Top Gun Maverick director responds to fan theory that Maverick died

Cameron Frew
Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun Maverick

Some fans of Top Gun: Maverick think Tom Cruise’s aviator actually died at the beginning of the movie. Now, the director has weighed in on the theory.

It’s been 36 years since Tom Cruise first took to the skies. Earlier this year, he returned as the Navy’s cockiest pilot in Top Gun: Maverick, a long-awaited sequel to the ’80s classic.

A degree of success was pre-ordained, but nobody foresaw its box office domination: it’s the biggest movie of the year, grossing more than $1.04 billion worldwide.

Amid the movie’s success, the director has responded to a theory surrounding its breathtaking opening, and whether Maverick actually dies in the first 10 minutes.

Spoiler warning for Top Gun: Maverick…

The “Maverick died” Top Gun Maverick theory, explained

As we know, Maverick is ordered to return to Top Gun to train a team of graduates for a near-impossible mission: blowing up a uranium reserve at the bottom of a mountain and escaping under fire from surface-to-air missiles and enemy fighters.

In the opening sequence of the film, Maverick is working in the experimental aircraft division of the Navy, testing a new hypersonic plane known as the Darkstar.

The Darkstar in Top Gun: Maverick
Maverick goes Mach 10 in the Darkstar.

After being told their operation is being shut down by the admiral (Ed Harris), having seemingly failed to meet the threshold of Mach 10 speed, he hops in the plane and takes off anyway.

He successfully reaches Mach 9, the original goal for that day’s flight. He keeps pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and eventually reaches Mach 10 – but against Hondo’s (Bashir Salahuddin) advice, he keeps going.

The “stick jockey” gets to 10.3 before the plane combusts, with its debris ripping across the sky like a battered satellite in space. Somehow, he ejects and lands somewhere in the US, before catching a ride back to base.

The theory is quite simple: Mach 10 is 7,627mph. The land speed record is 763mph. Even if Maverick managed to get out of the plane before it exploded, his body surely couldn’t withstand the force of that speed outside the aircraft. So, some fans believe Maverick actually died, and the rest of the film is a death dream.

Top Gun Maverick director responds to theory that Maverick died

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Joseph Kosinski was asked whether he’d “like to throw cold water on this interpretation” of the movie.

“No, movies are meant to be interpreted in a variety of ways, and I love it when people read different meanings into it,” he said, laughing.

“So I love hearing that theory, and certainly, there’s a mythic kind of element to the story that I think lends itself to that sort of interpretation, based on who Maverick is and what he represents and the fact that he’s kind of going through this rite of passage at a different phase of his life. So I like that theory.

“Movies are things that are meant to be interpreted in your own way and based on how you see the world and the experiences that you’ve had. So I will not throw cold water on that. It’s a really cool interpretation of the story.”

Top Gun Maverick is still in cinemas. You can find out when and where to watch it at home here.

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