Top Gun: Maverick

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Tom Cruise flies F/A-18 Hornets and smiles and waves at Commie Landers while playing touch football.

Okay, a bit more detail. Top Gun: Maverick is a 2022 American action drama film directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy). The sequel to Top Gun, it stars Tom Cruise, who reprises his role as United States Navy aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Also returning is Val Kilmer as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky.

WARNING: This film involves extensive Late Arrival Spoilers for the previous film, which will not be marked here. Read on at your own risk!

Around thirty years after the previous film, now-Captain Maverick is a test pilot who has dodged promotion to the admiralty in order to keep flying. After the record-setting test-to-destruction of a hypersonic prototype plane, he is reassigned back to TOPGUN. His mission: Train a group of elite pilots to carry out an unprecedentedly risky strike against a rogue nation's underground uranium enrichment plant. This is made even more complicated by the fact that among the trainees is Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, which tears open old wounds. In addition, he must grapple with rekindled feelings for old flame Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly).

Tropes used in Top Gun: Maverick include:
  • AKA-47: The enemy "fifth-generation fighters" are quite obviously Su-57s, but are never explicitly referred to as such.
  • Aborted Arc: In the opening act, Maverick pushes the Darkstar to and then past Mach 10 in order to secure its funding in the face of the threat of getting cancelled in favour of drones. The question of manned vs unmanned planes never comes up after that, not even as a throwaway to justify why the strike can't be carried out using drones.
  • Advertised Extra: The Darkstar is kind of a vehicular equivalent. Despite its prominence in promotional material, including the Ace Combat 7 collaboration DLC, it only plays a small part in the film proper.
  • Airstrike Impossible: The strike on the plant requires two teams of two planes to fly low through a canyon lest they be fired on by SAMs, and do so in two minutes and thirty seconds or less or else enemy fighters will intercept. They then need to climb a hill and dive into a deep depression where the first pair needs to destroy a bunker, while the second drops bombs through a now-exposed channel to destroy the plant proper. Then they need to pull 9+Gs on a steep climb to crest a mountain and egress, evading SAMs as they do so. Maverick warns that someone might not survive despite their best efforts.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: As crazy as the mission seems, it does have some basis in fact, namely Operation Opera, an Israeli airstrike on an Iraqi nuclear facility.
  • Anonymous Ringer: The rogue nation being targeted is never named. Its having F-14s suggests Iran, but only Russia has Su-57s currently. The presence of riverine snow just adds to the confusion.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When reviewing what errors were made during training, Maverick tells the trainees not to explain as they would to superiors, but to the families of the teammates who would have died had the mistakes happened during the real mission. No one can offer a good excuse in the face of that.
  • Ascended Extra: Penny was only briefly alluded to in the first film.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Maverick and Rooster slip into an enemy airbase by acting like they belong in the midst of the chaos it's experiencing. They later try the same with a pair of enemy planes. This one isn't so successful.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The enemy nation's nearby airbase just happens to have a working F-14 around, which Maverick and Rooster hijack.
  • Call Back:
    • When Rooster plays "Great Balls of Fire" on a piano, Maverick has a flashback to Goose doing the same thing decades ago and his last moments.
    • When Maverick first goes on a training flight with the trainees, he speaks to them like the captain of a commercial airliner. Near the end, after Hangman saves Maverick and Rooster from an enemy plane, the saviour speaks to the saved similarly.
    • Both Bradshaw father and son tell Maverick to "do some of that pilot shit".
  • Casting Gag: WSO Bob is played by Lewis Pullman, whose father Bill played a former fighter pilot in Independence Day.
  • The Cavalry:
    • Maverick is cornered by an enemy helicopter when it gets destroyed by Rooster disobeying orders to go back for him.
    • Maverick and Rooster are being intercepted by an enemy fighter with no more ammo left and it looks like they're doomed. Then Hangman destroys it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the immediately-after-the-opening scene, among Maverick's belongings is a pair of photos of Rooster, who doesn't get formally introduced to the viewer until later.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Charlie doesn't come back from the first film and isn't mentioned again apart from a brief unvoiced appearance in an archival footage flashback, leaving the circumstances of her separation from Maverick a mystery.
  • Coming in Hot: With lost front landing gear and failing engines, Maverick and Rooster need to land into the carrier's barricade.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The enemy nation just happens to have two fifth-generation fighters actually three that were already in the air before the runway denial missile attacks.
    • The nearby enemy airbase just happens to have a armed and fueled F-14 sitting around in a hangar ready for takeoff that was missed by the earlier Macross Missile Massacre.
  • Could Say It, But...: Maverick's response to being asked not to tell that an engine has been lost is a cheery "Alright, I won't tell you that".
  • Dark Reprise: The tracks "You're Where You Belong/Give 'Em Hell" and "Tally Two/What's the Plan/F-14" subtly includes sombre if not outright funereal orchestral rearrangements of "Highway to the Danger Zone", reflecting how the original's cheerful, energetic rendition follows Maverick and the F-14 being in their best years, while now they're old warhorses on a final ride.
  • Drone of Dread: An ominous droning occurs whenever an enemy unit appears.
  • End of an Age: "Drone Ranger" Cain, who wants to take the Darkstar funding for his drones, tells Maverick after the Mach 10 test run that "Your kind is headed for extinction" and that all he's done is delay the inevitable future without manned aviation.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first training scene and its immediate precedent serves as a multiple-in-one for Rooster:
    • He ignores Maverick's initial attempts to talk until rank gets pulled on him, and almost immediately asks if Maverick is going to wash him out, and then asks next if he's dismissed. They're not on good terms.
    • He puts on his oxygen mask as soon as Maverick announces that they're doing dogfighting training, and tries to dissuade Payback from the pushups idea with a sharp "Guys". He might not like Maverick but he knows the older guy is not to be messed with.
    • He takes one for Payback despite the other guy's foolhardiness.
"And now you know a little something about Rooster."
  • Faceless Goons: The enemy nation's pilots use blackened visors this time too, while the visors on our heroes are transparent.
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • After their shared struggles in the first film, Maverick and Iceman are still on good terms with each other.
    • Despite the rocky start, after the mission and subsequent escape from enemy territory, Maverick and Rooster are now cordial.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Hondo tells Maverick to stop at Mach 10 and not push beyond, you just know Mav's not going to listen.
    • Rooster getting in the way of Maverick doing a simulated shootdown of Payback foreshadows both Maverick saving the former during the mission, as well as his coming back for Maverick despite the dangers.
    • Birds are shown taking off shortly before a bird strike occurs.
  • Happy Ending Override: The first film ended with Maverick free of his guilt over Goose's death, hooked up with Charlie, and headed back to TOPGUN as an instructor. Come this instalment, Maverick isn't as over Goose as the end of the first film made it seem, Charlie is nowhere to be seen, and he only lasted two months as an instructor.
  • Hero of Another Story: The trainees start out this way, all being TOPGUN graduates and most having past achievements and history with each other that is hardly elaborated on.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Although not physically risky, the exchange between Hondo and Maverick before the latter takes the Darkstar up implies that he's taking one for the team even if it will cost him his career.

Hondo: You know what happens to you if you go through with this.
Maverick: I know what happens to everyone else if I don't.

  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Inverted with the two fifth-generation fighters; Maverick tells Rooster that said enemies don't know that the F-14 is not friendly, or else they would be dead already.
  • Internal Homage:
    • The film opens with the same words as the first one, as well as carrier flight ops set to "Top Gun Anthem" and "Highway to the Danger Zone".
    • Maverick chases a taking off fighter on his motorcycle once again.
    • Maverick gets tossed out of a pub by the trainees, who are mortified when he shows up the next day as their new instructor. This mirrors Maverick's attempt to woo Charlie only to learn that she's an instructor in the first film.
    • Rooster plays "Great Balls of Fire" on a piano just like his father did decades ago while also wearing a print shirt over a white underlayer.
    • Maverick greeting the trainees with "Good morning, aviators" before kicking their asses echoes Viper doing the same with "Good morning, gentlemen".
  • Ironic Echo: At the end of their meeting, Iceman asks Maverick once more who's the better pilot. This time, Maverick sadly tells him not to spoil the moment. Left unsaid is that it might be the last time they see each other.
  • Last Request: The real reason why Rooster was held back was because Carole told Maverick to so as to not let him Turn Out Like His Father. Maverick doesn't want to let him know that because it's enough that Rooster resents him without also resenting his mother.
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: This instalment is driven in large part by the lingering effects of Goose's death by botched ejection in the first one.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The strike is accompanied by a whole lot of Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the nearby enemy airbase to destroy its runway and prevent reinforcements from that end. Why those missiles aren't used to directly attack the target is never brought up.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Iceman succumbs to his terminal illness and Maverick and the pilots attend his funeral.
  • Misguided Missile: A missile fired by a fifth-generation fighter is led into its damaged but still airborne wingman.
  • Mood Whiplash: Maverick and Penny are spending the night together at Penny's home because her daughter is supposed to be out till late and they start having an emotional talk about Goose. Then the daughter comes home early and it becomes awkwardly funny as Maverick has to escape because Penny says she doesn't want to set a bad example, only for him to get caught anyway. Then it becomes sad once more when the daughter tells him not to break the mother's heart again.
  • Necessary Drawback: Maverick's attack plan has a strict time limit and is more demanding on the pilots, but will allow them to avoid interception by the enemy fighters. Cyclone's alternative is easier on the ingress, but because it takes longer, the danger of interception is higher.
  • No, I Am Behind You: In the final battle, this is done thrice. A fifth-generation fighter starts out on the tail of Maverick and Rooster, who then get behind it. Then it uses a Herbst maneuver to get behind them. Then they get behind it one last time.
  • One Bullet Left: The second fifth-generation fighter is destroyed with the last burst of ammo its opponent has.
  • Out of Focus: There are twelve trainees. In between the first group that appears onscreen and Rooster's flashy solo entrance is a second group. This bunch barely gets any screen time and none of them are chosen for the mission, all being left as reserves.
  • Overranked Soldier: Inverted. It's explicitly called out that after over thirty years of decorated service, Maverick should be at least an two-star admiral, if not mustered out and become a senator, not just a captain.
  • Precision F-Strike: The sole F-bomb allowed to PG-13 movies is reserved for Rooster expressing disbelief at a fifth-generation fighter doing a Herbst maneuver.
  • Product Placement:
    • The Darkstar was designed by Lockheed Martin and has its decals.
    • Hondo uses a IWC watch to time the mission's ingress flight.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Discussed and inverted. Maverick takes out a manual for the F/A-18 and asks the trainees whether they've read it. They say yes. He promptly throws it in the trash and says that so have the enemy, and he's not there to teach what's in it.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Maverick has thus far avoided getting kicked out of the Navy despite his antics thanks to Iceman covering for him, but even then there's only so much that can be done. Iceman hasn't even been dead long before Cyclone pulls him off the training with the admittedly reasonable pretext that he hasn't given the desired results. Later, when he takes a plane on an unauthorised flight to show that the low-level ingress in the required timeframe is actually possible despite the other pilots' hitherto failure, Cyclone makes clear to him that he should by right be facing a court martial, and that even if he's spared that, he will still be reaching the end of his career in this mission one way or another, whether it's through dying in enemy airspace or getting grounded permanently after his return.
    • This film performs a Happy Ending Override on the previous one, hitting the viewer with the fact that no, just because Maverick received a pep talk and powered his way through his grief to fight that film's final battle doesn't mean that his issues from Goose's death are magically resolved. Thirty years on, he still misses Goose, and the man's son still blames him for his role in the death.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Rooster tries to say something to Maverick before the mission begins. Maverick tells him it can wait till afterwards. We never learn what it was.
  • Rock Beats Laser: It is repeatedly emphasised that the F/A-18 is no match for the enemy fifth-generation fighters, so of course an older-generation plane ends up having to get into a scrap with the new hotness.
  • Rule of Cool: In reality, this is exactly the kind of mission F-35s would be tasked with, and no, GPS jamming wouldn't actually be the hindrance it's claimed to be. Or, if none of the munitions they can carry are powerful enough, a B-2 at night with bunker busters. Or infiltrating a SEAL team to do the laser designation for Tomahawks. None of those would be quite as cool as the Airstrike Impossible, though.
  • Running Gag: Someone saying that s/he doesn't like the expression Maverick is making and him saying in response “It’s The Only One I Got.”
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Less malicious and probably deliberate than most, but Maverick has dodged permanent grounding or worse only because of Iceman using superior authority to cover for him.
  • Sequel Escalation: The first film was about already capable aviators going to TOPGUN to push their skills to a higher level and culminated in a two-on-five pure dogfight. This film involves aviators who have already graduated from TOPGUN being pushed even further beyond in a mission that involves an Airstrike Impossible and combination of factors even Maverick hasn't done all in the same mission, and what the final fight lacks in raw numbers, it makes up for with the enemy's technological superiority.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: With an enemy fifth-generation fighter about to fire, no more ammo, and malfunctioning ejection seats, Maverick apologises one last time to Goose.
  • Spiritual Licensee: The Ace Combat community has embraced the film as being the closest thing there probably will be to a big budget Live Action Adaptation of the series, albeit one that pays attention to ammo constraints, G-forces and how dangerous things that are routine in the games would be if done "for real". "Final boss battle with an enemy Bigger Stick" is also a series staple. Even better, while the film's production schedule makes any deliberate reference almost impossible (preliminary production started in 2018 with scriptwriting years before, while Skies Unknown was released in 2019), the mission is very much like a three-way hybrid of the missions Bunker Buster (laser-designating bunkers for destruction), Cape Rainy Assault (flying through a canyon) and Faceless Soldier (flying low to avoid missiles), and Maverick being an Old Soldier test pilot returning to combat to show the younglings what's up is a lot like Mihaly.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Rooster looks a lot like his father, moustache included, which doesn't help Maverick's issues in the slightest.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Carole died offscreen in between the two films. Iceman succumbs to his terminal illness shortly after his last meeting with Maverick.
  • Survival Mantra: Maverick is still saying "Talk to me, Goose" despite the latter being dead for more than 30 years. Rooster takes it up during the mission.
  • Taking the Bullet:
    • During the dogfighting training scene, Rooster puts his plane in the way before Maverick can do a simulated shootdown on Payback.
    • When Rooster runs out of countermeasures during the mission, Maverick deliberately puts his plane in the way of incoming missiles and gets shot down.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • During the first training flight, the trainees propose to have some skin in the game by making whoever gets shot down first do 200 pushups. Maverick is all too happy to demonstrate why betting against him is a bad idea.
    • The next trio of trainees to go up against Maverick smugly take a selfie with Rooster while the latter is doing pushups. Cut to Maverick kicking their arses, and Hondo rubbing their faces in it.

"It was all fun and games in that selfie, wasn't it?"

    • In a kind of nonlethal variant on Take a Moment to Catch Your Death, after Coyote recovers from G-LOC and narrowly avoids crashing, Maverick and Phoenix breathe sighs of relief. Bird strike!
  • Theme and Variations Soundtrack: Most of the tracks incorporate elements of "Highway to the Danger Zone", "Hold my Hand" or "Top Gun Anthem".
  • Throw It In: The shed's roof that flies off as the Darkstar passes overhead? That wasn't planned.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Miles Teller plays the thirty-years-older Bradley, who was played in the first Top Gun as a child by twins Aaron and Adam Weis.
  • Tragic Keepsake: One of the first things shown of Maverick is his wall of photos of and with Goose.
  • The Worf Effect: In a rare heroic example, Maverick shows the trainees - TOPGUN graduates all, and thus the best the current-generation Navy has to offer - just why he's qualified to teach them by stomping them in dogfights.
  • You Killed My Father: Goose's beef with Maverick stems primarily from the latter's role in Goose's death.