Top Gun: Maverick Shines a Light of Patriotism to Box Offices Around the Nation


The Times

An image of Tom Cruise in his pilot uniform from the film. Cruise recently celebrated his fifty-ninth birthday, while he was merely twenty-three-years-old during the production of the first Top Gun film.

Madison Austin, Photojournalist

In 2017, Tom Cruise aficionados and military movie fanatics alike experienced a wave of shock and delight when legendary movie star, Tom Cruise, announced the production of a sequel to the famous 1986 cinematic classic, Top Gun (1986). Almost 31 years after the release of the original movie, the film industry seemingly erupted in a wave of enthusiastic celebration for the release of a sequel to one of the most beloved movies in American, and worldwide, cinematic history.

Top Gun (1986) tells  the story of a dangerously talented naval pilot, Pete Mitchell, referred to as Maverick, his navy call sign. Following the dismissal of a superior pilot, Maverick and his wingman  Goose are sent to military schooling for the most prestigious sect of the naval flayers: Top Gun. There, Maverick is slow to adjust to life in the Top Gun program, struggling to make friends with the other pilots and follow the strict orders of the program. A cocky showman with an oversized ego, Maverick competes vigorously with fellow pilot, Iceman, for the position of team leader on a critical mission. Simultaneously, Maverick vyes for the attention of “Charlie” Blackwood, a beautiful astrophysicist and naval instructor at Top Gun.

The most critical point in the movie occurs about three-quarters of the way into the movie, when Maverick and Goose are engaged in a dangerous mission where they find themselves caught in a position where they were forced to eject themselves from their F-14 plane. Unfortunately, Goose’s parachute has been jettisoned, and he was unable to eject from the plane, leading to his untimely death. Maverick was extremely affected by the death of his wingman and best friend, questioning his own morality for the first time. By the end of the move,however, he is able to reclaim his “edge” and becomes an instructor for the program.

In 1986, when the film was released, Top Gun (1986) received mass media praise for its contemporary superior special effects. The majority of the film’s budget was allocated toward F-14 planes that were constructed by the Navy and made to look entirely realistic, Navy veterans and commanders were on set family and consulted to preserve accuracy. That being said, much of the filmmakers ‘ambitions were too difficult to accomplish, and many of the shots were constructed artificially.

Top Gun (1986) was not only praised by fans around the world, but it was also immensely critically acclaimed. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing, and it even won the award titled Best Original Song” for the internationally beloved hit “Take My Breath Away,” performed by contemporary Los Angeles band Berlin.

Much more notable than the awards and plot, however, is the legacy that Top Gun (1986)  maintains. American film producer John Davis was notable for commenting that the film virtually serves as a navy recruitment video for the United States. He famously commented that the film had the effect of making young men shout, “Wow! I want to be a pilot” (USS News). That sentiment was reflected in a 500% increase in applications in American naval aviator programs (US Navy).

That legacy lived on for decades, as many came to the natural presumption that Top Gun (1986) was a standalone film, and its lessons would live on for decades to come in the United States. That all changed in 2017 when the production of a sequel was announced, and the title–Top Gun: Maverick– was released to the public. “I was so excited, ” reflected Molly Polomsky (12), an unequivocal fan of the original film. “I grew up watching Top Gun with my family,” she continued, “ and I was beyond excited to hear about the production of another Top Gun film.”

The film’s trailer was released in 2020, and was set to be released that same summer. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the United States in March of that same year, and the film’s release date was postponed several times. Producers of the film claim that it is a “film to see in theaters’ ‘ so the film’s postponement was  continued in order to avoid an at-home-digital-release.

Cruise served as the primary producer of the film, having much influence on the casting, special effects, screenwriting, and stunts in the film. He auditioned Miles Teller to play the son of Goose, Maverick’s deceased ex-wingman, and was taken aback by his performance during the audition. Val Kolmer, who originally played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), is the only member of the original film to reprise their role. 

According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Cruise incited on coaching his co-stars through an intensive three-month bootcamp in preparation for the film in order to build the mental, emotional, and physical samina necessary for a Top Gun film. The majority of the leading cast members earned their pilots license, and the majority of film consists of actual footage of the actors flying F-18 planes, as little to no special effects were used.

In Top Gun: Maverick (2022), almost thirty years after the death of his companion Goose, Maverick is called to instruct a select team of pilots for a special mission at Top Gun. One of the leading members in the program is the son of Goose, who Maverick has not gained closure with yet. In This sequel, Maverick bonds with the son of his deceased friend, while coming to terms with the death of his friend himself. At the same time, Maverick instructs these young pilots for a dangerously risky mission that will save the fate of the United States.

Top Gun: Maverick has been a box office success, grossing almost $156 million during its opening weekend. It already places as the fourth-highest grossing film of 2022, and it is projected to make much more in the weeks to follow (Box Office Mojo). For many, this was the first film to see in theaters following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many claim that Top Gun: Maverick is the film to bring people back to theaters. In that same light, Tom Cruise appeared in a brief, thirty-second clip before the film thanking fans for coming out to theaters to watch the film.

The overarching theme of Top Gun: Maverick is a glorification of the actions of the United States military. Especially in recent times, the American military is seldom painted with such a shade of reverence. In the film, the soldiers are displayed as courageous, skilled, patriotic, and intense, traits that all members of the military possess. It was a touching moment for all citizens of the United States to see the navy held to such high regard and portrayed in such an accurately flattering manner.