The inevitable sequel to Top Gun: Maverick, Top Gun 3, will need to overcome a specific curse that often follows threequels to 1980s movies. The original Top Gun came out in 1986, with the sequel taking over 25 years to release. Top Gun: Maverick was released in 2022 and continued the franchise in a much-improved fashion. This was evident by the sequel’s box office haul, with Top Gun: Maverick earning a worldwide total of over $1.4 billion to become the second-highest-grossing 2022 release.
With the film becoming only the second post-pandemic release to cross the $1 billion threshold, talks naturally began surrounding a third Top Gun film. While still not officially confirmed, the stars of Maverick seem confident that Top Gun 3 will eventually happen. However, if the third film does come out, it must overcome the 1980s franchise curse of threequels, often dropping in quality from the first two installments.
Top Gun 3’s Script Needs To Justify Its Existence
One way Top Gun 3 could overcome this curse is by justifying its existence. Top Gun: Maverick faced the challenge of reinventing an 80s franchise using modern-day technology and wisely avoided becoming an overindulgent fan-service film with little emotional weight. Due to this, Top Gun: Maverick became a rare legacy sequel that vastly improved on its predecessor. From the in-camera action to the emotionally impactful script, Top Gun: Maverick solidified itself as one of the best movies of 2022 which many did not expect before release.
This was primarily due to the way the script was written. If Top Gun 3 is to avoid the 80s threequel curse, it will also need an equally strong script. It would be easy for Top Gun 3 to become a product born of corporate greed, only being made because of its predecessor’s impressive box office haul of its predecessor. However, Top Gun 3 must be born out of love, which Maverick evidently was. In doing so, Top Gun 3 could avoid the 80s curse that plagued the following franchises.
Other 80s Franchises That Had Inferior 3rd Entries
From Rocky, Alien, and The Terminator, the 80s threequel curse is evident, to name a few specific cases. All three franchises were staples of the 1980s, despite the former two releasing in the late-70s. The Terminator arguably supports the curse the strongest, with both 1984’s The Terminator and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day counting among some of the best sci-fi action films. The third movie, reviving the franchise in the 2000s as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, was not awful by any means but failed to reach the incredibly lofty heights of its predecessors, which subsequent sequels have continued to prove.
The same can be said for David Fincher’s Alien 3, which was considered much weaker in its script than either Ridley Scott’s Alien or James Cameron’s Aliens. The first two installments were, like The Terminator, considered two of the most impactful sci-fi films of blockbuster cinema, with the later revival wielding disappointing returns. In terms of Rocky, Rocky III was often regarded as the beginning of the franchise’s downfall before its revival with Stallone’s sixth entry, Rocky Balboa. While Rocky III and Rocky IV provide campy 80s thrills synonymous with the franchise, there is no doubting the drop in quality from the first two entries.
How Top Gun 3 Could Break The Trend
With this in mind, the question turns to how Top Gun 3 could break the evident curse suffered by the 80s franchise’s third entries. The answer is to continue what Top Gun: Maverick began. The sequel showed Hollywood how legacy sequels should be handled by vastly improving the character’s stories and the dramatic weight of the original Top Gun. By capitalizing on this, Top Gun 3 could avoid the 80s curse altogether.
One way this could be done is by furthering Maverick’s story of ushering in a new generation of Top Gun pilots. By placing Miles Teller’s Rooster and Glen Powell’s Hangman as the central characters who graduated from Top Gun, the threequel could provide a dynamic missing from both Top Gun movies. While Iceman and Maverick had a similar rival-turned-wingman arc in the first film, the time jump between Top Gun and its sequel means most of their time after this was skipped over.
Top Gun 3 can show how Rooster and Hangman’s careers develop and their relationship, too, as well as further Maverick’s character. Maverick’s return could also see an emotional throughline akin to the original Star Wars trio in Disney’s sequel trilogy or those of the MCU’s Infinity Saga heroes by having the character give his life or retire happily by the film’s end. Either way, Top Gun 3 has plenty of stories and, more importantly, character potential going forward, which would allow the Top Gun: Maverick sequel to avoid the curse that has plagued the franchise’s 80s peers.
More: Top Gun: Maverick’s Unused Footage Makes The Movie Even More Impressive