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Mad Max 2, the second film in the Mad Max franchise, (also known as The Road Warrior in the U.S., and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller. This sequel to Miller's 1979 film Mad Max was a worldwide box office success that launched the career of lead actor Mel Gibson. The film's tale of a community of settlers moved to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders follows an archetypal "Western" frontier movie motif, as does Max's role as a hardened man who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers.

Noteworthy elements of the film include cinematographer Dean Semler's widescreen photography of Australia's vast desert landscapes (primarily the Mundi Mundi Plain in Silverton, New South Walesmarker); the sparing use of dialogue throughout the film (which is almost non-existent during the opening and closing scenes); 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. The film eventually became a cult classic: fan clubs and "road warrior"-themed activities still occur into the 2000s.

The film was followed by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985.


Mad Max 2 begins with a prologue backstory; a narrator informs us that the world has "crumbled and...the cities have exploded;" uprisings and social disorder due to energy shortages have destabilized the country; and that "two mighty warrior tribes" had gone to war. The crumbling remnants of the government attempt to restore some form of order, but life has become a "whirlwind of looting and a firestorm of fear, in which 'men began to feed on men.'"

The film itself begins as Max Rockatansky, now "a burnt out, desolate" shell of a man, clashes with a team of marauders. Clad in his torn and dirty leather police uniform, Max roams the desert in a scarred, black, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food and, especially, gasoline, which has become a precious commodity. He also has a pet dog (a blue heeler), who has been his only companion, and a rare functioning firearm — a sawn-off shotgun — the ammunition for which is also scarce.

After driving off a gang, led by biker warrior Wez (Vernon Wells), Max collects the gasoline from one of their wrecked vehicles. As Max continues to comb the desert wastelands, he comes upon a seemingly abandoned autogyro and investigates. The autogyro's pilot (Bruce Spence) has in fact set a trap with a venomous snake; but Max and his dog outwit and overpower the gyro captain. To stay alive, the pilot tells Max about a small working oil refinery nearby in the wasteland.

Encamped on a cliff overlooking the oil refinery, Max watches as a gang of marauders piloting a motley collection of cars and motorbikes besiege the compound. They are led by the grim, charismatic warrior called "Lord Humungus" (Kjell Nilsson) — a large, muscular man with a hockey mask over his disfigured face, who commands a vicious, rag-tag band of biker-berserkers. Humungus' speeches to the settlers, exhorting them to surrender, are articulate and convincing; he uses his eloquence as psychological warfare, and a number of the settlers begin to believe his seemingly benign offers.

The next morning four settlers' vehicles roar out of the refinery. The marauders chase them down and kill or capture their occupants. After the Gyro Captain and Max witness one such brutal treatment, Max goes down to the wrecked vehicles and slays one biker. A critically-wounded settler is still clinging to life, and Max strikes a bargain with him: he will return the man to the refinery compound in exchange for petrol. However, the deal falls through when the man dies following Max's entry into the compound. Facing death, Max is spared when at that moment the marauders return.

Lord Humungus uses a public address system to offer the settlers and their leader Papagallo (Michael Preston) safe passage out of the wastelands if they leave him the facility and fuel reserves. Max has an alternative bargain for Papagallo: he will retrieve the abandoned Mack semi-trailer he came across earlier in return for petrol and his freedom. This vehicle would be sufficient to haul their tanker-load of fuel out of the wastelands. The besieged settlers accept Max's proposal, but retain his car. Max sneaks out of the compound at night, carrying fuel for the battered truck and the autogyro. He is later joined, though, by his "prisoner" the Gyro Captain and the "Feral Kid" who wields a sharp-edged steel boomerang, and who has accepted Max.

With air support provided by the Gyro Captain, Max returns to the abandoned prime-mover and drives it back to the compound, despite the efforts of Humungus and his men to stop the vehicle. The settlers invite Max to escape with the group, but the psychologically-scarred Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. As Max tries to break through the siege and is chased down by Wez in Humungus's nitrous oxide-equipped car, his car is wrecked and he is badly injured, and his dog is killed by a crossbowman. However, by trying to tap into his fuel tanks, the marauders trigger an explosive booby-trap, blowing up his car and discouraging them from searching further. The semi-conscious Max is rescued by the Gyro Captain, who flies him back to the refinery, where the settlers are making hasty preparations to leave.

Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the repaired truck with the fuel tank. He leaves the compound in the now heavily-armored truck with the feral kid and several settlers in armored positions on the tanker. With Pappagallo driving a powerful escort vehicle for company, he is pursued by the wasteland warriors. Overhead, the Gyro Captain follows the violent chase in his gyro-copter. One by one the settlers on the tanker are killed, as is Pappagallo. The Gyro Captain also crashes as his engine is hit by arrows from a dart gun. Back at the refinery, but intercut with the tanker pursuit, a handful of marauders seize the empty compound, and discover to their misfortune that the refinery is rigged to explode.

Max and the feral kid find themselves alone against the marauders, who continue their savage pursuit. Wez boards the truck and almost slays the two survivors, but a head-on collision with Humungus obliterates both villains. Max loses control of the tanker and it rolls off the side of the road. As the injured Max carries the feral kid from the tanker, he discovers that the contents of the tanker was just sand. The Gyro Captain manages to catch up to Max in his battered gyro copter.

The truck and its trailer were a decoy, allowing the other settlers to escape with their precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the "Great Northern Tribe." Max remains in the desert, once again becoming a drifter, alone in the wasteland but remembered by the narrator, who is in fact the adult feral kid.



The film's tale of settlers that have to defend themselves from a roving band of marauders transplants the archetypal "Western" frontier movie concepts to the post-apocalyptic desert wastes. In place of horses and stagecoaches, the film uses large number of cars, motorbikes, trucks, and custom-made vehicles which are often chopped up and hot-rodded with superchargers and engine modifications and geared up for post-apocalypse highway battles with armour plating, mounted pneumatic-dart weapons, and reinforced bumpers.

Max's powerful black-painted muscle car is a modified Pursuit Special, a Ford Falcon XB GT coupe with a V8 engine ("the last of the V8 Interceptors") that the fictional MFP (Main Force Patrol) customized for use as a police Pursuit Special in the first Mad Max film. The car is depicted with a supercharger protruding through the hood which can be toggled on and off, and its black body is scarred and scratched from Max's journeys in the wasteland. The precious contents of the Pursuit Special's petrol tanks are protected from thieves with an explosive "booby trap." A sheathed knife is hidden on the underbody of the vehicle, to provide Max with a concealed weapon to kill anyone who attempts to force him to disarm the booby trap.

The large Mack truck used to pull the oil tanker is a 1970s Mack R-600 with a "coolpower" engine setup (the coolpower setup uses an aftercooler on the cylinder head and a tip turbine fan) and a twin-stick transmission. The Mack has a massive cowcatcher mounted on the front to protect the vehicle from crash impacts, armoured plates welded in front of the radiator (with air slits for cooling ventilation), and armoured cages around the wheels. The trailer is protected with fortified, spike-encrusted turrets and barbed wire strung up along the sides of the tanker.

Humungus' bizarre vehicle is a heavily modified Ford F-100 Ute, which is depicted with a custom-made Nitrous Oxide booster system. The marauders use an early 1970s red F-100 with a cobra painted on the doors, and a cut-down boat-style windshield during the final chase scenes. Humungus's lieutenant Wez drives an early 1980s model Suzuki GSX1000 motorbike in the film, and later is seen riding on a Yamaha XS1100E motorbike with a sidecar. Most of the solo and side-car dirtbikes used in the film are XT and TT500 Yamahas. Most of the dune buggies used in the film were VW-based modified "sandrail" kitcars, with single-axle drive train and suspension.

The settler leader Pappagallo's vehicle, which was captured from the marauders in an earlier battle, has two Ford 351 engines, one on the front, and one on the back. Other vehicles used in the movie include a variety of Australian muscle cars, including a 1974 ZG Fairlane, with LTD front guards; a custom-made vehicle with open engine bay and half of its roof chopped out, and a 6/71 supercharger; a Holden Monaro with a custom front and a roof opening; an LC/LJ Holden Torana which has been custom-modified into a Speedway car; a Ford XA Falcon, a Valiant VH coupe; a VW Kombi; a Ford Landau; and various Valiant Chargers.

The main gate of the settlement is a Commer School Bus with jury-rigged plate metal armour. This bus is also the main escape vehicle for the settlers at the end of the film. Several of the besieging warriors' vehicles appear to be of the same type as seen used as police pursuit cars in the first Mad Max film. While the depiction of gang members using similar vehicles and even wearing police biker helmets and jackets has led some fans on chat websites to speculate that some of the gang members are police officers gone bad, there is no support for this theory from the script.


  • "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) was a member of an elite Australian highway patrol unit (the MFP) and a family man in Mad Max. However, after a biker gang kills his family, he leaves the force and hunts down and kills all of the biker gang members. The trauma transforms him into the embittered, "burnt out" "shell of a man" that we are introduced to in the beginning of Mad Max 2. At first, the settlers dismiss Max as a mercenary and "a maggot [who is] living off the corpse of the old world." Eventually, though, Max wins their admiration by his courage and fighting skills, and they accept his offer of help.

  • The Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) is a wanderer like Max, who combs the wasteland scavenging 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 and ambushes people who try to steal his parked autogyro. Like Max, he eventually decides to throw in his lot with the settlers, and help defend their compound. A Time reviewer 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." An eccentric character, he "is given to abrupt whinnies and wistful meditations on the good old days" before the war. Despite his quirks, however, he proves to be wily and courageous.

  • The Feral Kid (Emil Minty) lives in the wasteland near the refinery settlement. His language consists only of growls and grunts. The boy wears shorts and boots made from hide, and hunts and defends himself using a lethal metal boomerang. The Kid is befriended by Max who gives him a tiny musical box. After helping Max deal with the bandits, he escapes with the refinery occupants and eventually becomes the 'Leader of the Great Northern Tribe.' In a review from the year the film was released, Time describes the Feral Kid as "an eight-year-old who growls in anger, purrs with pleasure, performs backflips into burrows and wields the demon boomerang."

  • Pappagallo (Mike Preston) is the idealistic leader of the settlers in the barricaded oil refinery that Max discovers in the wastelands of the Australian outback. Even though the settlers' compound is besieged by a violent gang, Pappagallo "...carries the weight of his predicament with swaggering dignity."

  • The Warrior Woman (Virginia Hey) is an amazon-like female member of the settlers who doesn't trust Max at first. A feral combatant, she is clad in white armor and a white bandana. She is an expert fighter with the bow, the knife and in hand-to-hand combat.

  • Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) is 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. Styling himself the "warrior of the wasteland, [and] the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah", Humungus' "malevolence courses through his huge pectorals, [and] pulses visibly under his bald, sutured scalp." Humungus' face is never seen, as he wears a hockey goalies' mask; as far as clothing, he has a bare torso adorned only with leather biker paraphernalia. There is nothing to suggest what his background was prior to the apocalyptic war, but there are indications that he possibly suffered from radiation exposure. In a brief cutaway, as Humungus pulls his revolver from a case and loads a single bullet to shoot out the engine of the Mack truck, we see a black and white photograph of a family with a military officer in the father's position, though it is unclear whether this would be Humungus's former family. Although ruthless, he also appears to have the ability to think rationally in times of crisis.

  • Wez (Vernon Wells) is a mohawked, leather-clad biker who serves as Humungus' lieutenant in the gang, leading groups of the warrior-bikers in several battles. 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." He is cruel, reactive, and unrelenting in his pursuit of prey.

  • The Toadie (Max Phipps) is the gang crier who articulates his occupation with verbally inventive phrases. He is a plump, bespectacled man who masks his cruelty with a jolly facade. He wears a decorated mink stole as a hat and has many ornaments on his clothes. His behavior with Humungus and Wez marks him as a classic sycophant. Toadie takes pleasure in molesting helpless prisoners, but the gang has little respect for him. He gets the fingers on one of his hands cut off when he tries to catch the feral boy's boomerang, and the rest of the gang laughs at him for it.


Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised its "skillful filmmaking," and called it "...a film of pure action, of kinetic energy", which is " of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made". While Ebert points out that the movie does not develop its " of a violent future world ... with characters and dialogue", and uses only the "...barest possible bones of a plot", he praises its action sequences. Ebert calls 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. 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". In his review for Newsweek, Charles Michener praised Mel Gibson's "easy, unswaggering masculinity and hint of Down Under humor may be quintessentially Australian but is also the stuff of an international male star".

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". 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".

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 sf action film." The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction says that Mad Max 2, "...with all its comic-strip energy and exploitation cinema at its most inventive."

Richard Scheib calls Mad Max 2, " of the few occasions where a sequel makes a dramatic improvement in quality over its predecessor." He calls it 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 states that the film transforms the " 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 Indians.

Critics praised the stunt work and mobile camera techniques, particularly during the final chase and showdown. The use of fender-mounted cameras at high speeds was similar to the Frankenheimer race film Grand Prix and the staccato editing style helped give the illusion of very fast speeds, although other critics were concerned about the shocking violence in the film, which included rape, torture and brutal murders at the hands of the marauding biker gang. The movie has 36 reviews and a 100% fresh rating at the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.


The film score was composed and conducted by Australian composer Brian May. The 35 minute-long recording is available on CD on the Varese Sarabande label, catalog number VCD 47262. The music is presented out of order and sometimes retitled; part of the track titled "Finale and Largo" is actually the main title, "Montage" was written for the truck chase scene (and as such would fit between "Break Out" and "Largo") and the "Main Title" is actually the post-title montage. The sound effects suite that concludes the disc has two cues, "Boomerang Attack" and "Gyro Flight," that do not appear elsewhere on the album (the former is actually presented without any overlaying effects).

The soundtrack begins with the music for the "Montage/Main Title" sequence, which gives the back-story to the descent into war and chaos. The next selections accompany the action-packed sequences as Max and the settlers battle with the gang ("Confrontation"; "Marauder's Massacre", "Max Enters Compound"; "Gyro Saves Max"; and "Break Out"). The final tracks include the "Finale and Largo" and the "End Title" music, which is used while the narrator describes the settler's escape to the coast to start a new life. The recording also includes a suite of special effects sounds, such as The Feral Kid's "Boomerang Attack"; "Gyro Flight"; "The Big Rig Starts"; "Breakout"; and the climactic effects for "The Refinery Explodes", when the booby-trapped oil refinery turns into a fireball.


  1. Reviewer Richard Scheib stated that Gibson's role could "just as easily be Clint Eastwood's tight-lipped Man With No Name" helping "...decent frightened folk" from the marauding Indians." 1990. Available at:
  2. Richard Scheib. 1990. Available at:
  3. Richard Scheib. 1990. Available at:

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