Film: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

A lone warrior searching for his destiny... a tribe of lost children waiting for a a world battling to survive, they face a woman determined to rule.

The third Mad Max film, released in 1985.

Many years after the first two films, Max becomes involved in a power struggle over control of the fledgling new society of Bartertown, between its founder Aunty Entity and the duo "MasterBlaster" who control its energy supply. Making a deal with Aunty Entity to recover his stolen vehicle, Max must fight Blaster in the Thunderdome where "two men enter, one man leaves". This eventually leads to Max running into a society of wild children in a hidden valley who were survivors of a plane crash, and believe him to be the pilot they have been waiting for to take them home.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Auntie is the most gentle villain in the series. She even lets Max get off alive when she had him at her mercy in the end.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: Kids treat records and radios as magical. They also think Max (aka Walker) can magically make the plane wreck fly.
  • Animal Companion: Max's monkey that was with him before his ride was stolen. When he is sent to the desert, Pigkiller sents it after him to bring some water.
  • Anti-Villain: Aunty Entity. Power-hungry harpy, yes, but she's genuinely trying to restore a little civilization, and is forced to be ruthless to maintain order in a Crapsack World.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Done in a Shout-Out to A New Hope when Max chases Blackfinger in the underworld. After beat or two, he runs back with horde of mooks on his heels.
  • Award Bait Song: "We Don't Need Another Hero" by Tina Turner.
  • Badass: Max, of course, sealed with this line:
    Auntie: Congratulations. You're the first to survive the audition.
  • Badass Boast:
    Jed: Between them and us... not enough runway.
    Max: There will be.
    • Master delivers one on behalf of his Giant Mook bodyguard.
    Aunty: You know the law. Two men enter, one man leaves.
    Master: With Blaster, twenty men enter, only Blaster leave!
    • Max vs the Tribe
    (fires warning shot, everyone cowers) Now listen good. I'm not Walker, I'm the guy who keeps Mr Dead in his pocket.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Max sports this at the beginning of the film.
  • Battle Chant: "Two men enter, one man leaves!"
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: It looks like Max has had it when he collapses in the desert, but then Savannah appears and brings him to the oasis.
  • The Before Times: The children, born shortly before or after societal collapse, speak of it as "The Beforetimes, in the Long Long Ago..."
  • Big "NO!": Savannah screams and sobs "Oh, no! NO!" when her friend is consumed by the sinkhole.
  • Blind Musician: When Max enters Aunty Entity's place, a tattooed blind man dressed in a loincloth is playing the Sexophone.
  • Blood Sport/Gladiator Games: The Thunderdome. It settles disputes and brings entertainment for the spectators.
  • Captain Ersatz: Bruce Spence's character Jedediah is not the same Gyro Captain who appeared in The Road Warrior, but caused confusion to fans of the second film. However, it's just an example of George Miller hiring many of the same actors, including the mechanic (who was a disabled good guy and killed in The Road Warrior).
  • Cargo Cult: The film features an isolated tribe After the End who worships a jet airliner as their personal Mecca and its pilot, Captain Walker, as a God who will guide them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land"—that is, the world of skyscrapers and urban life that no longer exists. They treat a children's slide viewer and its slides as holy relics that reinforce their lore, in addition to a salvaged pilot captain's hat that they intend the returning Captain Walker to wear.
  • Central Theme: Children. Aside from the obvious, Master is the height of a child, while Blaster is essentially a grown child. Tina Turner's songs bring up the notion of children in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Savannah Nix states at the end that they "does the Tell" so that their children and their children's children can pass on the story of their heritage (while nursing her own newborn as she speaks).
  • Chain of People: The children trying to rescue one of their own from quicksand. It doesn't work. In fact, had Max not come to the rescue, they'd have all been killed.
  • Chainsaw Good:
    • Subverted during the Thunderdome scene. Max manages to grab a chainsaw from the Wall of Weapons and proceeds to use it against Blaster. Unfortunately, it runs out of fuel pretty quickly, given that they live in a fuel-starved society and all.
    • Later on Max and Suzannah Nix slam a heavy wooden door only to flitch back as a chainsaw blade bursts through it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Blaster is rendered helpless by Max's MFP police whistle from the first film, since he has a Weaksauce Weakness against high-pitched noises.
  • Collapsing Lair: The destruction of methane-factory beneath Bartertown causes various explosions to happen.
  • The Commandments:
    • "Two men enter, one man leaves."
    • "Bust a deal, face the wheel."
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Aunty's guards interfere to stop Blaster breaking Max's neck, presenting it as a "spontaneous" quarrel that can only be settled in Thunderdome.
  • Counting to Three: Max has to start a fight with Masterblaster, as a pretext to getting him into Thunderdome, the arena where he can be legally killed. Things don't start well when Giant Mook Blaster grabs him in a Neck Lift.
    Master: Blaster, in three seconds, break neck.—
    (*Click* Hello from Aunty's enforcers intervene just in time)
  • Cool Train: The big chase in the finale revolves around a train made of a truck and a small house that doubled as a methane powerplant.
  • Dead Hand Shot: Subverted at the end of the film. After Max causes a massive crash, the hand of Ironbar falls out of his vehicle, strokes the woman's dollface on his standard, then turns upwards for a final defiant Flipping the Bird.
  • Dedication: The film is dedicated to producer Byron Kennedy, who died in a helicopter crash shortly before the film was made.
  • Defiant to the End: Ironbar's contempt for Max and co. carries to his end.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: At least one of the girls (one among those who left the oasis) is indicated to be pregnant, and a number of the children at the oasis look a little bit too young to have been among the original survivors. Not much later, near the end, we see their still-teenaged leader holding a little baby in her lap and several other children holding babies as well. There's pretty much only one way their population could have increased this way. Of course, since their parents are gone (and probably dead) and it's basically up to them to repopulate the world, there's no social stigma associated with these youngsters having kids at their age.
  • Depraved Bisexual: A lot of the bad guys are wearing BDSM-style clothing, and when Max claims to the manager at the trading post (who's just concluded a deal with a trapper for a night in the sack with a real woman in exchange for an animal pelt) that he's got skills to trade, the manager replies "The brothels are full."
  • Descriptiveville: Bartertown. Justified in that it's supposed to have been founded pretty recently.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Bartertown's destruction to the Collector for a couple of seconds, then Auntie lifts everyone's spirits up.
  • 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 Dragon: Ironbar. Shortest, but must tenacious of Aunty's men.
  • Drop the Hammer: A giant hammer is one of the weapons provided in Thunderdome. Max uses it to knock Blaster's helmet off.
  • Dumb Muscle: Master's Handy Helper and Big Dumb Body Blaster. Justified, since he is disabled developmentally, and has a mind of a child.
  • Eureka Moment: The minute Max sees that his whistle causes Blaster debilitating pain (thanks to the helmet he wears), he immediately returns to Auntie to accept the deal.
  • Extended Disarming: Entering Bartertown, a guard tells Max: "Leave your weapons here, it's the law". A twenty-five second disarming sequence follows. The weapons check man is duly impressed. He keeps his fly-swatter though, which turns out to have a knife hidden in the handle.
  • Foreshadowing: The kids believe Captain Walker will help them leave for Tomorrow-morrow-land in a flying machine. That's exactly what happens at the climax.
  • Forced Prize Fight: Max must participate on one against Blaster in the eponymous Thunderdome in order to get his stuff back.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Invoked by Aunty.
    Aunty Entity: Do you know who I was? Nobody. Except on the day after. I was still alive. This nobody had a chance to be somebody.
    • She inverts it as well, basically calling Max From Nightmare To Nobody.
      Aunty Entity: Once cock of the walk, now a feather duster.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Scrooloose wields a metal frying pan during the final chase scene.
  • Future Slang: The children talk like this.
  • Genre Shift: The film does this between its own first and second acts. It goes from a typical post-apocalyptic Desert Punk movie to a much Lighter and Softer adventure film with You Meddling Kids and some religious undertones about a third of the way through.
  • Gilligan Cut: Max sees one of the children scampering after them in the desert and states, "He holds his own." Cut to Max carrying him on his back in the blazing sun.
  • God Guise: Subverted. Though the kids treat him like their messiah, Max keeps telling them that they got the wrong guy. He still ends up helping some of them.
  • Grim Reaper: The kids have a concept of him as "Mr. Dead."
  • Groin Attack: The Collector tries to attack Max with an axe during his "audition" to Aunty. It gets stuck in the floor when he misses and Max kicks under the axe-handle, forcing the end upwards to his groin.
  • Handcar Pursuit: Max and the tribe of desert children are racing away from Bartertown on a stolen train. One of them looks back to see a horde of Desert Punk vehicles led by Aunty Entity chasing them as well as her chief of guards Ironbar frantically working a handcar and keeping up with everyone. Having been knocked into pool of pig shit last time we saw him, he's so pissed he clearly doesn't need a methane-powered vehicle.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Max buys time for the kids in the plane by hopping into a car and driving right into their pursuers, causing a huge crash.
  • Humiliation Conga: Implied that Master did this on a regular basis with Auntie Entity.
    The Master: Who run Bartertown?
    Auntie Entity: Dammit, I told you, no more embargos.
    The Master: More, Blaster. (power shut off) Who run Bartertown? Who... run... Bartertown?
    Auntie Entity: ...You know who.
    The Master: Say.
    Auntie Entity: Master Blaster.
    The Master: Say loud! (Master turns on the town loudspeakers)
    Auntie Entity: Master Blaster.
    The Master: Master Blaster... what?
    Auntie Entity: Master Blaster runs Bartertown.
    The Master: Louder!
    Auntie Entity: Master Blaster runs Bartertown!
    The Master: Lift embargo.
  • I Gave My Word: Subverted: Aunty hires Max to kill Blaster, but Max refuses to Finish Him! when a Dramatic Unmask shows the Giant Mook to be a simpleton. Because a contract is Serious Business in Bartertown, Aunty is able to use the law to punish Max for his failure to follow through.
    • To be fair, she was probably punishing him for not finishing the job, rather than hoping he wouldn't.
  • I Own This Town: Aunty initially appears to be the uncontested ruler of Bartertown, but MasterBlaster declares a short embargo on supplying methane to the town to drive home the point that they are the true force to be reckoned with.
  • Incessant Music Madness: Some of the kids have run off. The other kids are showing Max which direction they went, and are chanting a lament in the background. Eventually, Max yells, "Stop the noise, STOP THE NOISE!"
  • Indy Ploy:
    Max: So what's the plan?
    Pig Killer: (laughing) Plan? There ain't no plan!
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted when one of the kids is swallowed by quicksand.
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?: When Aunty Entity's majordomo tells Max he's got nothing to trade, Max insists that he's got skills they can use. To this, he rather dryly replies "The brothels are full."
  • It Has Been an Honor: Master gives Max a little salute during the latter's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: Master is furious when he realises Max has been hired by Aunty Entity to kill Blaster, thus removing his muscle.
    Master: No more methane! This place, finished!
    Ironbar: No little man. We've only just begun. (shoots Blaster)
  • Large Ham: Tina Turner as Auntie Entity and Edward Hodgeman as Dr. Dealgood, the MC of the Thunderdome.
  • Last Grasp at Life: There's a Flipping the Bird version when Ironbar is killed in a car crash at the end of the movie.
  • Let Them Die Happy: In a Deleted Scene, Max carries the dying Gekko to the top of a sand dune and shows him the lights of Bartertown, saying that they've found Tomorrow-Morrow-Land.
  • A Light in the Distance: Mentioned in the closing words.
    Savannah: And we lights the city ... not just for him, but for all of 'em that're still out there. 'Cause we knows... there'll come a night, when they sees the distant light... and they'll be comin' home.
  • Loud of War: Max uses a dog whistle to defeat Blaster in the Thunderdome arena.
  • Lovely Assistant: The girls alongside Dr. Dealgood in Thunderdome. One of them even spins a wheel.
  • Made of Iron: Ironbar manages to survive falling off a bridge, an explosion, and a head on collision that completely obliterates his buggy.
  • The Master: Master of MasterBlaster.
  • Merchant City: Bartertown. Trading is required to be able to enter, and holding on to the deals is considered sacred.enforced by law.
  • Messianic Archetype: Mad Max is seen by the children as the Second Coming of Captain Walker, complete with a Max-as-Walker picture of him spread out in crucified form carrying the children away upon himself.
  • Motivation on a Stick: Max is sent into "exile" hooded and tied up on a donkey with a small jar of water hanging in front of its head.
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Dealgood's an unusually effective example — not only is he filling in the audience, but also Max. His bombastic style helps.
    Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and Girls!... Dyin' time's here!
  • Mr. Fanservice: Aside from Mel Gibson, Tom Jennings, aka Slake, the leader of The Ones Who Stayed, a muscular college age guy in nothing but a loincloth.
  • Neck Lift:
    • Blaster does it to Max after Max tries to ignore Master's order for him to disarm the truck's booby-trap. And holds him there while Master chews him out and repeats the demand. When Max fails to be impressed, Master decides to have the town's electricity supply choked instead. EMBARGO ON!
    • Becomes Played for Drama the next time they have a confrontation.
    Master: Blaster, in three seconds, break neck.—
    (*Click* Hello from Aunty's enforcers intervene just in time)
  • No-Holds-Barred Contest: Rules cannot be broken in Thunderdome, since there are none.
  • No Name Given:
    • Max's name isn't known to Bartertown's public, forcing Dr. Dealgood to announce him at the Thunderdome as "The Man With No Name" in a Shout-Out to Dollars Trilogy.
    • Many of the character names aren't spoken in the film, and are only listed in the credts.
  • Not What I Signed On For: Max says this after seeing Blaster's true face and refuses to kill him.
  • Notable Original Music: "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" from the soundtrack, performed by Tina Turner, made #2 in the U.S.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Max has a moment when he nearly kills an unmasked Blaster.
    • Later...
    Jed Jr.: This is a stick up! Put your hands up or you're dead meat!
    (Max and company stare in disbelief, then look behind at the oncoming horde of Aunty's men.)
    Jed Jr.: (wide-eyed) Oh... I think we're ALL dead meat!
  • On Three: Max has to yank an arrow out of Pigkiller's leg, says they'll do it on the count of three, and of course does it on one.
    Pigkiller: ...what happened to two?
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: Worn by Aunty's Mooks.
  • The Promised Land: The kids are waiting for Captain Walker to come and fly them to theirs, called Tomorrow-morrow Land. They eventually settle for the irradiated ruins of Sydney.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Blaster.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The Wasteland is filled with this. It eats Max's dead horse, and later one of the kids.
  • Reactor Boss: As soon as Max makes a getaway in the locomotive that fed methane into Bartertown, the whole place starts exploding.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Auntie's laws ("Bust a deal, face the wheel"), but there's a Fridge Brilliance to it: they're easy to remember in a post-apocalyptic society.
  • Ring Ring Crunch: A kid smashes a ringing clock he found with a hammer, because everyone is living in After the End, and he has no idea what the ringing sound means.
  • Rousing Speech: A rather rare villanous example in Auntie who pulls it off twice:
    • First she turns the Thunderdome crowd against Max:
    Auntie: What's this? What's this?!! Do you think I don't know the law? Wasn't it me who wrote it? And I say this man has broken the law. Right or wrong, we had a deal. And the law says, "Bust a deal, face the wheel."
    Crowd: (chanting) Bust a deal, face the wheel... Bust a deal, face the wheel... Bust a deal, face the wheel...
    • Then she prevents the complete collapse of Bartertown and sets the people after the escaping party:
    Auntie: Bartertown! Listen to me! Where are you gonna run? Where are you gonna hide? Listen to me! Bartertown will live! Find the little man. Bring him back to me. . .alive! We will rebuild! For those who took him... no mercy!
    (Crowd cheers)
  • Sacred Scripture: Not a paper book, but the tribe of children paid comparable homage to a collection of photos they could examine with an old toy slide-viewer. When someone showed them how to work an old phonograph record, they repeated its words as if they, too, were sacred.
  • Second Coming: Max is mistaken for the second coming of Captain Walker, a pilot who left children of a plane crash behind with the promise that one day he will return to take them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land," or back to civilization as it once was.
  • Shoulders of Doom: Worn by Dr. Dealgood.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Max stumbles across a tribe of children who call him "the Walker". Legend goes the film originated as a straight-up adaptation until someone wondered what would happen if Mad Max stumbled across the society from the book, at which point the Bartertown sequences — AKA the part of the film everyone remembers — were plotted out as a framing device.
    • Pigkiller says "No matter where you go, there you are" when Ironbar has him at gunpoint, much to his confusion.
  • Shovel Strike: Ironbar attacks Max with a shovel. Scrooloose then takes a swing on a rope, and kicks him into a vat of pigshit.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Bartertown is fueled by methane, a byproduct of fecal decomposition. This choice of fuels was clearly made just for the arguments that could result.
  • Sword over Head: Inverted at the end, with Max surrounded by Auntie Entity and her armed goons. She lets him go.
  • Take My Hand: A chain of children are trying to save one of their own from being swallowed up by the same quicksand that earlier claimed Max's dead horse. The human chain is about to break when Max arrives, and he saves them all except for the handicapped teen the others were trying to rescue.
  • Teenage Wasteland: Max discovers a fertile valley where the children of plane crash survivors have been left alone while the adults went to find help. It being After the End, there was no help to be had, and the kids wound up having to raise themselves. They're actually doing fairly well, all things considered, although their limited information about the outside world has led to a rather bizarre belief system.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: MasterBlaster, the duo who run Underworld ("They are a unit; they even share the same name"). Master is a mental giant with a body like a small child's; for Blaster, the reverse is true.
  • Too Important to Walk: Master goes everywhere on the back of Blaster.
  • Tragic Villain: An odd example in MasterBlaster. The two have been forged by their circumstances into a single, ruthlessly efficient, Genius Bruiser in order to climb to the top of the heap. Alone each would be an easy target for exploitation in a Crapsack World, but together they can intimidate and manipulate any threat into submission. It becomes clear over the course of the film that there is genuine affection between the two, and that everything they do is to protect one another. Even the helmet seemingly made to dehumanize Blaster is revealed to be hiding the child-like features of a man with Downs Syndrome.
  • Vetinari Job Security : Master has this. Justified in that he is likely one of only a handful of remaining people on Earth with a working knowledge of civil engineering, industrial machinery, large-scale power generation, and chemistry. Bartertown likely explodes in part because he wasn't there to stop it- and may have rigged it to do so as they left.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Collector seems to have lost the will to live as Bartertown blows up around him.
    • Also the Master between the moments when Max defeats Blaster and the deal with Auntie is revealed.
  • Villainous Valor: Ironbar, especially hanging off the side of the train.
  • Walking Armory: Max is ordered to disarm upon entering a secure area and it takes a full minute for him to drop all his weapons. It turns out the one thing he brought in with him, a flyswatter, was itself a concealed weapon (an iron rod inside the handle).
  • Wasteland Elder: The epilogue shows that Savannah became one.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Max's shotgun. The only time it's ever used is to fire off a warning shot.
  • Weapon Twirling: Max sticks a pistol in the face of The Collector, then shotguns off the fancy headdress of a mook who comes at him twirling twin knives. The mook slinks off with a pensive look and The Dragon moves in instead; Collector wisely signals everyone to back off until they can come to a more civilized arrangement.
  • Wheel of Decisions: "Bust a deal, face the wheel." One that is filled with all sorts of punishments - and one chance at complete acquittal.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Max asks Auntie Entity why she doesn't just have one of her guards kill Masterblaster. But having reestablished the Rule of Law, Auntie can't afford to break it herself, otherwise it just becomes Screw the Rules, I Make Them!. In addition, she states that Masterblaster is "family".
  • Wire Fu: The combatants in Thunderdome are attached to elastic ropes. At one point Max gains a temporary advantage by cutting Blaster's ropes with his Blade on a Stick.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Max delivers a knockout punch to a teenage girl. He hesitates beforehand, but goes ahead and decks her.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Methane cometh from pig shit."
  • You! Exclamation: The film opens with Max having his vehicle stolen by Jedediah the Pilot, setting all the events in motion. By the time he catches up with the thief a horde of post-nuclear desert punks are on his tail, so Max has more urgent priorities than revenge.
    Max: You!
    Jedediah: Me?
    Max: You. It's your lucky day.
    Jedediah: It is?
    Max: Uh-huh. You got a plane.
    Jedediah: I have? (sound of plane starting up outside)
    Max: It might just save your life.
    Jedediah: It will?
    Max: Uh-huh.
  • You Keep Using That Word: "Gulag" does not mean "exile" or "banishment". It's likely that the people of Bartertown simply didn't know what it meant.
  • You No Take Candle:
    • The tribe of children had only partial educations from their shellshocked parents before being abandoned. Their limited vocabulary, in spite of their intelligence, is an uncomfortable reminder to Max how much the world is still losing.
    • Master also speaks like this, but it's heavily implied to be a subversion — he's highly intelligent, but talks down to everyone, partly for Blaster's benefit. The minute Blaster is taken down, Master rushes to him, crying out, "No! He has the mind of a child...!"