Mad Max Movies Ranked

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

There was probably a genuine risk of increased joy riding following the release of Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. This long-gestated fourth instalment of the Mad Max series was arguably the heart-thumping adrenaline ride of 21st century cinema, and certainly one of the most high octane films released in the 2010s.

Prior to the film’s release, Fury Road was met with trepidation from fans of the original trilogy who’d come to know of the decades-long battle to get the film into production and seemed less than keen to see the series continue without Mel Gibson in the lead role. Upon release, things weren’t much more promising, Fury Road coming under intense criticism from certain groups, such as “Men’s Rights Activists” who were upset over the focus of the film on its female protagonists rather than the titular Max. Ultimately, all the fuss only encouraged more people to see Mad Max 4 in cinemas, the film earning $375million at the worldwide box office.

George Miller’s creation remained as relevant and popular as ever with a completely fresh audience. By updating his post-apocalyptic universe to encompass the fears and anxieties of the modern world – selfish oligarchs hoarding resources from the starving many, women enslaved by their reproductive system – and combining this with the return of roaring car chases and death defying stunts, Fury Road was a beacon of originality in a studio system obsessed with bland and easily replicable formulas, becoming one of the most well executed franchise revivals of all time.

Compared to other soft reboots such as Star Trek and other long-awaited sequels such as Star Wars, Mad Max: Fury Road is spared the usual overuse of CGI, so all the explosions, stunts and car flips are very real, each being all the more outstanding and impressive for it. With Tom Hardy perfectly filling out the role of Max, and Charlize Theron’s turn as Furiosa becoming iconic in its own right, Fury Road remains an incredibly well made, exciting and original film that only just misses out on the top spot due to its relative abandonment of the series’ iconic, cult-status-worthy campness and garishness.

Mad Max: Fury Road will be the Mad Max film of the millennial generation.

How mad is Max?

Max is at his most animalistic and it takes him about half of the movie’s runtime to form an entire sentence (ignoring any narration), and instead of dog food the maniac is straight up eating two-headed lizards. Being used as a living blood bag and being chained to the front of a car during a high speed chase will do that to you.

1.  Mad Max 2 (1981)

After the devastating ending of Mad Max, the world was crying out for more of the tragic tale of Max Rockatansky; no way could George Miller leave us all hanging like that after such an iconic and violent conclusion. Lucky for us, Miller had similar feelings: Mad Max‘s success meant that the director was courted with several offers from Hollywood and the opportunity landed in his lap to make a bigger and better Mad Max sequel. The result: the archetypal Mad Max movie.

Like any good sequel, all of the original’s elements were dialled up, the world in Mad Max 2 being fully post-apocalyptic, with civilisation and society as we know it completely eroded away, the hooligans of the first film becoming the ruling class of the new wastelands. And then Max, poor Mad Max…

We’ve finally had the cooldown after the aftermath of the first movie and we can now see what the trauma has actually done to Max. He has broken all ties with his former life and is an empty, almost unrecognisable husk of his past self, wandering the wastelands aimlessly, merely surviving. Gone is the wide-eyed wonderment, gone are the smiles, and in their place is a cold and steely glare (it’s amazing how much Mel Gibson changed over what was only two years). It was so tragic what happened to Max in the first film, but my God is he a badass in Mad Max 2.

Frankly, this is a movie on steroids.

Mad Max may have been shocking but Mad Max 2 is violent; oh so gloriously and creatively violent. It is the ultimate western whilst also being a cult sci-fi, incredibly hardy whilst being the most kitsch film ever (all hail the buttocks displaying biker gang), and to this day remains one of the most esteemed action movies of all time, inspiring the likes of James Cameron’s indomitable classic The Terminator.

The car chases and fight sequences retain the grittiness of the original, but now there are way more of them and they are much wilder and bigger: this is the first film of the franchise to have a huge-ass truck used in a high speed chase (with the stunt driver hiding under the steering wheel during close-up shots; what an insane movie to have worked on). One memorable shot of a villain pinwheeling across the screen was a genuine accident in which the stuntman had broken their leg and was thrown from their vehicle. It may be rather questionable to keep it in the film, but you can’t deny that it looks impressive.

Overall, Mad Max 2 is a film that will continue to be memorable for years to come; the combination of Miller’s vision and Gibson’s performance elevates the story of Mad Max into a saga that can be enjoyed time and time again.

Let us hope this saga hasn’t finished and that we see more from our favourite moody Australian again.

How mad is Max?

Quite mad. The stand out moment is when he gets a feral child to climb on to the bonnet of the truck at high speeds to retrieve a bullet. Such a responsible adult. Watch out for the small flashes in Max’s eyes as he tries to grasp for his humanity.

Recommended for you: Every Fast and Furious Movie Ranked

Do you agree with our order? Would you have chosen Mad Max 2 as the best film in the Mad Max franchise? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow The Film Magazine on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more articles like this one.

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  • <cite class="fn">MatSir</cite>

    Great catch on the uneven pupils! I couldn’t believe how many people called me crazy when I mentioned it. (Okay I couldn’t believe how many people that knew me called me crazy *just* about that.) I also loved pointing out that he was probably wearing a breechclout because the seat of his pants was worn through.

    It may be the age difference, but for me it’s always the original in the #1 slot. It is so skillfully done. The bare budget and unknown (to me) actors giving the hero’s break with civilization/morality relatable feel. For me, the car chases were more filler than plot.

    On a trivia side note: a ?Japanese? fan once told me that the original could be watched and understood without the dialogue. When I watched it again, I realized she was right – the movie could have been about a samurai, knight or almost any kind of a society protector-warrior broken by repercussions from their vocation.

    Keep it going, kiddo. Looking forward to more generation spanning reviews!

    • <cite class="fn">Katie D</cite>

      Thank you so much for your comment!! Yeah the uneven pupils were such a great touch cos of course he got whacked on the bonce in no.2

      I totally get your love for the original, its where it all started and it really hurt to put it in third place.

      I meant it when I said it was a masterpiece cos for me endings are everything so the original Mad Max blew me out of the water

  • <cite class="fn">Alan Koslowski</cite>

    Great article and mostly I agree with your rankings. While an argument can be made for Fury Road as series’ best, for me there just isn’t enough story despite the thrilling action.

    Granted, the plot of The Road Warrior is pretty simple, but there’s more story and it’s more than just an exhilarating and exhausting chase film that Fury Road seems to be,

    I think I actually like Beyond Thunder a little more than Mad Max. I guess I appreciate Thunderdome’s ambition even though it’s oft unfocused, disjointed, and sometimes pretentious. About half of it works really well while the other half is a mess. Mad Max was essentially just a fun Grindhouse movie; enjoyable, but slight. I agree though, they’re the worst films in the serious.

    • <cite class="fn">Katie Doyle</cite>

      Thank you Alan! It’s ways a good feeling to see someone agree with your ranking :D

      Road Warrior certainly does have more meat on its bones which is why indeed it trumps Fury Road, but it was still very difficult to put these films in an order as I absolutely adore them all, even “the worst” of the franchise! Thunderdome and Mad Max are on the bottom but they are still iconic films!

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