Mad Max 2

Mad Max 2 (released as The Road Warrior in the United States) is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller. It is the second installment in the Mad Max film series, with Mel Gibson reprising his role as "Mad" Max Rockatansky. The film's tale of a community of settlers who moved to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders follows an archetypical "Western" frontier movie motif, as does Max's role as a hardened man who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers.[5] Filming took place in locations around Broken Hill, in the outback of New South Wales.[6]

Mad Max 2
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Miller
Produced byByron Kennedy
Screenplay by
StarringMel Gibson
Narrated byHarold Baigent
Music byBrian May
CinematographyDean Semler
Edited by
  • David Stiven
  • Michael Balson
  • Tim Wellburn
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 24 December 1981 (1981-12-24) (Australia)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
BudgetA$4.5 million[2]
Box office
  • A$10.8 million (Australia)[3]
  • US$23.7 million (United States and Canada)[4]

Mad Max 2 was released on 24 December 1981, and received a wide critical acclaim. Observers praised the visuals and Gibson's role. Noteworthy elements of the film also include cinematographer Dean Semler's widescreen photography of Australia's vast desert landscapes, the sparing use of dialogue, costume designer Norma Moriceau's punk mohawked, leather bondage gear-wearing bikers, its fast-paced, tightly edited battle and chase scenes, and Brian May's musical score.

The film's post-apocalyptic and punk aesthetics popularised the genre in film and fiction writing. It was also a box office success, being the highest-grossing Australian film worldwide. It won the Best International Film from six nominations at the Saturn Award ceremony, including: Best Director for Miller; Best Actor for Gibson; Best Supporting Actor for Bruce Spence; Best Writing for Miller, Hayes and Hannant; and Best Costume for Norma Moriceau. Mad Max 2 became a cult film, with fan clubs and "road warrior"-themed activities continuing into the 21st century, and is now widely considered to be one of the greatest action movies ever made, as well as one of the greatest sequels ever made.[7] The film was preceded by Mad Max in 1979 and followed by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985 and Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015.


Haunted by the death of his family, former policeman Max Rockatansky now roams the desert wilderness of a post-apocalyptic Australia in a scarred, black, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special. Scavenging for food and petrol, Max's only companions are an Australian Cattle Dog and a sawn-off shotgun with scarce ammunition. After driving off a gang led by the unhinged biker warrior Wez, and taking petrol from one of their wrecked vehicles, Max finds a nearby gyrocopter and decides to collect its fuel. The gyrocopter is boobytrapped, but Max overpowers the pilot hiding nearby, sparing his life upon being told of a small oil refinery nearby in the wasteland. However, upon arriving, Max finds the compound under siege by the Marauders, a motley gang of racers and motorcyclists of which Wez is a member. The Marauders' leader, a large disfigured man called "Lord Humungus", has his gang swarm the complex daily, believing that the compound contains some kind of petrol reserves or even a small refinery.

Biding his time, Max makes his move when a group of settlers attempt to break out of the compound to find a means to take the fuel tank out of the complex. With the others captured and subjected to torture, rape and death, Max rescues the remaining survivor and offers to get him back to the complex in return for a tank of petrol. The man dies shortly from his wound after Max returns him, and the settlers' leader Papagallo reneges on the deal. The settlers are on the verge of killing Max when the Marauders return and, despite the death of Wez's partner by the metal boomerang of a feral child living within the complex, Humungus offers the settlers safe passage from the territory in exchange for the fuel supply.

Max offers another deal to Papagallo: he will procure a semi-truck for the settlers to haul their tanker if they give Max his freedom and as much fuel as he can carry. The settlers accept, but keep his car until he returns. That night, Max sneaks out on foot with the Feral Kid's help. He again encounters the Gyro Captain and forces him to help make the journey to the truck, a Mack semi which Max discovered after his initial encounter with Wez. With aerial support, Max drives the semi through the Marauders' encampment into the compound with a livid Humungus reinitiating the siege. Though the settlers want Max to escape with them to a beach, Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. However, while attempting to break through the siege, Max is seriously wounded and his car wrecked after being run off the road by Wez in Lord Humungus's nitrous oxide-equipped car. One of the Marauders kills Max's dog with a crossbow before Toady's attempt to siphon the fuel from the Pursuit Special's tanks triggers the car's self-destruct, which kills both Marauders during the explosion. Max is left for dead, but the Gyro Captain rescues him and flies him back to the compound.

Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the repaired and now armored truck with the fuel tanker. He leaves the compound, accompanied by the Feral Kid with Papagallo and several of the settlers in armored vehicles to provide protection. Lord Humungus and most of his warriors pursue the tanker, leaving the remaining settlers free to flee the compound in a ramshackle caravan, rigging the compound to explode. After Papagallo and the defenders are killed during the chase, and the Gyro Captain shot down, Max and the Feral Kid find themselves alone against the Marauders as Wez boards the truck to kill the two of them.

However, the semi's head-on collision with Humungus' car kills both him and Wez as the out-of-control truck rolls off the road while the surviving Marauders leave. As the injured Max carries the Feral Kid from the wrecked tanker, he sees not oil, but sand, leaking from the tank, revealing it to be a decoy which allowed the other settlers to escape with the fuel in oil drums hidden inside their vehicles. With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as their chief and leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the "Great Northern Tribe". The Feral Kid (as an adult and the Northern Tribe's new leader) is revealed as the film's narrator, reminiscing about the Road Warrior, who departed for parts unknown, and now lives on only in legend.


  • Mel Gibson as Max, a former member of the Australian highway patrol called the Main Force Patrol (MFP). However, after a biker gang kills his family, he leaves the force and hunts down and kills all of the gang members. The trauma transforms him into the embittered, "burnt out... shell of a man". The narration describes him as “the Road Warrior, the man we called Max”, who despite his acerbic nature, elects to assist the settlers in their plan. However once his part is complete, he becomes a drifter once again, choosing not to follow them north.
  • Bruce Spence as the Gyro Captain, a wanderer who looks for fuel and supplies. However, instead of driving a car, the Captain flies in a ramshackle old gyrocopter powered by a VW air-cooled engine. He, too, decides to throw in his lot with the settlers, and help defend their compound. Time's reviewer Richard Corliss called the Captain "a deranged parody of the World War I aerial ace: scarecrow skinny, gaily clad, sporting a James Coburn smile with advanced caries"; despite his quirks, however, the Captain proves to be wily and courageous. After the death of Pappagallo, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as the leader of the settlers.[8]
  • Mike Preston as Pappagallo, the idealistic leader of the settlers in the barricaded oil refinery. Even though the settlers' compound is besieged by a violent gang, Pappagallo "...carries the weight of his predicament with swaggering dignity."[8]
  • Max Phipps as the Toadie, the gang crier. He is an unkempt, bespectacled man. He wears a decorated mink stole as a hat and has many automobile badges and hood ornaments on his clothes. His behaviour with Lord Humungus and Wez make him a classic sycophant. Toadie takes pleasure in physically abusing helpless prisoners, but the gang has little respect for him.
  • Vernon Wells as Wez, a mohawked, leather-clad biker who serves as Lord Humungus' lieutenant in the gang. Vincent Canby, the New York Times reviewer, called the Wez character the "most evil of The Humungus's followers...[a] huge brute who rides around on his bike, snarling psychotically."[9] In the same Danny Peary interview, Miller states the characters of Wez and Max are near mirror images of each other, with each being chained by the leaders of their respective camps, and who both find themselves spurred on by the death of a loved one somewhere in their past, in Wez's case the relatively recent death of The Golden Youth at the hand of the Feral Kid.[10] In 2011, Empire magazine listed Wez as the greatest movie henchman of all time.[11]
  • Emil Minty as the Feral Kid, a boy who lives in the wasteland near the refinery settlement. He speaks only in growls and grunts. The boy wears shorts and boots made from hide, and defends himself with a lethal metal boomerang which he can catch using an improvised mail glove.[8] The narration of the opening and closing sequences, provided by Harold Baigent, proves in the closing sequence to be that of the Feral Kid, grown to adulthood by then, and remembering the circumstances of his youthful encounter with "Mad" Max.
  • Kjell Nilsson as The Humungus, the violent yet charismatic and articulate leader of a "vicious gang of post-holocaust, motorcycle-riding vandals" who "loot, rape, and kill the few remaining wasteland dwellers". Announced by the Toadie as "the Lord Humungus, warrior of the wasteland, [and] the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah", The Humungus' "malevolence courses through his huge pectorals, [and] pulses visibly under his bald, sutured scalp."[8] The Humungus' face is never seen, as he wears a hockey goalie's mask. In a 1985 interview with Danny Peary, Miller posited that he thought the character "was a former military officer who suffered severe facial burns," and who "might have served in the same outfit as his counterpart, Pappagallo."[10]
  • Virginia Hey as Warrior Woman, a female member of the settlers who initially distrusts Max.
  • William Zappa as Zetta
  • Arkie Whiteley as The Captain's Girl, a beautiful young woman among the settlers who rejects the Gyro Captain's offer to escape together.
  • Steven J. Spears as Mechanic
  • Syd Heylen as Curmudgeon
  • Moira Claux as Big Rebecca, a female warrior among the settlers who wields a bow and arrow.
  • David Downer as Nathan, a member of the settlers who tries to escape the settlement and is fatally wounded by some of Humungus' bikers.



Following the release of Mad Max, director George Miller received a number of offers from Hollywood, including one to direct First Blood. However, Miller instead decided to pursue a rock and roll movie under the working title of Roxanne. After working with writer Terry Hayes on the novelization of Mad Max, Miller and Hayes teamed up to write Roxanne in Los Angeles but the script was ultimately shelved.[12] Miller then became more intrigued with the idea of returning to the world of Mad Max, as a larger budget would allow him to be more ambitious. "Making Mad Max was a very unhappy experience for me," said Miller. "There was strong pressure to make a sequel, and I felt we could do a better job with a second movie."[13]

Inspired by Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and the work of Carl Jung,[14] Miller recruited Hayes to join the production as a scriptwriter.[15] Brian Hannant also came on board as co-writer and second unit director. Miller says that he was greatly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa.[2]


Principal photography took place over the course of twelve weeks in the winter of 1981 near Broken Hill.[16] Scenes were shot at the Pinnacles, where the set of the compound was situated.[17] The scene where the Pursuit Special rolls over and explodes was shot at Menindee Road on the Mundi Mundi Plains just outside Broken Hill.[18][19]

The original cut of the film was more bloody and violent, but it was cut down heavily by Australian censors. Entire scenes and sequences were deleted completely or edited to receive an "M" rating. When it was submitted to the MPAA in the United States, two additional scenes (Wez pulling an arrow out of his arm and a close-up shot of him pulling a boomerang out of his dead boyfriend's head) were shortened. Although there is a version of the film that includes the scenes trimmed down for the MPAA, no version without previous cuts exists.[2][20]


The musical score for Mad Max 2 was composed and conducted by Australian composer Brian May, who had previously composed the music for the first film. A soundtrack album was released in 1982 by Varèse Sarabande.[21]


When Mad Max was released in 1980 in the United States, it did not receive a proper release from its distributor, American International Pictures. AIP was in the final stages of a change of ownership after being bought by Filmways, Inc. a year earlier. AIP's problems affected the release of the film and its box office in the US, although Mad Max proved much more successful when released internationally.[22] Warner Bros. decided to release Mad Max 2 in the United States, but they recognised that the first film was not popular in North America. Although the original Mad Max was becoming popular through cable channel showings, Warner Bros. decided to change the name of its sequel to The Road Warrior. The advertising for the film, including print ads, trailers, and TV commercials, did not refer to the Max character at all, and all shied away from the fact that the film was a sequel. For the majority of viewers, their first inkling of Road Warrior being a sequel to Mad Max was when they saw the black and white, archival footage from the previous film, during the prologue.

The film was a commercial success, grossing A$10.8 million in Australia.[3] As The Road Warrior in North America, it was an even greater success, grossing US$23.6 million,[2] becoming the highest-grossing Australian film worldwide.[23] Vestron Video capitalized by releasing Mad Max on video and subtitling it "the thrilling predecessor to The Road Warrior." Despite the title change, grosses from the US release were on par with other countries. Warner Bros. felt comfortable to keep the title of the third Mad Max film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, intact for that film's American release.

Critical reception

Mad Max 2 received positive reviews and is regarded by many critics as one of the best films of 1981.[24][25] The film holds a 95% rating based on 44 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as of 23 August 2019 with an average rating of 8.4/10 and with the consensus, "The Road Warrior is everything a bigger-budgeted Mad Max sequel should be: bigger, faster, louder, but definitely not dumber."[26] Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, praised its "skillful filmmaking," and called it "a film of pure action, of kinetic energy", which is "one of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made". While Ebert pointed out that the film does not develop its "vision of a violent future world ... with characters and dialogue", and uses only the "barest possible bones of a plot", he praised its action sequences. Ebert called the climactic chase sequence "unbelievably well-sustained" and states that the "special effects and stunts...are spectacular", creating a "frightening, sometimes disgusting, and (if the truth be told) exhilarating" effect.[27]

In his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote, "Never has a film's vision of the post-nuclear-holocaust world seemed quite as desolate and as brutal, or as action-packed and sometimes as funny as in George Miller's apocalyptic The Road Warrior, an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life".[9] In his review for Newsweek, Charles Michener praised Mel Gibson's "easy, unswaggering masculinity", saying that "[his] hint of Down Under humor may be quintessentially Australian but is also the stuff of an international male star".[28]

Gary Arnold, in his review for The Washington Post, wrote, "While he seems to let triumph slip out of his grasp, Miller is still a prodigious talent, capable of a scenic and emotional amplitude that recalls the most stirring attributes in great action directors like Kurosawa, Peckinpah and Leone".[29] Pauline Kael called Mad Max 2 a "mutant" film that was "...sprung from virtually all action genres", creating " continuous spurt of energy" by using "jangly, fast editing". However, Kael criticized director George Miller's "attempt to tap into the universal concept of the hero", stating that this attempt "makes the film joyless", "sappy", and "sentimental".[30]

The film's depiction of a post-apocalyptic future was widely copied by other filmmakers and in science fiction novels, to the point that its gritty "junkyard society of the future almost taken for granted in the modern science-fiction action film."[5] The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that Mad Max 2, "with all its comic-strip energy and exploitation cinema at its most inventive."[31]

Richard Scheib called Mad Max 2 "one of the few occasions where a sequel makes a dramatic improvement in quality over its predecessor." He said that the film is a "kinetic comic-book of a film," an "exhilarating non-stop rollercoaster ride of a film that contains some of the most exciting stunts and car crashes ever put on screen." Scheib stated that the film transforms the "post-holocaust landscape into the equivalent of a Western frontier," such that "Mel Gibson's Max could just as easily be Clint Eastwood's tight-lipped Man With No Name" helping "decent frightened folk" from the "marauding Redskins".[5]


The film received much recognition from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. It won the Saturn Award for Best International Film. It received additional nominations for Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Costume Design. Mel Gibson and Bruce Spence received nods for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. George Miller won the Grand Prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. Mad Max 2 was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Foreign Film. The film was also recognised by the Australian Film Institute, winning awards for best direction, costume design, editing, production design and sound. It received additional nominations for the cinematography and musical score. Despite receiving the most nominations and wins, it was not nominated for Best Film.[32]


The Mad Max series of films, with their emphasis on dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic themes and imagery, have inspired some artists to recreate the look and feel of some aspects of the series in their work. As well, fan clubs and "road warrior"-themed activities continue into the 21st century. In 2008, Mad Max 2 was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[33] Similarly, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.[34] Entertainment Weekly ranked Mad Max 2 93rd on their 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list in 1999, 41st on their updated All-Time 100 Greatest Films in 2013 list, and the character Mad Max as 11th on their list of The All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture.[35] In 2016, James Charisma of Playboy ranked the film #11 on a list of 15 Sequels That Are Way Better Than The Originals.[36]

The film has a permanent legacy in the small town of Silverton, which is 25 kilometres from Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia. A museum dedicated to Mad Max 2 was established in 2010 by Adrian and Linda Bennett, who developed the museum after moving to Silverton and building a collection of Mad Max props and memorabilia.[37]

See also


  1. "Mad Max 2 (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 19 January 1982. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  2. Stratton, David (1990). The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry. Pan MacMillan. pp. 81–84.
  3. Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office Retrieved 19 March 2012
  4. Box Office Information for Mad Max 2 Retrieved 21 May 2010
  5. Scheib, Richard (1990). "Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior". Moria. Archived from the original on 20 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  6. Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior Filming Locations. Retrieved on 18 November 2011.
  7. "Readers polls". Rolling Stone.
  8. Corliss, Richard (10 May 1982). "Apocalypse... Pow!". Time. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  9. Canby, Vincent (28 April 1982). "Road Warrior". New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2010. has a film's vision of the post-nuclear-holocaust world seemed quite as desolate and as brutal, or as action-packed and sometimes as funny as in George Miller's apocalyptic The Road Warrior, an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life.
  10. Danny Peary on "Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior.". Retrieved on 18 November 2011.
  11. Top 10 Movie Henchmen. Retrieved on 18 November 2011.
  12. Loder, Kurt (29 August 1985). "Mad Max: The Heroes of 'Thunderdome'". Rolling Stone (455). Wenner Media. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  13. Specter, Michael (15 August 1982). "Myths Shape a Movie From Australia". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  14. Barra, Allen (15 August 1999). "FILM; A Road Warrior Is Still on a Roll". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on 6 December 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  15. Moran, Albert; Vieth, Errol (21 July 2009). The A to Z of Australian and New Zealand Cinema (PDF). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. p. 174. ISBN 0810868318. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  16. Das, Abhimanyu (8 May 2015). "The Craziest Stories About The Making Of Mad Max And The Road Warrior". io9. Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  17. Ratcliffe, Jenia (27 July 2012). "A step back in time with Mad Max 2". ABC Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  18. "Silverton Sights". Discover Silverton. Silverton Village Committee. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  19. Bennett, Adrian (21 May 2012). "Directions from George, Menindee Rd". ABC Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  20. "Mad Max II / The Road Warrior (1982)". TPG Telecom. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  21. Osborne, Jerry (2010). Movie/TV Soundtracks and Original Cast Recordings Price and Reference Guide. Port Townsend, Washington: Osborne Enterprises Publishing. p. 489. ISBN 0932117376.
  22. "Mad Max - Box Office Data". The 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  23. Groves, Don (5 November 1986). "Aussie Gator Grappler Kayos Mad Max". Variety. p. 3.
  24. "The Greatest Films of 1981". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  25. "The Best Movies of 1981 by Rank". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  26. "The Road Warrior Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  27. Ebert, Roger (1 January 1981). "The Road Warrior". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  28. Michener, Charles (31 May 1982). "Shane in Black Leather". Newsweek.
  29. Arnold, Gary (20 August 1982). "The Warrior Western Back on the Road Again". The Washington Post.
  30. Kael, Pauline. "Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  31. Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (November 1995). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 031213486X.
  32. "Mad Max 2: Award Wins and Nominations". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  33. "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  34. "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 29 April 2003. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  35. "Entertainment Weekly's 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  36. Charisma, James (15 March 2016). "Revenge of the Movie: 15 Sequels That Are Way Better Than The Originals". Playboy. Archived from the original on 26 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  37. "Mad Max Museum". Discover SIlverton. SIlverton Village Committee. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
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