Italian musician Giorgio Moroder was asked by Jerry Bruckheimer, the co-producer for Top Gun, to write a song for the film. He first wrote "Danger Zone" which was recorded by Kenny Loggins. Happy with the result, Bruckheimer then requested a slower song for a romantic scene. Once Moroder had written the musical backing to what would become "Take My Breath Away", he recorded a demo which featured a distinctive bass sound on a synthesiser that would later be used on the actual recording. Moroder gave the demo to lyricist Tom Whitlock. The two first became acquainted when Whitlock, a mechanic, fixed the brakes on Moroder's Ferrari, and informed him that he was also a lyricist. Whitlock wrote the lyrics while driving home from the studio, and then spent a few hours at home polishing them. A demo of the song, sung by a background singer, impressed director Tony Scott and producers Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, who decided to film new romantic scenes between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis to feature the song.
The song was first offered to The Motels, who much later released their original demo, which is fairly similar to Berlin's released version, on their compilation album Anthologyland (2001).Columbia Records suggested some of their signed artists, but eventually Moroder thought of the band Berlin, whose song "No More Words" he had produced. Whitlock made a few changes to the lyrics before Terri Nunn recorded the vocals. Moroder has said that of all the songs he has produced in his career, he is most proud of this song.
The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium. It later went on to win Best Original Song at the 59th Academy Awards.
"Take My Breath Away" is available on both the original Top Gun soundtrack album and the expanded edition. The song was also featured on Berlin's fourth studio album, Count Three & Pray and, as the band's biggest hit, on several of the band's compilation albums: Best of Berlin 1979–1988, Master Series, Greatest Hits Remixed (which includes a "Mission UK Remix" version), Live: Sacred & Profane, and Metro Greatest Hits. "Take My Breath Away" was one of the few songs not written by Berlin's John Crawford that they had performed on any album up to that point. Following the release of "Take My Breath Away", the band split over different points of view regarding the track: while Nunn viewed it as an opportunity that allowed the band to perform worldwide, Crawford disliked it as it had not been written or composed by any of them. He later said: "None of us had ever heard it. None of us had anything to do with it. I didn't play on it. Nobody played on it. No one wrote it".
"Take My Breath Away" was re-released in the United Kingdom in October 1990 to coincide with the first television showing of Top Gun (by ITV, on the evening of October 6, 1990), as well as Peugeot's new television advertising campaign for the 405 model range. The re-release reached number three on the UK Singles Chart.
The music video features scenes from the film Top Gun intermingled with Berlin's singer Terri Nunn performing the song in blue coveralls, walking between parts of planes in a windy aircraft boneyard (part of the Mojave Air & Space Port) at night. Bandmates John Crawford and Rob Brill are shown relaxing in the yard and then following Nunn. The video can be seen occasionally on VH1 Europe's Top 10 Movie Soundtracks program. It was later included on the 2004 Top Gun collector's edition DVD.
American singer Jessica Simpson covered "Take My Breath Away" and released it as the third single from the album In This Skin in March 2004. Her version was produced by Billy Mann. Simpson chose to cover this song because she thought that it was the theme song of her relationship with her then-husband, Nick Lachey.
An instrumental version was recorded by The Shadows for their 1991 album Themes & Dreams. As is typical for the group's cover versions, it features Hank Marvin's lead guitar played to the original vocal melody, with considerable note elongation, echo and whammy bar application.