day in November, they finally got the shot. Viewers will spot it near the film's opening.

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5. ‘Once a Blue Angel, always a Blue Angel’

The Blue Angels proudly subscribe to this creed—and Crowder was humbled to see it on full display during filming. It’s a “massive family,” Crowder explained. When a former member visits or attends a show, “everybody knows who they are. They’re like long-lost family members.” But even the elite have their celebrities: Crowder recalled how walking around with Greg “Boss” Wooldridge, a retired Navy captain and the only three-time boss of the Blue Angels, was “like walking around with Paul McCartney or John Lennon.”

6. When they weren’t hurtling through the air, the team and crew bonded by playing darts.

A photo of Blue Angels squadron members
Photo by Amazon MGM Studios

In order to make this film, complete trust was critical. Crowder didn’t need to look far to find it. “Trust—and the expectation of excellence—was a bedrock value” of the military, Crowder noted. “From top to bottom, it’s 100% teamwork.” Typically, Crowder explained, pilots will do their own checks upon mounting their aircraft. But within the Blue Angels, there is such unfailing trust in the checks done by crew chiefs that pilots hop in, “turn the plane on, and say, ‘Let’s go fly,’” Crowder said. “That’s unprecedented in pilots.” 

After a month of spending time together—tagging along for group dinners, playing darts together— the filmmakers and pilots melded into a unit. Crowder, a onetime member of the Celtic punk band Flogging Molly, was himself a mini-celebrity of sorts: Turns out, several Blue Angels were Flogging Molly fans. “When I walked in, it was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Paul from Flogging Molly!’” he recalled, to which he replied: “No—oh my god, it’s the Blue Angels!”

7. The crew filmed just 25 feet beneath jets flying right under the speed of sound.

The Blue Angels are known for their breathtaking precision and skill, piloting jets hurtling through the air within several feet of one another. One of the most iconic moves, the Sneak Path, requires a plane to fly 50 feet above the ground and just under the speed of sound. To get the shot, Crowder and his crew hunkered down on a 25-foot pier—filming as a “four-ton, almost-the-speed-of-sound jet flies right at you.” Crowder said crew members who’ve worked on films with massive explosions (think Batman) still found this experience unnerving. “They went almost white in the face,” he said, noting the sensation of the downward pressure and the intensity of the sound. “Even if you’re expecting it, it gets you,” Crowder said. “There’s a massive bang, and by the time you looked, it was gone.”

You can catch The Blue Angels exclusively in IMAX theaters starting May 17, and on Prime Video when it becomes available to stream on May 23.