Mad Max Movies Ranked: The Entire Saga From Worst to Best!

Mad Max Movies Ranked: The Entire Saga From Worst to Best!

Mad Max Movies Ranked: The Entire Saga From Worst to Best!

We rank all of the Mad Max movies, from worst to best, including the latest entry, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.

Last Updated on May 29, 2024

This weekend brings George Miller’s epic Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga to theatres. It’s the latest entry into the definitive post-apocalyptic saga of our time and a series that minted Mel Gibson as a global superstar, transformed Charlize Theron into an action heroine, and seems poised to do the same for Anya Taylor-Joy. In my opinion, there’s never been a bad Mad Max film, as they’re all quite different in tone and technique, although we all have our favorite. So, here’s my list of Mad Max movies ranked from worst to best!

mad max movies ranked: Beyond Thunderdome

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985):

The only PG-13 entry in the saga, this movie has scenes that seem shocking for how cheesy they are in the context of the series. The two movies that came before this pushed the boundaries of their R-ratings, so I’m not sure what kind of carrot Warner Bros dangled over Miller’s head to get him to make this a teen-targeted family flick, but I have a bit of a clue. For one thing, the movie came along at the height of MTV, so the movie was heavily tied into the network, with co-star Tina Turner cutting two hugely popular singles, “One of the Living” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero” that gave the movie some big-time cross-promotion to teens. Thus, the suits probably wanted to make sure those teens would be able to see it.

There’s also the fact that Miller’s best friend and close collaborator, Byron Kennedy, died in a helicopter crash before filming. Miller’s grief was so intense that he had to bring on a co-director, George Ogilvie, and the result is a movie that’s tonally out of whack. Some of the action scenes are great, such as the Thunderdome battle. Still, even those sequences have heavy doses of melodrama, such as the reveal of the baddie, “Blaster,” as a mentally disabled boy Max refuses to kill (complete with a corny soundtrack by Maurice Jarre). They really did soften Max up for the movie, too, with him less of an anti-hero this time, as he protects a tribe of lost children.

However, it’s still a pretty decent movie. For one thing, the action sequences are great, and you can see the germ of ideas Miller would explore later on in the saga, with Bartertown a kind of dry run for The Citadel. At the same time, the tribe of children in their Oasis, “Planet Erf,” seems like a prelude to The Green Place in Furiosa. Gibson, as always, is in top form, even if the old age makeup to make him look middle-aged isn’t convincing. Despite not being a trained actress, Tina Turner is memorable as the Aunty Entity, who’s undoubtedly the most sympathetic villain the series ever had. It also has a memorably grim ending with the Tomorrow-Morrow land the kids are seeking, just the bombed-out ruins of Sydney. At the same time, Max ends the movie wandering the Wasteland alone, without even his V-8 Interceptor. 

mad max movies ranked

Mad Max (1979):

Some will undoubtedly take issue with the low ranking of the original entry into the Mad Max franchise, but hear me out. This is still one of the best Ozploitation movies ever made. However, Miller admits that the film was a rough draft for the formula he would perfect with The Road Warrior a few years later. Even still, it’s an essential movie to watch, with Mel Gibson arriving on the screen fully formed as Max Rockatansky. The film gives us the essential backstory on the world we’d later see Miller develop, with this taking place relatively soon after the nuclear war that would lead to the end of civilization, with Australia the last place standing.

In this one, society has only just started to crumble, with Max, the best driver among his Main Force Patrol, trying to keep society in order as it starts to fracture more and more. This is the movie that shows how Max becomes the hard-bitten antihero we know and love, with his family being cut down by the first in a series of memorable villains for the franchise, The Toe-Cutter, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who’d return to play Immortan Joe in Fury Road. There are a lot of classic moments here, but I’d wager the movie starts on an incredible note the rest of the film can’t quite measure up to – the iconic Night Rider chase sequence. 

Notably, this movie was dubbed by AIP for its US release, which pretty much ruined the film. Thankfully, the only version of the movie in circulation now is the Australian cut, which does proper justice to the amazing acting by Gibson, Keays-Byrne, and Steve Bisley, who steals many scenes as Max’s doomed best friend, Goose. 

Tom Burke furiosa

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024):

Usually, when a movie screens for junketers, the early reviews pump a movie up to nearly ridiculous levels, as the early watchers can’t help but get a bit caught up in the excitement of a junket (I’ve been guilty of this myself). This is the rare case where those early reviews undersold just how good of a post-apocalyptic odyssey this is. You can read my review for more in-depth thoughts, but early viewers seemed shell-shocked because this was a very different kind of movie than Fury Road. I think those of us who saw it later went in knowing this fact and, as such, had a better appreciation for what it is, which is pretty damn awesome.

Director George Miller says the script for Furiosa was already written before Mad Max: Fury Road started filming 10 years ago.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015):

So here’s where it gets dicey. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: the Mad Max saga contains two of the most incredible action movies ever. As such, I firmly believe Fury Road is a masterpiece, and even if it only comes in second in my Mad Max movies ranked list, I don’t mean to diminish it in any way. The film has so many iconic images and set pieces that I’d wager it’s probably the best movie of the last ten years (maybe more) and a modern classic. It’s a drag that Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron had such a miserable time with each other, as neither has ever been better than they are here. 

I went into this somewhat resistant to the idea of Hardy replacing Gibson, but he’s so different in the role that he truly defies comparison, which I think was the right approach. And Theron’s Furiosa takes her place as one of the best action heroines ever. Plus, there’s the score by Junkie XL, which, for my money, was the first time any of the movies ever had a soundtrack that could genuinely go toe-to-toe with what was happening on-screen.

mad max 2 the road warrior

The Road Warrior (1981):

All that said, The Road Warrior is better. Considering how low-budget the movie was and the fact that Miller’s resources were so scarce, it truly feels like a miracle. There are sequences in here that defy explanation, and it’s a wonder Miller could put any of this carnage on screen without getting anyone killed. Both The Road Warrior and Fury Road make the case for Miller being one of the most greatest action directors of all time, and he’s matched by his leading man, Mel Gibson. With the first film having set up Max’s grief, Gibson turns him into a stoic, tragic anti-hero that ranks among the best we’ve ever gotten on screen. The final tanker pursuit action scene is one of the best sequences in film history – action or otherwise.

What do you think of my Mad Max movies ranked list? Let me know your rankings in the comments!

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