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Top Gun 3 Fan Theories That Will Leave You Flying High

It's hard to deny the star power that is "Top Gun: Maverick." As a follow-up to the massively popular 1986 flick "Top Gun," critics and fans alike have praised "Maverick" for its heartfelt story, fantastic acting, and out-of-this-world effects. A sequel that took over 30 years to make, "Maverick" proves that good things truly do come to those who wait.

Tom Cruise is at his best when he steps back into the role of Captain Pete Mitchell aka Maverick. This widely acclaimed film broke box office records as it surprised "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" at the box office last year as the fifth highest-grossing film in North America (via Variety). "Maverick" managed to hold on to that title until the release of "Avatar: The Way of Water," which has been titled the highest-grossing film in 2022 (via Collider).

At this point, the question on everyone's mind is: Will there be a third "Top Gun" film? And with outstanding stats and reviews, all signs point to yes. According to "Top Gun: Maverick" director Joseph Kosinski, who spoke at a Deadline event, he believes that the character Maverick still has "some gas left in the tank," which suggests that a third film is inevitable. Miles Teller portrays Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw in "Maverick." His character is the son of Anthony Edwards' "Goose" from the original movie, and the actor told Entertainment Tonight that he's open to another film. And while he's spoken with Cruise about a potential third film, the ball is ultimately in Cruise's court on whether or not they'll do another one.

And until an official decision has been made, we've decided to collect some of the best fan theories regarding the plot for a third "Top Gun" film. Strap in and head back into the danger zone with us.

Top Gun: Choices

One of the biggest (and most popular) fan theories out there is that "Top Gun: Maverick" was all a dream. Hear us out: The theory suggests that Maverick actually dies at the beginning of the film when he's testing the experimental "Darkstar" jet to hypersonic speed. Instead of breaking the barrier and parachuting out of his jet, Maverick goes down with the ship. Everything else that happens in the film is a dream for Maverick as he imagines that he's tied up loose ends for everything he regrets in life. This is why "Top Gun: Maverick" has so much nostalgia for the first film, and why the character is able to head back to where it all began for him — Top Gun. It's there that he gets a chance to reconnect with Goose's son, rekindle a relationship with Penny (Jennifer Connelly), and say goodbye to his lifelong friend Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer).

Written by Vulture's Alison Willmore, the theory has caught the attention of "Maverick" director Joseph Kosinski. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he claimed to "like the theory," stating that "there's a mythic kind of element to the story." Following this theory, a Twitter user suggests that the third "Top Gun" film should start with Maverick's funeral, with the next class of Top Gun going on to honor the memory of Maverick. 

Top Gun: Viper

Reddit user @865TYS, meanwhile, offered up a rather detailed plot for a potential "Top Gun 3" story. This would be a flashback tale following the adventures of Maverick's father Duke Mitchell during his time as a young pilot starting out his Vietnam tour. The theory suggests that the tale would be told from Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf's (Tom Skerritt) perspective and that it would take place right before he's about to meet and train a young Maverick in the first "Top Gun" film.

Here's the breakdown: Once Viper realizes that Maverick's going to be one of his students, he remembers a mission that he spends with his friend Duke in Vietnam — which ultimately resulted in his death. Because of this, Viper feels a kind of responsibility for Maverick, the same responsibility that Maverick feels for Rooster in "Top Gun: Maverick."

This theory would be a full circle tale of how a pilot's death can deeply affect their friend and co-pilot. Like Maverick in "Top Gun," Viper would be left as the survivor to keep an eye on his friends' son — who must now grow up without his father. Ringing any bells?

Top Gun: Rooster

The most obvious direction for a third "Top Gun" film is to follow the adventures of Rooster. According to Reddit user @misskarne, in this iteration, Maverick's story is done, as "Top Gun: Maverick" tied everything up neatly. There's nothing left to say. Therefore, the next tale should focus on Miles Teller's Rooster and how he steps into his own character.

Yes, Maverick could make a guest appearance in this film, as someone who provides Rooster with words of wisdom when faced with a difficult challenge — much like Iceman did for Maverick in "Top Gun: Maverick." However, at its core, the third film would pass the mantle of Top Gun over to Rooster and the next generation of flyers.

With Rooster driving in the cockpit for the third film, audiences would be able to see more of his character develop. We can see how his career is affected by the events of "Maverick," as well as the dynamic of his close relationships with his classmates. When bringing Rooster to the forefront, there are endless possibilities that a third movie could go.

Top Gun: The Mitchell Legacy

Reddit user @Professional_Ad_8729 made a bold suggestion that "Top Gun 3" would follow another massive time jump just like "Maverick" did after the first film. The theory suggests that this film would see a much older Tom Cruise as an instructor and father. We see this film giving Maverick and Penny a son, little Pete Mitchell Jr., who's decided to follow in his father's footsteps to become a pilot. This would be a legacy story of how Maverick tries to avoid favoritism when training his son to become a pilot — one that's possibly even better than he was. However, tensions run high between father and son, who must learn how to work together to become successful.

Another route that this theory takes is the idea that Maverick passed away before having the chance to be his son's instructor. Instead, Rooster, Hangman (Glen Powell), and Phoenix (Monica Barbaro) all come back to teach his son how to become great — just like Maverick did for each of them. It could pull on the heartstrings and give Rooster the chance to step in and become a surrogate father figure to Maverick's son as he once did for Rooster years ago when his father Goose died.

Top Gun: Amelia

On the flip side, Reddit user @fringeaggressor pointed out that the chances of Penny and Maverick having a child are slim due to their age. This puts a slight hole in the theory for "Top Gun: The Mitchell Legacy." Therefore, we'd like to suggest our own theory for a third "Top Gun" film that follows a similar path to the above suggestions — except this time it's a story about Amelia.

Amelia (Lyliana Wray) is Penny's daughter. When she's first introduced it's clear that she remembers the relationship between Maverick and her mother, telling him not to break her mother's heart this time. She has some pretty cheeky banter with Maverick that shows she's not a character to mess with.

Amelia is incredibly comfortable around the pilots as her mother owns a bar that's often frequented by the class of Top Gun. Therefore, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to see her grow up to become a pilot. This story could highlight a clash between Maverick and Amelia, as she wants to do things her own way — without any help from Maverick who she doesn't see as a father figure. This story would also have the opportunity to bring back Rooster and his class as they could help train Amelia and develop their own relationship with the young cadet.

Top Gun: The Limited Series

Sometimes, the next step for a massive franchise is to expand its universe on television. We saw this done with Marvel's Phase 4 series like "Loki," "WandaVision," and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" just to name a few. So why not "Top Gun?"

Reddit user @hoppyfrog suggested just that. Perhaps the next story in "Top Gun" should be a limited series to develop new characters and plotlines. "Maverick" already hinted that technology is replacing pilots and that Top Gun might become obsolete. A series could expand on this idea, discussing the future of Top Gun with the new class introduced in "Maverick." Each character could have an episode dedicated to them, allowing audiences to become attached to Rooster, Hangman, Phoenix, Bob (Lewis Pullman), and more. This is a crucial step for the series, as so many people are attached to Maverick, the character Tom Cruise brings to life. Perhaps a limited series would help audiences accept a transfer from Cruise to other characters introduced in the "Top Gun" universe.

Top Gun: The Lone Wolf

Following the idea that the story of Maverick was concluded in "Top Gun: Maverick," Reddit user @FeikerSenpai suggested that "Top Gun 3" should take place before the events in "Maverick" but after "Top Gun." This would give audiences the chance to see Maverick build up his career only to have his attitude constantly get in his way.

This story would also provide some details on what happened to the relationship between Maverick and Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Introduced in the first film, Charlie was an instructor at Top Gun. We last saw her riding off into the sunset with Maverick, never to be seen or heard from again. And unlike Penny, who was briefly mentioned in "Top Gun," Charlie was never mentioned in "Maverick." In fact, she was only referenced in a few photographs and flashback scenes in the film, so seriously, what happened to their relationship?

This film could introduce a young Rooster, as Maverick tries to balance his career with being there for Gooses' family. We'd also get to see the lifelong friendship that develops between Maverick and Iceman, one that both men clearly valued above all else. Iceman's death deeply affected Maverick in the sequel film and was an unexpectedly touching moment for the characters who share one last conversation before Iceman passes.

Top Gun: The Early Days

At its heart, "Top Gun" is about Maverick's relationship with Goose. He was Maverick's best friend and radar intercept officer (RIO) who was killed in action — something that Maverick partially blames himself for. "Top Gun: Maverick" continues their relationship by transferring it to Rooster, the son of Goose. This fundamental thread that connects both films is a massive driving force for Maverick. And it's because of this thread that Reddit user @SaberiusPrime suggested that "Top Gun 3" should follow the adventures of Goose and Maverick before they reach flight school at Top Gun.

It's well-established that Goose and Maverick had a strong bond going into "Top Gun," so why not have a film to showcase it? The theory suggests that a third film between Goose and Maverick should showcase how the two meet, and what the early days were like for pilots. The audience has seen what training is like at Top Gun, therefore, this movie could do something different by showing training before a pilot enters the prestigious Top Gun program. Plus, this film can outline the relationship between Goose and his wife Carole Bradshaw (Meg Ryan). This would give some weight to the revelation that she's passed away when Maverick shares with Penny just why Rooster hates him in "Top Gun: Maverick." According to Maverick, Carole asked him to watch out for Rooster, and stop him from ever becoming a pilot like his father — as she worried that it would end up killing Rooster just like it killed Goose. Once she died, Maverick took matters into his own hands and delayed Rooster's career in the Navy. Once Rooster discovers this, he not only blames Maverick for his father's death, but for the massive setback in his career.

Top Gun: Maverick & Rooster

This one is a no-brainer. Aside from Cruise as Maverick, Teller's Rooster is easily the main character in "Top Gun: Maverick." He represents one of Maverick's biggest regrets in life: the death of his friend Goose. Throughout the film, Maverick does all he can to have Rooster back in his life while simultaneously trying to keep him safe — as that's what he promised Rooster's mother Carole. Because of the weight that Rooster holds over Maverick and the overall story, "Top Gun 3" being a story about Maverick and Rooster just makes sense.

Following the events of "Maverick," "Top Gun 3" should focus on Maverick and Rooster building back their relationship. After pulling off such a heroic and seemingly impossible mission, Maverick can be pulled back into active duty, with Rooster as his new radar intercept officer (RIO) — just like Goose was. This film could also include the other next-generation pilots as Rooster begins to develop friendships, romantic relationships, or even rivalries with them. Maverick and Rooster would be an interesting discussion on how old-school pilots and the new school will come together to build something different for the generations to come.

This film could also highlight how Maverick struggles to balance his new responsibilities with his family. Now that he's with Penny, Maverick will be stepping into the role of a stepfather. Audiences have already heard how he managed to mess up his relationship with Rooster when he was younger, perhaps his time with Penny and Amelia will act as a redemption arc for him to make up for the ways that he initially failed at being a father figure previously. 

Top Gun: Bob

Upon doing a deep dive in Reddit threads for potential "Top Gun 3" plots, we stumbled across many users wanting a solo "Top Gun" film about the character Bob. So, naturally, we had to end this list off with one of the seemingly most popular characters from "Top Gun: Maverick," Bob.

Bob is portrayed by Lewis Pullman, the son of Bill Pullman, the famed actor with roles you've likely heard of, such as the President in "Independence Day" or as Detective Harry Ambrose in "The Sinner."

Bob is the shy, quiet, yet extremely capable weapons system officer (WSO) for Pheonix. His character is somewhat of an enigma as his callsign is never really explained. For example, most characters' callsigns relate to who they are — take Glen Powell's Lt. Jake Seresin. His callsign is Hangman due to the fact that he'll hang his team members out to dry. But with Bob, not much is known about his call sign, which just adds to the mystery of the quiet character. This is something that can be explored in a third movie featuring Bob. Instead of a hot-shot character like Maverick, it's time to introduce a more gentle side to the Navy.

In discussing the popularity of his character, Pullman told The Hollywood Reporter, "It's a pleasure to be the vessel. I really enjoyed playing Bob. I wanted to make sure that there was a pilot — because I was a pretty shy kid growing up — who represented maybe not the cockiest or most overly confident. He's more of a quiet burning ember who knows he can burst into flames at any moment. His only real need is to perform at a high level in the sky."