Top Gun: Maverick Has Been a Record-Breaking Hit

Memorial Day weekend used to be a huge occasion in the movie industry, but recent years have seen it often be one of the worst weekends to open a summer movie. It turns out, the key to having a fantastic opening on this once hallowed ground is to break out the big guns; or in this case, the big planes. Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick seems to have taught the world of upcoming movies this lesson rather quickly, as the legacy-quel is already breaking records after its first official day in theaters. 

Tom Cruise might have always believed in it, but it’s fair to say that the phenomenal success of Top Gun: Maverick has surprised just about everybody else.

Originally set to land in cinemas in July 2019, the legacy sequel endured a series of lengthy delays due to the ongoing global pandemic. Cruise reportedly resisted any attempts to give it a streaming debut like other Covid-delayed movies, and it finally flew onto the big screen in late May 2022.

Some might have considered the decision to delay its cinema release as hubris on Cruise’s part, but there’s no doubt the decision has been vindicated. It crossed $500 million worldwide by the end of its second weekend, leaving a trail of box-office records in its wake.

But why has Top Gun: Maverick soared as high as its lead character? Let’s delve into it to work out why everybody has felt the need for speed on the big screen.

Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick © Paramount Pictures

Before we get into the reasons, here’s a selection of the impressive records that Top Gun: Maverick has already set:

• The biggest Memorial Day debut at the US box office, both 3-day ($126.7 million) and 4-day ($160.5 million)
• Tom Cruise’s biggest opening weekend at the US box office
• The smallest week-on-week drop in its second weekend at the US box office for a movie that opened above $100 million
• Tom Cruise’s biggest-ever movie at the US box office with $321.8 million to date
• Paramount’s biggest-ever release in the UK and Ireland with £41.3 million ($51.7 million) to date

If that wasn’t enough, it also achieved Cruise’s biggest opening in 32 international markets and Paramount’s best opening for a live-action movie in 18 of those markets. Whatever way you spin it, it’s been a mega hit and there’s still plenty to come.

Barring a crash landing, Top Gun: Maverick will become Cruise’s highest-grossing movie of all time, currently Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘s $787.2 million haul. If it holds well enough, it could even become his first-ever $1 billion hit at the box office.

Cruise is obviously a bona fide movie star, but this fact alone shows that even with Mission: Impossible, he’s never had a success like this before. So what is it about the sequel that has drawn so many people to it?

Well, the obvious one to start with is that it’s genuinely a great movie.

Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick © Paramount Pictures

As it stands, Top Gun: Maverick has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critics and a near-unprecedented 99% audience rating. People aren’t just showing up to see it and shrugging at what they see – they’re genuinely loving it and that likely leads to repeat viewings.

This kind of universal acclaim has led to it being a word-of-mouth hit too, persuading even those not massively into Top Gun to seek it out. It’s become the blockbuster that you’ll see to work out what all the fuss is about.

However, Cruise has had critically acclaimed and beloved movies before and never to this scale, so there’s an added element here.

Paramount has believed in it from the get-go, giving it the widest-ever opening in the US at a whopping 4,735 theatres. The sequel had already been getting rave reviews and was starting to be sold as a must-see on the big screen, so this US opening ensured that cinemagoers couldn’t ignore it.

If you’ve heard anything about the movie, it’s that the flight sequences were largely achieved practically by Cruise and the cast themselves. As selling points go, it’s something that not even MCU movies can claim.

Combined with an IMAX release, Paramount transformed Top Gun: Maverick from a sequel that largely appealed to Top Gun fans into a full-on event movie. It’s easy to forget that it’s only really been about a year since cinemas reopened, so a new blockbuster to watch is a relatively unique prospect still.

In the kindest possible way, there’s nothing about the sequel that is complicated. (Well, unless you believe the fan theory that Maverick was dead all along.)

It repeats the structure of the first movie and if you haven’t seen it, it’s a fairly standard redemption tale for Maverick. That’s only part of its appeal though, as it’s a throwback: an unashamedly sincere blockbuster that seeks only to entertain.

The sequel has its emotional beats, especially in its biggest ‘legacy sequel’ moment with Val Kilmer’s Iceman, but it’s mainly a thrilling spectacle that leaves you on a high. The final act is essentially an extended set piece that delivers tension, laughs and a crowdpleasing ending.

And really, after the couple of years we’ve all had, doesn’t that just sound like the best escape? Maybe the reason for Top Gun: Maverick‘s success is totally simple: it’s left everybody feeling happy.