Mad Max (1979)

mad max poster 1979 movie mel gibson
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great car/motorcycle chases

Sometimes cheesy acting and melodramatic script

Movie Info

Movie Name: Mad Max

Studio: Kennedy Miller Productions

Genre(s): Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): April 12, 1979

MPAA Rating: R

mad max road ambush mel gibson

Maybe this all just one big misunderstanding…

Max Rackatansky (Mel Gibson) works as an officer for the Main Force Patrol (MFP) in a dystopian future where motorcycle gangs are gaining control of the country.  The MFP is failing and Max and his partner Goose (Steve Bisley) are fighting a losing fight.  When Goose and Max make enemies of a gang, Goose and Max become targets, and Max finds that the gang does intends to destroy him and everyone he knows from the planet.  Max will be pushed to the limit and beyond.

Directed by George Miller, Mad Max is a grindhouse science-fiction action film.  The movie was initially released to mixed reviews from critics due largely to the violence but gained a cult following.  The movie gained more popularity in the United States after the release of its sequel The Road Warrior (which was retitled from Mad Max II).  Due to its low budget, Mad Max held the profit-to-cost record for years until The Blair Witch Project beat it in 1999.

With the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, I was interested in everything Mad Max.  Despite being nine, I remember renting Mad Max multiple times.  When I was in London, I even got to see the movie on the big screen which was a real treat.  While extremely violent, Mad Max is almost is a cartoon violence…and remains a fun action film.

mad max toecuter hugh keays byrne hiss


The story for the movie is unrelenting.  The characters have no hope, no future, and no humanity.  When you think it can’t get worse for Max, it does.  It still remains pretty hardcore, but over the years, the movie has almost become a bit of a parody of itself.  The movie never really states what is happening in future to make society corrupt (Miller got the idea as a doctor seeing the increases in road accidents), and this ambiguous nature of the movie helps the story.

The movie decided to cast unknown Australian actors (Miller allegedly thought about seeking out a known American actor for Max to get more attention).  Mel Gibson is young and energetic in the movie.  The rest of the cast also were relative unknowns.  You have to love Max’s saxophone playing wife Joanne Samuels and Hugh Keays-Byrne is great as the villainous Toecutter (he later went on to play Immortan Joe who was the main villain in Mad Max:  Fury Road).  When the film was released in America, many of the actors were dubbed to cover up the thick Australian accents and some of the slang dialogue was changed.

mad max 1979 wife joanne samuels killed

Maybe running down the middle of a road while being pursued by motorcycles isn’t the best choice…

While considered low-budget, the movie doesn’t necessarily look it.  While the sets are minimal (and the locations are basically roads, one town streets, and beaches), the movie does have some fantastic actions sequences, strong cinematography, and great car chases.  It is also interesting to compare the visuals of this movie to the sequel films since the society in Mad Max continue to crumble and get more and more violent.

Mad Max is a modern classic that has risen above standard grindhouse movies.  While in comparison to the sequels, Mad Max is pretty tame.  The movie still has some style and class, but “new” viewers might expect the same energy and action level experienced in Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road (not all the visuals have held up as well as those films also).  Still, Max Max is the start of one of the more interesting film series because the rules of sequels don’t all seem to apply to the films.  If you are a fan of the series or the genre, it deserves a watching.

Related Links:

The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) (1981)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Mad Max:  Fury Road (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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