The Hero’s Journey: Top Gun: Maverick

The Hero’s Journey: Top Gun: Maverick

It’s fun to revisit a hero in a sequel. This time around, our Hero’s Journey is about Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the hero from Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick.

Maverick has a clear Hero’s Journey in both installments. It’s easy to think that the completion of the mission is the climax, or resurrection, in this film, but read the WriterSpark breakdown of The Hero’s Journey. 

When you’re done here, check out the Hero’s Journey Database!


Hero– Maverick (Top Gun: Maverick), Pete Mitchell

Ordinary World— Maverick is part of a program that is going to be shut down because the plane they’re testing didn’t mock 10. Radm. Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain (Ed Harris) arrives to find Maverick in the sky pushing the plane to Mock 10… then Mock 10.1, then 10.2. 10.3. He ejects when the plane tears apart.

Maverick is a distinguished pilot, but has remained captain because he is where he belongs. The Navy sees him as a liability and dangerous. He lives up to his name of Maverick.

Call to Adventure–  Hammer tells Maverick his career is basically over and he’s being sent to Top Gun.

Refusal of Call–This manifests in Maverick’s expression. He doesn’t want to go back to Top Gun. But he has no choice.

Meeting the Mentor–  Iceman (Adm. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky). Maverick’s old nemesis is an admiral now and has intervened to protect Pete. He is the one that requested Maverick go to Top Gun. He has been behind the scenes in Maverick’s life, saving Pete from himself.

Crossing the Threshold– Maverick rides his motorcycle into the Flighttown and Top Gun.

Tests and Allies–

  1. Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson  (John Hamm) doesn’t want Maverick at Top Gun. He relegates Maverick to teacher role, taking Maverick out of the sky.
  2. Pete meets Penny again. He observes his soon to be students at the bar, including Rooster (Miles Teller), who is Goose’s son.
  3. Some of these students heave Pete out of the bar because he can’t pay his tab. Rules must  be followed.
  4. The next day Maverick is revealed to be the Top Gun instructor.
  5. Maverick’s goal is to push the pilots to realize what they don’t know.
  6. Cyclone is a nemesis. He does not like Maverick and doesn’t want him at Top Gun.
  7. Iceman is sick. He encourages Maverick to ‘let go’, referring to the past and his angst over Rooster and their relationship (based on Goose’s death in Top Gun 1). Maverick’s choices are both bad: Choose Rooster as wingman and risk his life; don’t choose him and risk their already tenuous relationship.
  8. Maverick builds a team with the pilots through offensive/defensive football on the beach. They work together.
  9. Iceman dies. Cyclone removes Maverick because he says the mission is impossible to do the way Maverick wants it done, which allows for the possibility of survivors. Cyclone is willing to sacrifice soldiers for the mission.
  10. Maverick goes rogue (again, foreshadowed from the first scene with Hammer when Maverick goes rogue), steals a plane, and completes the mission (taking it past Mock 10), proving it can be done.
  11. Hammer’s hands are tied. Maverick is appointed Team Leader. He chooses Rooster as wingman. They complete the mission.
  12. Two Bandits—enemy planes—show up. It becomes a dogfight. Rooster gets in trouble. Maverick sacrifices himself to save Rooster. Everyone is ordered back to base. Rooster defies orders and goes after Maverick, shooting the helicopter just before it was going to kill Maverick. But then, enemy planes shoot down Rooster.

Central Ordeal–  Maverick finds Rooster. They sacrificed for  each other. Their relationship is somewhat mended. Maverick says, “What were you thinking?!” and Rooster replies, “You told me not to think!”

Recurring Motif: Don’t think, just do.

They steal an enemy F15. This harkens back to Top Gun 1 and the planes Maverick and Goose flew. Rooster helps get everything ready to go, then they escape. The runways were destroyed by Tomahawks (US) to slow the enemy down.

Reward– Maverick manages to get the plane in the air. They think they’re home free.

Road Back– They start back toward base. Rooster gets the old equipment working. But then enemy planes appear.

Resurrection– Another dogfight. They fight back with the few missiles and guns, which don’t compare to the weaponry of the new planes. They also can’t outrun them. But this is the plane Maverick learned in. He maneuvers and defeats all the planes. UNTIL one appears at their nose suddenly, coming straight at them.

They are doomed. Until Hangman, who was Rooster’s nemesis in the way Iceman was Maverick’s, appears. He shoots the enemy plane in the nick of time. They all survive.

Return w/ elixir–Maverick and Rooster’s relationship is healed. As Iceman wanted, Maverick has let go of the past (as has Rooster).

Maverick and Penny ride off into the sunset on the motorcycle.

Comments: This second installment does not disappoint. There are so many turning points and, once again, the story follows a solid Hero’s Journey. 

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