Meet Top Gun: Maverick’s Penny – Was She in the Original Movie?

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By Wanda

Kelly McGillis’ portrayal of Charlie in the 1985 blockbuster Top Gun played a significant role in the film’s success. In an era run by trophy girlfriends in movies, her character stood out as a smart and capable woman who brought a fresh sense of equality to her relationship with Tom Cruise’s Maverick. Charlie dictated the terms of their romance, was portrayed as more emotionally mature, and, notably, Maverick ultimately chose to be with her involved in traditionally male activities. This character challenged conventional gender roles, making Top Gun a popular film in its time.

She chose not to return in Top Gun: Maverick, the 2022 sequel, voicing her concern about potential ageism in Hollywood. Her absence left a significant gap in the film, as she was one of the major elements that brought success to the original. She was replaced by Jennifer Connelly starring as Penny Benjamin, the new love interest for Maverick. Penny is the only possible option for this role, and she had appeared in Maverick’s life before the massive sequel that aimed to revive the cinematic experience.

What was her role in the original Top Gun movie?

In the 1986 film Top Gun, Maverick, the main character, is depicted as a rebellious pilot who often ignores orders and engages in risky stunts. His behavior is somewhat a reaction to his father’s reputation as a pilot who was held accountable for a mission failure in Vietnam. One infamous incident involves Maverick’s encounter with a woman referred to as the admiral’s daughter, named Penny Benjamin. While Penny is only mentioned and does not appear on screen, this incident is used to bring Maverick’s womanizing and one-night-stand characteristics to light. Maverick has a major character development throughout the film as he falls in love with Charlie, breaking away from his reckless behavior.

Charlie is replaced by Pennie in Top Gun: Maverick

The inclusion of Penny Benjamin in Top Gun: Maverick serves a different purpose compared to the original film. In the 1986 version, references to Maverick’s idea of a good woman taming him were reflective of the patriarchy of the time. However, in 2022, these attitudes are seen as outdated. The introduction of Penny Benjamin in the new film offers a way to address this issue without bringing in a completely new character.

In Top Gun: Maverick, the relationship between Maverick and Penny is portrayed as on and off over the years, directing towards a deeper connection beyond just a casual fling. This development develops Maverick as a better person, from being a womanizer. Penny’s role in the film helps Maverick come to terms with his past choices, particularly his decision to block Goose’s son, Rooster, from joining the Naval Academy at the request of Carole, Goose’s widow, before her passing. With Penny’s assistance, Maverick finds closure and reconciles with Rooster in the film’s third act. This evolution of Maverick’s character and his relationship with Penny reflects a more modern approach to storytelling, addressing the consequences of his actions and personal growth.

Introducing Penny Benjamin in Top Gun: Maverick adds depth and relevance to the story by rekindling Maverick’s relationship with her, moving away from outdated beliefs. This thoughtful approach helps modernize the franchise, keeping it entertaining for today’s audience after 35 years.

Top Gun: Maverick is available on  MGM+, Prime Video and Paramount+.