Cruise reprises his starring role from one of the biggest movies of the 1980s, as hotshot US Navy pilot Maverick.
The Independent called it "as thrilling as blockbusters get", praising it as a "true legacy sequel".
The Telegraph called it "absurdly exciting" and "unquestionably the best studio action film in years".
Jennifer Connolly, Jon Hamm, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Val Kilmer, and Ed Harris appear alongside Cruise in the film, which is released in cinemas later this month.
Whiplash star Miles Teller plays Rooster - the son of Maverick's former partner Goose. Now a pilot himself, Rooster blames Maverick for his father's death in an accident in the first film.
The sequel sees Maverick return to the Top Gun flying academy - this time as an instructor in charge of training a new generation of pilots.
Top Gun: Maverick was originally scheduled to be released in 2019 but was delayed so the crew could finish work on the flight sequences. It was then further delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Variety's Peter Debruge said the "barrier-breaking sequel" is a "stunning follow-up", adding: "Hardly anything in Top Gun: Maverick will surprise you, except how well it does nearly all the things audiences want and expect it to do."
Debruge praised the scenes shot from plane cockpits for their authenticity. "It's the most immersive flight simulator audiences will have ever experienced," he said.
"If the flying scenes here blow your mind, it's because a great many of them are the real deal, putting audiences right there in the cockpit alongside a cast who learned to pilot for their parts."
In a five-star review, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin suggested the "play of light and gravity on the actors' faces, and the way the landscapes spin and drop away balletically through the canopy glass, puts other blockbusters' green-screened swooping to shame".