Top Gun: Maverick is littered with references and repeated story beats from the original Top Gun, but the one scene that will have everyone talking is its tribute to the iconic volleyball scene. In the new movie, the pilots swap their volleyball for a football, and they leave the Kenny Loggins off of the soundtrack. The scene still works as a worthy successor to the shirtless volleyball game everyone still remembers 36 years later. Spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick ahead.
The beach football game serves the same purpose as the volleyball scene did, showing the new pilots becoming a team. Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson (Jon Hamm) does not understand the purpose of it at first, but Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) tells him the game will build chemistry among the pilots. Cyclone didn't really like it, but Maverick never listens to anyone's instructions so he didn't stop the game.
Hilariously, the game even includes a reference to Maverick's bizarre decision to wear jeans during the original volleyball game. Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) is wearing jeans while playing football on the beach. It looks... a little uncomfortable.
Since Top Gun: Maverick has been in production for many, many years, the beach game tribute was not a complete surprise. All the way back in June 2017, Tom Cruise told Entertainment Tonight at The Mummy premiere there "may be a volleyball scene." Cruise continued, "Maybe. We'll see. I have not told anyone in the world as much as I've just told you right now." The first trailer for Maverick, shown at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, included shots of the football game.
In September 2020, Glen Powell, who plays Lt. Jake "Hangman" Seresin, told Extra they actually filmed the football game twice. "We shot it, and then that night, we all went out for milkshakes and tater tots and splurged. Everybody grabbed a beer," Powell recalled. "And then a week later, Tom was like... 'Guys, we've got to shoot it again. It wasn't good enough. We're gonna shoot it again.' And then everyone was back in the gym day and night."
Although Top Gun included plenty of amazing scenes with fighter jets, the volleyball scene with Cruise and Val Kilmer quickly became iconic. Maverick director Joseph Kosinski told Screen Rant that when people heard he was going to direct the Top Gun sequel, the first thing they asked about was a volleyball game tribute.
"That was one of those scenes that, when people heard I was starting to prep this movie, everyone was asking me about the beach scene," Kosinski said. "I knew that was something we couldn't avoid. The trick was how we work it into the story. I didn't want to just do the scene for the sake of doing it. Our screenwriting team came up with a really clever way of integrating that sequence into the story of our film. And then, when it came to that day, we had fun. I mean, it was shooting the beach scene for Top Gun."
Top Gun fans can now see the volleyball tribute on the big screen. After years of waiting, Top Gun: Maverick is now in theaters.