Mad Max 2 (1981)

Australia, 1981
91m (Australia), 94m (USA), 96m (UK)
35mm film, Panavision (anamorphic), colour, 2.35:1
“recorded in Dolby Stereo”, English
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

An Australian science fiction film directed by George Miller. It was the second in the Mad Max series of films and proved to be one of the most influential films of the 1980s, its look being widely copied, particularly by Italian film-makers.

Plot Summary

After spending some time aimlessly wandering the post-apocalyptic deserts of Australia, former cop Max Rockatansky reluctantly throws in his lot with a band of idealists who have found a way to extract and refine gasoline from beneath the sands. Max tries to help the colony relocate to a distant place of safety while all the time, a vicious gang of marauders in souped up cars and motorcycles threaten to invade the compound.


Directed by: George Miller
© MCMLXXXI [1981] Kennedy Miller Entertainment Pty. Ltd. and others
Kennedy Miller present a Kennedy Miller Entertainment production. Made by Kennedy Miller Entertainment Pty. Ltd.
Produced by: Byron Kennedy
Screenplay by: Terry Hayes, George Miller with Brian Hannant
Director of Photography: Dean Semler
Film Editors: David Stiven with Tim Wellburn, Michael Balson
Music Composed and Conducted by: Brian May
Sound Recordist: Lloyd Carrick
Costume Design: Norma Moriceau
Make-up Supervisor: Lesley Vanderwalt
Special Make-up Effects: Bob McCarron
Special Effects Chief: Jeffrey Clifford
Art Direction: Graham “Grace” Walker

Mel Gibson (Max Rockatansky)
Bruce Spence (the gyro captain)
Mike Preston (Pappagallo)
Max Phipps as The Toadie
Vernon Wells as Wez
Emil Minty as the feral kid
Kjell Nilsson (The Humungus)
Virginia Hey (warrior woman)
William Zappa (Zetta)
Arkie Whiteley (the captain’s girl)
Steve J. Spears (mechanic)
Syd Heylen (curmudgeon)
Moira Claux (Big Rebecca)
David Downer (Nathan)
David Slingsby (quiet man)
Kristoffer Greaves (mechanic’s assistant)
Max Fairchild (broken victim)
Tyler Coppin (defiant victim)
Jimmy Brown (golden youth)
Tony Deary (grinning mohawker)
Kathleen McKay (victim)
Guy Norris (bearclaw mohawk)
Anne Jones, James McCardell (tent lovers)
Harold Baigent (voice of narrator)

Alternative Titles

Asfalttisoturi – Finnish title
Interceptor: Il guerriero della strada – Italian title
Mad Max 2: A Caçada Continua – Brazilian title
Mad Max 2: El guerrero de la carretera – Spanish title
Mad Max 2: le défi – French title
Mad Max 2: Maanteesõdalane – Estonian title
Mad Max 2: O Guerreiro da Estrada – Portugese title
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior – US title
Mad Max II – Der Vollstrecker – West German title
The Road Warrior – US title
Sileny Max: Bojovnic Silnic – Czech title

Sequel to
Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Extracts included in
40,000 Years of Dreaming (1996)

Production Notes

In the UK, although the video releases are all uncut, the original DVD release is missing several brief scenes, including the close-up of Wez twisting an arrow from his arm and the shot of the feral kid’s boomerang embedded in the golden youth’s forehead. This may not, however, be the fault of the British Board of Film Censors as all Region 2 (European) discs are cut the same way.


Daily Variety 21 December 1981 pp.3, 15
Mad Max 2 is a stunning technical achievement which far surpasses the first Max film in every department […] It’s a dazzling demolition derby, as men and machines collide and disintegrate, featuring the best stunt work and special effects seen in this country. Director Miller keeps the pic moving with cyclonic force, photography by Dean Semler is first class, editing is super tight and Brian May’s music is stirring […] All told Mad Max 2 is a knockout. – from a review by Dogo

Cinema Papers no.36 (February 1982) pp.74-75
[W]ith this second film, there is something like the quality of a saga that is starting to evolve. […] The thrills that the Mad Max films purvey become “culture specific” because of the actual form that they take, revolving around the centrality of the car to culture. But more than this, they also reveal the anxiety that is associated with the car, stemming from the various forms of violent death that this ubiquitous artefact has made possible. So, despite the sci-fi setting, the two films can make a claim to a form of hyper-realism not often seen on cinema screens, based on the careful documentation and faithful reconstruction of the most horrifying aspects of our lives in and with cars […] [Max] is not yet a hero figure; he has not yet identified his quest; he has not universalized his struggle. […] Instead of being a great hero, Max […] can more correctly be characterized as the unexceptional individual caught at the centre of conflicting forces, a figure around whom all the important extremes in the fictionalized world of these films converge, but who exercise no actual control over them. – from an illustrated review by Almos Maksay

Screen International no.333 (6 March 1982) p.28
Mad Max 2 is an exciting, action packed adventure with interestingly varied characters, an imaginatively developed plot, plenty of humour, and more than a hint of faith in mankind’s ability to survive without sinking into the mire. Max himself is a hero who needs no whitewashing; he is like every screen hero who has ever fought for Good against Evil without being tediously noble about it. – from a review by Marjorie Bilbow

Films and Filming no.331 (April 1982) p.27
It has enough diverting action, wit and style to give it an edge over its contemporary American rivals. – from an illustrated review by Mark Spratt

Films vol.2 no.6 (May 1982) p.36
[A]n action-packed, grade ‘A’ B-movie that just rips across the screen. And so what if it shows filmmakers down under moving from their special brand of human-interest flicks to something closer to the anti-intelligence American road movie theme? […] [I]t’s all just an excuse for lots and lots of action, blasted home by direction [sic] Miller in true Roger Corman style. The many, many car chases […] are raw and exciting, the vision of a hostile future like a violent comic strip. It’s very ludicrous, of course, but who cares when the movie belts along at break-neck pace? There isn’t much space for acting, but Mel Gibson is surprisingly good as the anti-hero of the title; he doesn’t say much but when he does there’s the hit [sic] of an embittered, laconic loner with a will only to survive. – from a review by Simon Button

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.49 no.580 (May 1982) pp.87-88 (UK)
Essentially just another display of vehicles smashing into each other, Mad Max also had a vaguely disorienting quality, possibly the product of George Miller’s wide-ranging, unformulated influences, including science fiction, the bike movie, the Western and the comic strip. This, coupled with its panache at demolition, turned Mad Max into both a moneyspinner and (in Australia) a cult, allowing a much larger budget and, it would appear, a good deal more thought to be expended on Mad Max 2, a rare example of the sequel that is better than its predecessor. […] The characters still have little depth and are often weakly played but, strikingly garbed in everything from mediaeval smocks to fetishistic leather, they are a vast improvement on their strictly routine equivalents in Mad Max, and include one memorable creation in the Feral Kid, a dumb, atavistic child whose metal boomerang slices off the fingers of the villain who tries to catch it. (Whereas Mad Max bore no mark of national identity, Mad Max 2 is proudly parochial.) […] [W]hat raises Mad Max 2 above the level of even the best exploitation are its little niceties: the unexplained deformity beneath Humungus’ mask; the pilgrimage to the Promised Land, in reality a former holiday resort. This is the stuff of which mythology is made. – from a review by David McGillivray

Motion Picture Product Digest vol.9 no.23 (5 May 1982) p.90
At times Miller seems to be heading The Road Warrior down some kind of pretentious allegorical highway, but this element is not really allowed to get in the way of the all-important action which has been conceived on a big and expansive scale. It’s a picture to delight the soul of lovers of “pure-action” films – especially those who take pleasure in seeing moving vehicles […] crushed to smithereens or sent up in towering flames. […] Once a high-falutin’ spoken prologue is over […] dialogue is kept to a minimum. In fact the picture could almost be played without any. […] [A] dazzling visual spectacle in the best sense of the phrase. – from an illustrated review (The Road Warrior from Australia: A Movie for Lovers of Non-Stop Action) by Richard Gertner

Cinefantastique vol.12 no.5/6 (July/August 1982) p.92
While the bad guys are a convincing threat, the film itself lacks the variation in overall tempo and content that would provide the emotional charge the mythologizing narration implies. […] All the mythological moralizing boils down to [is] “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” […] Miller is skilled at caricature, camera style, and implied violence, and he and his screenwriters have a loopy sense of humour. However, their film has the air of an immoral, perverse producer’s film about it, something Mad Max did not have. Miller’s skill and success insure that someday he could make a good action film that does not rely so much on bone-crushing, head-bashing, car-crashing violence. This is not that film and I am still bothered each time I think of the litany of “innovative” killings that litter this intelligently-made misfire. – from an illustrated review by Ray Pride

Film Comment vol.18 no.4 (July/August 1982) pp.27-28; 28-31
“A matchless display of action-adventure fireworks that also boasts pressurized visionary intensity. The Max films are hallucinatory fairy tales masquerading as crash-and-burn genre films.” from a review (The Ayatollah of the Moviola) by David Chute)

Starburst no.45 (1982) pp.32-35 (UK)
Mad Max 2 is simply one of the hottest, liveliest, most entertaining sf films to come down the freeway in a long time. And it comes down fast. […] Mad Max 2 moves superbly and looks sublime. Dean Semler’s camera exploits the purple half-light of the desert evening and the glaring red earth of the Australian outback. Max Aspin’s car crashes and stunts out-do all but the best of American road movie classics, and George Miller again shows himself as the most international of all Australian film directors. Nobody who enjoyed Mad Max is likely to be the least bit disappointed by its successor. […] The lovingly-detailed destruction of [the] vehicles at the hands of Max in the finale is one of the great sequences of the film. For that alone it’s worth seeing – if you add the laconic dialogue, the great photography and The Feral Kid, you’ll undoubtedly decide that you had more than your money’s worth from Mad Max 2. Thank god he was out there. – from a review by John Baxter

Film Review Special no.25: Sci-Fi (1998) pp.44-45 (UK)
Like the original, Miller directed this sequel with a firm eye on extraordinary action sequences and car stunts but laced it with even more horror. Max becomes more a symbol figure too, a universal hero, in Miller’s amazingly choreographed and visually arresting blockbuster, made on a miniscule budget with all the grace and style of a massive Steven Spielberg production. – from an illustrated article (The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Mad Max) by Alan Jones

Empire no.123 (September 1999) p.138 (UK)
George Miller’s Mad Max trilogy was never big on plot and here, after a brief flashback that resets the scene […] he’s into an all-out stuntfest with Mel Gibson pitting his pecs against an [sic] bunch of codpiece-sprouting goons. Gibson is surprisingly uncharismatic, but Miller makes up for it with whizz bang action. – from a DVD review by Bob McCabe


Cinefantastique vol.12 no.4 (May /June 1982) p.6 – preview
Cinefantastique vol.12 no.5/6 (July /August 1982) p.92 – illustrated review (by Ray Pride)
Cinema Papers no.33 (July/August 1981) p.277 (Australia) – credits (Production survey)
Cinema Papers no.35 (November/December 1981) pp.466-469 (Australia) – illustrated preview (George Miller’s Mad Max II)
Cinema Papers no.36 (February 1982) pp.74-75 (Australia) – illustrated review (by Almos Maksay)
Daily Variety 21 December 1981 pp.3, 15 – credits, synopsis, review (by Dogo)
L’Ecran Fantastique no.23 (1982) pp.64-68; 69 – article, interview with George Miller (Mad Max 2 by Evelyne Lowins and Giles Gressard); review (by Evelyne Lowins)
no.123 (September 1999) p.138 – DVD review (by Bob McCabe)
no.140 (February 2001) p.27 – illustrated interview with Emil Minty (Where are they now? by MC)
Film Comment
vol.18 no.4 (July/August 1982) pp.27-28; 28-31 – review (The Ayatollah of the Moviola by David Chute); interview with George Miller
Film Review Special
no.25: Sci-Fi (1998) pp.44-45 – illustrated article (The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Mad Max by Alan Jones)
vol.2 no.6 (May 1982) p.36 – credits, review (by Simon Button)
Films and Filming
no.331 (April 1982) p.27 – illustrated credits, review (by Mark Spratt)
The Hollywood Reporter
vol.271 no.34 (30 April 1982) p.6 – credits, review
Interzone no.27 (January/February 1989) p.27 – review (by J.G. Ballard)
Journal of Popular Film and Television
vol.13 no.2 (Summer 1985) pp.80-91 – article (Myth, Male Fantasy, and Simulacra in Mad Max and The Road Warrior by Christopher Sharrett)
Journal of Popular Film and Television
vol.27 no.3 (Autumn 1999) pp.28-34 – article (Heroism and redemption in the Mad Max trilogy by Dennis H. Barbour)
no.8 (Autumn 1997) pp.57-75 – article (Mad Max, Reaganism and The Road Warrior by J. Emmett Winn)
Literature/Film Quarterly vol.15 no.3 (1987) pp.146-150 – illustrated article (The Road Warrior and the fall of Troy by Thomas Dilworth)
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.49 no.580 (May 1982) pp.87-88 – credits, synopsis, review (by David McGillivray)
Motion Picture Product Digest vol.9 no.23 (5 May 1982) p.90 – illustrated review (The Road Warrior from Australia: A Movie for Lovers of Non-Stop Action by Richard Gertner)
New Republic 11 October 1982 p.24 – review (On Films: Australian Graffiti; French Pastry by Stanley Kauffmann)
New Statesman 4 March 1982 p.31 – review (by John Coleman)
The New Yorker 6 September 1982 p.96 – review (by Pauline Kael)
Positif no.259 (September 1982) pp.67-68 – review
Post Script vol.9 no.3 (Summer 1990) pp.3-20 – illustrated interview with Dean Semler (Dean Semler, cinematographer: an interview by Ric Gentry)
Prevue no.48 (July 1982) pp.62-65; 77 – illustrated interview with George Miller (The return of Mad Max: A chain reaction of hell-driving terror by Steranko)
Screen International no.333 (6 March 1982) p.28 – credits, review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
Starburst no.45 (1982) pp.32-35 – illustrated review (by John Baxter)

The New York Times 15 August 1982 Section 2 p.13 – review (Myths shape a movie for Australia by Michael Specter)

Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.369
Australian Film 1978-1994: A Survey of Theatrical Features compiled and edited by Scott Murray p.83 – illustrated credits, synopsis
Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.402
Film Review 1982-1983 by F. Maurice Speed (ed.) p.156 – credits, review
The Films of the Eighties by Douglas Brode pp.68-70 – illustrated credits, review
The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.483
Horror and Science Fiction Films III by Donald C. Willis pp.226-227
Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.93
Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.322-323
Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.70  – illustrated credits, review