Mad Max 2

"The Road Warrior" redirects here. For other uses, see Road warrior (disambiguation).
Mad Max 2

Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Miller
Produced by Byron Kennedy
Screenplay by
Narrated by Harold Baigent
Music by Brian May
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by
  • David Stiven
  • Michael Balson
  • Tim Wellburn
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • 24 December 1981 (1981-12-24) (Australia)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$4.5 million[2]
Box office
  • A$10.8 million (Australia)[3]
  • US$23.7 million (Canada and United States)[4]

Mad Max 2 (also known as The Road Warrior and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller. The film 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 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 was released on 24 December 1981, and received ample 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 throughout the film; costume designer Norma Moriceau's punk mohawked, leather bondage gear-wearing bikers; and its fast-paced, tightly edited and violent battle and chase scenes.

The film's comic-book post-apocalyptic/punk style popularized the genre in film and fiction writing. It was also a box office success, winning 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.


With supplies of petroleum nearly exhausted in the near future following a major energy crisis and a global nuclear war, ex-Main Force Patrol officer "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) roams the now-depopulated and desolate desert in his scarred, black supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special several years after the events of the first film, scavenging for food, water, and fuel. His only companions are an Australian Cattle Dog and a rare functioning firearm a sawn-off shotgun for which ammunition is very scarce.

While trying to escape a group of gang members – led by a crazed motorcycle rider named Wez (Vernon Wells) - Max manages to crash two of the gang members' vehicles and injure Wez; recognising his defeat, Wez flees. After collecting some fuel from the destroyed cars and checking a nearby Mack semi, Max inspects a nearby autogyro for fuel. Its pilot, the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), ambushes Max and manages to capture him briefly before being overpowered. In exchange for his own life, the pilot guides Max to a small oil refinery nearby. Max arrives to see the facility is under siege by a gang of marauders riding a motley collection of cars and motorbikes. The gang leader, known as "Lord Humungus" (Kjell Nilsson), tries to convince the refinery's defenders to surrender the facility in exchange for safe passage out of the area.

A group of defenders attempts to break out of the compound, but the marauders capture, torture, and kill all but one of them, who is rescued by Max. Max makes a deal with the mortally-wounded sole survivor: he will bring him back to the compound in exchange for a tank of fuel. The man dies shortly after they enter the facility, and the facility leader, Pappagallo (Michael Preston), reneges on the deal, saying it died when the survivor died. His group is on the verge of killing Max when the marauders return, and Humungus repeats his offer. When the Feral Kid (Emil Minty) kills Wez's male companion, Wez becomes enraged, urging his leader to take the compound; Humungus wrestles Wez into submission, but placates Wez by revealing he has no intention of letting any of the settlers leave. Max offers Pappagallo a different deal: he will retrieve the abandoned Mack semi-truck, which is capable of hauling the tanker trailer that the facility inhabitants use to store the fuel they refine, in exchange for freedom, his vehicle, and as much fuel as he can take with him. The group accepts, but keeps Max's car to ensure his co-operation. Max sneaks out, locating the Gyro Captain (dragging the branch he is chained to) and conscripts him to help find the truck using his gyrocopter.

After finding the truck, Max drives it back to the compound, evading Humungus's men. The defenders want Max to escape with the group, but Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. However, his attempt to break through the siege fails: Wez gives chase in Humungus' nitrous oxide-equipped car and runs Max off the road, wrecking his vehicle and severely injuring him. The marauders kill Max's dog with a crossbow, then attempt to siphon the fuel from the Pursuit Special's tanks, but trigger an explosive booby trap, which kills some of the attackers. Left for dead, Max is rescued by the Gyro Captain as he is trying to crawl back to the refinery.

With no other means of escape and with the refinery's defenders preparing to depart, Max insists on driving the repaired truck. He leaves the compound in the heavily-armoured truck, accompanied by the Feral Kid he has befriended and by other inhabitants aboard as defenders. Pappagallo escorts him out in a captured marauder vehicle. Humungus and most of his warriors pursue the tanker, leaving the remaining inhabitants free to flee the compound in a ramshackle caravan and buses, blowing up the refinery as they leave. Pappagallo and the other defenders of the tanker, as well as numerous marauders, are killed during the chase and the Gyro Captain is shot down. Max and the Feral Kid find themselves alone, pursued by the marauders. Wez manages to board the truck and attack Max, but a head-on collision with Humungus's car kills both Wez and Humungus. Max loses control of the tanker and it rolls off the road. As the injured Max carries the Feral Kid from the wrecked tanker, he sees not petrol, but sand, leaking from the tank.

The truck and its trailer are thus exposed as a decoy, allowing the other settlers to escape with the precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. With Pappagallo dead, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as their chief and leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the "Great Northern Tribe". Max remains alone in the desert, once again becoming a drifter. Years later, the Feral Kid, now the Northern Tribe's new leader (voice by Harold Baigent), reminisces about the legend of the mythical "Road Warrior" (Max) who now exists only in distant memory.




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]


Filming took place in the arid desert surrounding the remote mining town of Broken Hill, New South Wales.

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, earning $3.7 million in rentals in Australia. As The Road Warrior in North America, it was a greater success. The film earned $11.3 million in rentals and $23.6 million in grosses.[2] 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.[23][24] The film holds a 98% rating based on 42 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as of 13 May 2015 with the consensus "The Road Warrior is everything a bigger-budgeted Mad Max sequel should be: bigger, faster, louder, but definitely not dumber."[25] 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.[26]

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".[27]

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".[28] 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".[29]

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."[30]

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.[31]


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.[32] Similarly, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.[33] 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.[34] In 2016, James Charisma of Playboy ranked the film number eleven on a list of 15 Sequels That Are Way Better Than The Originals.[35]

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.[36]

See also


  1. "MAD MAX 2 (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 19 January 1982. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p81-84
  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. 1 2 3 Scheib, Richard (1990). "Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior". Moria. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  6. Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior Filming Locations. Retrieved on 18 November 2011.
  7. "Readers polls". Rolling Stone.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Corliss, Richard (10 May 1982). "Apocalypse... Pow!". Time. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  9. 1 2 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. 1 2 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. "The Greatest Films of 1981". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  24. "The Best Movies of 1981 by Rank". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  25. "The Road Warrior Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  26. Ebert, Roger (1 January 1981). "The Road Warrior". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  27. Michener, Charles (31 May 1982). "Shane in Black Leather". Newsweek.
  28. Arnold, Gary (20 August 1982). "The Warrior Western Back on the Road Again". The Washington Post.
  29. Kael, Pauline. "Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  30. Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (November 1995). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 031213486X.
  31. "Mad Max 2: Award Wins and Nominations". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  32. "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  33. "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 29 April 2003. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  34. "Entertainment Weekly's 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  35. "Revenge of the Movie: 15 Sequels That Are Way Better Than The Originals". Playboy. March 15, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  36. "Mad Max Museum". Discover SIlverton. SIlverton Village Committee. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.

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