Mad Max Movies Ranked From Worst To Best | Screen Rant
With four films down and a spinoff coming, Max Rockatansky has had quite a few adventures. Here are all the Mad Max movies ranked from worst to best.
An acclaimed franchise with two of the installments frequently being considered some of the greatest action films ever made, here's how the movies rank up, from worst to best. George Miller's seminal 1979 action film was groundbreaking in many ways, particularly the setting: not quite post-apocalyptic, but very clearly dystopian. Controversial upon release for the graphic depictions of gore and debauchery, Mad Max has since become an action classic, with its impeccable stunt work and wasteland aesthetic inspiring the filmmaking scene for the next 40 years.
The first Mad Max movie quickly led to the creation of one of the most bonkers and outlandish action series of all-time. It was directly followed by three sequels, each with a bigger budget and a more ambitious depiction of the Australian wasteland. There has even been talk of a spinoff revolving around Mad Max: Fury Road's fan-favorite character Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), with Anya Taylor-Joy attached to star, which is now shaping up to be a prequel.
Unlike most long-standing franchises, the Mad Max series doesn't really have any movies that are outright "bad". While some are definitely better than others, each carries a distinct charm and energy that's impossible to replicate. With that being said, among the brutal car chases, stunning explosions, and leather-bound biker gangs, only one will be awaited, shiny, and chrome in Valhalla.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the final film in the franchise to star original actor Mel Gibson, is arguably the "biggest" of the first trilogy in terms of scope and scale. In the movie, Max stumbles upon Bartertown, a rudimentary civilization with working electricity, controlled by the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner). Max is quickly enlisted in a plot to gain control of the methane refinery that powers the city, but when he discovers that he's been manipulated, he's swiftly exiled from the city. In the desert, he's rescued by a tribe of primitive children descended from the survivors of an airplane crash, who believe Max to be a prophesied hero who will lead them back into civilization.
Made four years after Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and six years after the original, Beyond Thunderdome is filled with proof of the Mad Max franchise's newfound Hollywood status. Gone is the sparse indie aesthetic of the first film, replaced with big set-pieces and famous stars like Turner. The film is also the first and only one in the series to veer slightly away from the grindhouse feel of the other installments, with the inclusion of the child tribe giving it a decidedly lighter tone. The combination of all of this gives certain elements of the movie a cheesy or dated quality, firmly planted within the realm of 1980s camp at times.
However, Beyond Thunderdome more than makes up for it with the inventiveness of its world-building, with Bartertown particularly being a masterwork of set and location design. The action in the film, specifically the first Thunderdome fight between Max and Blaster, is also a high point and evidence of the evolution of George Miller's (and co-director George Ogilvie's) unique approach to action filmmaking. Unfortunately, when compared to the other Mad Max movies, it falls below the line in quality, despite still being a decent and fun film to watch all these years later.
The film that started the entire craze, the first Mad Max grossed $100 million on a budget of less than $400,000, making it one of the most profitable films ever made. It also jump-started Mel Gibson's career, who played "Mad" Max Rockatansky, a skilled yet troubled officer of Australia's highway Main Force Patrol trying to uphold the law as society crumbles around him. Max spirals down a black hole of vengeance and violence as he hunts down the brutal motorcycle gang responsible for the murder of his wife and child.
While it's one of the movies responsible for the post-apocalyptic craze in fiction, Miller originally didn't intend for that to be the case, only choosing to set the film in a dystopian future because he believed that it would make the violence more realistic. The result is a movie that borders on the edge of societal collapse, with Max's spiral into madness contrasting against the slow descent of civilization into chaos.
Because of the shoestring budget, Miller and the crew were forced to rely on guerrilla filmmaking tactics to make the wasteland action feel real and palpable. Each explosive car chase was meticulously staged and shot due to the lack of resources required to do them multiple times, making for a movie with practical action that was complimented by the very real sense of desperation felt by the cast and crew. While budget restraints prevents the movie from having the full on post-apocalyptic feel of the later installments, the insanity that runs through the veins of the franchise is very much prevalent in the original film.
The second film in the series, The Road Warrior is an exceptional sequel because it manages to take everything that works about the original and dial it up to 11. It picks up with Max, haunted by the memory of his family, wandering the wasteland as a drifter concerned only with survival. His self-centered motivation is put to the test when he discovers a compound of survivors besieged by a violent gang of motorists known as the Marauders, and reluctantly decides to help them.
While the first Mad Max movie presents Max's plight as a quest for revenge, The Road Warrior is the first in the series to introduce the recurring idea of Max as a legend of sorts, with each film being narrated by a character that he's helped in some way. This marks a shift in Max's character towards a traditional Western archetype; the lone gunslinger with no place of his own. As a result of a $4.5 million budget, the action in the second film was much more high-octane, with increasingly complex stunts and multi-layered car chases.
Mad Max: The Road Warrior also received acclaim for the inspired set and costume design, with Norma Moriceau's iconic punk-leather S&M aesthetic for the Marauders becoming a staple in the post-apocalyptic genre. Widely considered to be one of the greatest sequels of all-time, The Road Warrior's influences are still felt to this very day, from properties such as the Fallout video game series to the films of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a rare example of a movie that can go through development hell for over a decade, and come out unscathed on the other end as a masterpiece. Envisioned as a "Western on wheels" that would revolve around a group of bloodthirsty marauders trafficking people instead of petrol or weapons, Miller first had the idea back in 1998 and planned to shoot the film in 2001. However, things began to coalesce in 2009 and 2010, but the shooting process was notoriously difficult, with lead stars Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy frequently fighting amongst each other; the end result was a critically acclaimed bombshell of an action film that received 10 Academy Award nominations.
It's difficult to pin down exactly what it is about Mad Max: Fury Road that makes it the best of the franchise. George Miller's unshakeable vision allowed him to return to a world that hadn't been seen since the 1980s, injecting it with the same nitrous-fueled energy that had made the original films so popular while reinventing the character of Max for a new generation. The movie's inspired production design was instrumental in creating a unique vision of the Australian wasteland, one in which the strong exploited the weak, a central theme of the film. The production clung to a strict adherence to practicality in its filming, resulting in a non-stop chase sequence that feels simultaneously absurd and over-the-top as well as realistic.
There's even a social relevance driving the heart of the narrative, with Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa representing a militantly rebellious style of feminism, rejecting male dominance and the toxic masculinity of Immortan Joe's warboy culture. On top of that, Mad Max: Fury Road came out as one of the most visually stunning films of the entire decade, with an impressive soundtrack to boot. Despite the entire film essentially being one long chase sequence, it was carefully crafted in order to never let the action feel dull, excessive, or useless at any given point. At the end of the day, Mad Max: Fury Road is the perfect culmination of what makes the Mad Max franchise so iconic: uncompromising vision, kinetic and hyper-focused filmmaking, and a double-shot of gasoline-soaked insanity for good measure.
Next: Mad Max: The Wasteland Delay Explained - Why The Fury Road Sequel Is Taking So Long