Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Pause-Worthy Moments In Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise's continuous effort to prank call the Grim Reaper by way of death-defying stunts rages on, as he straps himself back into one of the career-defining roles he played 36 years ago. 

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, "Top Gun: Maverick" sees Cruise back in the sky as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, the decorated Navy hero and aged hot-shot, called in to train a team of young pilots for a classified military mission. As if tensions weren't breaking new highs already, one of the group's leading members happens to be Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick's former co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards) — who was killed in action, something which Maverick still carries guilt for.

Pushing audiences to every limit capable from the safety of their theater seats, "Top Gun: Maverick" is a high-powered, Cruise-controlled roller-coaster from start to finish. The only issue is that given the array of heart-pounding scenes the film is crammed with, which moments are the best of the best? What highlights from "Top Gun: Maverick" are guaranteed to be discussed as much as that oiled-up volleyball scene or Val Kilmer biting at Tom Cruise like a great white shark in the 1986 original? Don't fret, rookie. We've got your six and are coming into land with the unquestionable top-tier moments from "Top Gun: Maverick."

Returning to the Danger Zone

As soon as the engines start firing up for "Top Gun: Maverick," the film wastes no time dousing the audience in a hefty dose of nostalgia thanks to Kenny Loggins and a sunset-soaked bit of landing strip in the middle of the ocean. Could the film have kicked things off differently? Sure. But seeing the landing crew waving in jets like Tony Scott's original movie is the quickest way to raise hairs and remember why you've came to see this legacyquel in the first place.

In retrospect, it might well be a cheap trick used by other franchises that seemingly ended and were revived years later, but it'll have fans of the original won over with ease. Seeing a familiar spot shot through a present-day lens is a beautiful way to open things and establishes that Kosinski remembers everything about what came before. It's the beginning of his perfect balancing act of acknowledging old airspace before taking us on a new trajectory that may well take the top spot for favorite flying Tom Cruise movies so far.

Maverick takes things to Mach 10 and beyond

In any other blockbuster, watching a rogue flyboy breaking the sound barrier in a prototype aircraft when he absolutely shouldn't is something saved for a film's final act. Tom Cruise manages to do it in the first ten minutes. Reuniting us with Pete "Maverick" Mitchell years after the first film, the former trainee of the Top Gun program is now a test pilot for prototype aircrafts, one of which he's advised will be scrapped by the powers up top, demanding it reaches Mach 10. Of course, Maverick, being Maverick, decides to go on one last ride and push the bird to its limits just as a stone-faced Rear Admiral (Ed Harris) arrives. With no way of stopping him, Maverick's superior gets a front-row seat as our favorite pilot becomes "the fastest man alive."

It's a gorgeous sequence that sees Pete Mitchell going supersonic, and establishes just how high the bar has been set for any of the upcoming aerial acrobatics from here on out. Lining perfectly with the gold standard of cinematic spectacle Cruise has strived to reach for the last decade, it's a perfect balance of his charm — being the rogue hero — and his ability to show complete awe at his surroundings, as he sees shoots across the sky like the world's most expensive firework. While his on-screen alter-ego may have the call-sign of "Maverick," a moment like this ensures he's more than earned it himself, and he's just getting started.

Despite your best efforts, you refuse to die

Besides hosting a number of up-and-coming talents, "Top Gun" had impressive actors for the higher-ranking officers in the 1986 film. With various egos writing checks their body couldn't cash, it made sense that seasoned actors like James Tolkan, Tom Skerritt, and Michael Ironside were present to keep them grounded. "Top Gun: Maverick" follows the same flight plan with its higher-ups, kicking things off with a brief but brilliantly fitting appearance from Ed Harris, who proves in his one scene that he should be in more, if not all, the films.

Like every other high-ranking officer who catches Maverick on their radar, our hero manages to push all the wrong buttons to wind them up but does so in an order that leaves them bending just as many rules to keep him flying. The first one he crosses is Harris' Rear Admiral, who gives a stoic "why I oughta" speech to the hot shot while still respecting the capability Maverick has gained over the years. "Only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years," Harris' military man recounts. "Yet you can't get a promotion, you won't retire, and despite your best efforts, you refuse to die." It's lines like this that only Harris and a handful of other actors could deliver. It also ensures that besides wanting to watch this movie straight after it's finished, it'll probably leave you adding "The Rock" to your watchlist as well.

Maverick's lesson in dogfighting

After the new candidates have discovered who their instructor is (much to Hangman's embarrassment), Maverick's first step is sizing up his squad to see what they can do under pressure and finds that a good old-fashioned dogfight is the best way to break them in. It's as much a trial for the seasoned teacher as his pupils, who are rough around the edges and think they've got the challenge in the bag. To quote another movie famous flyboy, "This is where the fun begins."

Let's be honest, though? Has this been a moment overplayed in the trailer? Certainly. Is it a similar plot point to when Mav took on Viper (Tom Skerritt) in the first film? You bet your great balls of fire it is. But that doesn't stop this sequence from being any more fun and awe-inspiring for the immense advancements in camera work and structure of a set piece, leaving its predecessor in the clouds. With a better field of view for shots outside of the jets and the stunning perspective from the pilots that are being sling-shotted around in them, it's an impressive sequence that has Cruise literally flying all over it.

Iceman has wise words for Maverick

As excited as audiences may be for Hollywood's one-person movie machine to get back into his flight suit, the one thing they not have expected to be hit by is the heartfelt reunion between Cruise and his on-screen rival from the first film, Val Kilmer. 

In the time since their legendary clash that crossed land, air, and volleyball courts, Kilmer was sadly diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, which led him to undergo chemotherapy and have two tracheotomies, which resulted in him losing his voice. Thankfully, the actor declared himself cancer-free in 2020, and with the development of the new sequel, Tom Cruise pushed to get Kilmer back on the screen for "Maverick," leading to a pay-off worthy of a billion high-speed barrel rolls.

Even with the swathe of cameos in other legacyquels that have come and gone, Kilmer's might legitimately be the best that we've ever had. Feeling less like fan service, having Iceman sit across from Maverick as two old war buddies is more of an earned component to getting our hero back in the air and clearing it with Rooster (Teller). The former wingman is acting as the mediator. Even with his limitations, Kilmer's charm shines through, mostly speaking with Cruise via computer and only pushing to utter one valuable line loaded with both humor and heart in a conversation you wish would never end.

Maverick shows them how it's done

While there are certain plot beats that you can see coming from a mile off, that doesn't mean watching them happen is enough to have your mind blown when they manage it. One particular entry on this cinematic rollercoaster's checklist involves the limit-breaking practice run the Top Gun recruits are attempting to execute and are struggling to succeed in. The by-the-book overseer of the operation, Vice Admiral Beau' Cyclone' Simpson (Jon Hamm), adds further issues to the mission prep when the timeline is shortened, and drastic adjustments in the parameters of the mission could put them all in danger. To ensure that the original details stay as they are, Maverick does the only thing he can — he flies.

What follows is a stomach-turning, oxygen extracting sequence that shows Cruise going full throttle in a flight that will only let you breathe when it's finished. Watching it unfold against the clock isn't just more gripping than any sequence from the previous film. It soars above possibly any of the collection of Cruise's incredible action sequences he's given us since he climbed the Burj Khalifa. It might be under three minutes, but it's a scene that'll earn a timeless ranking in no time at all.

Maverick flares up to save Rooster

When "Top Gun: Maverick" finally makes the home release and some of us weep from our sofas because our televisions won't do it justice, there will be enough eye-watering screenshots to fill an airfield hangar. Just like "Tron Legacy" and "Oblivion" especially, Joseph Kosinski's venture into the "Top Gun" universe is littered with sights that will guarantee hushed swearing and disbelief that they even managed to pull some of them off. One in particular, though, even with it being the money shot in the trailer, is worth the admission fee alone.

After taking the role of team leader (because, of course, he would be), Maverick and the selected squad are set upon by enemy fighters that see them all dodge death by setting off disruptive flares. Rooster hits a snag, though, when he finds himself running on empty, leading Maverick to take the fall from an incoming missile. It results in one of the most stunning shots of the whole film, as the seasoned pilot performs what can only be described as a reverse leapfrog over Rooster. The maneuver allows him to set off a rain of flares, and leaves the young rookie to look up in disbelief as his teacher pulls up inches above him. As far as favorite re-watchable moments go, this one deserves to be hung on a wall.

Rooster and Maverick have a down to earth conversation

Even with all the great moments that are had in "Top Gun: Maverick," Cruise's latest action-packed vehicle does hit turbulence in one of its bravest story beats that some might not be happy with. The deadly mission that depends on two miracles is given a third when somehow, both Rooster and Maverick survive their planes being downed after encountering the enemy. As a result, both parties meet up on the ground and finally put their issues aside to work together and get back to base.

From here, the film takes a brief detour and gives a taste of what this story could've been had it assumed a more buddy movie approach, with the worn-out war hero teaching the young rookie. In hindsight, it might not slot in as smoothly with the rest of the film, but it's a moment that's easily accepted thanks to the great chemistry between Cruise and Teller that, until now, we've not had enough of. Their back and forth almost makes you wish we'd get another film with these two further down the line that could see them clash and cooperate as all iconic pairs do. 

Nevertheless, the slice of it that we're given here is enough to relish, with Teller's Rooster proving easily that he is indeed his father's son.

F-14 prepares to launch

Is it a legacyquel if someone doesn't dust off an iconic mode of transport and go for one last ride? It's why "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" brought chills to see the ECTO-1 tearing through a cornfield or — as cheap a nostalgia fix as it may have been — seeing Finn and Rey stumble across the Millennium Falcon in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." When it comes to "Top Gun: Maverick," though, Kosinski gives us not one but two of these instances, and the second is undoubtedly one that'll get you fired up.

After a lap in on his Kawasaki Ninja, the second reunion with a ride feels more fitting for "Iron Eagle" than "Top Gun: Maverick," but just as awesome. Maverick and Goo ... er, Rooster sneak onto the enemy airbase and nab themselves an F-14 Tomcat, the jet fighter that was the go-to set of wings used for the original film. As a relic of an old war, Rooster is out of his depth, leading Maverick to take the lead and fly them out of danger. It's unquestionably an incredible moment to see Cruise back at the helm of the aircraft that became not just a winning ingredient to his career but played a part in getting him steering through the skies for real. Like the movie star and his choice to ride out of danger, they really don't make them like this anymore.

Hangman, the hero to the rescue

Among the critical ingredients taken from the original "Top Gun" and stirred into "Maverick," one that writers Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Cruise filmmaking familiar Christopher McQuarrie have mastered is turning a dislikable side character into a likable one. If Tony Scott's original had Iceman rubbing audiences up the wrong way, then "Maverick" has Glen Powell's Hangman taking his lead and doing an even better job. Mastering a smile worthy of a punch every time you see it, the surprisingly satisfying moment is seeing him swoop in to save our heroes and relish every second.

Running on fumes and their last hope, Hangman soaring in with "this is your savior speaking" makes for icing on the cake of this heart-pounding final act and redeems what is easily the most disliked — but equally likable — character in the film. While he and Rooster don't have a "you can be my wingman any time" moment, Powell and Teller's chemistry is enough that even the idea of another "Top Gun" mission would be worth watching if these two were at the center of it.