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Top Gun 3 - Will It Ever Happen?

Contains spoilers for "Top Gun: Maverick"

There was a time when the idea of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) climbing back into the cockpit was little more than a retro-nostalgia pipe dream. Incredibly though, "Top Gun: Maverick" has been prepping for take-off since 2010, when producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the late director Tony Scott were planning a sequel focused on the prevalence of drone warfare (via HitFix). That concept never took flight, though, and over a decade and a global pandemic later, we can now finally see Cruise's legendary flyboy soar into a sequel that's as good (if not better) than what came before it. Taking us to new heights and bringing in a band of fresh aviators consisting of Miles Teller, Glenn Powell, Monica Barbaro, and Danny Ramirez, among others, "Top Gun: Maverick" propels into unexpected territory and leaves us asking the previously unthinkable: Can it go any further?

Seeing as it took over 30 years for a sequel to the iconoclast '80s movie to materialize, some might think that there's no reason to hope that a third installment will be gearing up for take-off anytime soon. But given the considerable buzz "Top Gun: Maverick" has generated in the lead up to its release and the fact that we're in an era when sequels and franchises are all the rage, perhaps we shouldn't be so cynical. While it's not like he's struggling for billion-dollar franchises to be a part of (as that "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One" trailer confirms), "Maverick" is proof that Cruise can breathe life back into any film that has potential for another round. In the case of his latest airborne adventure, though, could "Top Gun: Maverick" find its target and bring its mile-high heroes back for another pass?

The box office success of Top Gun: Maverick could make a third movie too good to pass up

Having already been a direct hit with critics, earning 97% on Rotten Tomatoes as of the time of writing, expectations are high that a return flight to the world of "Top Gun" will translate to some big numbers. After all, Tom Cruise is still standing, running, and flying as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, and with "Top Gun: Maverick" already expected to bring in between $255-390 million at the domestic box office (via BoxOfficePro), there's every chance it could exceed those expectations. Of course, when in the business of blockbusters, an occasional success story can spawn an even bigger one, and the open slot for a third "Top Gun" film could come at a crucial time for the studio handling the proceedings.

With mere days before the big take-off of "Top Gun: Maverick," Paramount released a trailer for the next installment of the other blockbuster property Cruise has headlined for decades — "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One." Guaranteed to boast even more dangerous stunts than the tense espionage-laced escapades that came before, the two-part "Dead Reckoning" installment of the beloved spy franchise will mark the final chapter for Ethan Hunt, as it has been described as a wrap-up for the series (via Variety). If this really is the end of IMF, Paramount's mission, should they choose to accept it, is to find another franchise to fill the slot, one that can also cash in on Cruise's star power — even if he may not necessarily always need to be front and center for potential future installments.

Top Gun: Maverick could follow a familiar Creed

Before Maverick flies off into the sunset, a brand new squad of Top Guns have been tested in combat and proven themselves more than capable of going back out without their teacher. To see that happen in a future "Top Gun" film would be a bold maneuver. But it's one that Miles Teller's former "Fantastic 4" co-star Michael B. Jordan could certainly give a few pointers on, given the success he's had with another franchise that has been revived for a new generation.

Whereas some legacyquels have attempted to reignite a property under the same name, but with an all-new cast, the "Rocky" franchise followed a different approach by bringing back its titular character but allowing a new challenger to step forward and usher in a fresh era. "Creed" sees Michael B. Jordan stepping into the ring to tell a whole new story that follows directly in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone's legendary boxer, who returned for the first two films of the spin-off trilogy, albeit in a supporting role. 

With this in mind, there's no reason why this newly revived franchise couldn't follow suit. By the end of "Top Gun: Maverick," the likes of Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Hangman (Glen Powell), and Bob (Lewis Pullman) are all characters you'd be happy to see take off again, and Maverick doesn't necessarily need to be front and center. Between Teller's honorable hero and Powell's suave, glory-hogging wiseguy, there's a whole host of characters and heroes-in-the-making we'd be happy to follow back into the danger zone.