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Top Gun 2

Retired AF Guy

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Okay, lets sink our teeth into this little theory: Maverick died when the Darkstar blew-up and the rest of the movie is just a dream!!

Wild Top Gun 2 Theory Suggests Maverick Was Dead The Entire Movie​

One compelling fan theory claims that Maverick never survived the Mach 10 flight, making Top Gun 2's story thereafter an extended death dream.


WARNING! This article contains spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick.

Maverick ended Top Gun 2 on a high note, but a story-changing (and admittedly wild) fan theory suggests he was actually dead for the entire movie. Top Gun: Maverick brings back Tom Cruise’s title character after 36 years, where the accomplished aviator is tasked with training a new generation of Top Gun graduates for a high-stakes mission. Maverick must now come face-to-face with his own mortality, grief over Goose and Iceman, and rectifying his reckless past. However, it’s been speculated that the majority of Top Gun 2’s story never actually happened.

Top Gun 2 begins with Maverick accomplishing a near-death task for the military by achieving Mach 10, a speed no person has ever flown in real life. Tom Cruise’s character is then recruited to lead the new generation of Top Gun recruits in a mission where death is more than likely, with the actual event nearly costing Maverick his life multiple times. By the end of Top Gun: Maverick, Pete Mitchell makes amends with Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his late best friend Goose, who resented him for pulling his files at the US Naval Academy. As the two both risk their own lives for each other in the final mission, Maverick and Rooster are back on good terms with their father-son dynamic finally revived. Meanwhile, Maverick restarted his romance with Penny (Jennifer Connelly), with Tom Cruise’s character vowing to her daughter, Amelia, that he won’t break her heart again. With all of his errors now absolved, Top Gun: Maverick truly gave the character his happy ending, living up to Iceman’s advice to “let go” of the past.

One major fan theory (via Vulture) claims that Maverick’s Top Gun 2 ending was too good to be true, revealing that every moment after the opening scene was a figment of his imagination. If the theory is correct and Maverick truly died at the start of Top Gun 2, a few recurring plot points and inconsistencies could be explained as well. Here’s a breakdown of the compelling Top Gun: Maverick theory, and how the movie’s beloved absurdities support it.

Top Gun: Maverick’s Opening Scene Explained​

The first time Pete “Maverick” Mitchell arrives back on screen after 36 years, Tom Cruise’s character is breaking rules as he proves he can reach both Mach 9 and Mach 10 speeds. However, Maverick is too far in over his head once he reaches Mach 10, as he keeps increasing speed to the point where his plane goes out of control and he has to eject. While the characters back on the ground think this is a death sentence for Maverick, Top Gun 2 reveals that he miraculously survived, with the burnt-up aviator entering a diner for a glass of water in an unknown location. With such a dangerous stunt, it’s hard to believe that Maverick survived a failed test of Mach 10 speed, but Top Gun 2 explains this away as due to the character’s inimitable talents as a pilot.

Top Gun 2 Theory Explained - Maverick Died At The Start Of The Movie​

One theory suggests that Mackerick really didn’t survive his Mach 10 trial in the opening scene of Top Gun 2. The opening shows Cruise’s plane being torn apart in the stratosphere, with Maverick miraculously appearing largely unscathed moments later. In order to explain this, the theory claims that the rest of the movie is all Maverick coming to terms with his mortality by imagining a happy life and future both for himself and the two people he loves the most that he hurt. When Val Kilmer's Iceman gives Maverick the advice to “let go” in terms of Rooster and his reservations about the mission, this may have just been Maverick telling himself that he needs to let go of his errors in order to move on and die, but gave the words to Iceman because of how highly he regarded his opinion. Maverick would have felt the need to clear up his mistakes with Rooster and Penny before dying, but this Top Gun 2 theory suggests that the only way to do so was in an imagined reality.

The Top Gun: Maverick theory also cites that the film’s ambiance and mood are surreally dream-like as the character returns to sunny San Diego. Additionally, Top Gun 2’s core mission unrealistically reveals that the only person who can truly accomplish it is Maverick himself, with the sequel’s unnamed enemy being incongruent with any nation that can be named. The Top Gun 2 theory then supports the argument by suggesting that Maverick’s image of Rooster when they finally reunite is more like a ghost of Goose. While this was meant to be symbolic in Top Gun 2, it can also be taken literally – Tom Cruise’s death dream imagines Rooster as Goose – fit with a “Great Balls of Fire” bar rendition – in a manner that he can atone for his mistakes with both men in one. The majority of Top Gun 2’s mission and resolutions seem impossible, which is why they fit so perfectly as the dreams of a man envisioning an impossible life as he dies burning up in the stratosphere.

Maverick’s Near-Immortality Is Continually Mentioned In Top Gun 2​

The Maverick from Top Gun (1986) was known for his recklessness, with the aviator dodging death at every seemingly impossible turn. This assessment of Maverick being able to miraculously evade the Grim Reaper is enhanced in Top Gun 2, which happens to be one of Tom Cruise’s only recent action movies that actually acknowledges the 59-year-old actor’s age. However, the notion that Maverick refuses to die is mentioned by numerous characters in Top Gun 2, suggesting this may not actually be the words of these aviators and officials, but rather his subconscious fears of dying seeping out in his death dream.

Since Top Gun 2 establishes Maverick as being practically immortal after surviving his Mach 10 flight untouched, the rest of the movie can be retroactively understood as Maverick convincing himself of his immortality. In his own mind, Maverick refuses to die until he achieves his happy ending and can make amends with Rooster and Penny. The original Top Gun already laid the groundwork for Maverick’s absurd ability to evade death, so Top Gun 2’s explicit insistence that he can’t die seems to be so exaggerated as to suggest the opposite – that he is, in fact, already dead.

Maverick Is Dead Theory Would Explain Rooster’s Age Problem​

One of the biggest nitpicks of Top Gun: Maverick has been the legacy sequel’s inconsistencies with Rooster’s age. When Rooster appears in Top Gun (1986) for the “Great Balls of Fire” scene, he appears to be 4-5 years old, which would make him around 40 years old in Top Gun: Maverick’s 2022 timeline, whereas Miles Teller is only 35. Even if accounting for the fact that Top Gun: Maverick was filmed in 2018, Rooster would have been 36, with Miles Teller being only 31-32 years old when the movie was shot.

This problem of Rooster supposedly appearing younger than he’s supposed to be in Top Gun 2 can be accounted for by the Maverick death dream theory. Maverick and Rooster act as if they haven’t seen one another in years due to Tom Cruise’s character pulling his admissions papers, so if Maverick was dead in Top Gun 2, he would imagine Rooster as physically resembling himself the last time they saw each other. Top Gun 2’s storyline would have occurred opposite the Rooster that Maverick had last seen rather than the Rooster that would have existed at the time Maverick died. Paired with the theory’s suggestion that Maverick is imagining Rooster as a ghost of Goose, the legacy character would also be envisioning Rooster as a ghost of his younger self.



Army.ca Veteran
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That was....really really good. When I'm left with nitpicking about apparently supersonic Tomahawk swarms....and flares distracting radar missiles....it means you've actually got a pretty good movie.


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That was....really really good. When I'm left with nitpicking about apparently supersonic Tomahawk swarms....and flares distracting radar missiles....it means you've actually got a pretty good movie.
Flares look waaaaaaay cooler in a movie than chaff does. Even sounds better saying it.