The new Top Gun: Maverick trailer features the F-14 Tomcat, a central component of the original 1986 film, Top Gun. In real life, however, the United States Navy retired the swing wing fighter jets in September 2006. So, why has the F-14 Tomcat returned in Top Gun: Maverick?
In Top Gun, American U.S. Navy aviators Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) fly F-14A Tomcats in the opening sequence. This particular model was first introduced in 1970, with the first major upgrade taking place in 1987, less than a year after Top Gun’s May 1986 release. Throughout the film, Maverick and Goose continue to fly F-14 Tomcats, with the aerial sequences often being accompanied by Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” song. In terms of storytelling, the F-14 Tomcat provides an authentic feel, and the musical motif accentuates the drama of Top Gun missions. While the F-14 is indeed part of ‘80s pop culture because of Top Gun, the aircraft and subsequent variants proved to be too costly, and were replaced by the more economical F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Top Gun: Maverick's trailer concludes with a shot of an F-14 Tomcat flying over a range of mountains, but it's unclear who's in the pilot seat. It's possible it's a flashback and that it could tie into whoever is in Top Gun: Maverick's coffin, but that remains to be seen. But then again, if it isn't a flashback, then there must be some reason the F-14 jet is back in the sequel.
Given the mainstream success of Top Gun, along with the commercial viability of Top Gun: Maverick, the F-14 Tomcat may have been unretired for nostalgic purposes. While new technology and modern fighter jets will undoubtedly be featured in the sequel, they may be ultimately be used to build up suspense for a final act F-14 Tomcat mission. This allows Cruise and company to establish a sense of authenticity early on, and perhaps even acknowledge the significance of the F-14 Tomcat’s reappearance during the second half. It’s unlikely that Top Gun: Maverick would re-introduce the iconic swing wing aircraft without at least acknowledging a small part of its history.
As for Top Gun: Maverick’s story, Cruise’s character may choose to fly a F-14 Tomcat because of his familiarity with the aircraft, or perhaps because a critical mission calls for a new variant. Even though the F-14 Tomcat was retired, it’s certainly plausible that Maverick has the appropriate connections to secure a ready-to-go model, one that’s customized for his needs. The Top Gun: Maverick trailer teases a mountain sequence, in which Maverick may have decided to use under-the-radar F-14 Tomcats for strategic purposes. Or it’s certainly possible that an aging Maverick wants to fly an F-14 Tomcat variant for the proverbial one last mission.
Whatever the case, the F-14 Tomcat will get audiences hyped up during Top Gun: Maverick, even if it only briefly appears. Some viewers will immediately recognize the fighter jet, while others will likely be reminded of its significance through character dialogue. Like the original Top Gun, the sequel’s F-14 Tomcat sequence (or sequences) will probably be complemented by a melodramatic musical motif, thus making the Top Gun: Maverick conclusion even more entertaining, and perhaps bittersweet.
- Top Gun: Maverick/Top Gun 2 (2020) release date: Jun 26, 2020