Film / Mad Max

"My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember the Road Warrior. The man we called 'Max'."
The Narrator (Opening Monologue), Mad Max 2

Mad Max is a series of films that constitute the most famous things to come out of Australia since kangaroos and sexy women with accents. Created by George Miller, the original series stars Mel Gibson in his Australian accent as the title character "Mad" Max Rockatansky. It is one of the most famous film franchises to come out of the Australian New Wave.

The first film, Mad Max, is set "A Few Years From Now" at a time where scarcity of oil is beginning to cause the collapse of civilization — law and order is barely holding on within the towns while the highways are controlled by the outlaw gangs. Max Rockatansky is a Main Force Patrol cop, held in high regard by his boss and peers, with a happy home with his wife and young son — until run-ins with the motorcycle gang led by the villainous charismatic Toecutter cause his life to fall apart. Max famously goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge at the film's climax, but by the end he has lost everything. Made with practically no money and released in 1979, the film was surprisingly successful in Australia and around the world to the point where it was in The Guinness Book of World Records for decades as the most profitable film ever made. However, it was barely noticed in America, where it was only given limited release and all the characters' voices had been dubbed with American accents because distributors thought the audience wouldn't understand what they were saying.

The second film, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (originally released as Mad Max 2, retitled The Road Warrior in America), follows Max into the anarchic Wasteland that used to be Australia, where a few years later he is now Walking the Earth with his Post-Apocalyptic Dog in his Cool Car. He runs into a small ragtag group of survivors occupying an isolated oil refinery, who are surrounded and terrorized by a vicious gang of biker bandits led by the mysterious masked Lord Humungus. After at first resisting their pleas for him to help them, Max ends up assisting them in their plan for escape to the north, exorcising some of his own personal demons. Released in 1981, the film is almost unanimously regarded as better than the first — in America, where it was renamed so that people wouldn't realize it was a sequel, it was a surprise hit. Mad Max 2, a.k.a. The Road Warrior, is the film that made Mad Max (and Mel Gibson) famous worldwide.

The third film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, is the first one to be set unambiguously After the End in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Max gets stuck in the midst of a power struggle in a Merchant City, and ends up as a messiah to a tribe of children. Released in 1985, this film was an American co-production and a Dolled-Up Installment: the original idea centered around a man encountering a post-apocalyptic society of wild children, before George Miller decided to have Mad Max be that man.

The fourth film, Mad Max: Fury Road, was released in 2015 after thirty years in Development Hell, and is set an ambiguous amount of time after Beyond Thunderdome. Now something closer to "society" has crawled from the ruins of the old world: there are landed tribes, and alliances, and tyrants at the helm once more. Tom Hardy takes over the role of Max, who teams up with the elite Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. She's on a mission to help a group of women fleeing across the Wasteland from the Immortan Joe, the tyrannical warlord leader of the massive human colony known as "the Citadel." Production was delayed by higher-than-normal amounts of rainfall around Broken Hill that made the area too green, so filming moved to Namibia. George Miller and Fury Road co-writer Brendan McCarthy already have sequels written, the first of which is titled Mad Max: The Wasteland.

Fury Road has a four-issue miniseries from Vertigo Comics written by George Miller, Nico Lathouris and Mark Sexton, serving as a prelude to the events of the movie, spotlighting Immortan Joe, Nux, Furiosa and Max, while officially placing the events of Fury Road after Beyond Thunderdome. The graphic novel collection also includes the story of the War Rig.

A video game called Mad Max developed and published by Mindscape was released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Minscape also developed a sequel based on Beyond Thunderdome but the lost rights so specific references to Mad Max were removed and the title was changed to Outlander.

A video game called Mad Max by the developers of the Just Cause games was released on September 1, 2015 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. It was originally announced as a tie-in game to Fury Road, then was said to be an alt-universe standalone game, but was ultimately revealed to be something of a hybrid between the two. The plot is that Max was attacked by Scabrous Scrotus, one of Immortan Joe's sons, and has his beloved V8 Interceptor stolen for parts and he ends up working with Chumbucket, a deformed mechanic/blackfinger. Chumbucket sees Max as an Angel sent by the god Combustion to help him complete his car, the Magnum Opus. Max simply sees Chumbucket as a means of getting a replacement vehicle so that he can finally reach an area of the Wasteland called the Plains of Silence and find peace in a world gone mad.

Character sheet for the film series can be found here.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the 2015 Mad Max game have their own pages. Put tropes applying to them there.

The Mad Max series provides examples of:

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    Series-wide tropes 

  • Aerith and Bob: Though there's probably more Aeriths than Bobs at this point, and the number of people that have normal names seems to decrease each film.
  • After the End: Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road; The original is Just Before the End while Mad Max 2 is set during the end after society has generally collapsed but before an all-out nuclear war.
  • Anti-Hero: Max begins on the more brutal end of the scale, but slides toward the idealistic side in subsequent films.
  • Apocalypse How: Society is barely holding together in the first film, arguably making it a case of Class 0. The nuclear exchange alluded to in the second film brings about a gradually worsening Class 2 between Road Warrior and Fury Road.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: The whole premise behind the films is the collapse of civilization brought on by Post Peak Oil, yet one character flies a plane, and some other characters are seen driving cars (that are not powered by methane).
  • The Apunkalypse: The hair, clothing, and facepaint of many of the gangs codify the trope, especially in Mad Max 2 & Beyond Thunderdome.
  • Artistic License – Cars: The Pursuit Special's supercharger shouldn't be able to be turned on and off. Turning it on like that would usually destroy the engine.
  • The Atoner: Max, for the family he failed to save. Furiosa from Fury Road for reasons that are not mentioned; presumably whatever atrocities she committed in order to rise from captive to the rank of Imperator.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Max Rockatansky, who was named such as a reference to physician and pathologist Carl von Rokitansky. This is a nod to George Miller's history as an ER surgeon.
  • Badass Driver: Filled with so many examples that even your run-of-the-mill mook qualifies. But Max, in particular, stands out as one of the biggest not just in the movies but in the entire film medium.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Every movie has Max surviving but not always winning, or even staying with the group he rescues that move on to rebuild.
  • Body Horror: The films showcase a fair bit of horrific injuries and medical conditions, presumably inspired by Miller's medical training and emergency room experience.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Because society has decayed to the point where new ammunition for guns is no longer manufactured, the primary Weapon of Choice in the wasteland appears to be the humble crossbow. Ammunition is apparently readily available and, probably, more importantly, is reusable. However, the reload time is appalling, as shown by the turbaned warrior in the final chase scene in The Road Warrior.
  • Car Fu: The franchise holds a 10th-degree black belt.
  • Central Theme: The Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome, and Fury Road all center around Max trying to rediscovery his humanity.
  • Chaste Hero: Max lost his beloved wife in the 1979 first film. Since then, the closest he's come to showing on-screen romantic interest in anyone has been holding an injured woman's hand while he gives her a blood transfusion from his own vein.
  • Cool Car: Many of them, but of particular note is Max's Pursuit Special, featured in the first, second and fourth films. George Miller likened it to the Trigger to Max's Roy Rogers.
  • Crapsack World: All four films, in increasing severity.
  • Diesel Punk: Most of transportation and it's style gradually devolved into this over spin of four films with Fury Road showing it's coolest.
  • Epic Movie: Taken as a whole, the original trilogy could be viewed as this, as it presents the full circle of Max's struggle with the apocalypse and his own personal demons. The fourth is this on the other front - the imagery is epic, even if there's not as much plot (particularly for Max).
  • Fallen Hero: It all revolves around a former cop turned Anti-Hero.
  • Fanservice: The first two movies are blatant fanservice for revheads. Not like that's a bad thing...
  • Folk Hero: The third and fourth movies are presented as legends told generations after the fact. Just another tale of the man they call Max.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first movie one of the many crimes Toecutter's gang is doing is stealing gas from a Tanker truck. The fight over Gasoline and Oil becomes a major plot point in The Road Warrior.
  • Genre-Busting: It's probably easier to say the movies are their own genre. You can read them as either westerns with post-apocalyptic wastelands and cars replacing deserts and horses, (The Road Warrior) or Low Fantasy with cars (Fury Road).
  • Hobbes Was Right: Nihilistic violence is pretty much the norm and pretty much the only instances of organized society reemerging are gangs who have reached a point where they can start codifying their barbarity. The only people who try to maintain some sort of decent society are powerless victims. The good guys still win, so there's still a sense that Rousseau is still better, but usually they can only win by relying on Max, who's a natural survivalist.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. Max's arm and leg in The Road Warrior are still in bad shape from his confrontation with Bubba and Toecutter, and his eye in Beyond Thunderdome is still healed from the climax of The Road Warrior. George Miller, the director, was a practicing emergency room physician before he became a director.
  • Iconic Outfit: Max's leathers, particularly as they appear in the second film, is considered the definitive post-apocalyptic ensemble to the point that it's appeared in some form or another in every Fallout game.
  • Implacable Man: Max, Humungus, Rictus Erectus, and Blaster. The last is a subversion.
  • In a World...: The original trailers played this trope straight.
  • Ineffectual Loner: Despite his best efforts to keep to himself, Max always winds up allying with/helping out/getting saved by the victimized good guys.
  • Land Down Under: All of the films are at least partially filmed filmed in Australia, and the setting is in the outback.
  • Large Ham: Everyone in the first two movies save Mad Max himself (outstanding are villains such as Toecutter and Humungus). The fourth follows the Evil Is Hammy trend with all the War Boys.
  • Lighter and Softer: Before you say Beyond Thunderdome, Mad Max 2 is this to the terminally grim Mad Max.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Over the course of the second and third films, Max's sideburns become increasingly faded, presumably from the horrors he has witnessed or the great stress he is always under to survive. What with the apocalypse and all...
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Lord Humongous and Immortan Joe.
  • Negative Continuity: Downplayed, as there are a few consistent elements across all the films (Max is/was a cop, oil wars led to nuclear wars led to the apocalypse, some props like Max's jacket and the Pursuit Special), but in general the series doesn't concern itself greatly with continuity. Very much an intentional trope, as George Miller has said he doesn't think of the Mad Max movies as a single story, but rather as a series of legends about a mythological figure named Max; and much like real myths and legends, there's often contradiction and inconsistency.
    • A key example is Max's iconic Pursuit Special, which is constantly associated with him in the popular imagination but which is destroyed in both The Road Warrior and Fury Road.
  • New Old West: All of the films have structures similar to Westerns, with motorcycle gangs and post-apocalyptic marauders taking the place of Western banditos.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: The Central Theme of the entire series; before the Apocalypse, wars were waged mainly for control of petroleum supplies. Afterwards, "Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice."
    • George Miller was actually inspired to start the series by the 1973 oil crisis;
      I remember it really stuck in my mind, in a very peaceful city like Melbourne, our southern capital, or some city, it took ten days after a severe oil shortage for the first shot to be fired. And I thought, what if it went on? That was one of the things when we did the first Mad Max.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: From The Road Warrior on, Max doesn't care about the plights of the people he comes across, and only helps them because it's advantageous (at least, at first).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In the second and third films, the vast majority of characters go only by some pseudonym. Lord Humungus, Papagallo, Toadie, MasterBlaster, Auntie Entity, Ironbar, Pig-Killer, Toecutter, etc. By Fury Road, most people's real names are so weird that they don't need nicknames.
  • Plethora of Mistakes: A key element of Miller's direction. Central to every action scene throughout the series, and unlike pretty much everything like it in action movies, is that action is chaos. In a normal action movie, the hero and/or villain will repeatedly pull off some death-defying stunt simply to move the plot along, and when one finally fails, the sequence ends. Throughout the Mad Max films, both Max's opponents and even Max himself will flub a dangerous situation — and get hurt, hurt their allies, or just plain die — only for the sequence to continue onwards. Max wins repeatedly not because he is a better fighter or driver, but simply because he knows how to screw up and maintain enough focus to survive the screw-up.
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: The second and third film relied a lot on this trope. It seems that after the world collapsed, the gangs had the lion's share of leftover leather, spikes, spiked leather, scary masks and helmets, bits of metal, and strips of animal hide. The good people are usually stuck wearing cloth and rags. Even Max has patched his leather jacket up with a shoulder pad from some kind of sports armour. The fourth film continues this trend, though with a bit more in the way of combat gear.
  • Post-Peak Oil: It is the cause of the collapse of society following the first film.
  • Protagonist Title: All four films have the phrase "Mad Max" in the title.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At the end of each movie, Max has won the fight but lost everything he had. After the first film, the people that Max has helped always go on to better lives, leaving him behind. By Fury Road, it seems that Max will always depart after the job is done even if he doesn't need to, much like a wandering gunslinger departing into the sunset.
  • Rated M for Manly: To the point even when the manly women of Fury Road appear, it's still testosterone heavy.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: George Miller has stated that the physical injuries he observed during his stint as a medical doctor would look more plausible if set in a post-apocalyptic setting. And co-writer James McCausland was inspired by his observations of the 1973 oil crisis on Australian motorists, who would resort to violence towards anyone who tried to jump the petrol queues.
  • Running Gag: Every time Max manages to get his hands on shotgun shells, they always turn out to be duds.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Max's signature weapon. The original script for the first movie reveals he made it by modifying one of the MFP's VG Bentley shotguns.
  • Scavenger World: Trope Codifier.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • The movies have desert landscapes that can be pretty to look at before the explosions and flying car debris kick in.
    • Fury Road amplifies this due with modern HD cameras and special effects and a new filming location in Namibia. (along with CG backdrops to ensure it still looked like Australia) Massive, sprawling deserts, huge cliff faces and canyons, and a dust storm so enormous it has its own internal weather.
  • Serial Escalation: Each film has been bigger, more violent, and just all around more than the last. The first one is a story about a cop Just Before the End, with impressive car stunts. The second is a western action movie and also the Trope Codifier and a contender for Most Triumphant Example of The Apunkalypse, even more car stunts, and an excellent car chase. The fourth is about 65% car chases, distilled into almost pure action, with everything about the previous movies taken Up to 11.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Max. George Miller stated all of the films were stories being told about Max, hence the inconsistent canon. (It also could explain the You Look Familiar of cast members returning in different roles.)
  • Significant Double Casting: Hugh Keays-Byrne, the actor who portrayed the cruel and tyrannical Toecutter in the original film, came back to the series 30 years later to play the similarly characterized Immortan Joe in Fury Road.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While others can see this as more cynical or nihilistic, the overall spirit of the series actually can be more on the idealistic end of the scale.
  • Spoiler Cover: In video releases, the packaging revealed that Max's family are killed in the first film, and the fuel was in the bus, not the tanker in the second film. Both events happen late in the films.
  • The Silent Bob: Max, to varying degrees. In The Road Warrior, he only has sixteen lines. In Fury Road, it's more plot-relevant, as he's been isolated for so long that he's almost literally forgotten how to speak.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Max starts off wearing his MFP uniform for most of the first film, donning it for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, possibly in order to keep innocents out of his way and gain access to the MFP's equipment. In the second film, he continues to wear the uniform, though it's in tatters and his badge is gone. In the third film, it's damaged further and he loses the jacket in the final battle.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Max, from The Road Warrior on. He's the titular character and the focus of the films, but he's never the hero of the story, instead showing up as a hired hand for the real hero (a la Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope).
  • Trope Codifier: Of the post-apocalyptic genre, particularly The Apunkalypse. Pretty much every post-apocalyptic work to come since The Road Warrior has had some influence from Mad Max.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are almost completely different from the first Mad Max film, to the point where the sequels are rarely ever labelled Mad Max 2 or 3, and if collectors editions of the trilogy are made, only the last two movies are included. Although the recent Blu-ray collection does indeed include all three movies. On the other hand, much of the fandom considers only the first two movies to be this trope.
  • Urban Hellscape: The original film took place in a collapsing civilization, where motorized gangs terrorized the highways. After the loss of his family, Max Rockatansky becomes a ruthless Vigilante Man bent on revenge. The later films in the Mad Max franchise moved the setting to After the End, and became the Trope Maker of The Apunkalypse. If nothing else, this film can be credited with melding the two genres.
  • Walk the Earth: Max's fate.
  • World Building: One could argue that the world that George Miller created is the real star of the movies. Each movie contributes to this creation in their own way and through different eyes and methods. Fury Road became especially notable for building its part of the world with an almost complete lack of exposition.
  • World of Badass: Justified in that being a post-apocalyptic world, anyone who survives needs to be badass!
  • World of Ham: Most of the villains enjoy Chewing the Scenery, as many of them are either Ax-Crazy or are posturing for their followers.

    Mad Max (1979) 
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Subverted; Fifi says, "Again?" when Max hands in his notice, but on realizing he's serious tells him to take a couple of weeks holiday instead. Max does return, but only to steal his car for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Ace Custom: Max's own Pursuit Special was built for him to entice him to stay with the MFP, but he ends up stealing it.
  • Action Prologue: The film opens with the Nightrider's escape from custody and the MFP's inept pursuit, culminating in Max taking up the case.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Goose arrives at the car chase just in time to crash his motorbike with everyone else, breaking his leg in the process.
    Civilian: What happened?
    Goose: (laughing) I don't know, mate. I just got here myself.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: And ride Kawasakis
  • All There in the Manual: Max's line "May, call The Dark One" after Jessie is chased through the woods and the man they take Cundallini's severed hand to after they find it hanging from the van. Originally, he was Max's partner and May Swaisey's husband (you can still see "M. Rockatansky" and "The Dark One" on the Interceptor's fender). He is supposed to be played by an aboriginal actor who later cancelled the contract.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The theme song for the Japanese version is "Rollin' in the Night" by Akira Kushida.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: The "Anarchie Road" sign is a vandalised version of a real sign with the real name on it - the real name is "Anakie", it actually is that road (the film was largely made on the south-western outskirts of Melbourne) and Anakie is pronounced exactly the same way as Anarchy.
  • Artistic License – Cars: The biker gang runs a Chevrolet Impala off the road and proceed to terrorize the couple riding inside. As they smash up the Impala, brownish water gushes out of the radiator - but no steam shoots out. The driver was gunning it to get away from the bikers so that radiator should have been running hot!
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Max's son can be seen playing with his service revolver.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Goose in the beginning is Max's best friend. A Nice Guy who likes to share stories of his adventures on the MFP. When Johnny The Boy, a rapist gets off on a technicality, he flips out nearly killing the man with his bare hands, prompting Max and Fifi to hold him back.
  • Big Bad: Toecutter, the leader of the biker gang.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Max gets his revenge, but is now an empty shell of a man who cares about nothing.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Even if it is before the collapse of society, characters never fire more than two rounds in any one go.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Johnny's lighter.
    • Max's Holden Sandman's fan belt (though being stabbed in the radiator with a piece of the fence didn't help).
    • The last of the V8's (the duck's guts).
  • Cool Car: Max's Pursuit Special, "last of the V8 Interceptors."
  • Depraved Bisexual: The bikers have distinctly homoerotic overtones, but still find time to stalk Max's wife, and are strongly implied to have gang-raped both a man and a woman whose car they assaulted.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • The Nightrider breaks down sobbing shortly before he crashes and it's implied his death spree is caused by his inability to deal with societal collapse.
    • Max's boss reaches this after Johnny the Boy walks free:
    From now on, you boys can do what you like out there, so long as the paperwork's clean.
    • Max himself after the bikers attack his family. It takes him up until towards the end of Mad Max 2 to regain some of his humanity.
  • The Determinator: Roop, who insists on chasing the Nightrider in an increasingly wrecked vehicle. All he gets is his partner permanently disabled.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • The Nightrider who opens the film leading the cops on a wild chase is ultimate shown to be this after all his bluster and bragging when he plays chicken with Max - only to find that Max isn't the incompetent pushover that the other cops were and breaks down in tears as Max chases him down.
    • The Toecutter when faced with Max, having gunned down Bubba, snarls and flees the scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Johnny the Boy's view on being egged to killing Jim Goose by setting him on fire in a wrecked truck.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Our hero's Establishing Character Moment. As the Nightrider taunts him over the radio after the massive pile-up, Max calmly pulls on his gloves and starts up his vehicle, slowly pulling out onto the highway.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: After his colleagues have had a mass pile-up, the Nightrider gleefully taunts Max over the radio as the audience is treated to a montage of Max calmly starting up his Pursuit Special.
  • Dodge by Braking: The Nightrider avoiding a blast from Roop's double-barreled shotgun.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Nightrider, as shown when he hits the brakes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Toecutter harasses Jessie by licking the ice cream cone she's holding in a very suggestive manner.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The dog that Max buys during his trip with his family isn't named.
  • The Dragon: Bubba Zanetti to Toecutter. It's somewhat understated, but the only time the bikers ever manage a decent attempt to kill Max is when Zanetti sets a trap, shoots him in the knee, and tries to run him down.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The series as a whole is largely remembered for being the Trope Codifier of the After the End Scavenger World setting, complete with its Desert Punk aesthetic. This film, however, takes place before the apocalypse that follows. Though crime runs rampant and the police force is stretched to breaking, society is still very much intact.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bubba Zanetti regards Johnny the Boy with disdain for being a drug-addicted little weasel who is implied to only be kept around as Toecutter's male lover. Meanwhile, Johnny freaks out and tries to refuse when Toecutter attempts to make him burn Goose alive in his crashed car. And the only time Nightrider's girlfriend seems to be concerned about the carnage he is causing is when he nearly runs over a toddler.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: All the bikes were provided by Kawasaki and all the patrol cars (except the March Hare) are Ford Falcons bought from the Victoria Police Department. The Pursuit Special is a Ford Falcon coupé with a massive supercharger blower and a fascia added to the front.
  • Eye Pop: Nightrider and Toecutter the moment they see what's coming to them.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Toecutter, when he helps Jessie load the wagon and opens the door for her.
  • Funny Background Event: When Bubba Zanetti first meets the Station Master, two of the other gang members walk into the background - One of them admires a stuffed elephant hanging from the ceiling of a garage, the other obligingly cuts the string it's hanging from with his knife.
  • Game of Chicken: Occurs in the Action Prologue, when Max finally comes face to face with the Nightrider.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Max rushes to see the Goose in hospital, we see Goose's charred arm slide out from under the sheet. The camera (fortunately) cuts to Max's face as he pulls the sheet back, and his horrified reaction says it all.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Max becomes a hard and bitter man by the end of the film due to his battles with criminals. He quits the force because he's scared this will happen.
    Max: Any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I've got this bronze badge that says that I'm one of the good guys.
    • After Max steals the Interceptor, the dispatcher lists him as a potential Code 3. The same code that was applied to the Nightrider at the beginning of the movie.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Max is the poster boy for this at the end of the movie.
  • Hiss Before Fleeing: Toecutter does this, after Max kills Bubba.
  • Hollywood Police Driving Academy: All the members of the Main Force Patrol appear to have graduated from the Australian branch.
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • Johnny the Boy is obviously the biker gang's boy toy. At one point, Toecutter asserts his authority over him by making him suck the barrel of his shotgun, telling him, "Keep your sweet, sweet, mouth shut!"
    • The antics of the rest of the gang often have homoerotic overtones. The first thing Cundalini and Mudguts do after getting off their bikes is start sensuously dancing in the middle of the street.
    • The police chief, whose nickname is Fifi, dresses like a Hard Gay Leatherman on the job.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Early in the film there is a brief shot of two road signs. They read: "Anarchie" (Anarchy), and "Bedlam".
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit:
    • Yes, Max is wearing black leather in the scorching hot Australian Outback. This is apparently supposed to help in crashes, but Max never rides a motorcycle. It's implied that due to the shortage of MFP officers and poor funding, all those employed there rotate between driving the pursuit Interceptors and riding the police motorcycles. Also, a cut scene was to show Max and Goose having a friendly drag race, with Max on Goose's motorcycle and Goose in Max's Interceptor.
    • All the MFP officers wear the same leather outfits, even Fifi. It may just be the standard uniform in a culture where physical violence against the police is common.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Bubba Zanetti kneecaps Max with a single well-aimed pistol shot at long range.
    • When the gang was setting an ambush for Goose, one of the members (standing on a hill) throws a wheel rim underhand up into the air, and it lands square in the middle of his windshield.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight only in The Road Warrior - every other film, including the Lighter and Softer Beyond Thunderdome, has a child or infant die.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: An angry Max confronts a mechanic for information regarding Toecutter's gang. The Mechanic rebuffs him, prompting Mad Max to shove the man under the car he was working on and lower the jack causing the car to crush the man. He talked afterwards.
  • Just Before the End: In contrast to the sequels, as the film takes place as civilization is breaking down.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Not content to simply kill Johnny the Boy outright once he corners him, Max ankle-cuffs the sniveling little bastard to a wrecked truck (similar to what what he and the Toecutter did to Goose) where Johnny was stealing the boots of the dead driver (whom he may or may not have killed), sets the car to explode once enough gas builds up to the lighter and leaves Johnny with a hacksaw and two options before the car explodes - hack through the cuffs (which would take ten minutes) or hack through his ankle (which would take five minutes).
  • Leatherman:
    • Fifi Macaffee, Max's police chief.
    • The exact phrase is used by the nightclub singer during her torch song to Goose.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: The probable Trope Codifier: Max handcuffs Johnny to the car whose gas tank he set up to explode before giving him the saw and telling him that it will be quicker to saw his foot off than to saw through the handcuffs. It's particularly cruel because if you watch the movie closely you'll notice that it doesn't matter which choice the cuffed bad guy makes, there isn't time for him to do either: From speech to explosion is about 3 minutes tops. That said, it could be just movie time—not like it even matters, he'd bleed to death before he could possibly find anyone to treat the wound.
  • Mama Bear: Jessie pulls this twice. First, she walks straight past Toecutter, who is mockingly opening doors for her, and calmly puts Sprog in the backseat before kicking Toecutter and getting her son out of there. The second time, she is unarmed, in shock, and hopelessly outnumbered by the biker gang that's chased her, killed her puppy, and now kidnapped her son. She stands her ground until reinforcements arrive.
    Jessie: I want my baby.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Nightrider is reduced from psychotic glee to blubbering fear after losing his Game of Chicken with Max. Justified as he is high on drugs.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Mae Swayze, the shotgun wielding old woman from the first film, manages to hold up the entire biker gang and unsuccessfully makes a stand against them when Jessie is run down by them.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The Goose is happily telling a fellow diner a story about a recent chase that ended in a crash:
    Goose: "...and by the time we got to him, he was just sitting there trying to scream with his face ripped off."
    The other diner puts down his fork.
    Goose: What's the matter?
    Diner: Not hungry, am I?
  • No Name Given: His and Jessie's son is never called any name. He's just called "sprog", an Australian term for baby.
  • Oddly Small Organization:
    • The MFP seems to only have about half a dozen officers patrolling the highways. They're implied to be a hugely underfunded police force, where officers are forced to use whatever weapons come to hand and restrain prisoners with shackles.
    • This is even more apparent in MFP headquarters, which we only see staffed by Fifi, the mechanic, and an off-screen female dispatch officer. The building itself is a looted ruin.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • A split-second shot of Nightrider's bugged-out eyes as his car careens into an obstruction is an unusually disturbing example.
    • The Toecutter has time to rip off his goggles to reveal a similar look before being hit by a truck.
    • A Mass "Oh, Crap!" happens when a baby leaves his carriage and wanders out into the path of three onrushing Interceptors. A Disaster Dominoes pile-up ensues.
    • Jessie escaped the gang in the woods, and is recovering on the couch. Then she realizes the baby is outside. The gang already has him.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Max gets shot in the knee, rendering him with a limp and leg brace for the rest of the series.
  • Pet the Dog: Toecutter of all people. Before he starts harassing Jessie, he has the decency to open the back door of her car, so she could place her child in the back seat.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Inverted. After dealing with Toecutter and Bubba, Max takes out Johnny, the remaining member of the biker gang.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: FiFi, Max's police captain. He is friendly with his officers, gives Max some time off when he tries to quit to think it over and tries his hardest to keep his men around despite dwindling resources and increasingly dangerous working conditions.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: At the end of the film, with Max taking out Toecutter's biker gang..
  • Rousing Speech
    Fifi: They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes!
    Max: Ah, Fif. Do you really expect me to go for that crap?
    Fifi: You gotta admit I sounded good there for a minute, huh?
  • Sadistic Choice: Forcing Johnny to pick between sawing the handcuffs, which would take ten minutes, or sawing off his foot, which would take five, while cuffed to a car that's about to explode.
  • Safe Driving Aesop: The movie was intended to be a warning about consequences of dangerous driving. The hoons and rev-heads who saw it left feeling that their lifestyle had been validated.
  • Same Language Dub: The movie was dubbed with American voice actors for the initial U.S. release, as the original actors' Australian accents and colloquialisms were deemed too opaque. Gibson provided his own dubbing, since he was born in America and could recall his old accent when needed.
  • Sedgwick Speech:
    Toecutter: Quit toying, Bubba!
    Bubba Zanetti: Easy! I know what I'm doing.
    (Bubba Zanetti then gets a shotgun round to the chest when he finally circles around to finish Max off)
  • Trailers Always Spoil: In video releases, the packaging revealed that Max's family are killed.
  • Tranquil Fury: Max displays this during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The movie starts with the words "A Few Years From Now..."
  • The Voice: The female police dispatcher. Those with a keen ear can hear that she is broadcasting insights into the movie's verse, such as the slang "Bronze" for MFP officers is discouraged by the MFP itself and it's stated that Max's use of the Pursuit Special is unauthorized and that he may be a threat.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Once Max quits the force around halfway through the first movie, Fifi, Roop and Charlie are never seen again. Several fans claim to have seen an alternative broadcast cut of the film at some time, which included an extra scene in which Toecutter's gang attack the MFP headquarters and kill all the survivors. However, this footage has yet to be found and may be an urban legend. In contrast, the first Fury Road comic book shows that Roop and Charlie became soldiers in Immortan Joe's army.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Max's wife doesn't die in the film. After listing her catastrophic injuries, her doctor nonetheless states that she's "salvageable." Because we never see her after the attack and the film ends immediately after Max goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, her fate is left uncertain. She's certainly dead by the sequel, however.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Toecutter's accent changes in every scene. Invoked by his actor Hugh Keays-Byrne to make Toecutter sound more insane.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Max is told that his V8 Interceptor was salvaged from various cars. Fifi is then seen listening in on Max enthusing over his new car, and it's revealed that Fifi had the car built to keep Max from retiring. The bureaucrat with him is not happy over the cost.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Johnny the Boy lies on the side of the road in order to draw Max out of his car so Bubba and the Toecutter can kill him. The only reason it doesn't succeed is because Bubba gets overconfident after he shoots Max's leg out and gets on the business end of Max's shotgun.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Subverted. Mae tries to hold off the bikers with her shotgun in the first film before Jessie and Sprog are run down. She misses.

"The future belongs to the mad."