Tom Cruise in uniform looking into the distance, covered in yellow sun beams
Courtesy Skydance

Top Gun: Maverick is the supersonic joyride that every action franchise aspires to produce, but most cannot stick the landing. Returning to the screen as if Top Gun premiered this decade and not 1986, Tom Cruise is back to remind us that he is America’s everlasting beacon of youth. Despite some (justified) reservations about a Top Gun reboot, this movie is undeniably thrilling, flying high above its predecessor. Director Joseph Kosinski achieved the impossible by crafting an action movie sequel with a gripping story that reminisces without feeling contrived.

Nearly 40 years later, Cruise returns to reprise his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell—an impulsive, speed-loving fighter pilot with a knack for disobeying orders. The movie opens with Cruise telling an admiral to shove it, flying his experimental jet over its Mach 10 speed limit and falling to Earth in a fiery plane crash. Of course, Maverick survives and limps into a diner to have a glass of water. The opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Top Gun: Maverick is fast, pushing things to a breaking point and giving the sense that Cruise might not be indestructible.

Top Gun: Maverick is also shockingly tender, filled with warmhearted and tense moments between Maverick and his old partner “Goose’s” orphaned son “Rooster” (Miles Teller). Even though this movie falls a little too far into military propaganda, Kosinski manages to carefully craft a relatable story about overcoming grief. You will be lucky to leave without getting teary-eyed, especially during a remarkably touching dialogue between Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” and Cruise’s “Maverick” that feels like an authentic behind-the-scenes peek.

How can the sequel so clearly outfly its predecessor? Somehow Cruise’s foray back into the danger zone will be remembered more than the original, setting a new standard in the era of reboots. PG-13, 130 min.

Wide release in theaters