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8 Top Gun Details That Prove Maverick Is Actually Dead In The 2022 Sequel

Summary Top Gun: Maverick ‘s dying dream fan theory suggests that the entire movie is Maverick’s fantasy as he is dying, and it is surprisingly convincing upon rewatch.
The theory explains certain elements of the movie, such as Maverick’s survival after a lethal crash and Iceman’s comment about letting go of guilt before passing on.
The similarities between Rooster and Maverick’s late friend Goose, as well as the conveniently perfect reunion with Penny, support the idea that they are projections in Maverick’s dying dream.
While Top Gun: Maverick’s dying dream fan theory might seem far-fetched, it makes a scary amount of sense upon a rewatch of the blockbuster sequel. On the surface of it, Top Gun: Maverick seems like a pretty straightforward action movie with an upbeat story. However, one fan theory suggests that the entire movie is the fantasy of Tom Cruise’s reckless antihero, Maverick, as he is dying. This edgy take is surprisingly convincing. The twist, borrowed from Ambrose Bierce’s seminal short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” posits that Maverick didn’t survive his Mach 10 ejection in the opening sequence. Thus, everything after that is part of his dying dream.
If Top Gun: Maverick was an original movie, everything after the Mach 10 flight being revealed as a dying man’s fantasy would be a killer twist. However, because it’s a sequel, this reveal would be disappointing. If, like Repo Men or Jacob’s Ladder, Top Gun: Maverick unambiguously confirmed that Maverick was imagining things, it would betray the fun spirit of the original Top Gun. Top Gun: Maverick was a sunny, fun blockbuster, meaning a bleak twist ending would have felt jarring and discordant. However, the theory remains convincing for a few key reasons.
8 Top Gun: Maverick’s Mach 10 Crash Was Incredibly Lethal
According to Top Gun: Maverick’s darkest fan theory, everything after the opening scene’s Mach 10 flight could be Maverick’s fantasy as he died. That is a pretty fair guess since ejecting at Mach 10 is effectively a death sentence. While the creators of Top Gun: Maverick have got some wiggle room here since the experimental Darkstar aircraft might have featured a reinforced escape pod, the odds of Maverick surviving a crash at 10 times the speed of sound without even a serious injury are incredibly low. While Maverick looks dusty after his landing, he nurses no broken bones. This is the first clue to his potential fate.
When Maverick meets with Iceman, his old friend and former rival tells Maverick to just let go of the guilt and trauma that he carries with him. In the context of this fan theory, Iceman could mean that Maverick will pass on to the afterlife only if he gets over his guilt about Goose’s death. This makes Iceman’s Top Gun: Maverick death all the more fitting, as the character himself passes away after giving Cruise’s lead this advice. If the entire movie is Maverick’s dream, it makes sense that Iceman would exit after fulfilling his role and helping his friend.
6 This Top Gun: Maverick Theory Explains Rooster’s Goose Similarities
Rooster and Goose are absurdly similar, right down to them playing the same song on a piano. It is almost like Rooster is assembled from Maverick’s memories of Goose, which would explain why he sports his late father’s distinctive mustache. This would also explain why Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t tell viewers much about Rooster’s life outside his beef with Maverick. While Top Gun 3 could finally answer questions about Rooster’s internal life, in Top Gun: Maverick, the supporting character might as well just be a foil for a dying man to project his guilty conscience onto.
5 Top Gun: Maverick’s Dying Dream Explains Maverick’s Mission
In Top Gun 2, Maverick is called to partake in a top-secret mission, but viewers never learn what country this mission takes place in or what war it is a part of. Maverick is the only one who can fly the mission, even though he was ostensibly hired to teach a recruit to fly it instead. On top of that, Cyclone miraculously doesn’t kick him out after his risky, illegal test run. Maverick’s enemies could be nation-less and unnamed because this is all a fantasy that’s happening inside his mind. Admittedly, another fan theory accounts for Maverick’s test run, but this does still fit.
4 Top Gun: Maverick’s Penny Plot Seems Like A Fantasy
In Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise’s antihero ends up reuniting with a lover he left years earlier. Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin is still working at the same military base that Maverick is assigned to, and she is still coincidentally single. If this wasn’t convenient enough, she is also willing to give her roguish ex yet another chance after all these years. While Penny isn’t a completely ludicrous love interest, she still seems more like a dying man’s dream than a fully rounded human being.
3 Top Gun: Maverick’s Rooster/Hangman Rivalry Fits This Theory
Hangman and Rooster have a rivalry that is strikingly similar to the dynamic between Maverick and Iceman. This could be because the character only exists in Maverick’s mind, and thus, their dynamic is built on Maverick’s memories of his fights with Iceman. While a major 2022 flop killed any Top Gun spinoff starring Iceman, Top Gun: Maverick’s story already limited Glen Powell’s character to a foil that existed to push Rooster. This was essentially the role Iceman and Maverick played for each other decades earlier, which would make sense if Maverick was projecting his memories onto these imagined characters in his fantasy.
2 Top Gun: Maverick’s Dying Dream May Start Later
If the death dream starts not after the Mach 10 test flight, but instead after Maverick crashes trying to save Rooster, this would make even more sense. There are plenty of moments that beggar belief throughout Top Gun: Maverick’s story, but the most egregious of these occur when Maverick and Rooster try to save each other. For example, the odds of Maverick and Rooster using Maverick’s busted-up Tomcat to evade fifth-generation fighters are incredibly low. Hangman’s unlikely rescue of the heroes is similarly absurd. As such, this entire ending might be a fantasy on the part of Cruise’s character after he crashed his plane.
1 Maverick Might Not Have Died In Top Gun: Maverick’s Fan Theory
Much like Cruise’s earlier hit Vanilla Sky, Top Gun 3 could reveal Maverick imagined the ending while in a coma but still awoke and recovered. This was how director Cary Fukunaga originally wanted to retcon the ending of Spectre in No Time To Die, and it would allow Top Gun 3 to take on a more realistic tone than its predecessor. If Top Gun 3 revealed that portions of Top Gun: Maverick’s story were merely a fantasy, the sequel could offer a more grounded take on the franchise’s story going forward. However, Top Gun: Maverick’s box office success proves that there is nothing wrong with keeping the franchise silly.



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