Top Gun: Maverick‘s Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) is a big part of the sequel but there’s a hidden Top Gun 1986 connection that suggests a history with another character from the original. Before being the central love interest in Top Gun: Maverick, Penny is actually mentioned in the original Top Gun, being one of Maverick’s former love interests. However, a new theory posits that Penny’s ex-husband might be a character from the original movie as well. Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t give many details on Penny’s past, only mentioning that she is no longer married, which could mean anything. However, given her proximity to the TOPGUN program, it wouldn’t be surprising if Top Gun: Maverick‘s Penny Benjamin was married to someone that Maverick knows.


Top Gun: Maverick sees the return of Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell to the Navy’s TOPGUN program as an instructor. The film has many of the same elements audiences loved about the first film, featuring action, drama, laughs, and romance. Maverick’s new love interest is Penny Benjamin, a single mother who owns a bar that caters to Navy sailors. However, Penny’s past is only hinted at, leaving room for speculation. Bringing back a character that was only name-dropped in the original Top Gun implies that there is an important reason to do so, but as of right now, she doesn’t seem incredibly tied to her 1986 counterpart. However, as the theory goes, Penny Benjamin’s ex-husband may be one of the many characters in the original Top Gun, potentially setting up the events of Top Gun 3.

Related: Top Gun 2: Why Maverick Didn’t Bring Back Meg Ryan

Penny Benjamin’s Ex-Husband Is Kept Mysterious In Top Gun: Maverick

Jennifer Connelly as Penny Benjamin in Top Gun Maverick

With a 34-year delay from the original Top Gun, it would not be surprising if some fans forgot about the mention of Penny in Top Gun 1986. Top Gun: Maverick intentionally keeps Penny Benjamin’s past vague, with the character only really being connected to the original Top Gun in name only. It is known that Penny has a daughter, Amelia, and that she is single, implying a messy divorce with her ex-husband.

It is also mentioned that Amelia’s father is now living in Hawaii with a new wife. Besides that and her mention in the original Top Gun, Penny’s history is incredibly mysterious. This is a strange choice, as there is seemingly no reason for Penny to be so secretive about her past. However, it is entirely possible that her ex-husband has been kept secret because it is someone Maverick actually knows, creating major implications for the future of the Top Gun franchise.

Penny’s Ex-Husband Being Someone Maverick (& Audiences) Know Makes Sense

Maverick and Penny flying in the P51 at the end of Top Gun: Maverick

In the original Top Gun, Jennifer Connelly’s character is said to be the daughter of an admiral, meaning that she has always had a strong connection to the TOPGUN program. Between the events of the first and second film, Penny has kept close proximity to the Navy, meaning that her ex-husband may be a character Maverick knows. Top Gun has plenty of eligible bachelors, and it is more likely than not that Penny married one of the film’s many sailors and pilots. Considering that Maverick and Goose know Penny in Top Gun, with Maverick even having a history of flirting with her, it isn’t a stretch to believe that Penny ended up with one of their friends.

Top Gun: Maverick Has A Lot Of Missing Characters – Could One Be Penny’s Ex?

Goose and Maverick in a classroom in Top Gun

One of the more interesting aspects of this theory is that Penny’s ex-husband is not only a TOPGUN pilot, but one of the original Top Gun‘s main characters. Of the original 10 young aviators in Top Gun, only Maverick and Iceman return, and with Goose dead, there are seven pilots that could have been Penny’s former husband. Cougar, Wolfman, Slider, Merlin, Sundown, Hollywood, and Chipper are all missing from Top Gun: Maverick, and having one of these characters turn out to be Penny’s ex would be a fantastic Easter egg. However, it could also mean something more.

Related: Exciting Tom Cruise Update Is Bad News For Top Gun 3

While Top Gun 3 isn’t confirmed, making Penny’s ex-husband be someone Maverick knows would set up a fantastic story. The conflict that would arise between two old friends being Penny’s ex and Penny’s new partner could bring about the same emotions as some of Top Gun: Maverick‘s best scenes.

Tim Robbins’ career has grown significantly since his role as Merlin in Top Gun, and although his character didn’t return in Top Gun: Maverick, Robbins has the star power and acting capabilities to pull off this Penny story if he were to return in Top Gun 3. While nothing is confirmed, it seems more likely than not that Penny’s ex-husband in Top Gun: Maverick is a character from the original Top Gun.

Who Could Be Brought Back In Top Gun 3 As Penny’s Ex-Husband?

Merlin from Top Gun.

If the Penny Top Gun 1986 connection does indeed come back to play a role in Top Gun 3, it will be interesting to see which of the original stars could return to play the role of her ex-husband. Tim Robbins remains the biggest name outside the remaining cast to fill the role, and it could be fun seeing him play an adversarial role to Maverick.

Perhaps Robbins’ Merlin could take over Iceman’s position as admiral and make life difficult for Maverick. If Robbins did not return, Adrian Pasdar is another solid choice to return as Chipper. While most of the other original Top Gun actors have failed to match their roles in the original, Pasdar has worked steadily with roles in Heroes and Agents of SHIELD in recent years. Though Top Gun 3 is not yet confirmed, this could be a fun way to further connect the franchise.

NEXT: Top Gun 2’s Unused Footage Collection Proves It Needed Its 36-Year Hiatus

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