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All Mad Max Movies Including Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Ranked

The Mad Max franchise began life as a low-budget genre film respectively directed and starred by then-unknown George Miller and Mel Gibson. That was back in 1979 and Miller’s debut may have been rough around the edges but it’s hard to deny his technical brilliance in delivering superb stuntwork on a minuscule budget.

Then comes the much-improved 1981 sequel, boasting a substantial budget while Miller strips down his storytelling in favour of a lean, action-packed visual approach. The third Mad Max movie, however, gets a sanitised Hollywood-style treatment and its less-than-stellar result left the franchise in limbo. It wasn’t until 30 years later that Miller returned with a vengeance in the well-received Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, which famously featured the scene-stealing Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

With the much-anticipated Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (check out my full review right here) currently showing in cinemas worldwide, here is every Mad Max movie ranked from worst to best including the latest movie itself.

5. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985)

The first two Mad Max movies showcased George Miller’s directorial prowess in giving us pedal-to-the-metal, vehicular mayhem of post-apocalyptic action thrillers with Mel Gibson’s memorable performance as the titular character. With a bigger budget in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, it should have been another cinematic triumph for George Miller for the third time in a row.

Too bad that’s not the case in this surprisingly inferior third Mad Max movie. The biggest issue here lies in the story’s drastic 180-degree turn veering to a mainstream-friendly, Lord of the Flies-like territory. The introduction of primitive children and young adults a.k.a. The Lost Tribe in the second half feels like a different movie altogether than a Mad Max movie. The decision to humanise Max’s otherwise cynical character meant to give him a sense of positive closure and above all, there’s a glimmer of hope amidst the bleak post-apocalyptic world seems like a logical move. Besides, Max has been to hell and back ever since he lost his beloved wife and kid to a ruthless motorcycle gang in the first Mad Max.

And yet, the whole thing feels awkward and this has to do with George Ogilvie, making his feature-length debut as a co-director alongside Miller. While having two directors can help bring out the best in a movie (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen in Singin’ in the Rain and The Coen brothers’ Fargo and No Country for Old Men are among the names that come to mind), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome resulted in a polar opposite. Miller was reportedly devastated by the death of his friend and producer Byron Kennedy of the first two Mad Max movies after the latter’s helicopter crashed while scouting the location. He brought in Ogilvie to co-direct the movie but unfortunately, the overall execution lacks a singular vision and it sure suffers from a tonally uneven storytelling.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome may have been the lowest point in the franchise’s saga but the movie still has its few moments. The first half excels with Max in Bartertown and his subsequent gladiatorial challenge in the titular Thunderdome. Tina Turner delivers an unforgettable antagonist turn as Aunty Entity and not to mention her powerful end-credit anthem “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”. The action remains the movie’s high point with credits also going to the impressively-staged final chase scene.

4. Mad Max (1979)

The then-unknown, young Mel Gibson in "Mad Max" (1979)

This groundbreaking 1979 original showed the world how a measly A$350,000 budget could turn a low-cost production into a post-apocalyptic genre classic with some of the most spectacular vehicular stunts ever seen in the film. The first Mad Max may have been then-unknown, 34-year-old George Miller’s feature-length directorial debut but he knows well how to put together a few notable action set pieces. The opening chase scene is among the prime examples, effectively blending the thrilling vehicular pursuit with a dash of comedy. And not to forget, the introduction of Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), a no-nonsense Main Force Patrol (MFP) cop who is also an ace driver behind the wheels.

The story, however, tends to be erratic as it takes time to establish Max’s character arc. Beyond his dedication as a cop stopping criminals in dystopian near-future Australia, he’s a family man with a lovely wife (Joanne Samuel) and their infant child (Brendan Heath). The movie’s admittedly slow build-up can be a turn-off, complete with a long stretch of Max leaving the force and spending time with his family on a road trip. It manages to pick up the pace when the vicious motorcycle gang led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) run down Max’s family, triggering him to seek vengeance against them.

Mad Max marks then-23-year-old Mel Gibson’s breakout role and despite this movie only his second film debut after Summer City two years prior, he shows an undeniable movie-star charisma in his title role.

3. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Anya Taylor-Joy as the young Furiosa in "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" (2024)

The 45-year-old Mad Max franchise’s first foray into a prequel/spinoff hybrid doesn’t repeat Mad Max: Fury Road‘s lean storytelling, opting instead for a sprawling narrative detailing Furiosa’s abducted childhood to a grown-up rebel fighter. The vast 148-minute runtime could have used some trimming while the movie suffers from Chris Hemsworth’s underwhelming antagonist performance as the talkative Dementus and a surprisingly weak third act.

But Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga remains an immersive cinematic experience, thanks to Miller’s technical know-how in some of the franchise’s most thrilling action set pieces, notably the elaborate War Rig chase and the ambush sequence in The Bullet Farm. The movie also benefits from Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy with their respectively engaging performances as Furiosa at different ages while Tom Burke steals the show as the perfectly stoic “Praetorian” Jack.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road marks the franchise’s return to form thirty years after the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome misfire. Only this time, Tom Hardy replaced Mel Gibson, who was embroiled in a series of controversies when the movie originally going to bring him back for the fourth time, as the new Max Rockatansky. Hardy may have been a good method actor but the way he mumbles a lot and the fact that he plays second fiddle to Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa made me feel he’s wasted in the lead role.

Here, Theron steals the show, marking the second time an otherwise testosterone-fuelled Mad Max franchise introduced a strong female character since Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Like Mad Max 2, the story’s barebone plot gives way to the vehicular mayhem as Miller multiplies them in spades. The fourth movie’s bigger-than-ever budget also allows him to go all out in the action department to stage a series of chases across the vast desert land. It’s a visceral action movie at its cinematic best and I always wonder if it’s not for Mel Gibson’s controversy at the time, it would be a great what-if scenario to see him teaming up with Charlize Theron.

1. Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior (1981)

Mel Gibson in "Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior" (1981)

I’m on the fence whether Mad Max 2 (or The Road Warrior in the stateside) or Mad Max: Fury Road deserved the number one spot. After rewatching both movies, Mad Max 2 emerges as the winner with a clear advantage: Mel Gibson over Tom Hardy. Gibson’s Max is equivalent to a post-apocalyptic version of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character in Sergio Leone’s iconic Dollars Trilogy in the ’60s. In this sequel, he’s more of a brooding loner and a drifter who only had 16 lines of dialogue and Gibson’s near-silent antihero performance excels as one of the best acting roles in his career.

The story wastes little time getting to the point, all lean and efficiently paced with none of the excess fats. It’s an action-packed sequel that Miller made good use of the bigger budget than he had in the first movie. And it shows, notably the final 20-minute highway chase as Max drives a tanker truck while being pursued by a gang of savages led by Lord Humugus (Kjell Nilsson) and his lieutenant, Wez (pre-Commando star Vernon Wells). Over 40 years since the release of Mad Max 2, the final scene remains one of the greatest chases ever seen, benefitted greatly from Miller’s kinetic camerawork and incredible stuntwork and as a bonus, cinematographer Dean Semler does a splendid job in his widescreen lensing on the desolate landscape of the Australian Outback.