Top Gun: Maverick – Why Tom Cruise’s latest thrill ride is a take-off of traditional Hollywood flying movies

As ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week, Geoffrey Macnab looks back at fighter jet films, and says if it hadn’t been for directors like Howard Hawks and Howard Hughes who reached for the sky before him, Cruise’s Top Gun films would never even have left the ground

Friday 20 May 2022 06:34 BST
Tom Cruise reprises his 1986 role as reckless pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’
Tom Cruise reprises his 1986 role as reckless pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ (Paramount Pictures)

When Tom Cruise was in Cannes this week for the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick, fans reacted as if his new film was groundbreaking and he was the first movie star ever to climb inside a cockpit.

In fact, he is building on the legacy of a century of flying movies. In 1939, Howard Hawks’s high-testosterone flying drama Only Angels Have Wings was chosen for the very first Cannes Film Festival, but Hitler intervened. The festival was cancelled as the war started. Flash-forward and Cannes has been making a very big fuss over Cruise and Top Gun: Maverick instead, as if to make up for not being able to show Hawks’s film all those years ago.

InTop Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski, the evergreen star reprises his role from the 1986 Top Gun movie as reckless pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. It was greeted with rave reviews at press screenings in advance of its Cannes premiere. “A thrill ride”, “Cruise’s best film”, and “the most fun you’ll have in cinemas this year” have been some of the verdicts.

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