'Top Gun: Maverick' Gives Val Kilmer's Iceman a Perfect Tribute

The nostalgia-obsessed sequel reunites Kilmer and Tom Cruise for one impactful, tear-jerking scene.

Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

When Maverick and Iceman emerge from their respective aircrafts at the end of Top Gun, director Tony Scott’s 1986 ode to shiny planes and the shiny men who fly them, they share a rare moment of tenderness. Iceman, the blond pretty-boy villain played by Val Kilmer, points at Tom Cruise’s Maverick and bellows, “You!” Maverick removes his aviators to look his former enemy right in the eyes. “You are still dangerous,” says the Iceman. “But you can be my wingman any time.” Maverick grins: “Bullshit. You can be mine.”

After all these years, they’re still each other’s wingmen. Released in theatres this weekend after a rocky road to production and a lengthy pandemic-related delay, Top Gun: Maverick understands the importance of the Maverick and Iceman rivalry to the Top Gun experience. In the same way that Harold Faltermeyer’s score, Kenny Loggins’s “Danger Zone,” and beach volleyball are essential to the movie’s ridiculous MTV-era head-rush effect, the dynamic between these two hotshots forms the true emotional core of the film. No offense to Kelly McGillis, who played Maverick’s love interest (and instructor) Charlie in the original, or Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, tasked with playing an old flame of Maverick’s in the sequel. There’s simply no competing with the smouldering power of Mav and Ice.

In the sequel, director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) and the film’s five credited writers make the wise decision to keep Iceman off-screen for a good deal of the running time. They tease his presence: You catch a glimpse of his photo hanging at the flight school, he’s name-checked by other authority figures in Maverick’s life, and you see Maverick sending him text messages. (Of course, Maverick has him in his phone as “Ice.”) As Maverick darts through the legacy-sequel plot points, getting called back to teach at Top Gun and training a group of new recruits that includes Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his dead friend Goose, the idea of Iceman hangs over the movie. He’s not exactly tracking Maverick; he’s patiently waiting in the clouds.

Paramount Pictures / Photo by CBS via Getty Images
Paramount Pictures / Photo by CBS via Getty Images
Paramount Pictures / Photo by CBS via Getty Images

Then, he strikes. In the movie’s most moving scene, Maverick makes the pilgrimage to Iceman’s home, where the admiral’s wife informs Maverick that his friend’s cancer has returned. For viewers who have followed Kilmer’s health struggles in recent years, this wrinkle will not be a surprise. The actor has discussed his condition in interviews with The New York Times Magazine and Men’s Health and chronicled his battle with cancer in his memoir I’m Your Huckleberry. Last year, A24 released Val, a feature-length documentary exploring Kilmer’s career using intimate home-video footage shot by the star himself. In the film, you see him speaking through a voice box after completing two tracheotomies.

During the Top Gun: Maverick scene, Iceman mostly speaks to Maverick with the help of his computer, teasing him and offering sage advice. The actual stakes of what they talk about is a little silly: Can Maverick make peace with Rooster? Will he complete the mission? Can he save America and himself? If you’ve seen a movie, you know the answer to these questions. Maverick will figure all this out, and we will get our catharsis. What’s more compelling is the delicate meta interplay between Cruise and Kilmer, which lends the movie a startling poignancy.

The reality of the moment and the shared history of the two stars, who have both battled private demons on a very public stage, gives the scene a gravitas and almost documentary-like texture that transcends the movie’s occasionally cheesy, nostalgic tone. Here’s a 62-year-old man (Kilmer) and a 59-year-old man (Cruise) getting together on screen to recreate a dynamic they had over 30 years ago when they were both young men starting out in the business. As portrayed in Val, Kilmer didn’t even want to make Top Gun. “I thought the script was silly, and I disliked warmongering in films,” he says. “But I was under contract with the studio, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

As the script consistently underscores with lines about Maverick being a “dinosaur” who will soon be replaced with a computer, Top Gun: Maverick is a movie about fighting the passage of time. (The temptation to view the movie as an elegy for the 20th-century blockbuster and for the American empire is strong.) In the 1994 romantic comedy Sleep With Me, Quentin Tarantino made a memorable cameo appearance as an excitable guy at a party who analyzes Top Gun’s homoerotic undertones and ends his monologue by jokingly misquoting final lines as “You can ride my tail anytime.” What Top Gun: Maverick suggests is that the job of a wingman is never truly over. Even in death, these two ride together.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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