Every Mad Max Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best

Mad Max Fury Road

The Mad Max franchise is nothing short of a cinematic triumph in the realm of action sagas. With its vividly realized post-apocalyptic portrayal of the Australian outback, it has inspired a multitude of films since its inception. Unusual for a recurring series, every installment of this franchise has been shepherded by the same master craftsman of cinematic storytelling – the peerless George Miller . Each progressive entry in Miller’s initial trilogy garnered an increasingly larger following, with his meticulously choreographed action scenes and comprehensive world-building ensnaring the attention of audiences worldwide. After the conclusion of the original series in 1985, Miller endured years of production hurdles to eventually deliver the highly lauded fourth chapter.

As for the future of Mad Max , it remains shrouded in tantalizing mystery. Despite the uncertainty of when audiences can anticipate the next cinematic journey of the flagship character, it is undeniable that the Mad Max series is far from its denouement. Miller has alluded to the possibility of a prequel, promising to delve deeper into the franchise’s universe by illuminating the pasts of peripheral characters. Age may be creeping up on the 79-year-old auteur, but it is evident that his fervor for the Mad Max franchise remains unmitigated. It is a rarity for every film in a franchise to warrant consideration for its cultural impact, but Mad Max is a standout in this regard. From captivating spectacles to timeless masterpieces, here are all five Mad Max films, ranked worst to best.

05. ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ 1985

Let’s step into the world of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome , a cinematic spectacle that’s half of a great film but still entirely worth your time. The first hour introduces us to the adrenaline-pumping Thunderdome, a distinctive and enthralling twist to the racing action sequences that fans had come to love. These dystopian motorcycle cage battles are a groundbreaking concept, challenging Mel Gibson’s Max with new levels of peril. And who could possibly forget Tina Turner shining in all her eccentric glory as the iron-fisted ruler of Bordertown, the Entity?

As we traverse “beyond thunderdome,” the film introduces a heart-rending turn. Sure, we had seen glimpses of sentimentality in the first two installments, but for the first time, we see Max evolve from his grim character into a more openly heroic figure, aiding a tribe of orphaned children in their quest for a mythical “Tomorrow-morrow Land.” This transformation, while drastic, provides an intriguing closer to Max’s character arc. All things considered, Beyond Thunderdome’s conclusion and the exhilarating train action sequence are some of the most memorable moments in the series. Despite some minor setbacks, it remains a gem in the realm of sci-fi sequels.

04. ‘Mad Max’ 1979

Now we journey back to 1979 where we witness the birth of a legendary series with the original Mad Max . Set apart from its successors, it doesn’t begin with an established post-apocalyptic world. Instead, it intricately weaves the story of society’s downfall, laying bare Max’s origins. We meet Max not as the battle-hardened warrior, the Australian “Man With No Name,” but as a straight-arrow cop compelled to vigilante justice confronting a ruthless motorbike gang threat.

Gibson’s portrayal of Max is a true standout, delivering a performance imbued with rare sensitivity amidst the chaos. His relationship with his wife Jesse (Joanne Samuel) is hauntingly genuine, a testament to Miller’s skillful storytelling. As the town disintegrates into anarchy, we see Max’s sanity erode, mirroring the detritus around him. Although it might not possess the same dynamism as the following chapters, Mad Max is an indispensable classic, setting the stage for the series’ stellar ascension.

03. ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981)

Approaching at number three, we have ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981) . Despite its predecessor making a splash in Australia, the original Mad Max hadn’t quite managed to establish a foothold in the American audience. Enter, the sequel – or should we say, the thrilling reinvention. For ease of recognition, it was marketed as The Road Warrior , a title that resonates with the raw energy and relentless pace of the film.

Though new to the franchise, viewers dove headfirst into the post-apocalyptic setting without a hitch – where the heart of the conflict was already throbbing and Max was swiftly emerging as the toughest (or, perhaps, the maddest) warrior in the desolate wasteland. With a pulse-pounding 96 minutes of sheer kinetic momentum, George Miller sets your adrenaline on fire with mind-blowing chase sequences and a terrifyingly brilliant ensemble of villains.

But, that’s not all. The Road Warrior isn’t solely a wild, post-apocalyptic rollercoaster ride. It masterfully weaves elements of classic Westerns, reminiscent of Shane and Once Upon a Time in the West . Witness the world through the eyes of the young “Feral Child” (Emil Minty) as he narrates the tale of a mysterious drifter performing an ephemeral act of heroism.
Max isn’t just a silent carrier of action, connecting one exhilarating set piece to the next. Miller molds him into a captivating character, a solitary warrior with a dormant sense of duty to protect the innocent. Watch as Max grudgingly steps up to shield a refinery village from the brutal onslaught of a marauder gang.

While Hugh Keays-Byrne set the bar high for the franchise’s villains with his chilling portrayal of Toecutter in the first film, Kjell Nilsson as Lord Hummungus catapults it to a whole new level. He is a warlord of exceptional cruelty, but his intelligence makes him a truly formidable enemy. The stakes have never been higher. The road has never been more treacherous.

02. ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ (2024)

At the number 2 spot, we have ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ (2024). This installment isn’t just another action-packed rollercoaster ride, it’s a haunting emotional journey that unveils the true horrors of the Mad Max universe. Rather than centering on the stoic Max, this chapter throws the spotlight on Furiosa (played with raw intensity by Anya Taylor-Joy); tracing her roots and rise as a hardened warrior. It’s a tale of heroism born out of the roughest of terrains, further fuelled by an undying rage that sets it apart from its predecessors.

The screenplay cleverly avoids over-relying on words, rather it lets the gripping interactions of its characters do the talking. Meet the creepy villain Dementus , brought chillingly alive by Chris Hemsworth. A manipulative, sadistic character whose cruelty would make the harsh desert seem tame.
And then there is Jack (Tom Burke), a new ally whose exchanges with Furiosa are rich in depth and meaning. Intricate filmmaking techniques are employed to track the passage of time, giving the film a fresh visual appeal distinct from any other sci-fi western you’ve seen before.

With underlying themes of feminine wrath, rising stakes, environmentalism, obsessions, and the recurring cycle of violence, ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ is an adrenaline-charged explosion that isn’t just a cinematic spectacle, but a poignant commentary on the maladies of our society. So brace yourself for this incendiary thrill ride that simultaneously takes the Mad Max franchise to greater emotional depths!

01.  ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Barely emerging from a tumultuous development phase that had plagued the director Miller since the 90s, the fourth installment of the saga, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ from 2015, had all odds stacked against it. However, as it hit the screens, it did more than just debunk the skeptics. Rare are the movies that get instantaneously imprinted in the golden annals of cinema, but this film did just that. Every bit a match for legendary titles like Die Hard , Predator , or The Matrix , Fury Road challenged the norm and blazed a trail in the realm of action movies.

Revolutionizing the style of The Road Warrior, Miller brilliantly merged innovative practical effects, powerful philosophies, and strong themes of female empowerment into an adrenaline-fueled nonstop chase. Simultaneously disturbingly violent yet strangely poetic, Fury Road is the quintessential portrayal of Max in the wasteland, and holds its position firmly as the best Mad Max movie to date.
Tom Hardy’s stellar portrayal of Max isn’t idealized heroism, but a soul tormented by past demons, caught and carried away in the spectacle. However, Hardy’s exceptional performance is undeniably outshone by Charlize Theron’s electrifying depiction of the new heroine, Imperator Furiosa. Protecting the child-bearers of the warlord Immortan Joe (revisited by Hugh Keays-Byrne ), Furiosa emerged as an inspired protagonist with an intriguing character arc.

Fury Road masterfully trimmed the fat that clings to modern blockbusters, making it one of the rare franchise films to snag serious awards bids. It scooped up six Academy Award wins and nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, further cementing its legacy.