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Top Gun: Maverick: 6 Things To Remember Before The Tom Cruise Sequel

Tom Cruise pumps his fist in excitement in Top Gun: Maverick.
(Image credit: Paramount)

After a 36-year break, audiences around the world are finally going back into the friendly skies with everyone’s favorite naval fighter pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, in the highly anticipated Top Gun: Maverick. But, while some have watched the original Top Gun too many times to count over the years and know the movie like the back of their hands, others could use a little refresher course to remember some of the key elements of Tom Cruise’s classic ‘80s movie.

Well, suit up, strap in, and take a trip down memory lane as we go over the iconic characters, scenes, and other things that will surely come in handy when you sit down for the long-awaited sequel that will take your breath away and into the danger zone.

Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount)

Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell Was Respected For His Flying Skills, Not His Attitude Or Reputation

As is commonly the case in the best action movies, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is not on the best of terms with those around him, whether it be fellow pilots with the U.S. Navy, his superior officers, or even his best of friends. And, there’s a good reason for that: Maverick, despite being one of the best pilots in the world, doesn’t like to follow orders or listen to suggestions by his colleagues, so much so that he has a bad reputation with just about anyone who comes into his orbit.

That cocky and devil-may-care attitude and reputation follows Maverick wherever he goes throughout the movie. Pretty much everyone, including rival Tom “Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer), respects Maverick’s flying skills and prowess in the air, but also feels he takes too many chances and puts too many lives in danger whenever he’s in the air. They are not wrong to feel this way, as is proven multiple times throughout Top Gun.

Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Maverick Was Invited To Attend The Topgun Fighter Pilot School

In the opening chapter of Top Gun, Maverick and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), come to the rescue of another pilot who has a mental breakdown after having an encounter with a hostile MiG-28 aircraft and help him land his jet on the USS Enterprise (disobeying orders to land himself in the process). Though Maverick and Goose are reprimanded for their actions, their heroics (and the resignation of the distressed pilot) earn them a spot in the prestigious Topgun naval fighter weapons school in California.

The school, which puts the country's top pilots up against one another, pushes Maverick to his limits, physically, mentally, and even spiritually, as he is forced to overcome multiple obstacles during the ultra-elite and dangerous program. 

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Blackwood, A Topgun Instructor, And Maverick Fell In Love During Training

Although Kelly McGillis won’t be back in Top Gun: Maverick, you can’t talk about the original movie without mentioning her iconic character, Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, the Topgun instructor who fell madly in love with Maverick back in 1986. The two first meet at a bar near Naval Air Station Miramar (how could you forget the iconic “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” scene), at which point Maverick has not yet realized that the woman who caught his eye is also one of his instructors and one of the top civilians working with the defense industry.

Over the course of the movie, they go from strangers to teacher and student, to passionate lovers who become inseparable. This isn’t to say the relationship is without its tough moments, as it nearly all comes crashing down when Maverick almost quits the program following a tragedy. But, Charlie is there to whip him back into shape and help him get his groove back in the cockpit of his fighter jet.

Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Maverick Felt Responsible For The Death Of Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw, His Best Friend

During one the competitions in the middle of the Topgun school, Maverick flies through the jet wash of Iceman’s F-14 aircraft in an attempt to take out a “bogey” which causes both of his engines to fail and sends his jet into a spin. With no other option, Maverick and Goose eject from their jet, but Goose hits his head on the top of the cockpit cover and is killed before his body hits the water.

Understandably, Maverick holds himself responsible (despite being cleared by a review board) causing him to lose his prowess in the air and confidence in himself. Overcome with grief, guilt, and self-torment, Maverick considers leaving the program and retiring from flying entirely, but emotional conversations with Charlie and Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt), who flew with Maverick’s father in Vietnam, help him overcome the situation and regain his self-confidence once more.

Val Kilmer in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky Won The Topgun Competition

Throughout the Topgun school, Maverick and Iceman are neck and neck in terms of being in first place. It looks like Maverick stands a chance to beat out his competitor, but his temporary departure from the program following Goose’s death seals the deal for his rival, who ultimately takes home the top honors (and that awesome trophy) at the graduation ceremony.

It is hard to say if Maverick would have been able to win the competition if he wouldn’t have had to step away due to the investigation and grief caused by Goose’s death, but those “what ifs” and the competition as a whole become inconsequential when the school’s top performers are taken away and sent to a real-world crisis situation.

Val Kilmer smiles in a crowd of aviators in Top Gun.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Maverick And Iceman Were Two Of The Pilots To See Real Combat With A Squadron Of MiGs

In the final chapter of Top Gun, Maverick, Iceman, and other pilots and RIOs (including a character played by Tim Robbins) are sent into action to provide air support for the rescue of the SS Layton communications ship, which is disabled and stuck in hostile waters. 

Not soon after, the two former rivals find themselves severely outnumbered by six MiGs with no other option than to take them on in hopes they’ll lose their nerve and retreat. Although Iceman is initially hesitant to trust Maverick due to his past antics and attitude, Maverick proves his worth by shooting down several bogeys and saving Iceman from suffering a terrible fate. Having earned each other’s respect, the two put aside their differences upon landing.

Hopefully this gets you caught up to speed with everything before you go see Top Gun: Maverick when it opens at your local movie theater. But, if you have enough time, you should also watch Top Gun streaming just for the sake of it.

Philip Sledge
Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.