The opening of a summer film on Memorial Day weekend used to be one of the biggest events in the film industry, but in recent years, that hasn’t always been the case. It turns out that breaking out the big guns—or in this instance, the large planes—is the key to having a good opening on this once-holy land. Given that the sequel to Tom Cruise’s Top Gun is already shattering records on its first official day in theaters, it appears that Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick has quickly taught the world of incoming films this lesson.
Even though Tom Cruise may have always believed in it, it’s safe to say that almost everyone else has been shocked by the incredible success of Top Gun: Maverick.
The legacy sequel, which was initially scheduled to hit theaters in July 2019, experienced a number of significant delays because of the ongoing global pandemic. It finally blasted onto the big screen in late May 2022 after Cruise reportedly fought any attempts to give it a streaming debut like other Covid-delayed movies.
Some may have viewed Cruise’s choice to postpone the film’s debut in theaters as hubris, but there’s no denying that the choice has been vindicated. By the end of its second weekend, it had surpassed $500 million globally, shattering a number of box office records in the process.
But why has Top Gun: Maverick achieved the same heights as its protagonist? To understand why everyone has felt the need for speed on the big screen, let’s dig deeper.
Here are a few of the outstanding records that Top Gun: Maverick has already achieved before we discuss the reasons for them:
• 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
Not only that, but it also had the biggest opening for Cruise in 32 foreign areas and the best opening for a live-action movie for Paramount (Star Trek Picard Season 3) in 18 of those markets. Whatever way you look at it, it has been a huge success and there are still many more to come.
If nothing goes wrong, Top Gun: Maverick will surpass Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s current record of $787.2 million in box office revenue as Tom Cruise’s all-time highest-grossing film. It might possibly become his first $1 billion smash at the box office if it does well enough.
Cruise is undoubtedly a legitimate movie star, but even with Mission: Impossible, this fact alone demonstrates that he has never before experienced such success. What is it then about the sequel that has captivated so many viewers?
The first and most evident is that the film is actually very good.
Currently, Top Gun: Maverick has a near-unprecedented 99 percent audience rating and a 97 percent rating from reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. People are truly enjoying it, which probably encourages repeat viewings, rather than just going up to see it and shrugging at what they see.
This kind of widespread praise has made it a word-of-mouth success as well, influencing even individuals who aren’t huge fans of Top Gun to seek it out. You’ll watch it to find out what all the hype is about because it has become a blockbuster.
Although not to this extent, Cruise has already had critically lauded and beloved films, so there is an additional factor at play.
With a staggering 4,735 theaters, Paramount gave it the largest opening in US history because they believed in it from the beginning. This US release made sure that moviegoers couldn’t avoid the sequel because it had already been receiving excellent reviews and was beginning to be promoted as a must-see on the big screen.
If there’s one thing you know about the movie, it’s that Cruise and the ensemble practically pulled off the flight sequences. It is a selling pitch that none of the MCU films can make.
Top Gun: Maverick was turned by Paramount from a sequel that primarily catered to Top Gun enthusiasts into a full-fledged event movie when combined with an IMAX release. It’s simple to overlook the fact that it has only been roughly a year since movie theaters reopened, making the notion of seeing a new blockbuster still quite unusual.
There is absolutely nothing complicated about the sequel, to put it kind of nicely. (Except if you subscribe to the fan idea that Maverick was actually dead the whole time.)
If you haven’t seen the previous film, it follows the same basic plot structure and tells Maverick’s redemption story. But that’s only part of what makes it appealing since it’s a throwback—a blatantly earnest blockbuster that exists solely to amuse.
The sequel has its heartbreaking moments, particularly in its largest “legacy sequel” scene starring Val Kilmer as Iceman, but it’s primarily an exciting show that leaves you feeling good. The third act is essentially a long set piece that has tension, humor, and a satisfying conclusion.
And really, doesn’t that sound like the perfect retreat after the couple of years we’ve all had? Maybe the popularity of Top Gun: Maverick can be attributed to the fact that it made everyone happy.