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The Perfect Release Date For Top Gun 3 (But Will It Happen?)

If Top Gun 3 ever takes flight, there’s a milestone release date it must land on. Audiences were kept waiting a very long time for Top Gun: Maverick, to the point where it appeared it would never happen. Tom Cruise himself was reluctant to return, as the original was a seminal moment in his career, and the passing of helmer Tony Scott made him question the need for a follow-up. While some legacy sequels can prove incredibly disappointing, Maverick – which earned many 2023 Oscar nods – certainly wasn’t one of them. Just like Mad Max: Fury Road, it proved to be worth the three-decade-long wait.

It had all the exciting fighter jet action and music montages that made Top Gun a classic, but also a surprising amount of heart and emotion too. It also proved that movie theaters were alive and well following the pandemic, with Maverick soaring its way to over $1.4 billion worldwide. The story wraps itself up neatly too, so despite its success, there’s a question mark hanging over the possibility of Top Gun 3 even happening. If it does get greenlit, there’s a good release date for it.

Related: How Fast Is Mach 10? What Speed Maverick Travels In Top Gun 2

The original Top Gun hit theaters in May 1986, becoming a box-office smash and making the careers of both Cruise, Scott and Val Kilmer. While some blockbuster hits fade from collective memory, the legacy of Top Gun only appeared to grow year by year, leading to calls for a sequel that went unanswered for decades. Since the original film will celebrate its 40th birthday in 2026, it would make sense for Top Gun 3 to arrive that year to close out the series – and Maverick’s story – in style. As mentioned above, another entry is far from a given though.

Top Gun: Maverick brought Cruise’s titular pilot full circle, bringing his time in the Navy to an end and reconciling with “Rooster,” the son of his late best friend. The sequel closes with Maverick literally flying into the sunset with girlfriend Penny (Jennifer Connelly), so on the surface at least, his story has a satisfying ending. Top Gun 3 – which avoided a cynical sequel problem – would have to devise another “impossible” mission to bring Maverick back and considering it took decades to convince Cruise to return, that won’t be simple. That said, the star listens to audience feedback, and it’s clear the majority of viewers loved Top Gun: Maverick.

An alternative could be a spinoff focused on either Miles Teller’s Rooster or Glen Powell’s cocky rival Hangman. Either character could easily front a potential movie of their own, with Cruise taking a backseat in a supporting role. The question there is would viewers want Top Gun 3 if Cruise’s Maverick wasn’t front and center? The incredible, eye-watering success of Top Gun: Maverick makes a third entry possible, but if Cruise doesn’t feel there’s another story worth telling, maybe it’s best to leave the series as a kickass duology.

Next: Top Gun 2: Why Maverick Didn’t Bring Back Meg Ryan

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