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Every Main Character From Top Gun: Maverick Ranked

While legacy sequels usually don't fare well, 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick" was probably one of the most successful of all time, in terms of both its critical and commercial success some 36 years after the original movie was released.

The original "Top Gun" from 1986 was directed by action maestro Tony Scott and starred Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, and Kelly McGillis. It's about a group of hotshot pilots who join the Naval Fighter Weapons School, aka TOPGUN  — headed by the tough-as-nails Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Skerritt) — to hone their skills. The film then follows the young, cocky Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise), one of the most talented but reckless pilots in the class, who eventually gets humbled after his actions accidentally kill his best friend, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards).

Meanwhile, 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick" brings Cruise back as the titular Maverick to TOPGUN, where he's training new recruits to perform a dangerous mission that involves taking out a nuclear plant in an unnamed country. This includes Miles Teller as Rooster, the son of the tragically-killed Goose from the first "Top Gun."

Like the original "Top Gun," "Top Gun: Maverick" has a lot of characters in its roster that — as the title suggests — are all each vying to grab that "top gun" position. But which character will rise to the top, and will they do it in an honorable fashion? Below is a list of all the main characters, ranked worst to best. Do you agree with our ranking?

11. Lieutenant Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw

Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) is sort of the Maverick of the 2022 sequel. Not so much because he's an arrogant hotshot that needs to be humbled like Maverick himself — in fact, his character's arc is the exact opposite of that — but, rather, because he's the student that Maverick needs to take under his wing, like Skerritt's Viper did for Maverick in the first film. Rooster, meanwhile, is too much in his own head, waiting too long to make a decision, rather than acting on instinct, like apparently pilots are supposed to do.

To be clear, the arc laid out for Teller's Rooster in "Top Gun: Maverick", and the innate emotional baggage connected to him and Maverick is actually pretty good on paper. Maverick is seen by Rooster as responsible for the death of his father, Goose, in the first film. Thus, throughout this movie, both Rooster and Maverick have to learn to move past that tragedy before they can truly coalesce as a team.

Unfortunately, the character is badly, woodenly acted by a bored-looking Teller. Furthermore, Rooster also has an extremely one-note characterization, alternating between some variation of angry or brooding for most of the movie, which doesn't really do the already stiff performance any favors. Again, there's theoretically meat on the character due to his connection to OG character Goose ... but it just doesn't land at all.

10. Admiral Chester 'Hammer' Cain

As commanding a presence Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain (Ed Harris) has at the beginning of "Top Gun: Maverick," he isn't given a lot of screen time in the film itself. This is despite a lot of time devoted to his appearance, which could barely even be considered a cameo, in the initial "Top Gun: Maverick" trailer.

Essentially, Harris' Cain pretty much only exists to be an obstacle during Maverick's manned Mach 10 flight, as Cain wants to defund and scrap the project to help fund more military drones — which goes against Maverick's whole ethos about the pilot being more important than the machine. Furthermore, after Maverick's stunt goes awry and he crashes the plane, Cain is the one who facilitates the main plot by informing Maverick that he will again be going to the TOPGUN academy — this time as the teacher, rather than the student.

The character is well-acted by Harris, a seasoned pro through and through, but such a stock character borders on cliché. Also, unlike Jon Hamm's Admiral Simpson — who fulfills a similar role — Cain never has a change of heart. So he doesn't even have an arc or anything to latch onto outside of his innate charisma, because the script sure doesn't give the actor any help.

9. Lieutenant Jake 'Hangman' Seresin

Glen Powell stars as Lieutenant Jake "Hangman" Seresin in "Top Gun: Maverick." He is the cocky hothead of the group, and arguably the best standalone pilot in the program at the beginning of the film. However, like Maverick in the original '86 "Top Gun," Hangman must learn humility and how to work with a team. In fact, his call sign, "Hangman," is stated to have been given to him because he leaves his wing men and fellow pilots "out hanging," or leaving them alone to be picked off by enemies while he cares only about himself.

Hangman does have a Han Solo-esque arc where he saves the day at the end ... but it's also kind of a "too little, too late" situation. Unfortunately, Glen Powell does such a great job being a preppy scoundrel at the beginning of the film that it's hard to shake that first impression entirely off, even during the climax. It's almost too derivative and cliche of a face-turn to really be compelling — though that's more the script's fault than Powell's.

In many ways, Hangman hangs himself by being too good of a heel in his introduction. We never really get the chance to understand or empathize with him. Better luck next time, we suppose — which judging by the box office numbers, there probably will be.

8. Vice Admiral Beau 'Cyclone' Simpson

Jon Hamm stars as the super-stuffy Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson. It's unfortunately a super-stock role, not really elevated by Hamm, who hasn't really had much success on the big screen after his star-making turn as advertising executive Don Draper on AMC's "Mad Men."

For one, his dialogue might as well have been written by a bot with "watched 1,000 hours of action movies" prompts. He also makes no interesting turns in the story, as his arc goes exactly how you expect it to go. Similar to Tom Skerritt's Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf in the first "Top Gun," Hamm's Admiral Simpson at first doesn't take too kindly to all of Maverick's hotdoggin' and fancy flyin', and instead wants him to go by the book. However, after Maverick shows the admiral his skill — and the necessity for the aforementioned "hotdoggin' and fancy flyin'" to successfully completely the mission — Cyclone eventually relents. That's the formula this film has to follow, seemingly on pain of death.

Hamm does an adequate job in the role. It's just that the part could have gone to anyone, or possibly someone willing to give the character more personality, but — with the script he was handed — he probably did the best he could.

7. Penelope 'Penny' Benjamin

Penelope "Penny" Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly, is a bartender near the military base where the Naval Fighter school is established, as well as an old flame of Maverick's. While not introduced in the first "Top Gun" from 1986 (when Connelly was only 16 years old) her character apparently has a lot of history with Maverick, which is revealed via clunky exposition throughout "Top Gun: Maverick." Penny even has an cloyingly precocious daughter named Amelia (Lyliana Wray) who is aware of — and even fondly considers — Maverick as a worthy suitor to Penny after her mom and dad's divorce.

Penny is well-acted by Connelly — since she's a great actress — but it's an archetypal "romance" role, and it's super-underdeveloped and half-baked despite being one of the emotional cores of the films. Plus the fact that they didn't bring back the original movie's love interest, Charlotte, played by actress Kelly McGillis — even for a cameo — seems obviously misogynistic and ageist. This is especially transparent, given the fact McGillis is three years older than Cruise, while Connelly is almost a decade his junior.

6. Rear Admiral Solomon 'Warlock' Bates

Rear Admiral Solomon "Warlock" Bates, played by actor Charles Parnell, is one of Maverick's top allies during the mission training, and Parnell does a great job creating a backstory that might not have been there on the page, but still felt lived in and realistic on the screen nonetheless.

He is also one of the few actors to find some meat in the anemic, bare-bones script. This is even more impressive, since "Top Gun: Maverick" is set almost four decades after the 1986 original and he has to fill in so much exposition and backstory. This could be a death knell to any performance, even from the most skilled performers.

Warlock is essentially the counterpoint to Jon Hamm's Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson, who actively despises Maverick upfront, and — unlike Warlock — has to learn to accept Pete Mitchell's, well, "maverick" ways. However, despite the lack of conflict, Parnell's Warlock is still the more engaging screen presence between the two nonetheless.

5. Chief Warrant Officer Bernie 'Hondo' Coleman

Chief Warrant Officer Bernie "Hondo" Coleman (Bashir Salahuddin) is a loyal friend to Maverick who we meet at the beginning of the film as part of Maverick's manned mission to go Mach 10 in an experimental jet. While the character wasn't in the original movie, Salahuddin gives Hondo a great sense of history between him and Cruise's Maverick. For instance, Hondo comically stalls Admiral Cain (Ed Harris) during the Mach 10 test, putting his own career on the line for Maverick, which shows the kind of friendship — and loyalty — he has to the captain.

Despite Maverick's constant recklessness, Hondo continues to be a ride-or-die comrade to him — meaning his character is similar to Kilmer's Iceman in that way. However, Hondo has much more personality in the film, due to having more screen time and definitely getting some of the best laugh lines in the film as well. If the franchise is to continue, it will be nice to see where the sequels will take Hondo's character in the future. We'd like to see him stick around.

4. Lieutenant Robert 'Bob' Floyd

Lieutenant Robert "Bob" Floyd (Lewis Pullman) is one of the standout young recruits who debuts in "Top Gun: Maverick." His introduction as a nerdy introvert is a great contrast to his vast technical skill and strong contributions to the team. Throughout the film, he gains more confidence, and eventually stands up for himself against Hangman and some of the other pilots. It's satisfying to see him eventually come into his own.

He especially steps up during the climatic bombing raid, helping to execute it perfectly. Him and Lt. Phoenix (Monica Barbaro) also have a cute relationship, especially considering it's not romantic at all. It's frankly refreshing to have a female main character that has her own arcs and motivations — outside of her relationships to the male characters — and that her connection to Bob is purely friendly and professional, even if caring.

Floyd also has one of the most unique callsigns, considering it's simply based on his own real name, unlike the more colorful monikers the other cadets use, such as "Phoenix," "Maverick," "Hangman," and "Rooster." It somehow suits Robert Floyd's modest, low-key approach to one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

3. Lieutenant Natasha 'Phoenix' Trace

Monica Barbaro plays Lieutenant Natasha "Phoenix" Trace in "Top Gun: Maverick," one of the only female pilots in the prestigious TOPGUN flight school; she's also one of the best. By the end of the film, Maverick chooses only a select few to join on the life-or-death mission introduced at the beginning of the story, and Phoenix is one of the first he picks.

Barbaro gives a strong performance as Phoenix, not trying too hard to be "one of the boys," while still maintaining her poise and strength. It's also nice to have female representation in the film via a woman who doesn't fail or need to be rescued or anything — she does her part in the climax flawlessly.

It's also refreshing to have a female character who doesn't need to have her arc connected directly to a male's — especially not romantically. While there is some potential sexual tension between her and Rooster, it doesn't overshadow her own journey and accomplishments, and is never resolved in the cliché, cheesy way that even the original "Top Gun" used. She's allowed to be her own person — still sadly rare in mainstream blockbuster movies (via THR), although things are getting better in that regard. Nonetheless, Phoenix rises from the ashes to be the third highest-ranked character in "Top Gun: Maverick."

2. Admiral Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky

Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky makes a surprising return in "Top Gun: Maverick," played once again by Val Kilmer. In the original 1986 "Top Gun," Iceman and Maverick were initially rivals, butting heads as egotistical top dog pilots at the Naval Fighter Weapons School. However, during the course of the film, both Iceman and Maverick learn to respect — and even love — each other as friends. The iconic hug they share at the end of the first movie — after Iceman earns the "Top Gun" achievement — is even immortalized in a photo during the sequel.

So it's nice to see that in the sequel, even after nearly 40 years, that Iceman and Maverick remain loyal friends to the end. It's even cooler (pardon the pun) to see Kilmer back in the role, despite his recent physical hardships, and even using state-of-the-art AI and VFX to help him speak for one scene (via BGR).

This makes the scene that Cruise and Kilmer share together that much more poignant, knowing how hard it was to set up, shoot, and execute in real life. But it was worth it, as it's one of the best scenes in the film. It's simply just a quiet moment between two people, rather than the bombastic — if technically and viscerally impressive — aerial sequences the film is famous for. It also makes the revelation of Iceman's death, and Cruise's Maverick attending his funeral, that much more impactful.

1. Captain Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell

To end the list, we have Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, played, of course, by star Tom Cruise. In the film, Maverick is still the characteristically roguish pilot, who disobeys orders if he feels it would benefit his mission or help the people around him. Due to his advanced age, it is stated in the film that Maverick should be an admiral by now; however, he says he prefers being in the air as a captain, where he feels he can do more good. We even open the film to him piloting a dangerous experimental manned plane, since if he didn't, his comrades would lose their jobs. That shows the main reason he's at the top of the list: his compassion.

For all his bravado and righteous anti-authoritarian streak, it's the fact that Maverick puts himself out on the line to help others that puts him at the top of this list. Examples of this heroic streak continues throughout the film, such as his effort to make a plan that gets the other pilots back home — which isn't even initially a consideration from the top military brass — attempting the mission himself when all hope seems lost, sacrificing his plane to save Rooster during the raid, and many more gestures large and small. In addition, Maverick's willingness to not tell Rooster about his mother's wishes to hold his training back a few years — making Rooseter hate Maverick instead — is noble in its own way as well.