Ranker Rundown: Flying High With 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Thirty-six years ago, Top Gun introduced the rule-breaking ways of naval aviator Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, his best buddy and radar intercept officer LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, the oh-so-cocky Lt. Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, and a shirtless volleyball scene that helped jumpstart the sexual awakening for a generation of '80s teens. Now, almost 40 years later, Tom Cruise returns to the cockpit with Top Gun: Maverick. But will the long-awaited sequel land with audiences or just fly-by the box office?

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the film follows Maverick as he leads a new class of recruits, including Goose's grown-up son. With both lads and dads once again feeling the need for speed at the summer box office, Ranker is heading back into the danger zone thanks to these bite-sized tidbits about the classic first film, the acclaimed new sequel, and how movie fans feel about both.

  • Moviegoers Consider 'Top Gun' Tom Cruise's Top Tier
    Photo: Paramount Pictures/MGM/Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures

    Moviegoers Consider 'Top Gun' Tom Cruise's Top Tier

    The original Top Gun isn't just an ‘80s movie; it’s one of the 25 Must-See Quintessential ‘80s Movies, the ones that defined the decade. It was a hit at the time, obviously, but Maverick Mitchell’s first aerial adventure has remained relevant, too, as fans have voted it to No. 15 among '80s Movies That Have Stuck With You The Most.

    Top Gun and Tom Cruise remain like peanut butter and jelly, all these years later. It easily dominates Ranker's list of the Best Tom Cruise Movies, a list powered by over 21,000 votes from movie fans. 

    Despite that, Maverick himself ranks No. 2 among the Best Tom Cruise Characters, which urges voters to vote up the roles and performances even if they're not in his best movies. Cruise's Mission: Impossible hero Ethan Hunt takes the top spot there, which makes sense, given just how much time audiences have spent with him over six films.

  • Yes, Cruise Did Most Of His Own Flying (With One Exception)

    Tom Cruise is a hands-on actor. He's known for doing many of his own stunts, including free falls, dangling from ludicrous heights, and making impossible motorcycle jumps. He's so known for it, in fact, that Ranker has roundups devoted to Over-The-Top Cruise Stunts and Times Cruise Came Close To Disaster Doing His Own Stunts. So, of course, he pilots his own planes in Top Gun: Maverick.

    Cruise pilots several types of aircraft in the sequel, but this isn't really surprising; the actor flew F-14 fighter jets in the original Top Gun, so it's no shocker that he again spread his wings while making Maverick.

    Well, except for one particular aircraft: The United States Navy wasn't eager to let Cruise pilot an actual F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet with an estimated value of around $70 million. 

    “The Navy wouldn't let him fly an F-18,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told Empire (via USA Today). “But he flies a P-51 in the movie and he flies helicopters. He can do just about anything in an airplane.”

    For all Cruise's airborne acumen, flying isn't what he's most associated with among audiences. On, the Ranker list of Actors' Signature Moves, Cruise running ranks No. 4.

  • 'Maverick' Revisits The Original's Beloved Beach Volleyball Montage
    Photo: Top Gun / Paramount Pictures

    'Maverick' Revisits The Original's Beloved Beach Volleyball Montage

    In the four decades since its release, the fun, little throwaway scene has become an unmistakable moment celebrated by shirtless volleyball enthusiasts everywhere. An impromptu moment in the movie, the scene features all the main characters (except Goose) oiled up and baking in the sun while surrounded by other dudes who appear to cheer them on, all while Kenny Loggins's “Playing with the Boys" blares. This scene is probably the reason why Top Gun comes in at No. 3 on Ranker's list of The Sexiest Movie Casts From The '80s.

    In Maverick, there is a nod to the wonderful whimsy of the original moment, staying loyal to the original scene but flipping the sport from volleyball to football.

    Apparently, the scene in Maverick was originally written as a shirts-versus-skins team-building game, but director Joseph Kosinski told CinemaBlend how that quickly changed:

    I originally conceived it as shirts vs. skins, so when we got to the beach that day I was kind of dividing it up, and very quickly found out that no one (was) looking to keep their shirt on. They were like, “No way, I worked too hard.”

    Actor Glen Powell, meanwhile, gave some insight from the cast's perspective, telling Extra:

    The amount of male anxiety around taking their shirt off… The gyms were packed day and night… It was a degree of insecurity you've never seen. Ever. We shot it, and then that night, we all went out for milkshakes and tater tots and splurged. Everybody grabbed a beer. And then a week later, Tom was like... “Guys, we've got to shoot it again. It wasn't good enough. We're gonna shoot it again”… And then everyone was back in the gym day and night.

  • Jennifer Connelly's Sequel Character Is (Sort Of) In The Original Movie, Too

    In the summer of 1986, while Top Gun was dominating the box office, Jim Henson's Labyrinth hit theaters with Jennifer Connelly playing the teenage heroine. Connelly, who ranks No. 9 (just ahead of Jared Leto) on Ranker's list of Teen Idols Who Successfully Became Respected Actors, stars in Top Gun: Maverick as Penny Benjamin, a bar owner, single mom, admiral's daughter, and, most importantly, Maverick's new love interest. But she isn't all that new to Maverick or Top Gun fans. In fact, she is briefly mentioned in the first film.

    In the scene in which Stinger chews out Goose and Maverick for one of their aerial stunts, this exchange takes place:

    Stinger: Maverick, you just did an incredibly brave thing. What you should have done was land your plane. You don't own that plane, the taxpayers do. Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash. You've been busted. You lost your qualifications as section leader three times. Put in hack twice by me. With a history of high-speed passes over five air-control towers and one admiral's daughter.

    Goose: Penny Benjamin?

    So Penny is a well-established character in the Top Gun mythos, and Oscar-winner Connelly is finally getting her chance for a proper bar scene serenade.