Film: Top Gun: Maverick
Plot: After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.
Cast: Tom Cruise,  Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Studio: Paramount Pictures
HCA Overall Grade: A

David Gonzalez says “Top Gun: Maverick took my breath away. An adrenaline rush tailor-made for the summer blockbuster season. It gives cinephiles jaw-dropping aerial combat sequences and packs an emotional punch that makes Top Gun: Maverick the event of the summer” 

Grade: A+

Rachel Wagner says “Top Gun: Maverick definitely demands to be seen in the theater with the incredible sound design and immersive flight sequences. This is what you go to the movies for! You won’t want to miss it!

Grade: A+

Don Shanahan says “In true rugged fashion as a legacy sequel aiming for the pinnacle of performance on and off camera, the movie exerts the very same pressure of gravity on us as we find ourselves glued to our seats with every flyby and bead of sweat.”

Grade: A-

Fiona Underhill says “While I wish it had not been overhyped as much it was, Top Gun: Maverick is still an absolute blast. I saw it in IMAX, and I definitely recommend going as big as you can with this one. It is nice to see Cruise expressing some real human emotions – crying, kissing a lady – after his rather robotic portrayal of Ethan Hunt. It wasn’t quite ridiculous enough for me until the finale when it really goes for it. I will not hold sway with “better than the original” talk though!”

Grade: B

Francisco Cangiano says ” Top Gun: Maverick is phenomenal! The perfect summer blockbuster. The action is intense and the aerial sequences are breathtaking. Tom Cruise again adds to his legend in this sequel that’s actually superior to the original classic in every possible way. This is “biggest screen” worthy.

Grade: A

Daniel Loria says “The rare legacy sequel that doesn’t rely on nostalgia to succeed, Top Gun: Maverick is good enough to win over people who dislike the original. Breathtaking practical effects, optimized for viewing in a theatrical setting, and a solid emotional core at the heart of the story provides one of the more memorable studio tentpoles of the last decade. Partially shot with IMAX cameras and featuring an immersive sound mix on Dolby Atmos, Top Gun: Maverick is a great example of how contemporary filmmakers are producing spectacles for modern moviegoers using today’s latest technology.”

Grade: B+

Patrick Beatty says “Tom Cruise sure knows how to make a summer blockbuster, and this is assuredly a summer blockbuster. I loved the sound design for the planes and the dogfights. The rumbling and vibrating in an IMAX theater will literally raise your heart rate. The film pays tribute to what came before in visual and story parallels, to a touching and emotional tribute to Val Kilmer, in a moment I will say feels pure love between himself and Cruise. This is the Summer blockbuster of 2022.”

Grade: A-

Staci Layne Wilson says “The plot occupies familiar airspace, but it gives the fans what they want—and then some. Top Gun: Maverick feels true to its formulaic spirit but it’s also state-of-the-art and ramped up in terms of excitement. The aerial scenes are truly breathtaking and there’s an immersive feel to it all. I enjoyed it more than the first film, to be honest… and I do recommend if you see it on the big screen, go really big with IMAX or/and Dolby Cinema.”

Grade: A-

Rick Bentley says “Top Gun: Maverick is loaded with action and nostalgia. The only real problem with this sequel is that it took so long to get made. It was a long wait but pays off big for fans of Top Gun as well as anyone who loves action on a supersonic level.

Grade: B

Matt Neglia says “Top Gun: Maverick is miles beyond the first film in every conceivable way. Pays respect while forging its own path with blistering editing, thunderous sound & sweeping music. A big film with even bigger emotions that should be seen on the biggest screen possible. One of the best utilizations of Tom Cruise’s charisma, movie star persona, and daredevil attitude.”

Grade: A

Demetri Panos says “It has been 36 years since moviegoers flew into the danger zone with top gun pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. While most sequels that take this long to happen, just flame out, crash & burn…Top Gun: Maverick fulfills moviegoers’ need for speed with high altitude nostalgia feels, exhilarating barrel rolls, old-time movie making, and dynamic screenplay writing!”

Grade: A

Jana N Nagase says “Top Gun: Maverick took my breath away! The film is everything I was expecting and so much more. The flying scenes are absolutely amazing and I was on the edge of my seat during them! This is an incredible return to the franchise with tons of emotion! Tom Cruise is amazing and the new cast members bring a fresh breath to the story. It’s a must-see on IMAX.”

Grade: A

Ryan McQuade says “Top Gun: Maverick took my breath away with its dazzling commitment to pushing beyond the limits of the original film and making something truly special. Tom Cruise continues to prove that is the best movie star working today, delivering one of his best performances in recent memory. A pure adrenaline-filled thrill ride that demands repeat viewings on the biggest screen possible.”

Grade: B+

Joel D. Amos says “Sequels that take decades to come to fruition do not have the biggest success record. But as producer Jerry Bruckheimer told me exclusively back in 2014, Top Gun would not receive a sequel that would not be “100 perfect from beginning to end.” After experiencing Top Gun: Maverick, every single bit of that is up on the screen. Dare I say, this film is better, more engaging, and yes, more realistic than the 1986 film. Its soundtrack still pumps. There’s still a beach scene, but it’s different and actually moves the plot forward in the most important of ways. It couldn’t be more imperative. Those set-up scenes go toe-to-toe with the aerial awesomeness and it all adds up to Top Gun: Maverick is the popcorn summer movie blast we’ve been waiting for… far too long.”

Grade: A

James White says “Top Gun: Maverick truly understands what a legacy sequel needs to succeed – and it is more than the need for speed (or nostalgia). Precision-tooled, this follow-up honors the original while updating its themes, creating interesting arcs for characters old and new, and delivering on the action spectacle. Yes, there is some retreading here, but it’s in service of a story that thrills you and then makes you actually feel something. When it’s on the ground, it’s solid and dependable. When the film takes to the skies; It soars. Whatever else he may be, Tom Cruise remains a Grade-A movie star and this is one of the best vehicles to remind you of that fact.”

Grade: A

Abbie Bernstein says “Apart from technological updates and more inclusive casting, Top Gun: Maverick could almost have been made in 1986 when the original Top Gun was released.”

Grade:  B

Scott Menzel says “Top Gun: Maverick is sure to impress fans of the original and may even make some new ones along the way. Even though the plot is very dependent on that of the original, I found the film to be surprisingly better than the first in almost every way. This film plays out as the ultimate 80s throwback and is such a genuine crowd-pleaser. Newcomers Miles Teller and Glen Powell are the strongest of the new recruits, but this film is all about Tom Cruise. He proves once again why he’s a movie star and carries the weight of this project on his shoulders with ease. The flight scenes in the final act are exceptional and are more than enough reason to want to experience this film on the big screen. Top Gun: Maverick is a nostalgic delight.”

Grade: A-

Debbie Lynn Elias says “A perfect meld of nostalgia and nail-biting immersive aerial action. So much heart. Tears will well up. If Val Kilmer never does anything ever again, this is a perfect swan song for him as Iceman. Cruise IS Pete Mitchell. Miles Teller nails it as Rooster bringing parts of Anthony Edwards’ “Goose” to the character, not to mention superb hair and makeup that will have you doing a double-take asking if Goose was resurrected. Glen Powell soars. And you gotta love Lewis Pullman as the nerdy and unassuming Bob. Iconic touchstones from the original film as well as requisite emotional beats pay homage to the past while excellent editing intercutting some key moments from the original into this film will take you on a touching trip down memory lane. But damn! The aerial dogfights and F18 training sequences are to die for! But get ready, because, with the first musical notes of that familiar haunting chime, your goosebumps will let you know that you haven’t lost that loving feeling for the need for speed and Tom Cruise’s Maverick.”

Grade: A

Dan Murrell says “Top Gun: Maverick is a reminder of what big-screen filmmaking is all about, thanks in no small part to star Tom Cruise’s insistence on using practical air photography wherever possible. The result is a thrilling experience with some of the most impressive cinematography in recent blockbuster memory, paired with an equally impressive performance from Cruise as Maverick, on the brink of ending his career and still haunted by the death of his best friend. The story, as with the original Top Gun, doesn’t break much new ground, but the action sequences are stunning, with clearly explained stakes and jaw-dropping execution. The film overstays its welcome a bit with a protracted third act, but the emotional beats hit where they need to, and the action does the rest. Top Gun: Maverick is what blockbuster filmmaking is supposed to be, and the theater owners witnessing packed houses this weekend are sure to agree.”

Grade: B+

Mara Knopic says “Disclaimer: Top Gun (1986) is one of my favorite movies ever made and I have absolutely no shame about my never-ending obsession with it. Top Gun: Maverick was my most anticipated movie of the year three years in a row, for its scheduled 2020 release, delayed 2021 release, and its actual 2022 release. Additionally, as a Navy veteran, I cannot deny the sentimentality that all of the aircraft carrier scenes provide, but I am also not willing to divorce myself from that when examining this film or its forerunner. Well, now that’s out of the way… I try to go into every movie without expectation but the extremely positive, nigh unbelievable, response to Top Gun: Maverick was unavoidable. The reception of a movie from its premiere should always be taken with a grain of salt because it is being seen in the most optimal setting with the most invested persons, and I was very concerned that the prevailing opinion was more inflated than usual. I am delighted to say that it is EXACTLY what it was touted to be; it was everything I needed it to be and more as a mega-fan of the original. One aspect that gave me goosebumps every time I saw a trailer for the film was the visual spectacle that utilized minimal computer-generated images for the in-flight sequences and the film is breathtaking. The cinematography is of the highest caliber and the accompanying special effects that are used are both deserving of Academy consideration. Furthermore, the editing style, particularly during the climactic events of the third act, was incredibly immersive – jarring and frenetic without losing the characters or the story in the process. The movie does an excellent job of establishing the mission parameters so that during those major aerial scenes the viewer has a firm grip on the purpose and geography of the action, an improvement from the first movie. Tom Cruise’s performance in the film reminds viewers that he is not simply one of the last great movie stars, but that he still has the acting prowess from his earlier work, such as Born on the Fourth of July. Miles Teller also has some heavy lifting for his character and goes toe-to-toe with Cruise for both the anger and the grief that each character must work through. The movie uses nostalgia in all the right ways, taking the best parts of the first film and enhancing them to service this continuing story; the sincerity for the 1986 film seeps out of every pore without ignoring the places in which it required modernization. Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick are both firmly in place as two of my favorite films of all time, but just because they are included amongst the ranks of other films like Schindler’s List, Lawrence of Arabia, and 1917, does not mean that they are without flaws. Perfect films are few and far between and Top Gun: Maverick’s are there, but they are vastly outweighed by how the film succeeds. I am going to give this film so much money.

Grade: A+

Zoë Rose Bryant says “Top Gun: Maverick represents the best of what blockbuster filmmaking can be, brilliantly blending spectacle with sentiment to exhilarating effect, while also featuring one of Tom Cruise’s most powerful and poignant performances to date. This is what movies were made for.”

Grade: A+

Jeandra LeBeauf says “Top Gun: Maverick stepped firmly into the shoes of the original. A beautiful blend of nostalgia and new school orientation. The long wait was worth it.”

Grade: A-

Karen Peterson says “This nostalgia-fueled sequel lives up to the original while exploring new depths for an iconic character, and achieving a new level of cinematic grandeur. Surprisingly emotional, Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski deliver a film far more nuanced and layered than anyone would have expected. Claudio Miranda’s cinematography is masterful.”

Grade: A

Scott Mendelson says “While well-made and generally entertaining, Top Gun: Maverick gets caught up in the need to validate Tom Cruise as an A-list movie star and the original Top Gun as an important piece of 1980s pop culture mythology.”

Grade: C+

John Nguyen says “Top Gun: Maverick is exhilarating, an adrenaline rush, and a crowd-pleaser. Tom Cruise and the gang deliver a worthy sequel that will delight new and old fans. I laughed, I cried, I cheered!

Grade: A+

Alexander Robinson says “WOW!!! All I have to say is simply wow! Top Gun: Maverick is one of those summer blockbusters that is cinematic perfection from every angle as well as a sequel that is undeniably superior to the original. If you thought the aerial photography and dog fights were amazing in the first movie, then your jaw will drop to the floor several times during these action scenes. If you thought the first movie was light on characters and story, then this movie delivers on those aspects as well. This film is action-packed, exciting, and surprisingly emotional at points. I don’t think there will be another blockbuster this year that will reach the same level as Top Gun: Maverick!” 

Grade: A+

Rosa Parra says “Worth the wait! Its thrilling, exciting, action-packed and heartfelt storyline impacted me. I’ll rewatch it a few more times in IMAX! What a phenomenal theater experience. This is cinema!”

Grade: A+

Zaki Hasan says “Earnest, emotional, and exhilarating, Top Gun: Maverick is a master class in how to craft a legacy sequel. 36 years after first playing Maverick, Tom Cruise remains the quintessential superstar, easily holding together a modern blockbuster that’s crowd-pleasingly old school.”

Grade: A

Rodrigo Salem says “Top Gun: Maverick is like a good shot of nice tequila: you know the taste, but it still delivers a great buzz. The movie is predictable and old-fashioned, but a good piece of non-intellectual action is exactly what we need now. Just go with the ride.”

Grade: B+

Jeff Ewing says “Top Gun: Maverick is an incredibly crowd-pleasing, high-octane joy ride. Cruise showcases top-tier charisma combined with practical stunt work. The film’s production is also top-tier. While I do think the ending resolves a little too easily, overall it’s a great time from start to finish.”

Grade: A

Nguyen Le says “This is a cloud-nine breathtaking as we watch every moment of a hotshot going through growing pains. Aerial dogfights still awe more than emotional beats, but at least the latter no longer feel bogus. All the medals for Claudio Miranda.”

Grade: B+

Lupe Rodriguez Haas says “I will dare to say Top Gun: Maverick is better than the first movie. If you felt the need for speed in 1986 after watching Top Gun: Maverick will make you feel the need for G’s. Tom Cruise and the filmmakers do justice to the original and even improve on the action and emotions.”

Grade: A+

Patrick Stoner says “As sequels go, Top Gun: Maverick contains the elements of action, star nostalgia, & special effects to the Nth degree. It’s the perfect summer film, but like most tasty cold treats, it’s a pleasure of the season. A must-see, if not a must memory.

Grade: A

Brian Formo says ” Cruise has this thing down pat: great action, a fresh cast that marvels at his abilities, and extremely thin characters who somehow all still get tossed a lil treat of a scene to make it worth their time. Everyone says they make movies for audiences but Cruise is in a league of his own in making it look easy. The trick is in the adherence to the combination of practical effects used to achieve the impossible — with old-school stardom.”

Grade: B

John Rocha says “Top Gun: Maverick is an incredible return to the franchise that was absolutely worth the wait! It honors the first Top Gun film with well-placed and times references while also blazing its own path in the sky! The story, acting, emotions, and those Dogfight sequences are all excellent. This is Tom Cruise’s greatest performance since Jerry Maguire. This is what going to the movie theaters is all about!”

Grade: A+

Top Gun: Maverick is now playing exclusively in movie theaters everywhere!